Peter Bale: 'Papers should cut production costs, not journalists'

News organisations should be cutting production costs rather than journalists – or they will damage the “fundamental quality” of what they produce, former Times Online editorial director Peter Bale has warned.

Bale, now an executive producer at Microsoft UK, was speaking to Press Gazette after yesterday’s Association of Online Publishers forum in London – where journalists and digital media experts gathered to discuss multimedia story production and the changing face of journalism.

“The difficulty at the moment is people are looking at cutting costs in newspapers by cutting the journalists as opposed to cutting the cost of production, and that’s not the same thing,” he said.

“There are tools for editorial production going very much towards a lower cost framework, tools that allow you to publish much more efficiently.

“We have to embrace them, otherwise we will damage the fundamental journalistic quality of the papers.”

Bale said it was true that journalists at all levels tended to fear technology.

“You need to tap into a couple of opinion formers on a newspaper and they can change that attitude overnight,” he said.

“I don’t think young journalists are scared of technology, but a lot of older journalists are finding it difficult to find their place in it.

“They find it difficult to hand over the control to the readers, and to believe that editing systems don’t have to be as complicated and as horrible as they often are.”

Guardian blogs editor Kevin Anderson said many journalists were worried about their job – and that they saw technology as having a role in that.

But he added: “Where I would have said a year and a half ago the primary fear for journalists is technology, now I’d say it’s economic.

“I think some journalists are still worried about the army of content creators out there, formally known as the audience, so there’s a little bit of anxiety about that.

“People are spending more time uploading videos and writing blogs, and are spending a lot of time on social networking sites that compete with news sites.”

The AOP forum was held at the IPC Media’s Blue Fin Building in London and was chaired by Sun Online editor Pete Picton.

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