We’ve heard contrasting views this week at Press Gazette about the brave new-media world of journalism from the top and bottom of regional press giant Newsquest.
At the top, editorial director Margaret Strayton (announcing a new video content deal with PA) told us: ‘There is a seismic shift in the media marketplace and Newsquest is transforming its culture to meet this challenge.’But at the bottom, this a seismic shift which appears uncomfortable for some – like the anonymous Newsquest letter writer who claimed that the online challenge is being met by forcing already over-worked trainees to work evenings and weekends for no extra cash.
As the NUJ’s Commission on Multimedia Working revealed late last year, such complaints are widespread across the journalism world.
Few would now argue against the fact that for any journalist working in news, online is where the action is.
For those working at the sharp end of a news organisation, the need to hone their skills as online story-breakers and aggregators – as well as writers of polished prose for the print edition – is now a matter of survival.
But managers need to resist the temptation to turn their journalists into mere processors of press releases and aggregators of other content in order to satisfy the demands of the boundless internet.
Ambitions to turn regional newspapers into 24/7 rolling news machines need to be tempered by the realisation that in many newsrooms journalists are already working flat out just to get a paper out.
The new media transformation of print titles can, and must, happen. But a pragmatic approach is needed, which treats journalists with the respect they deserve as skilled professionals, and which accepts the fact that at some point something has to give.
If staffing levels must remain static, then perhaps more use must be made of aggregated and user-generated content in print to free-up journalists to spend more time filing for online.
This is the approach we are trying out this year at Press Gazette with The Wire – a sort of megablog which provides tickertape-style news service online but also feeds into a page of content for the print edition.