In our house we rarely buy any.  And the answer’s very simple.  They’re just not worth the money.

When big bizness arrived in Fleet Street and realised that 80% of revenue from newspapers came from 20% of their audience, and that the particular audience was advertisers, they focused all their attention on their primary audience.

In other words, newspapers lost the moral high ground on being active participants in democracy; vehicles for rigorous social cohesion through information scrutiny and analysis and forgot to do their primary task: to investigate.  Since all efforts were reduced to getting the highest circulation up (to satisfy advertisers) at the lowest possible cost then personality and differentiation suffered.  Sending an investigative journalist out to find, research, interview and report a story became far too expensive to justify and many resorted to cut-and-paste jobs from press bureaux and press releases from PR companies.

In Foreign News, it became ‘Hotel Journalism‘ as coined by Robert Fisk, where Western reporters reported from their hotels rather than the streets. On Baghdad:

“Some are accompanied everywhere by hired, heavily armed Western mercenaries. A few live in local offices from which their editors refuse them permission to leave. Most use Iraqi stringers, part-time correspondents who risk their lives to conduct interviews for American or British journalists, and none can contemplate a journey outside the capital without days of preparation unless they “embed” themselves with American or British forces.”

That sense of being ’embedded’ is pervasive throughout the whole journalism industry.  When a political leader goes on a foreign tour, only sympathetic journalists are ever selected to accompany him.   A top executive at a worldwide fashion house told me recently that “journalists are like taxis”:

You tell the newspaper which reporter you want to cover your story and they do it exactly how you want it so that they get the scoop over a rival.

A recent story of critical importance to Scotland was the UN’s recent report on Scotland being the number one consumer of cocaine in the entire globe.  It was covered by Lewis Smith at The Independent and Mark McGivern at the Scottish Daily Record and STV with a straight bat;  while the BBC reported it with an emphasis on the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) doing a sterling job.  The story is now a week old and yet only 4 media outlets have covered it and worse, covered in a totally cursory manner.

I’m getting out there right now with my gear to plod the streets of Leith, kickin it old school, ha.

©finwycherley

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Comments
  1. Dr Paul says:

    SO, was there a time when journalism was ever anything but business?

  2. […] The Decline of Newspapers « Leithtonight's Blog A recent story of critical importance to Scotland was the UN’s recent report on Scotland being the number one consumer of cocaine in the entire globe. It was covered by Lewis Smith at The Independent and Mark McGivern at the Scottish Daily Record and STV with a straight bat; while the BBC reported it with an emphasis on the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) doing a sterling job. The story is now a week old and yet only 4 media outlets have covered it and worse, covered in a totally cursory manner. (tags: newspapers journalism) […]

  3. Rob Hain says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I’m due to be on Leith Tonight on 1st August and I look forward to talking with you on your show.
    If you are happy to put up a reciprocal link to my blog on your Blogroll it would provide a link to the images I shall be talking about.
    Best wishes,
    Rob Hain

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