True Journalism – Is it now dead?

You can't help feeling sorry at loss of real local journalism
You can’t help feeling sorry at loss of real local journalism

True Journalism – Is it now dead?

Following the publication of yesterday’s blog ‘Demise of Local Newspaper – Demise of Trust? I happened to find myself in discussion about it at different time during the day with two local journalists.

Their reaction to the blog was very interesting in that they agreed with not only the general but also specific observations made.

What came across was the journalists own frustration at the cutbacks which has seen the demise of the Local Daily Newspaper and it’s replacement with a Weekly edition.

As journalists they missed the daily adrenaline rush of having to meet a deadline and searching out and/or investigating what one of them referred to as the ‘skullduggery and dishonesty’ in the corridors of power.

I won’t repeat what I put in my earlier blog but what came across very clearly is that the decline in the newspaper circulation and ever reliance and dependency on advertising has undermined the role of the serious investigative journalist.

The issues with advertising revenue is complicated but put simply companies are now in a position where because of the perilous financial viability of newspapers they can almost dictate how much they are willing to pay advertise.

The outcome of the increased power of the companies and of course a reduction in many businesses advertising budgets means that the local weekly newspaper has to increase the quantity of adverts to remain viable.

What this appears to have ended up producing is a reduction in the actual space for genuine news stories.

The journalists frustration is of course seeing them leaving the ‘newsprint’ sector of the communication industry for those of the ‘social media’, or in basic terms to run websites for in the most part Government, both Local and National, PR departments.

It was both gratifying and disturbing that they agreed with me that newspapers now relied on information being provided in the form of a press release, sound bite, photographs and statements from the Local Authorities and Police to fill the available spaces.

It was disturbing because they acknowledged that even though they knew and were aware of the increased level of ‘skullduggery’ and deception within and being given to them from the NBC, NCC and PCC they simply didn’t have the resources to investigate them.

In effect an admittance that the trust revealed in the research carried out by Louise Casey that people had in the Local Newspaper has all but been eroded and that they were in grave danger of being no more than a mouth piece for discredited politicians.

Journalism sacrificed for PR and Spin?
Journalism sacrificed for PR and Spin?

I should say that they both made a point of saying that they missed Aufona who they believe not only kept local politicians on their toes but also honest, raising issues of integrity that were followed up by journalists.

Of course, and who can blame them with families to support and an eye on the future, both Aufona and the Chronicle and Echo Chief reporter responsible for keeping local politicians honest have been recruited by the Northamptonshire Police.

In fact the number of journalists who have left the Chronicle and Echo to work for Government organisations is quite staggering.

So here’s a thought about both the organisations and journalists?

Why wouldn’t you?

If you’re a Local Authority and/or Police Commissioner with unlimited access to tax payer’s money why wouldn’t you recruit to your PR team the journalists who have always held you to account and when and where necessary challenged your decisions, behaviours and integrity?

If you’re a Journalist with family responsibilities and faced with an ever-increasing demise in the freedom and resources to carry out your chosen career why wouldn’t you seek the security of employment elsewhere.

I certainly don’t blame anyone for putting the responsibility to their family first, but and it is a big but.

I can’t help feeling depressed that professional journalists will out of an understandable necessity have sacrificed their independent minded approach to ‘seeking out the truth’ for a position as part of the Political PR Spin machine.

What I suppose we have to accept as inevitable is that true reporting is now at an end to be replaced by short sound bites on-line that I am sorry to say are a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’ in terms of real investigative journalism.

It is perhaps why, as I admitted to the journalists yesterday, I am one of those who are increasingly reluctant to buy the Local Weekly Newspaper.