The future of newspapers, or the lack of it?

Guardian media commentator ROY GREENSLADE has today published on his blog a note he has received about the state of journalism from a colleague at the Telegraph. It makes for depressing reading. Take a look at the piece, and post your thoughts in the Comments area below

I was discussing with one of your colleagues an issue arising from, but not directly related to, events here at the Telegraph. It was about the likely future shape of a career in journalism. This is something I’ve seen touched on, but not directly discussed in your blog, and it’s a subject about which I find myself increasingly pessimistic.

I note that you’ve always said that society needs journalists, but it is looking increasingly unwilling to pay for them. I can see, from here, that national newspapers are beginning to head in the direction that local papers went 20 years ago, demanding levels of commitment – in hours and workload – that are unsustainable in conjunction with a normal family life.

In return, they offer salaries too low to support a family, especially in London. Just as local journalists had to head for the nationals or get a job in PR by the time they reached their 30s, I fear that in the next five to 10 years it will be very hard for any grown-up to sustain a career in journalism at all, unless they have a private income or a particular sense of vocation or ambition.

One of the (many) reasons why readers have deserted regional papers is that they feel that neither they, nor their communities, are properly reflected by the journalists who work for them. If national papers, already desperately London-centric, only want people who are prepared to work 70-hour weeks and don’t care if they never see their kids, I can see them going the same way.

By the same token, as papers/websites etc use more and more content from citizen journalists/bloggers and others prepared to work for nothing, there is a danger that the only people with a voice will be those most desperate to be heard – and they are not usually the people you most want to listen to.

The growth of blogs and online communities seems to be contributing plenty in the way of opinion, of which there’s already plenty and not much in the way of facts. This is creating a brand of journalism in which it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong.

I don’t have a particularly rosy view of the past and I am all too well aware that many of the things I’ve loved about papers, particularly the craft of putting them together, are becoming obsolete.

But I do worry that without the professionalism of the career journalist, society will be much less well equipped to hold the powerful to account and that serious and intelligent debate will be lost under a global shouting match between anonymous partisan supporters of particular opinions or interests.

Click here to visit Greenslade’s blog and read it in full

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