Friday, March 27, 2009

Stop Press?

I know people who still swear by what they read in the Oldham Echo. They're a dwindling band, admittedly, & tend to be over 45. However, the fact that this particular local demographic is, as the marketing people say, "mature" will give the senior editorial staff on Old Hall Street considerable pause for thought.
Their anxieties will hardly have been assuaged by a post by Roy Greenslade on his Guardian blog last Tuesday ( ).
Under the headline "Do we really need local papers" (inspired sub-editing there, wouldn't you say?), Greenslade remarks that the loudest voices in the calls to save local papers have emanated from newspaper publishers (with an eye on the bottom line) & the National Union of Journalists (concerned about its members' jobs). He goes on:
"It does not mean they are wrong in their substantive argument, but their pleas are unlikely to win wide enough support from a public that I fear has become much more sceptical about the value of 'the press' in recent years. Indeed, therein lies the main problem we face. Added to the absence of concrete evidence about the importance of local papers is a widespread lack of trust in 'the media'.
"It is seen as an institution that is too powerful, too profitable and too pernicious to warrant public sympathy. Local papers, especially those owned by conglomerates, are viewed as too remote from the public they affect to serve. The essential link between people and paper has been lost, even when the staff are drawn from the area they serve.
"Perhaps the hardest task of all is in convincing people what they will lose if they stand back and let local papers go to the wall. How do we journalists substantiate our faith in the beneficial effects of papers and, most importantly, illustrate the detrimental consequences if they vanish? If you want my (admittedly tentative) answer to that, then read my London Evening Standard column tomorrow [Wednesday 25th March]."
Alas, I didn't get round to Roy's Standard piece. Be that as it may, the second paragraph in his quote is particularly germane to the hapless Oldham Echo. Local news is now something of an afterthought for the paper. Instead, puff-pieces, gossip & ill-informed "opinion" columns predominate, demonstrating beyond all reasonable doubt that the Echo is a tabloid, with features & values to match, rather than a "newspaper".

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