Journalism is foundering, but is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Roy Greenslade


The question most asked by journalists just now, aside from the routine one about Brexit, is how their trade will be funded in future. Indeed, at local level, there is increasing concern about whether there will be any trade at all.

Look at the state of the big three regional publishers. JPI Media, owner of the i newspaper, the Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and about 200 more titles, was founded last November from the ashes of Johnston Press after it went into administration. It began this year by announcing a series of cover price rises and followed up with a review aimed at relocating offices and merging newsrooms (a euphemism for reducing journalistic staff).

Newsquest, publisher of 165 “news brands” across Britain, including the Herald in Glasgow, the South Wales Argus and the Echo in Southampton, is owned by the US media giant Gannett. It is now the target of a hostile takeover bid by a company known for aggressive cutting of jobs, which is ultimately controlled by a New York hedge fund without a shred of interest in journalistic output.

Drip by drip by drip, the print “platforms” disappear and with them go journalists, thereby restricting the replacement online coverage, some of which, it should be said, remains of excellent quality. When the government’s review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism was launched last year, it was claimed that newspapers produced more original journalism than broadcasters and websites combined.

That review, led by Dame Frances Cairncross, is continuing to take evidence amid what is rightly described as a crisis. She will surely have noted the latest news that old media’s digital competitors, based in the US but also attempting to serve British audiences, are finding it difficult to fund journalism. BuzzFeed is to cut 15% of its staff, while Verizon Media is seeking 7% cutbacks at newsrooms such as Huffington Post, AOL and Yahoo …