NUJ responds to industry meltdown
THE NEED to “support quality journalism in the public interest” is the fundamental principle of a 10,000-word submission on The Future For Local And Regional Media that the NUJ delivered to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport's Select Committee inquiry in May.
It argues that the crisis in local newspapers, TV and radio is not only caused by stumbling responses to the internet, now combined with a recession, but by monopolistic takeovers and ground-level cost-cutting to offset corporate debt while maintaining benefits for shareholders and executives.
Reporting 1500 job cuts in non-national newspapers in the 12 months to May, 2009 - combined with the slashing of freelance rates and work summarised in the NUJ Freelance Industrial Council paper Disappearing Freelance Work. The submission explains how this affects levels of public knowledge and democratic accountability.
It quotes former Daily Mirror editor and, now, journalism professor, Roy Greenslade, writing in the Evening Standard on 1 April this year: “The net result of the cuts was a diminution of journalism, a gradual and inexorable move away from the kind of coverage that informed the admittedly declining audiences about what was happening in their towns and cities. I am not exaggerating. Several editors and at least one very highly-placed executive - all of whom wish to remain anonymous - have told me that the routine reporting of courts and councils have been in decline for a least a decade. All of them also blame the nature of corporate newspaper ownership. Gone were the owners and executives who really cared about what their newspapers published.”
But the majority of the submission addresses a range of ways to improve the situation - from the possibilities of public funding for truly local media enterprises, via levies and other payments from Google and mobile phone operators who profit from journalistic material without paying anyone for it, to journalism training aimed at broadening the social mix engaged in a currently 98-per cent graduate profession.
The full report is available on the NUJ website - see below.