A community that
finds itself pulling together and tearing itself apart in equal measure as it
tries to define what it is or, perhaps more importantly, what it should become.
broadcast or sent along unfathomably thin fibre optic wires carried low by
submarine cable or higher than the eye can see by an orbiting satellite around
the world and back all in the blink of an eye.
Little wonder our
industry is in turmoil because we no longer understand it – let alone know how we
can possibly control it.
Once upon a time
it was simple.
You found, you
wrote, you published.
And the world
would come to you via the ink soaked pages once sold in their millions.
Later the masses
would still come – in their droves – tuning into their old radio transistors or
switching on TV sets.
And now they can
do the same again via PCs, laptops or mobile phones.
news aggregators, subscription channels.
We needn’t miss a
word, picture or video clip ever again. The world’s events are available to us
all at the click of a button.
salute you. Google – how did we ever manage before?
But in our rush
to ensure that it is our news that is read, to try and capture that audience,
the power of the Press has shifted.
Look at news
organizations the world over and you’ll see a common thread – CEOs spending
millions of pounds looking for the Holy Grail of how to win bigger and better audiences and retain them.
nightmares about churn, give blank cheques to futurists to come up with the
solutions that will keep them in jobs, slash expensive members of staff in
order to invest in technology.
All of which, it would seem, has become the nature of the beast.
But for the past
month or so, switch on your rolling 24-hr news channel of choice, flick
on Radio 4 or Good Morning Scotland or the top-of-the-hour local headilines
from whateveryourtowniscalled FM.
Pick up your
morning newspaper be it tabloid, broadsheet or Berliner and then again your
printed before 8am ‘evening’ local.
And the only story
in town was that about MPs expenses.
follow-ups, claim and counter claim, details, pontificating, analysis,
commentary, cartoons, legal debate, moral outrage and stoic defences.
Hours of it on
broadcast, miles of column inches, never ending blog posts and online debate.
All the result of
one thing. Journalism.
unadulterated good old fashioned forensic reporting.
Forget the jealous snipers bleating on about chequebook journalism.
Laugh at those
who squandered the chance to run with it.
And stand-up and
applaud the Telegraph for taking the gamble.
invested millions in their multi-media newsroom; they have faced the pain of
cutting staff and busting union conventions on writing new contracts.
But at the end of
the day, it is content that has proved to be king, not the way they get it out.
A story that has
not simply set the agenda, saw paper sales soar and web hits thunder into
cyberspace folklore, but that has a far simpler message for those still
wrestling with the ‘how’ question.
A good scoop, no
matter how it is presented, no matter where it appears, will always win an
And look at the
ripple effect such a story commands, look how it has played a key part in
having the nation’s Prime Minister battle to hold onto his job as minister
after minister departs.
and how we choose to get that information out – while having its hugely important
place in the greater scheme of things – is still now all about convenience and,
to a lesser extent, vanity.
It is merely a
tool for opening up channels to an audience. For making it easier for the
audience to choose you.
But that audience
will sure only come if you have the stories in the first place.
And the people
you need to prosecute them.
Yet such stories are few and far between these days, in part because of cuts.
Instead we have Susan Boyle and Big Brother to fill the gap, pile on the numbers.
It is still journalism. The affects are colossal too, as Boyle-mania proves, even if affecting fewer people.
Yet can it compare?
That is just another question for the publishers to wrestle with, if perhaps a more difficult one to square.
Would you rather have the kudos of an agenda setting, no doubt award winning story such as MPs expenses and a good hike in sales to boot, or the inside skinny on Susan Boyle which would see your number go through the roof?
Your answer may just define what journalism has come to mean for you.
But more to the point, what it means to the reader.