How local news becomes all about crossing your arms….


Working as a journalist means being part of an industry whose members currently define it by words ranging from ‘beleaguered’ ‘challenged’ and ‘besieged’ to ‘screwed’, ‘f#¤ked’ and ‘dodo’.

Different parts of the industry are using different weapons in their losing fight against lower figures for circulation and the ever-growing red numbers that threaten to burst like balloons on the pages of the financial statements.

The crux of the situation can – somewhat oversimplified (and this is about news, so that’s very fitting) – be boiled down to the fact that traditional media are baffled by the question ‘how do we make (enough) money off various new media technologies to be profitable?’

In local journalism, the focus has generally been on what management describes as ‘creating a flexible and vibrant newsroom with plenty of headroom for new ideas and a solid focus on new media’. What they mean is that they focus on cost cutting and hiring hungry, young interns/trainees who grew up with the internet to replace experienced journalists. Bitter much? Nah, not me. I took the chance to pursue some of the (other) stuff that I love. So my word for ‘redundancy’ would be ‘freedom’.

For those left in local news, ‘vivisection’ is probably a word that many journalists, editors, subs, photographers, et. al. would use to describe what’s been going on, murmuring things like ‘not even giving us any f#¤5ing anaesthesia’ under their breath and looking harried while trying to explain the difference between a critical angle and re-wording a press release to an intern who just got taken to the cleaners by a gruff PR guy from a local business that is known to try a Roy Keane impression to scare journalists into going with his angle.

Personally, I’ve had the good fortune to have many experienced journalists and editors help me through those sorts of experiences, but I’ve also experienced first hand how we waved goodbye to subs and photographers, and put those job functions over onto the journalists….I mean, they’re supposed to be writers, right? So why should anyone else need to look at their work? And just how hard can it be to point a camera at something and click away?

This turne by truth out. Journal is spell good. Not preblam…..actually preblam works…put a hyphen in there and it could be slang for foreplay…..foreplay could, in turn be slang for golf….

It turns out that we as journalists faced with this sort of scenario do roughly similar things with writing and taking photos: we go with what is tried, tested and true. So, we produce 10 stories a day with exactly the same bland lede structure and take a hell of a lot of photographs of local people standing in front of buildings with their arms crossed.

This is, of course, natural. We know how these structures work, and we know that putting someone in front of something and asking them to cross their arms is a sure winner.

Whether we’re talking about authors, volunteers, teachers, athletes, school kids who’ve won prizes, business men, pastors, farmers, pet owners or the local man who just broke the record for most corn ever eaten in a 24 hour period, we want them standing in front of building, crossing their arms. Hell, our first reflex when faced with a heroic dog is to try and cross its front legs. We don’t care if it means it falls face first to the floor, we just want the f#¤ker to cross those paws and pose in front of that dog house.

If you don’t believe me, just take a quick trip over to Local People With Their Arms Crossed….that should convince you…and might leave you crossing your arms and shaking your head….what it won’t do is buy more local newspapers…

The whole news industry is faced by a conundrum in the shape of new technology and new media forms. We’re all trying to figure out what exactly it means to our beloved newspapers and critical, investigative journalism – or even the travel section that we always call ‘not real news’ but are secretly very, very, very jealous of.

I don’t have the answer. I can however state for the record that there is no way cutting back on staff and ask those left with jobs to run twice as fast in the same treadmill. That’s the equivalent to crossing your arms, putting your fingers in your ears, concentrating hard on what’s just in front of you and shutting out all negative thoughts. Now while this might be a new yoga pose, it’s not going to save your newspaper.

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