Believe it or not, newspapers and news organisations are still hiring journalists – but not quite in the way they used to …
Is this how journalism will be conducted in the future: by amateurs, students and via charity handouts? Those worried about the erosion of professional journalism in the UK will hope not, but any realists who care about media holding authority to account (and maybe even making some money) should say, why not?
Like all UK newspaper publishers, Newsquest has reduced its workforce by hundreds in the past year — and by many hundreds over the past five years. With a stripped down staff it can’t achieve its hyperlocal ambitions without public participation.
Though the National Union of Journalists won’t like to hear it, students are a willing, cheap workforce that can make a real contribution to local news—thousands already do through free “work experience”. Newspapers may even benefit from some colleges’ superior facilities: Nottingham University’s Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism recently invested in a 85-seat multimedia “hub” with broadcast studio – by contrast, newspapers seem content for journalists to do pieces-to-camera sat in their inky newsroom.
Could charitable funding prop up the news biz? The Bureau of Investigative Journalism may have won £2m but, as newspaper group CEOs will testify (just look at their balance sheets), a few million doesn’t buy you many journalists or many investigations. PA is pitching for public funds for a UK pool of reporters, but the bill is £18m a year—a huge chunk of money for one public body to stump up.
The truth may be that nothing can replace the staffing level that UK journalism has enjoyed in recent years—alternative sources of funding and help from pro-am contributors could simply be two facets of the post-professional news landscape.