The challenge to newspapers in the 21st century is to become the Tesco of the media market, and not the Marks and Spencer.
Futorologist, professor Richard Scase, the opening speaker at the Society of Editors conference in the Lake District, highlighted the importance of regional media and the challenges ahead. He said that in the world of “liberated consumers” it was essential that regional and national newspapers used creative and interpretive analysis to win their share of the market.
The Society of Editors’ gala dinner was attended by some distinguished media figures, including speaker Lord Melvyn Bragg, who offered his own thoughts about today’s media.
He praised his past employers at the Cumberland News, referring largely to his experiences there at his local newspaper where he was a paper boy and sports reporter. On the future of journalism and the national press, he said that use of pictures and photography would increasingly speak louder than words.
Some of journalism’s leading political figures held a gripping debate on whether politicians really need the media to give them a bad name…
Financial Times contributing editor John Lloyd, Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire, Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh and Rod McKenzie, head of BBC Radio 1′s Newsbeat, all took to the stage to voice their opinions.
A discussion on the impact of the Freedom of Information Act focused on whether it had worked in reality – and how the public and journalists have used and interpreted it.
Deputy information commissioner Graham Smith said the act appeared to be working well – but pointed out that it took time and it was unfair to judge it on its first nine months, where just 50 out of 2,000 requests had been answered.
Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, illustrated the talk by showing examples of stories which have been published because of the act. But he predicted that within six months a fee to request information would be imposed, possibly to control the flow of requests for information.
News International chairman Les Hinton opened the conference by outlining the threats to newspapers in simple terms: time, threat of regulation and trust.
He acknowledged that thus far self regulation has been very effective but warned of citizen journalists “stealing” the time of newspaper readers. He also told his audience that online and broadband were creating attention from bureaucrats in Brussels who seem determined to introduce unworkable and unnecessary regulations.