24 April 2014

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Former editor hits out at “arrogant” newspaper bosses

A former regional editor who lost his job over his use of Twitter has hit out at “arrogant” newspaper bosses, blaming them for the industry’s decline.

Darren Parkin, who left his role at the Coventry Telegraph last year, has taken to the blogosphere to criticise the state of the British press – and urge bosses to listen to the journalists on the front line.

In a post written for the International Words and Pictures Bureau, Darren accuses publishers of dreaming up “more and more nonsense” rather than listening to the public or even their own writers.

His comments come amid a fresh round of job cuts at his old paper with award-winning political editor Les Reid among staff whose roles are at risk of redundancy.

Wrote Darren:  “The arrogant attitude of always knowing best has never failed to astound me in these circles. And the fact it continues is, perhaps, one of the worst parts of it.

“The majority of the people heading up these institutions are so out of touch with the needs of today that they honestly believe they can dumb down the way news is gathered, presented and delivered and not a single consumer will notice. What utter arrogance.

“They need to wake up to new media. They need to recognise its power properly rather than falsely believing that doffing a cap to digital and giving it a funky new name will have any impact whatsoever in the battle to conquer all that is currently wrong with newspapers.

“But where do they turn in order to find the ideas and innovations that will carry the industry across the troubled waters it is drowning in? Eachother. Their peers. They look around the table and dream up more and more inadequate nonsense – each scheme another nail in the coffin of a beast that is suffering a drawn out and painful death.”

By contrast Darren, who now edits a lifestyle magazine in the Canary Islands called Canarias Brillante, was full of praise for the journalists on the frontline – and said they are where the future of the industry lies.

“Unlike…a bad workman, I rarely came across a journalist who complained about their tools – be it their woefully inadequate mobile phone-cum-camera, a tragically pathetic laptop or even the paper itself. They’re a resourceful breed and few moan about their lot. Instead they choose to get their heads down and get on with it,” he said.

“Sadly, although admirable, this certainly hasn’t helped their cause. Swing upon swing has been made of the axe that has loomed over their heads for the last seven or eight years as the industry comes to terms with both the economic climate and the ever-increasing demand of a public that has been practically begging for new ways of delivering the news and information we all crave.

“The saddest thing of all is that, in my experience, the ideas that lead to that magic bullet – the innovative next step that will reform the industry – can all be found in the newsroom. And that’s the least likely place you’ll find this industry’s so-called leaders.

“Our future is in the journalists who are at the pointy end of the stick that reaches out to the public. And these are the very people that management must consult if they need some answers.”

In the post, he also opened up about the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Coventry Telegraph last year, claiming senior management need to “wake up” to new media before it is too late.

He had been editor of the Telegraph from 2009 until July, when he left after having previously been suspended on full pay when concerns were raised about his use of Twitter.

“I knew things were in a sorry state the day I was summoned to discuss my use of Twitter with the elders,” he said.

“As the meeting went on, one of the disgruntled bunch delivered an immortal line that has haunted my dreams ever since: ‘Look, terribly sorry, and I speak for all here, but I don’t use Twitter. Before we go on, you’ll have to explain to us what one of these re-tweet thingamajigs is’ – and there, in one sentence, the tragic arrogance of age and experience made my heart sink.”

18 Comments

  1. furryoldgreybadger

    I worked alongside a number of editors in the regional press for years and can’t recall too many of them who had the balls to stand up to the owners. One or two did yes, but the majority enjoyed all the trappings of power as much as the owners did.

    I worked alongside one editor who was ahead of his time and did have his say at board meetings…most editors were deaf, dumb and blind when it came to changes!

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  2. Dave, Cov

    I think the measure of how seriously this blog can be taken is how many of the “frontline journalists” Mr Parkin is now so keen to praise actually come on here and voice their support.

    Report this comment

  3. Out-of-work Hack

    It’s about time hacks stood up to adsales and accounts. Mr Parkin is spot on.

    Report this comment

  4. Newshound

    Here here! Couldn’t have put it better myself.

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  5. blunterbrother, south west

    All true. But if you were a local manager-editor on good money with a family and mortgage how brave would you be in standing up to the crazy ideas pumped out at head office. The ones I knew who had some balls are out of the game.

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  6. Bob Haywood

    It’s hear, hear – not here, here.

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  7. Confused

    There’s a lot of arrogance in here. Why can ideas only come from the newsrooms? Did Darren Parkin ever ask the ad sales what they need from the newsroom to keep making money? And why did the Coventry Telegraph only ever put the day’s news on the website in the afternoon? That doesn’t sound like the actions of a man shouting about digital does it?

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  8. Enough Is Enough, Coventry

    Dear Confused,
    Confused by name, confused by nature. Few of us confused by your identity however. Although we’re deeply puzzled by the ill-informed point you aren’t making.
    Speaking from the newsroom I can’t say your attempt to deflect the sentiments of a truthful and honest insight from someone who dedicated his existence to the Coventry Telegraph is at all impressive.
    I’m sure someone on your floor will explain to you why you are so utterly wrong, by the way. Plenty of volunteers in editorial if not.

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  9. Biller

    Out-of-work Hack
    Your line ‘It’s about time hacks stood up to adsales and accounts’ shows what a moron you really are.

    Report this comment

  10. Outsider looking in

    Is someone sacked for what they said on Twitter really in a good place to accuse management of not understanding the internet?

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  11. Aman

    As an editor I’m acutely aware that I have two choices.
    Stand up to all the baffling decisions made by the MDs and accountants and lose my job.
    Or do the best I can with what I have and try to fight the worst decisions as strongly as possible without putting my livelihood at risk.
    You have to be political with every fight – gone are the days of giving a reasonable and logic “this is just bloody stupid” argument.
    It’s horrible, but most editors just don’t have the power they used to. Even the ones at the bigger papers are having to swallow appalling decisions.
    So you either learn to live with it or, as is increasingly happening, you leave (one way or another).

    Parkin’s words will chime with most editors I know.

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  12. Flame Girl, London

    Amen to “Aman”.

    Parkin is absolutely spot-on.

    Frankly, some of those saying otherwise have sightly suspect comments/names/motives.

    The UK newspaper industry is a poorer place without a ballsy editor like this.

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  13. About Time, Bristol

    Just to add my tuppence, Parkin is spot on. Owners/directors/managers have displayed staggering ignorance and incompetence at each of the four groups I’ve worked for in my fifteen-year career (I know that’s not very long compared to some of you) so far. Editors and journos understand their readers much better. To save newspapers, transfer decision-making power back to them.

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  14. Flame Girl, London

    Quite right “About Time”.

    I suspect you’ll get slated by those who feel the need to disagree for the sake of disagreement on here but you are absolutely right.

    Parkin’s nailed it. It’s time to listen to the newsrooms before it’s too late. The journalists are the ones who are closest to understanding the needs of the readers.

    I also think it would be wise for the critics (whatever their motives) to read his original blog in order to fully understand the context.

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  15. Outsider looking in

    He hasn’t nailed it at all. He’s hit out at an employer who sacked him. The ex-editors with guts are the ones who took a principled stand and chose to leave, like Steve Dyson, John Meehan or Paul Robertson.

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  16. Flame Girl, London

    Oh dear Outsider. You seem to be making this almost personal. Should you be declaring an interest, perhaps?

    When I looked at the original blog I heard a general shout for a wake-up call to ALL newspapers and certainly not pot-shots at a former employer. It’s clearly touched a nerve with you.

    And from what I know of two of the three cases you choose to mention, there was little choice in the matter for them.

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  17. Outsider looking in

    Nothing personal on my part, like you Flame Girl, I agree that context is everything here.

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  18. Enough Is Enough, Coventry

    Can’t imagine how anyone could take anything personal with Darren Parkin. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
    Also probably the last “proper” editor I’ll ever work for.
    Firm but fair, and all those other cliches you use about good bosses.
    If you were in a war he’d be the leader you’d happily follow rather than some miles-away idiot sat at a mahogany desk.
    Our future looks bleak at the Coventry Telegraph without “The Gaffer”.
    Bring him back quick!

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