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Ex-journalists should visit modern newsrooms, says former editor

Alan GeereA former editorial chief has urged fiftysomething ex-journalists to spend time in modern newsrooms – claiming they are spectacles to be “marvelled” at.

Alan Geere, left, a former editor of the Essex Chronicle and editorial director of Northcliffe South East, has jokingly called for those no longer involved in “front line” journalism to undertake what he described as the equivalent of National Service by visiting a regional newspaper office in 2017.

Alan came to the conclusion after spending time at the NCJ Media office in Newcastle – home of sister dailies The Chronicle and The Journal, the Sunday Sun and companion website Chronicle Live.

In a piece about his experience for the latest edition of Production Journal, he wrote that watching the “daily dramas unfold first hand under the all-seeing eye of the metrics counter reminds me how far journalism has come”.

Alan described an office where print is “by no means a poor relation”, but where a league table of web story hits is “incessant and relentless and impossible not keep glancing at”.

He also praised the leadership skills of editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites and Chronicle Live editor Helen Dalby.

Wrote Alan: “Rather like they used to say that all young people should do National Service I think all journalists over 50 – especially those not involved in front-line newspaper journalism – should go and spend some time in a thoroughly modern newsroom like this.

“They will find committed, capable people confidently handling all the channels of delivery with a dexterity that can only be marvelled at.

“Much has changed. All those blinking screens telling you what’s hot and what’s not are a far cry from the ‘I know what my readers like’ finger in the wind editor of not that long ago.

“But much is the same too. The excitement when a big story breaks, the leadership needed to steer it in the right direction and the boots on ground skills of talking to people and delivering what you find out quickly and succinctly.”

12 comments

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  • September 12, 2017 at 8:21 am
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    As one with extensive knowledge of today’s modern newsrooms it puzzles me why with all “….those blinking screens telling you what’s hot and what’s not are a far cry from the ‘I know what my readers like’ …” newspaper sales are on the floor and falling further
    indicating to me that either they don’t know what readers want or if they do they don’t look there to read it.
    Also he hits the nail on the head when he tells us “….watching the “daily dramas unfold first hand under the all-seeing eye of the metrics counter reminds me how far journalism has come”.
    Yes indeed,now it’s all about clicks and likes over ‘ boots on the ground’ local reporters relying on contacts and local knowledge for their stories, not Facebook and twitter lifts or reader emailed iPhone snaps with in paper pieces asking if anyone’s got any news,?
    so maybe those who know no different could go back , just a few years, to see real news gathering and photography by professional time served journalists and photographers, they might then realise just how far it’s really come.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 10:47 am
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    From what he says I think they will stay as far away as possible. Been there, done that. It didn’t start yesterday, you know.
    I don’t doubt they work hard- every newsroom is understaffed- but the end product often suggests it is still a case of Jack of all trades….

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  • September 12, 2017 at 10:47 am
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    Journalism which is driven only by analytics can result in too much focus on content that is popular but pointless. A sort of Sunny Delight journalism – looks like real orange juice but isn’t. According to the Guardian in 2001 (so it must be true, although the formula may have changed since those heady days): “Sunny Delight is 5% citrus juice, and a lot of sugar and water, with vegetable oil, thickeners, added vitamins and flavourings, colourings and other additives that make it look like fresh orange juice” https://www.theguardian.com/media/2001/apr/11/marketingandpr.comment
    One of the joys of journalism, as a consumer, is to stumble across a piece that you might, hitherto, have eschewed as not the sort of thing you are interested in, but then end up captivated, or educated, or both. It’s a bit like being forced to eat your vegetables as a child – it was because they’re good for you. Over-dependency on analytics creates a risk that because little Claude or Camilla just love those cream cakes, they should be served nothing else.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm
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    Newspaper sales are falling because the people who still buy papers are old, getting older and dying. It’s universal. Everyone else wants to read their news online. You either accept this or quit. Journalism these days is about creating a future by growing digital and trying to slow the inevitable decline of print.

    As far as the numbers are concerned, nothing tops Chartbeat like a good local breaking news story. Things are the same as always. Click chasing is pointless because those people are never going to become loyal readers.

    The real issue isn’t with journalism, it’s with journalists being unable to admit to themselves and others they’re scared of the change, they don’t like feeling out of their depth and don’t like not knowing everything. Alan Geere is exactly right about the days of the “finger in the wind” editor. Now the readers tell US what they want – and I think there are a lot of egos about who can’t handle it.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm
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    I think any retired journo going into a modern newsroom would be crashingly alarmed and saddened by modern standards. Lot less staff, stressed youngsters wondering if more job cuts come soon, good stories ignored or not followed up, clumsy blunders, inaccuracy, wonky spelling, less training, court hearings ignored, fewer quality features, worse pix, more frothy rhubarb with pix spreads to quick fill the pages and more ad features. Also of course fewer pages and much lower circulations. Much better to have worked in happier, quality times by those bods now in their 50s to 90s!

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  • September 12, 2017 at 4:34 pm
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    Northern hack
    I agree the public are very much telling publishers what they want by turning their backs on ailing local papers as evidenced by the god awful copy sales figures coming out of the ABC reports,do they’re very much shouting what they think people want to hear into the wilderness,and no the issue isn’t with journalists or the keyboard sliders prevalent in the newsrooms of today it’s with the weak copy and content which fewer people are choosing to pay for when they can get instant and more accurate relevant news updates on national news sites.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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    Dress it up anyway you choose but if you live and die by figures the figures speak for themselves, record low ad sales revenues due to so few copies sold meaning a greatly reduce audience for potential advertisers, the only thing stats are telling us is that local newspapers are no longer an effective medium for either local news or as an effective medium in which to reach a local audience, those days have long gone, and no matter how loud you shout or how much you think you know what the public wants the only true metrica are copy sales figures and we all know what they’re telling us loudly and clearly

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  • September 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm
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    As a former Daily journalist in my mid 60s with more than 45 years of newspaper experience all I can say is that visiting modern newsrooms is shocking because of their lack of discernible verve, energy and humour. The near silence is deadly and weird. Working for newspapers used to be enormous fun. You were expected to spend most of your time out of the office finding stories. Now you get a bollocking for NOT being at your desk.

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  • September 14, 2017 at 11:28 am
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    Print and digital aren’t comparable. Digital is free. Print isn’t.
    Everything that’s online is still paid for by the profits from print, pretty much, but while endless care and attention is lavished on digital, the print product has to scrape by with barely any staff and copy written for the web which is entirely unsuitable for a paid-for product which aspires to quality. The only fair comparison would be if newspapers and news websites were produced by entirely separate companies – or at the very least, if digital had to support itself on what it actually earns, while newspapers did the same. David Higgerson would be stood on a street corner with a mouth-organ and a Costa cup full of loose change.

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  • September 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm
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    It is unbelievably insensitive for Alan Geere to call on ‘ex-journalists’ to visit modern newsrooms, when these are the very places where they want to work but are constantly refused work as young people are invariably favoured for roles.
    It would serve better if he was to call on the newspaper industry to adopt a policy of positive discrimination in favour of the very journalists they have made redundant, instead of blaming them for finding themselves unemployed.

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  • September 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm
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    As a 60-something journalist – not ex – I would urge Alan Geere to climb down from his ivory tower and have a peek at the real world. ‘Print not the poor relation’? Are you having a laugh, Mr Geere? I work on a seven-man desk where five are committed to digital. Two are committed to print, one for each publication we produce. I’m one of them. Far from feeling part of a seven-man team, I feel like print has been the victim of some sort of apartheid, where we are at the bottom of the pile where any extra resources are concerned.
    In one sense, Mr Geere is absolutely correct. Modern newsrooms are something to marvel at. As in: ‘how in hell do they keep going’?

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  • September 21, 2017 at 8:59 pm
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    I am looking at a front page story on a JP paper. It is about the re-opening of a fish and chip shop and the only quote backing it up is lifted from Facebook. There is no new quote, no detail, and the rest is padded out from copy from a previous story. Welcome to the newsroom of the future.

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