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Downturn 'will be blessing in disguise' – Satchwell

Society of Editors’ executive director Bob Satchwell yesterday predicted that the economic downturn could prove a “blessing in disguise” because it would shake-up the newspaper industry.

In a speech to journalism students in Coventry, the former Cambridge News editor insisted that the future of the profession was bright.

“This is the most exciting time for young people to be getting into journalism, even though jobs are hard to come by at the moment,” he said.

“I believe there will be a way out of this recession and in a way it will be a bit of a blessing in disguise because it will shake the industry up.”

One of the students who was in the audience, third-year journalism student Steve Carpenter, wrote a report of the speech which he sent to HoldtheFrontPage.

Here is his piece in full.

The future of journalism is in safe hands according to the executive director of the Society of Editors who insists young journalists looking to break into the industry have every chance in succeeding.

Bob Satchwell was discussing the future of newspapers exclusively at a special talk as part of the Coventry Conversations series, which take place weekly at the City’s University.

With the industry currently in turmoil and the lack of jobs available, Satchwell insists that there are ‘exciting’ times ahead for wannabe journalists and he would give anything to roll back the years and be a part of it.

“There are lots of stories about journalists being made redundant, which hides the fact that there are lots of other journalists that have actually been employed. There are more journalists now employed than there were ten years ago,” he said.

“I wish I was 21 again and starting all over again. This is the most exciting time for young people to be getting into journalism, even though jobs are hard to come by at the moment.

“Those people who get good training in journalism and manage to find their way into a company and use all the things editors are looking for in five – ten years time will be having a great time.”

Mr Satchwell, who started his career with the Lancashire Evening Post, admitted that the ‘credit crunch’ has had an enormous effect on the journalism industry, particularly regional and local newspapers, but he remains optimistic that newspapers will survive and come out stronger.

“I believe there will be a way out of this recession and in a way it will be a bit of a blessing in disguise because it will shake the industry up,” he said.

“It’s not the end of the world for newspapers, it may be free in the future, because now we have a generation that expects to get its news for nothing.

“I still believe there will still be a lot of papers, but there will be even more people reading the output of those papers on other platforms.”

Mr Satchwell, whose career in the journalism industry has spanned almost 40 years, also discussed the digital revolution to a strong crowd and emphasised its importance in terms of communication and the internet has changed the way people read news.

“We are going through huge structural change across the media. It’s been going on now for 15 years, for the first five of those 15 years most of the newspaper industry didn’t realise it was happening and it was called the internet,” he said.

“This revolution is arguably bigger than Caxton because its affects absolutely everyone, all the billions of people of across the world and its effecting every part of our lives.

“What you have are huge media companies who are providing news and other content on a whole range of platforms whether it’s the internet, mobiles phones, Twitter, things we haven’t thought of yet.”


Lamoon (27/02/2009 07:38:53)
Oh dear, oh dear Bob.

Observer (27/02/2009 08:23:19)
I wish I was 21 again too. I’d get out of journalism as quick as possible and work in a supermarket. If you’re going to spend years in drudgery and misery, you might as well get a half-decent pay packet.

Diesel74 (27/02/2009 08:58:10)
More jobs now than 10 years ago? What is Mr Satchwell on about and which planet is he on?
As a journalist with 21 years experience, I know there were more journalists in regional daily newsrooms 10 years ago. And most of them were properly trained, could string a sentence together and knew how to get stories – rather than rely on a constant stream of press releases. Good time for the industry? There’s spin and there’s outright cow manure. Is nobody going to take up the cudgels for newspapers?

F. Johnston (27/02/2009 09:17:09)
There are lots of stories about journalists being made redundant, which hides the fact that there are lots of other journalists that have actually been employed.”
Could somebody let me know where all these journalists are being taken on so I can apply?

Fredd (27/02/2009 09:21:02)
He means those amateur bloggers and all those columnists at the Guardian that write 300 words a week.

Michael (27/02/2009 09:39:50)
Who is paying Bob Satchwell to spout off this nonsense? More journalists employed than there were ten years ago? Where? China?! The truth is, there’s nothing ‘exciting’ about the future of journalism. We’ve had a number of students come to our newspaper in the last few months on work experience placements and, although I probably should have, I didn’t have the heart to tell any of them that the chances of them finding a decent job at the end of their courses was virtually nil.

Jambo (27/02/2009 09:53:23)
I am a 27 year old NCTJ student. I don’t have a degree (I have the equivilant of a few A levels) and if I don’t get a job at the end of the course then it’ll be a life-time of administration jobs in the civil service for me. Also, if I can’t get a job, and find out that most of my fellow graduates can’t get one, I will be writing to the NCTJ and ask them why they justify being involved with dozens and dozens and dozens of courses across the country. The people quing up to get into journalism is really sad. I have seen about 4 jobs advertised in about 4 months. How many students graduate from the NCTJ a year? 3,000?

Elvis (27/02/2009 09:58:42)
“There are lots of stories about journalists being made redundant, which hides the fact that there are lots of other journalists that have actually been employed.”
My God what nonsense. Just a quick glance at the number of jobs on this site compared to a year ago tells you all you need to know. Daily we’re hearing about papers cutting jobs – I don’t remember a single story about lots of journalism jobs being created. Just look at how many papers have closed recently compared to new launches (Greenslade had a piece on his blog on this).
I cannot believe someone in such a key position can be so unaware of what is going on. Bob, you sound like a spokesman for JP, Newsquest or Northcliffe.

The Red Postman (27/02/2009 10:09:33)
Clearly, Bob hasn’t seen the front page of this month’s Press Gazette: “It’s time to end the cutting culture”.

men tull (27/02/2009 10:12:09)

men tull (27/02/2009 10:12:29)

FAST WOMAN (27/02/2009 10:28:09)
Yet another surreal example supporting my ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ theory,
Will the last investigative reporter left please poke around a bit before heading for the hills.

James (27/02/2009 10:48:59)
I am all for people trying to look on the bright side of life – let’s face it there are enough on the other side of the arguement – but this is frankly ridiculous Bob. Apart from the fact that many good, honest people are now leaving our industry I really feel for the generation of talented yo
ungsters leaving courses this summer who will have nowhere to go.
On my NCTJ pre-entry course 25 years or so ago every one of us (28-30?) left and were in regional jobs within two months. This year I imagine hardly any of the great trainees leaving will get jobs and we could be losing a genertion of talented youngsters to add to the experienced ones we are losing too.
Bob, stay positive yes (I still love and believe in my profession )but stay realistic too.
This makes you look out of touch…

cadmus (27/02/2009 11:35:08)
Well at least the truth is finally out there – the Society of Editors IS the official voice for all those corporate newspaper owners who steadfastly refuse to comment about the continuing rounds redundancies and newspaper closures

Former journo (27/02/2009 12:37:37)
So how did the audience of student journalists react to this speech? Did they believe him? I’d be interested to hear how well it went down. I wonder if there was a Q&A session at the end, and if people asked him where all these jobs were? After years of cut backs, recruitment freezes and low morale, just where exactly are these magical jobs?

Dunsubbin’ (27/02/2009 13:13:15)
There was a time when the NCTJ guaranteed training places based on the needs of the regional press. In the 1980s when I trained with the NCTJ this was the case and everybody on my course who wanted a job got one.
I wonder what the NCTJ figures are like now? Perhaps Bob could back up his argument with some hard facts. Facts are the basis for good journalism after all.
Newspapers, unfortunately, are in terminal decline. Hasn’t Bob been reading the papers recently?
Hopefully people wanting to get into the industry are more savvy and will research beyond his speech.
And there are certainly new media opportunities in regional independent radio and the burgeoning specialist media sectors.
I left newspapers to go into PR because regional papers have virtually no career structure and are managing decline. Poor pay has always been a fact of life for regional journalists.
The companies running our regional press have completely missed the boat with web sites – the “shall we shan’t we” argument has been raging like a sad game of table tennis for years. Meanwhile local stories for local readers have suffered from staff and regional office cuts.
Shame. And shame on those at the top for letting it get to that state. Unfortunately those who have clung onto the sinking ship will pay, some sadly with their jobs and careers.
The only supporters of local newspapers are readers and journalists who dedicate their working lives to them.
Time for journalists to put themselves first maybe and look to see what alternatives are out there.

JP Ground Down (27/02/2009 13:30:10)
As a regional reporter I find Satchwell’s comments insulting. How out of touch is this man? Perhaps – along with Greenslade – he should climb down from the cushioned heights of luxuryland and see the real journalism landscape. I’m sick of hearing the jobs for boys brigade claiming it’s “exciting times”. It may well be exciting not knowing whether to have cavier or just lobster for your next meal. But for real reporters it’s an ugly landscape being torn apart from bad decisions. Bad decisions by who? The cavier brigade at the top.

F. Johnston (27/02/2009 14:06:40)
Roger Parry, chairman of Johnston Press, writing in the Financial Times today, says: “Some managers argue that a failing six-day-a-week paper is still better than one that comes out once or twice. But economics shows that they are wrong. A strong weekly paper – in effect a print-out of the best content from a well-resourced 24/7 website – is a better proposition.”
Mr Parry agrees with the prognosis of Douglas McCabe, publishing analyst at Enders, that there will be 50 per cent fewer journalists working in the regional press within five years.”
A bright future indeed, Bob

40000th headman (27/02/2009 14:58:59)
Since my first incredulous look at Bob Satchwell’s happy-clappy nonsense I have spotted two significant items on the wonder-web today:
“I have three predictions for the local newspaper industry in the UK by 2014: total local advertising income will be less than it is today; many local daily titles will have been converted into weeklies; and the number of journalists and sales people will be down 50 per cent.” – Johnston Press Chairman Roger Parry, writing on the FT’s website today.
“The Kent Messenger Group is planning to shed more than a quarter of its 560-strong workforce in a fresh round of cutbacks announced today” (32 of these at least will be editorial jobs). – HTFP
Gee, Bob – you’re right… the land of milk and honey must be just round the corner!

Lil Baldy (27/02/2009 16:21:59)
No wonder this man was put out to grass from the real newspaper industry years ago. His words beggar belief.

Hannah (03/03/2009 17:42:48)
I think what Bob meant was that, due to the credit crunch, the long-term realistic aims of where newspapers want to be is being looked at more closely in terms of websites, videos, blogs etc, which is a good thing.
At the moment many papers are doing this half-heartedly, expecting reporters to do all platforms and not giving them any time or training to become good at them.
It will be much better if and when they have grabbed the bull by the horns and moved forward, which is what the credit crunch is forcing them to do. Jobs are being cut at the moment but I think the essence of what he is saying is that if you can get into the industry now and survive the credit crunch, there might just be some interesting times to come given that journalism is changing beyond recognition.
Surely everyone can give that thought a moment of consideration rather than just automatically criticising him because they don’t like the fact that journalism is changing from the supposed “golden years”?
Whether newspapers are in terminal decline or not (I don’t think they are – less might be sold but that doesn’t mean they will die altogether) the demand for news will continue and it’s the way that news will be delivered that will be exciting.