A regional daily editor has hit out at “churnalism” on local papers as he announced a 44pc cover price increase on his own title.
Announcing the price rise in a strongly-worded piece published on Friday, Mail editor Simon O’Neill said the paper needed to charge a “fair” price if it was to continue to set the news agenda for its patch.
And he contrasted the Mail’s approach with that of some local papers who, he claimed, had resorted to “churnalism” to fill their pages.
Wrote Simon: “Contrary to what some believe, news does not come free, or even cheap. Providing a comprehensive news, sport and information service to a county like Oxfordshire requires highly-skilled journalists and large numbers of them.
“The advent of the Internet and the worst recession in living memory have placed our ability to sustain that under severe threat. The very future of some local newspapers is at risk.
“The ‘double whammy’ of the web and mobile devices changing reader habits and the economic downturn has seen approximately half of UK regional newspaper advertising revenues vanish over the last five years.
These have always been the lifeblood of newspapers like ours, comprising as much as 80 per cent of the total income of some newspaper businesses. They effectively subsidised local journalism.
“The response of the industry to the downturn has been to cut – hard, deep and fast – and hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs.
“If this continued, local newspapers like ours would cease to be credible sources of reliable news. Already, the term ‘churnalism’ has been coined to describe the mentality which exists at a few local papers, with a handful of staff ‘filling’ their paper with whatever they could.
“We have not been immune to the crisis, but we are still profitable and have more journalists covering Oxfordshire than all the other print and broadcast news organisations put together. We have also earned a justified reputation for leading the county’s news agenda.
“But we have had to make some tough decisions to preserve that – and we are asking you to do the same. In short, if we are to continue providing a strong, professional news service, we have to demand a fair price for it. And that price is considerably higher than the one we are currently charging.”