Regional editors are facing time pressures which leave them unable devote enough attention to improving their titles, according to a new research study by a daily editor.
The report by North Wales Daily Post editor Alison Gow, left, found that editors felt challenged by the need to maintain a quality print product in the face of a reduced workforce and shrinking budgets.
Her study found that editors’ roles were becoming more “hands on”, leaving them with less time to focus on enhancing their brand and titles, and many said they were sometimes “overwhelmed” by the evolving demands of their role.
The study also found that many felt the role was being diminished and staff no longer saw the editor as a “great journalist” but rather as a mouthpiece for company restructures, redundancies and cost-savings to be communicated.
Alison carried out the study as part of an MA in Journalism Leadership and it has been included in a new Journalism Leadership Insight report highlighting the challenges facing by the media industry, which has been put together by the University of Central Lancashire.
Her report was put together from surveys and interviews with regional press editors and is called “Dancing on the Fountain: the challenges, competencies and evolution of the UK regional press editor role”.
Alison found that the editors had misgivings about the way media company executives were attempting to implement change without significant investment in training, equipment and personel.
On editor who was interviewed said: “It is so hard to be innovative with newspapers. There has been a big turnaround (away from digital) to, ‘We have to protect our core products for a lot longer than we ever thought we’d have to, because we aren’t making enough money online to make up for that’. Yet there are no ideas coming forward other than cost-saving.”
The participants also raised concerns about their lack of digital skills and whether they were under-equipped to provide effective leadership in this area.
Alison’s report said: “Editors expressed dismay and concern at the on-going industry disruption and the perceived freefall of print products’ revenue, circulation and audience.
“They questioned publishers’ commitment to the regional newspaper model, and required greater clarity and explanation of owners’ strategic long-term goals, the execution of future strategies, and their role within this.”
Editors said time pressures meant they were less able to act as brand representatives and instead were spending more time involved in commercial duties or operational tasks.
One editor interviewed said: “Because of the roles they do, editors are not as active in the community as they used to be… they are probably blander than they used to be and that has also diminished their role and importance in people’s eyes.”
Editors interviewed for the study felt the need for further training in change management and in digital skills
The Journalism Leadership Insight report includes five studies from newspaper editors or senior media executives, who all carried out the MA in Journalism Leadership at UCLan.
The report’s editor François Nel, director of the Journalism Leaders Programme, said: “The report offers much-needed insights into the challenges facing the industry by the very people driving innovation in our sector. The leadership lessons they share couldn’t be more timely.”
The full report can be viewed here.