AddThis SmartLayers

Departing chief reporter hits out at ‘clueless’ bosses in farewell rant

Paul ChristianA weekly’s chief reporter who is quitting journalism for PR has hit out at the state of regional press in a strongly-worded farewell to the industry.

Paul Christian resigned from the Welwyn and Hatfield Times last month ahead of a move to what he himself termed “the dark side,” and worked his final day at the Archant-owned newspaper on Friday.

In a blog post on Twitlonger, the service which allows Twitter users to post messages longer than normally allowed by the social networking site, Paul attacked what he called the a “clueless clique” running the industry.

He added while he had spent eight years in the regional press, he “cannot claim to be sad” at his decision to change careers.

Wrote Paul: “I feel the industry I once loved is teetering on the brink of collapse.

“There will always be news and an appetite for news, but the creaking family-owned firms which monopolise this craft – and it is a craft rather than an academic pursuit – have little or no understanding (or interest), in its future.

“The printing press was invented in around 1450 and there has been print media of one sort or another ever since, some of it even free. But this industry – at a local level at least – is kidding itself if it believes printing newspapers has any kind of a future.”

“It has singularly failed, again especially at a local level, to embrace Kindle/E-Edition/Tablet news ‘papers’ with any real effort, when nationals and bestselling books have done just that.

“Various highly-paid, snake oil peddling, ‘geniuses’ have been drafted in to ‘monetise the web’ and have all fallen flat on their backsides,” he added.

“And the clueless clique at the top of this game scratch their heads as circulation on paid-for weeklies and dailies plummets irreversibly.”

Paul went on to reminisce about the stories he was most proud of during his career, exposing the “powerful and wrongdoers”.

He added: “These are the things I am most proud of and these are the things which increasingly cannot be done in our brave new world.

“The greatest tragedy is that when local journalism goes away, these people will not. And who will you moan to when yobs run amok, or the council ignores you, or your operation is cancelled, or cemeteries or sporting facilities are left to wither and rot, or even to get a bit of publicity for your summer fete or charity trek?

“When I started out, there was still some faint semblance of the glory days, even though Fleet Street was no longer the home of the thirsty newshound. But that flame has, alas, now been firmly and irrevocably extinguished.”

Paul handed in his notice at the Times on Monday 22 June and uploaded the blog post a week later – more than a fortnight before leaving the paper.

He concluded: “I’m optimistic and excited about my own future, what a shame I can’t say the same about a once great institution.”

38 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • July 22, 2015 at 7:13 am
    Permalink

    He will get s lot of PR for his clients slagging off the very industry he will be begging to publish stories in next week.

    Another failed Journo goes into PR

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(24)
  • July 22, 2015 at 7:23 am
    Permalink

    “Highy-paid, snake oil peddling, ‘geniuses’” – who on earth could he be referring to?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • July 22, 2015 at 7:46 am
    Permalink

    “The creaking family-owned firms which monopolise this craft…”
    Does he include Newsquest, Local World and JP among these?
    More family-owned firms might be a better thing.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(34)
  • July 22, 2015 at 8:41 am
    Permalink

    Can you “firmly” extinguish a flame? Look, don’t take on so, I was only asking…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • July 22, 2015 at 8:51 am
    Permalink

    I’d happily agree with most of his points. But I’m a bit confused by his pop at “family owned firms”. I’d always thought it was the big companies (Johnston, Newsquest, Archant etc) which were most responsible for wrecking our industry – not the smaller outfits….

    Anyway, apart from that, fair play to him. I wish him well in his new career.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(19)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:07 am
    Permalink

    Eight years in the regional press, making it to the lofty heights of ‘chief’ reporter on a weekly? There speaks the voice of a mighty authority on our profession. PS. There’s plenty of life left in my growing, family-owned stable of print publications, sonny!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(30)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:41 am
    Permalink

    We’re run with HR to the fore, not creativity. He’s well out of it.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:45 am
    Permalink

    Unwise and pointless. And PR? Seriously? Is that the best you can do? What a waste of your life. Accept the direction the media is heading in, adapt and survive. Right now you’re not surviving, you’re sulking.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(17)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:54 am
    Permalink

    Fred – hardly a ‘failed’ journalist if he’s been in the game for eight years. More like sad and frustrated at the way a once health and exciting (whoops, sorry) trade is going. There’s a lot of us about.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • July 22, 2015 at 10:03 am
    Permalink

    Oh boy, where to start?
    Maybe with the slight smell of hypocrisy of somebody getting on their soapbox about exposing wrongdoing whilst merrily jumping ship to take the corporate shilling?
    Or maybe with the feeling that somebody who gleefully puts the boot into the regional press isn’t quite the right person to be taking a role in PR where – presumably – he will be dealing with them on a daily basis?
    Either way, this whole thing leaves quite a nasty taste. Yes the industry has some huge challenges and some of the bigger outfits have made some very poor decisions along the way (although pinpointing the family-owned firms as the villains of the piece is inexplicable.)
    But it is ridiculously naive to think the internet would not have caused massive disruption to the industry no matter what decisions were taken along the way.
    As always though, it’s always easy to snipe from the comfort of a cushy PR job rather than stay and try to fight the fight.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(13)
  • July 22, 2015 at 10:16 am
    Permalink

    Fred, Herts

    Some of us who’ve gone into PR aren’t failed journalists, I could actually claim to be rather successful.

    We just want to put food on the table and clothe our kids.

    And if you actually knew much about PR and what goes on, you’d know that newspapers are becoming more irrelevant because PRs don’t need them any longer to generate publicity.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(18)
  • July 22, 2015 at 10:31 am
    Permalink

    Gratifying to know that when yobs run amok, or the council ignores you, or your operation is cancelled, or cemeteries or sporting facilities are left to wither and rot, there’ll be some highly-paid, snake oil peddling ‘genius’ in PR with a mealy-mouthed reason why nothing can be done about it.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(12)
  • July 22, 2015 at 10:45 am
    Permalink

    I’d say his thoughts are probably the exact opposite of mine. Family run firms aren’t the problem, huge corporations chasing quick shareholder profits are.

    Failure to embrace new media has probably got very little to do with the decline of print either. TM has got new media all over the place but its still in decline.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(11)
  • July 22, 2015 at 10:59 am
    Permalink

    Clearly no understanding of Family owned Group as opposed to the big 4 regional Groups that are, or are owned by PLC’s. Who is he having a go at Cumbrian, Tindle, Express & Star Group, CD Thomson. Whilst I am sure they have their issues, they are at least all giving it a go.

    For someone whose key role was research, sniffing out a story and getting his facts right; he got this pretty wrong.

    Probably better off in PR based on this.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • July 22, 2015 at 11:07 am
    Permalink

    Terrible head and shoulders pic. Are there no snappers left at the Welwyn and Hatfield Times?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • July 22, 2015 at 11:40 am
    Permalink

    Yawn. Another disgruntled journalist taking a swipe at the industry. Eight years of working in weekly papers – perfectly respectable but hardly a guru.

    Yes, the industry’s in trouble. Yes, companies including Archant aren’t helping themselves. But it is still possible to have a decent career.

    There have always been people jumping ship after a short stint in journalism (and yes I class eight years as short). No need to (over)write this kind of thing.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • July 22, 2015 at 11:47 am
    Permalink

    Wazza Snapper – it’s a selife innit? get with the programme!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • July 22, 2015 at 11:48 am
    Permalink

    Yeah, hate to say it but I agree with him. Think that most local/regional journos are so time pressured, and paid so poorly that you have to be a masochist to stay. Even if you do sell your soul a bit in PR, at least you can afford luxuries like food at the end of the month. Doubt I’ll last much longer in journalism at this point – credit cards are running out!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • July 22, 2015 at 11:58 am
    Permalink

    why does being chief reporter make him a failure? Ideal position to spot the lunacy. I got out a few years back and I agree with everything he says. Those who say stay and fight are probably stuck in their job anyway through bills to pay, families, etc. so not exactly industry heroes, more like captives. He escaped and good luck to him. He will be a much happier person.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • July 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm
    Permalink

    Some outrageous examples of snobbery towards weekly newspapers here. So he isn’t allowed to put forward a view unless he’s a grizzled reporter on a city daily, 30 years in post and with a penchant for chain smoking and 10 pints of mild before noon?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(17)
  • July 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm
    Permalink

    For the most part I believe that the present family-run groups are doing their best to keep going and provide jobs. It’s the big boys like Trinity Mirror who should go back to school! And Fred in Herts opinion is not much better – if the PR story is good enough it will make it! The Government I’m afraid is the main culprit allowing the BBC to open local stations all over the place and plagiarize really good tales without recognising the weekly from which it came. Shoouldn’t the Government now allow weeklies to claim from BBC locals according to the amount of airtime it merited?
    In the meantime let’s take from the resilience of our younger journalists and the constant bravery of the NUJ…the flame to oppose authority and corruption still burns strong. Ken Jackson, Stafford

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • July 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm
    Permalink

    Danny – how do we know that he wasn’t at a paper where the management were the sort of bedblockers who stay in position for years and years? How do we know the papers that might have hired him were the ones where whenever a vacancy arose, the position was abolished? How do we know that he wasn’t a very good journalist who was just a bit crap at job interviews?

    I was at a weekly paper for almost as long as Paul, and I was a reporter for all that time (there was a really low turnover of staff) because from the day I passed my seniors to the day I left there management (ed and news ed) stayed in place, and there wasn’t a chief reporter’s position to go into. Even if there had been, it would have probably been a case of muggins turn and would have gone to one of the relatively many reporters who had been there longer than me. So you can’t blame Paul for ‘just’ being a chief reporter.

    And what if he went for a news editor’s job when it was pretty obvious they’d decided who was going to get the role in advance?

    Anyway, pretty much all the local newspaper companies, whether they’re a corporation or a family business, are failing, and having a go at this bloke – traitor to his trade though he may be – doesn’t really help.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • July 22, 2015 at 1:25 pm
    Permalink

    I’d love to have had a massive rant when I left the regional publishing company that I worked for, but ultimately, it is a useless gesture.

    It looks like across all the newspaper groups that at a certain level of management they are not interested in listening either to their reader comments on Facebook or their own sites or to common sense and constructive criticism raised by the rank and file, even when the staff have years of experience in their field.

    My area was digital and the last few months in the job were dire as I was expected to turn around dire buzzfeed type click-bait in 5 minutes (usually stolen from other websites) or make facile attempts at ‘jocular’ social media engagement when all people really wanted from their local newspaper was what they have always wanted – local news (not news about towns 50 miles away, hastily rewritten national news with a dodgy local connection or a specious celebrity connection to the town) delivered to them regularly with a bare minimum of fuss.

    I spent a great deal of time trying to explain to people why the sites served so much advertising that it killed off their browser session or took them off to another website without their knowledge, or played dodgy flash that they didn’t have the plugin for, but no one was interested in the complaints.

    I agree with Paul and with the earlier sentiments by Richard Bowyer in that there is a cadre of online gurus who have a very narrow focus which is (1) get as many hits as possible, regardless of whether those hits are out of looking at a well written article or just out of sheer curiosity (2) sell as much advertising based off the hits.

    And in my experience they tend to be disconnected from frustrated local editors who have no idea about a long-term digital plan as long as they get their hits and hit KPI’s.

    That is the empty policy behind many newspaper groups digital strategy.

    There is very little in the way of engagement, community building or long term development of their sites, and even less on how bad their websites are both in terms of their content or the user experience – which is a shame as newspapers should be leading the digital future, not just blindly copying the latest trends to chase hits.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(21)
  • July 22, 2015 at 2:21 pm
    Permalink

    Nationals Hack, Fleet Street … as a time-served (and the rest) weeklies man, far be it from me to bad-mouth a Chief Reporter. I’ve known some belters, even trained a few myself. Still, it hardly makes the lad an authority on an industry whose ‘golden years’ he never knew and the supposed death throes of which he feels able to pass comprehensive judgment on. As I said – we’ve had growing year-on-year print revenues in my business, thanks partly to JP abandoning ship, but mostly down to good customer service, a happy crew and even new (print) products!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • July 22, 2015 at 2:24 pm
    Permalink

    If PRs no longer need print journalists, as Observer claims, then why are our inboxes so full of their sh**te every day?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(15)
  • July 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm
    Permalink

    “Kindle/E-Edition/Tablet news ‘papers’”…hmm… all device-dependent for content, expensive to set-up across multiple platforms, expensive to maintain regarding OS updates, expensive to promote within the most appropriate platforms, would return very little money in advertising and would almost certainly have no profit at a local level!

    You can’t simply copy national digital models and expect them to work with a fraction of the audience. The outlay is the same but with very limited returns!

    Regional publishers are finding a way to monetise the web, just at the expense of journalists’ traditional values and their idea of quality.

    I don’t have a problem with minor mistakes, such as spelling errors, as these can be easily fixed on the go.

    I also don’t have a problem with ‘quick-fix non-stories’ just because they’ve gained a bit of traction of social media. If people are talking about something, they’ll be interested.

    My main issue is with the desire to only invest in these quick-fix stories at the expense of any in-depth, informative articles which would instead provide some longevity and maintain newspaper brands as the go-to source of local news and information.

    There’s no need to bin the short-term digital KPIs which are bringing in the some of the money now, but that model needs to be backed up with some long-term targets too, especially at the local level!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • July 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm
    Permalink

    So much of what Dave writes above chimes with me. I didn’t rant either when escaping, it would have been pointless as the die was cast.
    Dave says: ‘… at a certain level of management they are not interested in listening either to their reader comments on Facebook or their own sites or to common sense and constructive criticism raised by the rank and file, even when the staff have years of experience in their field.’
    This is so true. I had as much frustration with the naff ‘digital initiatives’ as I did with the blowtorch approach which saw countless, talented journalists made redundant.
    On leaving, I was definitely more embarrassed by the websites produced by my large regional group under the clunky digital policy operated by brought-in ‘click-bait gurus’ than the stable of newspapers.
    But that’s some years back; a few of the papers are gone, many of the frail remainder are now as poor a product as their sister websites.
    I suspect this is an industry where a significant number of senior management figures don’t actually LIKE their products and are just going through the motions (it’s all about the numbers) until pension time or a sexier chance to stroll the corridors of power elsewhere.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • July 22, 2015 at 4:36 pm
    Permalink

    I’m not sure where Paul’s comment about “family-owned” firms comes from but I agree with the gist of what he’s saying.

    You can hardly blame him for jumping ship, even if that does make him a little bit hypocritical. Most of us want a half-decent living and at least some career progression, so what’s a journalist to do when they hit 30 and realise there are so few opportunities?

    After all, it’s not like there are loads of jobs going as sub-editors or specialist reporters – most of those roles have been scrapped in a bid to flatten the newsroom hierarchy and cut costs. You could always go for a digital editor post, of course, assuming you’re happy to spend your days churning out sub-Buzzfeed “content”.

    And what about eyeing up the editor’s chair? That’s hardly a safe position and it can’t be that satisfying being “group editor” of 20 titles but having no meaningful connection to any of them.

    It’s disappointing that people berate Paul for being “only” a chief reporter at a weekly after eight years. Granted, it hardly makes him a grizzled old hand, but that’s enough time served in a frontline role to see the rot sinking in – and to realise it isn’t going to get any better.

    Nobody goes into the industry expecting it to be glamourous, easy or highly remunerated. But you don’t have to spend long talking to old hacks (confession: I, too, “only” have eight years’ experience) to realise it was once worth it because of the immense job satisfaction..

    Can the same be said now? After bailing out from one of the big publishers, I’m lucky to work for a long-established and completely independent paper that’s still well-staffed and connected to its patch.
    But from talking to friends at other papers around the country, it seems most feel chained to a life of poorly-paid drudgery.

    Without a decent salary, hope for progression or even the chance to make a meaningful difference in their communities, it’s no surprise that so many reporters are throwing in the towel after comparatively few years in the game. It’s very saddening.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • July 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm
    Permalink

    He is right about many points but way off on others,all have been covered by other comments on here but one point to clarify is that as a fellow Archant employee it’s not a family owned business, when it was it was run professionally, ethically and with a genuine brief to put the reader and advertiser first and to remember we serve the communities where our papers we’re published,sadly in recent years thats gone right out of the window and the opposite is true with a grab whatever revenue you can get at the lowest cost you can and is run by people out of their depths and happy to fall in line with the famous Archant yes man mentality and brought in on the cheap.
    Good luck with the new role in PR my friend, like many before you I’m sure you’ll thrive post Archant

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:48 pm
    Permalink

    The utter destruction of the industry is a tragedy. I think it’s sadly irreversible now.

    About ten years ago Trinity Mirror in the north west still had lots of local offices, offices with their own editors and photographers – it seems like 100 years ago now.

    In that short time, Crewe gone, Widnes gone, Northwich gone, Mold gone, Formby, Crosby, Ormskirk, Daily Post all gone, Photographers gone, editors gone. It’s absolute decimation.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • July 22, 2015 at 9:53 pm
    Permalink

    with regards the weekly reporter snobbery, I worked at a weekly, daily, and still shift at a national, and the weekly was by far the superior setup. We were up for awards every year and it was just amazing fun, not 100mph churning like the daily, we had freedom to be creative and chat to people, properly embedded in the community, it was the best job I ever had and will ever have, I moved to the daily because it was expected that I show ambition, but I hated it. You stay where you’re happy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(15)
  • July 23, 2015 at 12:47 pm
    Permalink

    Corporal Clegg

    It’s because it’s part of the mix when getting a message out there.

    But as newspapers stop being interested in news, or business, or features – and more into clickbait – there’ll be less of it, believe me.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • July 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm
    Permalink

    Jeff Jones fair point, but few can be happy working on weeklies now. I loved my time on evening and weeklies and gave them countless hours of unpaid overtime willingly. But by the time I left JP I was truly sick of the job and depressed seeing a once fine and well respected weekly paper being run into the ground.
    But if you are happy on your paper enjoy it.
    I suspect it might not last!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(3)
  • July 24, 2015 at 8:48 am
    Permalink

    ‘absolute decimation’, Jeff Jones, would have been a 10% cut. Oh for the industry to have only had a 10% cut! More like 10% left!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • July 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm
    Permalink

    I sympathise with some of Paul’s sentiments having spent four years in local journalism and then moved into PR. But some of this comes across as a rather cheap parting shot.
    Yes it’s true the regional press is not what it used to be. But it’s a more than a little unfair to lay the blame squarely with those at the top of large organisations.
    The problem, though many of us may choose to ignore it, lies not just in the way people digest news, but in the news they choose to digest.
    The generation who waited with baited breath for the copy of their local newspaper to see who in their area had been nabbed for doing something naughty or which local firms had folded or who’d been wronged by the council are gradually beginning to fade.
    Younger people simply don’t care as much about what is happening in their locality. The world has got a lot smaller and the downfall of regional press has as much to do with this as it does the move to digital.
    That said there will always be a role for journalists; for good story tellers.
    So while many of the points Paul makes are valid but if he had a real passion for journalism and if he looked hard enough there’d be a job out there which would have excited him enough to stay in the profession.
    Every sector faces big changes over time. Ours may have seen a particularly big change over the last ten years, but it’s up to each individual whether they stay and adapt or move on. Paul’s chosen the latter but now seems to feel the need to justify it by hitting out at someone.
    I moved into PR after four years in the local press but if I’m honest it’s because I never really had the passion to make it. There were, and still are, plenty of jobs out there – particularly at the big regionals and the nationals. If you really want them you can get them. But to me the thought of getting shifts down in London and fighting to make my name made me very go ‘blurgh’. So I fell at the first hurdle. I took the option of better hours, a mortgage and a life beyond journalism. I admitted to myself that where print journalism was going I could see no place for myself and moved on.
    I’d suggest deep down that’s what has happened to Paul and this is a bit of a parting shot to justify it to himself. If you really had the passion you’d have stayed. You’ve made your decision, I’d suggest you go and find pleasure in your new career and stop trying to blame someone else for your choices.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)