KM Group editorial director Ian Carter, left, spoke out after journalism lecturer Sean Dodson claimed the use of listicles and clickbait by local newspapers was contributing to their “falling credibility.”
Ian said on Twitter that the “tripe” he had seen written about the industry – which also included a comment piece in Press Gazette lamenting today’s “lazy, badly trained journalists” – had inspired him to reactivate his personal blog.
In it, he recalled once turning up at a district office to find a reporter asleep under his desk, and another occasion when he found the journalists has turned their desks upside down to use them as goals for a football match against the ad reps.
Wrote Ian: “Today’s reporters, news editors and editors are harder working and more highly-skilled than those who went before them. At the KM we expect our reporters to gather and edit video for our IPTV service, grab audio for our kmfm news bulletins, file stories for KentOnline, re-nose those stories for print and manage their social media profiles.
“They simply wouldn’t recognise the concept of post-deadline downtime. Sure, some of the stories we write could be deemed trivial. KentOnline today ran pieces about an invasion of horny ladybirds and a model aeroplane crash.
“It also ran shocking coverage of the aftermath of a double murder and a thug who poured bleach on the lover who spurned him. Light and shade, it existed long before the internet did.
“Sure our industry has challenges, and how we deal with the audience-generating, revenue-destroying Facebook machine is chief among them But endlessly harking back to this so-called golden age, and by default implying those left in the industry have lost control of their news sense and their marbles, is lazy, insulting and plain wrong.”
After posting the blog, Ian told HTFP: “I’ve grown heartily sick of people who no longer work in the industry criticising those who still do. I’m not sure if many of the academics commenting on the industry have any real understanding of how multiskilled today’s reporters are.”
On his personal blog, David wrote: “It doesn’t paint a true picture of the regional press. Titles I work with push out around 100 articles a day. A quick trawl through the most-shared articles for brands I work with shows a remarkable mix of stories interesting people.
“Council, courts, national politics, health, human interest, transport, death, crime and calls stories are all in there. Plus stories which make people smile. All make people want to share when they are written in a way which makes people want to share them.
“To suggest clickbait and listicles are killing the regional press is nonsense – as any sensible analysis of audience data focusing on engagement metrics will tell you.”
Elsewhere, Alan Geere, former editor of the Essex Chronicle and editorial director of Northcliffe South East, has conducted his own research to discover “the truth” about clickbait and listicles in the regional press.
Alan studied the websites of the Northern Echo, Leicester Mercury, Croydon Advertiser, Norwich Evening News and Northamptonshire Telegraph – counting both the quantity of stories and their relevance to each site’s respective patch.
He concluded: “This research shows claims for the pervasive influence of clickbait appear to be exaggerated. All the sites visited showed an honest commitment to providing local news, sport, information, comment and entertainment to the highest standard.
“If anything, they were somewhat prosaic, lacking the, er, buzz of buzzfeed.com, the sheer breadth and depth of dailymail.co.uk or the clickbait heaven (or hell) of cosmopolitan.co.uk.
“Perhaps because of the eternal ‘time constraints’ or the effect of job cuts throughout the industry engagement with the audience via website interactivity or through social media was low.
“Perhaps it’s time for the regional press to get off its high horse and start to realise the full potential of the ‘new media’ at its disposal.”