A departing regional editor has declared that “long form journalism, analysis and investigation” remain the best hope for the industry’s future.
Writing in a new book about the future of print, Mike hailed the paper’s role in revealing stories that would have remained untold, and pointed to “unapologetically intelligent” journalism as the way forward for the medium.
He said that while digital journalism must continue to evolve to meet the demands of readers, print must remain “an intrinsic part of the industry’s evolving strategy.”
The book, Last Words? How Can Journalism Survive the Decline of Print? is due to be published in the New Year.
Some chapters of the book, including Mike’s, are being serialised on Press Gazette, while others, including chapters by former editor Alan Geere and entrepreneur Sir Ray Tindle, will be appearing on HoldtheFrontPage.
In his chapter, Mike sets out a series of case studies of stories covered by the Argus during his time as editor which would not otherwise have come to light.
* An attempted cover-up over five avoidable deaths at Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton
* The case of a homeless man on the streets of Brighton who was arrested for asking for 10p
* The death of five women with mental illness who died while in the care of Sussex NHS Partnership Trust.
Wrote Mike: “All these stories happened within 12 months in Brighton. They are perhaps not untypical of events which occur in towns and cities up and down the country every day. But what unites these stories and thousands of others like them in the communities in which we live is you might very easily not have known about them.
“The Brighton stories could easily have forever existed in a little orbit of their own, unheralded by anyone, unremarked. Journalists made sure this was not so.
“We know journalism is in crisis but very little has been said about the profound democratic deficit that would follow any meltdown?
“No amount of digitally empowered bloggers, many of them diligent thorns in the side on a range of issues, will make up for the loss of professional reporting.
“It goes without saying digital journalism must continue to evolve quickly and meet the technological demands of its users. That is taken for granted.
“But that does not mean print journalism’s decline should just be a matter of extending the graph until the figures fail to stack and crossing fingers hoping to get even that far.
“The printed product can be re-invented, or at least we must not forget it must remain an intrinsic part of the industry’s evolving strategy. Long form journalism, analysis and investigation remain the best hope for the printed product on all levels.
“A journalism which eschews the helter-skelter 24/7 news cycle might still find a place in the market.
“This would often be less frequently, from daily to weekly or even monthly, and it would have to be unapologetically intelligent, commanding of premium cover price, targeted more carefully than the centuries-old scattershot distribution models we still use.
“Everywhere we will have to take what might be called the Private Eye/Economist test when talking about print products’ role in any future. Is it exclusive, targeted and unavailable anywhere else?
“A compelling, in-depth, punchy, physical news product produced with panache which asks readers to invest time and rewards that investment might still have a role amid the communications white noise filling the air around us.”
* Last Words? How Can Journalism Survive the Decline of Print? Edited by John Mair, Tor Clark, Neil Fowler, Raymond Snoddy and Richard Tait Abramis Academic Publishing Bury St Edmunds £19.95. January 2017. Available at special pre-publication price of £15 to HoldtheFrontPage readers from Richard@abramis.co.uk