A former deputy editor has warned journalists against viewing regional press life through “rose-tinted spectacles” after the re-release of a video depicting the workings of a daily newspaper 26 years ago.
HTFP reported earlier this month how the film showcasing a day in the life of the then Coventry Evening Telegraph in 1991 had come to light after being posted on YouTube.
He outlined factors including a lack of women in the Telegraph’s 1991 newsroom, overly-long conferences and production processes, and senior management spending too much time in their own offices instead of leading “from the front”.
Paul also recalled the paraphernalia of the pre-internet age “when you could miss a splash if the post was held up”, and singled out a quote from the documentary in which former Telegraph editor Neil Benson said the paper sold 90,000 copies a day “more or less irrespective of what’s in it”.
On his blog, Paul wrote: “Oh happy day. Oh happy day when, in a city of 300,000 people, you achieve something close to total penetration, no matter what you did. When you have to beat a radio station or two, and your two regional TV newsrooms, but never have to worry about people-powered news websites, or Twitter, or football clubs cutting you out of the equation altogether.
“I’ve argued strongly before that the reporters of today have to work far harder than I ever did, 26, 16 or six years ago. And I think the discipline of having to cope with a multimedia, transient, hypercritical audience means our journalism is better. I know much of the writing certainly is, having seen some of the tortuous rubbish that passed muster in my youth.
“So, while it’s tempting to hark back to those so-called good old days, I’m resisting the urge. On the surface of it, life in those packed newsrooms producing papers snapped up by entire communities feels like a golden age.
“But the joy of journalism can be as real now as it was 26 years ago, with new ways of telling stories, and new platforms to reach audiences undreamed of in 1991. And there’s certainly never been a greater need for what we do.”
In a previous post, Paul has previously criticised claims that there was “once some golden age of journalism” and defended young journalists as having to work far harder than their counterparts in previous decades.
Speaking to HTFP, Paul added: “It would be easy to long through rose-tinted spectacles to return to a time of full newsrooms, the reader loyalty of 90,000 sales a day and relationships with official contacts that allow you to ring stories in from their phones.
“But apart from the fact that those days are well and truly gone, such nostalgia also sweeps an awful lot of awkward issues under the carpet,”