Monday, November 24, 2008

Crisis in the Print Industry

There's some sobering news from the media that deliver the local news - Northern Echo editor Pete Barron has spelled out how difficult things are for local and regional papers in his blog and in his printed comment piece today.

And there is precious little individual consumers can do about it - as Pete spells out, regional papers are trapped between the Scylla of falling advertising revenues and (to a lesser extent) the Charybdis of the internet. Plummeting income is placing even the most well-established titles in danger.

In these grisly times, the Echo is having to lay off 17 members of its editorial staff, and close district offices in Barnard Castle, Redcar, Richmond and Stockton.

One would hope that the Echo is better able to weather these storms - after all, it has an exemplary track record as a campaigning paper, very far from the tabloid sleaze merchants which dominate some other areas. Pete is more thanm simply a local editor, but someone who has thrown himself enthusiastically into a myriad of local causes. For all that Darlington councillors (on both sides) can mutter about some perceived instance of bias, we are very fortunate to have a paper that takes accuracy and a non-partisan approach to the news so seriously.

And although sometimes I end up gurning at the breakfast table at some of his comments, there's no doubt that columnists like Mike Amos add to the colour of the area.

Yet ultimately the fate of papers like the Echo or the D & S Times won't be decided in Darlington, but many miles away. The Northern Echo is part of the Newsquest organisation, whose parent group is based thousands of miles away in the US. Likewise, the Sunderland and Hartlepool Echos are owned by a Scottish company. Ultimately, no amount of local sentiment or decades of service will sway the distant bean counters.

Let's hope that the Government's fiscal stimulus to the economy today provides some relief for these key local enterprises.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Economic crisis or no economic crisis, the Echo has been wanting to retreat into its Darlington and southern Durham heartlands for several years anyway. Decent stories from its Teesside and North Yorkshire patches will always make way for a poor Darlington story - look at the front page piece the other week about a woman driving her car into a bollard. Would this have been front page "news" if it had happened in Redcar? No.
Kids straight out of college are paid peanuts to be reporters and it shows. There's a correction in the paper almost every other day due to their inability to get basic facts right.
That said, local newspapers have a valuable role to play in our communities and it is to be hoped that the Echo can survive and somehow raise its standards.

BNP Volunteer said...

Moonface Wallis said

......Yet ultimately the fate of papers like the Echo or the D & S Times won't be decided in Darlington, but many miles away. The Northern Echo is part of the Newsquest organisation, whose parent group is based thousands of miles away in the US. Likewise, the Sunderland and Hartlepool Echos are owned by a Scottish company. Ultimately, no amount of local sentiment or decades of service will sway the distant bean counters.

Well said Nick, what you have said shows that you are coming around to a Nationalist way of thinking. How very bold of you, well done.

I suppose one way The Northern Echo could make savings is by axing its Editorial staff and replacing it with much more competitive Eastern European labour.
This is something which they don't seem to mind and indeed celebrate when it is happening in the workplaces of ordinary working class plebiants.
The quality surely couldn't decline any further surely. Who saw the D&S headline that the North Road Councellor fails to win seat embarrasingly posted outside of every Newsagent.

I moust say I am only partly concerned. The Echo is good at reporting local news but like other papers I can't stand the biased reporting.
At least we are spared the sensationalism, scandal, showbiz tittle tattle and other assorted bullshit of the gutter press.

The world of Newspapers is a declining force and I celebrate this fact.
That is why they are forever giving away free DVDs and such like. So desperate are they to get their opinions and bias into the heads of the public.
I should know, I worked 6 months promoting The Independent around the time of it becoming a tabloid. I saw its sale figures and they were abysmal.
They even twisted newsagents arms by giving them 50% of the cover price in some desperate promotions. 50% is a massive amount for a Newspaper to give. I believe a newsagent only gets about 5% from the gutter papers.
It is no exageration when I say that Voice of Freedom, the paper of The British National Party has a circulation several multiples of The Independent in the North East of England.

Anonymous said...

Well Mike Barker and other bloggers probably do not even purchase a copy of the Northern Echo etc. I notice they choose to LINK to/from the Echo website which surely mean they have not got a physical paper copy. Yes save the trees, but someone has to BUY the papers to pay the staffs wages don't they? or did Mike et al not get that far with their thinking?

Point two, I make, is that most awake people of the town complain that the Northern Echo do Labours work for them in PR pics or just the lazy matter of printing DBC Officers reports to Cabinet practically in their original format without any editing. It results in the public swallowing whole the article and believing that the proposal being recommended is already cut and dried so there is no time to speak out against the proposal. Thats how good the relationship is between Echo Barron and Departments of the council. So now they must change as the cat is out of the bag.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had dealings with the Echo's local reporters I have to say they wouldn't be missed.
They don't appear to be a day over 16, have no clue about the Darlington area they cover and as the previous poster says, frequently make basic mistakes.
Also, Mr Barron states that the areas where offices are closing will continue to be thoroughly covered as always. While he has to say that in public, I'm quite sure he doesn't seriously believe it.
It's a shame to see the present pathetic state of what was once a well respected paper.

Mike Barker said...

Excuse me.. I buy the Echo every day from Post House News, and if I'm away for a few days I get one of my employees to buy it for me to read when I get back. How very dare you sir!
Perhaps the second anonymous poster could tell me how I can put a link on my blog to anything other than the online version.
Duh, some people...

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes......

To add a bit of lightness rather than heat there was a wonderful headline in the Northern Echo this morning. It read:

COUNCIL TAX MAY NOT RISE NEXT YEAR"

My heart skipped a beat. What wonderful news after the battering yesterday by the Chancellor.

Excitedly I read on. "Could it be Darlington that has seen the light and decided to give us hard pressed Council Tax payers a break." I thought. Sadly no, the second paragraph revealed all. It's Richmondshire District Council and they are only thinking about it as one of the options.

Ah well we live in hope.

miketually said...

"[i]Well Mike Barker and other bloggers probably do not even purchase a copy of the Northern Echo etc. I notice they choose to LINK to/from the Echo website which surely mean they have not got a physical paper copy.[/i]"

As Mike said, it's really difficult to link to a paper version of a newspaper. Also, when a blogger does link to the website, it will result in a couple of people following the link which will make the paper a bit of cash through advertising.

Anyone who wants to keep up to date with what's in the Echo needs to buy the paper version, because the web version very rarely contains all the articles.

Anonymous said...

Councillor Wallis: Ever thought about asking Newsquest, which publishes the Echo, precisely how much profit it expects to make from its North East division in 2008? Because it WILL be making a profit, you know.
In fact, they've been making record profits for each of the last five or six years at least.
It's just that it's never enough for Gannett, the US-based media group which owns Newsquest, largely because of the financing deal Gannett did 10 years or so ago when they bought Newsquest.
I'd imagine the Echo and its sister titles at Darlington produces, about, 30 percent profit to turnover - really creditable by newspaper standards.
The latest job losses are purely in the name of extra profit.
look at www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk and you'll see that the Echo's sister title, the York Press, is firing its MD, editor and editor of its sister weekly paper - and inviting all three to reapply for a single job.
Jobs going in the name of excess profit.
Isn't that what the Labour Party was set up to oppose?
So, you'll be opposing it, then? Can we expect a motion from the Labour Party in Darlington, condemning what is happening in Priestgate?
Or is it as other posters here have said: the relationship between the Echo and Labour in Darlington is almost umbilical and you can never be seen to be slagging them off?
Well?

Anonymous said...

Lol, no prizes for guessing where that last post came from.