John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at Coventry University. He reports from the Society of Editors conference in Glasgow, which finished this morning.
Britain’s top newspaper editors were smiling, in public at least, as they met for the annual Society of Editors conference in Glasgow under the slogan ‘Have we got good news for you’. Circulations may be falling, print products hemorrhaging readers and advertising, but the local and national editors here were not going to be downcast and they heard from a succession of speakers inviting them to be positive.
Russian oligarch and Independent and Evening Standard owner Alexander Lebedev said in his opening lecture that he was proud of the two papers (and the new baby paper, i) that he owned in Britain and would continue to invest in exposing corruption. “Investigative journalism is something I want to invest in more.” he said in closing.
Jim Chisholm, CEO of the National Readership Survey, and Stewart Purvis, former partner responsible for content regulation and standards at Ofcom and now at City University, kept up the positive mood with their rosy views on readership data and the potential of youview to transform TV viewing and open the way to local television.
Media commentator Raymond Snoddy chaired a session called ’It ain’t dead and we’re fixing it’. Two young editors from the North East of England, Darren Thwaites of the Teesside Evening Gazette and Joy Yates of the Hartlepool Mail, continued in the same bright vein, showing how by campaigning and getting closer to their communities they were able to arrest some of the decline in sales of their papers.
It was left to veteran editor Derek Tucker of the Aberdeen Press and journal, who announced his retirement after 12 years in the editorial chair last week, to bring the first note of negativity with what he admitted were “Jurassic views” on the digital future and an astonishing attack on university journalism courses and the students who came out of them: “Very few possess the street cunning and inquisitiveness that is the hallmark of good journalists, and it often appears that English is a second language.”
That generated much comment from the journalism educators (“well meaning amateurs”, Tucker called them) in the audience.
It’s not known how long the Monty Python ‘Always look on the bright side’ theme can be kept up in view of the continuing crisis in the media industries.