I’ve just read Dan Mason’s blog regarding MPs debating the future of the regional press. He suggests three things that they can do to start. http://www.danmason.co.uk/?p=664
Some interesting ideas, and it’s inspired me to come up with a couple of my own.
1. Talk to actual journalists. My biggest fear is that the MPs will simply listen to the owners rather than those at the coalface.
During these dark times, journalists seem to be further away than ever from their employers and many believe the owners are the ones responsible for the dire state of the industry in the first place.
I do appreciate how important it is for papers to make money, but the need to keep shareholders happy with unsustainable margins has become much, much more important than the journalism itself.
Just look at one of the greatest issues being raised by the owners at the moment – the relaxation of rules on how much media they can own. They want bigger empires so they can make more money.
Journalists biggest desires is much simpler – they want enough resources to be able to do their jobs properly.
So if the MPs debate is about protecting journalism, talk to the journalists, not the businessmen.
2. Help journalists set up not-for-profit companies.
The changes to the way council housing stock was handled during the 90s, while not perfect, had an incredible effect on the lives of council tenants. Housing associations were given grants from the Government to get started, and most are now self-sustaining and making money. But this is done without profits being the main goal.
So why not a similar business model for newspapers?
The Government could give grants (or loans) to allow journalists to either set up their own not-for-profit papers, or to buy existing papers and turn them into not-for-profits.
Answerable to a trust of local, independent (non-political) individuals, such papers would need to make a certain amount each year to keep going, but the push for greater or unrealistic profits would not affect the quality of journalism.
Indeed, any profits could be reinvested in technology or more staff, and perhaps even in years of greater than expected profit, staff could be given bonuses (perhaps like the John Lewis partner system).
Oh well, one can but dream.