Do Newspapers Have a Future? - Festival of Politics

Do Newspapers Have a Future? - Festival of Politics

Venue: Committee Room 1, Scottish Parliament

Running time: 60mins

Production: In Association with the Cross Party Group on Culture and Media.

Can newspapers survive the internet? Most are available free on the web, but compete there with broadcast media websites like the BBC. Their traditional advertising revenue is threatened by government portals, and the use of websites such as eBay and Gumtree. As blogging, citizen journalism, and social networking grows, will good journalism be supplanted by content providers?
The Panel

  • Dianne Abbot MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington
  • Jim Raeburn, Director Scottish Newspaper Society(SNS)
  • Paul Holleran, National Union of Journalists Scottish Organiser.
  • Chaired by Ann Henderson, Scottish Trade Union Congress Assistant Secretary.

Jim Raeburn's view was that the question assumed a general decay in newspaper circulation but the situation was worse “South of the Border”. He name-checked the ”Where Do Young People Get Their Political News?” event just finished in Committee Room 1. Young people “don't use printed media. They read free news content online but good content must be paid for”. He did support Rupert Murdoch's plans to charge for content on The Times and Sun newspapers. “Murdoch has also just invested £600 million in new printing presses”.
The SNS is lobbying against plans to remove public information notices from newspapers. “But we don't want a public subsidy”
Jim also regarded the relationship between local newspapers and the public as vital to a healthy civic community; court and council reporters hold the authorities to account.

Paul Holleran can already see a reduction in the quality of newspaper content as managements attempt to cut costs by downsizing editorial staff. Hundreds of jobs have already gone and he claimed that new editorial management software brought in at the Daily Record, The Herald and The Scotsman to save further editorial costs was faulty leading to even more content quality issues. Evening Times coverage of the Jimmy Reid funeral had showed-up poorly against the BBC material. Paul was also concerned at the quality and accuracy of online content which was leading to defamation; regulation of internet content was therefore necessary.
Dianne Abbott's first job was in journalism working for local TV in London. “It was in the dark days before the internet. I had to trawl through all the papers looking for stories. Today I still go through the papers; but online now. People still buy newspapers for big stories, The New York Times sold out on the day of Obama's election win.” Dianne referenced the MP expenses story that had needed a project team of experienced journalists at the Daily Telegraph to produce the evidenced copy. “Today we see the rise of literary festivals but also the switch to E-book readers. Quality content is the answer” said Dianne supporting the position of Paul Holleran.

  • The panel illuminated the main issues facing the print media and from predictable entrenched positions.
  • Jim Raeburn wants no `official` public subsidy but is lobbying to retain exclusive access to the advertising money from public notices. Paul Holleran is embarrassed at the collapse in content quality at the Scotsman titles and also keen to protect journalists from harassment and defamation threats by online posters through regulation (censorship to you and me) of the internet. Google and Youtube should also be taxed somehow to help pay for quality content. Jim Raeburn regards Google and Youtube as “Quasi Publishers” but prefers a `publish unedited first` system, only removing disputed content afterwards if necessary.( Showing little understanding of the internet...once posted, all media material has gone public).
  • “Government ministers read too many Daily Mail editorials and this leads to faulty law and order policies” said Dianne.

The Cross Party Group on Culture and Media meets regularly at Holyrood. It includes MSPs, professionals and the general public.