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Anorak | The Crisis Facing Regional Printed Media: Well Of Souls

The Crisis Facing Regional Printed Media: Well Of Souls

by | 3rd, October 2010

I HAD an old fashioned communication the other month when an old friend and former colleague rang to say she had found a video of us she, her husband and teenage boys had made while visiting the last time we saw each other.

When we first met, she was a young feature writer and brilliant at what she did. She had that vibrant and inquiring way of treating a feature piece which made me want to read it.

I was a not–so-young department editor and working flat out in the days when newspapers were still produced in hot metal and journos used battered tripe writers to hammer their daily news stories or pearls of wisdom out on blank sheets of old newsprint known as copy paper.

In truth, I quite fancied her and given half the chance… I had absolutely none. She was, and still is, in love with her man and I was happily married and too damn busy being worked to death.

It was an English provincial evening newspaper and then I was back licking wounds after a disgraceful sojourn into the murky world of local government PR. I found I was a brilliant information and press officer and a lousy arse-licker For me there was little choice and I jumped back into newsprint as soon as I decently could.

The link-renewal telephone conversation went: “…we must meet up sometime, what happened to so and so and how are the family?” plus the usual, but warm, exchanges and apologies for drifting apart.

Those far off days of frantic newsrooms, the heat of newspaper production with compositors paid up to three times the average wage of a journalist, still bring back fond memories and the comradeships of working in editorial teams first as a cub reporter, then hard newsman and feature writer and eventually over to joining the then elite, sub-editing teams actually putting the papers together each day. The place (and all newspaper offices) was full of character and characters.

In our meetings she had told me of some the changes and challenges the news business had faced. That included the departure of famous owner-families and the arrival of corporate publishers.

Nothing could have prepared me for the truth of it. I happened to be in the circulation area of that office where she still worked and which was still one of my nostalgic halcyon daydreams. I called out of the blue and we met in the foyer of the building where I used to work.

Not once, but on two separate spells there. It was a place where I knew I had once had value.

The first thing I spotted on the way was the press hall had gone. The great printing machines which ran off the four or five afternoon editions had evaporated and were a few cyber clicks away on a new industrial park/estate in a cheaper part of town. Half the original building while still there was gone, sold/leased to the university and, like all super successful micro business, the newspaper staff had shrunk into smaller premises.

In those smaller, bright, computer-driven, offices there were gap-toothed voids; empty desks where the latest round of redundancies had bitten more chunks from the working environment.

We did the rounds. The office I had was now in a University and, when presented with an area to be told that was once the editor’s office, I dropped a bollock and denied it saying it was where the sub-editors held sway. Both were right. During my first

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Posted: 3rd, October 2010 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink