Sunday, 27 January 2013
NEWS IS A DYING ART
Image from here
Print journalism is dying and much to my despair there doesn't seem to be any attempt to try and revive it. Some local newspapers have given up, followed the money, or lack of it, and have allowed themselves to become pretty much irrelevant to their once loyal local readership. Others battle on against falling circulation and ad revenue but the writing is on the wall.
The prognosis is worrying. I reckon that they will all disappear within five years. All that will be left are knee-jerk propagandic nationals calling the tune of the few advertisers and sponsors they have left without realising that feeding readers rubbish is one sure fire way to keep turning them off.
There have been calls for Government to subsidise struggling newspapers but I can't think of anything more dangerous to the cause of a free press. If it isn't free then what's the point of having it at all because a subsidised newspaper will end up as just a Government or elitist or corporate mouthpiece. That is something not worth having.
But in truth I don't know what the answer is. My best suggestion might just be to get young people interested in news. Almost all new journalism students want to work in fashion, music or lifestyle but those who want to work in community news, or even investigative reporting, are very few and far between. News by press release is the norm now and most newspapers don't even try and hide the fact that they've allowed themselves to be fed because skeleton staffing in these hard times means that no one has the time to do more than take PR at face value and repeat it as God's honest truth.
I've spent the last couple of years beating myself up trying to understand why a qualified and senior journalist like myself, who was once in demand by every newspaper and local organisation in my home city, now can't get any work except for the odd scrap here and there that, frankly, I need to subsidise with real work like cleaning if I am to steer clear of claiming dole.
But I'm not the only one who still has much to offer who has been consigned to the scrap heap. I had a long conversation with a brilliant former colleague the other day. His investigations have led to breaking national news and the jailing of wrong doers among the elite following his very well researched exposés. He is in as much despair as me and despite his vast skills, he is now signing on and looking to move abroad to an Eastern European country because he just can't afford to live in the UK anymore.
There are still limited opportunities for freelancers like myself and those can be found, for now at least, in the glossy magazine market. No doubt aware of how difficult it is for good journalists to make a living these days, they are happy to exploit the situation to drive fees down knowing that our market is forever shrinking. That is how business works after all.
Journalism has moved to the web and the best among us make their blogs pay in a variety of ways. Others, who might be called hobby journalists, are currently doing a damn fine job of exposing wrong doing under the cover of pseudonyms as newspapers that have abandoned good journalism continue to take a nose dive towards oblivion or paid for "news."
Others might pick up a paltry living from sites like these but I am a little wary after getting caught out by one of the writing sites recommended.
They do sound good in theory but in practice when I signed up to one called Helium, I earned the grand total of 3 cents in a year, I lost control of the copyright to my stories that I posted up there, which Helium clearly made money on from advertising on the back of them. When I realised that I was being conned I tried to delete my work I couldn't. The best I could do was to delete my profile and the information I had put on there about myself.
Once bitten twice shy they say and so I'm not that keen to rush and see what "opportunities" await good writers on this sort of site although I am keen to investigate self e-publishing via Kindle or sites such as Lulu.
My best hope as a journalist now, as one who isn't in my early 20s, starting out, easily exploitable and cheap, is to develop the fiction side of my writing, finish my first crime novel and humbly ask readers of this blog that if you enjoy my writing ramblings on the home page, or my fiction stories, then please donate whatever you can afford to pay each visit using the new Donate button I've installed on the side bar.
You could also buy copies of my book Devils Let Loose. If you can't donate money to read my work, or don't fancy the book, then why not share this site and help me earn my living helping people with stories to tell and sell to what is left of the print media. Every little bit helps a lot.