Thursday, 1 April 2010

Journalism and local democracy

I'm on strike. No joke. There's an unofficial freelance journalists' strike today, and an interesting article about this on the Guardian website.

Unfortunately, since paid work is so hard to come by these days, I wonder whether anyone will notice that we are working or not. However, the intention is good. Freelance rates are dropping - I haven't had a pay increase for three years and inflation hasn't been zero. (They can't pull the wool over my eyes.)

We are one among many sections of the industry getting done over. I was speaking to a local newspaper journalist recently, he testified to the fact that fewer and fewer staff are having to cover a wider area; why, Barnet used to have one journalist just to cover council news! We could sorely do with that now, as it is almost impossible for the layperson to follow each new twist in the saga of Barnet easyCouncil.

New technology has increased the pressure too, as journalists now have to feed the maw of the company website as well as get out an issue of the paper.

There was an NUJ meeting recently about the importance of local newspapers for democracy, the meeting was titled "Democracy without journalism: the crisis in local news". For anyone that is interested in this topic, photographer Jonathan Warren has posted full audio of the meeting on his blog: journalists, what would we do without them?

1 comment:

Don't Call Me Dave said...


I think it is fair to say that the quality of news stories in the two local Barnet papers has gone down in recent years. This is partly down to cost cutting by their respective proprietors, reducing the number of reporters, and partly because some (not all) of the journalists prefer to take the easy option. It’s much easier to write about cats stuck up trees than dig around at the Town Hall and read through mountains of interminable council reports.

Local newspapers do not want to fall out with the council for fear of losing valuable advertising revenue, whereas local bloggers can write without fear or favour – and they do it for free!

I agree with you that local papers are important to a democracy, but I fear the days of old fashioned campaigning local hacks are long gone.