Newspaper crisis is good news

05Dec 2008

As news organisations cut their reporting staff there’s never been a better time to invest in PR

The economic downturn is making life even tougher in the UK’s newspaper industry.

As reported in The Guardian, The National Union of Journalists has accused regional newspaper owners of “grand larceny and reckless cost cutting” in their recent cutbacks and is planning protests and industrial action across the UK over the latest round of job losses.

The NUJ action comes after another bleak period for the UK regional newspaper industry, with news that Trinity Mirror, Carlisle-based CN Group and Gannett-owned Newsquest were collectively cutting more than 100 jobs in the Northwest of England and North Wales.

Since June more than 500 journalists’ posts have been axed or left unfilled and more than 50 titles have been closed within local newspaper groups, according to the NUJ’s own research.

This is bad news, not just for the journalists affected, but also for the long-term future of the nation’s press and our democracy. Local newspapers have been the traditional training ground for many of our best national journalists. And whatever you may think about journalists, we need a strong national press in order to encourage debate and accountability throughout society.

However, despite the recent blow to our regional press, those affected cannot be surprised. The circulation of local newspapers has been steadily falling for years in the face of an ageing readership, a more mobile populace with little loyalty to an area and the growth of the internet. In fact many young people no longer read local newspapers and read national newspapers online if at all.

The truth is many local newspaper publishers have struggled to adapt to the opportunities these changes present and as a result are being left behind.

Many local papers are now running on skeleton staff and national newspapers no longer have the luxury of huge teams of specialist and regional correspondents.

In fact last week Germany’s bestselling newspaper Bild announced it is looking to expand without the expense of actually hiring new reporters. Bild has joined up with discount supermarket chain Lidl to sell a basic digital camera to a legion of citizen journalists, who the tabloid hopes will contribute images to its coverage.

Bild spokesman Tobias Fröhlich said the goal was to encourage camera owners to seek the widest exposure for their work. “It’s not about exclusivity,” he said.

The move fits in with a broader trend for traditional media to turn their increasingly interactive readers into news providers.

This signals a fundamental shift in the way news is gathered. As a result for organisations with a strong story to tell there has never been a better time to launch a PR campaign. With fewer journalists with more pages and airtime to fill, there are real opportunities to place newsworthy stories about your business and your brands in national and regional press.

In fact a whole generation of journalists has grown-up relying heavily on PR professionals to supply them with the stories they need. As a result one of the unexpected outcomes of the credit crunch is that PR will form an ever growing part of our daily news and organisations with the necessary PR skills will benefit.