Ed Oldfield, a production journalist with South West Media Group in Plymouth, considers what has changed in the industry over the last quarter of a century. Ed has set up a website, www.beajournalist.talktalk.net, aimed at entrants to the industry.
For as long as I can remember, journalism has been in a state of turmoil.
Back in 1986, when I was a trainee reporter on the Western Morning News in Plymouth, there was a crisis on Fleet Street as Rupert Murdoch moved his News International titles, including the Sun and Times, to a new HQ in Wapping, following a strike by printers. In the same year Eddie Shah set up the union-busting national daily Today, long-since closed, which was revolutionary in its use of full colour, aIbeit with sometimes shaky results.
There was of course no internet, instead we were in competition with the national papers, local TV and radio. In the smokey haze of the newsroom, the first in bagged the best typewriters to bash out our stories in triplicate on three small pieces of copy paper separated by sheets of carbon.
The noise of clattering keys would reach a crescendo as the Evening Herald reporters at the other end of the newsroom approached their series of deadlines through the morning. If there were too many typing errors, back would come our copy from the chief sub, sometimes screwed-up in a ball, with a demand for a rewrite. The current mantra of ‘Right first time’ was as applicable then as now.
Now 25 years later, I’m back on the Western Morning News as a production editor, working in a team also producing the Western Daily Press, a sister Northcliffe Media title. In the meantime technology has transformed the way journalists work, fundamentally altering the media landscape and how people connect with each other. News breaks 24/7, online and on TV. Journalists have picked up more skills and become more entrepreneurial, exploiting a multitude of new channels and sources, including social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Some things have stayed the same. Journalism is still about telling interesting stories in a compelling way. Print still plays a part, but increasingly attention is online and mobile, via smartphones and the new generation of tablet devices pioneered by the iPad. Journalism is still about engaging with an audience, whether that’s across a local community or shared interest, or in a personal blog. Good journalism still sells, just look at the Telegraph’s coverage of the MPs’ expenses scandal.
In an age of information overload, the time-poor audience is looking for reliable sources to filter the nuggets from the background noise. With the clatter of typewriters a distant memory, newsrooms are much quieter, and thankfully smoke-free. But they are still populated by enterprising journalists who understand what makes a good story and are finding smarter ways to deliver it.
With such huge changes in reporting in the last 25 years, where do you see journalism in 2035? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us at @wannabehacks (hashtag #WHreporting) or comment below the post and we’ll get back to you asap.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look