BigMouth Posted January 5, 2019 Report Share Posted January 5, 2019 As I approached the checkout at the local shop I felt guilty clasping only a box of six eggs in my hand. The “support your local shop” mantra was going through my head so I picked up a Shetland Times, paid for my shopping and left for the walk home. At least the faithful shopkeeper would eat tonight.On arriving home I couldn’t help but notice how thin the Shetland Times has become, 32 pages, barely a thick pamphlet. I bought the last about ten years ago in a moment of abject boredom. This edition, a round up of the year’s news, this time over two issues, that old scam of the TV, radio and print media at the years’ end. So much easier than getting out there and doing something. Recycling of old stories is de-rigeur. Back in the last century, across the UK, recycling in the newspaper industry used to be done by passing the unsold newspapers to the local fish and chip shops for wrapping material.In the noughties I worked for Johnston Press, the then fourth largest producer of local newspapers, which was busily trying to buy up all the local titles. They would then close down the local offices and report from places no longer considered local by the readership, items written by reporters with no local connection, to feed their presses 24 hours a day. I remember staff being offered the option to buy shares in the company, “to buy into our futures”. I was unimpressed by the offer. I could see the newspaper trying to get it’s material online, but the boat was already sailing away. The local mindset was “who would want to advertise their local cheese shop/furniture shop/cafe/whatever on the world wide web?” In those days smart phones weren’t a thing, and your web browser had no idea where in the world you were.To be called a newspaper there had to be at least a certain ratio of news to advertising. You couldn’t get away with a couple of sheets of editorial and fill the rest with adverts. A newspaper makes its money from advertising. The reporters and sub-editors will try to tell you that people buy a newspaper for news, but the management know that what keeps the money coming in are those column centimetres of advertising whether they be run of paper or classified ads. The news is mostly incidental to the business model.Advertising in newspapers was never cheap, but newspapers executives were always looking for ways to screw a little more money out of the hapless customer, who had few places to go in those days. They took to increasing the number of columns per page, thus reducing the width of the columns, to increase advertising revenue as ad space was sold by the column centimetre.Worthing is at the opposite end of the country to us in Shetland. A seaside town, somewhat run-down as a great deal of the south coast is. Estate agents there were paying the local newspapers so much to advertise their properties for sale each week that they decided a better solution would be to create their own free “newspaper”. It was a great success, targeted at a specific market, in an area where property was relatively cheaper than surrounding towns, and the paper given away free.Johnston Press was recently in the news having gone into liquidation, then rescued by the shareholders. Are they a company manned by people who are trying to hold back the tide of instant, mostly free news? Bloggers can do the job better, publicising events to a wider world at the speed of light, capturing images, getting the news out there. Many of them are doing this for free. There has never been a worse time to be a paid journalist.The local newspaper is full of week old news. There are less shoppers in Da Street because people shop online; technology has moved on, and with it the shopping and news-reading experience. I get the distinct feeling that there are now less people reading the local newspaper as they are getting their news fix online, with an immediacy that print media can’t match. The Shetland Times adds bulk to its newspaper by advertising it’s printing services, busy book shop, and in this edition an almost quarter page ad for a reporter and trainee journalist. It wasn’t that many years ago that newspapers would proudly publish their independently audited circulation figures n every copy they printed. There is certainly no sign of them in the local newspaper these days. Take it from me, local reporting is a soul-destroying task, “being prepared to ask the questions that our readers deserve the answers to”, mostly boils down to ringing the local police stations every morning to ask for information about their incident logs, attending the local courts, attending local council meetings and writing stories about drink driving, wife beating, drugs and petty vandalism, and hoping that one of the local government organisations puts a foot wrong. There are only 23,000 of us here and that equates to not a lot of news.The Shetland Times has been around since the 1870s according to its masthead. It tries to act like a big player with tough-nosed reporters sniffing out the latest hot scoop, but it’s glory days are behind it. Most of its classified advertising can now be found on Shetlink and Facebook with a thriving sales scene. Even the newspaper’s attempt at giving away free classified ads could not save its ad revenues. There was never any real competition here in Shetland before Shetlink and Facebook, and the paper rested on its laurels. These days it’s dwindling on life support. Does it need to have DNR painted on the Gremista building? - Do Not Resuscitate. Muckle Oxters and Davie P 2 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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