Journalists are paying the price for free news

The Boar through the ages

To go into journalism during the current climate, you must be either very brave, or very stupid. Or both. I met a German exchange journalist on my first day of work experience at The Times who laughed when I told him that journalism wasn’t dead. Or at least I thought he was laughing – it’s hard to tell with Germans.

I explained how I thought that journalism was changing, not dying. Like a magnificent phoenix emerging from the ashes of burnt copies of News of the World. Not like many, who see it brutally battered by the next generation of kids who would think it highly uncool to be seen carrying a real newspaper around, apart from as a fashion statement.

We no longer pay for news. We simply don’t need to. If we don’t get it on the TV, we get it online, on our phones or thrust in our faces on the Tube. Unfortunately, this means that publications that do still charge for news – such as newspapers – are suffering. Pens, pencils and illegible scrawl are being sucked out of life as we know it as journalists attempt to cling onto their already low paid jobs. Every day, we hear of more cuts to the media industry.

In the past few weeks the BBC and The Times, to name two, have announced drastic cutbacks and job-losses within their own institutions. We’ve heard that theBBC are trying to save £670 million by featuring more repeats on television, and cutting around 2,000 jobs to try and save yet money.After the announcement that the Foreign Office will no longer be financially supporting BBC World Service, they have also announced the closures of 32 language centres and the loss of 650 jobs over the next three years. This comes at a time when The Times and The Sunday Times are set to make 150 editorial job cuts to try and slash costs by around 15 per cent.

The effect of these cuts will be catastrophic. As more and more redundancies and cuts are made, the work load will pile onto those journalists who manage to hang onto their jobs. They have little time to do anything other than what is on their plate, which, from my experience at the Boar, means that investigative journalism is pushed to one side for another day with more hours in it.

How can these institutions justify the elimination of one in seven of their editorial roles and still expect to have a world-class standard investigative journalism? It’s easy to scoff at the phrase ‘world-class’, but just think. Would we condemn Nick Davies for uncovering the hacking scandal, or the Telegraph journalists who unveiled the desperate deceit of the MPs expenses? No, probably not.

British journalism should proud of these scoops. This is the standard which we must uphold and advance upon. This journalism must be funded; it must be allowed to continue. With the extensive cuts soon to affect a multitude of British journalists, this might not be possible for much longer.

It is crucial that after the hacking scandal saga associated with the News of the World that we work towards restoring trust in the media, without restricting practises to such an extent that we compromise honest, decent journalism. We need the time, the people and the funds in order to do this. Not more cuts or redundancies.

The way we view our news is changing, and this will open up more opportunities as doors shut. People always want to know what’s happening in the world, and with increased globalisation and greater awareness of the international community, the need for 24 hour world news grows larger ever day. But we must bear in mind the effects that the decline of the newspaper, and indeed the media as a whole, is having. The shift from print to online has had a massive impact on the industry. These job losses mean that accurate, effective, investigative journalism will lose out, and the truth will remain concealed more and more frequently.

As journalists, we must speak out. We will not sit in silence. We will not allow this to happen without voicing our opinions. We will speak up and let everyone know that these cuts cannot be allowed continue. British journalism is on the line, and we cannot afford to lose it.

As published in The Boar, the University of Warwick students’ newspaper, Wednesday 23 November 2011.

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