Thursday, October 10, 2013

'Why I was not born to be a local hack' revisited

THE latest addition to the pantheon of media books is officially launched tonight and I hope my chapter on journalism training gets another airing.
I’m keen to kick-start the debate on what journalism needs to do to not only attract the brightest and best recruits but also retain them.
My research looked at the fate of 60 trainees who I worked with over the past four years and drew some conclusions about where it all starts to unravel for some people.
One suggestion was: “Money is, I feel, is often used as an excuse to get out. Complaining that they are not compensated well enough is a convenient excuse when they are really finding the going too tough or they realise they are not good enough.”
Cue usual outrage from the usual suspects on the usual forums, but just this week one of those trainees who didn’t finish her training has delivered her reasoned, well-written, but also rather sad verdict on the state of life in the trenches in weekly newspapers.
Michelle Arthurs caught our eye when Surrey Mirror editor Deanne Blaylock and I visited the trainees at Brighton Journalist Works. She was bright, articulate, ambitious and just bolshie enough to have the makings of a good reporter.
As Michelle details in her blog post (above)she had a try-out with me at the Essex Chronicle and then joined Deanne on the staff at the Surrey Mirror, first on paid work experience and then as a trainee.
Michelle (left) did well, apart from struggling to make it to 100wpm shorthand, without which she could not be put in for her senior NQJ exams. But eventually she decided that she’d had enough of newspapers and decamped to work in marketing for a cycle shop.
I was sorry to see her go, and wondered what happened to the sparky, motivated wannabe reporter I met in Brighton.
Perhaps her own words sum it up best: “Working as a newspaper journalist was at times exhausting – at times it was stressful. Other days were wonderful, and there were moments when I loved my job. The truth is, however, that I wasn’t comfortable sharing the stories that people didn’t want the readership to have access to.”
I hope chairman Roy Greenslade and the rest of the distinguished panel have a chance to think about those words and what we can all do to make sure the right people come into journalism in the first place when we gather in London tonight.
  • What Do We Mean By Local? The Rise, Fall – and Possible Rise Again – of Local Journalism. Edited by John Mair, Richard Lance Keeble with Neil Fowler. Published by Abramis Bury St Edmunds. isbn 978-1-84549-593-0. Price £19.95 


  1. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Just read this - and you left (or jumped ship with a big pay-off??)the Essex Chronicle and made long servingpersons redundant. Hope you ae happy!!!!

  2. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Do you keep in contact with the people who helped make the Essex Chronicle the great paper it was before (a long time before) your tenure there? Answers would be appreciated as you know the people who you decided weren't good enough for you and what's happend since - I cannot see the Chronicle being about by 2015. Thank you (sic), although I doubt you will respond to this, as you only appear grateful for praise to you. (sometimes undeserved). In my opinion, look at the Chron before you turned up. Sales of the paper were very high and now???.Ta for killing the Essex Chronicle.

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