You can’t help but love a journalistic cliche. Revellers being up in arms is among my favourites, but there’s a new contender on the block – ‘yeah, but where’s the money coming from?’.
As people might know, I’m a great believer that a return to grass roots, local reporting (or hyperlocal news as it’s often referred to) has the potential to reinvigorate the journalism industry. The audiences for even the smallest operation show that there is still a desire for local news, be it in print or online.
But whenever you raise this issue and the potential role such projects might play in the future of this industry, you always get the same old response on loop.
“Yeah, but where’s the money coming from?”
There are examples of enterprises making inroads into answering this question and paying a salary, Filton Voice being one such piece of evidence. This is usually met by a ‘yeah, but that’s a print product and there’s nothing new about that’. True, but who said the solution needed to be new? If the answer is staring us in the face and showing that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we just need to make sure it turns, then so be it.
It’s also about understanding the bigger picture. Some of these new wave start-ups will not survive long-term. Some will disappear as quickly as they arrived (indeed, some already have). But if only a handful are still here in a decade or more, then surely that needs to be measured as a success if people are being employed by the few operations who don’t fall? Evolution is full of failure and extinction, but as long as we’re learning something along the way – be it how to do things or how not to do them – then we’ll be stronger for it. Experiments and new ways of doing things should be applauded, not criticised.
And what about those endeavours who have different goals? Go onto any of the usual online hangouts for bitter old hacks (the irony hasn’t escaped me) and you will see them looking down their noses when people say they don’t need websites etc to pay for themselves at the moment. Why? If they are providing a good quality service to a local audience which is no longer being served by any traditional media then what is the issue?
These very same message boards and comment boxes always see a plethora of people bemoaning how the readers are being let down, so why sneer at those who are trying to keep community journalism alive just because they don’t want or need to make a living from it?
For me, the definition of success has changed, in much the same way journalism has. I’m yet to be convinced as to why the metric of success used should solely be one from an industry which, by its own admission, is struggling to achieve its own targets.
No-one really knows what journalism in the future will look like, but there’s one thing I am willing to stake my last penny on – the future of this industry will not be secured by those sniping at others who are trying to forge a path down which others can follow.