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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Lesson 6: Cutting costs and the quality of Journalism

The impact of the recession
Finding up-to-date figures for the total number of journalists and editors employed by The Guardian is difficult, though a recent report suggested that this year the editorial staff at Guardian News and Media is shrinking from around 850 to 800 through redundancies. One fear consistently voiced by commentators on the newspaper industry is that the quality of journalism will suffer as production costs are cut and reader-generated content becomes
more popular.
The rise of citizen journalism has been well documented elsewhere but we can’t ignore their impact on The Guardian and the ambivalent relationship which must now exist between professional journalists and accidental eyewitness reporters. A key story one might explore in this respect
is The Guardian’s campaigning investigative coverage of 2009’s G20 protests in London and the death of Ian Tomlinson.

The quality of news produced by Guardian journalists has been examined in Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News. He employed specialist
researchers from Cardiff University to analyse stories printed in The Guardian and three other national dailies during two one-week periods. The result? A staggering 60% of these quality-print stories consisted wholly or mainly of wire copy and/or PR
In other words, press releases or unchecked stories from agency journalists were forming the bulk of the domestic ‘news’ in print. Of the four papers analysed, The Guardian had the lowest percentage, but it was still more than 50%.9 Davies refers to this ‘copy and paste’ reporting style as churnalism. Is there any wonder that many readers would trust Joe or Joanna Public’s account of an event, over a ‘report’ filed by an overworked and underpaid ‘churnalist’?
Guardian News & Media to cut more than 100 jobsNewspaper group says revenues have fallen by a worse-than-anticipated £33m

Sustainability in advertising: Alan Rusbridger GNM's editor-in-chief on the contradictions of advertising-funded journalism and the power of editorial

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