A choice of futures awaits journalism

That the only future for print media is online was the proposal put in a special debate in the House of Commons this week. Many a hoary old argument was wheeled out: you can’t read a computer on the toilet or in the bath; newspapers don’t crash; newspapers are more trusted than online.

And sure enough the assembled debaters in Committee Room 10, mainly drawn from the media, comprehensively defeated the motion. But perhaps they were debating the wrong point.

Is the future of news online? Yes, it must be. The electron is faster than the newspaper delivery truck and for news you really need to know, everyone is going online to get it.

But online is not the only future for print media. Book sales have not been dented at all by the rise of the internet and many publications which do not trade on breaking news – such as The Economist – are now doing better than ever.

The huge response to the death of Sir Charles Wheeler last week after 60 years of broadcasting may leave some younger journalists mourning the fact that they did not experience more of his work firsthand.

As the report on page seven of this week’s Press Gazette illustrates, Wheeler has left a deep impression on a whole generation of senior journalists at the BBC. As former Newsnight editor Richard Tait puts it: ‘He was the greatest reporter of the television age”.

In the week beginning 21 July, Radio 4 is broadcasting one programme a day at 9am for 45 minutes featuring his work – straight after Today.

Young broadcast journalists would be well advised to download these to their MP3 player for a reporting masterclass.

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