Banks' Notes 20.01.06

IS IT really only 20 years since Rupert buried hot metal forever?
Just two decades since the Wapping revolution crushed a craft but saved
an industry?

Well, it is. And, as you’ll read elsewhere in this
commemorative issue, I was proud to play my part in that extraordinary
moment in the mid-’80s when Fleet Street snatched back control of its
future.

But while newspapers made the Great Leap Forward on that
wonderful, wintry day in 1986, now might well be time to consider
whether all we really did in terms of survival was to buy a little time.

In terms of newspapers, the days are drawing in.

Since
Wapping, a greater threat to traditional media has burgeoned in the
guise of an ally: the internet, with its Mach 2 broadband connections,
‘Googlability’, email and online shopping – not to mention that
portable newspaper-cum-wi-fi, the iPod – these days occupies a far more
central position in the public eye than do newspapers.

While
television giants fight their own battles against the increasing
fragmentation of audience by the raptors of the digital age, newspapers
are reluctant to admit that ours is a deadly struggle for survival in a
world increasingly dominated by the cheap-as-chips easy access offered
by the World Wide Web.

While I celebrate Wapping – and realise
with a jolt that the majority of journalists working today know only
the “new” world of on-screen, cold composition – I recall a day 10
years more recent.

I had lost the editorship of the Daily Mirror
and, as editorial director (grand title, good pay, lousy job), was
determined to wake Mirror Group to the possibilities offered by a
phenomenon I knew only as the “Electronic Superhighway”.

I set
myself to produce a 15-page report outlining the superhighway, which
formed the basis of a 30-minute slide presentation to Mirror Group
editors and my fellow directors.

No, I recall replying wearily to
someone’s cynical snigger, it ISN’T a new motorway west of Reading.
Afterwards, as I rounded up abandoned copies of my precious report and
headed for the shredder I could hear the guffaws of my colleagues
retreating down Mahogany Row.

Losing the editorship, all agreed,
had lost old Banksy his marbles. Their muttered reviews read like
theatre notices: “Barking mad!” – Sunday Mirror. “Certifiable!” – the
finance director.

“Banksy’s bonkers!” – Sporting Life.

The point I’m making is THAT WAS ONLY 10 YEARS AGO (pardon my shouting).

It
took five centuries for old Spanish customs, out-and-out greed
(management’s as well as employees’) and declining investment in the
product to reduce newspaper journalism to the point where only Wapping
could save it.

And 20 years later? Have a look at the ABCs on page 7.

For more Banks’ Notes, visit pressgazette.co.uk

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