Editors tell MPs newspapers will survive the internet

Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright has publicly warned that some rival newspapers have cut so deeply into editorial budgets that they can no longer send reporters out to cover news stories.

Wright sounded the alarm to a cross-party committee of peers which is examining the impact of the internet on the newspaper industry.

‘There are some newspapers that have slashed costs to the point where journalists no longer leave the office,’he told the House of Lords Communications Committee.

‘I can assure you ours do,’Wright quickly added, reassuring peers that the Mail on Sunday was not one of the newspapers he had in his sights.

But he said: “I don’t believe you can report on something properly unless you send someone there in person to go and see what’s happening.”

To illustrate his point Mr Wright said the Mail on Sunday had just published a feature from journalist Peter Hitchens who had managed to get into North Korea.

‘A lot of our rivals wouldn’t be able to do that because they don’t have an editorial budget that covers the cost of sending someone to North Korea for a week, which I think is very sad.”

The committee, headed by Lord Fowler, called in Wright, Richard Wallace, editor of the Daily Mirror, and Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, to answer their questions.

Wallace also vented his criticism at other newspapers, including the Mail on Sunday, for giving away free DVDs and CDs. He claimed the Mail on Sunday had spent £1,75m on an album by Prince to boost its circulation 600,000 only to lose the 600,000 the following Sunday.

‘As an industry we have shot ourselves in the feet many times because we are telling our audience that our product is so useless we giving you a film,’Wallace said.

To counter falling circulation Wallace said he had exciting plans in the New Year to develop the Daily Mirror on line.

But he said the venture would be different from other newspapers which had put their news pages on the internet.

‘We need to be quite different on the internet than we are as a newspaper.”

He said it would provide a bigger role for opinion formers on the staff ‘perhaps in a televisual way”.

‘We have got very aggressive plans for the New year.”

Barber said there had been no fall in the quality of journalism since the Financial Times had moved to an integrated newsroom in 1999.

‘We like flexibility,’he told the committee. ‘We haven’t noticed any deterioration in quality.”

The editors were cautiously optimistic newspapers would survive.

‘I am absolutely optimistic about the survival of the Daily Mail,’Wallace said adding he thought the decline in newspaper sales would plateau out.

Wright said: “There are some things in the pipeline including screens that will fold like a piece of paper. It is possible people won’t want a printed newspaper. But it hasn’t happened yet.”

Barber said in ten years time the Financial Times would still exist as anewspaper, though he added it might spew out of a computer.

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