Grey Cardigan: December column

This is an abbreviated version of the Grey Cardigan column that appears in the December issue of Press Gazette magazine. For the full version of the column, subscribe now by going to the home page.

IT’S BEEN a funny old month at the Evening Beast. Our dear editor and deputy, Crystal Tits and Alistair, appear to be clinging on for now, but many suspect that it’s only while they do the dirty work of management for them.

There has been a noticeable reduction in the number of visits of Crystal Tits’ fingernail therapist, the daily-replenished bowls of fresh fruit have vanished from her office and there was even an ugly rumour that she had been seen driving her own car from the office to a city centre lunch.

Alistair, meanwhile, has embraced the role of Tea Monitor. Department kettles have been banned (oh how we hanker for the days of the Big Teapot on the subs’ desk) and we now have a new eco-friendly hot water urn. Unfortunately no-one can make it work except our fey deputy editor, so he’s taken to hanging around it all morning talking Strictly Come Dancing with the secretaries.

Mungo, our peripatetic Glaswegian sub who keeps a house brick in his desk drawer ‘just in case”, is ever the rebel and has hidden one of those mini-kettles you get in cheap hotel bedrooms under his desk. Balanced precariously on a server.

The procession of our old friends towards the doors continues, as do the leaving dos which are now conducted en masse rather than individually. The custom of management sticking £200 behind the bar on behalf of a grateful former employer has long since disappeared. And in the corridors, bean-counters gather in little groups like malevolent meerkats, nostrils twitching in search of more savings.

Merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy New Year.

CALL ME a hopeless romantic, but when I see long-established newspaper like the Long Eaton Advertiser being summarily closed down, I still think that there may still be a way to save This Thing Of Ours.

 

I know for a fact, confirmed by several colleagues elsewhere, that the financial crisis facing our industry is far worse than many people realise. There are evening newspapers out there actually making losses in bad weeks. Weeklies are faring marginally better, but only because of a lower cost-base propped up by diminishing cover price revenue. The time is clearly coming when we will lose some small dailies, either converted to weeklies like the Bath Chronicle or into complete extinction. It need not be like this.

 

Look at the history of our newspapers and you will find that many of them were founded by local men and funded by local businesses – printers, campaigners, shopkeepers and solicitors. These men did not seek to make a vast fortune from their great adventure. Small town high street retailers happy with margins of two or three per cent in their own businesses would have been delighted with the 10 per cent we used to deliver.

 

So why, when the Grim Reaper comes calling, can’t we return to those days? Why can’t the big groups sell off their failing titles to people who would actually love and nurture them? And at prices that don’t mimic the stupid premiums paid in the past?

 

OK, so patrician owners aren’t always ethically ideal – influence and power are seductive bedfellows – but it would be a small price to pay if it meant that a town could keep its newspaper, and that newspaper could keep its journalists.

 

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

 

 

 

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