Journalists and editors should sell advertising as well as filing copy says former Local World chief

Journalists should have a role in the commercial side of the business even as far as selling advertising, the Society of Editors has heard.

Addressing the group's annual onference at the Tower Hotel in London, Steve Auckland, former chief executive of Local World, said he is optimistic about the future.

He said: "Editors and journalists have to have a role on the commercial role as well. There is nothing wrong with a journalist or an editor using their contacts to sell advertising. That doesn’t compromise their ability to report news. If there is a car dealer who they’ve sold advertising to and has done something wrong, the journalist should still hold them to account. Journalists will always go after the story or otherwise you lose integrity.”

He said: “It is a good time to be in journalism. For the first time in a long time we are seeing audience growth. It is a growing business but the key question is can you monetise it?

“The immediate reaction and seeing your work straight away makes it a more exciting place to be.”

Part of the Local World business plan involves publishing user-generated content. Auckland said part of that means it is impossible to check the veracity of information before it is uploaded on to the internet.

“With user-generated content, if you check it out beforehand then you are legally responsible for it. “

Auckland dismissed the move by some regional publishers to create subbing hubs away from local communities.

He said this weakens the local link with the newspaper and can cause problems.

Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox said readers want to consume news from a trusted brand whether it is behind a paywall, in print or free online.

“I am just over a year in the industry. I think it is quite strange that we are having a debate over which model is correct. They are both acceptable ways to monetise content.

“A news brand should choose the model that suits them best. I’m sure the Sun will succeed with their paywall just as we will succeed with our free access. The Sun will have a far smaller but very loyal audience compared to ours."

Sun editor David Dinsmore said the industry has undergone massive change over the past five years.

“The big change is the number of platforms we are publishing on a minute by minute basis. Previously we were publishing six days a week with a website in the corner.”

Dinsmore said Leveson has had a major effect on the industry forcing journalists to go back to “old school” methods.

He said the Bribery Act now means that if a chambermaid came in with a story about something happening at her hotel, the paper could not pay her anything as she has a duty of care to her employer.

 “We have gone back to knocking on doors and old fashioned journalism. In Manchester, the Manchester Evening Press refused to syndicate to us for a while. So we’d buy a copy of the paper and knock on the door and collect a photograph.

“A great deal of the time we’d end up getting a better story.”

 

Peter Barron of Google told the conference: “The line between new and old media has evaporated. There is now just the media. We should also stop thinking in terms or traditional or legacy media, they are the established media.

“We don’t employ journalists and Google news has no editor."

He said: “We have no plans to get involved in the creation of content. We are first and foremost a technology company. We help people find high quality content and we put them in contact with it.

"We work on a notice and takedown system. The law says if you respond to a takedown notice promptly then you are not responsible. “

However Geraldine Allinson of the Kent Messenger Group said in her experience Google was not positive for the newspaper industry.

She said: “We have yet to benefit from Google putting clicks through to our website."

She said that the BBC is also a major problem for local newspapers.

“They [BBC] can assist by attributing to us when they take stories from us, which they do massively. They won’t mention our brand or the name of the newspaper.

"People want to know what’s going on locally and if they trust the brand then they are willing to pay for a copy of the newspaper." 

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