Less news is bad news for agencies

I was interested, although saddened, to read Julie Tomlin’s story
“Agencies are at the bottom of the pile” (Press Gazette , 25 February).

It
was remarkable how the growth of Brian Steed’s Fleetline news agency
mirrored that of my own, which I started in 1968. I never had as many
journalists as he did – I think four reporters was the most we ever had
at any one time – but we too spent much of the day phoning copy around
regional and national papers.

I used to take on young lads under
the old Work Experience on Employers’ Premises scheme to do the
phoning, and quite a few stayed on as reporters – one later to become a
Journalist of the Year and editor of a major regional evening.

We
have survived, and indeed prospered, by going into publishing – and
these days the tail is wagging the dog, with my son, Gary, spearheading
four monthly magazines and an online newspaper.

There are a
number of reasons why court reporting is no longer viable, but I think
readers should read the story of Fleetline’s demise in conjunction with
another in the same issue of Press Gazette – the changes at the Hull
Daily Mail.

John Meehan seems to think he has discovered the Holy
Grail with his “one story per page” policy, but of course his paper is
actually somewhat late in the day making this discovery.

Virtually
all tabloids, national and regional, have adopted this approach – most
of them several years ago. I haven’t noticed much sign of any of them
reversing the decline in sales.

What annoys me about this (apart
from the impact on agencies and jobs in journalism generally) is that
no one will admit why this is now apparently the perceived wisdom.

They
bang on about bigger impact, readers being pressed for time, etc, but
they won’t admit the real reason – that it saves money.

During my
early years in journalism, one of the great editors of the day – it may
have been Christiansen – said that newspapers could economise on
anything so long as they did not economise on news. We ignore that
advice at our peril.

David Skentelbery Orbit News Service Warrington

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