Local World chief clarifies Montgomery's 'human interface' comment: 'We are not doing away with journalists'

Local World chief executive Steve Auckland has spoken to Press Gazette expanding on comments made by his colleague David Montgomery to MPs yesterday which were met with dismay by many journalists.

Local World chairman Montgomery spoke of the “human interface” disappearing in future and journalists instead “harvesting content”.

But asked for clarification on this from Press Gazette, Auckland said that local reporting was part of Local World's "USP", and that what Montgomery was talking about was the planned increase in user-generated content.

Montgomery told MPs: “We have to be truly digital, so that in three or four years from now, much of our human interface will have disappeared.

“We will have to harvest content and publish it without human interface, which will change the role of journalists.

“Journalists collecting stories one by one is hugely unproductive. They will have to have new skills, greater responsibility for self publishing on different platforms.”

Asked for clarification about the disappearance of the 'human interface', Auckland told Press Gazette: “We are not doing away with journalists, that’s not what we are about.

“What we want is a 20-fold increase in content on our sites. If we are we going to do that we can’t do it by increasing the number of editorial staff, what we have to do is get lots more user-generated content.

“So our sports reporter will report on the game and provide analysis and comment – but there will be lots more content coming in from what the fans think about it. So journalists will be curating as well as supplementing that with their own comment.

“Will the human interface disappear? It won’t. In five or ten years time we will have editorial people reporting on things.

“They won’t go out and write one story a day because it doesn’t happen now, they will be doing multiple jobs.”

“There will be an increase in user-generated content, and most journalists want to get as much information as they possibly can on to their websites and in print.

“The USP of Local World is local management, local commerce teams and local editorial teams...But we will become more self-serve in terms of commerce and comment.”

Local World was created in November 2012 by the merger of the Northcliffe regional newspaper group and Iliffe News and Media. Northcliffe owner DMGT was paid £52m and took a 38.7 per cent stake in the company. Iliffe owner Yattendon has a 21.3 per cent stake in the business. Trinity Mirror paid £14.2m for a 20 per cent share of Local World.

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