Why journalistic 'elite' should be maintained

Guardian investigative reporter David Leigh painted a somewhat depressing picture of the effect of the internet on journalism last night.

The main thrust of his lecture – that his brand of long-form investigative journalism is under threat in the internet age and must be defended – was undoubtedly true.
But I take issue with his, and Roy Greenslade’s, analysis that “Journalistic skills are not entirely wiped out in an online world, but they are eroded and, most importantly, they cannot be confined any longer to an exclusive élite.”

Journalism is undoubtedly in a tight spot at the moment. And in a tight spot professionally I would rather have a few trained journalists around me than any number of Citizen Journalists or bloggers.
The frenetic pace of news in the internet age means core journalistic skills like speed, accuracy and the ability to quickly write legally sound, compelling copy is more important than ever.

This is hard to do. To do it well you need training and experience. You need shorthand, the ability to type and above all the ability to write snappy copy – not the sort of verbose, navel gazing twaddle that populates many blogs (not Prof Greenslade’s I hasten to add).

When I read a report of a conference or event – I don’t want to know what sort of tie the speaker is wearing, or what the correspondent had for lunch, I’m in a hurry and I want to read the top line.

I also think Leigh was a little harsh on the Scotsman. Having been to their “rabbit hutch” offices in Holyrood I can testify that they are definitely among the more swanky newsrooms I have visited.
BUt he his right that their print circulation decline has undoubtedly been rapid in recent years. From around 100,000 in 2000 to around 56,000 in August.

Finally, at the risk of sounding a bit like a “hyper-active news bunny” – the internet has had some good effects on journalism.
At Press Gazette it is has made us work a lot harder to produce content distintive enough to warrant appearing in the magazine and brought daily newspaper style competition to what was once was a specialist magazine monopoly and had the effect of, I hope, of raising the bar journalistically.

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