You may be surprised to learn that there is one group of journalists that is just as concerned with the migration of daily titles to weekly publication than those poor sods directly involved in the inevitable job cuts. They are the lazy bastards who work for BBC local radio.
And that’s because the finest example of weasel words in this universe is: ‘The BBC has learned …’What this (and its second cousin ‘The BBC understands …”) really means is ‘The BBC has read a newspaper”.
We see it all the time. The website we so generously fund to compete with us will kick off with allegedly ‘breaking’ news as soon as the first editions of the nationals are out. This is usually followed by a furious tweet from Daily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher complaining, correctly, about his stories being stolen without so much as a mention.
Wake up the next morning and tune into local radio and you’ll hear some pretentious prat reading out the splash from the local daily, usually word-for-word and – the worst crime of all – completely unchecked. This isn’t just lifting the odd quote: this is wholesale theft. And remarkably we’re subsidising these people so they can steal our work.
But now, I hear, mild panic is spreading amongst the ranks of the wireless workshy. The demise of daily newspapers in places like Torquay, Exeter and Scunthorpe has caused something of a problem in BBC local radio newsrooms – there’s nothing to read out in the morning.
To be scrupulously fair about this, I thought I’d better check with the local radio websites. I searched the BBC Lincolnshire site for ‘Scunthorpe’, a town with a population of over 70,000. There was just one result: a five-day-old story about floods. Aha! I thought. Knowing the fluidity of boundaries in that part of the country, I’d better check the BBC Radio Humberside site as well. The result was just the same. The same story, in fact.
Of course, optimists might hope that this removal of the daily news drip-feed might inspire BBC reporters to get out there and find their own stories, but that doesn’t appear to be happening. I suppose you get out of the habit.
And ironically, while we all fretted about the creation of a ‘news gap’ when dailies moved to weekly publication, the change has unwittingly created a second ‘gap’ in that there’s now nothing on the bloody radio, either.