Les Hinton: We must take chances to save journalism

As News International prepares to put its content behind paywalls its former boss Les Hinton has said “we have to take chances” to secure the future of journalism.

Dow Jones chief executive Hinton was speaking at the London Press Club Awards which last week saw the Daily Telegraph win prizes for daily newspaper of the year scoop of the year. The Mail on Sunday was named Sunday newspaper of the year.

The other winners were: consumer journalist of the year: Paul Lewis, BBC; business journalist of the year: Alex Brummer, Daily Mail; broadcast journalist: Peter Allen, BBC Radio 5; Edgar Wallace award for fine writing: Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian.

Hinton, who was formerly executive chairman of News International, said: “It is not unusual these days for non-Brits in the US to raise in conversation something they have read on the websites of the Times or The Telegraph, or the Guardian. Organisations eager to get across their messages are studying how newspapers can have influence opinion beyond their core markets.

“Logically, this expanding radius of the news orbit should be good for business. We can reach anyone, anywhere, any time. Who would ever have imagined it? And yet we’re all ridden with angst.”

He added: “The uncomfortable truth is this industry is the principal architect of its greatest difficulty. We allowed that precious product we produce to leak onto the internet for free. What should have been a legitimate and profitable business proposition was squandered.”

On what he called “the big debate” over how journalism is to be funded he said: “There is no single answer, but we have to take chances. Different methods will work for different publications. Will advertising alone do the trick? I don’t think so. Others seem to.”

Next month The Times and Sunday Times will start charging for content online as Rupert Murdoch begins a policy of charging for content online across all his newspaper titles.

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