The Guardian newspaper announced 180 job lay-offs today.
(Why, you may ask, did I need to use the word “newspaper” after “The Guardian. Quite simply because I am quite sure there are people out there who have never heard of The Guardian and don’t know there exists, a newspaper of that name.)
It joins most of the national newspaper titles in Britain and Ireland and, indeed, around the world, in shrinking its staff numbers.
As for provincial newspapers, those that have survived are hanging on by their fingernails.
There are many reasons for the decline in newspaper sales and the proprietors of newspaper are, themselves, partially to blame.
The internet is, of course, a great invention.
So was the wheel and the airplane and the car and electricity and nuclear energy.
But, like all of the above, the internet too has been abused by people whose sole aim in life is to cause hurt and harm.
And like all of the above, there are many who use the internet who shouldn’t be let near it.
And among them, are the vast majority of “citizen journalists.”
It is hard for a veteran like me, almost 50 years in the business, to grasp the fact that there are people out there who are willing to believe a “news” report written by someone who quite clearly hasn’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about and who equally clearly, has an absolute disregard for facts and truth.
But bad and all as these “citizen journalists” are, they aren’t the worst.
The worst are those who do the bidding of proprietors who, not only have a disregard for facts and truth, but who actively seek to pedal lies and untruths.
(And before anyone mentions Denis O’Brien or indeed, Tony O’Reilly, having been on the payroll of both I can testify, and would, that neither ever attempted to influence me or my colleagues in any way, even when I edited a national Sunday newspaper.)
Look east. Is anyone going to suggest for a second, that what you read in the once excellent Daily Telegraph is truth? The Express similarly? The English Daily Mail whatever about its Irish cousin which has some fine journalists working for it.
Fox News? Lie after lie after lie. It makes Pravda look like the New York Times.
Countries which once railed against the controlled media of China and the Soviet Union now do precisely what they were complaining about.
So what has this got to do with The Guardian laying off 180 people.
If the Guardian goes, if provincial newspapers are allowed to die, if out independent (note the lower cast “i”) shut down, we will get our news from a) “citizen journalists” and newspapers owned and controlled by people who have a complete disregard for truth and who will twist and distort facts to suit their particular agenda.
It’s already happening in examples I have mentioned such as the the Barclay Brothers’ Daily Telegraph and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
(We may still have RTE which, though funded by the taxpayer through the state has managed to maintain an excellent investigative unit and a news division which has demonstrated clear independence from government over the years. Mind you, if people keep bitching about paying a couple of quid a week through a licence fee, we mightn’t have RTE either. Fancy getting all your Irish news from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News?)
And yes, I do think newspapers could have responded more quickly to the internet. Yes I do think they don’t give adequate coverage to some areas such as live music. Yes I do think there could be a great deal more humour and maybe a little bit less comment and opinion – which is important but not so important as to dominate every page.
So what am I saying?
Buy a newspaper.
I don’t work for them anymore. I submit an occasional article and sometimes they’re published, sometimes they’re not.
So I’m not asking for me.
I’m asking for all of us and our kids in particular.
Buy a newspaper even once a week and encourage kids of read it.
They’ll get truth. They’ll very often get some fine writing. They’ll get information.
And what they won’t get, is propaganda, lies and distortion.