Times editor outlines case for trust in traditional newspapers

Longstanding brands such as The Times occupy the unique position of being able to provide trusted content, despite the proliferation of digital media, the paper’s editor Robert Thomson told this Wednesday’s PR and the Media conference.

Thomson has been editor of the News International title since 2002, and guided it through the transition to compact size.

He argued: 'There is an element of doubt about what appears online – it can be difficult to know which bits are right or wrong. "Quality" newspapers sometimes make mistakes, but they still have high standards.'

He also pointed out that the journalistic expertise within traditional media enables them to put breaking news into context.

'We remain very different from newswire services in that we provide a judgement – what the story really means, and helping to distil the
information.'

He argued that bloggers regularly cross-referenced papers such as The Times or The Washington Post, often driving traffic to The Times' website.

'Even bloggers are not sure of the other content on the internet,' he said. 'The desire to be rooted in reality is at its strongest with news bloggers, who continually monitor traditional media.'

However, Thomson recognised that The Times needed to constantly evolve its own operation to adapt to the changing environment.

'Gradually, newspapers are merging online and print teams, allowing them to use the same information in different ways,' he noted.

'If there's a scoop that won't hold until the next morning, we'll put it up now, but with the same sector specialist writing the story – it doesn't make sense to have a different online team, which might not have the same contacts or expertise.'

Roger Alton, editor of The Observer, also defended the 'old media', particularly in the 'booming' Sunday market. 'The pleasure and luxury of the old media are always going to be better,' he said.

'We're looking for different things to the hard news of Monday to Friday – warm things such as interviews that will bring joy, creating a more magazine-like environment, an entertaining package.'

And the issue of practicality was raised by Thomson: 'People will take part in podcasts, but not just to be fashionable. Function will define personal information habits. And newspapers – especially compact ones – can be taken anywhere and don't need batteries.'

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