NEWS: Producing newspapers is not a job for the faint-hearted

It has not been a good week for newspapers. Once again, we have seen that it is much harder to launch them than we thought it would be when the printing unions’ mafia was smashed in the 1980s to allow the use of ‘new’ technology.

It has not been a good week for newspapers. Once again, we have seen

that it is much harder to launch them than we thought it would be when

the printing unions’ mafia was smashed in the 1980s to allow the use of

‘new’ technology.



Ask Tom Rubython who lost a major potential backer for a new 200-page

business newspaper in the week before its launch last Sunday. I can

only admire the courage of those who, after Today, seek to capture the

attention of British readers when their interests are already

comprehensively served.



The Tory party’s new tabloid Look!, intended to print all the good news

others refuse to recognise, made a calamitous appearance. A businessman,

ballerina, milliner, soccer club, the Brewers and Licensed Retailers

Association and the Retail Consortium all immediately distanced

themselves from examples of the cheer which Look! claimed the

Government’s policies had brought to the nation.



This may not have come as a surprise. The Government and its party seem

singularly incapable of doing anything right these days. But Look! does

illustrate the problem of producing official Government or party

newspapers, I should know, I launched two departmental newspapers - DE

News, for the Department of Employment and Energy Management.



The latter was easier - a manager’s guide to using energy more

efficiently. Making DE News interesting was a real challenge when you

could neither knock nor directly promote ministers or their government,

only an understanding of their policies.



The problem is even more acute for political parties. It is not just

persuading people to read an unrelieved diet of good news when the

accepted journalistic definition of good news is bad news; it is also

making sure that your examples of good news are fair and accurate and

that those concerned will stick with you when the pressure of publicity

is applied.



Which brings me to the Financial Times. Some 170 members of its NUJ

chapel have given their editor, Richard Lambert, a unanimous vote of no

confidence. They claim that he and his deputy have failed to defend ‘the

quality, values and future business success of the newspaper’ because a

management efficiency programme proposes a cut in editorial staffing.



It is interesting to discover that a paper which has never hesitated to

tell British business how to get managerially with it is stuck in a

1970s time warp. Dammit, the NUJ is even balloting its members on

industrial action.



Not a good week for newspapers, indeed. But don’t begrudge company PROs

their immense satisfaction at finding the FT biter bitten.



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