I was talking to a little bird from a major regional newspaper the other day, and she told me that their latest ‘cost cutting’ measure was to turn off the newspaper’s archive.
As the paper’s two stalwart librarians – who guarded the cuttings files with a rod of iron – were laid off a couple of years ago, I asked how journalists now do a cuts check on stories.
“We google it,” she said.
“And if it doesn’t come up, we’re pretty much screwed.”
Ten years ago this wouldn’t have been as much of a problem. In the newsroom of this local newspaper (and many others) there were journalists who had been there since the Arc with an encyclopedic knowledge of the paper and it’s community.
Now, as the number of reporters dwindle – and trainees fill the shoes of experienced seniors – the knowledge in the newsroom of the stories which made the paper great has dwindled too.
Putting aside the potential legal issues (do a cuts check to avoid repeating a libel – remember that one from McNae’s?), there are clearly issues about how well that newspaper can serve the community.
Because if reporters don’t know where the newspaper has been, how the hell can they know where is should be heading? How can they know what matters most to the readers they serve?
And meanwhile the powers that be wonder why readers are trickling away like grains of hands through grasping fingers….