Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Regional Newspapers RIP...

What is it about some shopkeepers, themselves small business people, that makes them think that surly unfriendly behaviour to their customers is acceptable? In these difficult days of 2009, with a credit crunched economy, and everyone careful of their pounds and pennies, it would seem even more important that ever before for small business people to provide quality service, even if they cannot compete with the rock bottom prices of the giant corporations, who just want to shift units and for whom customer care doesn’t even register on the radar.

I took back 50 incorrectly supplied CD-ROMs to the little local computer store that I have keenly supported since they opened. Incorrectly supplied in that they were DVDs not CD-ROMs and I have enough DVDs, but currently no CDs.

Instead of a “sorry sir, please let me exchange those for you, and please accept my apologies for inconveniencing you”, I got a tirade of unnecessarily brusque abuse, and it was made clear that not only was it not the shopkeepers fault for supplying the wrong goods, (despite being correctly requested), but it had to be my fault as the customer, for allowing, myself to be fobbed off with the wrong goods. Did I not understand what an imbecile I had been?

Although eventually I got the required CDs, they were not the printable types I actually wanted, and of course the experience has entirely put me off dealing with these jokers again. Supporting your local business has always been one of my mantras, but not if it means I have to take bad tempered abuse. A shopping experience like this really is enough to send people to shopping malls (perish the thought).

Those small companies and one-man businesses need to remember that customers are there to be cherished and nourished. Customers are difficult to acquire, and oh to easy to lose.


On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Union of Journalists Job Summit in London. The main speaker was one Nick Davies, author of the book ‘Flat earth News’, which caused a sensation amongst journalists as it stated quite clearly, what many of us have known for some time, that regional Journalism is on its deathbed, and that National journalism is on its knees. The unfortunate state of the industry being brought about by greed, and the business practise of using newspapers and other publications as cash cows.

Nick Davies pic by Pete Jenkins

For years Publishers have been maintaining profit margins for the benefit of shareholders by cutting back on journalists, and the rates paid to their staff and freelance contributors. There are examples of regional Newspapers paying £85.00 for a freelance shift in 1994, and paying the same in 2009, in many case actually less. Expenses freely paid in the early nineties are now argued over penny by penny, and in most cases mileage rates remain much the same, even though the price of petrol and running a car have rocketed in the fifteen years since.

Every year there seem to be fewer staff journalists, and the fees paid to freelances appear static, and more is expected for less. Photographers frequently have publishers trying it on; demanding all rights for no extra pay, publishing on the web as well as print editions, and expecting to use freelance content for free, telling creators that they must give up the right to be credited. At the same time as this there are Publishers syndicating freelance work and taking all the revenue from these sales themselves.

Whilst these practises are going on the Publishers are declaring good profits, but the quality of the publications is in many cases declining. Journalists and suppliers are put under greater pressure.

For photographers, the regional press is dead and there is little point in trying to work in that arena, those that do will increasingly become frustrated, find themselves sunder greater and greater stress, and soon without work. Even the nationals do not hold forth a long-term future for professionals, and increasingly newspaper work will become less and less attractive to full time visual creators as they are forced to look for more reasonable outlets for their work.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

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