Following yesterdays’ response to Sly Bailey’s rallying call to kill council-produced local newspapers, some interesting comments were made and I thought it worth spreading them. But first I should add what I intended to say about Pravda, but forgot before posting…

Isn’t it time we stopped using ‘Pravda’ as a symbol of blind state propaganda? I started reading Pravda, Izvestiya and Neues Deutschland (among others) during the 1980s. In those days Pravda was used as toilet paper in the USSR for reasons that demand little imagination: there was usually a large picture of the President on the front page and there was a shortage of toilet paper…

The Pravda of today is a very different beast. It is no more a propagandistic state organ than our own newspapers that are owned by people of very definite political persuasion. (Are the values and power of Murdoch or the Barclay brothers – for instance – to be preferred to those of some poilticians?) Pravda has to be read today with the same discrimination as one would bring to a reading of The Times – which is not to diss the Times, but to encourage intelligent reading and questioning of why we are being fed a particular line on anything.

So, will someone ask Sly Bailey and others to move on in their references?

But, perhaps that is the point: the world she inhabits has changed beyond recognition in recent years. As one comment on yesterday’s post says:

The broadcast and printed media are twitchy about the whole area of blogging, free publications, etc just as the music industry is twitchy about downloading, file sharing etc. But being twitchy about it isn’t going to make any difference to the fact that times have changed.

It’s quite ironic really, I remember a few years ago the newspaper proprietors were incredibly sure that times had to change and new technology which destroyed specialist jobs in the printing trade was a good thing. Now the technology is threatening their profitability all of a sudden the news is a specialised field for which we should be made to pay a premium.

The point here is that either local newspapers will have to find new, collaborative or creative ways of engaging with other ‘producers’ of news and comment or they will die a whingeing death. Moaning about the proactivity of local councils won’t change anything – unless Bailey and co really do believe they have a divine right to protected territory.

Darryl posits four positive guidelines for councils that wish to publish and distribute their own newspapers. Read the full post here, but, in brief, they are:

  • They are governed by an independent editorial board, to maintain impartiality.
  • They should not publish more than once a fortnight unless there is a clear and demonstrable case of market failure.
  • Space must be allocated for a variety of political and editorial viewpoints.
  • Any council newspaper must offer training to young people or any other local wanting to pursue a media career.

I would want to go a (daring) step further and ask if Trinity Mirror (or any other owner of local newspapers) would consider pioneering a new collaborative way of running their business that brought together council (with guidelines similar to those Darryl cites), journalists and local communities/bloggers/ etc.? Would they venture even a conversation along these lines? Or do the dictates of competitive business mean that the ground is not for ceding – even if refusal to move onto new territory is the only way to prevent a miserable demise?