Newspaper editors, RIP

In the British Journalism Review, Kim Fletcher writes an obituary for a dying breed:

Those who have listened closely to the new language of newspaper management will not greet the demise of the editor with any great shock. The post was moving to the wrong side of history once the economics of journalism began to change. Journalists tend to make the mistake of thinking that the point of newspapers is to write stories and make trouble. Who can blame them – in those days their activities promoted profitable readerships – for getting the idea that power was theirs? But when an industry is no longer profitable, managements begin to wonder whether editorial should have such control. Advertising and circulation departments make money, editors spend it…

Now managements adopt a new position, working to reduce the power of editor to that of any other head of department. In the new world you have head of advertising, head of marketing, head of circulation and – with no greater authority than those – head of editorial. To the world outside, the editor might still be monarch; to the world inside, they are merely a cost centre. It has been impossible to avoid the feeling that management has taken pleasure in cutting them down to size.

Where we were wrong was in thinking it would be changing economics that killed off editors. If we are to be entirely accurate, we must see that editors will die now because of the phenomenon behind those changing economics – the internet. It’s not so much editors that are downgraded, as the papers they are running.

Some of us fought hard to prevent ‘content’ becoming the default description of pieces you can read. We failed utterly. An industry that took pride in ‘stories’, ‘features’, ‘articles’ and ‘journalism’ is now happy to reduce its activity to the provision of something with so little obvious appeal it might as well come by the bucket. I have often told friends about an “interesting piece” I’ve read. I’ve never thought that I have “consumed great content”.

[Via Chris Deerin]

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