Who Killed the Newspapers?
During this last week Northampton's free paper the Herald & Post published for the last time. The Chronicle & Echo has gone from a daily to a weekly, and as a consequence of these seemingly minor things local news, alternative viewpoints, and accountability via public opinion are all but dead. When the Press died in Northampton local democracy died with it.
It's a tragedy for all concerned: townsfolk; local leaders; and journalists alike. The leaders can now get away with murders that previously would have been picked up - but wish they couldn't. Townsfolk can't write star letters or get their views across, and journalists have to look for new jobs.
On the job front a lot of journalists seem to have become press officers for public bodies. Some write books about ex-journalists who kill their spouses (Gone Girl), and what does that tell us? No, Journalism's collapse is a career jolt that has had all sorts of knock-on effects. Imagine if all the lawyers in the country suddenly lost their jobs!
The most original plan for new employment I heard was the editor who had been ribbed for years about looking like Vincent Van Goth, and became a professional lookalike. He still keeps in touch, and says that in terms of being a tortured artist the job is not that much different.
It's affected me too. The day the Chron went weekly I said: 'That's it, my political career is over now!' Of course I was angry, bitter even. The last time I can remember feeling this strongly was way back in 1970. Northampton Town played Manchester City in the FA cup.George Best scored six in an 8-2 win. I had a ticket but my then boss on the fruit stall at the time wouldn't let me go, and I never saw Bestie, possibly the best player ever, play his best game ever.
But the circulation of local papers has been dropping for years. Very often the vendor who stood in front of my stalls crying 'Chronicle!' would only sell a hundred copies, not even enough to cover his own wages. It was a promotion; I understand that; cars and property and jobs are increasingly transacted on the internet. In other words advertising revenue collapsed at the same time as the fall in sales and readers. So no revenue from sales or ads means closure. Add to that the corrosive effect of the BBC which is not without blame either. Rupert Murdoch said at the Leverson enquiry that people only needed so many fixes of news a day, and if that is met by clicking on the BBC website, then newspapers are no longer required.
One of my customers suggested I try launching my own newspaper: "Chuck being a politico and try journalism".
"And what would I know about that?"
"well, who's the top journalist at the BBC?"
"Paxman? Maybe Peston?" I ventured.
"No," He said. " Peston left for ITV, Paxman does quiz shows now. No, it's Lineker - no experience of journalism whatsoever - but he has worked on a fruit & veg stall just like you!"
He made a good point. Quite convincing when you think about it, and I'll give anything a stab, me. I'm not quite sure how it would work, who would write it, or where it would be sold. For the time being I might just try trialing it on this market noticeboard and this website - you are reading it now. So if you have a contribution, a view, something you want me to stick up on here, please contact Eamon Fitzpatrick aka Fitzy, Editor at large of Northampton's newest newspaper.