In the early 1990s one wall of the newsroom at the Nottingham Evening Post was adorned with a citation from the judges when it was named newspaper of the year.
It read: “Six nights a week it is out there with its fists up — fighting for its City, fighting for its readers.”
Sorry, I just got a lump in my throat.
My hometown paper has been a shadow of its old self for years. The fists are down.
The weakness of the local press is temporarily good for the PR trade – they’ll print much of what you send their way. But if it actually dies, if there are no hacks, then to whom shall you flak?
Which brings us to the sale of JPI Media, owner of The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post and scores of other titles, for just £10 million.
In 2005, The Scotsman group alone was bought by Johnston Press for £160 million, so there has been a fairly extraordinary destruction of value in 15 years, as former publisher Andrew Neil was quick to point out.
Hope here comes from a perhaps unlikely source – the new owner, David Montgomery. Hacks are suspicious of him, but his aims are genuinely ambitious.
He wants to ditch the “one-size-fits-all” approach of other local publishers. He wants to replace clickbait with “exclusive content to enhance local lives”.
He plans, in other words, to do some journalism. This may not work, but it is literally the only approach that has any chance whatsoever.
Hacks, and flaks, should be cheering him on.