University of the Third Age
Changing Times in the Press
Sunday, 3 March 2013
The speaker at the February general meeting of Todmorden U3A was preceded by the showing of a DVD of a film made in the 1960s, entitled Printers Ink, about Todmorden News and Advertiser as it was then. Following this, John Greenwood, Contents Editor of Todmorden News and Hebden Bridge Times spoke on Changing Times in the Press; how the paper is run now and of the challenges that the press faces from online media.
The film started with a visit to Todmorden police station by the chief reporter, to be briefed by Inspector Woodall on all the incidents that the paper may wish to report. There was much more contact between the police and the paper in those days, John noted. This doesn't happen in the same way now, especially as Inspector Woodall and his team would have been based in Todmorden for a good number of years, enabling realtionships to be built up between them and the staff of the paper. These days, police officers are moved around as a matter of policy.
John himself started on the paper halfway in time between then and now and already things were changing. Although composition of type was still the norm, technology had moved on from that depicted in the film - molten lead for type and hand composition. There are reduced opportunities to get official information – no visits to the local nick. News was held on to. People had to buy the paper to get it, whereas today it goes on the paper's website as soon as it comes in. Staff need to react quickly nowadays, as Facebook and Twitter are sources of information for many nowadays. John said that with a story developing, what appears in the paper may be an update of what first appeared on the website. The advent of new media is a challenge to print as well as something that it has had to embrace. Ways need to be found to generate from online media the revenue vital to keep regional newspapers going, John explained. News is an expensive business.
Both John and the film drew laughter from the audience, sometimes unintentionally in the case of the film. Interesting and informative and well worth viewing, the quality of the photography and colour of the film was high. Inevitably, the film was dated in some respects and many of the scenes were clearly staged. A road traffic accident, a court appearance – those were the days when magistrates sat in Todmorden – and a council meeting with a heavily berobed mayor entering the chamber with the mace borne before him and a bewigged town clerk behind.
Back in the sixties, once the paper was put to bed work on the next edition started on Monday morning with all the news that had come in over the weekend. Now, work on the next edition starts on Thursday morning, just as the current leditiion is going on sale. New technology has reduced the staff numbers, including those proof-reading copy. This is done as we go along, John explained and one person can do this with the new technology. There were four or five checks in the old days. Reporters have autonomy in what they report, John said in answer to a question. And, no, they are not required to fulfil a set number of column inches each week. Stories can't always be checked so these will be let go and although accuracy is a byword, mistakes are sometimes made. Contributions from the public are always welcome - today's newspaper is more of a dialogue between the public and the paper.
John was asked about the identity of The Old Grumpies. John replied that not all were known to him and confirmed that they were not staff members of the papers – the column is definitely not written in the office. Readership is healthy across all media, John assured his audience and Todmorden News and Hebden Bridge Times will be around for a few years yet.
The University of the Third Age meets at 1.45 at Central Methodists in Todmorden on the third Thursday of every month - find out about all of its activities at www.u3atod.org.uk
Many thanks to John Bouttell for this report
Previously, on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Journalism and the New Media: report of public meeting called by the NUJ (October 2009)
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century