People Still Care About Newspapers

by Sam Blackledge

THERE has been much huffing and not a small amount of puffing about the use of Twitter in recent times.Paul ChambersSky NewsJoey BartonWayne Rooney – it seems barely a day goes by without someone somewhere putting their proverbial foot in their technological mouth.

So it feels slightly retro to be writing a piece about newspapers. Remember those? Silly, old fashioned, cumbersome things that left you with inky fingers and something to wrap your chips in. Believe it or not they’re still around, and every day thousands of journalists put their heart and soul into producing them, for millions of people to pay their money and leaf through them, with not a re-tweet or hashtag button to be found.

The death of print media has been predicted by many so-called experts ever since Tim Berners-Lee sparked the digital revolution. But despite the inevitable and seemingly endless progress being made online, we are a long way from live-blogging the funeral of the good old newspaper.

You can tweet all day, set up as many Facebook groups as you can muster and “like”, “tag” and “follow” to your heart’s content. But nothing beats the feeling of walking into a newsagent on publication day and seeing your name across the top of a cracking front page splash.

If you’re lucky, people will buy it. If you’re luckier, they will read it. And if you’ve hit the jackpot, they will write in and tell you what they think. Sometimes they will phone you up. Sometimes they will come to see you in person. And sometimes they will shout.

This week I received such a visit from two gentlemen who made it clear they took exception to a series of articles I had written. I spent a painful hour listening to their complaints, doing my best to appease them and occasionally getting a word in to justify our coverage.

The details of the issue are complex, convoluted and probably not very interesting to anyone beyond our immediate readership. But after I had shaken off the experience, licked my wounds and filed another story, I reflected that it might not have been as bad as it seemed.

Our readers often disagree with what we write and how we write it. But the passion they have for the issues that affect them is as strong as ever, as far as I can see. If we were producing papers full of news that no-one gave a stuff about we would soon find out. The post bag would shrink, the phone would stop ringing and the angry visits would be a thing of the past.

But for now we will continue to don our tin helmets and take the flack. It shows people care.

This piece first appeared at The Huffington Post.

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