Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Guardian are in it for the money, you know!

Yesterday the Guardian, behaving exactly as you would expect a struggling business to behave, shut down its ‘Guardian Local’ operation – or rather ‘experiment’:

The Local project has always been experimental in both concept and implementation. We've learned a lot from the beatbloggers, under the expert guidance of Sarah Hartley. We have also learned from the local communities who got involved with telling their stories. And using this we have continually refined our approach over the past year.

As an experiment in covering local communities in a new way, it has been successful and enlightening. Unfortunately, while the blogs have found engaged local readerships and had good editorial impact, the project is not sustainable in its present form.

Since the Guardian is losing loads of money (and wants to keep expensive London-based writers on its books), we shouldn’t be surprised by this decision – this ‘cut’. Nevertheless, the squeals of pain were heard, how could the Guardian do this? How could the cuddly, woolly-lefty, caring, sharing Guardian close down this wonderful community resource?

“The Manchester Evening News and its sister titles have made a huge contribution to the fortunes of the Group for the best part of a century. GMG would like to pay tribute to all the staff for their hard work and achievement in a sector dealing with structural change as well as economic downturn.

GMG is mandated to secure the future of the Guardian in perpetuity, and we have a strong portfolio which has to be in the right shape to achieve that goal. The Group board and the Scott Trust have made the decision to sell in light of these strategic objectives.”

The Guardian severed its historic connection to Manchester, pulled out from local journalism and closed its Northern operations purely and simply to provide cash to prop up the ailing national title. The ‘experiment’ of Guardian Local was nothing to do with journalism or community but an endeavour aimed at spreading the Guardian brand. Its purpose was to make money for the Guardian, it didn’t so it is closed down.

It was never community journalism.  To do that we’d have to heed Mike Chitty’s words:

At some point we have to recognise that change that is prompted from outside, that is funded by someone else, that delivers someone else’s policy goals or answers someone else’s questions is really unlikely to provide us with any hope of transformation.

At some point we have to recognise that for any real long-term success we have to start from where WE are, and work with what WE have got, and break this dangerous habit of relying on external ‘benevolence’.

The Guardian is just a business. It has no interest in Leeds beyond the story and, of course, the cash.



Pat Nurse MA said...

Maybe it's going down the pan because it's sanctimonious harassment of and hate campaign against smokers. I know that's why I dumped it and it's why I never moved my support to the Tories from Labour and never will as long as the party keeps ignoring us!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the Guardian would claim it is true community journalism. But what Guardian Local has done, in my opinion, has opened up communication channels between mainstream media and local blogs, which offer a pointer to the future of news media. I think this is a classic case of killing off an experiment before it has had time to prove itself. I fully expect all newspapers to be doing something like this in the future. And yes, the Guardian has to make a profit, but that is precisely why I think it should carry on with Guardan Local. I think the dad of profiting from the old way of doing things are numbered.