Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Boost for local bloggers as US-based Argus owners abandon Brighton

The US media corporation Gannett, which owns the Argus, has sparked an all-out media war here in Brighton - a war it can't possibly win.

In the face of dwindling circulation (down from over 100,000 in its heyday to about 25,000 today, I'm told), and falling advetising revenues, it has decided to cut costs by sacking sub-editors and moving production of the paper to Southampton.

The move seems destined to further reduce the local flavour of the paper (to think, The Argus was once Brighton's newspaper 'of record'!) - and force anyone looking for real local news to look elsewhere.

They won't find it on the radio - with the exception of Radio Reverb, which carries little news - there's nothing on the airways which makes any real attempt to serve the city's community.

Neither the so-called BBC Sussex (so-called because it shares most of its programming with the equally so-called BBC Surrey based in Guildford) nor the pap music stations Heart FM or Juice FM even pretend to tell us everything that's going on in the city.

And they won't find it on TV either: Meridian sometimes fits a Brighton story in its few minutes of local coverage,, and the BBC has the contempt to split Brighton and Hove between its South and South-East news services, neither of which tells us anything much about Brighton.

Living in the BBC South area, I learn more about the goings on in Oxford, and even Bourrnemouth - than I do Brighton!

So where do they find it?

On the Internet, it seems. A growing number of local news services and blogs have sprung up in recent years trying to plug the gap: four of the biggest are (in no particular order): News From Brighton, Brighton and Hove News, Brighton and Hove Free Press and the Brighton Politics Blogger. Of course, there's this 'blog too, for occoasional comment.

I can't speak for the others I've named, but I can happily report that readers of this 'blog have been steadily increasing since it was first launched in 2008 and now peak at over 1,000 a week.

Of course some of those readers are just other councillors looking for something to complain about,  but even so - if they are reading my 'blog then I presume they are not hatching plans to undermine public service delivery or sell off the city's council housing stock or anything!

So, it seems the (old) King is dead - suicide by US managers looks to be the verdict: long live the (new) King!


  1. It's an awful, though sadly not surprising, decision and it's good to see you providing links to other local news sources. However I'm not sure I'm too easy with Brighton Politics Blogger being listed as a news site. Though an interesting read, the content is heavily biased towards the Green Party, and the title of the blog deliberately misleading. The suggestion is akin to David Cameron recommending the Conservatives website as a source of news.

  2. Thx for reply: I think BPB may take a different view on that him/her-self though!
    BPB seemed to be very pro-Labour in the early stages but has definitely become more supportive of the Green Party lately: exposure to our way of thinking tends to do that to some commentators...
    Perhaps BPB would care to comment?
    One link I really should have supplied was this one - a blog from journalists at the Argus detailing their fightback plans:
    I'll be joining the picket line tomorrow - I hope lots of other councillors, of all parties do too.


  3. Ben, I'm glad to hear in your comment that you'll be joining the picket line, but you don't even mention the Argus journalists' strike in the main blog, and that is a great shame. I'm all in favour of local blogs but ultimately we need to defend funded journalism too - not to mention the livelihoods at stake here. The war that really matters here is not that between the Argus and the blogs, but between Gannett (which has made good profits from Newsquest, the division of which the Argus is a part) on one side and the Argus journalists and the community they serve on the other. If Gannett win, it will be a defeat for all of us. We should be offering every support to the striking journalists to make sure they win. To revel in the prospect of the decline of our local newspaper as a 'boost' for bloggers is misguided and offensive to the Argus journalists striking tomorrow.

  4. Tom

    I'm sorry you read the piece that way - it certainly wasn't the way I intended it.

    Of course I'm not revelling in the decline of our local peper - I wish it wasn't in decline at all - and that its greedy US-based bosses weren't prepared to sell out both their staff, and the community they serve, in a misguided attempt to maintain sufficient profits to give their senior managers double digit pay rises while freezing salaries of more junior employees.

    I'll be at the picket line tomorrow exactly because I'm not revelling in any of this.

    What's more, I hope the striking journalists succeed in persuading management to srop this silly idea, and I had hoped my post, by highlighting the fact that the decision to move production to Southampton was wrong from a news provision, as well a human resources, angle, might actually help.

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  6. I do agree with Tom that funded journalism is important. You need people with the time to dedicate the to following up a story and working on something. Public discourse would be poorer without it. Comment and opinion, maybe not so much, but in areas like investigative journalism it is definitely a Good Thing.

    But honestly, good riddance to The Argus. It's easy to look at the paper with rose tinted specs now they're involved in an industrial dispute, and think of this as the demise of a great local paper, as bastion of the community. A paper that provided quality, relevant and socially conscious journalism, with insightful comment and on the issues that Brighton needed to deal with... but it really isn't. For the most part it's a right wing tabloid that complains about gypsies and protests, with a few funny signs dotted around town.

    That's not to say that Brighton doesn't need a good paper, or that journalists should be treated as expendable capital, or that Gannett should have any place in running papers in Brighton.

    Ideally all the staff from the paper would walk out, for good, and set up a new paper entirely under workers' control. If they had all the same staff as the Argus it shouldn't be too hard to get a loan or startup capital considering they already have a proven track record of running a paper. They don't really need any means of production beyond themselves and their contacts and links, plus laptops, notepads and dictaphones that they presumably already have. And perhaps being free from management control they could actually make the new paper a *good paper*.

    I'm surprised the idea hasn't already been floated publicly.

    Also, this is a great read for anyone interested in genuine media reform for the 21st century: