Tuesday, 9 September 2008

News for sale

I've just come back from a chat with a hacky friend tonight, who reminded me of one way the web has changed things for reporters which I don't think is often considered when looking at newsroom management and workflows. And that's that great perk of the job, selling your story.

It's a time-honoured tradition on local newspapers that if you've got a great scoop, you spend the evening before the issue hits the stands phoning the newsdesks of the nationals, trying to interest them in running your fantastic exclusive in return for hard cash. Sometimes the editor encourages this, sometimes it's done surreptitiously - but it always goes on. And it's not just the money - for a reporter wanting to jump onto the nationals, it's also a great way to get yourself noticed.

Now, when you're increasingly in the business of putting those scoops straight up online, this window of opportunity can disappear. Most of our reporters' sellable stories are still held over until the moment they've appeared in print, but not always.

It might not be an officially acknowledged perk, but I think it's definitely something which should be taken into consideration when considering the impact the web has on the reporting team.

I also wonder how it's going to impact on news agencies, which from where we stand seem to make a big chunk of their living from selling our stories when we don't get in quick enough. Will the fact it's getting so much easier for the nationals to check what gems the locals have thrown up from their London HQs via the web make any dents in their business model?

On an entirely separate note . . . I'm going to briefly touch on the editor's second appearance in the Guardian's Media Monkey column, which follows his stated intention to take a vow of silence after a blog post which attracted some unanticipated intention from the monkey last month. Even though I'm the news editor (almost) named and shamed in the original post (and he's spilled some of my more embarassing beans in the past ), I'm also sorry it's stopped for the moment. But I'm assured it is temporary (and probably something to do with other projects he's been busy with). I'll let you know when it's back up and running.

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