The outgoing editor of the Press and Journal newspaper has said the sales success of his newspaper may well be down to the simple commitment to practices – such as reporting council meetings and covering the courts – considered by some as “a little passé, either because they require too much staff time or because of the mistaken belief that readers are no longer interested”.
Speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference in Glasgow, Derek Tucker, speculated that one of the reasons for his paper being the third-highest selling regional newspaper in the UK might have something to do with it still operating ten reporters every day covering the courts, two reporters the business of the Scottish Parliament and a London editor – plus continuous coverage of local council meetings and committee sessions.
He said: “There is no look of amazement if a Press and Journal reporter turns up at a community council meeting.”
He added the sales success may also have to do with increasing the number of local editions to eight – meaning around 100 broadsheet pages being produced every night – to cater for the widely divergent geography his paper mainly serves.
He also used his speech to launch a broadside against the quality of graduates from university media courses. He was none too complimentary either about newspaper content being made for free online and made clear he is no fan of sub-editors being replaced by newspaper journalists with the facility to file 'straight to page'.
He said: “It may well be that reporters writing direct to pages is the way ahead, but I would be very reluctant to embrace that, with the current state of the education system and our industry's decision to hand over to universities the training of future generations.
“It frustrates me, and I know many other editors feel the same, that a lot of young people leaving so-called university journalism degree courses are totally unsuited to the needs of newspapers. Very few possess the street cunning and inquisitiveness that are the hallmarks of good journalists and it appears sometimes that English is a second language.
“We are, in a sense, reaping what we began to sow years ago when we decided it was cheaper, and more convenient, to leave training to the academics, who were only too pleased to tap into the continuing demand for a career in the media. Unfortunately, we also washed our hands of the careful selection process which place the attributes of a good journalist above, or at least equal to, educational qualifications.”
Tucker is due to retire, in January, after 18 years at the helm of his newspaper. The identity of his successor has yet to be revealed.
Under his leadership, the Press and Journal has risen to be the third highest-selling regional daily newspaper in the UK, behind his previous paper – the Express and Star in Wolverhampton – and the second-placed Liverpool Echo. Last year, it was named 'Newspaper of the Year (circ above 40,000)' at the Regional Press Awards, run by the Press Gazette.