The decision to close the Liverpool Post is the latest milestone on a road that could leave us with no printed newspapers at all.
In embarking on this subject I have to be careful not to wallow in too much nostalgia about nestling in the armchair with the rustle of the paper and ink on the fingers. I need to acknowledge that the casual swipe of the hand across tablet and smart phone is equally exciting for a new generation informing itself about current events.
For it is the largely free access to news at the press of a button that has done for the papers. People liked the instant access provided by the internet revolution and the advertisers have followed them. The huge loss of advertising revenue and the drying up of sales at the newsagent is seeing papers fighting a losing battle to continue in printed form.
Alan Rushbridger, the editor of the Guardian, has said that in fifty years people will be amazed to be told that once huge printers rolled off millions of papers at midnight that were them transported by lorry through the nights to thousands of shops. The economics stacked up in the era before 24 hour radio and TV news but not now.
I can easily see the total demise of printed newspapers although attempts are being made to keep them going by making them free.
So why am I sad to see the Liverpool Post go? Isn’t it just the latest development in communications which began with cave painting and Egyptian hieroglyphics? The monks changed all that with their portable illuminated manuscripts. Caxton disrupted the medieval world with the printing press and Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web which so many people rely on now to get their news.
I regret the ending of the Liverpool Post for a number of reasons. The parochial one is that the city has lost a publication that was full of great content from its business pages to its investigative journalism headed up by Marc Waddington. Some of this will continue to appear in the Liverpool Echo but that paper has sold its soul to a diet of crime and sensation which gives a very distorted image of Merseyside. That’s the price you pay when you engage in a futile chase for readers. “If it bleeds, it leads” is one of the most odious sayings I have had to live with in my journalistic career.
But on a wider front I wonder if there is a danger we are all going to become niche consumers of news. With the tablet and smart phone you inevitably concentrate on the particular story you are interested in. Your eyes don’t stray across the pages and notice something else you might be interested in. You don’t get the whole deal that a newspaper provides between its covers: the news, comment, features, pictures, the crossword and sport.
Let’s hope that, behind pay walls, some great journalism survives in the e-newspapers of the future. But they will be competing with the blogs and websites of citizen journalism. What is the truth will become a very pertinent question
The people are speaking and newspapers will die. There is no licence fee to protect a high quality paper from market forces. There is such a fee to protect the BBC although some papers, in their death throes, are trying to remove it.
A world without newspapers is going to be bad enough. Protect us from the BBC with a quarter of an hour per hour of advertising.