June 19 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The chief executive of the Evening News’ publishing company and president of the Newspaper Society has written to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg expressing concern over the deputy prime minister’s “highly damaging and generalised remarks” about the press.
Speaking at last week’s Lib Dem conference in Brighton, Mr Clegg questioned the future viability of traditional newspapers and said falling circulation figures had led to the industry acting like “desperate animals around a disappearing waterhole”.
The comments prompted an impassioned defence from Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings for the Newspaper Society which represents 1,100 regional and local titles across the country.
Mr Jeakings’ letter to Mr Clegg says that though local newspapers had suffered during the recession there were grounds for optimism, with regional advertising revenues forecast to return to modest growth next year and audience numbers continuing to rise through websites and online publications.
The letter says: “Unsurprisingly the local press – along with nearly every other industry in the UK – has been hit by the most prolonged and damaging economic downturn in living memory. But despite steep declines in our main source of revenue – advertising – we are reaching bigger audiences than ever before across our multimedia platforms.
“As businesses we are resilient, innovative and committed to the highest standards of local journalism. Despite what you say, I am quite sure that we will continue to fulfil our unique vital role for the local communities we serve for many years to come.”
In his letter, Mr Jeakings also says local newspapers are the “most trusted of all media”, and that Mr Clegg had acknowledged this himself during a speech to last year’s Newspaper Conference.
The publishing chief said he would welcome the opportunity to meet the deputy prime minister to explain the “reasons for our confidence in the future of our sector which, after all, represents the vast majority of UK newspapers”.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said Mr Clegg’s comments were made during a debate about the Leveson Inquiry into national press standards, and that a response to Mr Jeakings’ letter would be made in due course.
During the conference, Mr Clegg said: “The written press is an industry, it’s a bit like animals around a disappearing waterhole. They are fighting over an increasingly small pool of customers.
“What’s happening in the British press, because they are becoming more desperate, because people are accessing their information in increasingly different ways, I really doubt that my children ... when they get older they are going to buy a newspaper in the traditional sense.”