The Trust Game

Trust. There can’t be terribly much of it around these days, when it comes to how people perceive newspapers. And the blunt truth is newspapers have nobody but themselves to blame.

And it’s not just the recent allegations of phone-hacking that have shredded such precious commodities as integrity and trust. If the common parlance has people saying you can’t believe everything you read in newspapers, then you know you are in trouble.

Since when were newspapers perceived to be publications of record? Or to have noble purpose, such as fighting for the oppressed and the disadvantaged?

It’s been just about believable that advertising and editorial can be relatively easy to keep apart. But other seeming illogicalities are less so: the newspaper that brands an exclusive a story that patently is not; the newspaper that reproduces a media release, sometimes without much in the way of questioning, but nevertheless passed off as news; the newspaper that simply does not check its facts, or decides to ignore them; and the newspaper that declines the common courtesy of providing the subject of a story a right to reply.

Or the newspaper that chooses to be partial, political or otherwise.

It’s a free press – and so it should be – but look what the press has done with it. It’s a relatively highly regulated TV industry, but that hasn’t prevented it being every bit as imaginative and courageous when it comes to producing content any self-respecting newspaper editor would be proud to call their own, including hard-hitting investigative journalism.

There are lots of bright, committed people working in newspapers, many of them hugely passionate about their industry and worried about where it might end up. Perhaps the arrival of the internet, plus numerous other ways of staying informed and entertained, means there is an inevitability about the fate of newspapers. Maybe it is, indeed, about managing decline.

Of course, it’s a cut-throat business, but much of that is being the industry’s own choosing: including trying to keep up with, if not stay one step ahead of, the 24-hour news cycle and rival publications.

In that race to be first, to make a mark, to steal a march, it’s little wonder corners are at risk of being cut.

But each cut is cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.