Paul used the term in one of the headlines to his JEECamp look-back the other week. I can’t remember if the term ‘cottage’ ever crossed my lips or not – it’s usually a phrase that I’m rather wary of – so, I’ll give Paul his due.
Because, to my mind, Paul’s spot-on. Journalism has every chance of returning to a cottage industry as the next generation of local journalists finally find their feet in this ever-shifting digital landscape.
After all, there are three of us here in East Anglia who sit at our kitchen tables and churn out professional copy for a living; whether the coffee shop in Tesco’s counts as a ‘cottage’ might be a moot point as Mark looks for the best place to file his Portman Road Press conference pieces, but the fact of the matter is we all travel light these days.
A lap-top, a 3G data card and a digital voice recorder and we’re away.
And, for me, it is a case of ‘returning’ to a cottage industry. For way back when, ‘journalism’ could be achieved by writing your proclamations on a scrap piece of parchment and nailing them to the nearest church door. Ask Mr Luther.
OK, so in every likelihood it was only the print press that then allowed the word to spread, but – in essence – you could still publish from home. There was, then, no other means of production.
Until the print press, of course. Which changed the world for ever. And as said presses got bigger and better, so they became more expensive and that control of the means of production slipped out of an individual journalist’s hands for the better part of 500 years.
Just as the weavers that weaved cloth for a living found themselves enslaved to the mills, so those that weaved words for a living found themselves with a print press strapped to their back. Dark, satanic press halls and all that. The cloth barons and the Press barons; peas from the same pod. Both made fortunes from the industrialisation of wool and news.
The Internet, of course, changes everything.
For I now control my own means of production.
What I don’t, yet, control is my own means of making a living. And, for me, if we all don’t pull together soon, there is a very real danger that having shrugged that press monkey off our backs, we will find another one in its place. Its name is Google.
Hence the need to crack this advertising nut.
But the analogy with the weavers and the mills still holds true. Because for as long as a journalist continues to produce something of value – be it fetching out football quotes from a dressing room or making either a head or a tail out of a West 14th St planning application – then we have a chance.
All we have to do is organise ourselves; to build ourselves a ‘market place’ where we can, collectively and elegantly, display our wares. Most will just feel the quality of the cloth and move on; others might be tempted to buy. In bulk; en masse. From our journalistic co-operative.
And, for me, that’s what ‘mother’ does; that’s what www.myfootballwriter.com is – a market place for our home-produced wares.
Here you go; from Wikipedia. It’s a Sunday night; I’m self-subbing, so I’ll trust it’s right…
The Halifax Piece Hall is a building in the town centre of Halifax, England, originally built as a sales centre for woollen handloom weavers. It opened on January 1, 1779, with over 300 separate rooms arranged around a central courtyard. The term piece refers to pieces of wool that were sold. As factories started up in the early nineteenth century the trade in handwoven wool declined…
No different to MFW; it’s just that our ‘piece hall’ has – thus far – just three seperate rooms; just three hand-weavers. But we’re still producing pieces – two a day; sticky, 1,000-word pieces, to be precise. The ‘central courtyard’ – the place where people come to read and, potentially, buy – is the mother hub, www.myfootballwriter.com.
And if MFW can, eventually, be a 72-room hall as we cascade down the Football League ladder, www.MyLocalWriter.com can, of course, be a piece hall of many, many rooms.
At the end of next month, Rupert Murdoch opens a new, state-of-the-art print press facility at Broxbourne. It is likely to be the mill to end all mills – literally, if you’re a provincial newspaper group trying to compete in that contract print market.
Speaking in the City of London back in 2006, Murdoch all but admitted that the control of the means of production was slipping from his hands – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/mar/13/news.rupertmurdoch1
“Societies or companies that expect a glorious past to shield them from the forces of change driven by advancing technology will fail and fall,” he said.
“Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry – the editors, the chief executives and, let’s face it, the proprietors.
“A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it…
The mill owners are in full retreat. Time to build our piece halls, people…