When I was first cutting my journalistic teeth on that mighty organ of the west that was the weekly Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, the advertising department was something you tried to
get off with pass seasonal greetings to every Christmas.
And it was the same when I graduated to my local evening paper; the advertising department was something that you wandered through en route to the accounts dept; it was another world; one that we journalists never knew anything about. Like I say, we’d try to build bridges come Christmas time – for the rest of the year, we went our way; they went their’s.
And I guess that’s true of 90 per cent of old newspaper institutions; more, probably. Even now, I don’t think habits and perceptions have changed.
But they need to. In fact, given what most reporters can – in theory – do with a digital camera these days, I’d ditch the old reporter-photographer combo altogether and send the reporter out into battle locally with an ad person at their side – you get the story, I’ll get an ad… and they’d sit next to each other in the office.
And swap contacts books. One would gut the other’s battered little black book for stories and leads; the other would likewise gut the list for ad leads… this parish councillor, doesn’t he run a garage…?
It’s funny, but doing what we’ve done of late you tend to bump into more academics than newspaper executives. Don’t know why… perhaps it’s something we’ve said.
Anyway, you listen to what the likes of Paul, Adrian, Charlie, Roy, Jeff and people are all up to with their students and they all seem to be grappling with the same big issue – what do we actually teach our J-School kids these days that’s going to be of relevance to their digitally-based journalistic lives?
What do you teach the next generation of journalists? Simple.
In fact, I’ll even get the ball rolling with a simple, multiple-choice question for their Fall ’08 module on ‘Enterprise and journalism; making ends meet when the local newspaper goes t*ts up…’
Johnny Smith’s family furniture store half-way up the Sprowston Road was one of your early launch advertisers. You join your ad-man for what you presume to be a straight-forward re-booking. Johnny Smith, however, has had a re-think. ‘To be honest, we’re going to give it a miss this quarter,” he says. “We’re just not seeing any response…”
(a) say: ‘How the f*ck do you know that? What, do you ask everyone who walks through the door where they heard of you? What about them over there, you asked them?’
or (b) say: ‘Look I know you’ve only had six click-throughs this month, but how many f*cking click-throughs have you had off that ridiculous taxi you had painted last month? Who’s ‘clicking through’ on that, twat? And while we’re on the subject, how many people have clicked through that half-page newspaper ad you’ve been running for the last 30 years… eh?’
or (c) say: ‘Johnny, that’s fine. We’re just grateful for all your initial support; maybe we can pop back in again in a couple of months when you’ve got your new autumn cane furniture range in…?’
If you answer either (a) or (b) you are a journalist.
If you answer (c) you’re our Kev.
But if, as a journalist, you can learn and/or be taught to answer (c) then you’ve got a chance.
Even if you still think (a) and (b). You’ve got a chance.
Teach the kids how to sell; at a local level certainly. They sell, they survive.