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Finally, a chance to end ‘churnalism’

There’s a lot of grumbling about ‘news hubbing’ in Scotland, with the moves at Bauer to rationalize their news operation. Individual stations will have bulletins presented from Glasgow after 10am, but will retain locally presented bulletins at breakfast – albeit with reduced staffing to reflect the lower number of bulletins read at each site.

I’ve looked around at the folks who are complaining about this and I’m starting to get annoyed!

The bulk of complainers see every move like this as ‘the death of local’, in the same way as every move towards shared resources and use of modern technology is another nail in the coffin of quality.

Most of these guys (and they almost invariably are guys) love radio. They love radio so much that they want to work in it (or perhaps used to). And they equate  paid jobs in small stations with successful local radio. They’ve got it wrong. They’re locked in the radio of their teenage years.

I know well that few of the smallest stations made enough money to keep broadcasting, never mind invest in the future. The mega-groups are looking to taking their brands truly multi-platform and that kind of expansion requires money. Now DJ Dirk Dingler might want to play northern soul on a Friday night, but the giant leaps required of these stations require investment. It’s not just money lining the pockets of ‘fat cats’ –it’s generating profit to invest.

Similarly, the most important people in radio – the listeners – have voted with their ears, demonstrating a love of these stations that’s growing.

I’ve argued before that when it comes to music radio, it simply doesn’t matter where the Rihanna-playing-DJ is sitting. What matters is that they’re playing the right music and connecting with the listener.

It’s the same with news.

When I ran small stations, we had a news team of 2 or 3. In any day, 2 of those staff were stuck on shift at the station reading out a combination of IRN copy and following up on press releases. One of my news heads used to bemoan the fact that there was little time for what they called ‘real’ journalism and what they were doing was merely feeding the beast.

Of course there will be cost savings in the way that Bauer produce bulletins will help the group invest in their digital future.

But the most exciting thing to me is that the regional journalists will finally be able to go and ‘do’ journalism without having to rush back for a bulletin. I expect that coverage of events across Scotland will actually be more critical, more local and more relevant. Every second a journalist spends doing something other than reading out the same copy as their colleagues in 5 other stations is a second they can spend digging and questioning.

In a time when Scotland is asking some big questions about its future it’s more important that stories are properly reported. Putting reporters on the road instead of in a news booth ripping and reading isn’t just a plan – it’s an imperative.

Author: johnco

Born in 1963, been involved in radio since 1977.

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