IN the words of the old Lionel Ritchie video: Mr Reynolds, I think there’s something you should see in the art media studies class… Not a crazy clay sculpture, something far more ominous.
Yep, one of the most churning thing for print journalists covering Miliband at Haverstock yesterday was watching sixth form media students at work. Make-your-own newspaper tasks – like in my day, I confess to having a media studies GCSE – have gone. Instead, pupils were asked in groups to pitch a platform for how people might be getting their news in five years. By a platform, they mean techy-webby-apps-things and stuff, rather than newspapers. Uh-oh.
Not only was it clear that most local and national journalists I know would fail this media class by some distance, but there we were, standing like lemons at the back of the class, our notepads and dictaphones ready for Miliband, ready to create a newsprint news story – and bang in front of us, the readers of the future were working out how an even better version of the iPhone, man, could one day soon replace the printing presses.
Of course, it’s all true. The teacher, clearly bringing the best out of her students, herself said sheepishly that she only really bought newspapers on a Sunday. Teach them to love the feel of newsprint I joked.
The platform-pitching (during the discussion, Miliband bemoaned the iPhone for being difficult to text on to one student) came after a class chat over whether anybody would even pay for news in the future and how very selective readers were likely to become, using the internet to cut out the stuff they flicked through whenever they read newspapers. The challenge therefore for newspapers must in the first instance be to have publications where every page has something brilliant, the left hand pages now as important as the right hand reads. With grids and grids of internet menus and titles, readers may miss content they would actually value checking online. It won’t be enough to hold back the web juggernaut, but a well-designed newspaper, with good subs and layout – and of course quality content – can still be best at signposting people to the gear they really want to read. For the moment at least.