Thursday, August 13, 2009

The future of journalism (latest in an endless series)

There's a piece in today's Times about Liverpool's chances of winning the league which is notable not so much for what it says as for the way it chooses to say it. The opinions in it are those of Patrick Barclay, who has the title Chief Football Commentator, but it's based on an interview with Ben Smith, who presumably doesn't have an exalted title but can be relied upon to tee up the great man with a few questions (possibly on the phone from his holiday home) and then write up his responses.

This kind of approach is as much of a straw in the wind blowing through the media as all this talk about pay walls. The Times pay Patrick Barclay for his opinions and the more directly they can access those opinions the better. If they send him off to compose his thoughts it probably takes hours, even if he's quicker than most. If they just stick an apprentice in front of him with a dictaphone it probably takes five minutes and for the end-user the result is exactly the same.


  1. the phrase "end-user" catches my eye.

    As someone who's worked in I.T calling people users is second nature, but seeing a journalist call a reader a user interests me.

    I've noticed Spotify doing the same thing - calling the listeners users. But then, that's an application and it feels OK.

    I've been told off for using the word user my people who post on a website I help run. "Oh we're users now? I thought we were members."

  2. Well I suppose it's better than vox-popping people in the street and passing that off as journalism which we see rather too much of these days.

  3. Paul K8:53 am

    Sadly, the result for the end-user is probably NOT exactly the same.

    The great commentators have been those who not only have something to say, but a skilled way in which to say it, and I'm afraid they simply won't provide that "over the phone from their holiday home".

    In fact, The Times probably saved themselves paying him anything at all by doing it over the phone, since it won't count as a "piece". And sadly that was probably the motivation.

    Many of the greatest journalistic commentators have made very poor talking heads - Julie Burchill and keith Waterhouse come to mind - because so much of their talent lies in their writing skill. That is what the end-user will lose. And another nail will be driven into the coffin of great journalism.

  4. An extract from the piece:

    "The best Liverpool can hope for is to finish second. I just can't see them having the strength to compete with Chelsea or even Manchester United."

    Er, doesn't that mean the best they can hope for is to finish third?

  5. I have worthwhile opinions on sport. I'm not a great writer.

    Patrick Barclay is a writer and a journalist, not a 'commentator'. Pay him well and let him do his job. The 'end-user' will have a much better experience.