Yesterday, ‘Save The Sun Newspaper’ was all over Twitter. Those clicking the hashtag were not taken to a page bemoaning the fact that the Rupert Murdoch owned paper has lost £68 million in the last year alone, but to a Go Fund Me campaign that has raised over £16,500 that will be donated to the Essex Coronavirus Action Urgent Food Bank Appeal.
Set up by an Essex based food bank campaigner named Simon Harris, #SaveTheSunNewspaper garnered support because of the intense dislike for a newspaper that some claim is “not fit to wipe their arse with” whilst others (especially the people of Liverpool, a city where it is mostly banned due to their crass reporting of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster) condemn it for its “lies” and “bigoted” reporting.
Whilst the ‘fake’ hashtag was about helping foodbanks, on Sunday night, the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade highlighted a genuine problem for the British press. In an article titled: “Why our newspapers might not survive the contagion of coronavirus,” the media commentator observed: “It is the bleakest of ironies: the biggest news story in a lifetime is killing off the very industry that exists to report it. Coronavirus is destroying newsprint newspapers across Britain, delivering the coup de grace to businesses that were already in the process of dying.”
Whilst it has been for long known that traditional media has struggled to cope and find a way to exist and maintain revenue streams in a period where online and social media have battered it, coronavirus, it appears, will be the death knell for many a print newspaper.
Just like, for example, the restaurant sector, which will likely see many establishments fail to reopen once this pandemic is over due to them not having the resources to get their staff back and pay their rent and suppliers, many print newspapers – most especially local titles – will not weather the storm. As Greenslade points out, “it seems inconceivable that publishers, already struggling to fund journalism, will return to the previous status quo.” Going further, he remarks: “That’s because the status quo was, itself, one of perpetual fragility in which publishers were engaged in the delicate task of managing newsprint decline while, in parallel, seeking to create a digital journalism business model.”
Here comes an epoch of change and with newsrooms across Britain currently completely empty, publishers will indeed start to rationalise when so-called “normality” returns (in whatever form that takes). Expensive city centre offices will be shut and like cancer, profitless titles will most likely be permanently closed down. This will not be a loss that should be glorified and it will not be something that should celebrated; without good journalism, we’ll all be the poorer. Those thinking we can rely on the Twitterati for news are in for an era of the emperor’s new clothes and they’re in for a future where fake news will quite wrongly reign.