The Abcs

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Who said it was all over for newspapers? Who said the British media was in an unremitting cycle of dumbing down? The best circulation figures in the quality newspaper market since November 2002 would appear to refute both assumptions.

Of course, September was extraordinary. The Guardian's relaunch saw it post its best ABCs since March 2003, aided by an avalanche of vouchers for 20p copies. But The Guardian's uplift came not, as predicted, at the expense of its rivals. The Independent was robust at 262,552, up 2.6 per cent on the previous month. The Times kicked on to within a few hundred of its 700,000 target, with a 5.8 per cent year-on-year increase. The Daily Telegraph remains relatively stable on 904, 283.

Overall, sales in the quality market were up by 3.1 per cent year on year. Yes, the picture is skewed by a frenzy of competition and promotional activity, but the outlook is rosy.

Not so for the red tops, which are down 2.5 per cent on the year, with all titles failing even to match sales in August, traditionally the toughest month. In the mid-market, things are no better. The Daily Express has stripped out its bulk copies, but newstrade sales are down to a miserable 778,782. Even the Daily Mail is down 2.8 per cent on 2004. Should they all move upmarket?

Fund to raise diversity in journalism

Many fine words have been written about the need for diversity but, a few notable examples apart, there is little evidence of very much change taking place.

"Journalists at Work," an influential piece of research undertaken by the Publishing National Training Organisation and Skillset in 2002, confirmed that we have a media industry that is increasingly populated predominantly by white middle class people.

Kim Fletcher, chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists, will today be launching the Journalism Diversity Fund at the Society of Editors' conference in Windermere. Managed by the NCTJ, we hope the fund will be a first step in helping British newsrooms to be more representative. Truth and objectivity stand firm as the fundamental tenets of journalism and we fight tooth and nail to protect those values, but how are we to be either truthful or objective if we do not promote and develop true representation of colour, creed and views?

As Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, told me: "The British press, both regional and national, play a massive part in how we all relate to one another. The journalism diversity fund is a much needed boost to the media industry where people from ethnic minority backgrounds remain almost invisible at all levels. Until this changes, vast chunks of the media remain unable to tell the whole of our national story."

Angela Foster, news editor at New Nation, a leading African-Caribbean newspaper, tells me that she still sees cultural "misunderstandings" in reporting in the British press.

Foster says: "The sad truth is that ethnic minorities rarely consider local newspapers as an option and more needs to be done to persuade them."

At the NCTJ we see young people at first hand fighting to enter an attractive and vibrant industry and we are perhaps more aware than many just how hard it is for young people from all walks of life to get into journalism. Our role is to champion training for all and we now have the opportunity to plant the seedlings for change.

Joanne Butcher
Chief Executive Of The NCTJ