Is this what readers think of newspapers?

Does anyone independent of a newspaper actually like it?

This may seem a disparaging viewpoint but following on from previous blogs I’m intrigued by the relationship between newspaper and reader.

I was subbing the letters page recently and there was, as always, a good deal of feedback, some positive and some not. One letter was full of praise for the paper for highlighting a local issue of importance. Kudos for the paper one would think. And you would hope readers who were concerned about the issue would also be appreciative.

But most of these people, or at least the vocal ones, are the ones you see at the meetings anyway and would know about the issue beforehand. It seems the majority of the letters praising the paper etc come from those who’ve had something in the paper, and often from very interested parties such as politicians and community groups.

Conversely, reading Greenslade’s blog on the UK city Brighton’s paper The Argus (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/apr/20/local-newspapers-newsquest) what struck me was the comments from readers who said they thought of the paper in the negative. I must confess that I have had the same experience here with my paper. When I mention the publication, the reaction is one of `oh yes, THAT paper’, before them going on about how there’s nothing good in it and it’s all lies.

At my old paper, we were thankfully seen in a brighter light (if people had even heard of us – but that’s another post altogether), but I imagine this had plenty to do with our competitor being somewhat brash (add horror to every headline being their key editorial policy it seemed) and thus the more conservative types preferring our straight bat approach. Even then the praise was more `you’re better than that other lot I suppose’. Hardly encouraging.

I’m intrigued to discover how many local journos have had people praise the paper just because they thought it was good, rather than because of some vested interest. And compare that to how many will openly criticise the paper and local journalism in general.

Do our readers actually like us? Or are we just better than the alternative (a poorer paper or nothing at all)? And why is there so much hostility towards local papers – and there really is a lot of vitriol out there?

That vitriol can be seen in some of the language of this post:

http://aljahom.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/epic-work/

Click through to the article it refers to and in the comments again is a lot of abuse – and this from people who at least have some interest in the media. I do not defend the publication, but journos and papers seem to bring out the wrath in the public and surely that is a concern when readership is dwindling daily.

Perhaps it is a question we should flip on its head, do we actually like our readers. That will follow in the next post methinks…