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Print Journalists Irrelevant Ego-Trippers - Garner

Stuart Garner, head of the US giant Thomson Newspaper Group, has taken a swipe at print journalists saying they take "ego trips" and newspapers frequently aren't compelling and useful to people. John Howard reports.

55 year-old Stuart Garner, an import from a grimy British industrial district, assessed the physical condition of the US$54 billion newspaper industry.

Garner, a veteran of London's Fleet St, but who has never had formal journalism training, said "It's a bit unfortunate that I come from outside, because it looks bad that I'm picking holes in what goes on in the US, and I don't want to do that."

But to hell with appearances. Garner tatters the US industry bluntly and with vigour.

He said reporters take "ego trips" and are often more interested in writing for the person sitting next to them in the newsroom than for their readers. Too many newspaper reporters "want to save the world, whether the world wants to be saved or not."

"I never went to a journalism school, and it never did me any harm." Garner told trainees at the opening of the company's new training centre which is modelled after a long-established program in Britain.

"The teaching of journalism is in the grip of out-of-touch academics who ignore marketing realities of Main Street. News is defined by some hoary, grizzly, old news editor who has been taught by the out-of-touch academic."

"Newspaper circulation managers should be part of daily editorial meetings because they're the ones who hear people saying they won't buy the rag because it's never got anything in it."

Garner is an odd duck among his newspaper executive peers. He actually grew up in a newsroom and maintains a lean and almost hungry look about him. He never mentions "shareholder value" and generally avoids the newspaper business buzzwords.

Newspapers are in peril, Garner says, because they have ignored their readers. That, in turn, is hurting the bottom line. Thomson Newspapers is convinced its business model and fledgling training approach represents a big part of the solution to stopping the historical worldwide slide in newspaper circulation.

"The only worthwhile yardstick of the collective efforts of journalists on the newspaper is what the circulation trends are. The population is rising, the number of households is expanding and sales of newspapers are desperately struggling to stand still." he said.

He did not comment on the effect the explosion of Internet news was having on dropping newspaper circulations.


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