I’ve been asked by the Editor for the impossible: to find some good news for those journalists who have suffered redundancy as a result of the closure of the News of the World. Are there media executive jobs – and regular media jobs – out there for them?
Journalists suffer redundancy all the time, of course; but the NoW is special. The reasons for the newspaper’s demise have been well-documented. And because of the mishandling of the investigation by News International, nobody is yet sure to what levels the misbehaviour extended, nor when it stopped (or started).
There remains real anger among former NoW journalists at their treatment; after all, one NI staffer said to me, “80% of them weren’t even at the paper when these events took place.” Moreover, it is clear that, even at the time, few reporters would have had the authority to sanction phone-tapping, however much it was discussed. Nonetheless, whether fairly or not, there is a feeling that the whole staff have been ‘tarnished’ by the allegations.
To find out what prospects there were for those caught up in this mess, I spoke to several national and local newspaper editors to see how they would respond to a CV from NoW reporters. Their responses ranged from the welcoming (“I would be very sympathetic. I used to work there, and I know what good work they have done”) to the neutral (“It would depend entirely on the individual”) to the cautious: “They would have to convince me that they had nothing to do with phone-hacking, and I don’t know how they would do that.” This, of course, is the rub; until the investigation is completed, there will be some doubt over all reporting staff – and this may extend beyond NoW if further allegations are proven.
However, all the people I spoke to drew a distinction between reporters and others; NoW sub editors are highly valued and would appear to be largely ‘untainted’; a similar story pertains for picture editors, for example.
So, as weather forecasters say when they haven’t got a clue, the outlook is “mixed”. The bad news, as ever, is that traditional media is a contracting market, and that some people will wait for the dust to settle before taking on a NoW reporter.
The good news, though, is that not one of the people I spoke to said they would rule out everyone from the NoW (though Clive Goodman might struggle a bit); indeed, everyone recognised that there were “lots of good journalists” on the title.
The door is at least ajar.