There are now an amazing number of journalists, about 850, serving the Guardian’s online industry, with little or nothing to show for it.
It’s been years since reading a tally took me so close to needing emergency resuscitation. If Donald Trelford, a former editor of The Observer, had mentioned a number one-tenth the size in writing about the paper’s uncertain future as The Guardian’s stepchild in yesterday’s Independent, I’d have been speechless for hours.
Just what do so many reporters dedicated to digital publishing have to show for their trouble, I wondered. I’d been sure that the joint Guardian and Observer web site was still mainly being fed by old-fashioned journalists occasionally lending part of their brains to the online edition of their papers.
I looked at the passage containing the sentence again:
One senior Observer figure told me: “It’s surreal. There are now an amazing number of journalists, about 850, serving the Guardian’s online industry, with little or nothing to show for it. This is not what we signed up for, or what The Guardian promised, back in 1993. They are engaged in a wild gamble on the future and it looks as though they are ready to sacrifice The Observer to pay for it, even though it may never work.”
Journalists, unlike bloggers – understand facts – or so say … well, proper Old Media journalists and editors. So I typed that number into a search engine box with a key word or two to see if anyone else was as astonished as I was. No one, apparently, but there was this mention of the magic 850 in a January entry in the Editors Weblog of the World Editors Forum.
Guardian News & Media recently integrated its print and online operations, The Guardian, The Observer and the website Guardian.co.uk, having moved to new premises last month. […] Previously, five different buildings housed the Guardian’s 1400 staff, including around 850 journalists. Guardian News & Media has now taken three and a half floors of the new King’s Place development …
Hmmm … so the 850 journos were just ordinary Guardian print journalists – no Observer employees, naturally. And not specialists in e-publishing at all. But how could Donald Trelford, presumably filtered through vigilant Indy sub-editors, have been so misleading?
Curiouser and curiouser. . . Keep looking, I told myself — and found that even The Daily Torygraph is no stranger to the mysterious number’s magnetism — which I shall quote in its richest context:
The figures showed that Guardian News & Media (GNM), the division that includes both the Guardian and the Observer, lost £36.8 million, considerably worse than the £26.4 million loss in the previous year.
Those are noble ambitions but most of the 850-strong joint editorial team would prefer management to devote more time to making the newspapers financially viable rather than fretting about global warming. The Observer is thought to have lost as much as £20 million last year. In the same year, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger received an 11 per cent salary rise to £445,000.
Ah, so! A joint Guardian-Observer editorial team of 850.
But then why would someone of the standing of Donald Trelford — just because he was understandably upset on the Observer’s behalf — wield the statistic like a souped-up machete?
I reminded myself that the Torygraph, no friend of either paper, just might be indulging in a bit of sly disinformation.
… Now I could solve the riddle of the 850 myself. I might, for instance, email someone important and official at Guardian News & Media and get the straight scoop about that number.
But then I’d lose caste as a blogger. We leave all that fact-checking faffing-about to real journos in this ‘ere Blogosphere, I’m afraid.
And if I started behaving like a journalist, I could hardly end like this, could I? ……….;) …………………