Media Diet: ‘Getting an exclusive ain’t what it used to be’

26th March 2012

I'm slightly less of a newspaper junkie than I used to be.  At one time, I had the Guardian, Telegraph, Times and FT delivered (probably more actually). But they've become expensive and apart from a few exceptions they've gone relentlessly down-market.

So my day starts with the Guardian in bed, I spend about half an hour with it, and on my short train journey to work I read the Metro. The journey isn't long enough to read anything too complex, so it's an easy read, and well, everyone else is reading the same giveaway  aren't they! At work, I work through the FT.

I read mostly for my writing. So I'll look at the BBC for general news, the FT online during the day because it's got such a good back catalogue and newswires like Reuters and Bloomberg for pure information. I look at Yahoo for charts; I look at a lot of charts, I like to know where prices were 3 or 6 months ago.

You could say I'm more story orientated than site orientated and I'll use Google to find what to read; type in a sentence I'm interested in and see what comes up.

That's the thing about online, having something physical may enable you to study it more because many documents do not work on a screen (and you can't scribble comments on most) , but online often leads you places you wouldn't have thought of going and quite a few stories now come about almost by accident when I follow links that seem interesting.

But, I am old fashioned, I do think that print has a lot of value because you have to be disciplined to write on print, it has to fit into a physical shape, whereas online you can go on forever. Especially the comments, I read a piece on the Independent today that had  nearly 399 comments on it, I mean, life's just too short to read them all.

I tell you what online is really good for though; the incredible amount of source material available, academic papers, speeches, company reports. You can go back and find almost anything you want.

When I first started out, the only way I could get hold of a Companies House file was to physically go to a place on City Road, fill in a form and wait for a woman to trundle the one and only file on that company to my desk. That's how it was.

And if you were crafty of course, and thought that other journalists might want to get hold of it, and you wanted to guarantee the exclusive, you went there as early as possible and kept the thing all day!

Whereas now, I go to the Companies House site and within 60 seconds I have what I wanted.

So a lot has changed, but not all for the better.

It used to be that you were expected to find out something different, something new, but today, especially with social media, everyone is paying attention to everyone else and you just end up with a lot of the same.

Just look at Google News and all of the ‘related stories' there, most of the headlines are the same, it's rarely worth going past the first one or two. I suppose it does give you an idea of the coverage of a story, although I don't look for ‘trending' news.

But, if I do want to find out how the market is thinking, let's say the IFA market for example, then I'll read the trade press; things like Investors Chronicle, Investment Adviser and Fund Strategy. I don't read them word for word; I leaf through them and look at the ads, because if you see a product or fund ad wrapped around all of them you can be sure that some IFA's are going to be out recommending that. It's a good way to judge the general sentiment of things.

Now if what you're after is a very particular topic or issue that the mainstream won't touch, then forums can be quite good for that. I sometimes write stuff on dodgy investments and look at places like The Motley Fool and T2W (trade to win). They're all investors in there and it might not be for the mainstream reader, but when it comes to specifics of firms and illegal goings-on, these sites can certainly validate and elucidate what you're doing.

So I do get a lot of my news online now, but as I said, I am old fashioned, so I don't look at Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.  These sites are vitally important in war zones such as Syria, however.

I'm just not that interested in what other people are reading or saying. I like to find out for myself – so back to original sources.  Journalism, to my mind, is about telling people something they did not know, not rehashing stuff second hand.

Tony Levene curated the ‘European Market' section on The Financialist.

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