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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

I produce content which is shareable and promote my work on social media.

My experience with content management systems and knowledge of HTML allows me to include charts, embedded content from third parties and formatting in my work, to create content which encourages interaction and keeps readers on the page.

Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but please send press releases to my work email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

When I read this letter from a Daily Telegraph journalist lamenting the state of the newspaper industry (following a link from Jo Geary), I suspected they'd receive a pretty negative response.

Their complaint was that newspapers weren't interested in recruiting quality staff - and paying them accordingly - or giving them the time they needed to do a decent job of finding out what's going on and telling people what's going on.

An uncharitable interpretation of their comments would be that they were asking for more money and less work, which rarely endears you to anyone.

But they had also criticised the focus on "social media", ie blogs and stuff, and the general emphasis on the internet.

For example, they wrote:

... it's becoming all too clear at the Telegraph, whose online business plan seems to be centred on chasing hits through Google by rehashing and rewriting stories that people are already interested in. Facts are no longer the currency they used to be.

This is a bit of a no-no in the industry at the moment (far better to say you are wildly enthusiastic about social media and complain that nobody else is).

But I was still a bit surprised by this response from Justin Williams, Assistant Editor at the Telegraph Media Group, who said:

Funny thing that - writing about things that people are interested in. It would be a ... er ... radical editor who went to his bosses and said that his reporters would, henceforth, only write about things that people weren't interested in.

Well, yes, news should be interesting. I think the point being made, however, was that newspapers were basing their strategy on search engine optimisation and getting into the most-read clusters on Google News "by rehashing and rewriting stories" that are already out there.

In other words, the quality of the product doesn't matter. Finding things out, and making sure what you write is true, is less important than publishing text with the right keywords at the right time, even if that means simply taking someone else's copy and re-writing it.

You'd have thought Mr Williams would want to deny this was happening, but instead he ridicules the idea that anyone might actually think it's a bad thing.

Although it is an extreme example, I think this reflects a trend in the debate about the future of newspapers. There's lots of talk about technology, and not enough about good journalism.

Good journalism does still matter. Put it this way - if you're reading this, you probably enjoy reading blogs. Is having a presence on Facebook or Twitter, or a good Google ranking, enough to make you read a blog regularly?

I suspect the most successful blogs are those where the posts are factually accurate (if they contain facts at all), tell readers something they didn't already know and focus on interesting topics.

The old journalism cliché, in other words - true, new and interesting (makes a good news story).

Search engine optimisation and including those keywords is necessary in today's world, but it's not sufficient. You still need good content, and there's not enough focus on that.

One strange thing about coverage of Trinity Mirror's reforms at the Birmingham Post, Mail and Mercury is that the efforts being made to improve content are, it seems to me, usually overlooked.

The biggest change for journalists on the papers won't be that they suddenly start using the Internet, but that they will now work for the group rather than individual papers - an attempt to use economies of scale to give each paper (particularly the Post, I think) more resources, in terms of journalists, at the same time as reducing staffing costs.

What I would like to see is more debate on how papers can produce a better product, in whatever medium, when money is tight. You won't do it simply by rehashing things you've read elsewhere.

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About me

Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

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