The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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Book review: A vanishing skill

Noel Grima Sunday, 1 October 2023, 08:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

'Modern Newspaper Practice'

Author: F. W. Hodgson

Publisher: Focal Press / 1984

Pages: 195pp


Print is on its way out. Printed newspapers are being eased out all over the world. The main titles are still printed and sold at newsagents but increasingly people depend on online news sources for their information.

Most times online news does not cost anything (though increasingly some are restricting access to those who register and pay). Online news gives you instant news, many times with visuals added. And online news is constantly changing and being upgraded - something which is impossible with a printed newspaper.


It is amazing to consider how the world has changed in these few years since this book was published and today. In 1984 the new technology was coming in but printed newspapers still ruled.

This is a book that explains the process of making a newspaper then when people had no idea how the world was about to change.

Newspaper publishing had a long history and tradition. Based on strict rules and enforced by tiers of trade unions called chapels and selling at cheap and popular prices, newspapers, ranging from elite quality papers to popular tabloids, were everywhere and influenced everybody.

Then the new technology cut down drastically on the number of employees required and newspapers moved their printing presses to cheaper locations and simultaneous locations.

Then, the next big step, online came in, at first a taste of what was in the print version. Increasingly the online version grew in importance while the print version decreased.

Now all over the world the online version has become the main news channel and in some cases the print version is being discontinued.

Nevertheless the fundamentals of newspaper publishing remain as they have always been. Those who would cut corners find that, in the end, they are the losers.

This book pays close attention to news gathering, news and feature writing, design and layout, the production, advertising and commercial side of newspapers and, in particular, what was then new technology and its effect on newspaper practice.

The book devotes sections to controversial, and often neglected, issues such as chequebook journalism, bias and distortion, news management, legal restrictions (obviously related to the UK) and advertising influence.

It also offers information regarding schemes for the training of journalists and in-house training programmes run by newspaper organisations (very needed in Malta).

The appendix includes the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice for the Press. One can then compare this with what is being offered in Malta.

The author worked for the Manchester Evening News, Daily Sketch, Daily Mirror and News of the World, where he was production editor.


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