How Green Can a Newspaper Afford to Be?
The Guardian newspaper in the UK is a bit like the mouse that roared; its influence far exceeds its heft and sales. When it comes to writing about environmental and green issues, its writers and depth of coverage can't be beat. But it only sells 380,000 papers a day, compared with the Daily Telegraph's 900,000, so it can't afford to lose advertising revenue. And herein lies its dilemma.
The newspaper has carried out a social audit which included a survey of 4,100 readers. Whilst some of it is slightly self-congratulatory, it does reveal the extent to which the paper has considered its readers' views and tried to maintain a balance. The difference between the views of on-line and paper readers is notable, with 81% of paper readers thinking the coverage on climate change was excellent but only 45% of the web readers agreeing.
Readers are questioning the contradictions between writing about the horrors of climate change and yet including car advertisements in the paper. They are also questioning travel pieces and car columns and are urging the Guardian not to be hypocritical and reject some ad's. One columnist, George Monbiot, has even advocated a boycott.
The Editor warns against this: "Of course you could edit a paper that was rather joyless and hairshirted and puritan and monotone...it is a matter of judgment." He continues "Quality newspapers generally are suffering from losses in circulation and profitability and the simple fact is that all media organisations that are not state subsidised are built on an economic model that relies on advertising, and without it we would all go out of business." An interesting debate for all liberal papers. :: Guardian