Veteran business journalist John Griffin joins Safaraz Ali on a trip down memory lane and a glimpse into the future. John, who spent many years as business editor at the Birmingham Mail, reflects on the changes that have seen the business landscape change almost beyond recognition.
Their talk looks at how Birmingham and the West Midlands have coped with the transition from heavy engineering to a more technology and service economy.
John has covered many big business stories in his long career, but when asked which was the biggest he had no doubt it was the demise of Austin Rover, which at one time employed 10,000 at its Longbridge plant a person
The site in south Birmingham has now been converted into a retail park and housing development.
This is a story that has happened in many cases where well-paid work has been largely replaced by low-paid and dangerous work.
With the exception of the niche car manufacturer Morgan in Malvern, there are currently no British car manufacturers in the region. Jaguar Land Rover is a major employer, but will they stay in the West Midlands?
Saffaraz talks about the growth of financial services with some major financial institutions such as HSBC and Morgan Stanley coming to Birmingham.
Both men wonder if this is the way forward and will manufacturing in and around Birmingham become something people only read about in history books?
But maybe it’s not all gloom and doom yet, and it will still be replaced by a new high-tech industry that will provide skilled work for people from the area.
John talks about his work as a business journalist, writing for a number of magazines and trade publications
“The Analog Mind in a Digital World”
Journalist John Griffin, who was business editor at the Birmingham Mail for many years, talks to Saff about how his profession has changed. At the end of his newspaper career, John described himself as someone with an “analogue mind in a digital world”.
The conversation is about the decline of print journalism and the expansion of online and digital journalism.
Saff and John examine the rise of the “citizen journalist” and the extent to which this has left people without professional journalism that holds the establishment accountable.
John believes passionately that democracy requires high quality journalism and that without it we all suffer.
The two men talk about “fake news”, the consequences of the rise of social media and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
It’s a world where people can write however they want without concern for accuracy or balance, where issues like libel laws don’t apply.
John describes this unregulated media environment as the “wild west”. Both men ponder how to make things better, and whether that requires platforms to be responsible for content in the same way as the editor of a traditional newspaper.
Safaraz admits to being a regular user of social media and believes it has a role, although you have to be careful what you believe and what you don’t believe.
John looks back fondly on his career. “It allowed me to meet people and go to places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and no two days were the same.”
He calls himself a “dinosaur” and is sure that today’s young journalists don’t have as much fun chasing “clicks” as he did tracking down big stories.
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