Once the British press smells blood as it has done over the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand debacle it shows no mercy. But the BBC has only itself to blame for again refusing to offer up anyone to speak for the Corporation on its own news programmes. Eddie Mair yesterday made it clear that the BBC had refused to put up anyone to appear on PM and John Humphrys on the Today programme this morning said "countless requests" for a BBC representative to appear had been turned down. It is the same attitude that BBC editorial management has previously shown by refusing to appear on Radio 4's Feedback programme to defend aspects of the BBC's reporting of the credit crunch. It looks bad when companies or politicians decline to comment. When those working in the media refuse, it just looks hypocritical.
Journalists have long memories. Jonathan Ross may have regrets over not just upsetting Andrew Sachs but also making a quip at the British Comedy Awards last year. In a reference to his bumper £6 million a year salary, he joked he was "worth 1,000 BBC journalists". The Daily Telegraph reported his remarks here. I wonder how many BBC journalists are sympathetically covering the plight of Ross and Brand this week. It looks as though the journalists are having the last laugh.
One of the joys about the blogosphere is the way it puts you in touch with old contacts and friends. Good to hear from Alan Geere who blogs at http://alangeere.blogspot.com/ and who stumbled across this blog. Alan has worked on and edited newspapers all over the world. He has just returned to the U.K. after editing the Trinidad Express and Northcliffe has appointed him editor of its weekly newspapers in the South-East. Alan's blog looks at newspaper design and the future of the press, among other things. You can read his views on the new look Birmingham Post and how the press covered Helen Mirren.
Anyone expecting Simon Heffer to kick lumps out of George Osborne in his Daily Telegraphcolumn on Saturday following the "Corfu capers" affair won't have been disappointed. Heffer asked: "However comical the events concerning George Osborne and his international white trash friends might seem, there is a serious undertow to them. Can a dolt - indeed, a born dolt rather than one who has had doltishness thrust upon him - aspire to hold a great office of state?" He went on: "So George is silly; George has poor judgment; George is unreliable; George is, to coin a phrase, a dolt." For Osborne, being written about by Heffer must remind him of being held upside down by the ruffians of the Bullingdon Club and shouted at. One joy of the weekend was reading a piece by Colin Dunne on the Gentlemen Ranters website about working for the somewhat staid Northern Echo in the days before Harry Evans arrived as editor.
Neil Fowler has left the editorship of Which? after nearly three years in the chair. He joined the magazine, which champions consumer rights, in February 2006 and oversaw a major revamp of the title. He told me today: "After 23 years of editing I am taking a career break. I want to take this opportunity to recharge my batteries and get fit. I might do some consultancy or whatever." Neil, 52, was made editor of Northcliffe's Lincolnshire Echo in 1985 after working on the Leicester Mercury and the Derby Evening Telegraph. He went on to edit the Derby paper, then The Journal, Newcastle, and the Welsh national morning title, the Western Mail. He was CEO and publisher of the Toronto Sun in Canada before joining Which? I interviewed Neil for Press Gazette in September 2006 when he described the Which? editorship as "one of the best jobs in journalism". You can read the interview here . He also sang the praises of working for a magazine that does not take advertising (Which?'s income comes from subscriptions), has no shareholders and is one of the few publications that gets people to pay to view its content online. The Which? editorship is currently being advertised on its website.
Nice graphic on page four of The Guardian today outlining all the people connected to the George Osborne-Peter Mandelson "Corfu capers" affair. But it is spoilt by a boob identifying Rebekah Wade as editor of the News of the World when she happens to be editor of Britain's biggest daily. She left the NoW for The Sun five years ago. Sort of howler that would be meat and drink to Guardian's Media Monkey column if it had appeared in another publication.
Two of the Daily Telegraph's big hitters Jeff Randall and Simon Heffer were laying into the Tory's George Osborne even before the "Corfu capers" story broke. Last Saturday Heffer began a piece in his column: "When I described George Osborne, the teenage shadow chancellor, as a "dolt", some of you thought I was unkind. I wasn't unkind enough." He then went on to accuse the shadow chancellor of lying about Tory economic policy in an interview on the Today programme. Randall commented last week: "Osborne seems to have frozen in the headlights. As the situation becomes ever more serious, George looks increasingly flaccid."
BBC director-general Mark Thompson may have an "open mind" over BBC proposals to beef up its local websites (see posting below), but the regional press believes the BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons has indicated he is in favour of the expansion plans. This is because of the speech Sir Michael made to the Broadcasting Press Guild earlier this month when he claimed that "the local press had nothing like the strength it had." His remarks infuriated the regional press as the BBC Trust is currently carrying out an inquiry into the BBC proposals for increasing video and audio content on its local websites, seen as unfair competition by local newspapers. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Media Show today, Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler said: "Any remarks suggesting that minds have been made up must cause concern about the inquiry itself." Questioned by Media Show presenter Steve Hewlett, Bowdler warned that if Sir Michael gave the impression of acting as both judge and jury on the local website issue "it would call into question whether we can rely on the outcome." The BBC Trust is due to give its provisional conclusions at the end of November. A final decision will be made next year after consultations.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson said today he was "open minded" on whether the Corporation should push ahead with plans to beef up its local websites by increasing video content. He said it was a matter of weighing up the benefits to the public against the potential damage it would cause to other media. Thompson was speaking at a debate on "Public Service Broadcasting and the Ofcom Review," organised by the NUJ, Writers' Guild, Equity and the broadcasting unions at the House of Commons. He said: "Given the state of the UK media I am pretty open minded on whether the advantage to the British public [of upping video content on local BBC websites] outweighs the potential adverse impact on other players." Regional newspapers have angrily claimed that any expansion of BBC local websites would create unfair competition at a time when they are under pressure from falling circulations to develop their own digital services. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear accused ITV companies of already cutting back on local news and programmes before full consultation had taken place. He said surveys showed that 97 per cent of viewers want the same or more local news and programmes. He said there was a danger "ITV will shut the stable door after the valuable horses have bolted." Stewart Purvis, for Ofcom, said if ITV did not want to produce local news it may be possible for others, for example local newspapers or community groups, to "come to the party" and provide it.
To the Old Bell, Fleet Street, for a drink with former Press Gazette broadcasting editor Walé Azeez. He is now freelancing for the BBC after completing a contact with Al Jazeera. Also there is former Press Gazette magazines editor Ruth Addicott. Now womens' editor of The Argus, Brighton, she has just written a piece about artist Jamie McCartney who makes casts of vaginas, which you can read here. Ruth tells me a male friend asked her: "Who wants to read about that?" But within hours of the feature being published The Sport was on the line to the Argus following up the story.
The new exhibition at the Barbican in London of work by war photographer Robert Capa takes its title - "This is War!" - from a headline in the much celebrated British magazine Picture Post. It was used above a powerful spread of Capa's pictures from the Spanish Civil War. The exhibition displays original copies of Picture Post as well as Life magazine featuring some of Capa's Second World War pictures. The exhibition shows how powerfully news pictures were used in magazines like the Post and Life and reflect the heyday of photojournalism in the era before television news. It also attempts to shed some light on the controversy surrounding Capa's most famous picture - 'The Falling Soldier' - which claimed to show a Spanish Republican soldier at the moment he was shot and killed but has been dogged by accusations that it was staged. The exhibition shows all the pictures Capa took on the day which, it is argued, support the case that 'The Falling Soldier' is genuine. Although sceptics remain. The journalist Phillip Knightley has continued to claim the picture was faked and told the BBC's Today programme that Capa had "form" for staging pictures in the Spanish Civil War.
The exhibition runs until January 25. It also features pictures taken during the Spanish Civil War by Gerda Taro, who was killed during the conflict, and artists' responses to the war in Aghanistan and Iraq.
BBC News has for the second week running refused to put up anyone to defend complaints, made by listeners to Radio 4's Feedback programme, about how its journalists are covering the credit crunch crisis. Feedback presenter Roger Bolton said on the programme today that BBC News had again declined to put forward anyone to be interviewed about the complaints, which included claims that John Humphrys was too aggressive when interviewing Chancellor Alistair Darling and that BBC business editor Robert Peston's reports were creating panic in the markets. The Independent's media columnist Stephen Glover remarked in his column this week: “If Mr. Peston read the shipping forecast, he would have seasoned mariners jumping ship.”
Annie Leibovitz's new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, which opened today, shows a personal side to the photographer's work as well as her famous shots of the likes of Demi Moore and Brad Pitt. It includes intimate images of her children, parents and late partner Susan Sontag. Called A Photographer's Life, 1900-2005, the exhibition does not include her early work shooting rock stars for Rolling Stone, but it is well worth a visit. A Photographer's Life runs to 1 February.
Is Press Gazette'sGrey Cardigan columnist a trendsetter? I only ask because today's Telegraph reveals that society interior designer Nicky Haslam has got over his "sartorial mid-life crisis" and is described by Cassandra Jardine thus: "Once again he is the epitome of the society decorator: a grey cashmere cardigan offsetting his artfully fluffed up corona of white hair, with tight trousers and winklepickers to add a touch of naughtiness."
National newspapers are still good cash generators despite falling sales, former Guardian editor Peter Preston said today. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Media Show, Preston admitted that newspapers, like the rest of industry, were having tough times in the economic downturn. But he added national newspapers were making good profits and were still "good cash generating" businesses. He agreed that "three or four" national titles could fold over the next few years but claimed there had always been newspapers opening and closing in the sector.
A report to creditors of Press Gazette Limited, the company set up by Piers Morgan and Matthew Freud when they took over the magazine from Quantum Publishing, is expected to go out in the next four to five weeks from the administrators. PGL was put into administration in November 2006.
Bad language in The Guardian has shot up according to readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth in her column today. She reports that The Guardian carried the "f-word" 843 times in 2007 compared to 495 times in 2000 and only 33 times in 1985. Surely this record must be broken in 2008. The transcript The Guardian printed of the foul-mouthed rant at journalists by Newcastle United's caretaker boss Joe Kinnear, which it so graphically recorded here, must contain a year's worth of bad language in just one story.
Amazing to hear presenter Roger Bolton say on BBC Radio 4's Feedback that the Today programme had refused to put up anyone to defend John Humphrys. The Today presenter was accused by Feedback listeners of being too aggressive in an interview last Wednesday with Chancellor Alistair Darling and using a "bullying, scare-mongering tone". Instead Feedback was offered a Today statement. Today presenters always bemoan the fact that "no Government minister or spokesman would take up our invitation to come on the programme, instead they offered us this statement." This gives the listener the impression the Government has something to hide. For Today not to let anyone be grilled by Bolton was an own goal.
When I worked at Press Gazette the most common question I was asked was "who is the Grey Cardigan?" What people wanted to know was who wrote the column. I could never tell them that but I do know who the real Grey Cardigan is. I worked with the man who inspired the column, which gives the world view of a down table regional sub-editor, when I was a junior reporter on an evening paper in the Midlands. He did indeed wear a grey cardigan along with a collar and tie and was the deputy chief sub. The reporters thought he was so miserable that when idling away a quiet afternoon by casting the paper's staff as if they would to be portrayed in a Hollywood movie we decided he should be played by Peter Cushing. The actor was well known for his appearance in Hammer horror films where he portrayed Baron Frankenstein among other sinister characters. Our subs, however, always insisted he was one of the wittiest men alive. All I could see was that his idea of fun was torturing the news editor. He got his opportunity to do this on a Saturday when he was acting chief sub. When the news editor produced his standby page one splash, for example "Terror Dogs Stalk Estate" (ie. someone had phoned up earlier in the week about a couple of stray mutts), the original grey cardigan would spike it. Instead he would lead on some PA story that took his fancy, like a call for foreigners to be banned from using the NHS which was being made at a conference in Blackpool, miles outside our circulation area. Oh, and his name was Bernard.
There is an antidote to the doom and gloom surrounding modern journalism with plunging circulations and tales of multi-skilled journalists slaving 70 hours a week. It is called Gentleman Ranters the website that beerily relives the glory days of the national press in Fleet Street and Manchester. The jewel in Ranters' crown is the brilliant ex-Mirror feature writer Colin Dunne. Every Friday I scan Ranters hoping that Dunne has filed a new memoir. His tribute to the Mail's great Vincent Mulchrone and his meeting with the mysterious Eric Wainwright are gems of journalism. Stop Press: Ranters has re-run the Wainwright piece this week on its main site here after receiving a number of queries asking "who was Eric Wainwright?"
Talking of Alan Coren (see below), he once came up with a title for a book of his essays by asking a publisher what was making the bestsellers' list. When told it was books about golf, cats and the Nazis he named his new tome Golfing for Cats and illustrated it with a giant swastika on the cover. Looking at The Sunday Times' latest bestsellers' list it is clear that what grabs modern readers is showbiz biogs (Cliff Richards, Paul O'Grady etc.), football memoirs (Bobby Charlton, Jamie Carragher) and Andy McNab's account of his years in the SAS. Maybe today Coren would call his book Football for Celebs illustrated with an SAS "Who Dares Wins" badge.
Frank Keating wrote a superb piece in The Guardian this week about what it was like to work for Punch magazine under the editorship of Alan Coren and how it involved long lunches and indoor cricket. But after a couple of highly complimentary comments online the debate deteriorated into a slanging match about Coren's children, the journalists Giles and Victoria. Totally unnecessary and irrelevant to Keating's feature. Is there a suitable name for these poisonous commentators in the blogosphere along the lines of the "green ink brigade" who write nutty letters to newspapers? How about "blutters" as in "nutters", "bluggers" as in "silly buggers" or "blubbers" as in (makes you) "weep".
Former Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard editor Max Hastings was in fine form giving the James Cameron Memorial Lecture at the City University last night. He took a swipe at ex-editors who are now media commentators (who could he mean?) claiming their columns were "sour and spiky" and looked back to the "good old days". Hastings said TheGuardian's media section had asked him four times to write for them but he had declined. He added: "When the adolescent at the other end of the line asked 'why?' I said 'can you name one ex-editor who pontificates about newspapers whom you have the smallest respect?' He giggled. I said 'I rest my case' ."
Hastings spoke most passionately about reporting and said reporters were "far more worthy than the commentariat." Stressing the importance of reporters getting out of the office, away from their screens and lunching and dining people for stories, Hastings drew a nice analogy for the demands on multi-media journalists forced to write, broadcast and blog. He said it was like asking someone to cook the meal, take the order and then wait on tables.
Magnum Magnum by Brigitte Lardinois has to be the book bargain of the year for anyone who loves great news pictures and photojournalism. It contains over 400 pictures from photographers like Eve Arnold, Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson who worked for the Magnum agency. It is a massive 567 pages but is available from Amazon for an incredibly low price of just £21.
King of the bloggers Guido Fawkes went into overdrive today after thinking he'd spotted a Bentley in The Guardian staff car park. But closer examination of the picture he posted on his site shows that it's no Bentley but one of those awful Chrysler 300s that look like a chromed and pimped up old Rover P5. Guido may know what's going on in Parliament but he is no petrol head. Guido points out below that it was not he but an informant who spotted the "Bentley". A fair cop but perhaps Guido should still take out a subscription to What Car?
Paul McNally has been appointed news editor of Press Gazette and will start in November. He will be covering print, broadcast and digital as well as media business, PR, media law and journalism training. Paul joined Press Gazette in June 2006 as a sub-editor, straight from the magazine journalism course at City University, London. He was made acting chief sub when it was bought by Wilmington in December 2006 and then went freelance in June 2007. Since then he has worked as news editor for the Tindle-owned weekly B2B title The Radio Magazine, and have also reported regularly for Media Guardian, Brand Republic, Media Week, Press Gazette and Broadcast.
Former editor and publisher of Press Gazette Tony Loynes is no longer listed as editor-in-chief of the magazine. He is only described in the latest issue as editorial director of Wilmington, the company which bought Press Gazette after it was put into adminstration by owners Matthew Freud and Piers Morgan two years ago. Tony played a big part in the negotiations to buy Press Gazette and was editor and publisher of the magazine when it was owned by Timothy Benn and then Maclean Hunter up until it was sold to Emap in 1995. He was with Press Gazette when it took over the British Press Awards and has vast experience of handling this volatile and often controversial event.
Former Emap editor and publisher David Hepworth, now a founder of the independent entertainment magazine The Word, speaks loads of sense about marketing surveys of magazine readers in a letter to subscribers of The Word sent out with the current issue. Hepworth writes: "My suspicion is that if a reader could design his perfect magazine he probably wouldn't like it. The whole idea of a magazine is that it's a compromise between what you expect and what you don't, between what you like and what the other person likes, between things that confirm what you have always thought and the odd things that gets right up your nose."
That great believer in the local press, Sir Ray Tindle hits back at the doom merchants predicting the death of regional newspapers in a letter to The Guardian today. Sir Ray writes: "Perhaps it is the worst downturn since the second world war, but it can hardly be as bad as the war itself, and the local press came through that just as it has survived every downturn since. Our Sunday Independent goes back to the Napoleonic wars and many of our other papers are 125 or 150 years of age. The three of us who run this group have over 125 years in local weeklies. We'll survive this problem just as we have survived all the others because we have the finest journalists and representatives and management in the newspaper industry and we give our readers what they want - local news in great detail."
Sir Ray has always believed that local newspapers, particularly weeklies, offer a unique news service that no other media can provide. I interviewed him for Press Gazette earlier this year, you can read it here.
To Old Street for a farewell drink with Press Gazette's Patrick Smith before he joins paidcontent.co.uk. Patrick says he will continue with his nicely named blog another drop in the ocean. Many ex-Press Gazette staffers are there. Former chief reporter Jean Morgan proves she did not get her O.B.E. for services to the diplomatic corps by informing everyone that B2B journalists (the majority of those present) are not "kosher" (i.e. real) journalists.
Press Gazette's Grey Cardigan column has a brilliant memo which was sent out to Express journalists by a sub-editor picking up a legion of mistakes in the Sunday Express. If subs become a thing of the past, and ironically the Express has plans to dump them, it is the sharp humour and fantastic pedantry contained in the memo that I will miss. Also who will we be able to ask if there should be a hyphen in sub-editors? Save Our Subs before it is too late.
Heard that Press Gazette is about to lose another journalist. This time it is Patrick Smith who is off to join paidcontent.co.uk. So far this year the mag has lost Sarah Lagan (newspapers), Colin Crummy (magazines) and Martin Stabe (new media).
I wanted to try out using pics on my blog, so to keep up a journalism theme I have taken this picture of the new Kings Place building in Kings Cross which will house The Guardian and also a concert hall and art galleries. It opened to the public today.
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
You can contact me with stories, ideas and comments by email at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also follow me on Twitter @jonslattery