Saturday, 28 February 2009

Saving the Press: Why newspapers matter

Some more arguments on why newspapers matter: extracts from an article by Eduardo Porter on

"The argument that if newspapers go bust there will be nobody covering city hall is true. It’s also true that corruption will rise, legislation will more easily be captured by vested interests and voter turnout will fall."

"It’s easy to forget the role of an independent press in the development of democratic institutions in the United States. Through much of the 19th century, newspapers were mostly partisan mouthpieces. But as circulation and advertising grew, they shed political allegiances and started competing for customers by investigating shady deals and taking up populist causes."

"From the creation of the Food and Drug Administration to limits on working hours, a lot of progressive-era reforms might have failed without an independent press."

In 1981, the Indian economist Amartya Sen argued that the famine caused by China’s Great Leap Forward could never have happened in India because the government could not have ignored the plight of its people. “Newspapers play an important part in this,” he said.

"Reporting the news in far-flung countries, spending weeks on investigations of uncertain payoff, fighting for freedom of information in court — is expensive. Virtually the only entities still doing it on the necessary scale are newspapers. Letting them go on the expectation that the Internet will enable a better-informed citizenry seems like a risky bet.!"
Story via the Newspaper Project

Friday, 27 February 2009

Independent staff vote for action on job cuts

NUJ members at the Independent and Independent on Sunday have voted in favour of taking industrial action over redundancies.
In a postal ballot members voted by 64 per cent in favour of strike action and by 80 per cent in favour of action short of a strike, the union said today. The action will take the form of a mandatory NUJ chapel meeting next Friday (6 March) between 5pm to 7pm.
The dispute is over plans by the company to impose compulsory redundancies. The union says the company has rejected requests by a number of staff to leave voluntarily and says it is also concerned about "a lack of strategic vision for the future of the newspapers".

Johnston chairman predicts 'huge reduction' in local newspaper journalists by 2014

Johnston Press chairman Roger Parry makes three predictions in an article on about the future of the local press by 2014. All make grim reading.
They are: total local advertising income will be less than it is today; many local daily titles will have been converted into weeklies; and the number of journalists and sales people will be down 50 per cent.
In the article he enthusiastically embraces citizen journalists, and controversially claims: "Journalists are often busy doing things the audience no longer want. The traditional professional output is no longer valued by readers. Much, but not all, of local news gathering, feature production and photography are better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing. Want a critique of local rubbish collection policies? Ask a local resident for 500 words. It matters to them and they are more connected than a journalist sent over in a taxi.
"Want passionate reporting of local sports? Ask the fans. There will remain a vital role for trained journalists in investigations, analysis and quality control. But it will need fewer of them. They will need new skills of assembling user-generated content including video, digital pictures and audio."
He adds: "As a former NUJ member, predicting a huge reduction in numbers of local journalists gives me no pleasure. These job cuts will not be an attempt to drive up profits. They are an inevitable result of changes in technology, the market and consumer demand."
Parry has been chairman of Johnston Press for eight years and steps down in March.
My prediction is that Parry's comments on much local news being "better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing" will cause uproar among Johnston Press journalists.

'Goodbye, Colorado': This is what it feels like when a newspaper dies

The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado, which launched in 1859 produced its last edition today and this is how it covered its own death .
In a final message to readers the paper said: "To have reached this day, the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News, just 55 days shy of its 150th birthday is painful. We will scatter. And all that will be left are the stories we have told, captured on microfilm or in digital archives, devices unimaginable in those first days.
"But what was present in the paper then and has remained to this day is a belief in this community and the people who make it what it has become and what it will be. We part in sorrow because we know so much lies ahead that will be worth telling, and we will not be there to do so."
Reporting on its own demise, the paper says: "The Denver metro area simply could not support two major newspapers in the midst of the current economic recession. That came on top of tectonic shifts sweeping the news business, including, most recently, the phenomenon that has seen the Internet siphon off once-lucrative pieces of the business, such as classified advertising."
The Rocky Mountain News was Colorado's first newspaper and oldest continually operated business. It has won four Pulitzer prizes since 2000.
The last front page can be seen here. There is also a video of the chief executive breaking the closure news to staff.
Chilling stuff in the current economic climate facing the press in the UK.

Quotes of the Week:

Oscar winner Kate Winslet: "I feel like an unlikely hero. I was not the privileged kid things like this could happen to. My mum won a pickled onion competition in the local pub and the Reading Evening Post sent me a picture of her holding her jar. Well, Reading Evening Post, here's your next Winslet picture!"

The Guardian's Steve Busfield on James Murdoch: "When asked if he will succeed his father at the head of their international media conglomerate, James had a very neat way of evading the question: "My father will never stop working." Ah, but what about when he dies? "He thinks he will live for ever." I never worked out the follow-up question to that one as it seemed pretty heartless to tell a son that his father will definitely die."

Debra J Saunders writing in the San Francisco Chronicle which faces closure:"As for those who only read their news online, here's a news flash: News stories do not sprout up like Jack's bean stalk on the Internet. To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. If newspapers die, reliable information dries up."

Jeff Jarvis, on the "should newspapers charge for online content?" debate in The Guardian: "Like a gopher in the garden, the notion of newspapers charging for content online keeps popping its nose up out of the dirt. Pardon me while I whack this pesky rodent in the skull."

'Disgusted, of Derby ' posts on the HoldtheFrontPage website, about Northcliffe's plan to bring in centralised subbing: "I can't believe the Derby Evening Telegraph plans to get rid of its sub-editors by making half of them redundant and shipping those that remain to a centralised subbing pool over the border in Shottingham. Isn't this the same newspaper that ran it's "Hoot" campaign only a few months ago to keep Inland Revenue jobs in Derby instead of sending them down the A52? And now the DET plans to do exactly the same! HYPOCRITES! This would be funny were it not such a farce."

Newspaper crisis latest: Up to 40 journalists jobs to go at Kent Messenger Group

Staff at the Kent Messenger Group have been told more than 150 more jobs could go at the independently owned newspaper company in a new round of job cuts.
Around 35 to 40 editorial staff could be made redundant after a period of consultation and it is also proposed that editorial offices at Folkestone and Thanet are to be closed.
The news was broken to staff at meetings yesterday afternoon.The company is also considering "outsourcing" its printing. Staff have been assured that the company wants to remain independent and is not considering selling any titles.
The Kent Messenger Group announced last September that it was making 60 redundancies and closing six regional offices because of "unsustainable annual trading losses".
One KMG source said: "People are very shocked by the news. We know this is the way the industry is at the moment but people are taken back by the number of proposed redundancies."
Update 9am:The KMG Group said:"The plan involves consultation with staff over 95 roles at risk, as well as a further 64 roles affected by outsourcing. The economic climate has deteriorated since phase 1 of the restructure it completed in the Autumn."
In its statement to staff, the company said it has to take action “to survive and thrive” in current and future markets.
As part of the proposal, the Group is planning to outsource its printing, mailroom and newspaper and leaflet distribution operations, as well as closing the offices in Folkestone and Thanet.
KMG managing director Graham Mead said that the company had no option but to move to the next stage of its restructure plan. “If we had any other option but redundancies we would take it, but the reality is that we have to restructure our business to be able to operate efficiently in this challenging environment and to position ourselves for the future.
“We will still have around 400 staff and believe we will still provide the best media service in Kent for all of our readers, listeners, visitors and customers.”
Chairman Geraldine Allinson said that the measures were necessary for the long term future of the company. “Our proposal to outsource our printing was a particularly difficult one to make with the company’s long and successful history of printing our own titles.”
The company said it plans to seve Folkestone and Thanet from KMG offices in Ashford and Whitstable. All the company’s newspapers, websites and radio stations will continue to be produced under the proposals, the company said.
The consultation will go on until April.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Derry vote means more strife for Johnston

NUJ members at the Johnston Press-owned Derry Journal have voted 100 percent in favour of taking industrial action over job cuts and the introduction of centralised subbing at the paper, the union said today.
Talks are planned next Tuesday at the Labour Relations Agency - Northern Ireland’s conciliation service.
Johnston Press, which is looking for a buyer for its Irish newspapers, is already facing strike action at Yorkshire Post Newspapers in Leeds.
Derry Journal NUJ chapel has said previously of the proposed job cuts: "The Derry Journal survived the Famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press."

'If newspapers die, so does reliable news'

Columnist Debra J Saunders writing in the San Francisco Chronicle says bloggers would be wrong to celebrate if the paper which is facing severe financial problems closes.
She writes: "Bloggers and e-mailers are crowing. If The Chronicle is shuttered, they'll be dancing a jig. Many conservatives feel a warm glow at the possible demise of an institution that they believe to be failing because of liberal bias. On the far left, that same glow will satisfy those who think newspapers are not liberal enough.
"As for those who only read their news online, here's a news flash: News stories do not sprout up like Jack's bean stalk on the Internet. To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. If newspapers die, reliable information dries up."
She concludes the article: "the decline of newspapers means that those shiny new Web sites are linking to fewer real news stories. What looks like more choice isn't. It's more doors leading to fewer rooms. When a newspaper dies, you don't get a comprehensive periodical to fill the void. You get an informational vacant lot into which passers-by can throw their junk."
Story via the Newspaper Project

'NUJ needs to be part of the solution'

Media finance commentator Peter Kirwan has called for the NUJ to come up with some solutions to the problems of the newspaper industry, including helping redundant editors start local websites and journalists to launch bids for their own titles.
Kirwan makes the call in the latest issue of the monthly print version of Press Gazette (which is not available online) and says the NUJ as well as fighting for journalists should "strike out in unconventional directions".
He proposes it should recruit a standing team of entrepreneurs and out-of-work publishers to advise redundant editors on how to set up viable local sites.
Kirwan argues:"Very few organisations have an interest in developing ideas about alternative ownership. The NUJ could turn itself into a well-connected centre of expertise quite rapidly."
He says the union should run conferences where experts - lawyers, investors, publishers, entrepreneurs, charity directors - would look at alternative forms of ownership.
It should also help journalists who want to launch bids for newspapers they work for, something Kirwan suggests "could happen quite frequently if the big chains experience a really harsh 2009."
The problems facing the regional press are highlighted by today's ABC figures which show a number of daily newspapers have suffered circulation falls of more than 10 per cent, as Press Gazette reports.

Northcliffe may switch to overnight printing in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby

Three of Northcliffe's East Midlands dailies - the Leicester Mercury, Nottingham Evening Post and Derby Evening Telegraph - are likely to move to overnight printing as a result of plans to close the printing press at Leicester, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
Proposals to close the Leicester plant were unveiled at the same time as plans for centralised subbing hubs in Nottingham and Hull.
The move could mean the Derby and Nottingham papers dropping "Evening" from their name. Northcliffe's dailies in Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Lincoln are already printed overnight.

More cuts on the way at Trinity Mirror

Trinity Mirror has increased its 2009 target for cost savings from £20m to £25m after reporting a 22 per cent decline in like-for-like full-year profits, Press Gazette says today.
It reports: "Faced with falling revenues and inflationary cost pressures, particularly significant newsprint price increases, 2009 will see a continued focus on the management of costs," the company warned today.
"This includes a tight recruitment policy and the implementation of a group-wide pay freeze. We are confident of achieving new cost savings."
Group revenues in 2008 fell 6.5 per cent from £932.3m to £871.7m, according to the newly released accounts. Trinity Mirror said the trend was likely to continue, with advertising revenue in January and February down 30 per cent on the same period last year - 37 per cent in the regionals and 10 per cent in the nationals.
In the regionals, profits fell 37.4 per cent to £68.2m and the profit margin fell from 24.5 per cent to 17.2 per cent.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

'How did you know the whiskey was Irish?' A tribute to the Lincolnshire Echo subs

The truth is I didn't know the "whiskey" was Irish. I had just started as a trainee reporter on the Lincolnshire Echo and a sub was querying my copy about a shoplifting case from the local Magistrates' Court.
I would loved to have been able to tell him it was a bottle of Jameson's that had been nicked from the Lincoln Co-op but I really thought there was an 'e' in whisky.
He put me straight. There is no 'e' in Scotch whisky but there is in Irish whiskey. Not long after that he came chuckling over to me holding a piece of copy in which I had written about someone being on "tender hooks."
Like most reporters I thought most subs were a miserable bunch of pedants. But as Northcliffe plans to ship the Echo subs miles away, across the Humber to Hull, I can't imagine a newsroom without them.
As a new reporter they caught your mistakes and saved you, and more importantly the newspaper, from making embarrassing blunders. They gave you the benefit of their experience.
Starting out in a newsroom without subs. It would be like growing up without parents.
So I shall raise a glass of whiskey to them.
Note to subs: It's a Jameson's.

NUJ reveals more action at Yorkshire Post and targets 'strikebreaking' Press Association

Journalists at Johnston Press-owned Yorkshire Post Newspapers, who start a second four-day strike tomorrow, have given their management notice of more industrial action.
They will also leaflet the offices of the Press Association which has been supplying the newspapers with copy during the dispute, the NUJ said today.
The journalists will hold two further one-day strikes and four union meetings during works time over redundancies at the Yorkshire Evening Post, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Weekly News.
They will walk out again on Wednesday 4 March and Saturday 7 March if the dispute is npt resolved. They have given notice of holding mandatory chapel meetings on Thursday 5 March, Friday 6 March, Sunday 8 March 2009 and Tuesday 10 March.
NUJ members plan to leaflet Press Association offices during the strike after accusing the news agency of being "electronic strikebreakers" by supplying YPN with extra copy when the journalists are on strike.
The NUJ claims PA had dedicated reporters working for the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post and produced pages based on the papers’ usual templates.
Jenny Lennox, NUJ assistant organiser, said: “We were stunned by the sophistication of the Press Association strike-breaking operation. It has made us more determined than ever to recruit more PA journalists into the union."

FoI fear: Iraq minutes veto may be used again

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has warned that the government’s decision to veto the release of the Iraq cabinet minutes could set a precedent.
Maurice Frankel, the Campaign’s director, said the Campaign “was concerned that having been used once, the veto might now be used in other cases involving the examination of policy at lower levels in government.”
It also expressed serious concern at the statement of Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, that the government was actively considering widening some of the Freedom of Information Act’s exemptions, to make it easier to withhold official information.
The recent review of the 30 year rule, by a committee chaired by Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, recommended that government records be released after 15 years instead of 30 years.
The campaign noted the Dacre report also suggested that the government should consider amending the the FoI Act’s exemptions to provide "enhanced protection"’ for sensitive information.
Frankel said this "raises the prospect of an unacceptable trade off, greater secrecy about current information in return for more access to old government files.”

Northcliffe editor rules out voluntary redundancies in plan to axe 50 sub editors

Hull Daily Mail editor and North-East regional editor John Meehan appears to have ruled out voluntary redundancies in Northcliffe's subbing revolution which will see production centres in Hull and Nottingham taking over local subbing.
HoldtheFrontPage, the website part owned by Northcliffe, says in an interview with the Hull editor:"Mr Meehan said the company would not be asking for volunteers for redundancy, but aiming to keep its best staff."
It quotes him saying: "We believe we can create a regional production operation that benefits from economies of scale and from retaining our best and most skilled production journalists. Unfortunately there will be some people who might find themselves in redundancy situations because the skills assessment identifies other people that are more suitable for the new roles."
Defending the plan, Meehan said: "Northcliffe passionately believes in being at the heart of all things local and I don't think this changes that. We'll continue to be focused on local content and local relevance but we've got to reflect the conditions we are facing in our business.
"We have focused on the production side because it may be the only way to reduce editorial costs significantly without impacting on local content.
"We will continue to have far more people on the ground than any other media organisation including the BBC which is uniquely immune from the challenges facing commercial media companies."
HTFP said the centralised subbing proposals will put around 20 jobs at risk at the Hull Daily Mail, Grimsby Telegraph, Scunthorpe Telegraph and Lincolnshire Echo, and a further 30 at the Leicester Mercury, Nottingham Evening Post and Derby Evening Telegraph.
A formal 30-day consultation period on the proposals has begun.

Strike this week at Yorkshire Post as talks fail

Talks aimed at ending the series of four-day strikes at Johnston-Press owned Yorkshire Post Newspapers have failed.
It means the NUJ now plans to go ahead with another four day strike against compulsory redundancies starting on Thursday this week.
The NUJ chapel met with Leeds managing director Chris Green yesterday but no agreement was reached and the union says the management would not budge over 15 redundancies at the company, which publishes the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.
Meanwhile, Grimsby Labour MP Austin Mitchell has put down an Early Day Motion supporting "the journalists who are taking strike action in defence of jobs and quality journalism at the Yorkshire Post ." The EDM also notes: "Johnston Press's profit margins have been amongst the highest in the sector, often bringing in more than 30 per cent. returns, making hundreds of millions of pounds profit, and that former chief executive Tim Bowdler's 2007 remuneration was over £1 million including a performance-related bonus of £516,000."
You can read the full EDM here.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Grey Cardigan on Northcliffe: 'It's all about maintaining obscene profits'

Press Gazette's Grey Cardigan, the voice of the regional downtable sub, in a blog post gives his view of Northcliffe's plans to end local subbing.
Cardigan does not pull his punches when discussing the plans to transfer subbing from Northcliffe's dailies in the East Midlands, at the cost of around 50 jobs, to new subbing hubs in Nottingham and Hull so as "to meet the rapidly changing needs of the industry”.
Cardignan says: "That’s utter bollocks, of course. It’s got nothing to do with 'the rapidly changing needs of the industry' and everything to do with maintaining obscene and unsustainable profits - last year, a mere £68 million.
"Finally, we are assured that 'Editors will be fully responsible for their titles to preserve the local identity of newspapers and websites.'
"I wish them luck. They’re going to need it once local knowledge goes out of the window and stupid mistakes begin to litter their pages. Life is Local? Not any more."

Action in York, talks in Leeds

NUJ members at Newsquest in York, which published the daily Press and related weeklies were taking industrial action today over management plans to axe four journalists jobs.
The cuts are on top of redundancies made last year by the company.
The union says journalists from the company have been in a meeting to discuss the situation since noon - and plan to stay there until the end of working hours today.
Meanwhile NUJ reps were due to meet management at Johnston Press in Leeds to discuss proposals aimed at ending the dispute at Yorkshire Post Newspapers, where journalists were on strike for four days until Monday over compulsory job cuts. Another four day strike is planned if no agreement is reached.

Government proposals on capping libel costs

At long last the Government is trying to do something about the huge costs of libel cases faced by the media in the UK.
New proposals to control costs in defamation proceedings were announced by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice today.
Measures under consideration are:
• limiting recoverable hourly rates by setting either maximum or fixed recoverable rates
• mandatory cost capping or mandatory consideration of cost capping in every case
• requiring the proportionality of total costs to be considered on cost assessments conducted by the court.
Prentice said: "Excessive costs and their threat may force defendants to settle unwarranted claims. The aim of these proposals is to bring more effective cost control to litigation in defamation proceedings and to ensure that costs in this area are more proportionate and reasonable.
"We need to ensure that people's right to freedom of expression is not infringed, and media organisations continue to report on matters of public concern. I urge all those affected to comment on the proposals.'"
She said the consultation is aimed at, in particular, legal representatives who conduct litigation in the area of defamation, media organisations, insurers and those in England and Wales with an interest in, or views on, the proposals.

'Awful, disgusting, farce, appalling, cobblers, deplorable, hypocrites!'...the verdict on Northcliffe's new subbing hubs

Northcliffe's plan to centralise subbing in Nottingham and Hull for its daily newspapers in the East Midlands, threatening 50 jobs (see posting below), has not gone down well.
How do I know this? I looked at comments on the HoldtheFrontPage website, which is run and part owned by Northcliffe. Here are a sample:
Disgusted, of Derby: "I can't believe the Derby Evening Telegraph plans to get rid of its sub-editors by making half of them redundant and shipping those that remain to a centralised subbing pool over the border in Shottingham. Isn't this the same newspaper that ran it's "Hoot" campaign only a few months ago to keep Inland Revenue jobs in Derby instead of sending them down the A52? And now the DET plans to do exactly the same! HYPOCRITES! This would be funny were it not such a farce."
Brenda :I think this is disgusting!
Lis Gibbs: This is an awful decision. I am appalled.
Carmel Harrison: This is appalling. Centralised subbing never works. How can regional titles retain their integrity when management are doing things like this?
All Subbed Out: So in the opinion of Northcliffe, its own motto 'At The Heart Of All Things Local' does not necessarily include having pages subbed by anyone with any decent local knowledge of the area, just someone within 100 miles who might vaguely have heard of some of the places, people and communities being written about. Anyone care to bet against Northcliffe's next step being outsourcing to 'local' production centres in Delhi?
Cadmus: They've obviously been listening to Roy Greenslade
Mr_Osato: How will 'Editors... be fully responsible for their titles to preserve the local identity of the newspapers and websites' when they're not where the papers are being put together. Or maybe the editors are being centralised as well? Whichever way, it's cobblers. What little local flavour newspapers have is slowly being stripped away by the McNewspaper groups, with these 'centres of mediocrity' a prime example
diana peasey: Surely, this immediately undermines the quality of journalism, undermines the credibility of papers by not eliminating spelling mistakes and grammer, nor double checking that a story is balanced and not open to defamation. Or does that not count these days?
Dead ringer: Utter tosh, the whole thing. Again, all the top jobs will be protected, and the poor subs bear the brunt of everything. How is anyone going to move from Lincoln to Hull, for example? And I agree with earlier post. How are eds going to maintain the standards if they are elsewhere? And if they are in Hull, how are they going to know what is going on in their own patch? Deplorable, but sadly inevitable. Mind, I wager there'll still be the same management structure. Can't lose chiefs, can we!!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Up to 50 jobs threatened by Northcliffe central subbing plan for East Midlands and Hull

Up to 50 sub-editing jobs could go under plans outlined by Northcliffe today for two centralised production centres in Nottingham and Hull.
The NUJ accused Northcliffe of "creating news factories" and showing a lack of commitment to local journalism.
Hold theFrontPage reports that under the plans, the Leicester Mercury, Derby Evening Telegraph and Nottingham Evening Post would all be subbed from Nottingham.
Meanwhile, the Hull centre would be responsible for production of the Lincolnshire Echo, Grimsby Telegraph and Scunthorpe Telegraph as well as the Hull Daily Mail.
In a separate development, sister company Harmsworth Press is also proposing the closure of its printing plant in Leicester which currently prints the Mercury.
A statement issued by Northcliffe said the plans were designed to meet "the rapidly changing needs of the industry."
It added: "The proposed changes involve a regional approach to editorial production. Editors, however, will be fully responsible for their titles to preserve the local identity of the newspapers and websites." According to the statement, around 50 positions could be affected if the editorial production proposals go ahead.
The NUJ immediately attacked the proposal. NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley said: "The establishment of a news factory in Nottingham demonstrates a total lack of commitment to local journalism. The area to be covered is enormous - from Market Harborough in the south to the edge of Sheffield in the north. Local knowledge will go out of the window”
The Northcliffe news came on the same day as Trinity Mirror announced 70 jobs are to go as a result of a merger of editorial departments on the Record and Sunday Mail in Glasgow.

Jeff Jarvis whacks idea of press charging for content as a 'waste of precious time'

Jeff Jarvis looks at the concept of newspapers saving themselves by charging for online content in his Guardian column today...and gives it a mighty whack.
He says: "Like a gopher in the garden, the notion of newspapers charging for content online keeps popping its nose up out of the dirt. Pardon me while I whack this pesky rodent in the skull."
Jarvis admits: "We pay for movies, some TV, and now music (thank you, iTunes). But online news is different for many reasons. First, as soon as knowledge is known, it’s a commodity—and not a scarce one that can be controlled. Second, there is no end of competition online. As countless publishers have observed about their nemesis, craigslist, it’s impossible to compete with free."
He adds: "But here’s the killer: When content is hidden, it cannot be found via search (not to mention bloggers’ and aggregators’ links). In a link and search economy, content gains value only through these recommendations; an article without links has no readers and thus no value. The real cost of charging for content—and it’s a cost born by the content owner—is a loss of Googlejuice."
Jarvis concludes: "As various bloggers have lamented lately, all this talk of pipedreams and preservation is a waste of precious time when we should be exploring and executing new business models and exploiting new opportunities to transform journalism for a new age."
Full draft of Jarvis article is here

Another 70 jobs axed by Trinity Mirror

Press Gazette and MediaGuardian are reporting that 70 jobs are to go at Trinity Mirror in Scotland with the company merging editorial departments on the Daily Record and Sunday Mail in Glasgow.
Record editor Bruce Waddell is appointed editor-in-chief of the Record and Sunday Mail, while current Sunday Mail editor Allan Rennie has been moved to a new role of editorial development director of Trinity Mirror's national titles.

This is the winter of our discontent: More NUJ ballots for industrial action on cuts

Journalists at Staffordshire Newspapers have followed the NUJ chapel at Shropshire Newspapers by voting in favour of industrial action as the number of ballots being conducted at media companies across the UK escalates.
At Staffordshire Newspapers 93 percent voted for industrial action, with 80 percent backing strike action, the NUJ said today. The Iliffe-owned company has said it would not press ahead with compulsory redundancies, but journalists are concerned about the closure of district offices. At Shropshire Newspapers 83 percent voted for industrial action, with 59 percent backing the possibility of a strike, the union said. The Midland News Association-owned company announced 12 compulsory redundancies including trainee reporters.
NUJ members at Yorkshire Post Newspapers returned to work this morning after four days of strike action over compulsory redundancies. Another four days of strike action is planned at YPN from this Thursday.
Journalists resisting redundancies at Newsquest York have given notice of possible industrial action every weekday until the end of March.
Meanwhile, voting papers are being sent to the NUJ’s 3,000 plus members at the BBC after the corporation announced compulsory redundancies in Scotland.
Ballots for industrial action over cutbacks are underway at the Derry Journal in Northern Ireland, the Independent in London, and at the Reed Business Information magazine group.

BBC Trust confirms local video refusal

The BBC Trust on its website today confirms that it has refused permission for the BBC's £68 million plan to expand local video on its regional websites after concluding its public value test into the proposals.
The proposal provoked fierce opposition from the regional press which has its own plans to develop local websites at a time when its circulation and advertising revenues are under threat from the internet.
In its announcement today, The Trust says its "final decision follows a public consultation on its provisional conclusions, published in November, to reject local video because it would not improve services for the public enough to justify either the investment of licence fee funds or the negative impact on commercial media."
Diane Coyle, BBC Trustee and chairman of the Strategic Approvals Committee, said: "The Trust is committed to improving regional and local services from the BBC for licence fee payers but a broadband-only local video news proposal is unlikely to achieve what they want.
"Instead, we believe the BBC's priority should be improving the quality of existing regional services. We recognise that the ways of achieving this may vary in different parts of the UK. We have asked the Executive to come back to us with new proposals later this year which will then be fully scrutinised by the Trust."
The Executive has outlined its emerging thinking in a submission to the Trust which is published today. Funds totalling £68 million that would have covered the four-year period from the launch of local video have been ring fenced pending any new proposals, subject to Trust approval.

Jade Goody 'most watched' but it's 'mass worship of the ordinary' says Glover

Stories about Jade Goody filled the top five slots in the 'most watched' stories over the previous 24 hours on the MediaGuardian website this morning, proving her appeal goes way beyond the tabloid press.
But Stephen Glover in The Independent today admits: "This celebration of ordinariness by the media leaves me bemused". Glover writes: "I am happy to accept that she is not a monster, and I even rather admire her expert manipulation, or that of her advisers, of the media. But I hate this mass worship of the ordinary. And it seems to me that intelligent columnists who romanticise her life and invest her death with heroic significance are writing sentimental nonsense. What has already happened is bad enough, but I fear it may be only the beginning, and that it may all end with even the supposedly serious media forcing us to witness her death."

Bishop backs Yorkshire Post strikers

Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer has expressed his support for the journalists at Yorkshire Post Newspapers who are taking a series of four day strike actions against compulsory redundancies.
The Bishop says he has written to Johnston Press's new chief executive John Fry and Leeds managing director Chris Green expressing his "dismay" at the job cuts.
In an e-mail message of support to the journalists, he said: “I am writing to express my support for all the journalists and staff on Yorkshire Post Newspapers. I have today written to John Fry and Chris Green, expressing my dismay at the decision to make 18 members of staff redundant.
“In my letter to them I have said that, from my own experience, the two titles are greatly valued in our region, and it is regretful that key skilled and experienced staff, including members of the photography team are threatened with the loss of their jobs. This can only be bad news for the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Having met, and been interviewed by a number of the journalists who have taken strike action, I know you would not have voted to do so without genuine and deeply held concerns and I have asked them to take your case seriously and meet to discuss your concerns.”
The journalists completed their first four day strike yesterday and the second is planned to start on Thursday.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Newsweek: 'Serious journalism not about pursuit of profit'

Jacob Weisberg writing in Newsweek argues "Unlike most businesses, serious journalism has seldom been about the straightforward pursuit of profit."
He says: "Nearly all of the most important journalistic institutions in the free world are hybrids of one form or another—for-profit, but underwritten by generous owners or other profitable businesses; not-for-profit, yet entrepreneurial; cooperative, or government-subsidized.
"While big-city newspapers were for many decades highly profitable, their news-gathering operations have usually required some form of external support. Even at their most successful, top-tier media institutions have never adhered to a simple, or single, business model. They are even less likely to follow one in the future."
He notes:"The Guardian, which has emerged as one of the strongest global news organizations, is owned by the Scott Trust, which is tasked with using its endowment and profits from other media properties to keep the paper healthy and independent. The freedom to lose money has not kept the Guardian from being innovative and entrepreneurial on the Web."
Story via Adrian Monck

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Quotes of the Week

Press Complaints Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer replies to the Media Standards Trust request for a meeting for the second part of its press review: "I will certainly consider the possibility of a meeting. But, it is hard to see what this might achieve unless part 2 acknowledges and corrects the innumerable inaccuracies and flawed analysis of part 1."

Max Clifford, asked why the upmarket 'quality' newspapers are writing about Jade Goody:"It helps to sell broadsheets as well as tabloids."

Chris Morley, NUJ northern regional organiser, on the strike in Leeds: "We are not surprised that PA is setting itself up to be an electronic strikebreaker while our members at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post take a principled stand for quality journalism."

Roy Greenslade, speaking at NUJ Left meeting on media ownership:“Not since the 1970s have we had a genuine chance to imagine the possibility of a different business model for newspapers, a business model that doesn’t involve making profits."

Friday, 20 February 2009

Four more jobs to go at Newsquest York

The NUJ says it was told this afternoon that four more jobs are to go at the Newsquest-owned daily The Press in York.
According to the union, Newsquest management announced the cuts in a staff meeting at 2.45pm today.
In a statement, joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Gavin Aitchison said: "The Press and its journalists have been battered by repeated and callous cuts in recent years, placing serious strain on our ability to serve the people of York, North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.
"Today's announcement is a further body-blow to local journalism in our region. We have no faith whatsoever in Newsquest's commitment to quality journalism, nor its ability to deliver it."
The York chapel has already given notice of industrial action on every weekday between now and March 30.

Yorkshire Post Newspapers strike blog

Journalists on strike at Yorkshire Post Newspapers have launched their own blog giving background to the action taken by around 140 journalists on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post. There are also messages of support and pictures.

Saving the Press: 25 ideas for survival

Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski has, on his site Silicon Valley Watcher , come up with 25 ideas on how newspapers might be able to survive and become innovative media businesses.
They include: Focus on original content (no press release re-writes); hyper-local news coverage; making sure journalists get out of the office and are part of the community; teaching citizen journalists to be great journalists; publishing the best bloggers; offering different ways for readers to pay; creating a search site for local resources and businesses; hosting websites for community groups; giving readers a role in the ownership of the newspaper.
There are also lots of useful links to other articles looking at ideas of helping newspapers survive.
Story via the Newspaper Project.

Another day, another Johnston PR disaster

I was just getting over how dreadful Johnston Press had been made to look on a BBC report of the strike at Yorkshire Post Newspapers, when it scores another own goal with the sudden departure of Scotsman editor Mike Gilson.
Johnston's statement on Gilson's exit was totally unhelpful. It said Gilson had "relinquished his position" and "further announcements will be made in due course. The company has no other comment to make at this time." The statement did nothing to stop speculation soaring about major changes ahead for the newspapers in Edinburgh.
Even worse was the reponse to the BBC film which had Yorkshire Evening Post veteran reporter Peter Lazenby speaking on camera for the striking journalists saying how "proud" he was of his paper and its campaigns and outlining the reasons for the action.
In contrast, Johnston Press gave the BBC an old off camera statement saying how "surprised" it was that no volunteers for redundancy had come forward at Leeds. There you have it. A journalist proud of his paper and a management expressing surprise that no-one wants to leave.

Gilson leaves Scotsman sparking speculation of shake-up at Johnston Edinburgh titles

Scotsman editor Mike Gilson has left the editorship of The Scotsman with immediate effect, allmediascotland reports today.
Gilson's surprise departure, along with the imminent move of Scotland on Sunday editor Les Snowdon to the Daily Mail, has led to claims that The Scotsman, SoS and Edinburgh Evening News will be brought toether under a single production scheme.
The Herald is speculating that the three titles will come under the leadership of a single editor-in-chief and says: “It is understood Mr Gilson, who has been an editor of Johnston Press titles for more than 12 years, was unhappy with...restructure plans which are thought to include appointing one editor-in-chief. It is believed Edinburgh Evening News editor, John McLellan, is the leading contender.”
Gilson succeeded John McGurk as editor of The Scotsman three years ago and joined from another Johnston Press title, The News, Portsmouth.
Johnston Press said in statement that Gilson has "relinquished his position" and "further announcements will be made in due course. The company has no other comment to make at this time."
Update: As predicted by the Herald, John McLellan has been appointed to succeed Mike Gilson from Monday.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

BBC video report on Yorkshire Post strike

A BBC report on the first day of the four day strike action by NUJ journalists at Johnston Press-owned Yorkshire Post Newspapers in Leeds, including an interview with FoC Peter Lazenby, can be seen here.

A little multi media with BBC's Allan Little

This is an interactive version of a talk by BBC world affairs correspondent Allan Little at the Centre for Journalism, University of Kent, put together by my former editor Ian Reeves.

Sir Christopher Meyer blasts back at Media Standards Trust over report slamming PCC

Press Complaints Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer has sent a stinging reply to the Media Standards Trust whose recent review claimed the PCC was "fundamentally flawed" and claimed self regulation was failing the public.
He has accused the Trust of inaccuracies, flawed analysis, making false claims and misinterpreting PCC statistics.
Sir Christopher states in a letter to Anthony Salz at the MST: "Thank you for your letter of 6 February, which enclosed part 1 of your report “A More Accountable Press”. You asked if you, and two of your colleagues, could meet me to discuss part 2 of your review.
"I will certainly consider the possibility of a meeting. But, it is hard to see what this might achieve unless part 2 acknowledges and corrects the innumerable inaccuracies and flawed analysis of part 1."
The letter also says: "I am afraid that we also require some reassurance about the credentials of those carrying out the inquiry. In addition to the inaccuracies – some as basic as the false claim that the ASA was modelled on the PCC – the report does not appear to have been written by anyone with much understanding of self-regulation or the relationship between the PCC and the law.
"More fundamentally, we have to ask reluctantly question whether this whole enterprise is being undertaken in good faith. We were very dismayed that the Trust should be willing to allow publication of a strident shrill report that was, by virtue of your failure to offer us any opportunity to contribute to it, both so unbalanced and misleading."
"Your director has compounded suspicions of bad faith by publicly suggesting that there was consultation with the PCC in the preparation of the report: this is a grave falsehood, for which I understand he has now apologised."
Sir Christopher asks:"In short, your report may be only “diagnostic”. But, if the diagnosis is flawed, how can the prescription be any better? "
He then goes on to list the report's weaknesses, claiming it "fundamentally misinterprets the PCC’s statistics".
Sir Christopher ends: "It strikes me as a terrible shame that you have wasted the opportunity to make a sensible contribution at a time when a free press and democracy itself in Britain are facing unprecedented challenge. I look forward to your comments."

Saving the Press the French Way: President Sarkozy's grand ideas

Elsewhere on this blog I've been bemoaning the fact that no-one seems to have any big ideas on how to save newspapers. All the talk is about small start-ups, and how combinations of new websites and bloggers will take the place of the traditional press.
Then I got an email newsletter from the Newspaper Society outlining some of President Sarkozy's plans to assit French newspapers. I know there is a strong argument that state help for newspapers would mean creeping state control but at least in France they are DOING SOMETHING. Here we seem to be sitting back and letting the local press go the wall.
According to the NS, this is what is happening in France:
"There were 90 recommendations to improve the situation of the press industry included in a Green Paper prepared by four working groups of French forum ‘Les états généraux de la presse écrite’ although for the time being President Sarkozy has adopted only some of them.
In his speech on 23 January, he stated: “Everything should be done to enhance the economic equation for press companies and to reinforce their equity capital...”

The proposals announced include:

Providing the print media with state support totalling €200m per year over three years

Increasing the levels of state advertising in the print media

Significantly increasing the development of the online press possibly through subsidies and advances

Reinforcing assistance for modernisation of points of sale. Moreover providing support of €60m support for newspaper retailers and €70m for home delivery

A trial programme giving teenagers celebrating their 18th birthday a free, year-long subscription to any general news daily of their choice.

The NS also provides these links.
Speech by President Sarkozy
Green Paper of Etats généraux de la presse

Interesting that the NS should be putting this out. Newspaper publishers are not coming around to welcoming state intervention are they? Things must be bad.

Judge restricts reporting of 'Dad at 13' story

A High Court judge has imposed reporting restrictions on the story of "Dad at 13" Alfie Patten, Press Gazette has reported.
The order, made by Mrs Justice Baron in the Family Division, does not prevent publication of details already in the public domain, but bans the revelation of any new information.
On Friday, The Sun published a front-page splash following the birth of a baby girl to 15-year-old Chantelle Stedman in Eastbourne, East Sussex.
East Sussex County Council has contacted the Press Complaints Commission which has launched its own inquiry into claims that payments have been made by The Sun and the People to members of Alfie Patten's family. A council spokesman said : "We believe the interests of the children are not being well-served by the current media coverage."

NUJ accuses PA of 'strikebreaking' as Yorkshire Post staff start four day walk out

The NUJ accused the Press Association of being an "electronic strikebreaker" by planning to supply Yorkshire Post Newspapers in Leeds with extra copy as journalists started the first of two four-day strikes against job cuts today.
The union said more than 50 people were on the picket line in Leeds this morning and the strike also covered offices in Hull, Sheffield, Bradford, Wakefield, London, Harrogate, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Scarborough and Northallerton.
NUJ members at the group have voted to strike after Johnston Press-owned YPN, which publishes the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, announced compulsory redundancies. Today's and Friday’s strikes will culminate with rallies at 4pm each day outside the company’s headquarters on Wellington Street in Leeds.
The NUJ saidit has learned that the Press Association news agency at Howden is planning to supply extra work to the company during the stoppage.
Chris Morley, NUJ northern regional organiser, said: "We are not surprised that PA is setting itself up to be an electronic strikebreaker while our members at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post take a principled stand for quality journalism."
Shropshire journalists have voted for strike action over job cuts.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Saving the press: Forget the small start-ups and give us some big ideas

As I did a straight report for Press Gazette here on the NUJ Left meeting last night, I thought I would go a bit bloggerish and give some personal impressions of the meeting.
First, I think both Roy Greenslade (who discusses the meeting here) and Nick Jones were good value, made sense and spoke with lots of passion about newspapers and the future of the media.
I am also impressed at the way the NUJ is trying to get to grips with the crisis engulfing newspapers and I realise new business models are required.
It's just the "solutions" I have a problem with.
I just don't see how small start-ups are ever going to have the financial or editorial clout of newspapers that have been around for a couple of hundred years, have a relatively large staff made up of a group of journalists with a variety of skills and experience.
I don't think that can be easily replaced by independent websites or bloggers.
One shaft of reality was injected into last night's debate by Tim Gopsill, the editor of The Journalist. Tim spoke about his experience of working on the Scottish Daily Express when it was run as a workers' co-operative. The paper eventually failed and fell into the hands of Robert Maxwell. His advice was "journalists cannot manage businesses."
Remember the News on Sunday anyone? It was another failure to create a Left-orientated paper controlled by the journalists.
I am sure there are lots of brilliant, dedicated journalists around full of good ideas but where are the commercial brains going to come from to manage this talent and earn enough cash to pay them and support their media ventures?
Everywhere I look editorial staff are getting smaller and smaller and so will NUJ membership. Rather than small start-ups, I left the meeting thinking we are still desperately in need of big ideas on how to survive the current crisis and give journalists a future.

Jade sells posh papers as well as tabloids says Max Clifford but is she "Freak TV?"

The upmarket 'quality' newspapers are writing about Jade Goody because "it helps to sell broadsheets as well as tabloids," her publicist Max Clifford told BBC Radio 4's Today proramme this morning.
Times columnist Matthew Parris, speaking on the same programme, said he was "completely comfortable" with the publicity surrounding Jade and said there was a lot of "snobbishness" in the disapproval of her.
But former BBC industrial and political correspondent Nick Jones claimed at an NUJ Left meeting in London last night that Jade, along with 13-year-old dad Alfie Patten, had become "Freak TV."
Jones was scathing about the way “traditional” broadcasters like the BBC and ITV were using video of stories like Jade’s cancer battle and Alfie and his baby, provided by tabloids like The Sun and the News of the World.
He said it was the type of material that the BBC would never have commissioned or broadcast and accused the regulatory bodies of being “asleep at the wheel”.
For my report on the NUJ Left meeting, where Roy Greenslade suggested that journalists will have to think outside the "capitalist box" and come up with new business models, see Press Gazette here. I have been helping out at PG while the editor is on paternity leave.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Journalism degrees boom as industry busts

The number of applications to journalism degree courses starting this autumn has risen by almost a quarter on the previous year despite the widespread job cuts across all sections of the media, Press Gazette reports today.
PG says newly released data from Ucas, the university admissions service, has revealed that journalism degrees are among the fastest growing courses in terms of popularity. "By the deadline of 15 January, Ucas recorded 13,229 applications to journalism courses. Each student can choose up to five courses on their application form. Applications were up 24 per cent on last year - at a time when the journalism jobs market is contracting due to the economic downturn."
PG reports an NUJ estimate that at least 1,000 editorial jobs have been lost across the industry since last summer - including about 700 in the regional press.

PCC to investigate possible press payments to parents of 13-year-old Dad Alfie Patten

The Press Complaints Commission has launched an inquiry into alleged payments by The Sun and the People to the parents of Alfie Patten, the 13-year-old father who has become the centre of a tabloid news frenzy.
Announcing the inquiry, the PCC highlighted Clause 6 (iv) of the Editors' Code of Practice, which says:"Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interests".
It notes that newspapers are allowed to breach this rule if there is a demonstrable public interest.
The PCC said it will make a public ruling on the matter when it has completed its investigation. The Commission has powers - under which it is conducting this inquiry - to launch investigations of its own volition rather than wait for a complaint by the public.

In the US newspapers don't like Mondays

In the US more newspapers are adopting the sentiment of the Boomtown Rats song "I don't like Mondays" and dropping editions on the first day of the week.
Associated Press reports that the Post Register in Idaho Falls is the latest US paper to end its Monday print edition due to tough economic times.
Publisher Roger Plothow says online-only updates will be available on Mondays, and regular Monday features will be moved to other days of the week.
Plothow told AP the paper's managers considered the move more than six months ago as a way to reduce costs while recognizing that more readers are turning to the Internet for their news. He says economic conditions have since worsened and cutting back to publishing six days a week is the prudent thing to do. Plothow says the move will help the company avoid layoffs.
Monday is traditionally seen as a bad advertising day for newspapers.
Story via Editor & Publisher.

Monday, 16 February 2009

NUJ says GMG 'must negotiate' on pay freeze

The NUJ said today it has "reminded" managers at Guardian Media Group that the company is obliged to enter into negotiations over its planned pay freeze for 2009 because of agreements on consultation it has with the union.
GMG said on Friday that the economic downturn means it cannot increase salaries this year and most executive bonuses will not be paid.
NUJ head of publishing, Barry Fitzpatrick, said today: “A pay review is due and we have tabled a number of questions to management to clarify the company’s position and financial situation. The company has already made commitments to conduct a pay audit and we have a right to be consulted over pay, so we expect formal negotiations to take place.
“We welcome reassurances from management that there are no plans for job cuts – and firmer commitments on this would certainly ease our negotiations – but the company needs to involve its staff representatives in any decisions that are taken.”

Photographers protest at Scotland Yard

Photographers went ahead with a mass photo shoot outside New Scotland Yard in London today to exercise their right to take a picture in a public place.
The event was planned to coincide with amendments to the Counter Terrorism Act, which came into force in the UK today, which allow for the arrest and imprisonment of anyone who takes pictures of police officers and some other public servants “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
The NUJ fears that the law will be used to stop news photographers doing legitimate work.
Story and pic here on BBC website.

Saving the press: flavoured inks, edible pages, page one girls and boys...and hats

Inspired by US comedian Jon Stewart's idea of saving newspapers from the dustbin of history by impregnating newsprint with addictive drugs, Editor & Publisher columnist Bill Shein has come up with more imaginative ways of saving the press.
These include: Flavored Inks — "What newspaper reader would mind a bit of ink rubbing off on their fingers if it tasted like bubble gum, or fresh mango, or tender filet mignon?" - Bill asks.
Edible Pages — "It wouldn’t be much of a leap to go from flavored inks to fully edible pages."
Page One Girls — "Not particularly classy, of course, but could help juice newsstand sales. And printing half of each day’s papers with 'Page One Guys' would cover all bases."
Even More Consolidation — "With this bold and counterintuitive strategy, the rapid consolidation of newspapers and media properties would be accelerated until we’re left with just one giant corporo-media-government entity. Then, where else could people turn for news and information? Check AND mate!"
When I was at Press Gazette we did a story about an entrepreneur who came up with the idea of a newspaper that could be folded into a hat. Like the hat, it folded after a couple of issues.

Guardian pay freeze gets icy NUJ response

The NUJ is asking for more financial information and meetings with the Guardian Media Group over the proposed group-wide pay freeze.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear says on his blog , referring to a meeting with Guardian management on Friday: "The afternoon was dominated by a meeting with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and senior finance and editorial managers - during which they announced their plans for a pay freeze for all staff - we've not accepted the need for the freeze, instead asking them key questions about the company's finances. Further information-gathering meetings will take place before pay negotiations next month."

Jeff Jarvis gets a boot from Root

New media guru Jeff Jarvis gets taken to task on the MediaGuardian letters page today by reader Root Cartwright.
Cartwright writes: "Jeff Jarvis should be more cautious about asserting that "free is a business model" (The foresight of Google, 9 February). His piece is only available for free online because he has already been paid for it twice over: by the Guardian for its appearance in print, and in the advance from the publisher of the book for which it is a puff."

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Grey Cardigan accuses Greenslade: 'You're giving newspaper bosses ammo to shoot subs'

Press Gazette columnist and blogger Grey Cardigan , the voice of the downtable regional sub, has hit back at Roy Greenslade's assertion that "sub editors are a layer that can be eliminted" which has provoked more than 80 postings on the PG website.
Cardigan says: "The real danger of Professor Greenslade’s deranged, delusionary rantings, as identified by many of those who have left comments, is that he is simply passing the ammunition to know-nothing newspaper bosses who will take his misguided meanderings as legitimisation of their dividend-chasing agenda.
"Surely, they will ask, if a man as distinguished as the Prof thinks we can do without subs, why aren’t we embracing his Brave New World? And bang goes another desk of jobs in a small provincial office. And that’s very, very, sad."
Cardigan also admits that he wished his blog was subbed, stating: "This blog goes straight to screen; it is unchecked. And I hate it. I know that however hard I look, however many times I read and re-read, there is always a chance that a grammatical gremlin might creep in. But up with that I must put."
I wonder how many other bloggers agree with Cardigan and wish someone read their blog before they posted, or do they prefer the immediacy of seeing their blog published without the approval of a third party?
Monday update: Roy Greenslade has responded to his critics here.

Rothermere speaks on Standard sale

In the Sunday Times today Lord Rothermere says of selling the Evening Standard: "Along with the death of my parents, it has been the hardest thing to live through."
He also says:"Newspapers are out of fashion, but I believe their epitath has been written way too early. It is our duty to look at any offer on all of our businesses, but I can't see a circumstance where we would sell another newspaper unless there was a strategic imperative."

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Robert Thomson, Mort Zuckerman and Walter Isaacson on the future of the press

A transcript of a discussion on the future of newspapers by former editor of The Times Robert Thomson, now managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, Mort Zuckerman, owner and publisher of the New York Daily News and Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, is available here at Poynter Online. It is taken from the Charlie Rose Show in the US.
Thomson says: "Clever people, clever newspapers will understand that the Web-newspaper relationship is one of complementary content, that you have to work the Web." Zuckerman agrees.
Story via the Newspaper Project.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sun reply to Community Care: 'We're proud of our justice for Baby P campaign'

The Sun has responded to a letter sent to editor Rebekah Wade by social workers' weekly Community Care accusing it of "undermining" the profession in its coverage of the Baby P case.
Community Care has also started an e-petition on the Downing Street website calling on the Prime Minister to urge the Sun to stop attacking social workers.
The reply from Sun managing editor Graham Dudman states:
"Thank you for your letter to Rebekah Wade which has been passed to my office.
"I am sorry you believe The Sun’s campaign for justice for Baby P is irresponsible and biased.
"You are, of course, entitled to that view. Although The Sun plus the 1,500,000 people who signed our petition disagree with you.
"We are proud to have campaigned successfully to have those responsible held accountable, especially as they continue to refuse to apologise.
"I agree social work is a difficult job at the best of times but make no apologies for the way we highlighted the appalling catalogue of mistakes that led to Baby P’s death. "

Ayckbourn 'appalled' at Yorkshire Post job cuts

Playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn has said he is "appalled" by the proposed redundancies at the Yorkshire Post and described the paper as "the voice of Yorkshire".
Scarborough-based Sir Alan made his views clear in an email to NUJ members at the Johnston Press owned Post and Yorkshire Evening Post who are to stage two four-day strikes to protest at the cutbacks.
Sir Alan said: “The press office here at the Stephen Joseph Theatre has just told me about the Yorkshire Post job losses.
“I am appalled if this means, as I'm sure it will do, that the quality of such a valued, independent, individual press voice will be in any way diminished.
“We 'regionalists’ (and you know how closely I associate myself with this proud non-London based body of individualists!) regard the YP most highly. It is our own. It IS the voice of Yorkshire.
“Long may it flourish!
“Best regards,

Roy Greenslade and Nick Jones to speak at NUJ Left meeting on media ownership

MediaGuardian blogger Roy Greenslade and ex-BBC political correspondent Nick Jones have been lined up to speak at an NUJ Left meeting on media ownership next week.
It will be held between 7pm and 9pm, Tuesday, 17 February at the London Welsh Centre, Gray’s Inn Rd.
Greenslade will be speaking on the subject "where next for publishing?" and Jones on cross-media ownership Becky Branford from the BBC will speak on working in public service media and Socialist Party industrial organiser and NUJ member Jane James, on nationalisation and state aid.

Quotes of the Week:

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, pointing to the £804,000 bill he has received from Carter-Ruck over the Tesco story:"To read this document you would weep for the cause of freedom of expression in this country."

Sun columnist Jane Moore on the film set rant by Christian Bale who exploded with rage after a member of the crew wandered into shot:"Compared to the various newsrooms I've worked in over the years Bale's outburst comes across as a rather genteel fit of pique."

Sir David Bell, chairman of the Financial Times and the Media Standards Trust: "Our research has shown that the current system of press self-regulation is failing the public. It is fundamentally flawed and in urgent need of reform. We believe that the Press Complaints Commission is constitutionally and structurally unable to deal with these threats, particularly in the context of the rapidly changing new media environment."

Roy Greenslade: "My faith in Lord Rothermere is restored. I applaud his intervention in order to ensure that staff at the London Evening Standard will receive reasonable redundancy terms."

'Give up your company cars and bonuses to save jobs' NUJ urges Northcliffe executives

Newspapers have been fuming about bankers getting bonuses. Now the NUJ has turned the tables, urging some Northcliffe editorial executives and directors to surrender their company cars and waive bonuses to save jobs.
The union says that the Staffordshire division of Northcliffe has confirmed that five photographers are facing redundancy and cuts are being considered in other departments.
NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley said: "Staffordshire Sentinel News & Media is being exceedingly secretive about its job cutting at Stoke but we do know that this has been an extremely profitable newspaper publisher in the most recent past.
"It has been continually cutting the workforce over recent years and now we know that they want to slash a third of its photographic staff. I can't believe any editor would willingly seek to do this so as a formal proposal, the NUJ has suggested that directors should waive any personal bonus they might be in line for this year to get over these exceptional times with the fewest editorial casualties.
“I have also put forward that senior editorial staff should give up their company cars for the same reason - including the editor and his BMW."
According to the NUJ, the company accounts for 2007 show that Northcliffe made an operating profit in Staffordshire of £5.8 million over 14 months.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Post journalists vote for strike over job cuts

Journalists in Leeds working on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post have voted for strike action over job cuts.
They are to hold two four-day strikes, the first will start in a week's time.
NUJ members on the two Johnston Press titles decided to hold a ballot after the company said three photographers faced compulsory redundancy. The union said today the vote in the secret postal ballot was 109 for strike action – three against.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern regional organiser, said: “The Yorkshire Post and Evening Post chapels have given a lead to all NUJ members fighting against unnecessary and unworkable job cuts.”
The NUJ chapel at the Derry Journal, owned by Johnston Press, is also balloting for industrial action.

NS names councils competing for local ads

The Newspaper Society has released a copy of a letter sent to Cabinet Office Minister Liam Byrne warning of the serious impact on the regional press caused by local authority publications competing for third party advertising.
It also warns of the dangers of removing the mandatory requirement for local authorities to publish statutory notices in newspapers as recommended in the recent Killian Pretty Review of Planning Applications.
The letter names four local authorities whose media activities are a concern and quotes from some of their promotional material:
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham:H&F News is Hammersmith & Fulham’s leading newspaper, with more readers, more news and more influence than any other paper… Delivered to 87,000 homes, we have more than DOUBLE the readers than our nearest competitor.”
East Riding (Yorkshire Council): “East Riding News is highly competitive on advertising rates and unbeatable on coverage... gives the advertiser the opportunity to covert the whole region with one paper – one contact – one invoice. 147,600 VFD. Unbeatable readership of 240,000..”
Tower Hamlets: “East End Life is the council’s free weekly newspaper… distributed to more than 75,000 homes and businesses across the borough every week.” 13-strong news & advertising team. Tower Hamlets has already removed statutory notices from local newspapers and publishes them now in East End Life.
Kent County Council: launched Kent TV, a free internet TV service – cutting across what local media companies such as Kent Messenger Group are offering in terms of video stories on their own websites. KCC Hands Off Business is an alliance of local Kent businesses which is up in arms about KCC’s increasingly commercial activities."

Editors do get jailed - here's the proof

We are always being told that editors risk being sent to jail and therefore take ultimate responsibility for what is published in their newspapers. Now here is photographic proof that it can happen. A picture of legendary editor WT Stead in his prison uniform is up for auction, HoldtheFront Page reports today.
Society of Editors' director Bob Satchwell raised the issue yesterday on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, arguing that as editors could be sent to prison they should be the ones to judge what went into their papers.
Stead while editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was jailed in 1885 for procuring and abducting a girl. He had bought a 13-year-old Eliza Armstrong from her mother for £5 in order to expose the scandal of child prostitution. The story caused an outrage and began: "The report of our secret commission will be read today with a shuddering horror that will thrill throughout the world."
Stead, who also edited the Northern Echo, was on the Titanic when it sank on its maiden voyage and was killed in the disaster.

Guardian's £804,000 Tesco legal bill makes you 'weep' for freedom of expression

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has revealed that law firm Carter-Ruck has billed the paper for £804,000 in legal costs arising from Tesco's libel action against the paper last year, Press Gazette reports today.
Rusbridger, speaking at the Press Gazette Media Law conference, said the bill was lodged by Carter-Ruck despite the The Guardian making an "offer of amends" - using a procedure intended to minimise costs by a publisher admitting it is wrong.
He told the conference the £804,000 figure "bears no relation at all to the damages claimed" and, pointing to the bill, said: "To read this document you would weep for the cause of freedom of expression in this country".
Press Gazette says: "The Guardian wrongly stated that Tesco was avoiding £1bn of corporation tax and later published a front page apology stating that in fact the supermarket was alleged to have avoided £100m of stamp duty land tax."

Kelvin MacKenzie: 'Chelsea bosses used lawyers to try and shut me up over Scolari'

Lawyers acting for Chelsea Football Club demanded an apology and substantial damages from the Sun after columnist Kelvin MacKenzie ran a piece last year claiming that some players thought manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was hopeless and his training methods old hat, the paper reveals today.
Now Scolari has been sacked among claims that he had "lost the support of his players," MacKenzie tells readers: "With this week's sudden jettisoning of Mr. Scolari, we now know the Chelsea letter was designed by senior executives at the club to shut me up - presumably so Roman Abramovich wouldn't discover what was happening at his own club."

Community Care petition urges PM to tell Sun: 'Stop attacking social workers'

Community Care has started an e-petition on the Downing Street website calling on the Prime Minister to urge the Sun newspaper to back the social work profession.
The weekly magazine for social workers accuses the Sun of "undermining" the profession with its coverage of the Baby 'P' case.
The petition follows a letter sent by Community Care to Sun editor Rebekah Wade calling on her to rethink the newspaper's "negative attitude" to social workers.
The petition begins: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to call on The Sun newspaper to back the social work profession."
It claims the Sun decided to place all blame in relation to the Baby P case on the heads of social workers and calls on the paper to highlight the positive work social workers do.
Community Care urges social workers to: "Show the government and The Sun how strongly you feel about this issue by signing the petition now and getting your friends and colleagues to sign it."

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Jack Straw says community role of regional newspapers cannot be replaced by web

Justice Secretary Jack Straw described regional newspapers as "irreplaceable" when he gave the keynote speech at the Press Gazette Media Law conference seminar today.
"Regional newspapers are irreplaceable. I don't believe that the role that they play in communities can be replaced by the web - they can be complemented by the web but they can't be replaced," he said.
Straw told the conference that the findings of the Ministry of Justice's review of the "no win, no fee" Conditional Fee Arrangements which can send costs in libel cases soaring would be published this month.
He said it was not acceptable that excessive costs should be charged in no-win no-fee libel cases where the damages awarded are small, especially at a time when regional newspapers are suffering financially.
"There's an issue here of proportionality and of looking very carefully at the way in which the CFA system has operated and whether it's leading to unjust conclusions when newspapers are being forced to settle," he said.
Straw also pledged to take a "good look" at a 160-year-old legal precedent that allows people to sue publishers for online libel without any time limit.

SoE director rejects 'conscience clause' call

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell came out firmly against the idea of a "conscience" clause for journalists today, saying it was editors who carry the can for stories run in their newspapers.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, Satchwell said journalists were bound by their contracts of employment to adhere to the Editors' Code of Practice, which underpins the work of the Press Complaints Commission.
The NUJ has argued that a "conscience clause" should be added to the Code so that journalists could not be sacked if they refused to act in a way that was unethical when put under pressure by rogue editors or newsdesks.
Sachwell said editors took the ultimate responsibility for what appeared in their papers. "Editors could end up in jail and should be the final arbitrators," he said.
Angela Phillips, senior lecturer at Goldsmith College, told the programme that young journalists were warned while doing shifts on newspapers that "if they don't do what they are told they won't get another shift."

NI cuts 65 jobs on national newspapers

News International is to cut 65 editorial jobs across its four national newspapers, MediaGuardian reports today.
A total of 20 post will go at the Sunday Times, and The Times, the Sun and News of the World will each cut 15 journalists' jobs.
It was estimated yesterday that 4,353 media jobs have been lost in the UK since July 1 last year.

Property crash stops NUJ selling London HQ

The fall in property prices has stopped the NUJ from going ahead with plans to sell its London HQ and move in with broadcasting union BECTU.
The union had hoped to cash in by selling Headland House in King's Cross which in pre-recession days looked set to have a property boom as the area was redeveloped with the arrival of Eurostar at St. Pancras.
But the latest report from the NUJ's policy making National Executive Council states: "With the state of the property market having put an end to plans to sell Headland House and share a new building it is expected the union will reorganise staff and now rent out one floor at its London HQ to bring in around £45,000 per annum."
The report also says: "The union will face a deficit of £500,000 a year by September 2012 unless action is taken to raise income and cut expenditure, general secretary Jeremy Dear told the NEC.
"With job losses having an impact on union membership levels the NEC backed action to 'bring spending back in to line with our projected income'. Work done by the union’s finance team show that based on just a 2% fall in income for each of the next 3 years the union will need to find an additional half a million pounds a year in additional income or cuts in expenditure by 2012 to achieve a balanced budget."
A draft action plan covering union buildings, subscriptions, membership as well as expenditure on ADM, staffing, services, administration and all other areas of the union’s work is currently the subject of joint consultations with three staff unions.
Proposals to charge an administrative fee in respect of some legal cases are to be investigated.

Christian Bale's film set rant was 'genteel' compared to life in the newsroom

Sun columnist Jane Moore gives her verdict today on the now famous film set rant by Christian Bale who exploded with rage after a member of the crew wandered into shot.
Moore says:"Compared to the various newsrooms I've worked in over the years Bale's outburst comes across as a rather genteel fit of pique."

Northcliffe Media suffers advertising chill in January with 40 per cent decline

Advertising revenues at Northcliffe Media, the regional arm of the Daily Mail & General Trust plunged by 40 per cent in January, according to a trading update, MediaGuardian and Press Gazette report today.
The figures show how tough the advertising market is for regional newspapers in the current economic downturn.
DMGT's national newspaper advertising revenues for January were down 23 per cent on the same month last year.
The company said Northcliffe Media, had two very slow weeks after the new year, resulting in advertising revenues for January being 40 per cent down on last year.
Peter Williams, DMGT's finance director, said the bad weather was a factor in the poor performance of the newspaper operation at the start of 2009.
"January has certainly been a tough month, it started incredibly slowly [and] just as activity looked to be turning more to normal we have been hit by atrocious weather," he told MediaGuardian.
Press Gazette quotes Williams on possible further redundancies as saying: "The only thing we can say is we are certainly in consultation in a number of places, mainly in our regional newspapers. We can't say any more about that.
"There are further reductions being contemplated in the New Year. I'm afraid a lot depends on the trading environment. We're inevitably looking at our cost base."

NUJ takes campaign against cuts to MPs

The NUJ is organising a lobby of the UK parliament at 2pm in London on Wednesday 25 March as part of its campaign against media cutbacks. Chapels and branches from all over the UK are being urged to send representatives to talk to local MPs.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Saving the press: 'Internet should be a publisher's dream not a nightmare'

Another American commentator on the press has suggested the only way to save newspapers is to get them to charge for online content.
Steve Brill claims: "The Internet should be a publisher's dream, not nightmare." He has put forward a blueprint to save The New York Times which he claims could save quality journalism in general.
Brill says: "Across the country and the world, journalism – the way that democracies and free markets get the information they need through honest surrogates – is quickly dying, because the business model to pay for it is evaporating.
"There is, in fact, a way to save it by using common sense and the basic laws of business, and by redirecting the same electronic commerce dynamics that now threaten it. Indeed, now that the Times has done so much so well to build its online offerings it's time to turn the dynamics around – by getting paid for that content, while using the Internet to eliminate the huge costs of producing and delivering it. "
Brill suggests:"The New York Times newspaper website currently has 20 million unique visitors a month. It is a great editorial product and has done an amazing job building an audience. Now, it’s time to go to Step Two and make that work to usher in a bright new age for the world's greatest newspaper.
"Getting an average of just $1.00 a month from each visitor would yield $240m in new annual revenue."
He then gives a very detailed break-down of a paid-content model.
Story via Newspaper Project and PoynterOnline .

'Media Trust report breaches accuracy code'

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell has claimed the Media Standards Trust's report which was highly critical of the Press Complaints Commission would have fallen foul of the Editors’ Code of Practice if it had been produced by a newspaper.
Satchwell said: “While the PCC system can always be improved the MST report is far off the mark. I understand they did not consult the PCC neither did they consult the Society of Editors. It is usual practice to put such strong allegations to those criticised before publishing.
"It is perhaps fortunate for the MST that they do not come under the ambit of the PCC. If it did this report would fall at the first clause of the Editors' Code of Practice concerning accuracy because it fails to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact."
In contrast to the Society of Editors, the NUJ has welcomed the report.

Media job losses now top 4,000 in UK

Press Gazette's Media Money columnist Peter Kirwan has updated his media job loss calculations - and reports that more than 4,000 jobs have gone since the beginning of July last year.
He says reported media job losses in December were 588 and in January 434, giving a cumulative total of 4,323 since July 1 2008.
Peter adds: "In terms of reported job losses, neither December or January matched the bad months of July, September and November during 2008.
"But there seem obvious reasons why this should be so. More important, I suspect, is the cumulative trend, which looks unpleasantly consistent. It strikes me that I’m seeing fewer stories about large-scale (50+) lay-offs. But it seems unwise to suggest that there won’t be more of them in the future."

How to get readers hooked on a newspaper habit - add drugs to newsprint

US comedian Jon Stewart has come up with a radical way of giving readers back the newspaper habit - by adding some kind of addictive narcotic to newsprint, Editor & Publisher reports.
Stewart made the suggestion on his highly popular The Daily Show which mixes current affairs with satire. His guest was Time journalist Walter Isaacson who wrote the piece about how newspapers could be "saved" if they charged for on-line content which has sparked a debate across the internet.
E&P says Stewart acted out a junkie needing to satisfy his craving for drugged newsprint.... while Isaacson repeated many of his ideas. More seriously, Stewart favored charging aggregators for links to news sites and described saving newspapers as a "worthy" notion.

NUJ backs report which bashed PCC and warned cuts are hurting editorial quality

The NUJ has welcomed yesterday's Media Standards Trust report which was highly critical of the Press Complaints Commission and warned of the impact cutbacks were having on journalism standards.
It was claimed by the MST that “standards of accuracy and responsibility are falling faster than ever in an increasingly desperate financial atmosphere, and with them the respect of both public and government.”
The NUJ said, in a statement, the MST report "echoes the NUJ’s argument that cuts in newsroom staffing and spending is having a catastrophic effect on journalism. In particular the reduction in the numbers of sub-editors has led to greater pressures and a rising level of inaccuracy in the press."
NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: “For years we’ve been highlighting the impact on our profession of cutbacks that are all about the pursuit of big profits. Our members are fed up with the frustration of not having the time they need to do their jobs. They take great pride in their work so it hurts when management cuts undermine the job they do.
“Self-regulation can work, but the current model isn’t up to the task. As a first step the government could bring the PCC under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act so that at least some of its workings are put under greater public scrutiny.”
The NUJ has argued that a "conscience clause" should be added to the Code of Practice, which underpins the work of the PCC, so that journalists could claim unfair dismissal if sacked by a newspaper for refusing to act in an unethical way. The union also wants papers fined if the PCC finds they have breached the Code.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Newspapers urged 'switch off online for a week and show readers what they will miss'

US blogger and freelance journalist T. J. Sullivan is urging newspapers to pull the plug on free online content for a week, Editor & Publisher reports today.
It follows a call made last month by a Canadian journalists Cale Cowan for a similar boycott when he urged all newspapers worldwide to shut their online operations for a day to show that 90 per cent of news on the web was generated by newspapers.
Sullivan has launched an online drive to urge all U.S. daily newspapers to switch off their Web sites from midnight of Independence Day, July 4, until Friday, July 10.
He argues in a post on LA Observed: "It makes it impossible for anyone to deny where the majority of news content comes from, and why it matters. For without virtual newspapers, what would Drudge report? What would Huffington post? What would Google News and Yahoo News and all those cut-and-paste blogs that get so much of their material from newspapers have to offer if newspapers went away?"
Sullivan adds:"It's not that Americans don't care," he writes. "It's simply a matter of human nature. Until the discomfort reaches the readers -- at which point it will be too late -- there's no motivation for them to get involved in finding a solution."

Speculation over Johnston Press sale of Scotsman or Yorkshire Post revived

Fresh speculation that Johnston Press may be prepared to sell off flagship titles like The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post have been revived following a report in The Sunday Times.
The story in the ST said: "Johnston Press could sell some of its flagship newspaper titles after it appointed debt restructuring experts at KPMG to help it tackle its £465m of borrowings.
The owner of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post has already brought in Dublin-based corporate financier Raglan Capital to listen to offers for its Irish newspapers including the Leinster Leader and Kilkenny People.
"John Fry, who arrived as chief executive last month, is prepared to consider a range of options to strengthen the company’s balance sheet."
The Sunday Times has predicted for some time that asset sales are likely for debt-burdened Johnston Press, and claimed in an interview with the newspaper group's outgoing chief executive Tim Bowdler that he had bitten off too much in 2005 when Johnston spent £475 million to expand into Scotland and Ireland, buying The Scotsman and Belfast News Letter. In the past Johnston Press has always denied stories that The Scotsman or the Yorkshire Post are up for sale.