Barcelona's superstar Lionel Messi, who faces Arsenal in the Champions' League tonight, is not only regarded as the best footballer in the world but he is also a gift to our punning sports' subs.
This is what they conjured up when Barcelona put on a dazzling display to beat Man United in the European Cup final last year:
That's another fine Messi - Daily Mail
Lionel Flair is perfect 10 - Daily Star
Thrown to the Lionels - Daily Mirror
Fergie in a right Messi - Daily Express
Just Messimerising - Daily Record
It will be interesting to see if the sports' subs have any more Messi puns in their locker if the Barcelona wizard does the business against the Gunners tonight. I suspect they might. Update: Folowing Arsenal's fightback and Theo Walcott's dramatic impact on the match, Messi puns are onhold until next week's second leg at the Nou Camp.
Johnston Press, which is currently facing a company wide ballot for industrial action by NUJ members, is to cut 20 more sub editors' posts. HoldtheFrontPage reports that the company has announced redundancies in Lancashire as a centralised 'content design unit' is to be created in Preston to serve both the Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Evening Post. The move will mean an overall net reduction of 20 sub-editors from the current 38-strong production operation spread across the two centres.
A new blog has been launched by a Northcliffe journalists called The Death of Journalism.
It is hard hitting stuff reflecting how cuts imposed by the "money men" have hit the morale of journalists and predicts the continuing demise of the local press.
It says: "Over the last year reporters have weathered a number of mind-boggling changes instigated from the powers that be at Northcliffe. It began when they were told that, because profit had fallen (probably little more than a single percent), the company was to make a number of “efficiency savings”. Meaningless platitudes were dolled out to petrified reporters about keeping redundancies to a minimum. Many learned their jobs effectively didn’t exist, and reporters from papers across the newsgroup were invited to apply for each others positions, kind of like a morbid game of musical chairs.
"Only no one wanted to play, and in the end no one swapped jobs. Instead over 90 people were shown the door, many of them sub-editors and support staff, the heartbeat of their papers, people who had given Northcliffe, and countless other owners beforehand, years of loyal and unstinting service."
It adds: "For whatever reason, be it the transient population of the area, many of whom either have little connection with the patch or don’t read English fluently; the inability to cope with the “threat” of the Internet, the plummeting pagination compared to the price of the paper; the steadfast refusal to consider remedies which cost money; or the fact that, arguably, the paper struggles to appeal to the community it represents, the readership of our paper has fallen dramatically over the last three years.
"What it isn’t down to is a lack of commitment or passion on the part of those who write the paper. The current editor sets a high standard, encouraging reporters to bring in off diary exclusives and go the extra mile for stories. Despite having obstacles constantly thrown in their way, the vast majority of the reporters strive to do this. And like reporters across the country they don’t do it for the money – I mean the average wage of a reporter is peanuts compared to the skill and dedication required– but because they love the job.
"Yet the money men, some even backed up people who, years ago, used to be the penniless peons who did all the hard work, can barely recognise this contribution. In the name of saving money they will, seemingly, do anything to break the spirit of those who work their fingers to the bone to produce a paper they are proud of.
"For example, a few weeks ago, reporters received – by email – a notice saying that, as of the beginning of May, they could not claim expenses for working through lunch and they needed to work more evening jobs in order to claim days in lieu."
It continues: "There are countless other examples, too numerous and depressing to recall all at once, of the money men grinding will power and morale into dust. Yet nothing is ever done about it. The office doesn’t have union representation and the most that results from ridiculous directives is a few expletives, rolled eyes and the unfulfilled promise to look for a different career."Yet all it does is add to my almost complete disillusionment with the job and journalism as a whole. What I’ve described isn’t new – it’s repeated across hundreds of newsrooms across the country. The erosion of local journalism has been long in the making but surely it has entered its final death throws when efficiency changes effectively bind the reporter to his desk, unable to go out and cover anything but the biggest stories in person, with no time to do the things that should be the heart and soul of a local paper – meet the community, champion its causes effectively, cover issues in depth, etc. No wonder no one is picking up newspapers if the people who write it are being relentlessly ground into submission.
"The end result of all this will be the end of our paper...What’s happening at our paper, what’s happening across the country is nothing short of the death of journalism."
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear says of the new website: “This cry of anguish from a Northcliffe reporter represents the canary down the mine of local newsgathering."
Johnston Press has dropped the paywalls being trialled at some of its local newspaper websites following a low take up among readers,HoldtheFrontPage reveals today.
The company had set a £5 subscription for anyone wanting to read stories in full on some of its local newspaper websites, including those of the Whitby Gazette. HTFP says the paywall at the Gazette has now been dropped with full stories now freely available again to users. The paywall plan got widespread publicity when launched but Johnston Press has told HTFP it will be making no public comment about the trial and has even refused to confirm that it is coming to an end.
However a source at one of the titles involved in the trial said it had been a "disaster" and that the number of people subscribing had been in single figures.
Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being blunt. Steve Dyson in his blog reviewing local papers, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, is equally forthright in his look at the Yorkshire Evening Post today.
Dyson's review starts: "A weak headline for a wipe-out splash that did not merit the space given was not a good start." He asks: "Does 'A STATELY FOOD FIGHT' catch your eye? What does it mean? Why choose such a crusty word? Who decided to stretch that top deck? And why make it the only story on the front page?
"In today's crowded multimedia world, page ones of regional newspapers have to fight so much harder to grab the attention of passing, over-loaded readers. For me, this headline just did not gel, failed to shout about a must-have story and therefore fell short of selling the paper."
He adds: "The court case between a caterer and a home owned by the cousin of Elizabeth II was actually quite readable, although you’d have thought the words 'Royal' or 'Queen' would have added more to the headline. And it would have felt more natural as a page five or seven, as in my opinion it wasn't the best tale of the day on offer."
Instead Dyson says he would have opted for 'The knifeman next door' - a story about a man who'd stabbed his neighbour but then returned to live in the adjacent house while waiting for the court case.
He is also critical of a low story count and big pictures on mundane stories.
Dyson praises the Post's sport and letter pages but concludes: "While a single day's review is not the fairest way of judging a newspaper, I also know that readers who spend 42p on a 56-page paper and end up disappointed might not to come back another day, so consistency is crucial. The latest ABC figures suggest that this was perhaps just an off day. The Johnston Press-owned Yorkshire Evening Post saw sales down just 5.7% to 44,818 a day, not a dreadful performance in comparison to many others."
John Humphrys in his Sun article last Friday, supporting paywalls and the need to pay for good journalism, stressed: "And let's be clear: We have the best papers in the world. Full stop. I want to keep it that way."
His former editor on Today, Kevin Marsh, now executive editor of the BBC College of Journalism, disputes the claim calling it "utter tosh."
Without naming Humphrys, Marsh writing on the BBC College of Journalism site states: "Of all the arguments in favour of newspaper paywalls, one is utter tosh. It is that we - the readers - must pay online to preserve what one tabloid editor [Paul Dacre] once called "the best newspapers in the world". It's a description that's reared its head again this week.
"Now, as a general rule it's always a good idea to reach for your revolver when you hear anyone say any country has the best TV/health service/newspapers/football teams ... anything "in the world".
"Not because we/they don't, necessarily. But because life's more complicated than that. But one thing we absolutely, certainly, assuredly don't have here in the UK is the best newspapers in the world. Full stop.
"If we did, a quarter of those who used to buy them wouldn't have stopped doing so over the past 20 years - a desertion that long predates the web, incidentally. If we did, our press wouldn't be one of the least trusted institutions in the land and our newspaper journalists the least trusted in the world."
And that's just the start...
Great correction in the Guardian today: "An interview with the Irish singer Gavin Friday included this quote: "And those hip-hop guys, they all have about 10 managers and 10 assistants, all with the black berets." On reflection, the writer realised that he had misheard and what he should have written was: "And those hip-hop guys, they all have about 10 managers and 10 assistants, all with the BlackBerrys." ('You can't be what you were', 26 March, page 6, Film&Music.)"
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has on his blog accused the BBC and BBC Trust of prostrating themselves by agreeing to delay the introduction of sport and news apps after protest by the Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the national press.
He writes: "scuppering yet another BBC initiative as they prostrate themselves before the commercial sector. This time it's smartphone apps, last time it was BBC Local - what next? 6Music, Asian Network, half the website? That surely is too far fetched."
Dear also accuses the BBC of keeping staff on its websites in the dark about plans that potentially threaten their jobs. He says: "Nothing that comes out of the strategic review around these proposals actually adds up. They are going to cut 25% of staff - and yet every time they are asked which sites and which staff, they refer to mothballed sites, links that just redirect or pages that haven't been updated since 2006. So we ask the question again - come clean. Which sites and which staff are to be axed. You are paid lots of money. You've had months to come up with the plan. So tell us. Or do you intend to wait until the consultation is over, then spring it on staff and readers."
Archant has invested more than £500,000 over the past two years in KoS Media, publisher of Kent on Sunday,HoldtheFrontPage reveals today.
KoS was set up eight years ago by former Adscene, Kent Regional Newspapers and Trinity Mirror Southern executive Paul Stannard. HTFP reports: "The company, based in Smeeth, near Ashford, has long been rumoured to have had links with Archant, but Archant has previously refused to comment publicly on this. However the financial relationship between the two is referenced in Archant's annual report published yesterday, which describes KoS Media as an "associated company."
The report states that during 2009, Archant made a further £300,000 investment in KoS Media (Holdings) Ltd, on top of a £215,000 investment in 2008.
It added: "Archant's share of the associate's losses grew from £158,000 to £196,000 owing to the shortfall in advertising revenues, with the second half of the year an improvement on the first."
The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against a blog post by Rod Liddle on the Spectator's website which claimed that "the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community".
This is the first time that the PCC has censured a newspaper or magazine over the content of a journalistic blog. The piece was posted on 5 December 2009 and a reader complained that the statement was incorrect.
The PCC said today: "In concluding that the article was indeed in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice, the PCC recognised the magazine's argument that the nature of a blog post is often provocative and conducive to discussion.
"It was certainly true in this case, for example, that a number of readers had taken issue with Mr Liddle's claim and had commented on the blog. However, the Commission did not agree that the magazine could rely on publishing critical reaction as a way of abrogating its responsibilities under the Code.
"While it had provided some evidence to back up Mr Liddle's position, it had not been able to demonstrate that the 'overwhelming majority' of crime in all the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community. Nor could it successfully argue that the claim was purely the columnist's opinion - rather, it was a statement of fact.
"As such, the Commission believed that "the onus was on the magazine to ensure that it was corrected authoritatively online". In the absence of such remedial action the Commission upheld the complaint."
PCC director, Stephen Abell, said: "This is a significant ruling because it shows that the PCC expects the same standards in newspaper and magazine blogs that it would expect in comment pieces that appear in print editions. There is plenty of room for robust opinions, views and commentary but statements of fact must still be substantiated if and when they are disputed. And if substantiation isn't possible, there should be proper correction by the newspaper or magazine in question."
NUJ members across the Johnston Press group are to hold a group-wide industrial action ballot - the union's first such strike vote for more than 20 years.
The NUJ is opposing what it claims is Johnston management efforts to force through the introduction of the ATEX content management system with inadequate staffing and training.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “No-one should underestimate how angry journalists throughout the Johnston group are at the attacks on their jobs and working conditions and how despite the fact that they have taken on more skills and more work they are being rewarded with a further pay freeze and a new threat to jobs.
“They are also angry at the damage which this short-sighted management is doing to the 18 daily and 300 weekly newspapers which journalists produce for loyal communities across the UK. Staffing cuts are threatening the quality of those papers as our members struggle under unsustainable workloads. Ultimately, these changes are about cutting jobs. We will fight any threat of compulsory redundancies by the company. We will not stand by and allow a single member of staff to be made redundant.
“Editorial resources have been cut to the bone to pay for the Johnston debt mountain created through a foolish policy of buying up other titles at high cost. Now their bankers are telling them to start making repayments. Our members refuse to be the victims of that mismanagement car crash."
Following a meeting with the Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the national press, the BBC Trust today confirmed that it has asked the BBC Executive to delay the launch of its range of free mobile applications while the Trust undertakes an assessment of the potential significance of the proposals.
The Trust said the assessment will examine the plans in four areas:
• The extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others
• The financial implications of the change
• The extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity
• How long the activity will last
The NPA wrote to the chairman of the BBC Trust and to the BBC’s director general earlier this month to express the national newspaper industry’s deep concern that the BBC would be allowed to launch the services in direct competition with commercial operators without prior scrutiny.
David Newell, director of the NPA, said: “It is vital that these proposals are scrutinised properly to avoid any adverse impact on commercial media organisations. We are pleased that the BBC Trust has listened to the industry’s concerns and acted to delay the planned April launch. We hope this will enable a thorough assessment to be undertaken.”
Award winning Freedom of Information campaigning journalist Heather Brooke joined the attack on local council newspapers today when she appeared on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week, presented by Andrew Marr.
Brooke told how her interest in FoI started at a local level when she tried to find out how the authorities were dealing with anti-social behaviour in her area.
Marr suggested this was the type of issue that used to be covered by local journalists. He said one of the most striking points in Brooke's new book - The Silent State - was the way the livelihoods and function of local journalists has been "increasingly usurped by propaganda papers put out by local councils."
Brooke replied: "This is something we have to think about in a society. Do we accept we have no outside scrutiny anymore of our democratic institutions?"
She said if you go to almost any council meeting or court in Britain today you won't find a newspaper reporter. "We have whole tranches of public life now in which there is no outside scrutiny. The point I make in the book is that we may not like the idea of having to pay [via subsidies] for it but we we are going to be paying for it in terms of corruption in the future if we don't have that."
She said her book features the competition between Tower Hamlet Council's East End Life and the local paper East London Advertiser. You can listen to the interview on BBCi-player
One of our quality daily nationals is believed to be working on an innovative subscription model whereby subscribers can cancel the paper at short notice - possibly by email.
This would give readers the ability to stop taking the paper if they are way from home for a couple of days rather than letting unread papers stack up. Someone described it to me as "Like cancelling the milk for a day."
Stephen Glover, one of the three journalistic founders of the Independent, says today that the vision that prompted the launch of the paper is no longer obtainable.
Writing in the paper, Glover says: "The dream of a profitable, non-partisan newspaper free of proprietorial control has been dead for many years. To be precise, it died when Mirror Group Newspapers became dominant shareholders in the titles in 1995. We could argue whether, if mistakes had not been made, the dream could have been sustained, but the fact is that it collapsed long ago."
He adds: "In its twenty-three-and-a-half year life, The Independent has only made a profit for one, possibly two, years. Its habit of losing money does not make it unique. I doubt The Times has been profitable during a single year since Rupert Murdoch bought it in 1981, and figures released last week suggest that it lost at least £70m, possibly as much as £85m, in the 12 months to June 2009. The Guardian's annual losses are running at about £30m. The Independent is said to have lost £12m last year.
Glover says the new owner of the paper, Alexander Lebedev, should not be seen as a "sugar-daddy" and that the Independent will only be secure if it can break-even.
"Surely it is obvious that the present model is never going to be commercially viable. Left alone, the paper will continue to wither, as The Times and The Guardian are continuing to wither, each rather magnificent in its way, but each dangerously, and potentially fatally, far from profitability."
Glover asks: "Will The Independent be around in 10 or 20 years' time? Only if it acquires the habit of not losing money. I would say exactly the same about The Guardian and The Times."
A picture opportunity for campaigning Tories in this week's Camden New Journal was somewhat undermined by the grinning group being snapped in front of an estate agent's board reading "For Sale - Camerons Stiff & Co". Camden New Journal's deputy editor Richard Osley writes on his blog: "It was only when I picked up this week’s New Journal and saw Tom Foot’s story and picture about the 35-MP Tory assault on Hampstead and Kilburn that my eyes looked to the right and spotted something I hadn’t seen when the page was being laid out… oops, look at the estate agent board behind Chris Philp’s gang of campaigning Conservatives. The most innocent of things, but surely not the first choice of election backdrops for this lot…"
Former Sun editor David Yelland in an article in today's Mail on Sunday about how he was drunk nearly every night for 24 years makes a surprising revelation: "Tony Blair once asked me: 'What's the first paper you read in the morning?' 'The Guardian,' I answered."
Isn't that the same paper that legendary Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie used to refer to as the WWN (the World's Worst Newspaper)?
The Sunday Times in a leader today defends its plan to introduce a paywall for its online content in June.
It says: "At present we are in the absurd position of charging people £2 for our newspaper while simultaneously offering the same content free online. The flawed logic was that internet advertising would pay for it. The recession has put a stop to that, so giving away expensive journalism is financially unsustainable and ultimately bad for us and our readers.
"At The Sunday Times we put an enormous amount of money and effort into producing the best journalism we possibly can. If we keep giving it away we will no longer be able to do that. Inevitably the spending will decline, and with it the quality of the journalism. We will no longer be able to let reporters pursue stories for weeks on end (our investigation of MPs’ lobbying has taken the Insight team eight weeks) or send correspondents to spend months in Afghanistan or Iraq. Such practices are expensive, and there is always a risk they will be unproductive.
"However, without this investment, the British public would see a steady fall in the quality and diversity of the information they receive and learn less about how they are governed. We have perhaps the most lively and competitive press in the world, but that has been possible only because it is based on commercial success.
"The decision to create a separate website for The Sunday Times is thus a significant development. It, too, is expensive and we have decided to charge £2 a week for access to our huge range of content and to that of The Times, which is also building a new website. We believe many readers will be prepared to pay this relatively small amount because they value our journalism and they understand that nothing of value is free.
"We acknowledge the risk involved when much other good journalism is still available free online. However, we believe that if we are transparent with our readers and explain the financial realities, they will support our move. Ultimately we think that other newspapers will follow, and that the only free content online will be of inferior quality or supplied by the BBC. Even that organisation is finally beginning to realise it should stop trying to become a publisher online, and is cutting back on its massive internet spending."
The leader concludes: "We are in the midst of a publishing revolution, and if we get our finances right, you, our valued readers, will benefit from a new golden age in which we can devote more time and money to bringing you the very best journalism in the finest traditions of The Sunday Times."
One of the posts reacting to the leader shows what newspapers are up against. Mark Minogue writes: "You say that quality journalism costs money, and I believe you. But if the internet is killing your revenues then the most blindingly obvious cost cutting measure is to reduce the overcapacity in the newspaper market by having fewer of them. Im one of the lost millions who no longer buys a newspaper. Why? because the internet hasnt just given me my news for free, its also given me a far greater choice; you are competing in the favourites list in my copy of Google Chrome not just with the Telegraph and Gaurdian but also with the New York Times, The Times of India and The Japan Times ... not too mention Al Jazeera, China Daily, Der Speigel, Il Messaggero, Le Monde ... then there's BBC, CNN .... well, you get the picture. Sorry peeps, but the future of news is free to the consumer, whether Mr Murdoch likes it or not."
It adds: "Children are believed to be responsible for the attacks which were discovered by visitors to Quarry Mount Park, off Seamer Road. They were horrified to find a number of the protected amphibians had been killed and their eggs squashed."
There is a saying in US journalism that "if it bleeds, it leads" but I am not sure that applies to frogs. Scarborough front page via Callum Saunders on Twitpic
Broadcaster John Humphrys backs the idea of papers charging for their content online in a Sun article today - and argues that the survival of newspapers matter even more to democracy than the BBC.
He writes: "Good journalism has to be paid for, just as we have to pay for the plumber who fixes a leak, or it will not survive.
"And let's be clear: We have the best papers in the world. Full stop. I want to keep it that way.
"You might expect me to worry more about the survival of the BBC, but love and respect it though I do, newspapers matter even more to a robust system of democracy.
He adds: "They do what we cannot and should not do - they are rude, offensive, disrespectful and bloody-minded.
"They agree with the great humorist HL Mencken who said the correct relationship between journalists and politicians is that between the dog and the lamppost."
"Sure, it's important to have carefully argued, dispassionate analysis but I want to hear the voice of The Sun reader, the saloon bar, the Millwall terrace and the smart middle-class dinner party.
"The BBC broadcasts other people's opinions but it has none of its own. The papers have columnists who are troublemakers, iconoclasts and gossip-mongers and they tell us how they think we should vote.
Humphrys argues: "And we must not put the papers at risk by thinking we do not have to pay for them." You can read Humphrys' article here for free online before the Sun puts up its paywall.
City journalism students have scooped the Sun by more than a fortnight with the tale of Jane Goldman, aka Mrs. Jonathan Ross, and her macabre double headed skeleton of a baby.
As I reported earlier this month, Goldman's purchase of the skeleton from a Hackney "Little Shop of Horrors" was one of the stories that launched the student's local Hackney Post website and was posted on 7 March.
Today it's a page three lead in the Sun under the headline "Wossy Wife's £1,500 Fweak." It also gets a good showing on the Sun's website.
There are 14 bloggers longlisted for this year's Orwell Prize. Following last year’s Blog Prize victory for secret policeman NightJack, who was subsequently "outed" by The Times as detective Richard Horton, two pseudonymous public servants have been longlisted for this year’s Prize – policewoman, PC Ellie Bloggs and social worker, Winston Smith.
Mainstream journalists nominated include the Guardian’s David Smith, the FT’s Gideon Rachman and Sky News’ Tim Marshall. The 14 are:
David Osler: Dave's Part (www.davidosler.com)
David Smith: Letter from Africa (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/david-smiths-letter-from-africa)
The longlist will be reduced to a shortlist of six, announced at Thomson Reuters, Canary Wharf, on Thursday 15th April at 7pm. The announcement will be followed by a debate entitled ‘have the political classes been fatally weakened?’ This year’s winners in all the Orwell Prize categories will be announced at a ceremony at Church House, Westminster on 19th May.
Timely warning from Steve Dyson on his blog reviewing regional newspapers, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, about the dangers to the credibility of newspapers willing to sell front page ad-wraps to political parties in the run-up to the General Election.
He shows how the Newsquest-owned Croydon Guardian carried a front page wrap headlined 'Labour's Tax Bombshell' with only a minute script pointing out it was an advert.
Dyson condemns it as "blatantly biased political garbage masquerading as an article" which "made the paper feel like a Tory weapon, despite the tiny 'Advertisement' line."
He adds: "I understand that free newspapers have to incorporate ad-wraps to make their P&Ls work.
"But someone senior in an Ivory Tower somewhere should surely be insisting on minimum design standards, taste and, especially at this pre-election time, political neutrality. I reckon this responsibility is the publishers, in this case a Newsquest director, and that he/she should lay down rigorous expectations to would-be advertisers."
Dyson's opinion seems to be shared by posters to his blog. Johnston Press Fan Club comments: "When jumped-up little ad reps take the controls, whaddya expect? A poor, poor example of journalism being trampled all over in exchange for a fast buck. Sadly, the know-nothings don't realise a shell of paper cobbled together by a skeleton newsroom is noticeable to readers." Roy: "A paper crying out for a senior editorial figure with the balls to kick up a stink over this kind of wrap (Ok, much easier said than done, I know, but I hope at least they put up a fight). And Steve, 40 pages of property advertising will only make the opposing MD salivate if it's being sold at a decent rate rather than being given away as a loss-leader, which is the case at some of the other Newsquest South London titles." AndyP: "And what if the BNP wants to spend 2k on a wraparound? Surely they can't accept one blatant propaganda sheet while turning down the next. It'll all end in tears..."
The Independentsays today that its future and that of the Independent on Sunday was secured by yesterday's sale of the titles by Independent News and Media to Independent Print Limited, the company owned by the Lebedev family.
It reports that the agreement provides a commitment by the Lebedev family to invest in the newspapers, which have been owned by INM for 12 years.
Alexander Lebedev is quoted as saying: "I invest in institutions which contribute to democracy and transparency, and at the heart of that are newspapers which report independently and campaign for truth. I am a supporter of in-depth investigative reporting and campaigns which promote transparency and seek to fight international corruption. These are things The Independent has always done well and will, I am sure, continue to do."
Evgeny Lebedev, who will be the chairman of the new company, added: "It is a great privilege to be able to work with two iconic and respected newspapers with their brilliant journalists, and to be part of a plan for the long-term survival of the papers. I wish to ensure their sense of independent and free-spirited reporting continues to thrive. I believe strongly in the value and purpose of serious newspapers."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and Liberal-Democrat leader Nick Clegg are quoted welcoming the takeover.
The purchase of the Independent newspapers follows the Lebedevs' acquisition last year of a 75 per cent shareholding in the London Evening Standard.
The Times and Sunday Times will start charging to access their websites in June, publisher News International announced today.
Users will pay £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription. Both titles will have their own websites rather than, as at present, being combined under TimesOnline. The two new sites will be available for a free trial period to registered customers.
NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks said it was "a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition.
"This is just the start. The Times and The Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the UK to move to this new approach. We will continue to develop our digital products and to invest and innovate for our customers." NI announcement and video.
Society of Editors' executive director Bob Satchwell has defended the way the press has covered the case of Jon Venables.
He says: "It was all a fuss got up by the media of course, according to politicians and some lawyers. Nothing new there then. When they say the papers milked the story simply to sell papers, they are of course correct. That is what papers do.
"What the critics fail to realise is that the papers will only sell if they have content the public wants to read.
And could there be any doubt that the public did want to know why Venables had been recalled? They wanted to know if those monitoring his behaviour had acted properly, how serious were the breaches of conditions of his release.
"The story was simply fed by the fact that the information had to be dragged out of the authorities. Would they have volunteered that he had been recalled?
"Of course there are issues about his right to life and his right to a fair trial. The risks under those headings have to be balanced against the public’s right to know and freedom of expression and therefore the freedom of the media.
"There is no absolute provable risk in either case but there is a huge risk to public confidence in the justice system.
"Secrecy and creeping grudging release of information leads to speculation and suspicion.
That surely could and should have been avoided if someone had thought about and planned for what might happen years ago when Venables and Thompson were convicted then released and given new identities.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has shown sensible concern for the public’s right to know and media rights recently. In this case when he gave the impression of wanting to be more open he was clearly dragged backwards by lawyers and the men from the ministry."
I was handed a copy of theblogpaper outside Oxford Street tube station today. It is an interesting concept which combines a blog with print and describes its content as "crowdsourced news".
The community following the blog rate the content and the most popular articles and pictures get published in the print edition.
The blogpaper.co.uk website says: "theblogpaper.co.uk is a news community which allows anyone to publish written and visual work online and in print. . . Members of theblogpaper write, rate and discuss content and therefore “make the news”. The main concept of theblogpaper is that many people are in control of what others are going to receive. Instead of a few people controlling the majority of what is being published and therefore read, theblogpaper aims to put the majority in charge."
It is a good read and the kind of innovation badly needed at a time when the traditional print media is suffering so badly (Look at today's circulation figures for the national press ).
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian writing about media coverage of Jon Venables: "The chief enemy of British freedom at present is the British press."
David Hepworth in The Word magazine on showbiz PRs and their increasing demands: "PR control reduces mystique. It acts on charisma like bromide on erectile tissue and sets up stars for an inevitable fall."
Nick Kent in his new autobiography Apathy for the Devil says of his first impression of JulieBurchill when she joined NME: "A strange teenaged girl with a pronounced West Country twang, sullen eyes and a vibe about her that could best be described as 'Myra Hindleyesque'".
Julie Burchill reviewing Apathy for the Devil in the Observer: "As Kent was so off his bonce due to various medications of both a street and legal kind that he regularly apologised to the NME office hat stand when he bumped into it during this time, one hardly expects 20/20 recall."
Wageslave posts on HoldtheFrontPage about the Northcliffe reorganisation of its papers in the South West which could cost 30 jobs: "It's symptomatic of how out of touch management are that on a website read almost entirely by journalists (most of them in this case their own employees) they still feel it's appropriate to attempt to mask the reasons for their decisions, which are well known to us all, under this veneer of glib PR b*ll*cks which most of us have spent our professional lives decoding. Give us some credit; some of us have probably been in the business longer than you have. Spin doesn't beguile us; it makes us even more suspicious. We're trained to spot the real story under the layers of self-serving dross; it's called being a journalist."
Peter Sands on the decision to cancel the Regional Press Awards this year: "If the regional press doesn't celebrate the excellence that runs through its newspapers, applaud the journalists who go that extra yard every day, recognise the editors who invest in off-diary work and innovation … then who will? I am particularly uncomfortable with the suggestion that we just applaud excellence during the good times. Those who work hard to maintain standards when the going gets tough deserve to be honoured."
NUJ organiser Chis Morley on Johnston Press: "Our members are sick of being pulled from pillar to post. What they want to do is to produce quality newspapers by using their professional skills and experience. While all the company wants is to reduce everything to a financial equation, Johnston Press Group is putting everyone’s jobs at risk by this reckless strategy."
PaidContent:UK editor Robert Andrews has published an analysis of how the big regional publishers suffered in 2009 in what he says became an "annus horribilis" for newspapers.
Andrews has crunched the financial figures for Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe, Newsquest, Johnston Press and Archant and estimates they cut around 5,000 jobs last year, representng a fifth of the workforce.
He writes: "Total annual revenue at just five of the UK’s leading regional newspaper groups fell from £2.05 billion to £1.54 billion through 2009, according to our calculations now that the results are in. That’s £509.7 million wiped off our local publishers during the downturn year.
"How did they respond? By removing an average 15 percent of their costs to protect profitability. The year saw £196.3 million in cuts, from the four out of five publishers which gave details (Newsquest parent Gannett didn’t give a specific number).
"Outsourcing and partnership were the trends du jour. But staff bore the brunt - most groups put a fifth of their workers on the bonfire, about 5,000."
Andrews prediction for this year is: "Publishers continue 2010 still in a cost-cutting mood, with the outlook easing and eager for new income streams. But, having knee-capped their own businesses so hard already, are they fit enough for innovating to find a cure?"
According to the Newspaper Society, Digital Economy Minister Stephen Timms (pictured) has arranged for an urgent meeting between the Society and Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton over the issue of council newspapers competing with the local press and is looking into referring the matter to the Office of Fair Trading.
The Local Government Chroniclelast week reported that “the Office of Fair Trading is poised to investigate local newspaper publishers’ claims that they endure unfair competition from council publications, many of which now carry private advertising.”
David Hepworth reveals in TheWordmagazine this week than even Andrew Marr, one of the BBC's top inquisitors-in-chief, is given a PR minder.
Hepworth writes: "When I interviewed Andrew Marr a couple of years ago, the man from the BBC press office sat in. Now seriously what, am I going to ask Andrew Marr that he couldn't possibly deal with?"
He says of showbiz PRs and their increasing demand for copy approval: "PR control reduces mystique. It acts on charisma like bromide on erectile tissue and sets up stars for an inevitable fall."
Former Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell, who set up E&P in Exile with colleague Joe Strupp after the US journalism magazine was sold to a new owner in December, has a new job.
He writes on E&P in Exile: "I was hired for a very exciting new gig last month (includes a lot of Web stuff and new twitter feed) and it will be announced in a few days, so watch this space."
As already reported Joe Strupp has joined Media Matters for America as an investigative reporter. Does this mean the end of E&P in Exile which gave the existingEditor & Publisher website a real run for its money?
Johnston Press has today reported revenues during 2009 were down 19.5% to £428 million, a reduction of £103.9 million on 2008, reflecting the continued decline in advertising revenues, particularly in the early part of the year.
Ad revenues were down by £96.4 million, 26% year-on-year. The most badly affected areas were classified ads for jobs and property. Although property did show growth in November and December, as did motoring classifieds for December.
The decline in revenues is reflected in the a 41% fall in operating profit to £71.8 million. This profit level represents an operating margin of 16.8% which the company says has largely been achieved by further substantial cost savings being made across the Group.
The pre-tax loss for the year was £113.8 million, with a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million relating to trading before nonrecurring items. Net debt at 31 December 2009 was £422.1 million, down from £477.3 million at the beginning of the year.
John Fry, chief executive said:“The year ended with the Group in a much stronger position than it began: advertising is more stable; circulation trends have improved; digital revenues are growing; our cost base has reduced significantly and we have renegotiated finance facilities for 3 years.
"We are therefore well positioned to take advantage of any upturn as it occurs. Since the successful refinancing of our debt announced at the end of August 2009 we have been trading in line with the expectations we had at the time. That being the case we have no immediate plans to raise capital”
The company says it is increasingly looking to develop collaborative ventures with partners, particularly in the digital field, and a number of projects are underway. "Users of our digital services continued to grow markedly during 2009 and the challenge for us now is to enhance the revenues from this increasing audience reach."
The company has confirmed that Freddie Johnston is to leave the board.
A new website covering the London borough of Islington has been launched by postgraduate newspaper journalism students at City University. The site - Islington Now - covers news, views, arts and sport from across the borough and also has a couple of agony aunts.
Archant London has appointed former Norwich Evening News editor Bob Crawley to a new position of editorial director in a move which the company says will "help underpin expansion plans for its portfolio of 29 weekly newspapers and around 30 local community websites."
Crawley, currently managing director of Archant Dialogue, has edited a number of weekly titles, two evening newspapers - Archant Norfolk’s Norwich Evening News and the Peterborough Evening Telegraph - and launched EDP24 and Pinkun.com.
Enzo Testa, Archant London managing director, said “We are delighted that Bob is joining the Archant London team, his wealth of experience in newspapers, magazines and digital, will underpin the expansion plans we have for London.”
Steve Dyson in his blog reviewing the regional press, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, takes a look today at the Worcester News.
He likes the bomb scare splash but makes an interesting point about pagination on local dailies which throughout any week can range from fat to thin.
He writes: "In terms of capturing casual readers, though, what a shame that this great splash came on such a skinny day for the Worcester News. At 36-pages, this was the tightest daily paper I've witnessed since a 32-pager in Hartlepool last year, and this coming on what for Worcester was 'Jobs' day (although job adverts only made up two pages).
"I got hold of the Thursday 4 March Worcester News as well, and with a 48-page 'Property' section was then treated to a total of 80-pages for the same 40p cover price.
"Massively differing paginations through the week is not a new issue, of course, but at a time when readers need little excuse to wander, it's a relevant satisfaction point for all dailies to ponder."
It is also worth reading Steve's post on the HoldtheFrontPage story about Northcliffe's changes at the Western Morning News and Western Daily Press which will see a merged content desk and the Plymouth and Bristol papers coming under one editor.
He asks: "How can one man edit two papers 133 miles apart?"
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today says of the reporting of the Jon Venables case: "The chief enemy of British freedom at present is the British press."
Jenkins criticises the tabloids and the BBC, claiming a prosecution of Venables is now near impossible.
Jenkins writes: "BBC News, now chasing ratings with tabloid fervour, covered the Venables case extensively. His crime was "almost too terrible to contemplate", it announced, before contemplating it at length. The tabloids went into full outrage mode. The Sun offered perhaps the most prejudicial front page in modern times, declaring: "On a scale of 1 to 5, Venables' child porn rated 4."
"Leading a pack that included the Mirror and Mail titles, the Sun was unfazed by an attempted government injunction of restraint. It wrote of "experts horrified" at Venables' computer material, "among the most depraved and serious anyone could possess" and involving "an element of sexual violence against children". There was no sign of Venables having done more than allegedly look at porn images."
He adds: "Cases involving children are emotional, but there is no reason for politicians and the press abetting each other to make them more so. Venables had shown remorse and is said to be a candidate for rehabilitation. He may not be entitled to the benefit of any doubt, but justice is entitled to its dignities.
Instead, Venables' prosecution has been rendered near impossible."
The NUJ has claimed Johnston Press has told journalists at its Scarborough newspaper they must move to Sheffield or lose their jobs.
The union also claims Johnston Press is creating anxiety among its workforce because of a "conspiracy of silence" over the introduction of a new ATEX content system.
NUJ northern and midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “Management is treating employees in Scarborough in this deplorable way because it clearly feels no responsibility for their welfare or proper employment.
"There has been a conspiracy of silence around the company’s plans to introduce the ATEX content management, and that conspiracy has generated real fear for the future among our members.
"They don’t know if they will have a job in a few weeks’ time; the Johnston Group is saying, in effect, that it doesn’t care about the impact of forcing an extra journey of an hour-and-a-half to work upon sub-editors being told to move from Scarborough to Sheffield. The alternative if they refuse to move is to compete for a number of lower-paid jobs."
"Our members are sick of being pulled from pillar to post. What they want to do is to produce quality newspapers by using their professional skills and experience. While all the company wants is to reduce everything to a financial equation, Johnston Press Group is putting everyone’s jobs at risk by this reckless strategy. Our members will fight to stop the company undermining its own core business.”
The Guardian is reporting tonight that the News of the World has agreed to pay more than £1m to Max Clifford to drop his legal action over the interception of his voicemail messages.
It says: "The settlement means that there will now be no disclosure of court-ordered evidence which threatened to expose the involvement of the newspaper's journalists in a range of illegal information-gathering by private investigators."
The Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the national press, is calling on the BBC Trust to undertake a Public Value Test to examine the BBC’s plans to launch a range of free mobile applications for smart phones, before the first one is launched in April.
The NPA has written to Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, and to the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson, to express the industry’s deep concern that the BBC would be allowed to launch such services without prior scrutiny.
David Newell, director of the NPA,questioned why the BBC Trust was “refusing even to examine the BBC’s plans prior to launch under the Public Value Test, when they know that the BBC will be launching such applications in direct competition with commercial operators’ paid-for or ad-funded applications for their online services?”
He wrote: “The BBC Trust’s apparent acquiescence in the BBC’s damaging expansion is even more concerning in view of the clash between the BBC’s proposals and the BBC Online Service Licence’s key characteristics and remit requirements that ‘BBC Online should, at all times, balance the potential for creating public value against the risk of negative market impact.’ ”
Two student journalists at the University of Central Lancashire are launching a hyperlocal news site in Preston later this month.
The site http://www.mypreston.com/ is the idea of Joseph Stashko (left) and Andy Halls. Andy said: “It will fill the void left by shrinking budgets and journalists with limited time. As regional news feels the pressures of the recession, gaps in local news are forming. Grassroots news is going unreported, and the accountable are being left unchallenged.
“Local newspapers have lost touch with the audience they are writing for, and we hope to re-build these bridges, reporting the news the community want, and need to know.”
The BBC’s technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones is to take up a new, temporary position as the Corporation’s digital election correspondent from tomorrow (10 March). He will be covering the the General Election before returning to his former post.
He writes on his blog: "I'm taking up a temporary position as the BBC's digital election correspondent, with the job of examining how politicians and voters are using new technology in the run-up to the general election. I will still keep an eye on the rest of the technology landscape, but the blog will gradually become infused with the political scene."
Cellan-Jones adds: "There are doubts about just how big a role social media played in the Obama campaign - good old-fashioned e-mail seems to have been the key weapon - and about whether methods which work in the United States where voters and money coalesce around invidual politicians rather than parties can translate to the UK.
"Nevertheless, I do think that new technology will mean this election will be very different from the previous one - and there will be plenty for me to get my teeth into. In 2005, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and smartphone apps either did not exist or had yet to have much effect; this time, the parties and the voters will all be working out how to use them to their advantage. The effect of technology will be felt in two areas: the organisation of the campaign and the acceleration of the news cycle."
Glad to see that a collection of the brilliant articles by former Mirror feature writer Colin Dunne for the Gentlemen Ranters website, about his adventures in journalism, is being published as a book - Man Bites Talking Dog – on April 1.
Among my favourite Dunne articles on Ranters were his tribute to the Mail's great Vincent Mulchrone and his meeting with the mysterious Eric Wainwright. Man Bites Talking Dog can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
Former Editor & Publisher staff writer and senior editor Joe Strupp has joined Media Matters for America as it first investigative reporter. He has also launched a blog called Strupp for Media Matters. Media Mattersfor America is a web-based, not-for-profit, research and information centre dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analysing, and correcting what it describes as "conservative misinformation in the U.S. media".
Strupp has been contributing to E&P in Exile, set up with former E&P editor Greg Mitchell after the magazine was taken over by a new owner in December.
Strupp has an interesting blog post yesterday on how the Pentagon says the Oscar-winning success of "The Hurt Locker," was a testament to the positive aspects of embedding journalists. The film's award for best original screenplay went to Mark Boal -- a reporter who was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq in 2004.
A comment worthy of Grey Cardigan has been posted on HoldtheFrontPageunder the story about Northcliffe shaking up production of its newspapers in the South West, with centralised subbing and merging content desks, which could cost 30 jobs. Wageslave posts: "It's symptomatic of how out of touch management are that on a website read almost entirely by journalists (most of them in this case their own employees) they still feel it's appropriate to attempt to mask the reasons for their decisions, which are well known to us all, under this veneer of glib PR b*ll*cks which most of us have spent our professional lives decoding. Give us some credit; some of us have probably been in the business longer than you have. Spin doesn't beguile us; it makes us even more suspicious. We're trained to spot the real story under the layers of self-serving dross; it's called being a journalist."
HoldtheFrontPage reports today that two of Northcliffe's dailies, the Western Morning News in Plymouth and the Western Daily Press in Bristol, are to merge their content desks and come under a single editor-in-chief as part of a wide-ranging shake-up which puts more than 30 jobs at risk. Morning News editor Alan Qualtrough is to take over as editor-in-chief of the two titles, while Daily Press editor Andy Wright is to retire. HTFP says: "The changes, which were announced to staff this afternoon, are part of a major restructuring of publisher Northcliffe's South West operation which will also see the creation of a centralised subbing hub in Plymouth.
"The new hub will be responsible for production of The Herald, Plymouth, the Herald Express, Torquay, and the Express and Echo, Exeter, with more than 20 sub-editing posts in Torquay and Exeter potentially at risk.
"However production of the Morning News itself will move to the existing subbing hub at Bristol, with content management for the Daily Press moving in the opposite direction to Plymouth. Also at risk are around 11 posts in Bristol, including three sports subs, two reporters and some specialist digital staff.
"Although the two titles will retain separate reporting teams, they will also undergo a redesign which will give them a similar look and feel."
It was announced last week that this year's Regional Press Awards were not going ahead. Now chairman of the judges Peter Sands, former editor of the Northern Echo, has made a plea for the awards not to be canned for good.
Writing on his blog, Peter says: "The great and the good of national newspaper journalism will be applauded at a glitzy dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel later this month. It will be a celebration of a vintage year for British journalism. But for their regional cousins there will not even be a beer and bowl of peanuts in the backroom of the Cheshire Cheese. After 22 years the Regional Press Awards have been "rested" - a decision that indicates the gulf that appears to be growing between national and regional papers."
He adds: "I had been optimistic that the awards would go ahead. The early signs were good with one of the big groups, who had not entered last year, saying that things had eased up and they would be back in the fold. But last week others said that, given the economic circumstances, their papers would not be taking part. Their absence would have made the awards a nonsense, so organisers Wilmington had no choice but to call the whole thing off.
"I am sure I am not alone in being saddened by the decision. For the last four years I have been chairman of the judges in the awards. Fifty independent judges, me included, give their services for no reward other than knowing they are supporting the industry they have grown up in.
"Editors support the awards too. But when you are cutting staff, how can you justify sipping over-priced champagne in a swanky London hotel? It seems the combined cost of a £35 entry fee and a £130 ticket to the event were just too prohibitive.
"I know that some newspaper managements also believe the awards are a distraction, a bit of irrelevant back-slapping and that they have no tangible benefits. I don't agree. The regional Press has now become the only branch of the media not to have its own national awards. Ask those in film, television, magazines, national newspapers or any other creative industry if they feel their awards are an irrelevance. Apart from anything else the awards send out a message, both internally and externally, of an industry confident in itself. Their cancellation has already allowed commentators to refer to "a sad reflection of the parlous state of the sector" and to observe that the decision should "restore some gloom".
"If the regional press doesn't celebrate the excellence that runs through its newspapers, applaud the journalists who go that extra yard every day, recognise the editors who invest in off-diary work and innovation … then who will? I am particularly uncomfortable with the suggestion that we just applaud excellence during the good times. Those who work hard to maintain standards when the going gets tough deserve to be honoured.
"So what next? Maybe the answer is to scale the event down, hold it online, combine the regional and national awards (as they used to be) or something else altogether. What must not happen is for them to disappear altogether. There will now be discussions on what can be done to ensure that the awards are resurrected next year. If you have any suggestions let me have them and I will ensure they get heard."
As part of the BBC's SuperPower season - its new special series on the internet which starts today - BBC News online is linking up with Global Voices, a non-profit blogging network of citizen journalists, to add commentary to news stories from around the world.
Steve Hermann, editor of the BBC News website, says on the BBC Editors' Blog: "We think Global Voices, which specialises in giving individuals the tools and support to comment and report on the issues that matter to them, could add an interesting extra dimension to some of our news coverage.
"So over the next two weeks we'll be selecting from, and linking to, relevant posts from Global Voices' network of 200 bloggers and citizen journalists and we'll also be asking Global Voices editors to give their views on how the mainstream media handle the news."
Ivan Sigal, Global Voices' executive director, is quoted as saying: "The idea that citizen journalism is somehow opposed to or in conflict with traditional journalism is now clearly past; it's evident that both exist in symbotic relationship to one another, with many opportunities to collaborate on the creation of news, storytelling and distribution of content."
On the Global Voices site he says: "This past year has been particularly eye-opening in terms of the increasing interplay between mainstream media and citizen journalism. Events in Mumbai, Moldova, Iran, Haiti, and now Chile are but a few examples in which the world has been eager to make immediate and direct contact with citizens in crisis in local contexts. These citizens may have had blogs, Twitter accounts, and cell phones for years, but only in the last year has the mainstream media adopted the narrative of citizen media as an integrated element in their news reporting."
Global Voices was founded in 2005 by former CNN Beijing and Tokyo bureau chief, Rebecca MacKinnon and technologist and Africa expert, Ethan Zuckerman while they were both fellows at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The idea for the project grew out of an international bloggers’ meeting held at Harvard in December 2004. It began as a simple blog but has expanded rapidly due to patronage from Reuters and other supporters.
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