Monday, 27 June 2011

Where's Jon gone?

I'm in Crete at a big fat Greek wedding. Back July 6.

Send up the clowns - Newsquest on strike

NUJ members at Newsquest South London began their second strike over redundancies today dressed as clowns.

According to the union, the strikers "wanted to mirror the image of those making decisions" such as axing the whole sports and leisure department of eight journalists and making one commercial features writer redundant. The sports editor and one sports sub editor have already been made redundant.

The NUJ says for the first time, senior management has agreed to negotiate with the chapel and talks will take place on Monday 27 June.

The titles involved in the dispute are the Epsom Guardian, Elmbridge Guardian, Croydon Guardian, Sutton Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Streatham Guardian, Wimbledon Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian, Surrey Comet and Richmond & Twickenham Times.


Newsquest journalists in South London called off their four-day strike after negotiating an agreement to resolve the dispute over redundancies.

NUJ chapel members voted to accept an agreement to replace vacancies occurring over the next six months and to retain two extra editorial positions. The 33 Newsquest journalists had opposed management plans which included axing the whole sports and leisure department (eight journalists) and making one commercial features writer redundant. Staff returned to work at Newsquest offices in Sutton and Twickenham on Wednesday (June 29), ending a work to rule and calling off the last two days of a four-day strike, following negotiations which began last Monday.

NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said: “The outcome of this dispute shows the need for management to work together with the NUJ to tackle the problems of the newspaper industry.

“This is the first NUJ dispute with Newsquest in which the group’s management has been willing to sit round the table with the union to reach agreement. That reflects the impressive achievement of our NUJ chapel in recruiting so many journalists into the union, and then negotiating a settlement from a position of strength.

“NUJ members at Newsquest in South London deserve our highest praise for their determination to see this dispute through to a satisfactory conclusion.The NUJ is committed to the survival of local newspapers, but we need the co-operation of managements across the industry to ensure that."

There was a time when it was Gove on strike

Education Secretary Michael Gove is reported today to be "turning up the heat" on teachers over their planned strike on Thursday by saying they will lose the respect of parents.

These was a time Gove was quite happy to man a picket line when he was a journalist and NUJ member working for the Aberdeen Press & Journal in the 1980s, as the above picture by Donald Stewart, published by the People in March last year, shows.

How the media has to cover defence claims in court cases that add to the pain of murder victims families

Torture is how the Sun sums up what the family of Millie Dowler were put through during the trial of Levi Bellfield.

The story is aimed at the treatment of the family by defence lawyers but the media also adds to the pain of families of murder victims by, in the interests of balance, having to cover defence cases which try to blacken the name of those who have been murdered.

I covered murder cases when I worked for a news agency and an evening paper. I remember two cases involving the murders of a 12-year-old boy and a teenage girl who were both sexually attacked.

The defence put forward claims that the victims had agreed to sex and were murdered by other people. It was the only possible defence because there was strong forensic evidence linking the accused to the sex attacks on the murder victims.

It led to lurid headlines saying the girl or boy had "agreed to sex". It has always troubled me that the newspaper reports based on the spurious defence claims added to the distress of the families of the murdered children.

In both cases, police said afterwards that there was not a shred of evidence to back up the claims put forward by the defence.

It's not the media's fault. Journalists are taught court reports are privileged only if you give a balanced report of a court case. But it doesn't make it right.

Friday, 24 June 2011

UN secretary-general in press freedom pledge

Press freedom, particularly free expression online, will be a priority for newly re-elected U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, he has pledged in a meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

The heads of both organisations said they were encouraged by statements made by the secretary-general in support of press freedom during the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The uprisings in the Middle East have demonstrated that people all over the world are hungry for information and cherish their ability to communicate with one another," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon. "This is a basic human aspiration grounded in international law."

The organisations asked Ban, who at the beginning of his first term pledged to support journalists working in dangerous conditions, to use his new mandate to expand support for press freedom everywhere. Ban assured the delegation that addressing individual cases of press violations is a priority.

"The Internet, as a space for the free flow of information and ideas, is inextricably linked to free speech and the development of our societies," said Simon. "U.N. member states have a responsibility to their citizens to keep it free."

In 2010, more than half of imprisoned journalists were working online, according to CPJ statistics. The delegation asked the secretary-general to build on his message issued on World Press Freedom Day in May by addressing cyber-attacks, censorship laws, and restriction of the Internet through regulation or the use of state power.

"We urged the secretary-general to strongly defend the journalists and bloggers currently detained or harassed in countries such as Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard. "We asked him to do whatever he can to stop the repression and protect all those who want to use their right of free expression. We raised the crucial need to protect free speech online, reminding him that one Internet user out of three in the world does not have access to a free Web."

CPJ and RWB welcomed the appointment of a special rapporteur for human rights in Iran and asked for the secretary-general’s assistance in the case of two French journalists who were kidnapped over a year ago in Afghanistan.

'Paywalls don't work' Guardian chief tells FT

Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller tells the Financial Times today that paywalls don't work because “by closing audiences down you close down digital opportunities”.

The interview is headlined: 'GMG chief sees years of upheaval' and Miller says: “Change is with us for many, many years to come.”

Miller also tells the FT the Saturday edition of the Guardian and The Observer will be looked at “over the coming months”. Editorial managers are to reduce the number of pages, he says. “There are savings we can make from that and they are reasonably significant.”

Miller says he sees no let-up in the structural decline in print. “There is no plan to exit papers in five years but market conditions could change that,” he says.

The FT has a partial paywall.

Pic: Jon Slattery

My Mum and the Guardian's 'digital-first' strategy

I've written an article for TheMediaBriefing today about my 89-year-old Mum and the Guardian's "digital-first" strategy, which you can read here.

Quotes of the Week: From a J.Lo celebrity face-fart to a South Yorkshire newspaper editor with balls

Camilla Long on interviewing Jennifer Lopez in the Sunday Times Culture section and defying her PR police by asking about an alleged sex tape: "I leave the suite alone, after 11 minutes of pure celebrity face-fart. Astonishingly, I can’t tell if J.Lo is angry, but later the publicity team try repeatedly to get me to confirm that I will not be using the final question. Sadly for them, a blank sex tape is too fitting a metaphor."

AA Gill in the Sunday Times reviews Channel 4's Sri Lanka's Killing Fields documentary, presented by Jon Snow: "What was depressing about this particularly bloody special was not just that it had precious little context or considered thought, but that the people who will suffer most from it are not governments or soldiers, but the victims of this brutal war, who deserve a more measured professionalism and due diligence, and who deserve better than this compilation of gore, topped and tailed by a man in a comedy tie."

Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent: "Reports based on privacy invasion are lazy journalism. If the playing field were raised so that none of the papers was allowed to depend on intrusion, they would have to compete instead by telling the real news in an entertaining way and campaigning on behalf of their readers. That's how papers used to thrive. There's no reason why they shouldn't do so again."

R S Foster in a letter to the Independent: "Could I suggest that if Mary Ann Sieghart and her high-minded broadsheet colleagues are serious about restraining the muck-raking vermin who infest the tabloids, they do so by using the many discreditable facts they no doubt know about the vermin to produce a weekly page about their repulsive personal behaviour and private misdeeds? I believe this would have far more impact than any number of high-minded columns and editorials, might sell more papers, and would certainly provide much amusement to the rest of us."

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley on the photographer shot while covering riots in east Belfast: “Niall Carson was injured while doing his job. It is vital that journalists should be allowed to carry out their duties without fear of attack from any quarter. This incident is part of a sinister assault on the people of Northern Ireland."

Lorna Tilbian, media analyst at Numis, in the Telegraph: "The Guardian is being artificially propped up by Auto Trader and they will have to change things because a good, vibrant business shouldn't need to reinvest every penny it generates. The problem they've got is that they're never going to get back the revenue they've lost from public sector advertising, circulation is on a long downward slope and they are giving away their digital content. I think they will have to start charging for their online content if they are to improve their finances."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on Radio 4's The Media Show on job cuts: "We will need to lose significant numbers but we don't need to do it tomorrow. We can do it over the next couple of years and have a civilised conversation about that."

Blogger Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) on being asked to addresss a group of Chinese communists:
"Almost as bad as a Goldsmith’s Media Studies audience, but not as left-wing."

Sun managing editor Graham Dudman, as reported by Press Gazette, telling journalism students: “You cannot be a reporter without shorthand ─ end of. It’s like being a footballer without football boots.”

The Independent's owner Alexander Lebedev tells the Guardian why more air passengers pick up the Daily Mail than the Indy: "The Daily Mail is more entertaining… But my opinion is as a reader and not as a proprietor."

South Yorkshire Times editor Jim Oldfield on running a story about proposed job cuts, including his own, on the front page of his paper: "The Times is currently fighting a brave and protracted battle to keep its core towns from decimation during this recession, I make no apology for acquainting our readers with the changes being proposed for their champion title."

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Editor puts paper's NUJ strike story on front page

The NUJ today congratulated the editor of the South Yorkshire Times for putting details of a potential journalists' strike against editorial job cuts at the Johnston Press-owned paper on the front page of the newspaper this week.

It follows the Johnston Press move to make half of the paper's editorial staff in Mexborough redundant. The editor, the editorial assistant and a reporter, out of a staff of six, are facing losing their jobs.

NUJ members at South Yorkshire Newspapers have already voted unanimously to ballot for strike action over the proposed redundancies.

South Yorkshire Times editor Jim Oldfield said: "This is real journalism in action. The Times is currently fighting a brave and protracted battle to keep its core towns from decimation during this recession, I make no apology for acquainting our readers with the changes being proposed for their champion title.

"I am pleased that the company appear to have had an adult reaction to the story."

NUJ Northern and Midlands regional organiser Chris Morley said: “So often news about local job cuts and industrial action are given prominence in local and regional newspapers – except when those newspapers are the subject for these.

“It is time editors stopped self-censoring their newspapers for fear of displeasing the corporate owners who are robbing them of the editorial resources to produce their own newspaper and website. I congratulate the editor of the South Yorkshire Times for being prepared to carry out his duty to the community his newspaper serves. It is important readers know the facts about the cuts and that Johnston Press hear from the staff and communities affected by the their cuts."

NUJ general secretary-elect Michelle Stanistreet said: "This is a great example of our members standing up for quality journalism and we hope other editors will follow the example set by the South Yorkshire Times."
  • Click on 'Strike looms' story to make it bigger if you can't read it. In a statement, carried inside the South Yorkshire Times, a JP spokesman said the company is planning a new multimedia editorial hub in Doncaster and the new plans "will allow the South Yorkshire Times and its sister titles to meet the challenges faced by newspapers in today's very tough economic marketplace."

Guardian's 'editorial cake' will not be sliced up

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has denied on Twitter that the paper's "digital-first" strategy will lead directly to job cuts.

Instead, he says the size of the Guardian's "editorial cake" will remain the same, but the money will be used in different ways.

Earlier he tweeted: "In Moscow, just caught up w Twitter. It's not t 'digital-first' bit tt leads 2 job cuts. Actually hiring 2 do tt. It's t broken old model."

Interviewed by Steve Hewlett on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show yesterday, Rusbridger said the paper needed to recruit more multi-media developers: "We need to get more developers in with digital skills and we are losing money so we will need to reduce the cost base. Yes, we will need to lose some people and will try to do it in a voluntary way."

Pressed by Hewlett on the scale of the job losses, he added: "We will need to lose significant numbers but we don't need to do it tomorrow. We can do it over the next couple of years and have a civilised conversation about that."

Journalist tells Indy he quit Reuters to publish story on Thailand based on WikiLeaks cables

Journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall writes in the Independent today how he has given up the job he loved with Reuters to publish a report on the Thai monarchy based on US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

MacGregor Marshall, who was Reuters deputy bureau chief in Thailand, says the story has "already cost me a job I loved with Reuters, after a 17 year career," will mean he is unable to return to Thailand for many years and puts him at risk of international legal action.

He writes: "Thailand claims to be a democracy, and it is holding general elections on 3 July. It claims to be a constitutional monarchy, where the widely beloved 83-year-old King Bhumibol has no political role but provides moral guidance.

"There is no doubting the affection and respect that Thais have for their king. But Thailand's tragedy is that throughout its modern history, generals and courtiers have sabotaged Thai democracy while claiming to be acting in the name of the palace.

"Thailand is sliding backwards into authoritarianism and repression. And one stark indication of this is that just saying it is illegal.

"Thailand has the world's harshest lèse majesté law. Any insult to Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit or their son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is punishable by three to 15 years in jail. Use of the law has surged, particularly since a coup in 2006. Respected academics and journalists are among those facing prison."

MacGregor Marshall says that three months ago as he read the diplomatic cables on Thailand, part of the "Cablegate" data obtained by WikiLeaks, he realised they could revolutionise the understanding of Thailand but there was no way he could write about them as a Reuters journalist.

He adds: "Reuters employs more than 1,000 Thai staff. The risks to them were significant. In my 17 years at Reuters I've covered many conflicts; I spent two years as Baghdad bureau chief as Iraq collapsed into civil war. Several friends in the company have been killed. I've always been proud to work for Reuters. When I was told my story could never be published, I understood.

"But I just could not accept giving up and ignoring the truth about Thailand. Thai people deserve the right to be fully informed, to debate their future without fear. With great regret, I resigned from Reuters at the start of June to publish my article for anybody who wants to read it.

"Today, I have done that. I am now a criminal in Thailand. It is desperately sad to know that I cannot visit such a wonderful country again. But it would have been sadder still to have had the chance to tell the truth, and fail to do so. It's my duty as a journalist, and a human being, to do better than that. That's why I published my story."

Reuters said in a statement published in the Independent: "Reuters didn't publish this story as we didn't think it worked in the format in which it was delivered. We had questions regarding length, sourcing, objectivity, and legal issues. Also, we were concerned the writer wasn't participating in the normal editing process that would apply to any story Reuters publishes."

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Data site ScraperWiki awarded $280,000 funding

ScraperWiki, the UK start-up data mining site, has been awarded $280,000 in the Knight News Challenge to develop its platform and services for journalists.

ScraperWiki said it will use the Knight Foundation funding to expand to the United States, improve the platform's functionality and make ScraperWiki more useful to journalists around the world.

CEO Francis Irving said: "ScraperWiki is a place for doing data journalism. What matters is the people who use it. We've found activist coders itching to find stories. We've found journalists who know that data is a new source, and want better ways to access it.

"I'm excited that the Knight Foundation is funding us to both make better tools for that community, and to run events to find the people who care across the US. The world is increasingly complex and its future tipped on a balance more than ever. Together we can sift the data, and perhaps help tip it the right way."

North London Tindle dispute over staffing resolved

The NUJ members who have been in dispute with Sir Ray Tindle's North London & Herts Newspapers over low staffing levels have called off their second strike following what they say are concessions from management.

The NUJ said that following a successful day of negotiations Tindle has agreed to reverse its policy of non-replacement agreeing to a six month moratorium on present staffing levels, guaranteeing that if anyone in editorial leaves over this period they will be replaced.

The company, according to the union, have also agreed an extra reporter to work for half the week to help out with the current workload. The situation after six months will then be reviewed.

Redundancy consultation notices issued to staff on the eve of their first walk out have been withdrawn.

Jonathan Lovett FoC at North London & Herts Newspapers ( top left) said: "It has been a long, hard struggle but we are satisfied with the result and now look forward to working together with Tindle to ensure our papers are returned to the quality publications which our readers deserve. We have many ideas for the future of our papers and we look forward to sharing them with the Tindle management across the table."

Enfield hosts the launch of a national, NUJ campaign on Monday, July 4 to save local newspapers. It starts at 6.30pm at The Dugdale Centre in Thomas Hardy House, 39 London Road, Enfield, EN2 6DS.

Pic: Jon Slattery

Guardian will be making 'significant' job cuts

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has confirmed that the paper will be making "significant" job cuts.

He told Steve Hewlett on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show today: "We need to get more developers in with digital skills and we are losing money so we will need to reduce the cost base. Yes, we will need to lose some people and will try to do it in a voluntary way."

Asked by Hewlett what scale the job losses would be?, Rusbridger replied: "We will need to lose significant numbers but we don't need to do it tomorrow. We can do it over the next couple of years and have a civilised conversation about that."

Philippines 'massacre' trial will go live online

The trial of members of a Philippines clan accused of carrying out the massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists and media workers, in Maguindanao province in November 2009 is to be broadcast live online, reports BBC News.

The webcast from Manila will be posted on the Supreme Court's website with a test broadcast due to start next week.

The trial is already being shown live on TV, but it is the first time the Philippines has allowed online viewing. In a statement, the court said the trial would now be "accessible to viewers worldwide, continuously and without interruption".

According to the BBC, "Correspondents say the high-profile trial is being seen as a test of the Philippines' justice system, where critics complain of a culture of impunity for people with political connections".

FO headline competition: Spot the difference

A bit of a U-turn on the Foreign Office website led to a quick re-write of its first headline (top) on the story about extra cash for BBC World Service.

BBC World Service to get extra funding from Foreign Office in response to Arab uprisings

The Foreign Office is to provide additional funding for the BBC World Service, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today in a written statement.

Hague said: "In line with the Government’s response to events in the Middle East and North Africa and following the debate on 19 May, the FCO will provide some additional funding for the BBC World Service beyond that provided for in the 2010 Spending Review."

He added: "We recognise that the world has changed since the settlement was announced in October last year - indeed since the World Service announced the subsequent changes to services, including some closures, on 26 January.

"In the debate on 19 May, a number of Members of Parliament highlighted the impact of the reduction in World Service funding on the BBC Arabic Service. It is right that we should look at ways in which we can assist the BBC Arabic Service to continue their valuable work in the region. So I have agreed that we will provide additional funding of £2.2m per annum to enable the World Service to maintain the current level of investment in the BBC Arabic Service. This will increase the World Service’s funding as a proportion of the FCO’s budget to just over 14.5%.

"In addition the FCO is discussing providing funding from the Arab Partnership Initiative for specific projects proposed by the BBC Arabic Service or World Service Trust. Discussions are continuing about a number of projects which are designed to support the development of the media and wider civic society in the Middle East and North Africa region which taken together may mean an additional investment of up to £1.65m over the next two years."

Hague said: "I have discussed this overall approach with the Chairman of the BBC Trust and we have agreed that we will continue to work together to ensure that the World Service retains its global influence and reach in a rapidly changing world."

  • Pic: NUJ 'Save the World Service' demo outside Bush House (Jon Slattery)

PA photographer shot covering east Belfast riots

A Press Association photographer was injured in a shooting as rioting erupted for a second night in east Belfast, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

It says: "Three shots were fired during the disturbances around the Short Strand area of east Belfast, which has seen its most serious rioting for several years.

"The Press Association photographer, who was covering the violence, suffered an injury to the leg and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was said to be in a stable condition."

The Times has named the shot photographer as Niall Carson.

BBC Northern Ireland quotes another photographer who was with other media on the Lower Newtownards Road when the shooting happened.

He said: "I looked back and there was somebody peering over the wall and he shot about five or six rounds," he said. "We were all just running. The next thing I know a colleague of mine, he yells, 'I've been shot, I've been shot', and I looked back and his leg on the bottom part, I don't know if he was grazed, or if the bullet went in or what, but I looked at his trousers and his trousers were all stained. It was wet, it was obviously blood."

The BBC says police appealed for all media to stay out of east Belfast "for their own safety".

Update: The NUJ has strongly condemned the shooting of Niall Carson, who is a member of the union.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said the shooting represents an attack on the media in Northern Ireland and was “an extremely worrying development”. He added: “Niall Carson was injured while doing his job. It is vital that journalists should be allowed to carry out their duties without fear of attack from any quarter. This incident is part of a sinister assault on the people of Northern Ireland. The riots of the past two days represent a wider attack on the community, who have a right to live in peace. Our thoughts are with all those who have suffered as a result of the riots over the past 48 hours”.

NUJ general secretary-elect Michelle Stanistreet said: "This shooting is a sharp reminder of the dangers faced by media workers in conflict situations. Journalists and their employers must be mindful of the safety implications of covering conflict situations, while there is also a responsibility on the police to ensure that the media are allowed to carry out their duties in the public interest”.

  • Sky News reports police in Northern Ireland have blamed dissident republicans for the gunfire during the rioting.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Gannett announces 700 newspaper redundancies

Gannett, the US parent company of Newsquest in the UK, has announced 700 newspaper redundancies.

The Gannett Blog has published a memo from U.S. newspapers division President Bob Dickey distributed to more than 20,000 employees at virtually all Gannett's 82 U.S. newspapers.

It reads:


June 21, 2011
To: All US Community Publishing employees
From: Bob Dickey

As we reach the mid-point of the year, the economic recovery is not happening as quickly or favorably as we had hoped and continues to impact our U.S. community media organizations. We have made continued progress on the many initiatives underway to seek new sources of revenue, build a world class sales force and better serve our customers through watchdog reporting and stronger Sunday newspapers. While we are seeing improved circulation results and audience growth, weakness in the real estate sector, slow job creation and now softer auto ad demand continue to challenge revenue growth in the division.

National advertising remains soft and with many of our local advertisers reducing their overall budgets, we need to take further steps to align our costs with the current revenue trends. Each of our local media organizations faces its own market conditions, challenges and opportunities. Therefore, it has been up to each local publisher to determine his or her unique course of action.

While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs. Accordingly, approximately 700 employees within USCP, or about 2% of our company’s overall workforce, will be let go. Publishers will notify people today and we will make every effort to reach everyone by end of day. It is important to note that these decisions do not reflect individual performance and we thank and respect those employees for their work. We will do everything we can to help them and to minimize the impact on our other employees going forward. In an effort to reduce the number of people being let go, there will be furloughs in the coming months but they will be limited only to those on the USCP corporate payroll who make over a certain salary. You will be notified by your publisher if you are among this group.

These have been extremely difficult and painful decisions to make. I know the impact is felt by everyone within USCP and companywide.

I appreciate and thank you for all that you do to create and deliver award-winning journalism to our customers and communities every day. Even under these challenging circumstances, I know you will continue to do so and your efforts are greatly appreciated by our customers and colleagues within Gannett.

As always, please feel free to email me directly at with any questions you may have.



According to the Gannett Blog: "Today's disclosure of 700 newspaper layoffs is the single largest round since July 2009, when the U.S. newspaper division eliminated about 1,400 jobs, mostly through layoffs. This is the fourth mass layoff since August 2008."

Royal Ascot favourite not Giggs on UK newslist

Don't tell the Daily Star but Ryan Giggs does not feature as one of the most covered stories on the UK newslist for the week ending Sunday, June 19, according to journalisted.

Royal Ascot, the big annual race meeting, plus a drunken brawl topped the list with 303 articles; Greece's financial crisis, with anti-austerity riots in Athens and Prime Minister George Papandreou offering to step down or form a unity government, 158 articles; Andy Murray wins the AEGON tournament at Queen's tennis club, the week before Wimbledon, 141 articles; the row over public sector pensions, with Danny Alexander announcing a rise in retirement age to 66 and quarter of a million workers threatening strike action, 119 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted were North Sudan dropping bombs along its border with South Sudan, with local rights groups reporting up to 65 deaths, 9 articles; Lebanon annouces its new Hezbollah-dominated cabinet, headed by PM Mikati, after 5 months without a functioning government, 5 articles; the Centre for Social Justice reports at least 6,000 women are believed to have been trafficked into the UK last year, 3 articles; hate mail received by several UK Mosques, containing an unknown powder initially feared to be anthrax, later discovered to be harmless, 1 article.

South Yorkshire journalists to ballot on action

Nearly twenty journalists at the Johnston Press-owned South Yorkshire Newspapers are to ballot on industrial action over 18 threatened redundancies after members of the NUJ chapel voted no confidence in their management.

The NUJ claims the redundancies would cause particular damage to the weekly South Yorkshire Times title at its office in Mexborough.

NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: "Management’s proposals show how flimsy are the Johnston Press claims to believe in local journalism to serve the communities where its newspapers circulate.

"The company has chosen to attack the editorial department of one of the best performing titles for circulation in its stable. The South Yorkshire Times has fought hard for its reputation as a campaigning newspaper that digs out stories people want to read but this seems to cut no ice with the corporate bean counters.

"Our members are in no mood to accept these wholesale cuts which merely undermine the jobs that remain for the future. It is a disastrous blend of hopelessness and defeatism and shows that Johnston Press has no idea or strategy to grow the business or defend its staff and customers with a positive strategy.”

How the Independent could invade the privacy of muck-raking tabloid rats - and sell more papers

An Independent reader has come with a novel way to boost the newspaper's sales, after reading Mary Ann Sieghart's article yesterday on how the muck-rakers in the tabloid press should be stopped.

R S Foster from Sheffield, in a letter published by the Indy today, says:

"Could I suggest that if Mary Ann Sieghart and her high-minded broadsheet colleagues are serious about restraining the muck-raking vermin who infest the tabloids (Opinion, 20 June), they do so by using the many discreditable facts they no doubt know about the vermin to produce a weekly page about their repulsive personal behaviour and private misdeeds?

"I believe this would have far more impact than any number of high-minded columns and editorials, might sell more papers, and would certainly provide much amusement to the rest of us."

U-Turn on sentencing: It was the Sun wot won it

The Sun claims victory today after it emerged that David Cameron has forced Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to scrap plans for 50% sentence discounts for early guilty pleas.

The Sun says: "The climbdown is a victory for The Sun's crusade against soft justice. Mr Clarke's humiliation means that in the nick of time thousands of criminals can now forget about serving only half their sentences just for owning up. And it marks a fresh victory for The Sun and our army of outraged readers. "

In May, the Sun admitted a first by agreeing with Labour leader Ed Miliband - that Clarke should be sacked for his comments on rape sentencing.

The Sun said in a leader, headlined 'Ken Must Go': "WELL done, Ed Miliband. Did The Sun really say that? Yes, we did. The Labour leader is quite right to demand that David Cameron sack Ken Clarke for his outrageous, offensive and prehistoric views on rape."

Monday, 20 June 2011

Newsquest South London journalists to strike again

Newsquest journalists in South London are to strike again next week in their continuing dispute over redundancies and in support of quality local journalism.

The strike begins on Monday June 27 and is due to end at midnight on Thursday June 30.

NUJ negotiator Jenny Lennox said: “We’ve had a very successful two-day strike last week, and it is worth noting that a dozen journalists have joined the union since dispute began. This reflects the deep anger which of journalists employed by Newsquest at their bosses’ determination to avoid consulting with staff on the future of their papers.”

The NUJ strikers had previously adopted a unanimous vote of no confidence in their top management after a company decision to make an unspecified number of editorial staff redundant.

NUJ general secretary-elect Michelle Stanistreet said: "Newsquest journalists are fighting for their communities and their jobs. It is time that Newsquest got the message that readers need their newspapers and the NUJ defends members and the quality journalism they provide."

Newsquest London has announced job cuts at the Croydon Guardian, Elmbridge Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Streatham Guardian, Surrey Comet, Sutton Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian and Wimbledon Guardian.

Tobias Grubbe opts for a 'paper-first' strategy

Gentleman journalist Tobias Grubbe , the creation of Michael Cross and Matthew Buck, opts for a paper-first strategy in his latest adventure at today despite its impact on the future employment prospects for town criers.

New company offers media speedy libel solutions

Early Resolution, a new not-for-profit company which aims to provide quick and cheap solutions to libel actions, is launched today.

Behind Early Resolution is Alastair Brett, former legal manager of The Times and Sunday Times, and retired High Court judge Sir Charles Gray.

The scheme offers a voluntary binding arbitration process for parties to libel disputes, enabling them to resolve key issues quickly and confidentially, avoiding the cost and delay of High Court proceedings.

Brett writing in MediaGuardian today looks at a scenario where a regional paper is threatened with a legal action following a investigation into a local mosque.

He says Early Resolution would try to bring the parties in a libel action together to work out key issues such as "meaning" or "identity" or whether the words complained of are a matter of honest comment or statement of fact.

Brett addss the Early Resolution scheme could cost a paper about £2,500 but "it may avoid the cost of a high court claim form (around £1,500), the cost of drafting a defence (another £2,000), and what might be endless, hugely expensive applications to the high court (never under £10,000-£15,000) over the Particulars of Justification. What is more, if the action went to a full jury trial it could cost the newspaper hundreds of thousands, if not a million, pounds."

He has told the Law Society Gazette: "The Draft Defamation Bill fails to include procedural reforms to force parties to resolve key issues at the start of a libel action.

"However, our voluntary scheme will at least go some way to speeding up dispute resolution and avoiding the crippling bills that High Court procedures currently entail."

The process is intended to take no more than 28 days from the date on which both sides sign an arbitration agreement.

  • The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom has suggested Libel Tribunals should be established to arbitrate in defamation cases.

CPJ: Iran and Cuba force journalists into exile

Nearly 70 journalists were forced into exile over the past 12 months, with more than half coming from Iran and Cuba, a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found.

CPJ says Iran has waged a two-year-long crackdown on the independent press, and Cuba has freed journalists from prison only to force them to leave their homeland. Each country sent 18 journalists into exile.

Imprisonment, or the threat being jailed, was the leading cause of journalists leaving their home countries during the period examined by CPJ—June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2011—accounting for 82 percent of cases.

Another 15 percent fled following physical attacks or threats of violence. Prolonged harassment such as frequent interrogations or surveillance drove 3 percent of journalists in the survey to leave their countries. At least 649 journalists facing violence, imprisonment, and harassment have gone into exile worldwide since 2001, when CPJ launched its journalist assistance program and began keeping detailed exile records. The large majority, about 91 percent, have not been able to return home.

Five countries—Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Iraq and Zimbabwe—account for nearly half the total number of journalists driven out of their countries over the past decade.

CPJ's survey is based solely on cases it has documented, from which it derives global trends. Other groups using different criteria cite higher numbers of journalists in exile.

For hundreds of journalists, legal hurdles, language differences, and the challenges of finding work in a new country can be professionally devastating, says the CPJ. It's long-term research shows that only about 22 percent of journalists who have remained in exile are engaged in media-related work today; a total of 461 journalists have had to look for work outside their profession.

  • CPJ is releasing its annual survey of journalists in exile to mark World Refugee Day.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

'Guardian will have to start charging for online content,' claims media analyst Lorna Tilbian

The Guardian is in a "financial mess" the Daily Telegraph tells its readers today in a hostile review of the newspaper's finances.

The Telegraph quotes Lorna Tilbian, a media analyst at Numis, saying: "The Guardian is being artificially propped up by Auto Trader and they will have to change things because a good, vibrant business shouldn't need to reinvest every penny it generates.

"The problem they've got is that they're never going to get back the revenue they've lost from public sector advertising, circulation is on a long downward slope and they are giving away their digital content.

"I think they will have to start charging for their online content if they are to improve their finances."

Headlined 'Riches to rags as Guardian bleeds £33m in a year', the Telegraph article does slip in some praise for Andrew Miller, the chief executive of GNM's parent company, Guardian Media Group.

It says: "Staff at the newspapers are putting their faith in the fact that as chief financial officer of Trader Media Group he [Miller] spearheaded Auto Trader's transformation from a successful magazine to an equally successful – and profitable – website.

"He has recognised that there needs to be clearer leadership and a clear sense of direction for the company, and he has got a plan," said one insider. "There is a lot more confidence than there was this time last year, before he took over."

The Telegraph concludes: "Even if Mr Miller manages to double digital revenue, however – and it is a big if – he still wants the print editions to save £25m over the next five years to generate money for investment in online content.

"Unless they can do so, the future of The Guardian and The Observer, in hard copy at least, will remain uncertain."

Friday, 17 June 2011

Property Week: What a banker of a headline!

More jobs to go at Johnston Press in the North

Journalists at Johnston Press centres in South Yorkshire and Humberside face more job cuts under plans unveiled to staff today, says the NUJ.

The cuts, part of 18 redundancies sought across South Yorkshire Newspapers, would have most impact on the weekly South Yorkshire Times, according to the union.

The NUJ says the proposals include closure of the Goole Courier's office and the reduction of the editor's role at both Goole and Mexborough leaving a single editor based at the Selby Times' office to manage all three titles.

In addition,a reporter's role at Mexborough as well as an editorial assistant's post would be cut. Journalists working at the Doncaster centre for the sister Sheffield Star title are also being told that they will now report to the Doncaster editor-in-chief, as well as Sheffield editorial management.

The NUJ added that the company has blamed the cut-backs, which it wants to conclude within a month, on "underperforming advertising and circulation" and the need to reduce costs.

NUJ members will be holding an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the developments.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands Organiser, said: "These proposals show how flimsy are Johnston Press's claims to believe in local journalism to serve the communities where its newspapers circulate. How can a newspaper and website properly engage with the town when it has no editor?

"The ironic element here is that in this announcement, the company has chosen to attack the editorial department of one of the best performing title for circulation in its stable. The South Yorkshire Times has fought hard for its reputation as a campaigning newspaper that digs out stories people want to read but this seems to cut no ice with the corporate bean counters."

  • More grim news for regional newspaper jobs. HoldtheFrontPage reports today: "Trinity Mirror is set to axe 26 jobs in Newcastle as one of its flagship evening titles moves to early-morning printing. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle, currently printed mid-morning, is to move to a single-edition structure with the aim of getting the paper into shops 2-3 hours earlier. It will mean a restructure in the editorial department that places 11 jobs at risk of redundancy, with a further 15 print jobs also under threat."
  • On Monday the NUJ warned of a journalism jobs meltdown across the industry, in broadcasting and print, even before the latests job cuts were revealed.

MP calls for Parly debate on plight of local press

Enfield North Conservative MP Nick de Bois has called on Parliament to hold a debate on the ownership of the local press and the pressures facing newspapers trying to cover public bodies.

DeBois asked in the House on Thursday: "May we have a debate on the ownership and effectiveness of local and regional newspapers—including mine, The Enfield Advertiser and the Enfield Independent—since many editors throughout the country feel they are unable to scrutinise local public bodies? While it is not our role to run newspapers, I believe that, given the pressures on the industry, we should debate the implications of this serious matter."

In reply, Sir George Young said: "I would welcome a debate in Westminster Hall, or initiated by the Backbench Business Committee, on the health of local newspapers, in which we all have an interest. My hon. Friend’s question did not make it clear why they were impeded from reporting on certain matters, but if he writes to me, I will see what I can do, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary."

The Enfield titles are owned by Sir Ray Tindle's North London and Herts newspaper group which is facing fresh strike action from NUJ members who claim low staff levels are harming the quality of their papers and threatening their future.

The MP's website says: "With a large number of local newspaper editors expressing their concern that they are unable to regularly scrutinise local public bodies such as Councils and Courts (not to mention Members of Parliament!) Nick felt it right that parliament should have the time to explore the problem and its impact on localities."

He comments: "It is not the Government's role to run local newspapers, but local and regional newspapers do have an incredibly valuable role to play in supporting local democratic accountability and I would like Parliament to have the chance to highlight this and see if and how government may be able to help."

Grey Cardigan's on Twitter and he's had a scoop

That crusty old Evening Beast chief sub Grey Cardigan, the curmudgeonly columnist for Press Gazette, has joined Twitter @thegreycardigan and he's already had a Northcliffe scoop....

Editor caught out by reversed cricket report slip-up

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron is quick to say sorry to his readers today after a production error meant a cricket report was printed backwards.

He writes on his blog: "There are times when it's best to get the embarrassment over and say sorry as quickly as possible. Today is one of those days.

"Our report of the Nottinghamshire versus Durham cricket match has been printed in reverse. It looks like a foreign language but it's in English if it's held up to a mirror.

"I actually shouted across the newsroom 'Howzat happened?' before I realised the irony of my first word. There was a third word in between but it's probably best to gloss over it.

"The page was proof-read as normal but it seems that a button was inadvertently pressed at the point of transmission to our print centre with the result that all the text has appeared backwards."

Peter is known for his headline competitions. The headline on his blog is: 'Backwards step for our cricket coverage'

Torquay switch to weekly could herald more frequency changes for Northcliffe's daily papers

Speculation that Northcliffe is considering switching a number of its dailies to weekly or bi-weekly publication will intensify with the news today that the company's daily Torquay Herald Express is to go weekly from next month.

HoldtheFrontPage reports that the last daily edition of the Herald Express, which has an average daily circulation of 21,112, will be published on Friday 15 July, and around half of the current 32 editorial jobs on the paper will go. The first weekly edition will be published on Thursday 21 July.

It follows a review by new Northcliffe managing director Steve Auckland who tells HTFP: “The move to weekly for the Herald Express is part of our strategy to respond to the market and improve the long-term performance of the business."

Northcliffe took the Bath Chronicle weekly in 2005 and Trinity Mirror's Birmingham Post has also converted from a daily to a weekly.

Speculation within Northcliffe is that it is not just the low circulation dailies that could go weekly. It is believed that some big dailies in parts of the country badly hit by the recession could be forced to change frequency because they are no longer bringing in the resources to finance a daily operation.

Any switch in frequency is likely to have a big impact on the number of journalists employed on the dailies.

Rumours that Northcliffe might be considering turning some its dailies weekly surfaced in February as one of its daily papers advertised for staff on short term contracts.

More recently speculation centred on the West Country titles, with Torquay and Exeter mentioned as Northcliffe dailies that could go weekly.

Outside Northcliffe, there has been speculation that Trinity Mirror's Liverpool Daily Post might go weekly.

Sun dubs Panorama 'Scamorama' over 'fake' film

The Sun seems gleeful today in its coverage of the BBC having to apologise to Primark over using film in a Panorama programme about child labour being used to make cheap clothes that was, according to the BBC Trust, "more likely than not" faked.

I wonder if it's got anything to do with Panorama's investigation Tabloid Hacks Exposed which was broadcast in March.

It was billed by the BBC as "Panorama exposes the full extent of the 'dark arts' employed by journalists across the industry to get their story" and also looked at the phone-hacking scandal at the Sun's sister paper, the News of the World.

Primark has hit back at the BBC with its own site giving its side of the story.

Quotes of the week: Digital-first to deep-fried Mars

editor-in-chef Alan Rusbridger:
“By becoming a digital-first organisation we’re taking the next natural step, one which we believe all newspapers will eventually have to take.”

Tom MacMaster after admitting he was the writer of the
A Gay Girl in Damascus blog: "I never meant to hurt anyone. I am really truly sorry and I feel awful about this. Words alone do not suffice to express how badly I feel about all this. I betrayed the trust of a great many people, the friendship that was honestly and openly offered to me, and played with the emotions of others unfairly. I have distracted the world’s attention from important issues of real people in real places. I have potentially compromised the safety of real people. I have helped lend credence to the lies of the regimes. I am sorry."

Guardian readers' editor Chris Elliott after the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog was shown to be a hoax: "We know that when using social media – as we will continue to do as part of our journalism – the Guardian will have to redouble its efforts in establishing not just methods of verification, but of signalling to the reader the level of verification we think we can reasonably claim."

Henry Porter in the Observer on the phone-hacking scandal: "Don't let vested interests tell you this story doesn't matter: it does – to all of us, because on this issue rests the future health of politics, journalism and our society."

Emily Bell, interviewed by AdWeek on the diffrences between journalism in the UK and US: "Somewhat to my shocking surprise, journalism is taken much more seriously in the States. I think it has a lot to do with the Constitution and the First Amendment. I think people actually feel strongly about freedom of expression, and they feel strongly about having a free press. The idea of balance and rigor is very different from the U.K., where the [print] press tends to be much more competitive, much more biased in terms of how it presents its reporting. Broadcasting is the opposite."

Former Scotsman editor John McGurk on allmediascotland: "On a quiet Monday, The Scotsman is unlikely to sell much more than 30,000. The Johnston Press share price hovers at 5p, pricing the whole empire at little over £30 million while labouring with some £350 million of debt. Remember, they paid £160 million for The Scotsman alone in 2006, leased the building and then got rid of the presses. Their only real asset in Edinburgh is the title and today that is worth a pittance."

Roy Greenslade in the Evening Standard:
"Most significantly, there is precious little money flowing towards news websites. Bloggers may well point to the broken business model of newspapers - but they have no alternative themselves thus far."

A police spokesman after a Manchester Evening News photographer was arrested while covering a street brawl: “A photographer was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace and on suspicion of obstructing a police officer. Officers brought the situation under control and the photographer was de-arrested and subsequently released.”

From a new pamphlet by the I'm A Photographer, Not A Terrorist! campaign: "As photographers working in public places, we are still treated with a suspicion that is undeserved and not experienced by most citizens going about their daily business. The unjust laws need to be challenged, as do the private security guards who routinely prevent us from working. We must continue to defend the right to document the world around us."

Julie Burchill in the Independent: "I can't explain why I enjoy being disliked; it might have something to do with being an adored only child and growing up with an almost sociopathic sense of self-esteem. Verbal humiliation for me is what flagellation is for judges; when you feel so impervious, what could be more exotic than, momentarily, being treated like the lowest of the low?"

Sarah Harrison, of WikiLeaks, on Julian Assange's bail conditions: "I'm British and I'valways been proud of our justice system. But this is just wrong. This is a man who hasn't even been charged and he's being treated like a caged animal."

Brian Aitken, editor of The Journal, Newcastle, on HoldtheFrontPage: "I guess the most far-reaching story of mine was revealing the deep-fried Mars bar to the world. I didn’t actually write the story because I wasn’t a reporter at the time but I told the Evening Express newsdesk about this craze that had started amongst pupils at Mackie Acedemy in Stonehaven in the fish and chip shop across the road from where I was living. Our story was picked up by the Daily Record the following day – and then it went global. The Journal’s latest campaign is the Great North Fitness Revolution which is aimed at reducing the obesity levels of the people living in the North East. You could say that is penance for me."

Thursday, 16 June 2011

End of an era as Guardian puts digital and 'open journalism' first before the printed newspaper

Guardian News & Media, publisher of the Guardian, has revealed plans to become a "digital-first" organisation, placing open journalism on the web at the heart of its strategy ahead of declining print sales and "beyond the newspaper".

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of GNM, and Andrew Miller, chief executive of parent company Guardian Media Group, today outlined to staff a major transformation programme in response to “inexorable trends” in media consumption.

Rusbridger told employees that GNM would “move beyond the newspaper, shifting focus, effort and investment towards digital, because that is our future”.

Miller said GNM was “embarking on a major transformation that will see us change from a print-based organisation to one that is digital-first in philosophy and practice”.

The company said the new strategy was a response to changes affecting the entire media sector, which has seen rapid growth in digital audiences but also financial challenges for newspaper publishers due to declining print circulation and advertising revenues.

It said that while print remained critical to GNM, the strategy would involve changes to its newspapers over time and investment in digital initiatives such as a new US operation based in New York and new mobile offerings.

The new strategy is aimed at further digital growth, and ensuring the Guardian’s long-term financial sustainability, the company said.

Rusbridger said: “Every newspaper is on a journey into some kind of digital future. That doesn’t mean getting out of print, but it does require a greater focus of attention, imagination and resource on the various forms that digital future is likely to take.

“The Guardian has consistently led the way on digital innovation and is currently showing year on year growth of 40 per cent. We are expanding into America and continuing to pioneer what we call open journalism – editorial content which is collaborative, linked into and networked with the rest of the web.

“We will also be changing the printed Monday to Friday newspaper to take account of changing patterns of readership and advertising. Half our readers now read the paper in the evening: they get their breaking news from our website or on mobile.

“By becoming a digital-first organisation we’re taking the next natural step, one which we believe all newspapers will eventually have to take.”

Miller said the new strategy would target growth in digital audiences, revenues and engagement, while maximising revenues in print. He said there would be a move to a direct model with greater numbers of print subscribers, which would also allow GNM to launch new cross-media content offerings.

He added that resources would be moved from print and reinvested in digital growth areas, and that there would also be investment in new brand marketing.

Miller said the strategy was designed “to place the Guardian on a sustainable financial footing”. He said: “The opportunities presented by the growth of digital media are immense. The Guardian’s journalism has never been more widely read. However, the same forces driving opportunity in digital are creating challenges for newspaper publishers across the developed world, including GNM.

“Circulation and advertising revenues in print continue to fall throughout the sector as readers and advertisers embrace new technologies and digital platforms, and this is not a trend that’s about to go into reverse.

“We are going to become a digital-first organisation, and are at the beginning of a process of transformation to achieve that. The quality of our journalism, our long-term outlook, the assets in GMG’s portfolio, our unique ownership structure, our progressive approach to digital media and our fantastic people mean we can do this from a position of strength.

“Innovation of this kind is in the best traditions of the Scott Trust and will help us to fulfil our mission of securing the independence of the Guardian in perpetuity.”

According to MediaGuardian, Rusbridger indicated that there would be a redesign of the Guardian's Monday to Friday editions later this year and the paper would focus less on breaking news and instead aim to emulate "Newsnight not News at Ten".

Unaudited results for the year ending 31 March showed that revenues at Guardian News & Media, the immediate parent of the newspapers and, fell to £198m last year compared with £221m the year before, a fall in revenues that reflected a sharp fall in classified advertising. Recruitment advertising has fallen by £41m in the past four years.

MediaGuardian added: "On an underlying basis, as measured by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, the Guardian and Observer lost £22m, but the cash loss, a more accurate measure of financial performance, was larger at £33m. That is similar to last year's level, when the newspapers made an operating loss of £34.4m."