Friday, 30 September 2011

Sun goes back in time to get the scoops it missed and launches Hold Ye Front Page on the web










The Sun has set up a website called Hold Ye Front Page which shows how the paper would have covered some of the great stories and discoveries from the beginning of time.

The site covers history, science and sport and is part of the paper's Get Britain Learning Campaign.

The front pages range from the start of the universe, the invention of the wheel and fire, plus Henry the Eighth and Darwin.

Hold Ye Front Page was a best-selling history book published by the Sun in 1999 to commemorate the Millennium.

Among the Sun-style headlines were: "You Canute Be Serious!" – King Canute tries to stop the Waves; "Stormin' Normans" – Norman Invasion"; "The French Are Revolting" – The French Revolution; "Napoleon Blown Apart" – defeat of Napoleon; and "Nazi Piece of Work" – Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

Media Quotes of the Week: Two points from Labour's Ivan Lewis and a packet of crisps

Labour shadow culture minister Ivan Lewis: "Neither the current broken system of self regulation or state oversight will achieve the right balance. We need a new system of independent regulation including proper like for like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page. And as in other professions the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet: “It’s depressing to hear a Labour Party shadow minister call for the blacklisting of journalists."

The Independent in a leader: "In cases where a journalist has been grossly invading the privacy of innocent people, or lying, or otherwise behaving in a manner that calls into question their fitness to be considered a journalist, it would make sense if there were an independent body – made up of people who understand the industry – to sit in judgement on them."

Peter Preston in the Observer: "Get a picture; get a looter; get a conviction. We know that already, so what's wrong? Only that television cameramen aren't police or local authority camera scanners. They're doing a different, separate job for us, not them. Some were rounded on and attacked when the rioters took hold. Many more will surely be in danger next time round. It is too damned easy to make the press partners of the police, but it's wrong."

Ian Jack in the Guardian: "If you like newspapers, the future looks dark. Only a couple of the qualities – the Telegraph and the Financial Times – make any money. If you like national newspapers and live at a distance from London, the future looks even darker. The supply chain that takes newspapers from printing presses to newsagents is fragile. If one big publisher, say News International, withdrew from the pooled distribution arrangements then the increased cost for the rest could be fatal. In newspaper offices, dark talk is common: by 2015 printed versions of the dailies might appear only once or twice a week, with a circulation restricted to London and perhaps a few other big cities."

John Lanchester reviews London restaurant Hedone in the Guardian: "Top-quality lobster and cep coexisted politely on the plate without creating any synergy, much like Lampard and Gerrard in the England midfield."

The Gainsborough Standard's Andrew Trendell reviews the new Coffee Station at Lea Road Train Station: "I opted for a large cappuccino and a bag of hand-cooked vinegar crisps. The freshly brewed coffee was rich, flavoursome and really hit the spot, and the crisps, well, I'm sure you've all had crisps before."

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hari offers to pay back £2,000 Orwell Prize money


Johann Hari has contacted the organisers of The Orwell Prize and offered to repay the £2,000 he received for winning the 2008 award for journalism, which he returned after allegations about his work.

Political Quarterly
, one of the partners in running the prize and the partner responsible for paying the prize money that year, has decided not to pursue the prize money, but has instead invited Hari to make an appropriate donation to
English PEN, of which George Orwell was a member.

The Council of the Orwell Prize says it now considers the matter to be at an end.

Leveson Inquiry urged to include regional experts


The Newspaper Society has added its voice to the calls that the panel of assessors appointed to the Leveson Inquiry into the media should have wider newspaper expertise, including experience of the regional press.

The current inquiry assessors are: Sir David Bell, former chairman of the FT and until recently chairman of the Media Standards Trust; Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty; Lord Currie, former chairman of Ofcom; Elinor Goodman, former political editor for Channel 4 News; George Jones, former political editor of the Daily Telegraph; and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former chief constable of West Midlands Police.

At a hearing yesterday, Associated Newspapers asked Lord Justice Leveson to clarify the role of the assessors and consider appointing more of them to provide wider newspaper expertise, covering the mid-market, red tops and regional press. The concerns were shared by Guardian News & Media, Trinity Mirror, the Newspaper Publishers Association as well as the Newspaper Society.

Lord Leveson said he would reserve judgment on whether to appoint additional assessors.

Warning: Subs on fire as iPad rival is revealed








The new iPad rival from Amazon, the Kindle Fire, is a gift to headline writers. From top: the Telegraph; Headlinenewsonline.com; ABS-CBNnews.com, The Times, the Independent, the Guardian and livemint.com

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Why I love local newspapers: It's because they come up with stories and headlines like this


You can read the full story on the Daily Post website. It involves a man accused of “unsafe modification” of a bouncy castle who failed to appear in court to answer a charge of breaching an order which bans him from carrying out inspections of "inflatable amusement devices".

Also this fantastic intro from the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette on Monday: "ALCOHOLIC Alan Hackett swung an axe at a woman after he got drunk to celebrate the completion of an alcohol treatment programme."

The Indy: 'Don't dismiss Ivan Lewis proposal of journalists being struck off for malpractice'


The Independent in a leader today takes a soft line on the idea put forward by Labour shadow culture and media secretary Ivan Lewis that journalists guilty of gross malpractice should be "struck off".

His comments led to claims that the Labour party wanted to license and "blacklist" journalists.

But the Indy says: "There were certainly aspects of what was said by Ivan Lewis, the shadow Culture and Media Secretary, to give pause, but there was no mention of 'licensing' journalists, or of putting them on a 'register'. Mr Lewis talked of 'independent regulation' and said that 'the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off'.

"When, for example, doctors or jockeys are accused of professional misconduct, their cases are dealt with not by their employers, nor by the state, but by, respectively, the General Medical Council and the Jockey Club, self-regulatory bodies set up by their industry but bodies with far more clout than the PCC.

"In cases where a journalist has been grossly invading the privacy of innocent people, or lying, or otherwise behaving in a manner that calls into question their fitness to be considered a journalist, it would make sense if there were an independent body – made up of people who understand the industry – to sit in judgement on them.

"An independent press is a non-negotiable element in a free society. But that is not to dismiss in its entirety Mr Lewis's proposal."

Spell it right for Fuchs sake says Guardian


Nice correction in the Guardian today:

"Not always is the Guardian faithful to the memory of Bavarian-born botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566), for whom the fuchsia is named. Latest case in point: a piece noted that cutting a figure against the general beigeness of the backdrop at the Labour party's conference platform, was a speaker with hair "a startling shade of fuschia" (A star speaker, and Balls, 27 September, page 7). Other recent instances: Michelle Obama's "fuschia" dress (President Obama's jobs speech to Congress – as it happened, 8 September, guardian.co.uk); a reference to "Fuschia Dunlop's restaurant" (London walks: a food trail around Soho and St James's, 31 August, guardian.co.uk)."
  • It reminded me of the legendary, some say mythical, headline about the exploits of the explorer Vivian Fuchs: "Fuchs Off To Antarctic".

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Financial crisis and volatile markets lead the news


The Eurozone debt crisis and a tumultuous week for world markets was the lead story for the UK press in the week ending Sunday, September 25, according to journalisted.

The debt crisis as world financial markets experience a volatile week, generated 353 articles (including Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, 112 articles and Eurozone crisis, 102 articles); President Mahmoud Abbas demands formal UN recognition of Palestinian State, 188 articles (including US threatening veto, 103 articles); travellers at Dale Farm resist eviction attempts from Basildon council, 120 articles; Labour Party Conference commences in Liverpool, 80 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were growing death toll as huge floods in China force millions from homes, 11 articles; UK surgeons successfully separate two twin girls joined at the head, 9 articles; Nineteen Mount Everest tourists killed in Nepal plane crash, 8 articles.

    The Orwell Prize: New statement on Johann Hari


    The Council of the Orwell Prize has issued a statement "to clarify a few points" about the Orwell Prize for Journalism awarded to Johann Hari in 2008 and subsequently returned.

    The Council says "it can confirm that, subject to any further representations by Hari, the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008 would have been vacated in any case".

    It also says: "On 30 June 2011 the Council said that it would be investigating the basis for allegations made about Hari's work. This included writing to Johann Hari and to the (then) editor of The Independent, with a number of questions.

    "Hari responded; the editor did not, either to this or a subsequent set of queries. The Orwell Prize has no independent capacity to research the work that is submitted. It relies on the integrity of authors and of their publisher’s editorial practices.

    "On the 21 July (as stated on 15 July) an emergency meeting of the Council met ‘to consider our review of Johann Hari’s material and material submitted by the public before that time’. The Council considered one article submitted by Hari in 2008, ‘How multiculturalism is betraying women’ (The Independent, 30 April 2007), on the basis of the evidence which had been received.

    "The Council concluded that the article contained inaccuracies and conflated different parts of someone else’s story (specifically, a report in Der Spiegel). The Council ruled that the substantial use of unattributed and unacknowledged material did not meet the standards expected of Orwell Prize-winning journalism.

    "The Council drafted a decision, saying that subject to a deadline, it would announce that the Prize was vacated, but that Hari would be given an opportunity to make any further representations in his defence and an opportunity to ‘apologise to the judges, the other applicants, the Prize and the public, and to resign the Prize before the announcement’.

    "However, the Council found that The Independent had prohibited Hari from responding to any communication while the paper’s own investigation, conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith, was in progress. (This also appears to have prevented Hari from answering a second email sent to him before the Council meeting.)

    "As a result, the Council decided that it was impossible to announce the decision as it could not communicate with Hari, nor give him the opportunity to reply (as stated on 25 July). On the afternoon of 14 September, a courier returned the plaque which had been awarded to Johann Hari on winning the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008. There was no note of explanation. The prize money (£2000) has also not been returned. The director of the Prize telephoned the editor of The Independent who confirmed that Hari had returned the Prize, which was also confirmed later by Hari’s ‘A personal apology’, published online by The Independent.

    "The Council of the Orwell Prize accepted Hari’s return of the Prize. Annalena McAfee, Albert Scardino and Sir John Tusa – the Journalism Prize judges from 2008 – have decided not to re-award the 2008 Prize, despite the high quality journalism on that year’s shortlist.

    "The Council would like to apologise to those who entered the Journalism Prize 2008. We also apologise to the judges, for not being able to conduct a fair assessment at the time. It is also grateful to those who persisted in examining Hari’s articles and brought the discrepancies to the Council’s attention."

    NUJ blasts Labour's call to 'blacklist' journalists


    NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet has blasted a suggestion by Labour shadow culture minister Ivan Lewis that journalists should be "struck off" for bad behaviour - raising the possibility of journalists being licensed by the state.

    Stanistreet responded: “It’s depressing to hear a Labour Party shadow minister call for the blacklisting of journalists. Ivan Lewis told Labour Party conference today that journalists found guilty of ‘gross malpractice’ should be struck off.

    "He has since back-peddled, claiming not to approve of state meddling in press freedom but that’s precisely what his ridiculous statement amounts to.

    "Is he actually calling for a state-approved register of journalists, one where politicians or media owners can strike through names at their will?

    "At the heart of the NUJ is our ethical Code of Conduct. Let’s not forget that the NUJ has been locked out of Murdoch’s Fortress Wapping for decades. There’s a direct parallel between union-busting at News International and the moral vacuum that’s been allowed to proliferate – a culture that’s been led from those at the top.

    "Yet it’s ordinary working journalists who are being sacrificed and whose livelihoods have been destroyed whilst those at the top of News International enjoy impunity.

    “And politicians must remember that they, more than anyone, indulged the worst excesses of Rupert Murdoch. This is the time to right the wrongs of the past, to raise standards across the industry and, crucially, to tackle the widespread problems of media ownership in the UK. Journalists and press freedom absolutely must not be scapegoated in the search for higher standards or for the sake of political soundbites.”

    Pic: Michelle Stanistreet (Jon Slattery)

    Divided Britain: A tale of two restaurant reviews



    Here is a tale of two restaurant reviews:

    From the Guardian; Hedone in Chiswick, West London.

    From the Gainsborough Standard; The Coffee Station, at Lea Road Train Station.

    The Guardian's John Lanchester tucks in at Hedone. "A starter of mackerel with little gem lettuce had subtle Japanese inflections in the super-fresh fish that were set off by an amazing dressing of sesame oil and white Banyuls vinegar. The next course was even better, an egg slow-cooked and served with pickled girolles that contained a dollop of apricot jam so subtly used that you'd never have guessed what the complex note of just-sweetness was. Grouse came with a sauce of its own offal, and a non-traditional but very interesting bramley apple accompaniment; 55-day aged beef had great flavour but was on the chewy side – that made me like it, because it showed the beef had been cooked in a pan, rather than by the boringly predictable technique of sous-vide – or, as it used to be called, "boil in a bag".

    "The restaurant's ingredients-first approach leaves things to speak for themselves, which is good, but there are moments when they speak a little quietly. Scallop sashimi with radish and a dollop of squid ink was exquisitely fresh – Hedone really is a masterclass in sourcing – but could have done with a kick of sharpness or acidity. Top-quality lobster and cep coexisted politely on the plate without creating any synergy, much like Lampard and Gerrard in the England midfield. Quetsch, a posh plum, made a delicious tart and came with an ice-cream made out of its pit – a lovely, witty idea, but the ice-cream's faintly almond-like flavour was so subtle, you had to concentrate hard to detect it."

    The cost: £50 for four courses, £70 for six.

    The Gainsborough Standard's Andrew Trendell admires the "bright, breezy, clean and contemporary decor" of the new Coffee Station at Lea Road train station and orders - a cup of coffee and a packet of crisps.

    Adding a bit of detail for his Eating Out column, Trendell writes: "I opted for a large cappuccino and a bag of hand-cooked vinegar crisps."

    His review of the food and drink is refreshingly spare: "It may have not been much, but it did the trick. The freshly brewed coffee was rich, flavoursome and really hit the spot, and the crisps, well, I'm sure you've all had crisps before."

    Commendably he still manages to fill the column, and concludes: "There's still more work to be done, but this cheap, cheerful and simple little cafe is a welcome smile on the face of Lea Road Train Station."

    The cost: Trendell doesn't say, but I guess he got change from a fiver.

    London and Gainsborough, in the recession hit East Midlands, are only around 100 miles apart. Sometimes it seems more like a million miles.

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    'Supply chain for newspaper is fragile' warns Jack


    Ian Jack in the Guardian puts forward a gloomy scenario where in a few years time national newspapers could appear only a couple of times a week.

    Jack, who has edited the Independent on Sunday and Granta magazine, writes: "If you like newspapers, the future looks dark. Only a couple of the qualities – the Telegraph and the Financial Times – make any money.

    "If you like national newspapers and live at a distance from London, the future looks even darker. The supply chain that takes newspapers from printing presses to newsagents is fragile. If one big publisher, say News International, withdrew from the pooled distribution arrangements then the increased cost for the rest could be fatal.

    "In newspaper offices, dark talk is common: by 2015 printed versions of the dailies might appear only once or twice a week, with a circulation restricted to London and perhaps a few other big cities."

    Jack says of newspapers: "I shall miss them and not only because they provide a good part of my living. I hope the decent ones can carry on as long as possible. If you do too, the best thing is to carry on buying one."

    Sunday, 25 September 2011

    Wow, man! It's a copy of Private Eye from 1967





    As Private Eye celebrates its 50th anniversary, a copy of its edition from 18 August 1967 - "the Summer of Love" - has come into my possession showing "a recent study of the Editorial Board" on the cover.

    Eye favourites such as Spiggy Topes, Grocer Heath and Mrs. Wilson's Diary are included as well as cartoons by Ralph Steadman and Bill Tidy, plus a spoof advert for The Times (above).

    Friday, 23 September 2011

    Telegraph exclusive: Neil Wallis was paid by News International while working for Scotland Yard


    The Daily Telegraph claims in an exclusive that Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World employed by the Metropolitan Police, was secretly paid more than £25,000 by News International during his time at Scotland Yard.

    The Telegraph says Wallis was paid the money during late 2009 and 2010 for providing “crime exclusives” including details of Scotland Yard investigations.

    At the time, he was working as a police consultant working closely with Sir Paul Stephenson, the then commissioner. Wallis was also paid £24,000 from taxpayer funds for his work at the force.

    The Telegraph reports: "The details of his News International payments have emerged in billing records obtained by detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.

    "It is understood that Mr Wallis was also selling crime stories to other newspapers during his time at Scotland Yard.

    "The legality of Mr Wallis, who was effectively working as a police employee, selling potentially confidential police information to tabloid newspapers is not clear."

    'The Press We Deserve' debate is now on video

    This week's Thomson Reuters debate 'The Press We Deserve', chaired by Sir Harold Evans, is now available to view at reuters.co.uk.

    Among the speakers are the editors of The Times. the Financial Times and the Guardian.

    NUJ condemns handing over of riot film to police


    The NUJ has condemned the courts for forcing media organisations to supply riot footage and photographs to the police and has expressed disappointment that leading broadcasters and at least one national newspaper have done so.

    The move was opposed by the union and the NUJ continues to call on media organisations to challenge the court orders. The NUJ code of conduct contains the following principle: “Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work.”

    The NUJ says it is "appalled" that riot footage has been given to the police and the NUJ strongly believes that such a move places all journalists at greater risk when covering public order or other related stories.

    It added: "We believe the police requests are unnecessary because they used surveillance teams during the riots and spend public money gathering their own intelligence which should provide enough material without compromising journalists."

    NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Journalists played a critical role in informing the public about the riots in August and our members were attacked whilst doing their jobs during the civil unrest. Covering protests is already difficult and the danger increases if the footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police.”

    NUJ London Photographers' Branch secretary Jason N. Parkinson claimed: "What the BBC, ITN and Sky News have done is turn every photographer, videographer and journalist into potential targets and this will only lead to an increase in the number of assaults on the press while covering events."

    Press regulation article for InPublishing magazine


    I've done an article for InPublishing magazine about the fall out from the phone-hacking scandal and the upcoming Leveson Inquiry on media ethics.

    It's called Let's do self regulation again.

    Press photographers are in the frame as rogue trader suspect makes court appearance in London


    Stunning pictures of rogue trader suspect Kweku Adoboli facing photographers as he appeared in court yesterday. Top pic from Times Online by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty. Below, David Bebber for The Times newspaper.

    Quotes of the Week: From the Met vs the Guardian to a proprietor who doesn't pull his punches


    Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail backs the Guardian in its battle with the Met:
    "Attempting to use the Official Secrets Act to interfere with a legitimate journalistic investigation is outrageous. How dare the Yard claim that this information was not in the public interest? How dare they try to put the frighteners on reporters?"

    Guido Fawkes on Twitter: "Beginning to worry about Richard Littlejohn's continuing drift leftwards."

    The Sunday Times in a leader: "The Met’s behaviour should be of concern to everybody in the media. It will set a dangerous legal precedent which could be used against investigative journalists everywhere. If sources know they risk exposure, they will stop providing information, strangling investigative journalism at birth. Furthermore, journalists have a duty to protect confidential sources and many would go to prison rather than reveal their contacts."

    Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans writing in the Observer about the Guardian case: "I cannot believe that the attorney general will let this case of uniformed bullying go forward. It would be clearly a breach of the Human Rights Act and the precedent set in Goodwin v UK, as noted by Geoffrey Robertson, QC. Without the ability and determination of the press to protect sources, many wrongs would go undetected and unpunished, as they were in the hacking case. And when I say the press, I mean all the media, including broadcasting."

    The Guardian after the Met dropped its action: "The statement put out by the Met announcing its retreat left open the possibility that the production order could be applied for again, but the Guardian's lawyers have been told that the police have dropped the application."

    Stephen Glover in the Independent on the closure of the News of the World and possible launch of The Sun on Sunday: "The Murdochs were able to represent themselves as acting decisively and almost altruistically – rather as a farmer might regretfully shoot a rabid dog that has been a cherished family pet. Now it turns out that the dog was old, unloved and expensive to keep, and there is a young puppy waiting in the wings which will be a much better proposition. The whole process has been a cynical charade."

    Nick Cohen in the Observer on WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: "The grass or squealer usually blabs because he wants to settle scores or ingratiate himself with the authorities. Assange represents a new breed, which technology has enabled: the nark as show-off. The web made Assange famous. It allows him to monitor his celebrity – I am told that even the smallest blogpost about him rarely escapes his attention. When he sees that the audience is tiring, the web provides him with the means to publish new secrets and generate new headlines. Under the cover of holding power to account, Assange can revel in the power the web gives to put lives in danger and ensure he can be what he always wanted: the centre of attention."

    Sienna Miller in the Independent: "The tabloid media culture in this country had got to a point where it was completely immoral. There was no consideration for you as a human being. You were successful, you were making money, therefore you deserved it and it was a very medieval way of behaving. I realised I couldn't continue living in this country and do my job, which I loved. You want to feel that you can do something creative that you love without being picked apart and mutilated for other people's pleasure."

    Roy Greenslade at the Thomson Reuters debate on the future of the press: "There hasn't been self-regulation. The strings of the PCC have been pulled by News International and Associated."

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, at the same debate: "Roy is right. Before we abolish press regulation let's try it. It's not so much a failure of regulation but no regulation."

    PCC chair Peta Buscombe responds: "I've never had my personal strings pulled."

    Alexander Lebedev, owner of the Independent and London Evening Standard, after thumping a guest on a Russian talkshow: "In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him."

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Bird-brained hoaxer has Northern Echo in a twitch


    Is nothing sacred?

    Northern Echo editor Peter Barron reveals on his blog that the paper's Birdwatch column has been hoaxed.

    He writes: "Today's Birdwatch column, by the excellent Brian Unwin, begins thus: 'Forget everything in last week's column. It turns out a sick-minded hoaxer was responsible for the claim of a sooty or bridled tern at Derwent Reservoir.' "

    Unwin explains that the claim was plausible because Britain had been blasted by the remains of Tropical Storm Katia.

    But Peter Barron asks: "But what is the world coming to when we not only have looters, tax cheats, benefit fraudsters and doorstep conmen, but ornithological hoodwinkers in our midst.

    "Sick-minded or bird-brained? It matters not. They are the lowest of the low, the bottom of the pecking order, and they should be ashamed."

    Police force broadcasters to hand over riot film


    The BBC, ITN and Sky News have handed over hundreds of hours of unbroadcast footage of the August riots to police after being served with court orders by Scotland Yard, the Guardian reports today.

    It says: "The broadcasters were forced to hand over raw footage of the riots after the Metropolitan police obtained a production order earlier this month under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

    "The Daily Telegraph is also understood to have disclosed material to the police after being served with a production order. Scotland Yard has put sustained pressure on all media groups to reveal video and picture evidence of the riots since the disorder across England seven weeks ago."

    The NUJ, and press freedom groups the Committe to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have all condemned the move to ask for the unbroadcast riot film.

    RWB said it took "a very dim view" of Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion that TV broadcasters have a duty to hand over unused footage of the rioting to the police as "this would turn them into police auxiliaries and seriously endanger their independence".

    Index on Censorship says it is is concerned by the reports that news organisations are to hand over footage of August’s riots in England.

    “Moves such as this force journalists to become the eyes and ears of the state, said John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship. “During the riots, we saw several incidents of photographers and broadcasters being attacked. The implication that any footage taken by them will be handed over to authorities will only serve to endanger on-the-ground media workers further in the future.”

    “Already this week we have seen widespread outrage at attempts to make Guardian journalist Amelia Hill hand over journalistic materials. The Metropolitan Police Service is showing a worrying disregard for the principle of a free media.”

    The media and my part in its downfall


    I've done a piece for TheMediaBriefing today about my part in the downfall of the media.

    It's based at looking back at places I've worked and how the evening paper I started on is going weekly, the news agency I subsequently worked for has gone bust, and the weekly magazine I then joined has gone monthly.

    Not surprisingly, I'm not taking the blame for all this. Most of it happened after I left, but I think it shows how tough it is in the media nowadays.

    I love digital media and think it enhances journalism but the move from old to new is proving incredibly painful for many parts of the industry and the many journalists who are losing their jobs.

    Although publishers often say when they change print frequency they'll beef up their online content they usually cut the number of editorial staff.

    I can't think of anywhere I worked that now employs more journalists.

    Indy publishes first Assange biography extracts


    The Independent today publishes the first extracts from the disputed unauthorised autobigraphy of WiliLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    Assange tells of his early days as a hacker and the events in Sweden that left him facing rape charges.

    In a news story the Independent reveals why the autobiography is "unauthorised" and does not carry the name of the ghost writer.

    It says that in late December Assange accepted a six-figure – advance from Canongate, the Scottish publishing firm to write a "part memoir, part manifesto". Canongate went on to sell the rights to a further 38 publishing houses around the world. The Scottish novelist Andrew O'Hagan was brought in as a ghost writer and spent more than 50 hours with Assange.

    But the Independent reports: "The relationship soured soon after the first draft of the manuscript was delivered to him in late March, prompting him to pull the plug on the deal, declaring that "all memoir is prostitution". For the publishers his complaints came out of the blue. Only a week earlier he had posed for a photo shoot and cleared the portrait that now graces the book's front cover."

    Sources have told the Independent that the WikiLeaks founder was increasingly uncomfortable about how the book contained too many personal biographical details and read less like a political manifesto than he had hoped for.

    The Independent says: "The publisher's lawyers believe they still have the right to release the memoir because a reported £400,000 advance that was paid to Mr Assange has not been returned. It is believed the money was placed into escrow, which means that Mr Assange's lawyers have first claim on it once their legal bills are due.

    "Canongate decided to press ahead with publication but gave Mr Assange a 12-day window to seek an injunction. That deadline expired on Monday and they have since enacted a huge security operation to secretly ship books out to thousands of stores nationwide without tipping anyone off as to the content of the book."

    The Independent says Assange will continue to receive royalties from global sales, meaning he is in line for a significant input of cash once the book hits the shelves around the world.

    • The Independent is splashing today on a story that alleges up to a dozen News International executives, including Rebekah Brooks, were told in 2006 that the Metropolitan Police had evidence that more than one News of the World journalist was implicated in the phone-hacking scandal.

    Wednesday, 21 September 2011

    Littlejohn: How the press saw off Scotland Yard


    Richard Littlejohn says he is not expecting a celebratory bunch of flowers from the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger, but argues the Daily Mail and other newspapers can claim a share of the credit for seeing off the "clodhopping attempt" by Scotland Yard to use the Official Secrets Act to force Guardian reporter Amelia Hill to identify the source of her stories on phone hacking.

    He describes it as "an outrageous abuse of power, a shameful attempt to put the frighteners on a journalist doing a legitimate job."

    Littlejohn, on MailOnline, says: "'I am told the Yard only backed down after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, had a serious word in their shell-like and made it plain they would receive not backing from the CPS. The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, also indicated his displeasure."

    He adds: "The Met has enough problems without opening a full scale war with Fleet Street. Yet even its statement withdrawing the action was graceless and grudging.

    "It said merely that officer would not be pursuing the case 'at this time' - trying to suggest menacingly that it would be reactivated once the hue and cry had died down.
    Let me assure you, and them, that simply ain't gonna happen. There's more chance of Colonel Gaddafi returning to power in Tripoli."


    The great and the good but where's the bad boys?


    Great panel for the Thomson Reuters debate "The Press We Deserve" at the Banqueting House in London last night but something was missing from the feast.

    The press was represented by the editors of the Guardian, The Times, Financial Times and The Economist as well as Peter Preston, the media commentator and ex-Guardian editor.

    There were a couple of Lords, an MP and Baroness Buscombe, chair of the Press Complaints Commission.

    The debate was energetically chaired by the still fantastically charismatic ex-Sunday Times editor Harold Evans.

    There were academics, media lawyers and representatives of various pressure groups in the audience who made contributions.

    But there was no-one from the red tops, representing the popular press.

    This was almost certainly not the organisers fault. Editors of the red tops, with the notable exception of Piers Morgan, have always been notoriously reluctant to appear in public and tend to believe they are going to get stitched up, particularly by broadcasters.

    It's the phone-hacking scandal and the "dark arts" practised by the red tops that has brought the Leveson Inquiry down on the press.

    Leveson has been criticised for not including anyone with popular press experience on his panel of experts.

    What a pity the editors of the popular papers won't appear in public to give their views on "The Press We Deserve" and the future of press regulation.

    I think it's something members of the public - and journalists - deserve.
    • I've done a report on the debate here.
    • Pic Harold Evans (Jon Slattery)

    The Sun calls Jonathan Dimbleby a 'snorty boy'


    The Sun picks up on Jonathan Dimbleby's admission in the Telegraph that he once took cocaine and "sneezed it all over the place" with a news story and leader today.

    The leader, headlined "Snorty Boy," says: "BBC old-timer Jonathan Dimbleby springs a surprise.

    "Not only did he try cannabis as young man, he also snorted coke.

    "Well the Beeb IS based at White City..."

    Liberal Democrats conference tops news poll


    The start of the Liberal Democrats conference grabbed the most attention in the UK press for the week ending Sunday, September 18, according to journalisted.

    The first few days of the Lib Dem Autumn Conference in Birmingham generated 220 articles (including: tax, generated 100 articles; health, 70 articles; and Europe, 50 articles); Four miners are trapped and later found dead at Gleision Colliery near Swansea, 152 articles; Kweku Adoboli, a trader for UBS, is arrested after an incident costing the bank billions, 115 articles; the Trades Union Congress gathers, 105 articles (including mentions of strike action, 88 articles).

    Covered little, according to journalisted, were daughter-in-law of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, set to become Danish Prime Minister, 21 articles;l pipeline fire in Kenya kills over 100, 20 articles; violence in Yemen erupts as anti-government protesters clash with authorities, 16 articles; House of Lords passes Fixed Term Parliaments Bill, 2 articles.

      Tuesday, 20 September 2011

      'PCC puppet of News International and Associated'


      The Press Complaints Commission was condemned as being a puppet of News International and Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers, at a media debate in London.

      MediaGuardian commentator Roy Greenslade, speaking at the Thomson Reuters debate on "The Press We Deserve," argued: "There hasn't been self-regulation...the strings of the PCC have been pulled by News International and Associated."

      He said: "What we are really talking about is trying to create a system of genuine self-regulation."

      Greenslade also claimed there was an informal agreement between NI, Associated and the Telegraph Group, that they did not write about each other.

      Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said: "Roy is right. Before we abolish press regulation let's try it. It's not so much a failure of regulation but no regulation."

      Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, also speaking at the debate, claimed: "The PCC has failed because it is dominated by insiders. We need outsiders to come in."

      He urged that the press be given "one last drink in the Last Chance Saloon" to show self-regulation could work.

      Barber suggested journalists should be asked to sign up to the Code of Practice and pay a levy which would fund a new regulator.

      PCC chair Peta Buscombe, also on the debate panel, responded to Greenslade by claiming: "I've never had my personal strings pulled."
      • No red-top national editor was on the panel for the debate which was chaired by ex-Sunday Times editor Harold Evans.
      • The question I would have liked to ask is: "How can the press put the case for self-regulation when Richard Desmond has decided his four national newspapers will play no part in it and have pulled out of the PCC?"

      Met drops action to obtain Guardian sources


      Scotland Yard has dropped its widely criticised attempt to force the Guardian to reveal confidential sources for stories relating to the phone-hacking scandal.

      The police wanted a court order to force Guardian reporters to reveal confidential sources for articles disclosing that the murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone was hacked on behalf of the News of the World. They claimed that the paper's reporter Amelia Hill could have "incited" a source to break the Official Secrets Act.

      The Guardian reports tonight: "The Yard said it would not go to the high court on Friday to demand the information."

      A police spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards consulted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

      "The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter.

      "In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps."

      The Met's action was condemned by leaders in the Daily Mail, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Financial Times as well as by Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn.

      At a Thomson Reuters debate in London tonight on "The Press We Deserve", former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans said about the Met's action against the Guardian: "It's such an outrage I can hardly contain myself"

      James Harding, editor of The Times, described the Met action as an "abuse of police and state power" and said it had done an "impressive" job in bringing the press together.

      • Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:"We are delighted that common sense has prevailed and the Met has woken up to the fact that they cannot get away with such flagrant abuse of the Official Secrets Act. This was an outrageous attack on a central tenet of journalism - the protection of our sources. This is a victory for journalism, democracy and press freedom."

      Selby Post misprint headline misses the bus

      Headlines about misprints and spelling mistakes always seemed to be cursed. This time it's the Selby Post that has missed the bus.

      Online newspaper aims to be unbiased newsgather


      The Fresh Outlook is a new national, independent online newspaper based in Cardiff.

      It is owned by a UK non profit
      organisation, FreshTies, and says its goal is "to publish unbiased news stories from all over the world that are independent of any political alliances."

      The site's latest project is News Network which lets students, graduates, writers or anyone who would like to gain exposure to build a portfolio of work whilst submitting stories to the The Fresh Outlook newsroom.

      The Fresh Outlook claims to reach approximately 11,000 daily readers.

      • Churnalism Warning: This is mostly from an email from The Fresh Outlook who offered to plug my blog in return for publicity. I suggest you look at their site and make up your own mind - Regards, Jon S.

      Lib Dems back no Sun Page 3 until after 9 pm


      Delegates at the Liberal Democrats have backed a plan to stop selling the Sun before 9pm because of its topless Page 3 pics.

      Ex-MP Evan Harris said rules for pre-watershed TV should also apply to Page 3 pictures and a new media regulator could enforce it.

      The Sun hit back this morning by adding to its story: "A Sun fan tweeted: 'UK full of problems, and Lib Dems vote to ban Page 3. Sheesh!' "

      • The Sun published a picture of a group Page 3 girls at the time of the last election (top) and claimed: "SIXTEEN Page 3 Girls in all their glory represent the very image of freedom in this country. But if Labour or the Lib Dems win the election, this could be the last time they are allowed to pose together. MPs Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone will move swiftly to change the law and ban Page 3 forever."

      Even Richard Littlejohn is defending the Guardian


      You couldn't make this up. Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has spent his life scorning the Guardian but today backs the paper in its fight to protect its sources of the Milly Dowler phone-hacking story against legal action by the Met.

      Littlejohn writes: "Even those of us who find the Guardian insufferably smug, self-righteous and censorious applauded the journalistic operation which uncovered the extent of wrong-doing by some executives at the News of the World."

      He adds: "By delicious irony, it is the Guardian itself which has fallen foul of the new spirit of suppression, which deems that any contact between any journalist and any police officer is a criminal offence.

      "The Yard wants to use the Official Secrets Act to force reporter Amelia Hill to disclose evidence which could identify the detective on the inquiry who provided her with the information to break the story that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked.As I said earlier, there’s a temptation to conclude: serves them right.

      "The Guardian opened this can of worms. Let them live with the consequences. But any inclination towards schadenfreude must be resisted. What’s at stake here is nothing less than the future of our free Press.

      "Attempting to use the Official Secrets Act to interfere with a legitimate journalistic investigation is outrageous. How dare the Yard claim that this information was not in the public interest? How dare they try to put the frighteners on reporters?

      "If they get away with this, what next? Will they start arresting political correspondents who are fed a few Budget secrets in advance of the Chancellor’s speech?The Attorney General may yet intervene, but what is worrying here is the atmosphere in which the police are emboldened to use such draconian tactics against journalists."

      He concludes: "You can’t have a free society without a free Press. This isn’t just an attack on the Guardian, it’s an attack on us all. It must not be allowed to succeed."
      • In February, Littlejohn in a piece bashing local councils, revealed how he has relied on the Guardian to help fill his column.

        He wrote: "For the past 20-odd years, this column has made a decent living documenting the insanity and waste in Britain’s Town Halls.

        "If all else failed, there was always the Guardian jobs pages on a Wednesday to dig me out of a hole. The recruitment of five-a-day enforcers, lesbian bereavement counsellors and assorted real nappy outreach co-ordinators was guaranteed to raise a giggle."

        There was even a picture of a serious looking bloke reading the Guardian to illustrate Littlejohn's article.

      • The Daily Mail in a leader also supports the Guardian and warns: "It is not only journalists who are threatened when politicians flex their muscles against the media, while the police make pre-dawn arrests and invoke the Official Secrets Act. It is everyone who values freedom from tyranny."

      Imaginative spelling on Brighton Argus news bill


      Read all about it. The Argus, Brighton, billboard is a spelling ordeal.

      Monday, 19 September 2011

      Attorney General will decide on Guardian case


      Attorney general Dominic Grieve will rule on whether the prosecution of the Guardian under the Official Secrets Act was in the public interest before a case could proceed, the paper reports today.

      A spokesman told the Guardian that Grieve would liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service to assess whether there is sufficient evidence that the act had been breached and whether such a step would be in the public interest.

      "It is a matter for the police to decide how best to carry out any investigation," he said. "If the police provide evidence that would support a charge under section 5 of the Official Secrets Act the attorney general's consent would be required.

      "If that stage is reached, the attorney general, with the DPP, will consider whether there is sufficient evidence and whether the public interest is in favour of bringing a prosecution."

      Scotland Yard's decision to use the act as part of its bid to force Guardian journalists including Nick Davies and Amelia Hill, who revealed that Milly Dowler had her phone targeted by the News of the World, to reveal their sources has been condemned by other newspapers.

      Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, has said the paper will resist the attempt by the Metropolitan police to reveal its sources "to the utmost".

      Scotland Yard applied for a production order last week against the Guardian "in order to seek evidence of offences connected to potential breaches relating to misconduct in public office and the Official Secrets Act".

      • According to the Guardian, Milly Dowler's family have been offered a £2m-plus settlement by News International.

      Brighton Argus tops entries in custard shortage book celebrating the wackiest local press stories


      The Argus, Brighton, has most entries in the new book Whitstable Mum in Custard Shortage and Other World exclusives from Britain's Finest Local Newspapers which is due to be published next month.

      The Argus has 14 entries, including 'Worthing runaway electric buggy chaos;' 'Hunt for Worthing poo thief'; and 'Lifeboat called out to help witch'.

      The book celebrates some of the wackiest and daftest stories to have made the pages of the local press across the country. It is described by publisher Penguin/Viking as a "labour of love" and is dedicated to "everyone who keeps local news alive".

      Entries from other local papers range from the mundane 'Church window nearly smashed'; 'Man dies of natural causes'; and 'No one injured in accident' to the bizarre 'Mayor is ousted by mice' (Western Daily Press); 'Chicken in a basque shock for cop' (Rochdale Observer); 'Smug swans attack dalmatian' (Ham & High) and 'Tortoise stolen to sell for booze' (Hartlepool Mail).

      • Whitstable Mum in Custard Shortage . . . And Other World Exclusives from Britain's Finest Local Newspapers will be published on October 13 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

      Times: Met's action against Guardian 'shameful'


      The Times today follows the Sunday Times in condemning the action by the Metropolitan Police to try and force the Guardian to disclose the sources of its story that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked.

      The Times says: "The Met’s invoking the Official Secrets Act against The Guardian is a shameful attempt to pressure a newspaper and its reporters, and create a climate of fear within Scotland Yard. For the police cannot claim that this is a case of protecting national security. It looks more like an attempt to prevent institutional embarrassment.

      "The State needs to maintain secrets that relate direct to national security and intelligence. Secrecy legislation should have no place whatever in preventing newspapers from uncovering official negligence, incompetence and worse.

      "The law is being invoked in this case not to protect the public interest but as a punitive measure to curb journalistic inquiry and pursue a sectarian and self-interested campaign. If it succeeds, the victim will not be not only the press, but also the vigour of British democracy."

      The Telegraph has joined the chorus of disapoproval. It says in a leader today: "This is an intolerable abuse of power and one that the new commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, must put a stop to today. It is hardly a good start to his term of office. And if he won't, then Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, should use his discretion to rule that the continuation of this line of inquiry by the Met is not in the public interest."

      The Independent, also in a leader today, says: "It is a travesty to use laws designed to protect national security as a lever for accessing information, let alone from a newspaper bringing further details of the hacking affair to light. Under the leadership of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, Operation Weeting was just starting to claw back some credibility for the Met. The latest development suggests the police still do not know where the public interest lies."

      • The Times is behind a paywall