Saturday, 31 March 2012

When I'm cleaning windows...Telegraph is the biz

You can't do this with a laptop...

Letter in today's Telegraph:

SIR – Following Anthony Garcia’s advice (Letters, March 29), we have discovered an eco-friendly use for the Telegraph Business section. It is exactly the right size and consistency to clean our orangery windows.

Howard Thomas
Newent, Gloucestershire

Which followed this:

SIR – For more than 100 years my family owned a wedding gown shop in Bristol. My grandfather and father cleaned the inside of the windows with soapy water and dried them with newspaper (Letters, March 28).

The use of newspaper left the windows shiny and without a smear.

Anthony Garcia

Friday, 30 March 2012

Quotes of the week: From Littlejohn's Guardian nightmare to Murdoch's warning to his enemies

Stephen Moss in the Guardian on the paper's Open Weekend: "It was Richard Littlejohn's worst nightmare...5,000 Guardianistas gathered under one roof at Kings Place in London at the weekend for a festival of reasonableness."

Billy Connolly in the Observer on the press: "I truly don't care what they think of me. I've seen who they like and who they don't like, and I'm happy to be in the 'don't like' section. And I am not sad to see certain sections of the press getting their comeuppance at the moment."

Pension consultant John Ralfe on "Trinity Mirror is trying to drive a coach-and-horses through the regulatory principle that the pension scheme should not be subordinated to other unsecured creditors."

MailOnline's publisher Martin Clarke interviewed by the New Yorker: “At its best, American journalism is unbeatable. But the problem with many of your newspapers is that they became too high-minded, too complacent, and self-regarding. As they became increasingly monopolist, some of them also became—if you’ll forgive the phrase—too up themselves. They forgot that there’s a huge market out there of people who are serious-minded but also want some fun in their reading.”

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail on the Sunday Times sting on Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddsas: "The departure of Mr Cruddas was the outcome of a piece of subterfuge by the reviled Press — a classic example of cutting corners in the public interest. And thank goodness for that. With the vultures of regulation hovering over British journalism, what this episode has underlined is the cardinal importance in a democracy of a Press that is truly free to expose wrongdoing."

Miriam O'Reilly, who won an age discrimination case against the BBC, in the Guardian: "From certain individuals there was a seething resentment that I had won the case, executives who were really angry that I had challenged them and won resoundingly. They didn't like it that a woman had stood up to them. There was a huge amount of resentment there."

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst at City University warns against Lord Justice Leveson recommending statutory controls to underpin regulation of the press: "If it goes anywhere near Parliament the MPs who were done over by the Telegraph on expenses could have their say. We could be in for a very torrid time."

Rupert Murdoch on Twitter: "Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing."

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Archant's Cambridge First says its last goodbye

After nearly two years, Archant's CambridgeFirst weekly newspaper has published its last edition.

Editor Rose Taylor, writing in today's paper, praises the work of her team of journalists but says: "The sad fact is that, in the end, we didn't manage to win the commercial market share we needed to fuel and sustain the good work. So it has to be goodbye.

"We leave Cambridge sad to go, but privileged to have been part of this beautiful city, filled with great institutions and equally great people."

At launch, Archant said CambridgeFirst would "point the way towards the future for local newspapers with its multi-platform and multiple routes to market approach" but the newcomer faced intense competition from rivals.

The Sun gives David Cameron a right pasty-ing

The Sun goes for David Cameron on its front page today over the "Pasty Tax" row and the Government's handling of a possible tanker drivers strike.

It also describes him as "a pie plonker" and "a fuel fool".

Inside the paper the Sun tells how it caught the Prime Minister out on his claim to have eaten a pasty bought on Leeds station from the West Cornwall Pasty Company.

It reports: "Rashly, Mr Cameron added: 'I am sure The Sun will have someone rushing up to the shop right away to check it out.'

"We did. And it swiftly emerged the West Cornwall Pasty Company does NOT have an outlet at Leeds station — because it closed in 2007. The nearest branch is more than 400 metres away.

"There was another pasty seller, Cornish Bakehouse, at the station. But it SHUT last week after Chancellor George Osborne announced the VAT hike in his Budget."

  • Today the Sun is offering readers a free sausage or cold.
  • It also tweeted: "Get down to Big Ben today between noon and 1pm where we'll be giving away free pasties for The Sun Pasty Tax protest. #pastygate"

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Longlists announced for 2012 George Orwell Prize

The longlists have been announced for The 2012 Orwell Prize for blogging and journalism.

The longlisted bloggers are:

Alex Massie Alex Massie (
Anna Chen Madam Miaow Says (
Bagehot Bagehot’s Notebook (
Ms Baroque Baroque in Hackney (
BendyGirl Benefit Scrounging Scum (
David Allen Green Jack of Kent (
Gavin Kelly Economics and the reality of the ‘squeezed middle’ (
Lisa Ansell Lisa Ansell (
Pavel Konnolsky The Konnolsky Files (
Polly Curtis Reality Check with Polly Curtis (
Mick Fealty Slugger O’Toole (
Raph Shirley Another stupid human (
Rangers Tax-Case Rangers Tax-Case (
Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi (
Tim Marshall Foreign Matters (
Wiggy Beneath the Wig (

Those longlisted for the journalism prize are:

Camilla Cavendish, The Times
Edward Docx, Prospect Magazine; the Guardian
Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
Amelia Gentleman, the Guardian
Simon Kuper, Financial Times
Paul Lewis, the Guardian; Twitter
Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph; The Spectator; Channel 4 Dispatches
Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times; openDemocracy
Steve Richards, the Independent
David James Smith, the Sunday Times
David Usborne, the Independent
Zoe Williams, the Guardian

This year’s shortlists will be announced on the evening of 24th April at The Boardroom, University of Westminster. After the announcement the Orwell Prize is hosting a debate on corruption in sport.

The winners of the Orwell Prizes 2012 will be announced at an awards ceremony at Church House, London, on 23rd May 2012. The Prizes are awarded to the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition "to make political writing into an art". Each winner receives £3000 and a plaque bearing Orwell’s quote.

Budget and 'Granny tax' grab the news headlines

The budget and reaction to it and the so-called "Granny tax" was the dominant UK news story for the week ending Sunday 25 March, according to journalisted.

The budget generated 614 articles , with the main attention falling on the "Granny tax" which was the subject of 202 articles.

Other top stories were the extraordinary recovery of Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba, 365 articles: the Toulouse killings, siege and the resulting death of Mohammed Merah, 201 articles; and the Queen, in honour of her Diamond Jubilee, heard addresses from both Houses of Parliament, 91 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were Philip Hammond backtracking on government proposals by recommending a switch to an earlier design for the new aircraft carriers, 8 articles; the police deciding to hold a ballot on their right to strike, 7 articles; and the UK Supreme court reaffirming the Reynolds Defence, 6 articles.

Independent: 'Cameras are to be allowed in court'

Legislation is to be introduced to allow television cameras into courts for the first time to film the sentencing of serious criminals, the Independent reports today.

It says the the move will be announced in the Queen's Speech on 9 May.

Under the plans, the Independent reports that cameras will only be allowed in court to record judges' summing-up at the end of trials, as well as the sentencing.

Broadcasters will not be permitted to film other parts of a trial, such as barristers' opening and closing statements or the cross-examination of witnesses. Nor will be cameras be present at the moment when juries deliver their verdict.

TV cameras will introduced first in Court of Appeal proceedings and then in Crown Court prosecutions.

The Independent adds: "The initiative – strongly supported by David Cameron – follows lobbying by the BBC, ITN and Sky News. In a joint letter last month they argued: 'The ability to witness justice in action, in the public gallery, is a fundamental freedom. Television will make the public gallery open to all'."

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Independent editor: 'My fears about Leveson'

Chris Blackhurst, editor of the Independent, says he is worried that MPs will jump on any recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry that suggests regulation of the press should have a statutory element.

Speaking at a City University debate on the "Lessons of Leveson" in London, Blackhurst suggested the inquiry was "deeply flawed" and a "political response to political embarrassment".

He said Leveson had not looked into the "dark arts" of PR and lobbying and it was "very strange" to have a public inquiry in parallel to a criminal investigation.

Blackhurst described the Sunday Times "cash for access" revelations about the Conservative Party as "a fantastic story" and said he hoped Lord Justice Leveson had read it. He claimed if journalists could not use subterfuge then the Sunday Times' story, the Telegraph's MPs' expenses scoop and the Independent's Bell Pottinger lobbying investigations could not happen.

He warned should Leveson came up with recommendations for some statutory controls to underpin regulation of the press: "If it goes anywhere near Parliament the MPs who were done over by the Telegraph on expenses could have their say. We could be in for a very torrid time."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said she supported "statutory underpinning" of regulation of the press and said it worked in Ireland.

Professor Ivor Gaber, director of political journalism at City, claimed: "Self-regulation with teeth needs something to back-up the teeth. We can't have decent regulation without a statutory framework."

Brian Cathcart, of Kingston University, said "We have to acknowledge we've been in a very bad situation. It was like Berlusconi without the prostitutes." He added that Lord Justice Leveson had repeatedly said he did not want to interfere with the freedom of the press.
  • Blackhurst was also aggrieved by what he said had been a threat by Manchester United to ban the Independent from access after the club was upset by a story. Asked how the bust-up had ended, Blackhurst said: "We published a grovelling apology because we wanted to keep the relationship with Man United."
  • Former News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck, also speaking at the debate, claimed it was common for Fleet Street photographers in the 1970s and 1980s to listen in to phone calls by using scanners.
  • Pic: Jon Slattery

Monday, 26 March 2012

RWB fear over Sarkozy's internet surveillance plan

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders says it is worried by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal that “any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or call for hatred and violence” should be criminally punished, saying it could have serious consequences for investigative journalism.

Sarkozy's proposal comes after the killings of three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi believed to have been committed by Mohamed Merah.

“We do not in any way defend violent or terrorist websites, but we think that the president’s statement was made in the heat of the moment and went after the wrong target by focusing on the internet,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The proposed solution is disproportionate and could lead to a generalised internet surveillance that threatens individual freedoms by enlisting Internet service providers in an attempt to identify those who consult such websites.

“The president’s proposal could give rise to abuses that curtail freedom of access to online information. Protecting national security is obviously essential but the methods proposed are not the right ones and pose a serious threat to fundamental rights.”

RWB added: "Such measures could also have serious consequences for investigative journalism and studies of terrorism. How can one investigate the growing use by terrorist groups of the internet and social networks without monitoring what they post online?"

Murdoch tweets on Tory 'cash for access' scandal

Rupert Murdoch has praised on Twitter the "cash for access" sting on the Conservative party carried out by his Sunday Times as a "great scoop" and has joined the calls for a full independent inquiry.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

'Trinity Mirror putting creditors before pensions'

Strong stuff from independent pension consultant John Ralfe (top) in an comment piece on Trinity Mirror's plan to cut annual pensions contributions in order to obtain refinancing.

He writes: "Trinity Mirror is trying to drive a coach-and-horses through the regulatory principle that the pension scheme should not be subordinated to other unsecured creditors.

"The Regulator has the power to force a company to make contributions – a power not used so far – and it should start the lengthy legal process to ensure the full £100m pension payments are made, as long as Trinity Mirror’s other unsecured creditors are being paid on schedule.

"The Regulator should do this despite the serious implications for the company, its pension scheme members and the Pension Protection Fund. Both sides know that if the company does make the full £100m deficit contributions it may lead to a default on its borrowings, which may, in turn, lead to administration."

Friday, 23 March 2012

Murdoch ahoy! for Monday's Panorama probe

The BBC Panorama programme on Monday is billed as "Murdoch's TV Pirates."

According to pre-publicity on the Panorama website: "As Rupert Murdoch faces accusations of law-breaking and corruption at his British tabloid newspapers, Panorama reveals fresh hacking allegations at the heart of News Corporation's pay-TV empire.

"The investigation examines the role of former senior police officers in recruiting people to break the law - in order to bring down Murdoch's commercial rival."

The reporter on the programme is Vivian White.

  • Blogger Guido Fawkes reports that News Corps' lawyers have already sent out warning letters about the Panorama programme, to be broadcast on BBC 1 at 8:30pm, to the news media.

Quotes of the Week: From Murdoch and Maggie to the Leveson orchestra plays as newspapers sink

Sir Harold Evans (top) on the Today programme about the revelation Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch met shortly before he was allowed to buy The Times and Sunday Times: "It's highly improper. Here's a prime minister meeting one of a number of bidders for Times Newspapers in secret. There's no mention of the law on monopolies. The whole thing is so squalid, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at being vindicated after all this time."

Stephen Glover in the
Independent: "A reasonable case could be made for Rupert Murdoch having been a reliable steward of The Times and Sunday Times: he has certainly borne losses of tens of millions of pounds on the former. But it is also true that his acquisition of these titles in addition to The Sun and the News of the World made him too powerful a figure. Sometimes he has used his power well, as when he took on, and beat, the overmighty print unions, which were in the process of destroying national newspapers. At other times – for example, his cutting the cover price of The Times in an attempt to kill off this newspaper – he has abused his power. And above all, of course, he has seduced every Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher with the possible exception of John Major."

Fleet Street Blues on online journalism: "It's not just that drumming up a lazy story about Twitter outrage or a viral video is boring; it's unoriginal. And in the brave new internet world where traffic is everything, unoriginal won't work. What people want is fresh and relevant content, and the best way to get that is to have brought something from the offline world into the online world for the first time."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary on the judicial review of the order forcing the media to give police film of the Dale Farm evictions: "The NUJ welcomes the decision to allow the judicial review to proceed...This case is a defence of press freedom - journalists are not evidence gatherers for the police."

The Independent in a leader on outgoing BBC D-G Mark Thompson: "Mr Thompson is right to step down this autumn, shortly after the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. With the Corporation facing the huge challenge of negotiating a new Charter in 2016, it needs to be led by a Director-General with a real strategic grasp, a distinctive public face and an ability to manage the politics. Whoever takes over will need to show more flair, more backbone and greater strength of character. Finding such a successor will not be easy."

South Wales Echo editor Tim Gordon at Leveson on staff expenses at Trinity Mirror Wales: "The average journalist spends 71p a week on taking someone out."

Editor-in-chief Paul Dacre to Press Gazette after the Daily Mail is named Newspaper of the Year: "I understand that it's been a ghastly few months but the great majority of the news industry is honest and there is an awful lot to be proud of... I think the British public has the common sense to take that on board and the politicians have too."

Johnston Press ceo Ashley Highfield at the Guardian Changing Media Summit: “We’re going to flip the model from newspaper-first every day to digital-first, and you take the best and produce a bumper weekly in print. By 2020, that will be the modelve run the numbers and think that can be a profitable model...Every one of our newspapers is profitable. The smaller the newspaper, the more profitable it is. This is not a burning platform that we all need to leap off. We can manage the migration to digital."

Neil Fowler writing in InPublishing magazine: "The defining moment for me, when I really appreciated that the Leveson Inquiry had lost its way completely, was when Sun editor Dominic Mohan was quizzed about the presence of Page 3 girls in his newspaper. Then I realised that the orchestra conducted by the good Lord was really continuing to play while the whole Titanic of our industry continued its seemingly unstoppable decline to its long predicted watery grave."

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sunday Times Magazine exhibition goes national

After a successful run at The Saatchi Gallery in London, the exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of The Sunday Times Magazine is going on tour to Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham.

The exhibition, which opens at Paintworks, Bristol on Saturday 24 March, Cube, Manchester on Wednesday 11 April and Waterhall, Birmingham on Tuesday 22 May, will showcase images from some of the world’s finest photographers who have worked for the Magazine.

They include Don McCullin, David Bailey, Eve Arnold, Snowdon, Richard Avedon, Eugene Richards, Sam Taylor-Wood, Terry O'Neill, Chris Floyd and Stuart Franklin.

The exhibition will also highlight the contribution made to the Magazine by writers such as Ian Fleming, Martin Amis, Bruce Chatwin, Jilly Cooper, Zoe Heller, James Fox and Nicholas Tomalin.

The Sunday Times Magazine 50th Anniversary Exhibition will be showing at:

Paintworks, Bristol from Saturday 24 March to Tuesday 3 April. Entry is free. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.

Cube, Manchester from Wednesday 11 April to Tuesday 24 April. Entry is free. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.

Waterhall, Birmingham from Tuesday 22 May to Saturday 2 June. Entry is free. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.

The exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery attracted around 200,000 visitors and was extended twice due to popular demand.

Memorial service for KM Group's Edwin Boorman

A memorial service will be held next month for Kent Messenger Group president Edwin Boorman.

The service will be at 3pm on 4 April at All Saints Church in Mill Street, Maidstone, at which everybody will be welcome.

Boorman, a former president of the Newspaper Society, died last Wednesday after a short illness. He was aged 76.

He had previously served as managing director, chief executive and chairman of the family-owned company, which has a portfolio of weekly newspapers, websites and radio stations across Kent.

The family has requested no flowers, but donations to the Royal British Legion can be made c/o Viner & Sons, 54 High Street, West Malling, ME19 6LU.

Pic: KM Group

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What a headline: doggers in trimmed bushes shock

I never thought doggers were that fussy. From the website of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo.

Headline changed to 'Tree trimming helping to tidy dogging lay-by'.

NUJ accepts new FT pay offer and calls off action

NUJ members at the Financial Times have accepted a new pay offer from management and called off industrial action planned for this week.

The NUJ chapel said in a statement: "Following negotiations with the NUJ, management has agreed to raise this year's pay award by 0.5 per cent across the board, starting from July 1. During final negotiations we were also pleased to learn that the profit-related bonus, negotiated with the NUJ three years ago, will be £394 this year, to pay out at the end of this month.

"The FT NUJ chapel voted unanimously to welcome the decision to redistribute this year's pay award more equitably. We welcome management's commitment to discuss with the NUJ the lessons of the pay dispute and to revise and complete the draft house agreement accordingly. We urge management to convince us by its actions that it is serious about avoiding similar disputes in future.

"NUJ members welcome Lionel Barber's offer of talks on improving the transparency and substance of future pay negotiations. In that spirit, we propose to start such a process with a meeting between NUJ officers and the editor, the new managing editor and other senior managers. We welcome management's commitment to collective bargaining, and look forward in a spirit of good faith to renewing negotiations over the many issues and challenges facing the FT."

Steve Bird, FoC at the FT Group NUJ Chapel, added: "This dispute has shown that our members are as principled and tenacious as trade unionists as they are as journalists. I am proud of the chapel's response and very pleased that management has listened to the majority of its staff. We hope to rebuild good relations with senior managers and get back to producing a great newspaper."

The union says that in a letter to staff, Lisa MacLeod, FT managing editor, said the company would pay a further 0.5 per cent in addition to the previous award of 2-2.5 per cent. The overall paybill will still be 3.5 per cent.

The offer was considered controversial by the NUJ because a third of the money set aside for the year's increase was to be used as merit pay or for staff retention at the managing editor's discretion.

MacLeod said the award "recognises the hard work and vital contribution of our editorial team within the context of an extremely challenging commercial environment".

Osborne's pre-Budget battles dominate the news

Chancellor George Osborne and his preparations for today's budget was the top story in the UK press for the week ending Sunday, March 18, according to journalisted.

Osborne, who has been busy drafting - and battling over - the forthcoming budget, generated 355 articles; David Cameron's visit to the US, and reassertion of the special relationship, 234 articles; the NHS, prior to the health and social care bill's final reading in the House of Lords, 167 articles; and an American soldier kills 16 Afghans, 127 articles, as there are renewed calls for British withdrawal, 72 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were legal aid, due to be cut significantly in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill, currently being debated and amended in the Lords, 33 articles; the ICC, in its first verdict, found the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of using and recruiting child soldiers between 2002 and 2003, 25 articles; and after four days of violence in Gaza - where 25 Palestinians died and 35 Israelis were injured - Egypt steps in to broker a ceasefire between the two, 12 articles.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The regional press dilemma: How to resource credible online services and still make money

The biggest problem facing the regional press is how to resource and develop credible online services while continuing to make money, Adrian Faber, editor of the Wolverhampton-based Express and Star, told the Leveson Inquiry today.

Faber described the last few years for the regional press as having been "extremely painful" because of declining revenue and the impact of the switch from print to online.

But he told Lord Justice Leveson that the Express and Star, the country's highest circulation regional newspaper, still had 100 journalists and was able to cover the Crown Court, magistrates' courts, local council meetings in two boroughs and health authority meetings.

Faber said he and his colleagues had been surprised by some of the revelations at the inquiry about how the national press operated.

"We've never hacked anyone's phone, never paid a public official or a police officer. Never been asked for money," he said. "The difference between the nationals and regional press is immense."

InPublishing: The Leveson Inquiry Module 1

I've done an article for InPublishing on the first part of the Leveson Inquiry (Module 1) which ended in February and mainly concentrated on the press and the public. The current module is looking at relations between the press and the police and the third will look at relations between the press and politicians.

Monday, 19 March 2012

NUJ welcomes judicial review of Dale Farm order

The NUJ has welcomed the decision to allow the union and broadcasting companies a judicial review of the production order forcing journalists, media organisations and broadcasters to handover film of the Dale Farm evictions to the police.

The union argues the Dale Farm case raises fundamental issues about the ability of the press to report matters of public interest impartially and without fear of intimidation.

The application is on behalf of NUJ member video journalist Jason N. Parkinson, the BBC, ITN, BskyB and Hardcash Productions.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The NUJ welcomes the decision to allow the judicial review to proceed.

"The media played a critical public interest role in reporting on Dale Farm and the case will have significant implications for the whole of our industry.

"Journalists are put in danger if footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police.

"The NUJ’s code of conduct compels the union – and our members - to defend a vital principle, the protection of journalistic sources and material.

“This case is a defence of press freedom - journalists are not evidence gatherers for the police.”

Friday, 16 March 2012

NewburyToday exclusive with £1m bet stable boy

Super scoop interview on NewburyToday, the website of the Newbury Weekly News, with Lambourn stable lad Conor Murphy at Nicky Henderson’s stables who won £1 million after betting on five of the champion trainers winning horses at the Cheltenham Festival.

In the interview with Mark Taylor, Cork-born Murphy said the news was still sinking in and he had no clue how was going to spend his new fortune.

“I still cannot believe it, even this morning it is still sinking in. I haven’t even thought about the money yet. It was just pure luck,” he said.

Murphy had turned down interviews with the national media yesterday.

Quotes of the Week: From Labour fawning over Desmond to Murdoch titles, Cameron and the Met

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst (top), at the Bath Literature Festival, remembers the Richard Desmond takeover when he was at the Express: "We were trying to turn the paper into a more liberal and upmarket paper but management lost its nerve. They sold the paper to Richard Desmond... Within a fortnight, the heavy bulk of the Labour Cabinet was fawning over Desmond. We were really shocked by it."

The Sunday Times quotes "one top shareholder" in Trinity Mirror: “We have asked for Sly Bailey’s salary to be reviewed as it is excessive by most standards, let alone a company with a market value of about £100m.”

Martin Shipton, NUJ Trinity Mirror group chapel chair: "The union's Alternative Annual Report on Trinity Mirror exposes the reality behind the group board's yearly announcement of 'savings' totalling many millions of pounds. These cumulative cuts are having a devastating impact on the ability of newspapers to report on their communities with the consequence that readers are turning off in droves. The board's strategy in recent years has had nothing to do with producing excellent journalism that readers will want to buy, it is about slashing costs to pay off debts. By wilfully damaging the quality of its own papers, the board is destroying its chance to create a sustainable business for the future."

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders: "The Arab Spring has clearly shown, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas, that the internet is a vehicle for freedom. In countries where the traditional media are controlled by the government, the only independent news and information are to be found on the internet, which has become a forum for discussion and a refuge for those who want to express their views freely. However, more and more governments have realised this and are responding by trying to control the internet and by stepping up surveillance of internet users."

Neville Thurlbeck on his arrest on suspicion of intimidating a witness: "CLEARLY, my blog was the cause of today's police activity. One minute I was sitting penning a new post. The next, I was in the police station, having DNA mouth swabs and my fingerprints and police mugshot taken. A complaint had been made and acted upon very swiftly indeed. It really didn't feel like England today!"

Sandra Laville, of the Guardian, on the police at Leveson: "They need to be held to account. We can't hold them to account by taking information from official channels only. They have the power to lock people up for a long time, we have had miscarriages of justice. Journalists have to be able to hold the police to account."

The Independent in a leader: "Of course, it is not unknown for the elite in any society to move in similar circles and for their paths to have crossed as they forged their upward paths. But the associations that are emerging between the Cameron coterie, the Metropolitan Police and the Murdoch newspapers raise questions that cry out ever more insistently for answers."

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Death of KM Group president Edwin Boorman

Edwin Boorman, president of the family-owned Kent Messenger Group and one of the best known figures in the regional press, has died after a short illness aged 76.

Boorman had previously served as managing director, chief executive and chairman of the company, which owns a portfolio of weekly newspapers, websites and radio stations across Kent.

He took on the role of president in January 2006, after passing the chairmanship to his daughter Geraldine.

Boorman is a former president of the Newspaper Society, serving from 2001 to 2002.

Kent Online reports that Boorman had been taken ill just before Christmas, and passed away peacefully last night.

KM Group managing director Richard Elliot paid tribute to Boorman, whom he described as "a great figure with a true passion for local journalism".

He added: "Edwin helped build a company that everyone at the KM Group is proud to work for, and we will all miss him greatly. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Geraldine and all the family."

Boorman was the third generation in a family that has owned the business since the late 1800s.

Under his leadership, the KM Group expanded into radio and digital with the launch of kmfm and

Its newspaper portfolio includes the Kent Messenger, Medway Messenger, Kentish Gazette and the Kentish Express.

Pic: KM Group

Thurlbeck arrest: 'It really didn't feel like England'

Ex-News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (top) has commented on his blog about his arrest yesterday on suspicion of intimidating a witness and has denied any wrongdoing.

It is believed Thurlbeck's arrest follows a post on his blog in which he referred to Will Lewis, a member of News Corp's Management and Standards Committee, and claims that he had hired a private security firm to protect his home.

Thurlbeck blogged: "CLEARLY, my blog was the cause of today's police activity.

One minute I was sitting penning a new post. The next, I was in the police station, having DNA mouth swabs and my fingerprints and police mugshot taken.

A complaint had been made and acted upon very swiftly indeed.

It really didn't feel like England today!

Grateful thanks to my superb lawyer Henri Brandman who was an immense support and wise counsel.

And to all my family and friends for your support and for your kind messages.

I vigorously deny the allegations of any wrongdoing, which seem extremely far-fetched to me.

And I will continue with my blog and my work regardless of today's events.

I will be issuing no further statement on this matter in the immediate future.

PS Scotland Yard got my age wrong again today. I am a mere 50 years old and not the prehistoric 51 they insist I am!"

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

FT journalists in new strike threat over pay row

NUJ members at the Financial Times have voted for a three-hour strike on Thursday next week (March 22) over their pay dispute following a breakdown in talks with management.

The strike will go ahead if an agreement with management cannot be reached.

The FT's NUJ chapel has passed a "no confidence" motion in the senior management of the Financial Times "over its failure to ensure transparency in its dealings and for the contempt shown to staff throughout the pay negotiations."

Steve Bird, FoC, of the NUJ's FT Group Chapel, said: “By justifying vast salaries for FT executives and keeping a large part of the pay award back for 'star' employees, FT managers are undermining both the team that produces the newspaper and the principles and high standards on which the paper is based. I am immensely proud of the stand the chapel is taking which is as much about integrity and fairness as it is about a cut-price pay offer.”

FT management issued a statement after the group chapel first voted for industrial action over the pay dispute. It said: "We view the vote for industrial action and the risk of disruption unwarranted and unreasonable. The Financial Times has continued to invest in its editorial operations because we strongly believe that quality journalism is at the heart of our global success.

"The proposed salary increase of 3.5 per cent - with 2-2.5 per cent for all editorial staff and 1 per cent for merit, plus a bonus, compares favourably with the rest of the industry and we have avoided any compulsory redundancies at a time when news organisations around the world are facing exceptional challenges."

US Republican race leads the UK news agenda

The race for the Republican presidential nomination in the US was the top story in the UK media in the week ending Sunday, March 11, according to journalisted.

Mitt Romney (top) inching towards the Republican presidential nomination with 6 victories in 10 states on Super Tuesday, generated 165 articles; the Liberal Democrats got embroiled in internal debates about tax - particularly around their proposal for a Mansion Tax - at the Lib Dems spring conference, 147 articles; The issue of gay marriage became controversial - again - after the intervention of Cardinal O'Brien, 125 articles; and Prince Harry charmed the citizens of Belize, Brazil, the Bahamas and Jamaica on the Diamond Jubilee Tour, 120 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were Yemen militants, who have links with al-Qaeda, attack Government troops, 185 dead, 12 articles; Spain's new Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, gets in a fight with Brussels as he seeks to stop Spain becoming the next Greece, 12 articles; and Nicholas Sarkozy threatened to pull out of the Schengen zone in an attempt to woo right wing voters prior to the French election, 6 articles.

    Syrian citizen journalists win RWB's Netizen Prize

    Syrian citizen journalists and activists have been awarded the 2012 Reporters Without Borders Netizen Prize sponsored by Google.

    The media centre of the Local Coordination Committees brings together groups of citizen journalists to collect and disseminate information and images of Syria’s uprising.

    Jasmine, a 27-year-old Syrian activist who now lives in Canada, accepted the award on behalf of the activists inside of the country.

    “The Netizen Prize proves that our voices were heard and that we succeeded in delivering the stories of millions of Syrians who are struggling on the ground to achieve what they have always dreamed - to live in freedom and dignity,” Jasmine said. “Thank you for acknowledging our presence as an active and effective media organization.”

    RWB says Syrian journalists and bloggers are threatened and arrested by the government while iInternational news organisations are, for the most part, kept out of the country, adding: "In their absence, the committees are almost the only way to keep the world abreast of the violence wracking the country. They emerged spontaneously following the start of the Syrian revolution last March, bringing together human rights activists and local journalists, and now are found in most cities and towns across the country.

    "Informants on the ground send information and the committees confirm it from multiple sources. A third group translates the news into English and distributes it on the group’s website. Videos and pictures are posted on Facebook and on a photo blog."

    The award was made on World Day Against Cyber Censorship at a ceremony in Paris last night.

    Tuesday, 13 March 2012

    Johnston Press seeks group editorial development director as it transforms to a 'digital first' business

    Johnston Press is advertising for a "heavyweight digital journalist" to be the company's group editorial development director and who will play a major role in making JP a "digital first publishing business".

    According to the job advert on Linkedin, the successful candidate will develop, manage and lead the digital content activities for Johnston Press and its 230 local websites in the UK and Ireland.

    It also says: "The successful candidate will play a pivotal role in the transformation of Johnston Press to a digital first publishing business, and will take the lead in setting and managing the tone of voice, content and audience strategy for JP’s local websites and will also play an important role in the Johnston Press senior management team."

    The post would be based in London or Peterborough.

    • The job opportunity, which is also being advertised on HoldtheFrontPage, was mentioned on Twitter in a tweet by Johnston's ceo Ashley Highfield today.

    Talks fail to resolve pay dispute at Financial Times NUJ members plan industrial action starting today

    Talks aimed at averting a strike by NUJ members at the Financial Times have broken down at the arbitration service ACAS and industrial action is planned to go-ahead this afternoon.

    NUJ representatives spent hours in meetings with FT management at the offices of ACAS yesterday but, according to the union, the talks did not reach a resolution to the current dispute on pay.

    The union said: "The NUJ is bitterly disappointed that despite numerous suggestions from the union on how to distribute the budgeted money more fairly, FT management have rejected the union's proposals and have failed to come up with a single suggestion of their own. As a result, industrial action will go ahead at 3pm on Tuesday 13 March and is likely to involve 250 NUJ members at the FT."

    Further action will also be considered.

    Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: "FT management have failed to engage in meaningful talks or accept the union's constructive suggestions to resolve the dispute. The union is fully behind our members at the FT taking action on pay and management should seriously consider our alternative proposals that would go some way to address the current unfair offer."

    Steve Bird, FoC at the FT Group chapel, added: “The cost of settling this dispute is well within the FT's reach. It is extraordinary that management is prepared to bully the majority of its staff into accepting a deal they have rejected over and over as divisive and derisory. This refusal to negotiate is pushing journalists towards a strike.”

    The FT issued a statement after the group chapel voted for industrial action over the pay dspute. It said: "We view the vote for industrial action and the risk of disruption unwarranted and unreasonable. The Financial Times has continued to invest in its editorial operations because we strongly believe that quality journalism is at the heart of our global success. The proposed salary increase of 3.5 per cent - with 2-2.5 per cent for all editorial staff and 1 per cent for merit, plus a bonus, compares favourably with the rest of the industry and we have avoided any compulsory redundancies at a time when news organisations around the world are facing exceptional challenges.

    "We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure business as usual at the FT and there will be no adverse effect on the quality of our coverage."

    Monday, 12 March 2012

    RWB: World Day Against Cyber-Censorship

    Today is World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. It was first launched by press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders in 2008 and is intended to rally everyone in support of a single internet without restrictions and accessible to all.

    RWB says the the fight for online freedom of expression is more essential than ever.

    It adds: "The Arab Spring has clearly shown, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas, that the internet is a vehicle for freedom. In countries where the traditional media are controlled by the government, the only independent news and information are to be found on the internet, which has become a forum for discussion and a refuge for those who want to express their views freely.

    "However, more and more governments have realised this and are responding by trying to control the internet and by stepping up surveillance of internet users. Netizens are being targeted by government reprisals. More than 120 of them are currently detained for expressing their views freely online, mainly in China, Iran and Vietnam. World Day Against Cyber-Censorship pays tribute to them and their fight for Internet freedom."

    RWB claims internet users in “free” countries have learned to react in order to protect what they have won. "Some governments stepped up pressure on technical service providers to act as internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hacktivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by a repressive regime’s apparatus. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.

    "Online social networks complicate matters for authoritarian regimes that are trying to suppress unwanted news and information. It was thanks to netizens that Tunisians learned about the street vendor who set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid and Egyptians learned about Khaled Said, the young netizen who was beaten to death by police outside an Alexandria Internet café. It was thanks to social networks that Sidi Bouzid and Khaled Said became news stories and went on to become cornerstones of the Arab Spring."

    Sunday, 11 March 2012

    Shareholder revolt over Sly Bailey's pay says ST

    Trinity Mirror faces a shareholder rebellion over chief executive Sly Bailey's pay, according to the Sunday Times.

    It says at least four of Trinity Mirror's largest investors have demanded deep cuts to Bailey’s pay package during recent meetings with the company's chairman-elect David Grigson.

    The Sunday Times quotes "one top shareholder" claiming: “We have asked for Sly Bailey’s salary to be reviewed as it is excessive by most standards, let alone a company with a market value of about £100m.”

    It adds: "The shareholders — Schroders, Aviva Investors, Standard Life and Legal & General — control 42% of Trinity Mirror. While none is looking to oust Bailey, her position would become precarious if she refuses to cut her pay."

    The Sunday Times reports: "It is understood Bailey’s remuneration will be discussed by Trinity Mirror’s board, meeting ahead of Thursday’s results" and that "Trinity Mirror has lost more than a quarter of its value over the past year and Bailey has presided over a 90% collapse in the share price since joining the company nine years ago. In that time she has collected more than £12m in pay, bonuses, share awards and other perks."

    Friday, 9 March 2012

    New hyperlocal magazine launched for churches

    Reading Post features editor Phil Creighton has left the paper to launch and publish his own hyperlocal magazine for churches.

    His new title, Xn, is an A4ish sized newsprint magazine for churches in Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell which can also be read in a digital format here.

    The free title is distributed via the churches and features a mixture of news and features.

    Phil says: "It's hyperlocal journalism in action: reaching a niche audience and supplying them with relevant and engaging copy, attractively presented.

    "At the moment, I'm working on my own - stories are coming from the usual sources of contacts, meeting people and getting out and about. Assuming the revenue comes in as forecast, I'll be looking to employ a trainee and working with them to get their NTCJ qualifications."

    UK newspaper circulation down 20% in five years - with regional press losing nearly 30% of sales

    British newspaper circulations are among the worst performers in Europe, according to industry analyst and consultant Jim Chisholm.

    They have plunged by 20% over the last five years, compared with a European average of 12%. During the past five years UK nationals declined by 16% against a European norm of 13%, while regionals declined by 29% against a norm of 12%.

    Only Denmark with a decline of 21%, caused by a failed free newspaper war, has fared worse.

    Chisholm gives the gloomy figures in an article for the fothcoming book What Do We Mean By Local?, edited by John Mair, Neil Fowler and Ian Reeves, which is to be published by Arima on March 27th.

    He writes that there are more than one thousand regional non-daily titles, against one hundred and four dailies delivering 20m copies per issue, against 3m per issue for the dailies. Of all newspaper advertising in the UK, 42% is in national press, 21% in regional dailies, and 37% in regional weeklies.

    Chisholm says that "on the digital front, international comparisons are harder, given that we operate within the English-speaking world, which has advantages and disadvantages.

    "But here again, with notable exceptions, the picture is not encouraging. British newspapers share a global challenge in that they may attract high numbers of unique visitors, but those visitors return only occasionally, and view very few pages. There is little research as to why this is, but without increased intensity, it is hard to see how either access or advertising revenues are going to grow."

    In the UK only 18% of the total population read a local daily newspaper compared with 53% in Germany, 21% in France and nearly 70% in Norway and Switzerland.

    Chisholm says: "While the British still connect with their newspapers – according to the Newspaper Society over 70% of the population read their local newspaper – regular readership is low. Only 18% of the population read a regional daily on an average day. Weekly newspapers are relatively more popular, but even here readership is low compared with other markets, and three quarters of non-daily distribution is free newspapers.

    "Of course people are increasingly turning to digital media, and this together with newspapers’ ability to target highly focused pockets of communication through leafleting, means that newspapers remain a highly influential medium for society, advertisers and so many other stakeholders, in reach if not in frequency – a continuing theme.

    "Our challenge is not readership, but reading frequency and intensity, and digital consumption is an exaggerated version of what has happened in print. As I’ve written widely, and been widely ridiculed for saying, newspapers are not losing circulation because of the Internet; sales were declining long before the Internet came along."

    On marketing, Chisholm points out: "Coke spends 17% of turnover on marketing their sugary liquid. Unilever spends 16% on promoting their ubiquitous products. Newspapers spend virtually nothing on above the line or point of sale promotion."

    On digital, Chisholm claims: "While the UK can boast the world’s highest proportion of advertising expenditure now spent in digital media (31.2%), newspapers continue to attract only around 6% to 8% of total revenues from these new sources.

    "Take these relatively low revenues per copy together with the UK’s shareholders’ voracious appetites for profits and it is not difficult to see why British newspapers are suffering more than their peers in other markets."

    He adds a note of optimism: "Digital media options are improving, with the advent of smartphones and tablets. Initial feedback regarding newspaper readership on tablets is that news consumers on tablets are every bit as intense and regular as those in print."

    Chisholm claims: "As digital consumption shifts from fixed Internet to mobile and tablet – and this rate is only going to accelerate, so the opportunity for charging, and importantly increasing consumption intensity will increase.

    "It will either be owned by a new entrant or by a partnership of all major UK regional publishers."

    Chisholm highlights the key strategic messages as:

    • The combination of low revenues per copy and high profit expectations relative to other countries, are the factors that got us to where we are and will dictate our future unless we rethink;
    • Our brands have been emasculated through a cancellation of intelligent marketing;
    • News is under-represented at a local level. Among major markets our lack of local readership is extremely unusual;
    • In the digital world newspapers can have a major impact but there needs to be more scientific attention paid to audience behaviour in terms of loyalty, frequency and intensity.

    Among the solutions looked at by Chisholm is the growing switch by daily regional newspapers to weekly publication which he says "a comparison with other markets, and an examination of changing audience and advertiser behaviour suggests that a move could be a very positive strategy."

    He says publishers should also look at hyper-local opportunities in collaboration with others; revisit their multi-media offerings; return ownership to its roots "by offering their local media properties back to local business people with a loyalty and empathy with the markets they know, at a realistic market price."

    Chisholm concludes: "From within the UK regional newspaper industry things look particularly challenging. Comparison with countries provides a small consolation in that others are experiencing similar structural and economic challenges.

    "But further comparison also shows that the UK newspaper industry is unusual in its structure, and also that is a very lean industry still managing to suck good profits out of unusually low revenues."