Sunday, 31 May 2009

Video: Rupert Murdoch on why papers must charge users for their content on web

Rupert Murdoch tells interviewer on Fox Business: "You are going to have to pay for your favourite newspaper on the web."
The News Corp ceo says newspapers will still be around in 10 years but the free for all on the web "will have to stop..newspapers will start selling subscriptions."
He says some US newspapers have got into trouble because of their "ridiculous" debt levels but others will buy bankrupt titles from the banks.
Murdoch adds News Corp newspapers would never take Government subsidies because it would compromise their freedom to criticise.
Story via the Newspaper Project

Saturday, 30 May 2009

MPs' expenses scandal boosts local press

The scandal of MPs' expenses has prompted a resurgance in the popularity and power of local newspapers, writes Andrew Pierce in the Daily Telegraph today.
Sales of many papers are up as they hold local MPs to account and their letters pages and websites are experiencing their biggest reaction for decades, Pierce claims.
The Daily Telegraph notes: The Norwich Evening News ran a hard-hitting front page editorial after Ian Gibson, a local Labour MP, allowed his daughter to live rent free in his London flat, which was financed on his expenses. He later sold it to her at a vastly reduced price.
Christopher Fraser, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk, who is standing down after he claimed £1,800 for perimeter fencing for his garden, was subjected to withering criticism in an editorial in the Eastern Daily Press.
In Corby the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph ran an additional six letters pages in one week after it was disclosed that Phil Hope, the town’s Labour MP, had claimed tens of thousands of pounds on his London flat. Mr Hope later pledged to repay £41,000.
I've noticed that where the local press has scored is by comparing the often widely different claims from MPs in adjacent constituencies. For an example, coverage by the County Times in mid-Wales.

European governments urged to review impact of anti-terror laws on press freedom

Ministers from the human rights network of the Council of Europe have called on their governments to review anti-terrorism laws in following claims by journalists that they are limiting press freedom.
Meeting in Reykjavik the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communications Services agreed that the time was right to assess the impact of terror laws enacted since attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
"This recommendation sends a strong message," said Aidan White, European Federation of Journalists general secretary. "European governments need to act now to repair the damage done to civil liberties by the rush to legislate over the threat of terrorism."
The EFJ has taken up the case of Suzanne Breen, Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Tribune who is fighting a court application by police in Belfast to hand over material related to her reports on the Real IRA.
The EFJ warned that the case illustrated how the law is being used to force journalists to reveal their source of information.
"Journalists in the UK and Ireland protest that the safety of this journalist as well as press freedom are at risk by this case," said White. "It is intolerable pressure on press rights."
At a rally in support of Suzanne Breen in London last week, Jo Glanville, of Index on Censorship, warned police were increasingly pursuing journalists' material as part of counter terrorism operations.
Story via NUJ website.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Headline of the Week



'Local media's community building role at risk'

NUJ equality officer Lena Calvert has warned that the local media's role in keeping communities together is at risk.
She said: “Savage cutbacks across most sectors of our industry are seriously threatening quality and damaging our profession.
"This is particularly the case in local newspapers where titles are closing, leaving some areas without printed local newspapers – this affects social cohesion and deprives communities of information about what is happening in their locality – including, of course, information about court cases relating to hate crimes but also about positive aspects of our diverse societies. And this leaves a vacuum for extremists to exploit prejudice and irrational fears.”
Calvert made her comments when she was addressing a symposium in London yesterday (Thursday), organised by Lancaster University’s Hate Crime Research Group.

Support for Suzanne Breen's sources fight

International support is growing for Sunday Tribune Northern Ireland editor Suzanne Breen who is resisting court moves to make her hand over source material after she reported claims by the Real IRA.
Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists has raised the case at a conference on freedom expression organised by the Council of Europe.
He said: “Legal intimidation of reporters to reveal their sources threatens the lives of investigative journalists as well as encouraging a culture of secrecy. The case of Suzanne Breen in Ireland, a distinguished journalist supported by colleagues either side of a troubled border, is just the latest example of a reporter under fire in the courts because of her revealing journalism about paramilitary groups.
“If she is forced to comply, journalistic scrutiny will be sacrificed, democracy will suffer and she will be put in harm's way."
The NUJ and Sunday Tribune has launched a campaign in the Republic of Ireland in defence of Breen’s right to protect her confidential sources of information.
Sunday Tribune editor Noirin Hegarty said: “If you think that press freedom is important and that it matters that journalists can do their jobs without fear or persecution, you need to stand with us. We are the observers and the outsiders and we will be vigorous in our defence of our right to keep our sources confidential.
“We will be vigorous in our protection of this journalist’s life. To do anything else would not just be a betrayal of Suzanne Breen’s journalistic bravery, but a betrayal of journalism itself.”
NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said: “The decision by the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) to seek a sweeping order of this magnitude; the fact that evidence was given by the PSNI in private; the grim determination of the PSNI to pursue the case against Suzanne Breen and the Sunday Tribune must alarm not just every journalist in Ireland, North and South but everyone who cares about preserving a free, unfettered media.”


Below: Suzanne Breen in London on Tuesday talking about being raided by police.


videoS


Quotes of the week

Sunday Tribune's Suzanne Breen on her campaign to resist a police application to hand over source material after she reported claims by the Real IRA: "It is very important we run with this otherwise they (the police) will come after other journalists."

Bill Goodwin on the £250,000 it cost Morgan Grampian in legal costs to fight court rulings saying he should reveal a source: "I cannot imagine another employer being so generous at the moment."

Peter Devine, political editor of the Stockport Express, in Total Politics magazine on Guardian Media Group's plan to centralise weeklies in one office: "Moving political reporting out of areas such as Stockport will leave a huge vacuum, one which will be filled by dumbed-down, out-of-touch coverage by out-of-town reporters."

Peter Preston in The Observer on the Lobby: "They're expert, self-regulated members of one gentlemen's club, monitoring another one. They need to cultivate sources, buy drinks and keep onside to keep the chat coming. They are part of the institution, in a way. They do not turn over stones."

George Dearsley on his blog on the awkward questions put by reporters: "I suppose the toughest question I ever had to ask was put to the wrestler Big Daddy and it was : 'is it right that your wife is a lesbian?' ”

Thursday, 28 May 2009

If only there was a European Cup for the best punning football headlines

British tabloid sports subs have played another blinder with punning headlines on last night's European Cup Final between Barcelona and Manchester United.
Most featured Barcelona's superstar Lionel Messi.

That's another fine Messi - Daily Mail

Lionel Flair is perfect 10 - Daily Star

Thrown to the Lionels - Daily Mirror

Fergie in a right Messi - Daily Express

Just Messimerising - Daily Record

But the most original came from The Sun summing up Barca's superior quality to United: Catalan v Matalan

How did the Spanish press do? According to the BBC Sport website:

Champions of Legends - El Mundo

On top of the world - El Pais

Champions! Champions! Champions! - La Vanguardia

This team is a work of art - Marca

Maybe something is lost in translation, but that's just plain boring compared to the British tabloids. Mind you El Pais does report that Messi is nicknamed "The Flea'' (El Pulga), which must be a gift to headline writers. "Flea bites Fergie" etc..

Baghdad summit in call to protect journalists

A Journalism Summit has been held in Baghdad aimed at helping to develop an independent media in Iraq and improving journalists' safety.
The summit, organised by the International Federation of Journalists and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, was the first international meeting of any kind in the city since the war began six years ago.
The summit launched a three-year national campaign based upon the IFJ global Ethical Journalism Initiative, involving a programme of seminars, debate and professional actions to raise media standards, build a unified journalists' movement and improve safety of journalists.
The IFJ says although Iraq has an abundance of newspapers, television and radio outlets and online services, few of the titles are economically viable, and much of the journalism suffers from political interference and sectarian bias.
Agreements were signed between the IFJ and the Iraq Commission on Integrity and the Iraq Electoral Commission in which both groups pledged to defend press rights and to organise seminars and training for journalists on the role of media in exposing corruption in public life and improving the quality of reporting around election time.
Top priority will be given to ending the security threats. More than 200 journalists and media staff have been killed in the last six years.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear was at the conference and blogs about it here.

Kelvin MacKenzie backs 'fantastic' Barnsley Chronicle in Parky legal row

Kelvin MacKenzie backs the Barnsley Chronicle in his Sun column today over a potential legal fight with its former junior reporter Sir Michael Parkinson.
The Mail reported at the weekend that Parkinson had threatened to sue his cousin and the Chronicle over claims made in a pamphlet about his late father.
MacKenzie writes today: "The Barnsley Chronicle is a fantastic local paper. It sells more than 41,587 copies a week - that's more than The Independent (it's close) - and has been around for 150 years - more than Len Goodman."
He adds: "Clearly, there is no love lost between different parts of his family but for Parkinson to bring in Carter-Ruck is a mixture of bullying and stupidity.
"Local newspapers are going through difficult enough times without facing huge and undeserved legal bills from ho-hum London law firms."

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

How-Do predicts The Guardian will do Manchester area website this summer

The How-Do website for the media in North-West says it now seems certain The Guardian is to launch a new website for the Manchester area this summer and says it will be headed by Sarah Hartley, the former head of online editorial at the MEN group.
It is also predicting that the move will not go down well with staff employed at Guardian Media Group's MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News, who have faced job cuts and office closures.
How-Do first reported back in November about The Guardian's plans. It says: "Details of the project have yet to be officially unveiled, but sectors of the digital and publishing community in the city are a buzz with rumours of what form the new site will take and how it will impact on MEN's portfolio of sites, including City Life....It is understood that the site will be launching this summer, causing some commentators to suggest to How-Do that The Scott Trust, which operates both the Guardian and MEN Media, is guilty of at best bad timing and at worst insensitivity to the staff at its established North West base."

Quotes of the day

From Total Politics magazine:
Peter Devine, political editor of the Stockport Express, on Guardian Media Group's plan to centralise weeklies in one office: "Moving political reporting out of areas such as Stockport will leave a huge vacuum, one which will be filled by dumbed-down, out-of-touch coverage by out-of-town reporters. Our newspaper has proved that readers are looking for publications which provide them with a voice, and that is why we have a circulation increase against a backdrop of massive falls in the weekly and regional press."
Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG regional media: "Most work is done by phone, email and technology. All our reporters will be equipped with Nokia 95s [which enable them to take photographs and record and broadcast video] and laptops, but they'll just be working from one central location. We're not closing a single paper down. Putting it into perspective, Manchester is not a huge place. Salford is just two miles away and Stockport is 11 miles. The further you go the harder it gets, but that's why we have these clinics and surgeries."
Story via HoldtheFrontPage

Could a publisher afford to support Bill Goodwin in a protecting sources' case now?

It was good to see Bill Goodwin and his solicitor Geoffrey Bindman reunited last night and speaking out in favour of Sunday Tribune journalist Suzanne Breen who is fighting for the right to protect material which could identify her sources. (see posting below). Goodwin and Bindmen were involved in a seven year fight to protect sources which finally ended in victory at the European Court. Speaking at a rally supporting Suzanne Breen last night, Goodwin made the point that the case cost his then employer, Morgan Grampian, £250,000. He said: "I cannot imagine another employer being so generous at the moment."
Breen also made the point that the recession had left the press in Ireland financially vulnerable and the Sunday Tribune would have to carefully consider the costs in the case if it became a drawn out affair.
While legal costs remain staggeringly high, the media is facing severe financial restraints during its worst recession for years. This must be having an impact on what can be broadcast or published and how far the press and broadcasters can go in defending stories in the courts.
Another point made at last night's meeting was the impact of anti-terrorism laws and the way they are being used against journalists.
Jo Glanville, of Index on Censorship, said that while Bill Goodwin's case had set a precedent and there had been other victories in protecting sources, like that of Robin Ackroyd, police were increasingly pursuing journalists' material as part of counter terrorism operations.

Suzanne Breen: 'If I lose Real IRA sources' case police will come after other journalists'

Suzanne Breen, (left) the Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Tribune, has said that police want to make an example of her by forcing her to hand over source material as a warning to other journalists.
Breen is resisting court action to force her to give her mobile phone records, notes and other material arising from her reporting claims by the Real IRA.
Breen, speaking at a rally in London organised by the NUJ last night, described the way she had been treated as "Kafkaesque".
She said if police wanted her mobile phone records they could get them from GCHQ or the phone companies."This is nothing other than harassment".
Breen claimed the police action had a "political dimension" which was to deny the oxygen of publicity to terrorists.
She was adamant that she will not comply if ordered by a judge to hand over source material, saying "My life would be in danger if I did so." Breen said that were she to comply and broke the principle of protecting sources' confidentiality her name "would be mud" and even the police would not speak to her.
She also suggested: "Police are doing this when Irish papers are suffering from the recession and are financially vulnerable."
The judge in the case at Belfast High Court has said he is "minded" to grant the police application and much of the police evidence has been kept secret from Breen and her legal team. The next hearing is on Friday when a date for the full case may be set.
Breen said it was very important to win the case "otherwise they will come for other journalists."
Geoffrey Bindman, the solicitor who represented Bill Goodwin in his sources' case 20 years ago, described the action being taken against Breen as "a gross abuse of the legal process".
Goodwin, also at the rally, spoke about how important it had been for him to get messages of support from other journalists when he was facing jail for refusing to name his sources.
A petition supporting Suzanne Breen has already got 1,500 signatures. You can sign it here.

Pic: Jon Slattery

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Ex-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie may stand in General Election for 'No Expenses Party'

This might add a bit of spice to the General Election. It is rumoured that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie is considering standing for Parliament in the next General Election for a constituency near his Surrey home. Apparently his party would either be the "No Expenses Party" or the "Red Mist Party".

Reading Evening Post stops five day publishing next week and relaunches with two titles

The Guardian Media Group's Reading Evening Post will relaunch on Wednesday next week as a weekly edition called the Reading Post, followed on Friday by a new paper named after its website, getreading.co.uk
It was revealed in March that GMG was going to cut the Evening Post from five days a week to two.
The new-look Reading Post – with a 20p cover price for its launch on Wednesday, June 3 – aims to have a more "upmarket" look. Then on Friday, getreading, claimed to be the first newspaper in the UK to be named after a website, will be delivered free to 70,979 homes and will also be on sale in newsagents on Friday priced 40p.
It will have a what’s on guide, a preview of the weekend’s sport plus the week’s latest news. The last Evening Post will roll off the presses on Friday with a special souvenir edition featuring the history of the paper since it launched in 1965.
On Monday getreading.co.uk will carry a new lunchtime video news bulletin and the site will continue to provide live news updates.
The Post follows the Bath Evening Chronicle in switching to a weekly format and it is thought other small regional evenings will follow the trend.
Story tip via HoldtheFrontPage on Twitter.

Kemp Town man files story for Argus

Media Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade has filed his first piece of ultra-local news after taking up the challenge to cover his home patch of Kemp Town for The Argus, Brighton, as a community reporter. Roy writes about the expansion plans of a Kemp Town newsagent.
His appointment came from a bit of smart thinking by Jo Wadsworth, the web editor at The Argus. She heard Roy extolling the virtues of hyperlocality at a Frontline Club event, offered him the Kemp Town patch and the former Daily Mirror editor agreed to take it on.
Story via journalism.co.uk

Sex ad ban has cost Newsquest more than £200,000 in one region, Commons told

A House of Commons committee looking at sex trafficking has been told that the ban on sex ads imposed by Newsquest on its local papers last July has cost it over £200,000 in one region alone.
The Home Affairs Committe report on Human Trafficking in the UK published this month reveals: "A few weeks before it was scheduled to appear before us, Newsquest decided to stop taking classified advertisements for 'adult' services, which, we were told, had resulted in a substantial loss of income—between £200,000 and £250,000 for the Hampshire region alone.
"The Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Daily Echo, representing Newsquest, said that he had become aware of such adverts creeping into newspapers only over the previous ten years. We also asked what, if anything, had happened to the adverts his group now rejected. He reported that the Hampshire police thought they were moving onto the Internet."
The committee said: "We welcome Newquest's decision; and urge other local newspapers to follow that lead."
Story via HoldtheFrontPage
See also Pressure on local press to ban axe sex ads

Suzanne Breen rally today

Suzanne Breen, the Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Tribune who is resisting court action to force her to hand over her mobile phone, records, notes and other material arising from her reporting claims by the Real IRA, will appear at a rally in London today (May 26) organised by the NUJ.
The rally, starting at 6.30pm, will be at NUJ headquarters, 308-312 Gray's Inn Road, London. Other speakers will include Bill Goodwin, who won a landmark protection of sources case at the European Court of Human Rights when he was a journalist on The Engineer, Index on Censorship's Jo Glanville and leading lawyers Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Mark Stephens.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Kelner keeps up assault on MediaGuardian

Combative Independent managing director Simon Kelner renews his attack on the Media Guardian in an interview in the Media Guardian today calling its last piece on his paper "a load of bollocks".
The interview continues: Ask Kelner about going free and it sparks one of several diatribes against this organisation and its media coverage. He is furious about Media Guardian's use of the phrase the "loss-making Indy" when, he claims, the title loses less than many of its peers including the Guardian. It is, he says, "a form of journalism that would make Pravda ashamed."
Kelner began his assault on Media Guardian in a New Statesman article 'Who Guards the Guardian?' last week.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Sunday Times: Who gets what in the great regional press merger shake up

The Sunday Times makes some startling predictions today of what will happen when the Government, as expected, gives the green light to a new merger regime in the regional press when the Digital Britain report is finally published next month.
The ST says:
Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror will merge.
Northcliffe will take over Newsquest's titles as its US parent Gannett pulls out of the UK.
Northcliffe will pick up the West Midlands titles of Trinity (ie. The Birmingham Post and Evening Mail). Northcliffe titles already dominate the East Midlands.
Northcliffe's Hull Daily Mail will go to Johnston Press because of JP's strong presence in Yorkshire with Yorkshire Post Newspapers.
Trinity Mirror will get the Manchester Evening News, from the Guardian Media Group, because it is seen as a good fit with Trinity's Liverpool Post and Echo titles.
If the Sunday Times is right it would leave the regional press in the UK dominated by two giants, Northcliffe and a merged Trinity Mirror-Johnston Press.
The next few months look like being a bumpy ride for the UK's regional newspaper journalists. Already battered by cut backs and redundancies, many of them face the prospect of new owners

MPs scandal: Where was the Lobby?

The Observer's media commentator Peter Preston questions today why the 170 journalists in the Lobby who cover Parliament day after day did not uncover the MPs' expenses scandal.
Preston asks: "Praise Will Lewis and his Telegraph team for taking the plunge and buying the pirate disc of demeaning expenses detail. But wonder how so many reporters missed what was going on under their noses year after year.
"Didn't anyone, updating his flipping contacts list, ask why Hazel Blears was always on the move? Why the chancellor's home telephone number kept changing? How Hon Members on £64,000 a year could afford to clear their moats, build duck islands or tackle dry rot 100 miles from Luton? Couldn't they have talked to old pals who'd gone over to the dark side - Julie Kirkbride, late of the Telegraph, Michael Gove, late of the Times, Ruth Kelly, late of the Guardian, all named and shamed by Lewis's hit squad?"
Preston says of the Lobby: "They're expert, self-regulated members of one gentlemen's club, monitoring another one. They need to cultivate sources, buy drinks and keep onside to keep the chat coming. They are part of the institution, in a way. They do not turn over stones."
He adds: "Remember, it was the ultimate journalist outsider, Heather Brooke (formerly of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and Spokane Spokesman-Review) who set this whole show rolling, using freedom of information and the courts to bring the old club to its knees. We'll need many more like her to keep up the pressure now - in, automatically, a far more open house where the duty to inform comes top of every shop."

Saturday, 23 May 2009

LA cops want journalists fired

The Los Angeles Times is reporting an extraordinary story in which the union representing LA police officers is pressuring the owner of San Diego's biggest newspaper to change the paper's editorial line or to fire the journalists responsible for its opinion pages.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has been running some editorial comments calling for cut backs in public spending which has angered the police officers union. The paper is owned by Platinum Equity, a private firm which relies on a $30-million investment from the pension fund of Los Angeles police officers and firefighters, and other public-employee pension schemes.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber has written to the boss of Platinum claiming: "Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced."
Newspapers in the UK have had some strange owners but never the police force.
Story tip George Dearsley

What's the toughest question you've had to ask?

That's the question journalist George Dearsley, who worked for many of the nationals when they had offices in Manchester, poses on his blog . He looks at some of the the tough assignments reporters have been set and the awkward questions they've had to ask.
George remembers Keith Graves, then with the BBC, asking Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe: “Have you ever had a homosexual relationship?"
He writes: "But, I suppose the toughest question I ever had to ask was put to the wrestler Big Daddy and it was : 'is it right that your wife is a lesbian?' ”
George lived to tell the tale but that was partly because Big Daddy started grappling with the photographer he was with and was distracted by the arrival of hacks from the News of the World.
His blog is a good read.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Video: The man behind MPs' expenses scandal

Ex-Army officer John Wick admits handing over details of the MPs' expenses in a Daily Telegraph video tonight and defends his role in sparking the scandal that has rocked the House of Commons. Wick was identified by the Wall Street Journal a week ago as having given the MPs' expenses material to the Telegraph.

Emily Bell: 'At least Kelner's got balls'

Guardian.co.uk's digital director Emily Bell has responded to the full frontal attack by The Independent's managing director Simon Kelner on MediaGuardian in the New Statesman.
Bell praises Kelner, who accused MediaGuardian of bias and deliberately trying to damage The Independent financially, for having "the balls" to go public unlike TV executives who gave off the record quotes.
"MediaGuardian has always upset a lot of people by trying to cover the industry fairly," Bell told Judith Townend of Journalism.co.uk.
In the NS feature (now online) 'Who Guards the Guardian?' , by the Evening Standard's Gideon Spanier, Bell was attacked by unnamed executives of ITV and Channel 4 for allegedly having a conflict of interest by being a commentator as well as a member of the Guardian News & Media board.
At least Kelner had "the balls to be very explicit", Bell told Journalism.co.uk. "Certainly, the execs at ITV and Channel 4 know exactly what I do: we don't make a secret of it," she said, adding that her role is detailed at the end of her MediaGuardian column and that she never writes 'uncommissioned'.
"I don't really know how to respond to it because I don't know what the allegation is. Is it because I'm writing from the Guardian, as a Guardian employee, but I've also got more say in the corporate strategy? It's not like any of that is unclear. And I'm fairly scrupulous about declaring interests where we are specifically interested.
"When you read the piece as a whole it seems to me that Gideon Spanier gives fair treatment to what seems to be quite a lot of complaining about nothing in particular," she said.
Simon Kelner has given MediaGuardian an interview for next's week section which will be appearing in print and online.

Newsquest dailies run anti-BNP stories

Newsquest may be taking ads for the BNP but that has not stopped its journalists running stories critical of the party.
Today the Colchester Gazette carries a story about local politicians uniting to tell the BNP they are not wanted in Colchester. It reports that local leaders of the three main parties have put out a joint-statement claiming: "The BNP uses misinformation to sow intolerance and spread messages that cause fear, hatred and division."
Another Newsquest daily in Essex, the Echo, is today running a story BNP are harassing us say Muslims. The story reports how a Muslim leader has urged people not to vote for the BNP in next month’s council and European elections and claimed the Islamic community in Basildon has been threatened by the far right group.
Online, both stories appear on home pages carrying "Vote BNP" adverts.

MPs told: "Attacking the messenger won't work'

Matt Chorley, London editor of the Plymouth-based Western Morning News has hit out on his blog against MPs trying to turn the tables on journalists by asking them to disclose their expenses and salaries.
He writes: "In recent days I have been asked, by MPs, to publish my modest expenses. Colleagues in the regional press have been challenged by MPs to say how much they earn.
This disgusting, ignorant attempt to divert attention away from a culture of sleaze totally ignores the fact that newspaper journalists are not paid out of the public purse."
He adds: "I have an interest to declare. I live an MP’s lifestyle without the perks. My wife lives in Somerset but my job requires me to be in London, where I rent a flat (no moat) using my salary. My family is in the Westcountry, my job in the capital.
I travel standard class from Paddington to Taunton and back most weeks, paid out of my own pocket.
It is my choice, of course, to do this. But it is the choice of every ambitious political thruster to stand for election, supposedly for that quaint old idea of “public service”.
I earn nothing like the salary of MPs, and sadly the WMN does not stretch to paying out for bath plugs, housekeepers or wisteria trimming.
I am sick of hearing them bleat on about the need for Sky TV, sofa beds and claiming the weekly shop.
The basic salary for an MP is £ 64,766. The average wage in the Westcountry is around a third of that - with no perks.
The system needs to change, of course it does, but the mentality of MPs of all parties is what needs the biggest shake-up.
The reputation of politics is going to be harder to fix than John Prescott’s loo seat.
Attacking the messenger is not the answer. MPs must get their own (second) house in order before democracy is undermined for good."
Story via HoldtheFrontPage

Quotes of the week

Newsquest journalist on company taking BNP ads: "Other NQ colleagues have said they would go on strike if their paper took the advertising. Personally, I would feel deeply uncomfortable if the website took the ad - the Essex ones are bad enough, but the banner ads are sickening. It's difficult enough keeping the extremists off your messageboards with our policy to only remove comments when reported - allowing the BNP an even more legitimate platform like this undermines the credibility of the paper. "

Martin McNeill, editorial director of Newsquest Essex, replying to a complaint about The Echo in Essex carrying online BNP ads: "We are accepting paid-for advertising from any political parties or candidates standing in the current elections. I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the BNP, but it would be undemocratic and against the principle of free speech to refuse to accept any party's advertising provided it falls within our guidelines. The Echo has consistently opposed the BNP in our Comment column and will continue to do so. As editor, I have twice been taken to court, unsuccessfully, by a BNP activist who did not like my editorial stance. I also regularly receive BNP hate mail. Despite this, I feel I must defend the right of all parties to take out paid-for advertising in support of their election candidates."

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear on BNP ads: “Newsquest should be ashamed of itself for taking money from an organisation that advocates racist policies that would directly discriminate against the communities these websites serve. This disgraceful decision not only damages the reputation of the company’s online and print titles. Journalists will also find their ability to win the trust and confidence of their communities undermined by this decision."

Simon Kelner, managing director and former editor of The Independent, on MediaGuardian in the New Statesman: "The Guardian as an organisation proclaims the highest ethical values, but it is quite clear that they have used their media website purposely to damage their biggest commercial rival. Nothing could be further from the avowed aims of the Scott Trust, and I am compiling evidence of unsourced, biased and irresponsible journalism on the website to supply to the trust. Those who work in newspapers are aware that MediaGuardian is contaminated by the commercial values of GMG. The problem is that the wider media industry, particularly the advertising community, regard it as an objective and authoritative site when, of course, it is anything but."

Guardian News and Media's head of media and technology Steve Busfield responds to the New Statesman article accusing MediaGuardian of bias: "If the site is rubbing executives up the wrong way, then we are probably doing a good job."

Associated Press tells US public how campaigning journalist Heather Brooke helped break the MPs' expenses story:"It took a sassy American to force stuffy British lawmakers to come clean over their expenses."

Thursday, 21 May 2009

More US fame for Heather Brooke

Campaigning journalist Heather Brooke is making more headlines in the States over her role in exposing MPs' expenses. The US press is even making a big deal over the fact she once wrote a sex advice column.
One reporter suggests: "If the British tabloids knew about the sex-advice column Heather Brooke wrote for the University of Washington Daily nearly two decades ago they might run with it as a salacious news item. Something like 'sex writer rocks Parliament.' "
Via GregMitch on Twitter

NS president: 'Rein in local councils and BBC'

Newspaper Society president Michael Pelosi, managing director of Northcliffe Media, has called on the Government to rein in local councils and the BBC from competing aggressively with the local press.
Writing in the NS Annual Review, Pelosi says: "Local media markets are highly competitive with wide choice available to advertisers in print and online. The industry has always welcomed fair competition but will resist publicly funded competition, such as the BBC or local authority publications and websites, which competes head to head with independent local media for audiences and revenues.
"Rather than encouraging this activity, the government must rein in local councils and expansionist state broadcasters from competing aggressively with local newspapers, distorting the local market and causing real damage to local businesses."
Pelosi adds: “I have a total belief in the future of independent local newspapers as the backbone of the UK media industry offering the only source of local investigative journalism.”
He hands over the presidency to David Fordham of Iliffe News & Media on 1 July.

Indy boss gives MediaGuardian a kicking

Simon Kelner, managing director and former editor of The Independent, gives MediaGuardian a kicking in the latest issue of the New Statesman, claiming it is deliberately damaging his paper.
Kelner claims: "The Guardian as an organisation proclaims the highest ethical values, but it is quite clear that they have used their media website purposely to damage their biggest commercial rival.
"Nothing could be further from the avowed aims of the Scott Trust, and I am compiling evidence of unsourced, biased and irresponsible journalism on the website to supply to the trust.
"Those who work in newspapers are aware that MediaGuardian is contaminated by the commercial values of GMG. The problem is that the wider media industry, particularly the advertising community, regard it as an objective and authoritative site when, of course, it is anything but."
Kelner makes his comment in an article (not online) by London Evening Standard business and media correspondent Gideon Spanier headlined: "Who Guards the Guardian" which contains complaints from a number of media executives against MediaGuardian.
Guardian News and Media's head of media and technology Steve Busfield responds in the NS article: "If the site is rubbing executives up the wrong way, then we are probably doing a good job."
Independent staff expressed their anger in postings to MediaGuardian last month after it carried an article about the paper's financial troubles headlined "How Long Can The Independent Newspaper Last?" to lead its Monday media print section.

The Press and Parliament: 'The gallery correspondent is virtually extinct'

Ian Aitken in The Guardian today calls for the return of the proper reporting of parliament by the press, noting the decline in national newspapers employing journalists to cover parliamentary debates.
He writes: "The gallery correspondent is virtually extinct. Instead, there are sketch writers whose job is to be funny about parliament, which mostly means making mock of MPs."
Aitken adds: "But if a newspaper is going to make fun of MPs' foibles, it owes it to parliament to report what actually happens – which means rather more than recording the twice-weekly slapstick of prime minister's questions.
"Obviously, most of the reforms needed to restore confidence in parliament must come from MPs. But this is one which could come from the press, and it is crucial not just to restoring the perception of parliament but also to reviving its actual function as the watchdog of the nation. You can't be a successful watchdog if no one can hear you bark."

More financial gloom at Northcliffe

UK operating profits at Northcliffe Media, have fallen by 91 per cent (£33 million) to £3.2 million, with advertising revenue down by 31 per cent to £103m, according to the Daily Mail and General Trust's half-year results for the six months to 29 March, announced today.
Recruitment advertising was down 47 per cent, property fell 54 per cent and motors were down by 23 per cent. Operating margins dropped from 18 per cent to 4 per cent.
UK digital revenues for the period were in line with the same period last year with recruitment revenues down 33 per cent, but other categories up 66 per cent.
Unique visitor levels to Northcliffe’s network of “this is” websites in March 2009 totalled 4.2 million and were 42 per cent higher than the corresponding period last year.
UK circulation revenues fell by 6 per cent to £35 million. In the July to December 2008 ABC period, weekly titles outperformed the industry whereas daily titles were slightly below the industry average.
Northcliffe staff have been cut by 500 (11 per cent). April trading has seen advertising revenues remaining at 36 per cent below last year.

'Sassy American journalist scourge of stuffy Brits': US angle on MPs' expenses scandal

US wire service Associated Press has gone for the local angle on the MPs' expenses scandal, highlighting the role of campaigning freedom of information journalist Heather Brooke, with a great intro:
"It took a sassy American to force stuffy British lawmakers to come clean over their expenses. Heather Brooke, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania-born reporter and former staff writer for the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, has become the scourge of Parliament, forcing the publication of legislators' expenses claims following a five-year legal battle that has exposed Britain's deep-rooted culture of official secrecy."
Sounds like it would make a great Hollywood script.
Via Editor & Publisher

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

NUJ race reporting guidelines reminder

The NUJ today reminded its members of its race reporting guidelines in the run up to the European and local elections.
The union says: "As working journalists we are of course expected to be balanced when reporting all political parties, including far-right parties - that does not mean giving them an easy ride. "
It has also urged NUJ chapels to take up objections with managements if BNP ads appear in their newspapers or on their websites.
The guidelines say:
Do not sensationalise by reports, photographs, film or presentation the activities of racist organisations.
Seek to publish or broadcast material exposing the myths and lies of racist organisations and their anti-social behaviour.
Do not allow the letters column or 'phone-in' programmes to be used to spread racial hatred in whatever guise.
When interviewing representatives of racist organisations or reporting meetings or statements or claims, journalists should carefully check all reports for accuracy and seek rebutting or opposing comments. The antisocial nature of such views should be exposed.

Cash for questions and Journalists' Charity

Journalists will be offered the chance to pay cash for questions at a Journalists' Charity fund raising reception on the Terrace at the House of Commons on June 18.
Guests will quiz a panel comprising ex-Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell, BBC business editor Robert Peston and Alan Duncan MP. The event will be chaired by Sky News presenter Anna Botting.
Tickets are £30 each and available from the Journalists' Charity, Dickens House, 35 Wathen Rd, Dorking, Surrey. RH4 1JY. A similar event last year raised £11,000 for the charity.

Rally and protest for Suzanne Breen

Suzanne Breen, the Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Tribune who is resisting court action to force her to hand over her mobile phone, records, notes and other material arising from her reporting claims by the Real IRA, will appear at a rally in London next Tuesday (May 26) organised by the NUJ.
The rally, starting at 6.30pm, will be at NUJ headquarters, 308-312 Gray's Inn Road, London. Other speakers will include Bill Goodwin, who won a landmark protection of sources case at the European Court of Human Rights when he was a journalist on The Engineer, Index on Censorship's Jo Glanville and leading lawyers Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Mark Stephens.
Protests are also planned by the NUJ in support of Breen in London and Belfast on the day of her court case, currently scheduled for Friday 29 May. They will be held outside the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster and the Belfast Recorder's Court. Both demonstrations will assemble at 9.30am.

Monck leaves City for the World

Adrian Monck is leaving City University after four years as head of its Graduate School of Journalism to take up the post of managing director and head of communications at the World Economic Forum. He explains all on his blog.

BNP banner ads back on Newsquest papers

Newsquest has reinstated BNP banner online ads proclaiming "British jobs for British workers"at some of its weekly newspapers today.
They have reappeared on the websites of the Bromsgrove Advertiser as well as the Stourbridge News and the Dudley News.
Smaller "Vote BNP" online ads are being carried on the websites of two Newsquest dailies, the Colchester Gazette and the Echo, which covers Basildon and Southend in Essex.
The company was yesterday condemned by the NUJ for taking ads for the BNP. Local Newsquest mangers, however, have defended the company and said it would be wrong to "selectively discriminate" against political parties in the run-up to an election.
Newsquest, a subsidiary of the Gannett newspaper company in the US, took a moral stand last July by banning all adult sex advertisements, having been persuaded of the link between the ads and women being trafficked for sex.

Newsquest BNP ads 'will be back today'

Paul Linford, publisher of the HoldtheFrontPage website, has posted on this site that Newsquest will be running the banner ads for the BNP, which it appeared to withdraw yesterday, again today.
Paul says: "We have inquired about this and we understand the banner ads will be back today."
The banner online ads declaring "British jobs for British workers"carried on Monday disappeared from the top of the home pages of the Bromsgrove Advertiser, Dudley News and Stourbridge News yesterday. Smaller ads for the BNP are still appearing on the websites of Newsquest's Colchester Gazette and the Echo, Essex.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

BNP ads: A footnote

The storm that built up on the blogosphere and Twitter in the last 24 hours about online BNP ads taken by some Newsquest newspapers seems to have made the company have a rethink, although it is not saying so publicly.
But banner online ads declaring "British jobs for British workers" that were there yesterday have disappeared from the top of the home pages of the Bromsgrove Advertiser, Dudley News and Stourbridge News.
It makes me think that local Newsquest managers, who are under huge pressure because of falling ad revenues, underestimated the power of the web. They didn't realise that those who keep an eye on the BNP can link to their sites and quickly organise a protest across the net before the story has even reached the mainstream media.
They know now.

BNP ads: NUJ condemns Newsquest

The NUJ said today that Newsquest management should be "ashamed" for accepting advertising from the BNP.
A number of Newsquest websites have carried adverts for the BNP, although banner online ads from the party proclaiming "British jobs for British workers" appear to have been withdrawn from three of the company's weekly newspapers in the Midlands.
The NUJ said it is deeply concerned that the decision to accept money from the BNP would seriously damage the reputation of the company’s titles and its journalists.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Newsquest should be ashamed of itself for taking money from an organisation that advocates racist policies that would directly discriminate against the communities these websites serve.
“This disgraceful decision not only damages the reputation of the company’s online and print titles. Journalists will also find their ability to win the trust and confidence of their communities undermined by this decision.
“It seems incredible that managers would even consider taking advertising from the BNP. Many journalists who have investigated the party in the past have since found themselves on far-right hate websites that try to intimidate journalists to stop them from taking up investigations.
“NUJ chapels should raise objections with management if BNP adverts appear in the papers, or on their websites."
“Journalists covering the elections should also remind themselves of the NUJ’s guidelines on reporting racist organisations which are available on the union’s website.”
Bob Smith, who is chair of the NUJ’s Newsquest group chapel, added: “Accepting the tainted cash of the British National Party shows unbelievably bad judgement on the part of Newsquest’s management."

BNP ads: Newsquest defends itself but banner online ads disappear from weekly titles

Newsquest managers have defended the decision to accept BNP ads, saying it would be wrong to "selectively discriminate" against political parties in the run-up to an election, according to the HoldtheFrontPage website.
But in the meantime banner online BNP ads proclaiming "British Jobs for British Workers" which appeared on the top of the Bromsgrove Advertiser's website (top left) as well as those of the Dudley News and Stourbridge News have disappeared.
HTFP, part owned by Newsquest, says criticism of the company has surfaced on a number of "left-wing blogs while some newspaper readers, councillors and church groups have also sent protest emails to the papers' editors".
It says Newsquest Stourbridge has issued a statement in response to a number of complaints from councillors, church groups and others over the ads: "We accept advertisements that comply with the law and the Code of Advertising Practice. We cannot selectively discriminate against legally constituted political parties standing in a public election.
"Indeed, we would say that, in doing so, we might be playing into the hands of those intolerant and anti-democratic forces that people condemn. It is for the electorate to cast judgment, not us."
Newsquest's head office was approached for a formal comment by HTFP but did not respond.

Google backs regional newspaper mergers in UK

Google is supporting the calls by the big regional newspaper publishers in the UK to get the Government to relax the merger rules, according to a report in The Times today.
Dan Sabbagh writes: "Google will today argue that publishers like Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press should be allowed to merge, because of the competition they face from the search engine giant and other internet companies.
"A Google submission to the Office of Fair Trading will say that the competition authority should relax existing rules that have prevented a coming together of any two of the “big four” publishers .
"In the letter, Matt Brittin, the managing director of Google UK, said: “Google supports the position of many newspapers for the need to allow for a 21st century merger regime, allowing local and regional news services to merge and consolidate in order to create...competitive news offerings”.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is currently reviewing the existing newspaper merger framework as part of the wider Digital Britain white paper.
Via Tom McGowran

Monday, 18 May 2009

BNP ads: Why an editor said no

Last year the Croydon Advertiser's editor Ian Carter turned down ads from the BNP. He explained to readers why on his blog here.
Among his reasons were: "The BNP are a legitimate political party and will no doubt argue they should have the same right as the others. But we've turned them away on the basis I'd feel deeply uncomfortable with any of their material appearing in our publications."
Story via a post to this site
Last year Archant ran into a storm of protest when it took BNP ads for some of its London newspapers, including the Ham & High. It later decided to donate the revenue to charity.

BNP ads: A Newsquest editor's view

This is what a Newsquest editorial director, Martin McNeill, of Newsquest Essex, has replied to a complaint about The Echo in Essex carrying online BNP ads:
"Thanks for your email regarding BNP advertising. We are accepting paid-for advertising from any political parties or candidates standing in the current elections. I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the BNP, but it would be undemocratic and against the principle of free speech to refuse to accept any party's advertising provided it falls within our guidelines.
"The Echo has consistently opposed the BNP in our Comment column and will continue to do so. As editor, I have twice been taken to court, unsuccessfully, by a BNP activist who did not like my editorial stance. I also regularly receive BNP hate mail. Despite this, I feel I must defend the right of all parties to take out paid-for advertising in support of their election candidates.
Best wishes, Martin McNeill Editorial Director Newsquest Essex."
Via Lancaster Unity

BNP ads: Newsquest journalist speaks out

This is what a Newsquest journalist told me about what they think of the company taking online ads for the BNP.
"I was first alerted to it by our NUJ FoC, who was very concerned about it. Other NQ colleagues have said they would go on strike if their paper took the advertising. Personally, I would feel deeply uncomfortable if the website took the ad - the Essex ones are bad enough, but the banner ads are sickening.
"It's difficult enough keeping the extremists off your messageboards with our policy to only remove comments when reported - allowing the BNP an even more legitimate platform like this undermines the credibility of the paper.
"There's already calls to boycott Newsquest papers on Twitter - http://twitter.com/don_simon1977/status/1836853907 - and I'm sure that won't be the last."

BNP ads on Newsquest newspaper websites

As well as the Bromsgrove Advertiser (left: see post below) BNP banner ads are also appearing on the internet sites of two other Newsquest titles in the Midlands, the Stourbridge News and the Dudley News.
Smaller "Vote BNP" online ads are being carried on the websites of two Newsquest dailies, the Colchester Gazette and the Echo, which covers Basildon and Southend in Essex.
Newsquest, a subsidiary of the US-owned Gannett newspaper company, took a moral stand last July by banning all adult sex advertisements, having been persuaded of the link between the ads and women being trafficked for sex.

Newsquest weekly takes BNP online ad

The free weekly Bromsgrove Advertiser, published by Newsquest, is carrying an online banner ad for the BNP proclaiming "British Jobs for British Workers" along the top of its home page here.

Online petition backs Breen's sources fight

An online petition has been launched backing the NUJ's campaign in support of Suzanne Breen, Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Tribune, who is resisting court action to force her to hand over her mobile phone, records, notes and other material arising from her reporting claims by the Real IRA.
It calls on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to ensure that the Police Service of Northern Ireland respects press freedom and the fundamental journalistic right to protect sources.
The online petition which is here will be combined with hard copies currently circulating newsrooms to be handed in to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Wall Street Journal names ex-Army officer as go-between for MPs' expenses data

The Wall Street Journal has named John Wick, an ex-British army officer who runs a security company, as the man who approached The Times with the data on MPs' expenses that was later obtained by the Daily Telegraph.
The WSJ also reports: "On Friday a London-based public relations consultant working for Mr. Wick, Henry Gewanter, said he would give The Wall Street Journal access to the reimbursement information if the Journal agreed not to identify Mr. Wick as its source. Mr. Gewanter said he was making the same offer to British newspapers and expected to complete the arrangement early next week."
Wick is reported to have asked The Times for a total of £300,000 for the data and was turned down.
Story via Twitter

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Stand by for "huge amount of merger activity" in the regional press - MoS told

Regional newspaper groups expect the Office of Fair Trading to open the way for mergers, in a report to be published next month, according to a Mail on Sunday report.
The MoS says the Local Media Alliance, which represents seven major regional newspaper publishers, including Northcliffe, Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group, Newsquest, Archant DC Thomson and Johnston Press, believe the OFT accepts their argument that existing rules should change.
In a 108-page report submitted to the OFT’s review of the Local Media Merger Regime, the Local Media Alliance stressed what they claim is the importance of allowing greater flexibility over newspaper mergers and acquisitions to enable the industry "to continue its transition into a successful multimedia sector delivering local news and information across print, online and broadcast platforms."
"We are confident that the merger regime will become more benign," an LMA source tells the MoS. "There is likely to be a huge amount of merger activity following the publication of the OFT report."

Friday, 15 May 2009

NUJ claims Newsquest 'back down' in Bolton

Newsquest in Bolton has stopped imposing compulsory redundancies after NUJ members refused to take part in the selection process, the union claimed today.
The company, which plans to centralise sub-editing for its Lancashire titles in Blackburn, have now asked for volunteers for redundancy after originally announcing that they planned to axe journalists on the basis of a skills matrix, according to the NUJ.
David Thomson, NUJ FoC, at Newsquest Bury and Bolton, wrote to management: “The chapel unanimously agreed that unless the company changes its mind and introduces a voluntary aspect to this redundancy proposal, we will seek a ballot for industrial action.”
He added: “Members also overwhelmingly decided not to co-operate with next week’s scheduled skills analysis assessments. No sub-editor will attend any such meeting. We will not under any circumstances take part in an exercise, which contributes towards a person losing his or her job.” The company, the NUJ said, responded by agreeing to ask for volunteers.

Heather Brooke: "Why I'm livid"

Campaigning freedom of information journalist Heather Brooke is at last getting the recognition she deserves for her five year fight to make MPs' expenses public. There is a big piece by her today headlined "Unsung Hero" in The Guardian.
There are some very telling quotes about how she feels about her campaign versus chequebook journalism.
"After all my hard work, the story of MPs' expenses did, of course, go to the Daily Telegraph. Extensive effort poring over documents? No. It was offered the disc containing the raw data, some say for money. Last Friday the stories began to pour forth.
"As a campaigner I was thrilled to see the details finally put into the public domain. This is important information that the public have a right to see. But as a journalist, I was livid. I asked myself - what is the point of doing all that work, going to court, setting a legal precedent, dealing in facts, when every part of the government conspires to reward the hacks who do none of these things?"
She says of the Telegraph:"But I don't begrudge the paper. It is getting the story out in the most cost-effective way possible. What's unforgivable is that the House of Commons repeatedly obstructed legitimate requests and then delayed the expense publication date and that MPs went so far as to try to exempt themselves from their own law.
"I wonder, too, how much we would have actually seen if we'd waited for the Commons to publish, given that MPs were given a free hand to black out anything that was "personal" or a danger to their "security". These terms have been so overused by MPs that I've no doubt that items such as cleaning the moat would have been removed for "security" reasons, as would the house-flipping scandal, as an invasion of MPs' privacy."

Here's something the NUJ could campaign for

The NUJ is always banging on about how the Government should not subsidise the "greedy bosses" and shareholders of the big regional newspaper publishers whose business model the union says has failed.
But, the Dutch government has come up with a way to help fund newspaper journalism without giving a direct subsidy to publishers. Instead it is funding 60 juinor journalists who can't get jobs or are being made redundant in the current financial climate.
MediaGuardian says: "The Dutch government is planning to spend €4m (£3.6m) to pay the salaries of 60 young journalists to work on otherwise commercially funded regional and national newspapers across the Netherlands. The initial bursary is expected to fund junior positions for two years."
It seems sensible to fund skilled trainee journalists who can't get jobs. But when I mentioned the idea to some regional journalists, the response was quite cynical. "If the newspapers can get subsidised journalists for free they will just sack more staff," claimed one.
Surely, there could be safeguards against that happening?

Quotes of the week

Former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley in MediaGuardian responds to the Standard's "we're sorry" ad campaign: "London is laughing at this ludicrous campaign. It is utterly humiliating for the staff and contributors. They are in despair."

Veronica Wadley, also in MediaGuardian, on the Evening Standard's new editor: "As for Geordie Greig, well, Etonians have a history of collaborating with the KGB."

Campaigning FoI journalist Heather Brooke on MPs' expenses, the story she helped to break: "We cannot sit back and let MPs or politicians dictate the terms of this debate. They’ve proven time and again they can’t be trusted to do what is in the best interests of Parliament as a whole. Certain people in Parliament are content to stubbornly resist change and are willing to bring the whole institution of parliament into disrepute simply to maintain the lifestyle ‘to which they’ve become accustomed’."

Heather Brooke on the Labour MP who suggested she had a vested interest in her campaign to make MPs' expenses public: "It was not without a chuckle at his chutzpah that I saw my detractor was the Member for Feltham & Heston, Alan Keen. With his wife, Ann, the couple are known as ‘Mr and Mrs Expenses’ for using £175,000 of taxpayers’ money to help buy a flat near Parliament – while they already had a constituency home nine miles away. They claimed more than £300,000 between them last year alone."

Benjamin Franklin (as quoted in Word magazine subscribers' email): "Beware of the little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship"

Comedian Jimmy Carr in an East Anglian Daily Times video making fun of a VJ with small camera filming him after court appearance for speeding:"That's not a proper camera. You are not a proper journalist. That's from home."

~

Thursday, 14 May 2009

NUJ sticks up NS meeting with 'Wanted - for the killing of local journalism' leaflet

The NUJ protested outside the headquarters of the Newspaper Society today as the top bosses of the regional newspaper industry arrived for their annual general meeting.
The union handed out a leaflet reading: “Wanted - for the killing of local journalism”.
Due to address the AGM were three regional chiefs: Michael Pelosi of Northcliffe, John Fry of Johnston Press and Mark Dodson of Guardian Media. The NUJ says all of them have overseen big cuts to jobs and the moving of local paper journalists out of the communities they serve.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “The owners of these big newspaper companies have squandered huge profits which could have been used to bolster local journalism and invest in the communities they claim to serve.
“Now they are all getting together to lobby the government to allow them to own ever bigger regional monopolies with ever more remote news factories.
“And they use their enormous resources to squeeze out any truly local competition.
“We urge them to stay in the communities they serve and to produce quality newspapers and websites that people want to read - or to leave the way clear for new media start ups that can do the job properly.”

Local press versus council newspapers: Letters to The Journalist are now online

The Journalist has put its latest issue online, which includes letters about the piece I wrote about the local press and Town Halls, which I referred to here.
It includes the letter on behalf of journalists working for Tower Hamlets' East End Life, which is seen as the model for the newspaper-style council papers causing concern to the local press.
Roy Greenslade has a cracking story today about how East End Life tried to obtain a rota pass to cover a royal event by claiming to be published by Trinity Mirror.
Also Martin Belam at currybetdotnet has posted how Haringey Council publications compete for advertising with the local press.
I am still alarmed by what a journalist asked at the JEE Camp "unconference" in Birmingham last week. "Supposing the BNP takes control of a council and its newspaper in the local elections?" That scenario looks more possible given the growing disillusionment with conventional politics in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal.

Comedian Jimmy Carr mocks VJ

East Anglian Daily Times video shows comedian Jimmy Carr following a court appearance making fun of VJ with small camera. "That's not a proper camera. You are not a proper journalist. That's from home."
Via Jo Wadsworth on Twitter.

Pay freeze extended at Johnston Press

The pay freeze imposed by Johnston Press has been extended into next year, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
HTFP quotes a JP statement issued today: "All UK based Johnston Press employees have been informed that, in view of the effect of the current economic situation on company profits and UK price inflation, no salary reviews will take place in 2009.
"This follows the company's decision last December to defer the decision on salary reviews for a period of six months. The next salary reviews will be in 2010."
This latest development comes after Johnston Press announced in its interim management statement yesterday that it was halting the sale of its Irish newspapers and advertising was down by 34 per cent.
It will be a surprise if other major regional newspaper groups do not extend similar pay freezes.

Want a job: how much can you afford?

I've already posted about how shocked I was to hear at the JEE Camp "unconference" in Birmingham last week that a newspaper company was charging people for work experience.
Now for a second shock. The Huffington Post - the "internet newspaper" - in the US is auctioning off an internship for charity.
Bidders are being offered the chance to ‘jumpstart their career in the blogosphere’ in New York or Washington. Bids have reached $13,000 already.
Hope it won't give any cash strapped publishers in the UK the same idea.
Story via Judith Townend at journalism.co.uk and Newmedia mailing list.

Heather Brooke nails Labour MP detractor

Freedom of information campaigning journalist Heather Brooke, who led the battle to make MPs expenses public, has nailed one of her detractors.
Brooke picked up a point in Roy Greenslade’s Evening Standard column yesterday in which he claimed some mud was being thrown in her direction and mentioned that a Labour MP had suggested she had a vested interest. The suggestion was made, Greenslade said, when he and the investigative journalist Nick Davies gave evidence to the Commons Media, Culture and Sport Select Committee.
Heather Brooke being Heather Brooke has done a bit of digging and found the oral evidence given to the Parliamentary Committee examining press standards, privacy and libel. On her website Your Right To Know she has now reproduced the questioning by MP Alan Keen of Nick Davies and Roy Greenslade:
Alan Keen: There is a woman who has frequently been on television and in the press who appears to me to be a campaigner for freedom of information, an American I think.
Nick Davies: Heather Brooke?
Keen: Yes. Does she earn a living from this?
Davies: She is a journalist. She is a specialist in freedom of information. I think she is actually British and she worked in America and used their Freedom of Information Act, came back to this country just as ours was about to come into force so wrote a book which is a guide.
Keen: I have seen her being interviewed.
Davies: You are wondering whether she has some vested interest.
Keen: Yes, because I have seen her on television being interviewed.
Roy Greenslade: I know her quite well. She teaches the students at City. She is a single interest journalist in the old tradition of having one niche interest and following it to its logical conclusion. She lives, in monetary terms, on the margins."
Brooke notes on her website: "It was not without a chuckle at his chutzpah that I saw my detractor was the Member for Feltham & Heston, Alan Keen. With his wife, Ann, the couple are known as ‘Mr and Mrs Expenses’ for using £175,000 of taxpayers’ money to help buy a flat near Parliament – while they already had a constituency home nine miles away. They claimed more than £300,000 between them last year alone."
Here is some free information to MPs. Don't mess with Heather Brooke.

Local Media Merger Review delayed

The OFT’s report on the Local Media Merger Review, originally planned for completion in mid-April, is to be delayed until close to the publication date of the final Digital Britain report on 16 June, the Newspaper Society has been told.
The big regional newspaper publishers have been lobbying the Government to relax the rules surrounding local media mergers and acquisitions, claiming the regime needs to be modernised to reflect the change to the multi-media delivery of local news and information across print, online and broadcast platforms.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Local newspaper cuts are a 'body blow' for Journalists' Charity warns chairman

The demise of local papers is a "body blow" for the Journalists' Charity, according to chairman Chris Boffey who also takes a swipe at council newspapers.
In his May chairman's report, Boffey says: "Amidst the carnage in our industry the real tragedy is with local newspapers. Hardly a week goes by without a newspaper group announcing closures or massive redundancies.
"As well as being a personal blow for those involved it is also an assault on democracy. It is not so long ago that every court and every council had a reporter sitting at the press table. They were there so local people could know what was being done in their name.
"In too many cases we now just have a council free sheet spinning through the letter box with glossy pictures of councillors opening this-that-and-the other and no questioning of their activities.
"The demise of local newspapers is also a body blow for the Journalists' Charity. They were the lifeblood that provided us with new members. There is terrific work being done in the regions but recruitment is not increasing. We need new members to guarantee the future of the Charity for another 150 years."
Press Gazette reports today that the number of journalists claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has risen by 144 per cent in a year to 1,880.

Greenslade praise for Heather Brooke

Good to see Roy Greenslade praising Heather Brooke in the Evening Standard today for her role in making MPs' expenses public.
It was Brooke who won a High Court victory over the Parliamentary authorities to force the release of MPs’ expenses details.
Greenslade writes: "The sorry saga of MPs' expenses is a remarkable media story. It began with a dogged investigation by a lone campaigner. It eventually turned into a cause célèbre as almost every national newspaper editor took up the case. It has now culminated in a truly eye-opening series of public-interest revelations...
"Let me first praise Heather Brooke, the freelance journalist who skilfully based her campaign to force the Commons authorities to reveal how MPs spend taxpayers' money by applying the letter and the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.
"Though the Act is imperfect, Brooke - who spent a large portion of her journalistic life in the United States where there is much greater official transparency - has a sincere belief in public accountability.
"She also enthuses trainee journalists to follow her path, as I have witnessed because she gives a yearly lecture to my post-grad journalism students at London's City University. It is always received well.
"Brooke follows in the tradition of journalists who pursue single-minded missions on behalf of the greater good, earning only a meagre reward for their efforts."
Brooke is launching a petition with the TaxPayers’ Alliance calling for the publication of all receipts behind MPs' expenses claims.

NUJ codemns secrecy in Real IRA sources case

The NUJ has criticised the use of evidence given in secret to justify an application to force Sunday Tribune journalist Suzanne Breen to hand over confidential material to the police.
The union is launching an international campaign in support of Breen, Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin based Tribune.
It is concerned that evidence given in Belfast Recorders' Court may never be made available to Suzanne or her legal team.
Judge Tom Burgess stated that he was "minded" to grant the Police Service of Northern Ireland's application but stressed his view could change once he heard Suzanne Breen's case.
NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley, who was present for the hearing, said the journalist and her legal team will have to prepare their response to the demand that she hand over notes, recording material, mobile phone and other material relating to articles about the Real IRA "with their hands tied behind their back".
He said: "The PSNI has made a sweeping application aimed at forcing Suzanne Breen and the Sunday Tribune to hand over confidential material. A journalist who hands over confidential material is compromised and is immediately put at risk. Suzanne Breen has no option but to refuse to hand over material.
"The basis for the PSNI application is evidence provided in private last Friday, when even Ms Breen's legal team were barred from the court. How can Suzanne respond fully to this application since neither she or her legal team are aware of what precisely was said in court by the PSNI or her counsel on Friday last?"
"The NUJ is seeking the support of the International Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International, trade unions and other civic society organisations as well as media organisations for a major campaign in support of Suzanne Breen and the Sunday Tribune.

Johnston Press halts sale of Irish papers

Johnston Press says in its interim management statement today that it has called off the sale of its Irish newspapers and is in talks with its debt providers.
The statement says: "The Board confirms that the sale process being conducted to dispose of the Republic of Ireland titles has now been terminated. While there was considerable interest shown from both trade and financial buyers, the Board decided that it was not at a sufficiently high price to be in the Company's best interest.
"As stated in March 2009 in the Company's preliminary results, if the sale of the Irish businesses were not successfully completed, there would be a strong likelihood of a breach of a financial covenant in the Group's debt facilities during 2009.
"Given such uncertainty, the Group had begun discussions with its debt providers to obtain a relaxation in the debt covenants, as well as putting in place more appropriate facilities extending beyond September 2010. Those discussions, which have so far been constructive and supportive, continue with all of the Group's providers of debt. The Company expects to have the refinancing discussions completed and new facilities in place before its half year announcement in late August."
In the 19 weeks to 9 May 2009, total advertising revenues were down 34.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.Net debt at the end of April 2009 was £448m down £29m from the start of the year.
Chief Executive John Fry said: "Whilst our market remains fragile, we have seen some stability in advertising revenue over recent weeks, our cost reduction programme is on track, and we are making good progress in the discussions with our debt providers. This gives us encouragement that we will be well placed to benefit from any recovery in the economy as and when it emerges."

Heather Brooke petition on MPs' expenses

Journalist Heather Brooke, the freedom of information campaigner who won a High Court victory over the Parliamentary authorities to force the release of MPs’ expenses details, is launching a petition with the TaxPayers’ Alliance calling for the publication of all receipts behind MPs' expenses claims.
It states: “We the people call on the House of Commons authorities to immediately publish the full receipts behind MPs’ expense claims – including the crucial second home addresses. The House has had four years to prepare for freedom of information and there is no excuse for the obstruction and continued delays that have prevented the people seeing directly how our MPs spend taxpayers’ money.
"We also call on the Commons authorities to commit to publishing these full receipts in future on a quarterly basis, excluding from publication only that material allowed by the High Court ruling of May 16th 2008 (i.e.credit card and bank account numbers).There should be an independent person allowed access to the full record to ensure no MPs are deleting information to avoid criticism or embarrassment.”
Heather Brooke says: "We cannot sit back and let MPs or politicians dictate the terms of this debate. They’ve proven time and again they can’t be trusted to do what is in the best interests of Parliament as a whole. Certain people in Parliament are content to stubbornly resist change and are willing to bring the whole institution of parliament into disrepute simply to maintain the lifestyle ‘to which they’ve become accustomed’.
"The only power the people do have is to band together and shame the powerful into doing what’s right. So let’s do that. The more names on this petition the greater the chance we can start dictating a new relationship between politicians and the people."

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Pressure on local press to axe sex ads

Pressure is growing to outlaw advertising of sex services in the local press, it was claimed in one of the sessions at the JEE Camp 09 "unconference" in Birmingham last week.
Newsquest's Croydon Guardian ran a story Councils urged to back anti-sex ads campaign last month highlighting the issue.
The Croydon Guardian notes that Newsquest banned all adult advertisements in July 2008, having been persuaded of the link between the ads and women being trafficked for sex. However, it pointed out that other local titles such as the Croydon Advertiser and the Croydon Post continue to run the adverts.
The Croydon Guardian said local councils were being asked by campaign group Eaves Housing, a charity that looks after women trafficked into the sex trade, to put pressure on newspaper publishers to stop carrying sex ads.
It quoted Denise Marshall, Eaves chief executive, as saying: “In London’s local papers 80 per cent of ads for adult massage parlours or saunas are fronts for brothels, where men can buy sex.
“Newspaper owners turn a blind eye to this, insisting that they do not advertise anything illegal, while banking their gains from the sex industry... The irony is that local papers are full of articles about the problems caused by or related to prostitution – the blight of kerb-crawling on local neighbourhoods, the increase in drug crime – but they are directly contributing to the problem by advertising brothels."
The Croydon Guardian also reported that Lambeth council was supporting the campaign and was in talks with Sir Ray Tindle's South London Press about the issue.
Martin Belam on Currybetdotnet notes the amount of sex advertising in his local paper in Muswell Hill.
He says: "One of the conundrums of the local press is the editorial disconnect between the message and the advertising. One of the biggest local issues in my area over the last couple of months has been plans for a lap-dancing club to be licensed in a residential area near a school.
"Residents have been campaigning against it, and the local press have been backing them. Whilst at the same time taking the money for pages of illustrated classified ads for local 'massage' services."