Friday, 31 July 2009

Zimbabwe: Ban lifted on Daily News

A great day for press freedom. Reporters Without Borders is reporting its delight that Zimbabwe’s leading privately-owned daily and independent newspaper, the Daily News, has received permission to resume publishing after being banned for six years.
“The green light for the Daily News, a day after the BBC and CNN were told they could reopen bureaux, is an historic turning point for press freedom in Zimbabwe and ends six years of intolerance and injustice,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We cannot wait to see this daily on the newsstands again.”
RWB said Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, got the green light in the form of a letter yesterday from Edward Dube, the head of a special committee set up by the government in September 2008 to examine the case.
The committee said it was "satisfied that the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe have complied with the provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. ANZ is therefore advised to contact the relevant authority for their licence,” the letter said.
Former Daily News journalist Guthrie Munyuki told Reporters Without Borders: “We greet this news with a great deal of satisfaction and we hope the Zimbabwean government will never close privately-owned independent newspapers again. We also clearly hope that this marks the start of a new era in which free expression is respected in our country.”
The Daily News was the target of several bombings and several of its journalists were arrested before it was finally banned on 12 September 2003 by the Media and Information Commission (MIC). The authorities always stopped the Daily News from starting up again despite several court rulings in its favour. It was awarded the Reporters Without Borders – Fondation de France press freedom prize in December 2003.

NUJ slams bonus for Guardian regional chief

The NUJ has hit out at Guardian Media Group regional chief Mark Dodson's bonus of £47,000, revealed in the company's annual report today.
In a joint statement, the NUJ’s reps at MEN Media expressed dismay at the decision given the high number of job cuts over the past 12 months.
The statement by Bethan Dorsett, Jennifer Williams and Judy Gordon, NUJ Mothers of Chapel at MEN Media, reads:
“This has been the worst year in Guardian Media's history. At the Manchester Evening News and its weekly titles alone, more than 70 jobs have been axed and all our local newspaper offices have vanished.
“Our members in GMG Regional Media, including Surrey and Berkshire, have been asked to make huge sacrifices – is it too much to ask that CEO Mark Dodson sacrifice his bonus (as many of his fellow directors have done)? He is taking a £47,000 bonus, bringing his salary to £309,000.
“That bonus could have paid the salaries of two weekly reporters. It could have avoided some of the compulsory redundancies on the MEN.
“Mr Dodson says that all our sacrifices have been to secure the future of GMG Regional and ultimately the Guardian. So why is he not prepared to sacrifice his bonus – the equivalent of nearly 10 per cent of our slim profits?”

Quotes of the Week

Tom Bower on Rough Trader, his upcoming biography of Express owner Richard Desmond:"The most devastating story of a businessman I have ever written."

Evening Standard's Andrew Gilligan on local council newspapers: "Across London, official council newspapers now employ around 120 people. When council press officers, who actually write much of the content of most papers, are included, the figure rises to 360. The total number of editorial staff on independent local newspapers in London, much-diminished after a series of cuts, is around 350."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger:"We need to continue breaking down the perceptions of a remote journalist who is a preacher, living distantly, and newspapers as being in bed with power and on the side of power, rather than the reader."

BBC World News editor Jon Williams on Zimbabwe lifting ban on BBC journalists: "Reporting undercover takes great courage and commitment. However, it is no substitute for being able to operate transparently. Inevitably, part of the story becomes how our teams are trying to avoid being found and arrested, rather than focusing on the people of Zimbabwe. Operating illegally and clandestinely has to be a last resort. So I'm pleased that we've been assured by the Zimbabwe government that the BBC is not banned, and that we can resume our operations in Zimbabwe."

Committee to Protect Journalists on Iran: "After more than a month of detention in Iran, several journalists may face trials beginning on Saturday on charges of 'sending pictures to enemy media.' "

Sources court victory for Irish Times

The NUJ today welcomed a decision by the Supreme Court in Ireland that upholds the principle of protection of journalistic sources.
The Irish Times has won an appeal against a High Court order requiring editor Geraldine Kennedy and journalist Colm Keena to answer questions that could reveal the source of a story about an official corruption inquiry.
The Mahon tribunal into alleged planning corruption wanted to question the journalists about a story published in the paper in September 2006, which revealed that the inquiry was looking into payments made to Bertie Ahern when he was finance minister.
Both refused to discuss the source of the article, and appealed the High Court order because it failed to recognise fundamental principles of press freedom.
NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said: "This is a highly significant judgement which draws on the reasoning of the European Court in the landmark Goodwin case taken some years ago by the NUJ. The Supreme Court has stated in unambiguous terms that the High Court judgement 'had devalued the journalistic privilege so severely, the balance was not properly struck.' "
The victory for the Irish Times to protect sources follows that of Sunday Tribune journalist Suzanne Breen in Belfast who, backed by the NUJ, successfully resisted a court bid by police to force her to hand over source material linked to stories about the Real IRA.

Guardian News and Media makes £36m loss

Guardian News and Media, publisher of the Guardian and Observer, experienced the toughest trading conditions seen for many years, resulting in an increase in operating loss to £36.8m on turnover of £253.6m, according to the Guardian Media Group's annual report published today.
The report says: "Given the ongoing structural issues affecting the sector, compounded by the severe advertising downturn, GNM is in the process of reducing its cost base significantly, while continuing to invest in journalism and web development."
The report notes that during the year achieved a record audience of nearly 30m unique users and is now "not only the UK’s largest newspaper site but also one of the biggest in the world."
GNM said its aim is to emerge from the economic downturn a leaner and stronger organisation: leaner due to a bottom-up reappraisal of the cost base to ensure it is affordable; stronger because it will continue to invest in its journalism and in maintaining its market-leading positions. "
See also post below

GMG regionals making 'monthly trading loss'

Paul Linford on HoldtheFrontPage today gives a gloomy run down of Guardian Media Group's regional press operations' financial performance, reporting they have been making a loss for the past six months.
Linford says the admission, contained in GMG's full-yearly results published today, comes despite nearly 300 redundancies across the group earlier this year.
He adds: "The report revealed that GMG Regional Media's operating profit declined from £14m in 2008 to £0.5m last year, on turnover of £94.5m, before going on to say that conditions have since got even worse."
The report says: "Since the end of the 2008/09 financial year, conditions within the regional press have, if anything, worsened. GMG Regional Media has now been making a monthly trading loss for more than six months."

Ofcom: Two consultations on local media

Ofcom today published two consultations which it says could "pave the way for changes to the local media landscape".
The first is a consultation on recommendations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the media ownership rules. These include recommendations to remove the local radio station ownership rules and to liberalise the rules around ownership of different media within a local area.
The second consultation focuses on reforming the rules around commercial radio to ensure it can continue to deliver local content.
Ofcom says: "Current trends are for newspapers to merge with each other and for radio groups to do the same. But in future, cross media ownership in local areas could be one further way for the media sector to respond to these challenges."
It adds: "In our second statutory Media Ownership Rules Review, we are consulting on recommendations to make changes to the current rules that govern ownership of television, radio and newspapers."
The two principal recommendations for consultation are:
Removing the rules around radio service ownership that apply to local analogue and digital audio (DAB) services. This means that all local commercial radio stations could be owned by one operator in a local area, alongside the BBC local radio services.
Liberalising the local cross media ownership rules so that the only restriction is on ownership of all three of: local newspapers (with a 50 per cent or more share of the local market); a local radio station; and the regional Channel 3 licence.
Ofcom is also consulting on recommending removing the national multiplex rules and leaving the remaining media ownership rules unchanged.
The Media Ownership Rules Review consultation can be found here It will be for Government and Parliament to decide whether to make changes to the rules.
Radio Regulation
Separately, Ofcom has published its proposals for the future of localness regulation following the Government’s recent Digital Britain report. Ofcom’s regulation and licensing regime is defined by legislation approved by Parliament.
Ofcom says: "We are consulting now so that any changes put in place by Parliament would be implemented rapidly if proposed legislation is passed."
The consultation can be found here:
Ofcom will consult on the proposals set out in the Media Ownership Rules proposals until 17 September 2009. It will then present final recommendations to the Secretary of State by 13 November 2009.
The radio consultation closes on 23 October 2009. Any implementation would be subject to Parliament passing the relevant legislation.

Bullivant: 'I wanted to buy Trinity weeklies'

Independent regional newspaper publisher Chris Bullivant, owner of Bullivant Media, has told Press Gazette today that Trinity Mirror issued notification of closures last week on nine weekly papers in the Midlands despite having entered negotiations with him over a possible sale of some of the titles.
Bullivant tells Press Gazette he had entered negotiations for at least four papers – the Lichfield Post, Tamworth Times, Burton Trader and the Walsall Observer.
Press Gazette quotes Bullivant saying: "I think it’s barmy. At least one and maybe all of these newspapers could have been saved in my organisation as I don’t have the overheads that Trinity Mirror does.
"I would have loved any of them [Trinity’s weeklies] but in the middle of negotiations they decided to close the things."
Bullivant says he would still like to buy the Walsall Observer masthead from Trinity Mirror.

Send off for PA's Mike Watson

Friends and colleagues gathered last night to mark the retirement after 29 years with the Press Association of systems editor Mike Watson, writes Jean Morgan.
Mike was one of the two people on the PA newsdesk - the other was news editor Mike Parry - who decided to go with the news of the death of Princess Diana in the Paris car crash before it was officially confirmed. It gave PA a world scoop.
Watson and Parry had heard from reporter Charlie Miller at a Manila airport that the then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had been given a piece of paper saying the Princess was dead.
In his latter years with PA, Watson was also on the desk when 9/11 broke and in the building in his role of trainer of students when the 7/7 London bombings happened.
The leaving party was held at The Jugged Hare pub in Vauxhall Bridge Road where PA editor Jonathan Grun related the high spots of Mike's career.
Mike will return temporarily to PA in September to help train sub-editors for the Daily Mail.

Journalists could be put on trial in Iran

After more than a month of detention in Iran , several journalists may face trials beginning on Saturday on charges of "sending pictures to enemy media," according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
It also reports that three documentary filmmakers were arrested yesterday, bringing the total of journalists currently held in Iranian jails to 42, the highest count in the world.
The CPJ says the journalists are expected to be among 20 unnamed defendants tried on an array of charges, according to a government statement posted by the semi-official Fars News agency. All were arrested in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential elections.
The official Iranian News Agency (IRNA) claimed on Wednesday that photographers Majid Saeedi and Satyar Emami confessed to taking pictures and sending them to "enemy [news] agencies."
CPJ executive director Joel Simon said: "Majid Saeedi is a well-regarded photojournalist who was simply recording the reality he observed and distributing his photos through a global news agency recognized for its nonpartisan coverage of world events.
"We are gravely concerned that Saeedi, Satyar Emami, and the many other journalists in jail could be put on trial merely for doing their jobs."

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Former US President among those to have the last word in New York Times' video obits

I've always thought this was a brilliant way for newspapers to use video. Two years ago the New York Times launched 'The Last Word' - video obits recorded with well known people before they died which are broadcast on their death.
The first was columnist Art Buchwald whose video obit memorably begins "Hi, I'm Art Buchwald and I just died." You can see it here.
Since then, the newspaper has posted three other video obits on photographer Dith Pran, musician Odetta and philanthropist Stewart Mott.
Now Editor & Publisher reveals that web producers have stockpiled dozens more and have many in the process of being produced. "We have about 30 done and 10 in production," David Rummel, the Times senior producer for news and documentary tells E&P.
The newspaper has agreed to complete confidentiality for the video obit subjects until the time of death. All Rummel would say is the completed group includes one former president, a Nobel Prize winner and a playwright.
Hard as it tried the E&P could not identify the former President.

NUJ says Met Police has changed guidance to photographers over terror laws after protest

The NUJ says the Metropolitan Police has changed its public guidance on photography to reflect concerns raised by the union.
An earlier version of the advice on the Met’s website was criticised by the union because it said it implied officers had greater powers under counter-terror legislation than the law provides.
The webpage covering the guidance was amended yesterday and the NUJ is now calling on the force to ensure that officers on the ground in London are made aware of their responsibilities towards the media.
The NUJ’s legal officer Roy Mincoff had spoken out against the original advice because it stated that Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gave officers the right to view images that had been taken. However, the union says this is only true where the person concerned is actually suspected of being a terrorist – a far higher test than was originally implied.
The new guidance includes a statement making it clear that the police do not have the power to stop the media from filming and taking photographs in public places. The police now recognise the specific protections that are afforded to the media. It warns officers that they cannot demand to see images taken for journalistic purposes without a court order.
Speaking about the change to the guidelines, Mincoff said: “It is good to see that the police have listened to some of what we’ve been saying and the new guidance is certainly an improvement.
"We still have significant concerns about the way counter-terrorism legislation is being used to impinge on media freedoms, so it is vital that any guidance issued by the police is accurate and recognises the importance of a free press."

Trinity Mirror claims ad decline lessening

Trinity Mirrior in its half year financial report to 28 June said today that while advertising revenues have fallen to unprecedented levels due to the downturn, there has been "a marginal improvement in the rate of decline" which is expected to continue for the remainder of the year.
Ad revenues for the regionals were down by 34.5 % and the nationals by 14.4 per cent.
Group revenues fell by 16.9% year on year to £383 million, comprising declines of 28.2% for the regionals division and 6.9% for the nationals. The regionals were adversely impacted by
the sharp declines in classified advertising revenue streams.
Operating profits were of £49.1 million, compared to £80.5 million in 2008.
On the Digital Britain report, Trinity says: "We were pleased to see that the report, along with published conclusions from an OFT review which ran in parallel, acknowledged the very significant cyclical and structural issues facing local
and regional media.
"We have consistently argued that a change in primary legislation is not necessary to address these issues, simply that the existing merger regime fully recognises that the old narrow definitions of print markets are no longer fit for purpose. The OFT conclusions
set out a number of clarifications to the operation of the regime which should be helpful to the sector and amended their guidance to include a new Local Media Assessment conducted by Ofcom in cases relating to local media mergers which raise prima facie competition concerns. This is a welcome development for the industry."
Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey told analysts today: "Our voice was heard." She said Trinity "continued to believe consolidation could be attractive but it depends on the nature of the transaction." Bailey said the next step would be further guidance from the OFT which is due in September.
The Mirror is about to launch a new football website containing news, nostalgia and fantasy football, the analysts were told.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

BBC allowed back into Zimbabwe

The BBC has been allowed back into Zimbabwe after being banned for eight years and is hoping to reopen a bureau in Harare.
BBC World News editor Jon Williams writing on the BBC's The Editors' blog this evening said: "Ten days ago, I made a journey I thought I might never make - to Harare, Zimbabwe.
"Eight years ago, we had a disagreement with the then Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo; ever since, the BBC has operated undercover in Zimbabwe...this week, for the first time since July 2001, BBC News is back in Zimbabwe - openly and legally."
Williams adds: "Reporting undercover takes great courage and commitment. However, it is no substitute for being able to operate transparently. Inevitably, part of the story becomes how our teams are trying to avoid being found and arrested, rather than focusing on the people of Zimbabwe.
"Operating illegally and clandestinely has to be a last resort. So I'm pleased that we've been assured by the Zimbabwe government that the BBC is not banned, and that we can resume our operations in Zimbabwe."
This week Andrew Harding became the first BBC correspondent to enter the country on an authorised assignment since 2001.
Williams said: "In time, I hope we may be able to open a bureau in Harare, and we can report from Zimbabwe as we do from most other places around the world.
"For now, we're pleased at being able to operate openly in Zimbabwe once again - our presence there this week, is a welcome, constructive, and important first step."
A ban on CNN has also been lifted. The lifting of the bans on the two international broadcasters comes five months after President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tavangirai formed an inclusive government in Zimbabwe.
Press freedom campaigners will be hoping the new openness will extend to the domestic media and there will be an end to the brutal repression of independent newspapers like the Daily News.

I'll drink to that...headlines comp is back

Trebles all round. Press Gazette is bringing back its headline of the month competition thanks to sponsorship from a malt whisky.
My favourite headline so far this year is from the Sun which summed up Barcelona's superior class in the European Cup final against a below par Man United as Catalan v Matalan.
Who could forget the Whitstable Times' famed Whitstable Mum in Custard Shortage? And the extremly rare Private Eye Wins Case! from earlier this year.
My all time favourites include the News of the World's Nudist Welfare Man’s Model Wife Fell for the Chinese Hypnotist From the Co-op Bacon Factory along with the New York Post's Headless Body Found in Topless Bar and, I am not sure where from, the great Man Battered in Fish Shop.

Coventry strike cancelled

NUJ members at Trinity Mirror's Coventry Newspapers have followed their colleagues in Birmingham by calling off tomorrow’s planned strike over compulsory redundancies.
According to the union, the decision was taken after management agreed to redeploy three weekly paper reporters who had been facing redundany.
Negotiations are continuing over the future of another reporter and a photographer. Yesterday the Trinity Mirror NUJ chapels in Birmingham said they had secured an agreement that there would be no compulsory redundancies as part of Trinity's plans to close nine weekly papers. closed.
Journalists working for Trinity in Newcastle and Middlesbrough are balloting for action over cuts.

Guardian's Alan Rusbridger on breaking down the wall between journalists and readers

Guardian News and Media has published the latest version of its Living Our Values sustainability report.
The report discusses the future of GNM's journalism and how it covers climate change and social justice. GNM has also launched a new interactive Living Our Values website.
In the report GNM editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger talks about breaking down the wall between journalists and readers.
"What we are doing is taking down those bricks, lowering the barrier and positively encouraging the relationship between the two. This gets over the tired argument that this is an either/or battle between old media and bloggers.
"The mutualisation of news is a very powerful idea that particularly works for the Guardian, as our relationship with our readers is very strong. We can use the community of our readers in ways we would not have been able to in the past."
Rusbridger gives the example of Comment is Free, which now has nearly 1,000 think pieces a month from a broad range of writers and commentators. Page traffic in May 2009 rose to 9.3m, compared with 7.6m the year before, the report says.
Rusbridger adds: "It cannot be true that there are only a handful of people worth listening to in the world. Comment is Free is infinitely richer and more diverse and more plural. These bloggers who write for us could have done it very happily on their own, but what we offer them is the influence and the clout and an incredibly interesting audience to commune with."
He argues: "We need to continue breaking down the perceptions of a remote journalist who is a preacher, living distantly, and newspapers as being in bed with power and on the side of power, rather than the reader.
"On our side it means becoming even more transparent and accountable about our sources as well as increased humility. We need to get writers into the mindset where we tell less and listen more, not just in send mode but receive mode, where publishing an article is the beginning of a process and not the end of it."
Rusbridger believes applications such as Twitter make it increasingly possible for individual journalists to publish outside the constraints of GNM's newspapers and website and develop direct relationships with communities of readers. He gives the example of Guardian journalist Jemima Kiss, who had more than 12,000 followers on Twitter in June 2009 and uses them to get help in researching stories.
"It's a journalist's dream," says Rusbridger, "because there are all these people out there who can bombard her with all the information she needs. It represents a blurring of the lines between journalism and readers. She says: you help me with researching this story and I will let you know when it is ready."
The report is not without criticism. Outgoing NUJ chapel chair Helen Oldfied writes: "The pay freeze mooted for all staff threw into high relief the very large salaries relative to the rest of the company and the traditionally handsome bonuses that have been paid to members of the Guardian Media Group (GMG) board. These bonuses may have been cut back – or even forgone
completely and voluntarily in some cases– this year and will not be paid at all next year. But this is a response to extraordinary financial conditions rather than an acknowledgment that bonuses, essentially for doing your job, have no place in an organisation such as ours."

Panorama editor on Maziar Bahari

Sandy Smith, the editor of Panorama, has written on the BBC's The Editors blog about Maziar Bahari, the Iranian film-maker, who has been held in a Tehran prison since 21 June.
Bahari worked with Jane Corbin on the Panorama film Obama and the Ayatollah that ran before last month's elections. He has dual Canadian nationality and works for a wide range of broadcasters and publications and is Newsweek's correspondent in Tehran.
Smith says: "Maziar's contributions to Panorama would themselves have caused little complaint in Tehran. He worked on a 2008 film critical of the actions of the British Army in southern Iraq On Whose Orders?".
Smith quotes Jane Corbin who says: ""When I worked with Maziar in Tehran, I was able to appreciate how an experienced Iranian film-maker and journalist sees situations in his own country which the Western media and governments do not always appreciate or understand
"We went to Shiraz to film where 14 people had been killed last year in a bomb attack by an anti-government group. I was able to understand, through Maziar's explanations and translations of the views of people there, that while the West regards Iran as a perpetrator of terror, Iranians often see themselves as the victims of terror."
The Committee to Protect Journalists is collecting signatures until July 31 on a Facebook petition in support of Maziar Bahari.

Campaign slogan right on the Monet

The Southern Daily Echo has come up with a brilliant name for its campaign for Southampton City Council to sell off some of the thousands of pictures which it has no room to display.
Under the slogan - 'Show Us The Monet!' - the Echo has called for a review of how many works the city needed, what could be sold off and how the money could be better used in supporting the arts.
From HoldtheFrontPage.

The Guardian's debt to GMG is carrying a statement explaining the purpose of the Guardian Media Group, ahead of its profit results in August.
The statement says: "The Guardian would not exist today if it had not been for the financial support of the broader Guardian Media Group.
"Over the past five years alone, GMG has invested more than £200m in GNM, funding projects such as the development of and the move to a state-of-the-art new home at Kings Place.
"GMG is a unique media owner in that it exists to enable the Scott Trust to achieve its core purpose of securing the ongoing financial and editorial independence of the Guardian."
Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian is quoted saying : "We would not be in this game were it not for GMG. There is a hurricane blowing through the media industry. One only has to look to America to see the devastating effect this is having on a lot of papers, which are either closing or going into chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
"The fact that we have not been forced to take drastic action is largely because of the subsidy we have through the Scott Trust that is possible because of the success of GMG.
"We operate in an odd market where other companies also have subsidies. The Independent would not be here but for the subsidy from O'Reilly. The reason we can take the Times on head to head is because we have a subsidy that comes close to what Murdoch is prepared to spend."
The statement adds: "Despite the relative strength of GMG's financial position, all of its wholly owned businesses, including GNM, have been badly affected by a combination of the economic downturn and longer-term, structural changes in their markets – such as classified advertising moving to the web. Trader Media Group and Emap, while not immune to recession, have proved more resilient.
"Each of GMG's businesses is reducing costs significantly to cope with these challenging times. GMG's profits will be announced in August and will feature on our sustainability website."

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Strike at Trinity Midlands called off

The NUJ today called off the 24-hour strike planned for Trinity Mirror's Birmingham-based titles in the Midlands on Thursday after claiming it had reached an agreement with the company for no compulsory redundancies.
The Coventry Newspapers NUJ chapel meets tomorrow.
A statement from Neil Elkes and Martin Warrillow, joint NUJ FoCs at the Birmingham Post and Mail, said: “Members of the NUJ at Trinity Mirror's Birmingham titles have withdrawn the 24-hour industrial action which had been planned for Thursday.
"This follows confirmation from the company that there will be no compulsory redundancies among journalists on the BPM Media (Midlands)/ Midland Weekly Media North titles.
"NUJ representatives have worked closely with BPM Media management to avoid job losses and are relieved that no union members will be made compulsorily redundant this week.
"However, a number of our colleagues are leaving under voluntary terms."
The statement added: "Although compulsory job losses have been averted, nine titles across the Midlands, including the Walsall Observer, Lichfield Post, Tamworth Times and Solihull Times have ceased publication, making this a very sad day for local journalism.”

How not to make friends with freelances

The NUJ London Freelance Branch held a special meeting at the union's headquarters at Headland House last night to help redundant staff journalists who have turned freelance.
Apparently one question from the floor did not go down well and was greeted with a terse "no" from a union official on the platform.
The question was : "If you want to get work should you undercut the rates of existing freelances?"
It was pointed out that if everybody did that freelances would be working for nothing. Talking of which, a freelance who recently pitched a feature to a well known quality national was asked: "Is it free?".
It's tough out there.

Steve Brown back as Express & Star chief

Steve Brown, whose sudden departure as managing director of Trinity' Mirror's Midlands and North-East regional operations sparked protests from journalists, has been appointed chief executive of the Claverley Group, owners of the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star, from 1 January next year, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
Brown was extremely popular with Trinity's journalists. In a rare move, the NUJ chapel at Trinity's centre protested at his departure and described him as "an exceptional MD" even though there had been a round of redundancies.
There was also unprecedented support for Brown on postings to HTFP from journalists.
The Express & Star is the biggest selling English daily regional and has long been a fierce rival of Trinity's Birmingham Mail. Claverley also owns the Shropshire Star, the Jersey Evening Post and the Guernsey Press and Star.

Telegraph exposes MPs new expenses deal

The Daily Telegraph's splash today on MPs awarding themselves a new expenses deal, for a £25-a-night subsitance allowance that does not require any receipts, shows the paper is still on the politicians case over expenses. Surprised it hasn't made a bigger impact on the rest of the media.

Gilligan on London's council 'newspapers'

Andrew Gilligan has in the Evening Standard turned his fire on London's local council newspaper-style publications in an article called The Propaganda Newspapers.
It is well worth a read and applies to many other parts of the country where council papers are seen as a growing threat to the local press.
Two parts of the article stand out.
Gilligan claims: "Across London, official council newspapers now employ around 120 people. When council press officers, who actually write much of the content of most papers, are included, the figure rises to 360. The total number of editorial staff on independent local newspapers in London, much-diminished after a series of cuts, is around 350."
He also quotes Tower Hamlets' head of commercial operations, Chris Payne, from a presentation in Sheffield , setting out the philosophy behind the newspaper-style publications.
Gilligan writes: "Many independent local papers, he (Payne) said, "churn out a negative diet of crime and grime, often attacking their local council and generally creating a negative impression". Council papers, by contrast, "help create a positive place-shaping agenda, talking up an area and its residents' achievements, celebrating diversity and opportunity for all".

BBC shares video news with newspapers

Four national newspapers - the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Independent - are to share BBC video news content on their websites free of charge.
The BBC said the move was the best way to sustain public-service content and is seen as a way of countering criticism from newspapers that the Corporation had stifled their attempts to expand online.
BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said the agreement, which begins today, marked a thaw in relations between the Corporation and commercially-funded media.
Other newspaper websites could sign up later, he said.
The BBC already has a video sharing agreement with YouTube which allows the site to screen short clips of its content.
In return for sharing its material, the BBC receives a share of the advertising revenue generated by traffic to the YouTube channels.

Regionals must collaborate and invest online

Amanda Andrews argues in the Telegraph that regional newspaper groups need to work more closely together and invest online to survive.
She says the Government is making some positive moves to aid local newspapers but "these are just pigeon steps in the greater scheme of things".
Andrews describes the decision to monitor newspaper-style council papers and a possible relaxation of media merger rules as moves in the right direction.
But adds: "Mergers are not necessarily the answer. They will, of course, provide some synergies but they will not do enough."
She says : "Furthermore, some mergers will be difficult to orchestrate. No doubt there are financial wizzes and media executives out there trying to make deals — but convincing DMGT to merge Northcliffe with Trinity Mirror’s regional business or advising Trinity to tie-up with Johnston Press will be no easy feat. Dealmakers will have to negotiate around Johnston’s debt pile and Trinity’s sizeable pension deficit."
Andrews adds: "Of course, the end of the recession will bring some revival in classified advertising revenues, but regional newspaper groups will remain battered and bruised when the turmoil is over.
"It is key that the groups are encouraged to collaborate more and invest online. Teaming up with a non-newspaper classifieds advertising player such as Yell is one idea. As I’ve said before, a single, jointly-marketed umbrella website which has a familiar name that guides users to each group’s titles makes sense.
"Working together will also relieve the groups of the financial pressures of going it alone when it comes to investing in new technology and trials. From online video to mobile phone offerings, there is no reason why regional newspapers should not be behaving more like nationals."

Monday, 27 July 2009

New PCC chair to open editors' conference

The new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Baroness Buscombe, will deliver the 2009 Society of Editors' Lecture that will open the Society's conference in November.
It will be her first major public speech since taking over from Sir Christopher Meyer at the PCC and follows the furore over the News of the World phone hacking allegations highlighted in the Guardian.
Also speaking will be the Lord Chief Justice, the new Information Commissioner and the new Director of Public Prosecutions.
The conference, under the banner the 'Fight Back', will focus on editors’ efforts to build new platforms for news delivery, revenue streams and working practices at a time when the world economic downturn is having a dramatic effect on media organisations.
It will take place at the Radisson SAS hotel at London Stansted airport from Sunday November 15 to Tuesday November 17.
Delegates can book now online at

FT: 'Sweetener for Johnston Press' lenders'

Lenders to Johnston Press are set to own 5 per cent of the company as part of the terms of a debt restructuring "sweetener", the Financial Times reports today.
Johnston Press, which has £450m debt, is in talks with lenders to reset covenants, as well as an extension of the repayment deadlines on its debt.
The FT says: "Lenders are also likely to be given warrants to subscribe to a 5 per cent stake in the company in exchange for their support, people familiar with the situation said. However, there will be no debt forgiven as part of the deal."
Johnston Press said in June that lenders had agreed to defer testing covenants from June 30 to August 31 pending the outcome of discussions on a refinancing.
The FT adds: "The company has not commented on what other options it could explore to reduce its debt amid speculation of a sell-off of some regional titles, including The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.
"Analysts say the regional newspaper industry will be able to survive only if it obtains sufficient scale by consolidating. If current merger laws are relaxed, this is likely to come about through nil-premium mergers rather than takeovers.
"They also believe the 'big four' regional newspaper groups – Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Northcliffe – should become a 'big two'. "

Glover: 'Guardian used private investigators'

This isn't going to help improve the strained relations between the Independent and the Guardian.
The Independent's media commentator Stephen Glover says today that the Guardian used a business intelligence company as part of an investigation into the multi-national company Monsanto and questions the paper's right to get on its "high horse" over the News of the World's use of private investigators.
Glover writes: "Now it emerges that The Guardian has itself on at least one occasion employed what it describes as a 'business intelligence company' - and what we might call a private investigator - to obtain information about a multi-national company. The paper had no intention of committing any illegal act, and I for one would heartily support what it did as good journalism. All the same, its use of private investigators may cast its high-minded criticisms of the News of the World in a somewhat different light."
Glover says:"There is no evidence that illegal methods were used on behalf of the Guardian by a third party investigating Monsanto. But that does not seem to me the most interesting point. The fact is that, if you employ outside agencies to obtain information, you cannot maintain control over the methods they use. Once you dip a toe into that murky world, you are no longer in charge of the process. If I had, like Mr Rusbridger, employed a private investigator, I do not think I would have so readily got on my high horse in relation to News Of The World."
The Independent and Guardian fell out in May over MediaGuardian's coverage of the Independent's financial problems. It led the Independent's managing director and former editor Simon Kelner to accuse the Guardian of purposely trying to damage its biggest commercial rival by "biased" and "irresponsible" reporting.
Glover's story is based on one investigated, but not published by the Sunday Times.

'Newsroom cuts most damaging to revenues'

Research by the Reynolds Journalism Institute in the US has found that cuts in newsrooms have a bigger impact on newspaper revenues than cuts in other departments.
The research found that three-quarters of all US newspapers have cut 10 percent or more of their newsrooms. The RJI research examined how cuts in news, distribution, and advertising departments affected total revenues and profits. The analysis was based on data from 327 newspapers which have daily of circulations of under 85,000.
Among the findings:
Newsroom cuts are the most costly on revenues. A one percent cut in newsroom expenditures led to a .44 percent drop in revenue. A one percent cut in the ad sales force led to a revenue drop of .24 percent. A one percent cut in the distribution force led to a .08 percent drop in revenue. In dollar amounts, the picture is even more clear. Data from small newspapers with an average circulation of 13,000 showed that a 1 percent cut in the newsroom reduced expenses by about $10,000 but led to a revenue drop of $23,000 and a profit decline of $3,000.
The bigger the cuts, the impact on revenues gets progressively worse. For example, a 10 percent cut in newsroom expenditures led to a 5 percent drop in subscription revenues, while a 50 percent cut in newsroom expenditures led to a 30 percent drop in subscription revenues.
Newsroom cuts are the most costly on profits. A 5 percent cut in news expenses led to a 1 percent drop in profits, while a 5 percent cut in advertising department budgets led to a .3 percent cut in profits.
The authors advised that newsrooms should be the last department cut. When cutting costs, newsroom cuts are by far the most damaging to revenues – and the longer the reductions occur, the greater the acceleration of damage. The authors wrote, “We find that newsroom cutbacks hurt a newspaper’s revenue many times more than cutbacks in either distribution or the sales force departments.”
Via themediaisdying on Twitter.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Petition calls on Iran to free Maziar Bahari

The Committee to Protect Journalists will be collecting signatures until July 31 on a Facebook petition in support of Maziar Bahari, Newsweek's Tehran correspondent, who is being held without charge in Iran.
Bahari was detained on June 21 as part of Iran's post-election crackdown on the media.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Tom Bower's 'devastating' Richard Desmond biography could be in the shops by Xmas

Tom Bower has described Rough Trader, his biography of Express owner Richard Desmond, as "the most devastating story of a businessman I have ever written" - and said it is likely to be in the shops before Christmas, according to the Guardian.
Speaking to the Guardian after celebrating his victory in the libel case brought against him by Desmond, Bower said he believes the Express proprietor brought the action in the hope of suppressing his biography.
Bower finished a 220-page unauthorised biography of Desmond in 2005, which he promised contained "really quite unbelievable facts" about how the 57-year-old owner of Express owner came to acquire a fortune estimated by the Sunday Times at £950m.
The Guardian reports that Bower said he has a meeting next week with HarperCollins, who published his biography of Conrad Black and funded his legal defence against Desmond. He is "very hopeful" that Rough Trader, complete with a new chapter documenting the failed libel action, will be on sale by Christmas.
It is understood that at least one of Desmond's former editors was interviewed by Bower for the biography.

Friday, 24 July 2009

MPs call for better freelance rights

Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell, a member of the NUJ's parliamentary group, has put down an Early Day Motion, calling for better rights for freelances.
The EDM says: "That this House notes that freelance workers have been hit hard by the economic downturn and are losing significant amounts of regular work with little or no warning and without any redundancy pay or compensation; further notes that many freelance workers have little choice but to take up self-employment because of employment practices in their sector; further notes that at present freelance workers are entitled to pro rata holiday pay for the periods that they work; believes that a similar system could be applied to other employment rights, such as redundancy pay; therefore calls for improved rights across all sectors in which regular freelance work occurs."
It has been signed by 14 MPs.
The NUJ has named July "Freelance Month" to highlight its campaign for improved rights for freelances.

Denis MacShane damns foreign affairs pundits

Rotherham MP and former Minister of Europe Denis MacShane in the Independent today damns most commentators on foreign affairs in the UK press while praising the work of Timothy Garton Ash.
MacShane reviewing Timothy Garton Ash's new book 'Facts are Subversive' writes: "Most pundits on foreign affairs who clog up our comment pages have three things in common. They do not speak or read foreign languages. They dislike Europe or, if on the left, the United States. They tend to be former editors of national newspapers or magazines.
"As a result the reader seeking enlightenment on the evolution of geopolitics has to read Timothy Garton Ash. He is fluent in German, Polish and French. That may explain why he is the only British writer on foreign affairs who is translated and taken seriously in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland as well as the US."

Key breakthrough in Gongadze murder case

Reporters Without Borders says the investigation into the September 2000 murder of investigative online journalist Georgy Gongadze is finally in the process of being resolved and firmly hopes that the officials who ordered Gongadze’s murder will now be identified and brought to trial.
“There has been decisive progressive of late in this investigation, which until now had been a symbol of impunity in Ukraine,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are deeply relieved, and moved for the Gongadze family, to learn of the confession by Gen. Olexy Pukach, the former head of foreign intelligence in the interior ministry.”
The journalist’s decapitated body was found in a forest near Kiev two weeks after he was kidnapped on 16 September 2000. Aged 31 at the time of his death, Gongadze was the editor of the online newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, in which he wrote extensively about corruption cases implicating senior members of President Leonid Kuchma’s government.
Three former police officers – Mykola Protasov, Oleksandr Popovich and Valeri Kostenko – were convicted last year of carrying out Gongadze’s murder on Gen. Pukach’s orders but Pukach had eluded arrest until this week.
The press freedom organisation added: “But we must remain vigilant. The authorities must reveal the names of the officials identified by Gen. Pukach as having given him his orders, and they must be arrested and tried. The investigation must not be cut short after coming so far.”
The recent progress began when the Kiev supreme court decided on 12 June that secret recordings made by former President Leonid Kuchma’s bodyguard, Mykola Melnichenko, could be incorporated into the investigation.

AP plans news registry to track online content

The Associated Press has taken the first move to protect its content online, with plans to create a news registry to tag and track all AP online content "to assure compliance with terms of use," according to an announcement following a board decision, Editor & Publisher reports.
"The system will register key identifying information about each piece of content that AP distributes as well as the terms of use of that content, and employ a built-in beacon to notify AP about how the content is used," AP adds.
"What we are building here is a way for good journalism to survive and thrive," Dean Singleton, chairman of the AP Board of Directors and vice chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group Inc, said in a statement. "The AP news registry will allow our industry to protect its content online, and will assure that we can continue to provide original, independent and authoritative journalism at a time when the world needs it more than ever."

Bower hopes book on Desmond published soon

Tom Bower having survived being sued by Richard Desmond now hopes to publish his long awaited biography on the Express owner.
MediaGuardian reports: " 'I think I have been a victim of a very rich man trying to suppress the truth,' said a delighted Bower, adding that he very much hoped his long unpublished biography of Desmond, entitled Rough Trader, would soon be in the shops. Bower's counsel implied throughout the case that Desmond's real motive in bringing the action was to stop the publication of this no doubt brutal exposé."

Quotes of the Week

Roy Greenslade on Richard Desmond suing Tom Bower: "It ill behoves newspaper proprietors to use the law of libel. They are supposed to champion press freedom. They are supposed to be committed to reforming libel law to prevent marginal instances of libel leading to expensive litigation in the high court. But it simply confirms my view that Desmond is a rogue proprietor."

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on the decline of the regional press: "It makes me worry about all of those public authorities and courts which will in future operate without any kind of systematic public scrutiny. I don't think our legislators have begun to wake up to this imminent problem as we face the collapse of the infrastructure of local news in the press and broadcasting."

Daily Telegraph's Andrew Gimson on Andy Coulson's appearance before the culture and media committee:"For some Tories, it has always been a bit of a mystery that Mr. Cameron wanted to employ a former editor of the News of the World. But Mr. Coulson at least went a long way to clearing up that mystery, by managing to sound intelligent, helpful and even normal, while supplying no new information."

Stephen Glover on the impact on the press of the BBC website: "I find it difficult to see how most titles can successfully apply even a modest charge as long as the BBC offers so much content online free of charge. In effect, the publicly-funded broadcaster is pointing a dagger at the heart of the free Press."

Chris Morley, NUJ northern organise, on cuts at Trinity Mirror's papers in the Midlands: “Trinity Mirror need to stop finding excuses to ignore the opposition of their workforce to these drastic cuts. Journalists want the opportunity to save these papers but the company can see no options but slash and burn.”

Former senior editorial manager at Trinity Mirror in a posting on MediaGuardian: "Regional papers have always been profitable, making money hand over fist. Even though circulations have declined, ad revenues have increased. Then back in the late '90s early 00s the Johnston Press group restructured their business and started posting 40% profits, a ridiculous sum in any industry.
"But the shareholders of the other groups demanded the same and so in the relatively boom years of the turn of the century newspaper groups were cutting costs, losing staff, cutting numbers of editions and consolidating print operations. At the same time they were increasing pagination. So reporters could not be sent to court and council, it was time consuming. Better to chain them to the desk getting stories on the phone and e-mail - the 'churnalism' derided by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News. Then the recession hit and what did the managerial geniuses do to weather that - cut costs even further. Brilliant."

Unleashing Aspiration report: The typical journalist of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 3 in 4 of all families in the UK."

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Strike at Trinity Midlands next week

NUJ members at Trinity Mirror’s Midlands' titles have voted to strike next Thursday July 30 in protest at compulsory redundancies and closure of weekly titles.
The action involves the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, Coventry Telegraph, Sunday Mercury and Midlands Weekly Media titles.
Trinity Mirror NUJ chapels are also balloting for action over cuts in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
In the Midlands, the NUJ has 150 members employed by Trinity Mirror.
Chris Morley, NUJ northern organiser, said: “Trinity Mirror need to stop finding excuses to ignore the opposition of their workforce to these drastic cuts. Journalists want the opportunity to save these papers but the company can see no options but slash and burn.”
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, added: “Let's hope this vote for action will bring the company to the negotiating table with some positive proposals.
“Trinity Mirror have squandered the record profits of the past few years on huge bonuses for bosses and dividends for shareholders. Let’s see some investment in these titles and the communities they serve."

Richard Desmond loses Tom Bower libel case: Will a biography now be published?

Now Richard Desmond has lost his libel case against Tom Bower maybe we will at last see a biography of the controversial Express owner published.
During the case, Bower's legal team suggested that Desmond had taken legal action over the Black book after learning of another, as yet unpublished volume – a biography of Desmond himself, provisionally entitled Rough Trader.
Bower was said to be planning a Desmond biography a few years ago but went on to write his book about Conrad Black, which attracted the writ from Desmond.
You've got to hand it to Bower. He's taken on Robert Maxwell, Conrad Black and Richard Desmond - and won.

What happens when a newspaper dies?

The Economist has taken a look at what happens when a town - in this case Bedworth in the Midlands - loses its newspaper.
The article The Town Without News about the closure of the Bedworth Echo makes some interesting points.
For example: "As it declined, the Echo withdrew from its office in the middle of town and trimmed its coverage of local affairs. By the end it was hardly an effective watchdog. 'We used to nearly write the stories for the journalists,' says Richard Chattaway, a county councillor."
Also:" 'This is a poor town, and not computer literate,' Anne Tippett of the Civic Hall, an arts centre. Bedworth has no prominent blog. Indeed, local politicians appear to be just coming around to e-mail as a means of mass communication."
The Economist says following the closure of the Echo: "The local borough council delivers an increasingly professional-looking newsletter. So do local churches. Oddly, a problem that is high-tech in origin has strengthened a low-tech form of communication."
Story tip via Tom McGowran

An ex-Trinity Mirror editorial manager writes...

Some good postings on MediaGuardian about Alan Rusbridger's comments last night on the need for state funding , possibly via the Press Association, for regional newspapers to cover "public service" reporting, like courts and councils.
I liked this one from a "former senior editorial manager at Trinity Mirror".
"Rusbridger's position on this accepts the lie that the reporting of local institutions is somehow unprofitable and unsustainable.
Here's what really happened.
Regional papers have always been profitable, making money hand over fist. Even though circulations have declined, ad revenues have increased.
Then back in the late '90s early 00s the Johnston Press group restructured their business and started posting 40% profits, a ridiculous sum in any industry.
But the shareholders of the other groups demanded the same and so in the relatively boom years of the turn of the century newspaper groups were cutting costs, losing staff, cutting numbers of editions and consolidating print operations. At the same time they were increasing pagination. So reporters could not be sent to court and council, it was time consuming. Better to chain them to the desk getting stories on the phone and e-mail - the 'churnalism' derided by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News.
Then the recession hit and what did the managerial geniuses do to weather that - cut costs even further. Brilliant.
I was a senior editorial manager in Trinity Mirror when all this was going on. All they are interested in doing is making maximum profit on minimum staff.
And despite the recession, migration of sits vac, motors and property to the net, they are still very profitable.
Now we are told that PA should be given public money to pay those groups to employ hacks to do a job they used to do but were stopped from doing in order to cut costs?
I think not. And Rusbridger should think again."

Four more journalists confirmed held in Iran

The ‎Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed the detentions of another four journalists in Iran.
According to CPJ at least 41 journalists are now being held in Iranian prisons, 35 of whom were jailed in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election. CPJ research shows that Iran has overtaken China, where 28 journalist are imprisoned, as the world's worst jailer of journalists.
CPJ says among those unjustly jailed is Majid Saeedi, a freelance photographer for Getty Images, who has worked in Iran for years. CPJ has posted a slideshow showing Saeedi's work. One of his pictures, of an Iranian commemorating the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war at a memorial in 2007, is shown above.
‎"Iranian ‎‎authorities continue to hold dozens of journalists behind bars, the vast majority of them without charge. The numbers speak for themselves--and the world is taking note. It's an embarrassment for Iran to be the world's worst jailer of journalists," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator ‎‎Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "The authorities must end their campaign against the media, and they should start by immediately releasing these unjustly detained journalists."

Northcliffe Media revenues down by 27 per cent

Northcliffe Media’s total revenues were down by 27% to £79 million, according to the Daily Mail and General Trust's interim management statement for the quarter to 30th June.
UK advertising revenues for the quarter were 33% lower than the same period last year, compared with a year-on-year decline of 36% in the previous quarter, but DMGT says absolute weekly levels of advertising revenue appear to have stabilised.
Retail, now the largest category, was down by 16%, recruitment down 56%, property down 46% and motors down by 28%. June and the first three weeks of July have seen revenues respectively 30% and 28% lower than the corresponding weeks last year.
UK digital revenues for the quarter were just 6% lower than the same period last year, with recruitment revenues 43% lower but a 60% growth in other categories.
Unique visitor levels to Northcliffe’s network of “thisis” websites in June 2009 were 37% higher than the previous June.
UK circulation revenues for the quarter were 8% below last year. Daily and weekly paid for titles sale (unaudited) declined by 9% and 8% respectively in the January to June 2009 ABC period.
DMGT says Associated Newspapers is now benefiting from significantly lower costs, despite its total underlying revenues (excluding the Evening Standard) falling by 12% to £206 million.
Underlying circulation revenues were 7% lower than the same period last year. But circulation volumes are showing a marked improvement with the Daily Mail’s year-on-year performance in June down just 1% due to the success of the direct marketing campaign to recruit more long term loyal purchasers.

Alan Rusbridger calls for state funding for PA

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has called for public funding for the Press Association to cover public authorities and courts as local newspapers and ITV regional news can no longer afford to.
Rusbridger, speaking at a seminar on the future of journalism at the Media Standards Trust in London, said local news needed to be supported, or "corruption and inefficiency" would grow as scrutiny lessened.
He said the Press Association should get public money to provide local news as other providers such as newspapers and ITV regional news disappear.
In return, PA would contract out the reporting of public authorities and courts to local papers, with the content then shared with other outlets.
Rusbridger said of the disappearance of local journalism: "It makes me worry about all of those public authorities and courts which will in future operate without any kind of systematic public scrutiny. I don't think our legislators have begun to wake up to this imminent problem as we face the collapse of the infrastructure of local news in the press and broadcasting."
He said local public service journalism was a "kind of utility" which was just as important as gas and water.
"We must face up to the fact that if there is no public subsidy, then some of this [public service] reporting will come to pass in this country," he said.
"The need is there. It is going to be needed pretty quickly."
Rusbridger warned in a radio interview last December that the closure of newspapers could leave some cities in the UK without their own news for the first time since the Enlightenment.
He also raised the possibility of state funding for regional newspapers last November in a Guardian article as the economic crisis gripped the industry with closures and widespread job cuts.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Exclusive picture scoop for CJ site Demotix

Citizen journalism website Demotix has claimed a world exclusive with a photograph of the arrest of professor Henry Louis Gates - the high profile black Harvard scholar.
The image was licensed by almost all the major US networks and news programmes, including CBS, ABC, NBC News and CNN.
In print, it was published by the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Herald, New York Daily News and the New York Post. The image also made the front page of the Guardian in the UK.
Demotix commissioning editor Andy Heath said of the exclusive picture: "Without citizen-journalism, it would not exist. A member of the public, witnessing a story unfolding, reached for his digital camera and captured the story.
"This is different to the Twitpic of the plane on the Hudson River – then, the world's media was just a few minutes behind. During Mr Gates' arrest, no professional photographer was present. This was a true exclusive, by a true citizen-journalist."

'Coulson showed why Cameron chose him'

Nice sketch in the Daily Telegraph today by Andrew Gimson on Andy Coulson's appearance before the culture and media committee yesterday.
He writes: "For some Tories, it has always been a bit of a mystery that Mr. Cameron wanted to employ a former editor of the News of the World. But Mr. Coulson at least went a long way to clearing up that mystery, by managing to sound intelligent, helpful and even normal, while supplying no new information, beyond the intriguing detail that Scotland Yard thinks his own phone is more likely to have been hacked into than that of John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister."

'Terror used against jailed journalists in Iran'

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has accused the Iranian authorities of arresting and jailing Iranian journalists in a manner that is illegal and violates international judicial standards.
RWB says journalists are also being summoned and threatened in a bid to stop them working for both foreign and national news media.
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of journalists held without legal grounds,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Iran is the world’s biggest prison for journalists and bloggers, with a total of 42 held. Most of those in section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison are mistreated and are subjected to a great deal of psychological pressure. They are illegally denied the right to visits by relatives and lawyers. Terror is at the heart of the methods used against them.”

How journalism cut out the 'council house kids'

The debate surrounding yesterday's Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions report reminded me of an interview I did in 2005 while I was at Press Gazette with Barrie Williams who had just retired after 30 years editing regional newspapers.
Barrie was a "council house kid." He left school at 16 and joined a weekly paper as an apprentice and went on to edit three regional daily papers - the Kent Evening Post, Nottingham Evening Post and Western Morning News.
He told me the new stress on academic qualifications in journalism had "cut out the council-house kids" from entering journalism. At Nottingham, he pioneered a scheme employing kids on council estates to write for the paper and supplied them with laptops.
He said. "A lot of regional papers have lost touch with their readers. You have middle-class journalists writing for people who aren't on the same wavelength. They have lost the common touch."
Barrie said he believed the switch to graduates began in the 1970s because of an "intellectual arrogance" that journalism was a profession like law or medicine.
"It's a people business. It is all about getting on with people. The academic bit is non-essential unless you want to be a specialist. We have a lot of very bland people who, when looking for a job, stopped at ‘j' and thought ‘that might be rather fun'," he said.
Barrie concluded: "I wouldn't get into the profession nowadays."
A view supported by the Unleashing Aspiration report which says that entry into journalism is now dominated by people from the best off families and that journalism – along with accountancy – has seen the biggest shift to more social exclusivity.
You can read the interview with Barrie Williams here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Andy Coulson: 'Where's the evidence?'

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson told MPs today there was no evidence connecting him to The Guardian's fresh phone hacking allegations surrounding the NoW.
He admitted that "things went badly wrong and I took the blame" when he resigned over the Clive Goodman hacking case in 2007. Coulson described Goodman as "a rogue reporter" and said he was unaware of any other illegal hacking going on while he was editor.
Coulson told the Commons culture and media committee that the police, the Guardian and the Press Complaints Commission had all said he had no direct involvement in phone hacking.
He said the NoW was a paper with a much bigger budget than the Guardian, handling many stories and he did not "micro-manage" every one going into the paper.

Unleashing Aspirations: 'First step in tackling work experience exploitation'

The NUJ has welcomed today's Unleashing Aspirations report, which looks at the barriers facing those wanting to enter professions like journalism, as the first step in tackling bogus work experience.
It has backed a recommendation in the report to introduce national standards for internships as a positive first step in challenging exploitative unpaid work experience placements.
Proposals for a best practice code and Kitemark system to improve the quality of internships provided in professions such as journalism are also recommended in the report.
The NUJ has campaigned for the government to tackle the use of bogus work experience placements by media companies to get work done for free.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “This report shows how the use of unpaid internships has undermined the diversity of our profession. It is good to see the government recognising the problem and we are now looking for swift action to ensure the financial barriers to entering journalism are lowered.
“The NUJ welcomes the report’s proposals to develop national standards as a first step in stamping out exploitative practices across the media. Genuine work experience is vital to anyone coming in to the profession, but all too often these placements are of very low quality. Too many employers see internships as a way of getting work done for free, without any thought towards their responsibilities to provide would-be journalists with a learning opportunity.
“We look forward to working with others in the sector to develop standards in this area and will continue to pressure the government to take action against those employers that use bogus work experience to exploit aspiring journalists and avoid minimum wage rules.”
More on Unleashing Aspirations below.

Unleashing Aspiration: 'Journalist of the future comes from best off families'

The typical journalist of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 3 in 4 of all families in the UK.
That is one of the findings of the Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions report published today.
The report says a typical professional born in 1958 came from a family that earned 17% more than the average family income; but by 1970 the family income gap between those who went on to pursue a professional career and the average family had risen to 27% with journalism – along with accountancy – seeing the biggest shift to more social exclusivity.
It says that " Some 98% of entrants in journalism have a degree or post-graduate qualification. Less than 10% of those entering journalism have worked their way up through non-graduate, vocational, working class background."
It predicts that up to 9 in 10 new jobs in the future will be professional jobs.
The report's other findings include:
* Tomorrow’s professional is growing up in a family that is better off than 7 out of 10 families in Britain.
* The typical doctor or lawyer of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 5 in 6 of all families in the UK.
* The typical engineer or teacher of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 2 in 3 of all families in the future.
* Over half of professional occupations such as law and finance are currently dominated by people from independent schools which are attended by just 7% of the population. 75% of judges and 45% of top civil servants were independently schooled.
* The Report makes 88 recommendations to government, the professions, charities and others. They include:
Social Mobility
* Social mobility to be the top social policy priority for this and any future government.
* A new expert social mobility commission to advise government, professions, employers and other public bodies and oversee progress made.
* Role models to inspire young people through a high profile ‘Yes you can’ campaign backed by a volunteer network of student and young professional mentors.
* Universities to offer modular degrees and part time students to get loans.
* Fee-free higher education for students staying at home and studying at their local university, especially mature people with families.
* Supporting all universities to take into account the educational and social context of pupils’ achievement in their admissions processes.
* New partnerships between universities and local schools and professions.
Internships, the report calls for:
* Fair rules for internships through a nationally agreed Internships Code between government, employers, professions and unions.
* Internships openly advertised through a new website.
* A kite-mark for identifying high quality internships.
* Support for internships through means tested micro-loans and private finance. * All professions to undertake reviews of fair access in their professions, reporting back to Government by 2012.
* Each profession to establish clear progression routes from vocational training – including introducing apprenticeship schemes – to allow more non-graduates to start out in a professional career.

High cost of training is making journalism a profession for the middle class elite

The fact that journalism has become a middle class, graduate profession as the Unleashing Aspirations report is expected to show today is not news.
The Guild of Editors produced a report years ago showing that school leavers were no longer entering journalism at the local level and entrants were increasingly middle class - the story was headlined in Press Gazette "Middle Class Spread".
As Alan Milburn, who chaired the panel of experts who wrote the report on the barriers facing entries to professions, said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning there was a time when someone could start as a messenger boy and end up as a Fleet Street journalist.
The switch to graduate entry into journalism has been a fundamental change. But, I think there has been an equally fundamental change since then.
Tom Welsh, the first director of journalism at City University, told me that all the students on the first post-grad course in 1976 got local authority grants and had their tuition fees paid.
This is not the case now. It is the high cost of post graduate training, plus the fact that many students are carrying debts from their degree courses, which is putting up a barrier to stop students from poor families entering journalism.
Proper funding for students on post grad courses is the way to stop journalism becoming an elite, middle class profession.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Big vote for action at Trinity Mirror Midlands

NUJ members at Trinity Mirror’s regional newspapers in the Midlands have voted massively in favour of industrial action over compulsory job cuts and the closure of papers, the NUJ said today.
Of those taking part in secret postal ballots 84 percent voted to strike, and 97 percent to take action short of a strike.
The polls covered journalists on the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, Coventry Telegraph, Sunday Mercury and Midlands Weekly Media titles.
The ballots were called after the NUJ claimed it had seen management plans to close weekly papers, cut jobs and reduce the frequency of the daily Birmingham Post.
Trinity Mirror NUJ chapels are also balloting for action over cuts in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern organiser, said: “This ballot result is a strong indication of the feelings of our members at Trinity Mirror in the Midlands about the cuts that have been announced and the others that we believe are planned.”
The Birmingham NUJ members meet to decide their next move on Wednesday. The Coventry chapel meets on Thursday.

'Journalism one of the most exclusive middle class professions of the 21st century'

A new report commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, due out to tomorrow, identifies how journalism has become one of the most exclusive middle-class professions of the 21st century, according to Patrick Wintour in the Guardian today.
The all-party report called Unleashing Aspirations, written by 20 experts and chaired by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, has examined barriers to the professions.
Wintour says the report describes internships as "the new excluding rung on the career ladder" and demands a rethink about "qualification inflation", which has seen some careers such as nursing demand university degrees.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear in a letter to the Guardian today argues that widespread unpaid work experience in the media means: "Only those with the financial security of well-off families or a willingness to build up massive debts can get into careers in journalism." (see posting below).

'End work experience exploitation by enforcing minimum wage in media'

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear is calling for the enforcement of the minimum wage in the media industry to stop the abuse of unpaid "work placements".
In a letter to the Guardian, Dear writes: "You highlight the plight of graduates searching for work in the media but instead discovering a world of unpaid "work experience" with limited opportunities for gainful employment (Graduates fall off career ladder, 16 July).
"While on-the-job experience is an essential part of media training, bogus work experience placements are increasingly being used to fill long-term staffing gaps with free labour. The result: only those with the financial security of well-off families or a willingness to build up massive debts can get into careers in journalism.
"Just when we should be nurturing and supporting the people coming into the industry, media employers are exploiting dreams and excluding new talent. The government's panel on fair access to the professions is due to report soon. By ordering proper enforcement of the minimum wage in the media, it could help make our industry a far fairer place."

How the Guardian missed one of the quotes of the 20th century two minutes

Fascinating letter in The Guardian today explaining why the paper's original coverage of the moon landing on July 17 1969 (reprinted in a special supplement) had no mention of Neil Armstrong's "One step for man..." quote.
It is from former Guardian sub Geoff Andrews, who writes: "Anyone reading the souvenir front-page of the moon landing may have wondered why there was no mention of Armstrong's famous first words.
"I was splash stone-sub on that night, back in hot metal days, which meant I was responsible for updating the front page with new copy as the story developed. Touchdown on the moon was well after our normal last edition time, so we were already into special editions, and working with the night editor Peter Large (watching a TV in a distant office).
"I had to say when to send the page to be cast for the final edition, balancing printing as much information as possible against the fact that, with the presses already rolling and most of the print run complete, the number of copies that would result was dwindling with each minute.
"But Armstrong stood on the bottom step of the ladder for an interminable time, and with the head printer fretting and swearing that there would be no copies left to print, we reluctantly had to let the page go to the foundry. Two minutes later we heard the immortal words, but by then the page forme was far too hot for anyone to work on it for another 20 minutes. Hence the missing words. To our chagrin other newspapers with a bigger print run managed an edition with the famous phrase. It still rankles."
Geoff 's letter is headlined 'One step for man...but not the Guardian.'

Stephen Glover: 'BBC is pointing a dagger at the heart of a free press'

The Independent's media columnist Stephen Glover today joins the critics of the BBC website who claim it is strangling newspapers by preventing them charging for their online material.
Glover takes issue with Financial Times editor Lionel Barber's prediction that "almost all" news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.
He says: "The problem he does not consider is the BBC website. This provides only limited competition to, which supplies specialist financial information and commentary not freely available elsewhere. But the BBC's increasingly ramifying website, which now includes blogs offering analysis and commentary, competes directly with mainstream newspapers that do not offer "must have" financial articles.
"I find it difficult to see how most titles can successfully apply even a modest charge as long as the BBC offers so much content online free of charge. In effect, the publicly-funded broadcaster is pointing a dagger at the heart of the free Press. If this sounds like special pleading, I cheerfully own up to being guilty.
"The BBC was not set up to produce a newspaper, which is what the BBC website is, in an online form. Without Parliament having had any say, the Corporation has become a major competitor to newspapers in their own medium. The next government must review this covert extension of BBC power. If the BBC website were entirely audio-visual, newspapers would not be forced to compete with the publicly-subsidized written word."

More cuts at Guardian

Following a recent round of redundancies at the Guardian, more cuts are understood to being proposed. Journalists are being asked to take pay cuts of around 2 per cent or take two weeks holiday without pay.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Rose Hacker on the BBC

A film featuring Rose Hacker, who was billed as the 'oldest columnist in the world' when she appeared each week in the Camden New Journal and Islington Tribune until her death last year aged 101, is on BBC 4 tomorrow (Monday July 20) at 7.30 pm.
'The Time of Their Lives' by Jocelyn Cammack is about three elderly radical women living in a North London residential home.
Last week in a House of Commons debate I heard a Labour MP complain that the regional press was biased against the Left and radical politics. He can never have read Rose Hacker. A committed socialist and anti-war campaigner. A remarkable woman.
You can read her Times obit here

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Telegraph: 'Alexander Lebedev may be dying'

'Alexander Lebedev may be dying.' That is the startling intro on an interview with the new owner of the Evening Standard and possible bidder for the Independent by Kate Weinberg in the Daily Telegraph today.
She writes that the former-KGB spy turned London newspaper proprietor "mentions casually that he is being treated for mercury poisoning. Medical tests have shown a mysterious spike in his blood mercury levels to 14 times the normal limit.
"His Belgian endocrinologist has warned him that it may well be high enough to enter his nervous system, then his brain, and begin to kill off his memory."
Weinberg writes: "Mr Lebedev's condition has echoes of another former KGB spy, Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in 2006. It also reads like a discarded plotline from a John Le Carre novel: The Spy Who Got a Bad Cold."
The interview quotes Lebedev on the Independent: "I am following the picture," he says, of the financial crisis enveloping The Independent. "There are things to consider… the inevitable matter of redundancies and whether it has lost its niche in the market."

Cat dies and joins custard shortage mum and exhausted fish on the great local non-news list

First there was the famous Whitstable Times "Whitstable mum in custard shortage" story. Then the tale, and exclusive picture, of a dead fish headlined: "Exhaustion blamed for Hertford fish death" in the East Herts Herald.
Now The Journalism Hub blog had discovered another contender for best non-news story in a local paper:"Tributes as popular Lichfield cat dies" .
The Lichfield Mercury reports the death of Spike the cat, who was popular with the neighbours and was once sent a Christmas card.
We all like animal stories and Spike was obviously a well liked moggie, but the death of a cat isn't exactly Nick Davies is it?
Maybe the sad story of Spike should have been spiked.

Confession: I don't want to sound too snooty about the local press. When I was a reporter on the Linconshire Echo I wrote a story about a hole in the road which, to my shame, ended up as a page lead. Luckily, that was before the internet and the story only lives on in my memory.

Friday, 17 July 2009

How 'fortress journalism' is crumbling

The BBC College of Journalism has released a document called the Future of Journalism, a collection of papers discussing the changes to news in a digital age from a BBC media conference that took place late last year. (The Future of Journalism [359Kb PDF]).
In The End of Fortress Journalism, BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks has written about how journalists are having to reassess how they work.
He says on the BBC Editors' Blog: "Most journalists have grown up with a fortress mindset. They have lived and worked in proud institutions with thick walls. Their daily knightly task has been simple: to battle journalists from other fortresses.
"But the fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds. The end of fortress journalism is deeply unsettling for us and requires a profound change in the mindset and culture of journalism.
"Fortress journalism has been wonderful. Powerful, long-established institutions provided the perfect base for strong journalism. The major news organisations could nurture skills, underwrite risk and afford expensive journalism. The competition with other news organisations inspired great journalism and if the journalist got into trouble - legally, physically or with the authorities - the news organisation would protect and support. It has been familiar and comfortable for the journalist. But that world is rapidly being eroded.
"The themes are familiar. Economic pressures - whether in the public or private sectors - are making the costs of the fortresses unsustainable. Each week brings news of redundancies and closures. The legacy costs of buildings, printing presses, studios and all the other structural supports of the fortress are proving too costly for the revenues that can now be generated.
If this all sounds a bit grim I can make no apology, but I do think - and mention in the paper - that there are some reasons for optimism."

Luft off for Press Gazette

MediaGuardian reporter Oliver Luft is joining Press Gazette as news editor.
He replaces Paul McNally who is moving to Nice to join The Connexion as a bilingual reporter and sub-editor. (see post below)
Before joining MediaGuardian in July last year, Luft was news editor of in Brighton. He previously worked as a reporter for Birmingham news and photo agency Newsteam International.
Press Gazette says it has big plans to expand its website under new owners Progressive Media Group.