Saturday 31 January 2009

Who will survive in the post print newsroom?

Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing says it now seems likely that some newspapers will abandon print, or be forced to, and asks: "What might a digital local news operation look like, and what tools and skills will be required?"
Outing accepts that the digital newsroom will have a much reduced staff and considers what it will take to survive the job cuts and concludes: "Certainly an understanding of, and probably enthusiasm for, new forms of media and storytelling."
He says: "The transformed newsroom will be filled with multi-functional journalists who are comfortable carrying around a digital camera and tiny video camera; who make it part of their routine to record audio for possible use in podcasts or multimedia project sound clips; who are regular users of social networks and understand how to leverage them to communicate with and attract new readers, and share some personal information about themselves as well as promote their work; and who are comfortable and willing to put in the time to engage and communicate with their readers or viewers, including participating in reader comment threads accompanying their stories."
Outing suggests: "Journalists clinging to notions of narrow job descriptions and who still hold dear many of the old ways of doing things for print are unlikely to be among those offered jobs in the downsized digital newsroom. To win one of these jobs, extreme flexibility and the love of learning and a challenge will be qualities that hiring managers will seek.
"I suspect that may make this digital newsroom younger than today's print newsrooms, yet I know plenty of older journalists who revel in the media transformation and 24/7 nature of today's news, and young journalists just out of college who still think conservatively. So don't count out seeing some gray hair in the digital newsroom, though not as much."

Friday 30 January 2009

Sunday Times: new 'Lords-for-hire' video

The Sunday Times is keeping up the pressure with its "Lords-for-hire" scoop by releasing a secretly-filmed video apparently showing Labour peer Lord Truscott discussing how a law could be changed in exchange for cash.
The paper's multi-media response to the story is keeping it at the top of the political agenda.
You can watch it here via the SKY News website.

NUJ Left meeting on media ownership

NUJ Left is holding a public meeting in London with the working title of ‘media ownership: on whose terms, in whose interests?'
It says the the aim is to develop ideas about media ownership and state aid and claims: "There has probably never been a better time to have this discussion."
It will be held between 7pm and 9pm, Tuesday, 17 February at the London Welsh Centre, Gray’s Inn Rd. Speakers to be confirmed

A year ago an MBE: Now its a P45 for editor

One of the best known weekly editors in the county, John Butterworth, group editor of Shropshire Newspaper's weekly series has been made redundant, HoldtheFrontPage reports today, by the Midland News Association.
A year ago Butterworth was awarded an MBE for services to journalism and his charity work. His papers and journalists have often featured in journalism awards.
HTFP says it is expected that all sub-editing operations at Shropshire Newspapers weekly titles, which include the Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Chronicle, will be carried out from the company's head office in Ketley from March.
Butterworth, 55, has been in journalism for 36 years and in his current role for the past 12.
He told HoldtheFrontPage: "I did not want to leave newspapers. I've had 36 years and I love newspapers. If I'd wanted to leave I could have applied for voluntary redundancy."

Former Press Gazette and Media Week boss: 'Why I don't need them anymore'

Neil Thackray, who was chief executive of Quantum Publishing when it sold Press Gazette and Media Week four years ago, has launched a blog looking at the major issues facing the B2B sector in the age of the internet.
Thackray writes:"The Internet has had two pernicious effects on the future editorial viability of business magazines. First the news, the lifeblood of a weekly mag, is available 24/7 and immediately.
"I haven’t picked up a copy of Media Week or Press Gazette since we sold them four years ago. This hasn’t been deliberate, its just that I don’t need them any longer when I can find the news on the web. I bet your reading habits have changed. And so have all the readers of business magazines habits changed.
"The second effect has been the result of the phenomenon you are reading now. The lone or collaborating blogger. It is almost a cliche that now everyone is a journalist. As journalists get laid off, there will be more and more lone writers."

Bolton manager Megson's pathetic attempt to keep views on fans private in The Sun

Bolton FC manager Gary Megson, talking about the club's "boo-boys" who have been giving him a hard time , says in a Sun interview today: "Their feelings for me are well documented and are regularly made apparent . My feelings about them need to stay private."
Well, maybe Megson shouldn't in the same interview say of the abuse "it's pathetic" or say "you have to wonder at the intelligence of these people."
That way his "private feelings" wouldn't appear splashed all over the Sun sports pages under the banner headline: 'Megson blasts own fans..YOU ARE THICK 'N PATHETIC.'

Quotes of the week

It's been a good week for quotes. Here's my pick.

Nick Davies, at the NUJ Jobs Summit, on the public status (or lack of it) of journalists: "Being judged by people on the performance of Murdoch and Dacre is like all Transylvanians being judged on Dracula's behaviour. We have to fight back against it. Our position is similar to that in which gay men and women found themselves in the 1950s and 1960s. They were unable to orchestrate their political strength to change the law because they weren't liked, they were shunned."

Derry Journal NUJ chapel, on proposed job cuts: "The Derry Journal survived the Famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press."

Sly Bailey on Digital Britain interim report: "Frankly time is running out. Regional newspaper publishers are facing the most challenging times in their history, mergers and combinations of newspaper groups offer the only chance of survival for some titles."

Greg Dyke on the influence of the Hutton Report (five years old this week) on the BBC: "On Iraq I don't think the BBC has been brave since then."

BBC director general Mark Thompson on BBC websites linking to Gaza Appeal: "This is a valid decision for news editors to make when reporting that the appeal is happening; as we know that many people will want more information about the appeal or donating to it. Providing them with that information in no way alters the fact that my decision - however controversial - was the correct one to preserve the BBC's impartiality."

Sun editor Rebekah Wade, giving the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture: "Newspaper pessimism is age old, nearly as old as some of the media commentators."

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie: "I used to have a business in Swansea and decided to make a "seagull visit" - fly in, s*** on the staff and fly back to my London office."

Wade on MacKenzie, answering a question after Hugh Cudlipp Lecture: "He's not allowed in Scotland...or the North."

Headline of the Week: The Sun on the 'Lords for hire' story : 'PEERS MORONS'

Thursday 29 January 2009

'Don't rush to relax media ownership laws': NUJ

The NUJ has taken the opposite view to Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey and called on the Government not to rush to relax media ownership laws.
In a complete contrast to Bailey's claim that "time is running out" for the regional press (see post below), the NUJ's response to today's interim Digital Britain report is cautious on the proposed review of media ownership and merger rules by the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Whilst on the one hand the government talks about the importance of plurality in the media, on the other it is considering a relaxation of the very rules that protect it.
“Politicians must take care not to allow policy to be dictated by media owners who have shown scant interest in investing in the editorial resources needed for quality journalism."

Sly Bailey: 'Time is running out...mergers and combinations of newspaper groups offer only chance of survival for some titles'

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey has given a blistering response to the publication of the interim Digital Britain report, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
She welcomes the move to review the merger ownership rules (see post below) in the regional newspaper sector but accuses the government of a lack of urgency.
Bailey says: "We, of course, welcome the commitment to investigate the potential for changes to merger regulations in the local and regional media sector. But how long will the process take following the full report in May? One or two years?
"Frankly time is running out. Regional newspaper publishers are facing the most challenging times in their history, mergers and combinations of newspaper groups offer the only chance of survival for some titles. Merger regulations need to change to enable the regional newspaper industry to survive in the digital age, rather than conspiring to strangling it out of existence."
In another broadside, she added: "We are bitterly disappointed that the report makes only passing reference to newspapers - the word is used just four times - and the crushing lack of understanding of the urgency required for changes to merger regulations in the local and regional media sector."

Digital Britain: Government will look at changing local media merger rules

The interim Digital Britain report published today says the Government will look to see if a change in the local media merger regime is "desirable or necessary."
The report says (Action point 14) the Government "will invite the OFT, together with Ofcom and other interested parties to undertake an exploratory review across local and regional media sector and make appropriate recommendations."
It also says: "At a local level, the challenges for news are intense...Local media groups are seeking to make the transition to digital business models but argue the need to consolidate in order to have the scale and sustainability to do so.
"They argue too that the media merger regime does not take account of the potential for competition across boundaries between newspapers and other media. This position, they argue, will become increasingly unsustainable as we move into a fully Digital Britain. Such arguments need to be tested against current evidence."
Leading regional publishers, like Trinity Mirror, and the Newspaper Society have been lobbying for a relaxation of the merger and ownership rules. Reform of the regulations could lead to more consolidation in the industry and for local newspapers to play a bigger part in local broadcasting.

John Welsh: Five more blogging tips

John Welsh has come up with five more skills he suggests should be mastered before anyone starts blogging.
On his blog Theses Digital Times, John covers such topics as RSS feeds, research and how to optimise your blog to get the most readers. He has already published a list of five other important blogging skills.

Kelvin MacKenzie's 'seagull' management style

Kelvin MacKenzie was always a fearsome boss and known when editor of The Sun for giving his staff terrifying bollockings. One executive pretended to pass out in MacKenzie's office in a bid to avoid the hair dryer treatment.
In his Sun column today, MacKenzie gives an insight into his management style when he owned a radio station in Swansea. He reveals: "I used to have a business in Swansea and decided to make a "seagull visit" - fly in, s*** on the staff and fly back to my London office."

Ministers should be available to give local angle

More senior officials and ministers should be available for interviews with local media journalists to increase understanding of the local impact of government policies, Lord Fowler’s Communications Select Committee has recommended.
The Central Office of Information has been urged to forge better relationships with local and regional media in a bid to improve government communications at a local level.
A committee report this week called on the COI to “take the lead in improving standards” of government engagement with local media, the Newspaper Society reports.
Regional press officers should receive more training to increase understanding of local media, tailor press releases to a local level, and become “more proactive” at building relationships, the report said.
The NS says witnesses who gave evidence to the committee criticised regional press releases which were simply a rehash of a national press releases “with a few local statistics added on” and called for better information at a local level.
The report said: “One way to engage the regional and local media more effectively would be to add more than local statistics to national press releases and to guide journalists through the local implications of an announcement.
“Another way of engaging the local and regional media is for ministers themselves to be more available for interview and comment on the local aspects of stories.”

David Montgomery fan club on Facebook

Blogger Kristine Lowe reports that Mecom shareholders have launched a fan club for under fire boss and former Mirror chief David Montgomery on Facebook.
She writes: "Fed up with all the negative media coverage of former Mirror boss David Montgomery's struggling pan-European media group, Adam Billiald, a small shareholder in Mecom, has set up nothing less than The David Montgomery Appreciation Society ."
The site tells Montogomery that "loyal shareholders" are right behind him and 45 supporters have signed up.
Story via

It's not just newspapers facing cut backs

With an estimated 600 editorial jobs lost in the regional press alone since last summer, the NUJ is having to consider how it will cope with a falling membership.
The union's National Executive Committee discussed at the weekend the liklihood that membership of the NUJ will fall during the current recession. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear reveals on his blog: "Even with just a 2% year on year membership fall for the next three years the union would have a shortfall of £500,000 per annum by 2012. It means the NEC is having to look hard at how we can save money."

Government should 'live with' Information Tribunal ruling on Iraq war minutes

The government should accept the ruling of the Information Tribunal and release cabinet minutes from 2003 discussing the decision to go to war in Iraq, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
The Tribunal’s decision, made under the Freedom of Information Act, found that the balance of public interest favoured releasing the minutes.
The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said: “The government has four choices. It can release the information and accept the Tribunal view that this is an ‘extreme’ case which does not set a precedent for the future release of cabinet minutes or require ministers to be more reticent at cabinet discussions.
"Second, it could appeal to the High Court, a process which could go all the way to the House of Lords, adding years of delay.
"Third, it could try and amend the FOI Act to remove cabinet minutes from its scope. We hope its recent unsuccessful attempt to do this over MPs’ expenses will persuade it not to repeat the exercise.
"Finally, ministers could exercise the veto which they have built into the Act and overturn the Tribunal’s decision without persuading any court of their case, a wholly unacceptable outcome. We hope it will accept the Tribunal’s decision, release the minutes and recognise that cases where the public interest favours disclosure of such material will be so rare that they can live with it.”

Wednesday 28 January 2009

MP says too much recession woe on BBC compared to local community media

Liberal MP John Pugh has put down an Early Day Motion accusing the BBC of being too ready to accentuate the economic woes caused by the recession - and contrasts this to the way the local media are covering the crisis.
The EDM reads:" That this House believes that, notwithstanding the very serious problems confronting the British economy, confidence, jobs and livelihoods of real people are affected by the reporting of events by mass media; notes the readiness of the BBC, with its significant global reach to further dramatise, accentuate and underline economic woes; further notes also the public's awareness of this tendency; contrasts this approach with that of local, community-based media; and urges the commissioning of academic research on the influence of media reporting on the fragile psychology of the City and, more importantly, on the real jobs of ordinary people."

Pugh's motion was discussed on BBC Radio 4's PM programme today but, surprisingly, the BBC declined to put up anyone to defend its coverage. The BBC has past form for this. It refused to put up anyone on BBC Radio 4's Feedback programme to answer listeners' claims that business editor Robert Peston's gloomy reports were causing panic in the markets.

BBC not 'brave' in covering Iraq war ever since Hutton Report claims Greg Dyke

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said today that the highly critical Hutton Report and the legacy of the row over Andrew Gilligan's "sexed-up" dossier allegations has influenced the BBC's reporting of the war in Iraq.
Asked by presenter Steve Hewlett on today's BBC Radio 4's Media Show about the long term impact on the BBC of Hutton, published five years ago today, Dyke said:"On Iraq I don't think the BBC has been brave since then."
Dyke, who lost his job as a result of the dossier affair, also said: "I think when you look back now, I think although there were odd mistakes, the central thrust of what Gilligan said was true."
He said the fire turned on the BBC was a "trick" by Alastair Campbell to try and save his own job and because Campbell disliked the BBC because "it was one of the few bits of the media he couldn't control."

'Derry Journal survived the Famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press': NUJ chapel

The NUJ chapel at the Derry Journal has called for an industrial action ballot in response to plans to push through compulsory redundancies
The chapel claims that up to seven editorial posts at the Derry Journal are under threat.
It said in a statement: "The Journal chapel strongly believe (and management have not disputed) that more job losses are likely to follow at the Derry Journal. The threatened compulsory redundancies at the Journal is the latest in a series of swathing job losses at the Derry newspaper, since it came under the ownership of Johnston Press in 2006.
"Since then, we have lost more than 50 jobs as one by one, printing, accounts and production jobs were moved out of Derry."
"We are determined to fight to defend our jobs and the integrity of the Derry Journal and we hope there will be an overwhelming vote for strike action. We will be asking for support from fellow trades unionists, our readers, advertisers, and politicians locally and nationally.
"The Derry Journal survived the Famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press."

How blogging changes journalists

A survey of 200 journalists who are bloggers by Paul Bradshaw, a senior lecturer in online journalism and magazines at Birmingham City University’s School of Media, is now available in a new article on the latest edition of Nieman Reports.
Bradshaw writes: "From journalistic pariah to savior of the news industry, blogs have undergone an enormous transformation in recent years. As a journalist and a blogger, I was curious to see how this transformation from blogophobia to blogophilia was affecting journalism.
"Blogging is changing journalism—at least for those journalists who blog. But alongside this conclusion resides a collection of more interesting findings."
They include: "Cutting Out the Middlemen. In generating story ideas, blogging journalists don’t need someone to tell them who the readers are and what they want: They already know, because the readers are on their blogs, telling them who they are and what they’re curious about.
"In this new blogging relationship, editors are the middlemen being cut out. The role of official sources—such as public relations spokespeople and firms—were also being diminished, as sources for stories broadened.
"Story leads now come through the comments or through private communication initiated via the blog. And once they are pursuing a story, some journalists use the blog to “put the call out” for information and sources—and rely on the transparency of their reporting process to push official sources to reply."
Bradshaw says: "A third of the respondents only started to blog in the past year, so my suspicion is that there remains room for more change. Clearly, we are only at the beginning, as the news industry faces one of the most significant transformations in its history."

Thompson defends Gaza appeal ad ban but says "valid" to link to it via BBC website

BBC director-general Mark Thompson has defended his decision not to allow the DEC Gaza appeal to be broadcast, in a letter to The Guardian today.
He describes yesterday's leader in The Guardian about the affair as "wholly misguided" and refutes claims that it is "inconsistent" to publish links to the DEC appeal on the BBC website.
Thompson says: "This is a valid decision for news editors to make when reporting that the appeal is happening; as we know that many people will want more information about the appeal or donating to it. Providing them with that information in no way alters the fact that my decision - however controversial - was the correct one to preserve the BBC's impartiality."

NUJ asks: 'Where's the money gone?'

This links to a copy of the NUJ's briefing on the profits made by some of the leading media companies in the lead up to the current economic downturn and the profit margins enjoyed by the likes of Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press. It was distributed at the union's Jobs Summit on Saturday. Read the jobs summit briefing on money in the media.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Cabinet Iraq minutes will show "very little"

The decision by the Information Tribunal today that the Government should reveal Cabinet minutes in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 was welcomed by MP Clare Short but she predicted they would show "very little".
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Short said: "I am sure the Government will appeal against the decision but they will show very little. We had a sofa Government under Blair. I hope they get out but everyone will find them very disappointing."

MP urges Government to support freedom and safety of journalists worldwide

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has put down an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to support the freedom and safety of journalists worldwide.
The EDM welcomes that the number of journalists killed worldwide in work-related incidents during 2008 dropped to 104 from the record high of 179 in 2007 according to the report by the International Federation of Journalists.
But it notes with concern that "many journalists remain the main targets for deliberate attacks to intimidate and silence them; further notes that many governments around the world do not launch serious investigations into the deaths of independent journalists; believes that the freedom of journalists to work without fear is vital for any democratic society; and therefore urges the Government to use all international opportunities to support the freedom and safety of journalists worldwide".

Google News rankings 'distort' web content

Interesting post on CounterValue blog by the Telegraph's Justin Williams about Google News rankings headed: 'Are We Building Newsrooms for Google News'.
He says: "Google News and our response to it as an industry are seriously distorting our web-based publishing models. There is a risk that resources are poured into producing highly commodotised, superficial articles while higher value channels - areas where we can actually make money online, something that is unlikely to happen in news - are left to whither or are stripped to feed the newsroom beast. To get to this point, the industry has to abandon its obsession with unique users - something I cannot see happening any time soon."

NUJ executive backs Newsquest York buy-out

The NUJ's national executive has said the union will explore ways of ending Newsquest's ownership of newspapers in York.
The move follows a call by the NUJ chapel at the Press and Gazette and Herald for the union to look at ways the newspapers could be bought-out from Newsquest.
Union members also hope that local business figures may come forward to finance a buy-out that would return the papers and websites to Yorkshire ownership.
Journalists on the papers have suffered redundancies and a wage freeze. Adam Christie, NUJ National Executive Council member for the North East of England, said: "The experience of journalists in York is an example of what is happening around the country as media companies try to maintain profit levels several times greater than major supermarket chains at the cost of local news and the cultural and democratic health of our villages, towns and cities."

Sun headline apes Private Eye

The Sun has taken a leaf out of the Private Eye style-book today and headlined its story on the four "peers-for-hire" allegations with a play on the Eye's favourite editor "Piers Moron". The Sun's headline is: PEERS MORONS.

Monday 26 January 2009

Sun editor calls for united front by British press

Sun editor Rebekah Wade called tonight for the British press to "stop beating itself up" and put up a united front on such issues as combating a privacy law and sticking up for self-regulation.
Wade, giving the annual Hugh Cudlipp Lecture at the London College of Communications, claimed the British press was divided over issues such as the way privacy law was being made in a "drip, drip" fashion in the courts on individual stories, like the News of the World's Max Mosley expose.
She said the press's "self-flagellation" had reached a high point when the Guardian gave pages of coverage to Mosley's views on privacy. Wade also accused the Guardian of giving The Sun's campaign over the Baby 'P' case a "knee-jerk tabloid kicking" without any regard that it had the support of public opinion.
Wade argued that press should use its "collective power" to resist attacks on freedom of the press by regulators, lawyers and politicians and the "morbid" and negative commentary on the demise of the press should stop.
She also took a swipe at media pundits who were "doom mongering" about the future of newspapers. "Newspaper pessimism is age old, nearly as old as some of the media commentators," Wade said.

Did BBC staff undermine D-G on Gaza aid?

Did cunning BBC staff come up with a plan to undermine Director General Mark Thompson over his ban on the Gaza aid appeal. Blog duckrabbit seems to think so.
Thanks for the link Benjamin.

Union hotline for cuts whistleblowers

The NUJ has launched a whistleblower hotline for journalists who want to reveal how media cutbacks have prevented proper reporting.
It follows the call from investigative reporter and author of 'Flat Earth News' Nick Davies, made at the NUJ's Jobs Summit on Saturday. He said: "We need to become whistle blowers in our newsrooms and show how cuts hit editorial performance."
The hotline is: email, telephone 020 7843 6381 or via the web. The union promises to protect the identity of all whistleblowers.

NUJ joins BBC Gaza aid ad ban protest

The NUJ today joined with broadcasting union BECTU to add to the chorus of condemnation of the BBC for refusing to run a charity appeal for the victims of the war in Gaza on the grounds it would compromise the Corporation's news impartiality.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written, with his counterpart at BECTU, to BBC Director General Mark Thompson claiming there is a danger the BBC will be seen as "biased in favour of Israel" and asking him to reconsider the ban.
The NUJ and BECTU letter in full.

The Independent is for sale

That's the view of MediaGuardian commentator Roy Greenslade today on the back of Independent News & Media's trading statement.
He says: "Though there is no overt "for sale" sign over the Indy, it's obvious that if Alexander Lebedev - or another oligarch - came forward with a £1 coin and a willingness to lose £1m every couple of weeks or so, then INM would bite his hand off.
"Whatever INM might say to the contrary, the Indy and Sindy are in play, available to any bidder. One only has to look at the context in the rest of the statement. No dividend for 2008. No bonuses for directors. A 10% cut in directors' fees and a 10% cut in executives' salaries."

Digital Britain interim report delay

The BBC says that Communications Minister Lord Carter will not publish interim findings of the Digital Britain report today as planned.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the report would now appear "before the end of the month".
Media secretary Andy Burnham has said in the Commons that he had asked Lord Carter to look at the local news media as part of his work on developing digital communications in Britain. Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, last week he said: "I would like to signal today that the provision of local news – and the plight of local newspapers - has to rise up the political agenda.
"It is time to develop a sensible strategy that uses the converging nature of journalism to sustain a vital local media."

Blogging not about 'mouthing off' your opinions

John Welsh asks: "When did people mistake blogging as a platform from which to mouth off their opinions?"
He has come up with: "Five online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog - community, commenting, connectivity, collaboration and content."
It is all extremely useful advice for anyone interested in blogging.

'Innovation is the salvation for news in the post newspaper future': Jeff Jarvis

Jeff Jarvis in MediaGuardian today reveals that he is beginning work on a university project to discover frameworks for what comes after the newspapers "that will die in cities" and will be examining hyperlocal networks; national networks and new revenue streams.
This work follows a summit on business models for news that he organised at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism involving 100 editorial and publishing executives, entrepreneurs, technologists and financiers.
Jarvis writes: "The ideas were radical by the standards of our industry. Edward Roussel, head of digital at the Telegraph Media Group, and Dave Morgan, founder of the ad network Tacoda, argued that newspapers should be disaggregated, spinning off or outsourcing production, distribution, technology, and even ad sales. The most popular PowerPoint slide of the day was Roussel's, showing that 60% of the cost structure of papers is production and distribution - which are ultimately unnecessary in the digital age."
Unfortunately, Jarvis says: "The revenue group found no magic pill to solve journalism's problems ." But one idea was that "journalism's business and revenue, like its content, will become collaborative and networked. No one company will control news in a market any more; none can afford to."
Jarvis says starkly: "The question is: how much time is left? The Paper Cuts blog counted 15,554 redundancies in American newspapers alone last year, and at the summit, no one protested when it was said that papers' costs are still too high. Over-leveraged newspaper companies are facing ever-more-imminent bankruptcy in the UK - and the US media blogger Alan Mutter calculated that operating profits of a dozen top US newspaper companies fell in the third quarter by an apocalyptic 198%."
But he says there is hope: "I also invited 10 entrepreneurs and practitioners of new models to inspire the crowd with their fresh thinking on aggregation, linking, ad and content networks, and news video. One young founder, David Cohn, showed, a platform to enable readers to support reporters on stories, and soon he had investors and big-company executives shoving business cards into his pocket. The point: it is possible to innovate in news. Innovation will be our salvation."
It was the view of many of the speakers at the NUJ's Jobs Summit in London on Saturday that the big corporate newspaper owners do not hold the solution to the newspaper industry's problems and that new business models will have to replace them. (See posting below)

Saturday 24 January 2009

'Murdoch and Dacre have brought all journalists into disrepute': Nick Davies

Journalists need to restore their status with the public as they battle against cuts and denounce those who have "betrayed" the profession, author and investigative reporter Nick Davies told an NUJ jobs summit in London today.
Davies, whose book 'Flat Earth News' attacked the easy processed news culture of "churnalism," told the summit: "We are not trusted or liked. We are misperceived."
He claimed: "If you ask people to name well known journalists, they will name people who are notorious. I am thinking of people like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. These people have brought us all into disrepute.
"Being judged by people on the performance of Murdoch and Dacre is like all Transylvanians being judged on Dracula's behaviour. We have to fight back against it. Our position is similar to that in which gay men and women found themselves in the 1950s and 1960s. They were unable to orchestrate their political strength to change the law because they weren't liked, they were shunned."
Davies said journalists should not be afraid to denounce the small minority who betray the profession and "remove the smear of their behaviour from the image of our profession".
He applauded the NUJ's "Journalism Matters" campaign and said it was vital to show the public they needed reliable, quality news more than ever and that "we need to become whistle blowers in our newsrooms and show how cuts hit editorial performance."
Davies argued that the corporate owners of the news media could not solve the problems facing the industry because "they are the problem". He said "they took over our newspapers, ransacked them for profits and readers lost trust in us" and their solutions to the present crisis were based on the priority of profits not news values.
Davies dismissed the rise of citizen journalism as "like saying if the movie industry collapsed we've got people at home with video cameras. There might be a slight decline in quality." He added that some other countries, like France and Holland, had "crossed the line" and provided public funding for the news media. "It should not go into the hands of Johnston Press but into the hands of working journalists," he said.
Davies ended by saying: "We matter. Most journalists are decent, honest, hardworking people. We should be allowed to do our jobs properly. I believe if we fight we can win and save quality news."

Update: 4:37 pm. Those attending the jobs summit backed a motion calling for a national day of action to defend quality media; a "co-ordinated industrial response" to compulsory job cuts and office closures, including industrial action "across employers"; a series of protests aimed at key company and industry events; and a lobby of MPs.

Double jeopardy for Charles Moore

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie will visit Charles Moore in prison if the Daily Telegraph commentator is jailed for refusing to pay his television licence in protest at the BBC continuing to employ Jonathan Ross.
MacKenzie made the pledge direct to Moore in a two-way interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Moore muttered his gratitude to MacKenzie and stood by his decision not to pay the licence fee despite Ross's apology at the beginning of his show last night.
He described Ross as "an oaf".
MacKenzie was more forgiving but warned if Ross dropped another "clanger" in the next year he would out of the BBC at "200 miles per hour".

Friday 23 January 2009

Western Daily Press RIP

Before the Western Daily Press is turned into a "Metro-style" newspaper (see posting below) perhaps we can salute its glorious past.
In Eric Price, Ian Beales and Terry Manners it had three of the most passionate editors in the regional press whose verve and drive ensured the WDP won stacks of awards.
Eric arrived from the Daily Express in the 1960s and took the circulation from 12,000 to 80,000. An absolute legend. Under Ian Beales and Terry Manners the paper consistently won top awards for design and committed, campaigning journalism.
To name but one. In 1990 Western Daily Press reporters Mervyn Hancock, Brian Best and Nigel Kerton jointly won the Campaigning Journalist of the Year in the 1990 Press Gazette Regional Press Awards for an expose of the privitisation of a council's services which led to a police inquiry. Will a free "Metro-style" paper ever achieve anything like that?
I hope the Western Morning News isn't next.

Northcliffe joins the job cutters with 45 posts facing the axe on Bristol dailies

Northcliffe stood out as the only one of the big four regional groups not to be imposing major job cuts - until today. The NUJ says that it was told this morning the company is seeking to cut 45 posts at the Western Daily Press and Evening Post in Bristol.
The scale of the cuts, says the union, has "staggered" members of the NUJ chapel who will be meeting on Monday. The plans were announced at 10am today.
HoldtheFrontPage , part owned by Northcliffe, reports: "Although it will remain a paid-for title, the WDP is set to become a "Metro-style" publication with fewer dedicated reporters and photographers. Instead it will "harvest" content from other Northcliffe-owned publications around the western region.
"The WDP website, is also set to be scrapped after managers concluded the title had "no digital future. Instead it will point to the group's other, more successful regional portals, www.thisisbristol, www.thisissomerset and www.thisisgloucestershire.
"However the Bristol centre is to pilot what is expected to become a Northcliffe-wide initiative to turn the thisis sites into "hubs" of local information as well as newspaper companion sites, pulling in content from a wide variety of sources. A single digital production desk is to be created along with the single print content and production desks. "
The Bristol centre employs 154 people of which up to 45 could lose their jobs under today's proposals. Although reporting and photographic roles on the WDP are under threat, editor-in-chief Mike Norton has stressed that most of the cutbacks will fall on production as opposed to newsgathering roles, HTFP says.
According to the NUJ, in 2007 Bristol News and Media, Northcliffe’s local division, made profits of £7.5 million. Tim Lezard, NUJ National Executive Council member for the South West of England, said: “These are cuts that don’t need to be made. It’s an example of Northcliffe’s contempt for their readers, workers and advertisers. The company would rather bow to its boardroom than serve the community it has been an integral part of for 150 years.”
While the other members of the "big four" regional groups - Newsquest, Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror - have made widespread cuts in the current econmic crisis, Northcliffe has announced nothing on the scale of Bristol.

Newsquest York staff look at Press buy-out

Press Gazette is today running a story that journalists at The Press in York are looking at ways the paper could be bought from Newsquest.
It also reports that Press editor Kevin Booth and Chris Buxton, editor of the weekly Gazette and Herald have left the company and managing director Steve Hughes has been appointed "acting" managing editor. All three were made redundant and asked to apply for the one managing editor job.
Press Gazette says The Press NUJ chapel has asked the union's national executive to obtain a market valuation of Newsquest York Limited, and gauge the level of interest from the local business community in a buy-out.

Herald move to put redundancies 'on hold' aimed at union reps claims NUJ

The surprise decision by Newsquest's Herald group in Glasgow to put its voluntary redundancy scheme "on hold" is aimed at NUJ reps, the union claims.
The NUJ says management at the company, which publishes The Hearld, Evening Times and Sunday Herald, stopped the scheme because they want the union's FoCs to sign away their rights to take legal action for victimisation.
The union has submitted grievances and tribunal claims on behalf of three FoCs for victimisation under trade union discrimination laws.
Allmediascotland reports: "Those who applied - they thought successfully - for voluntary redundancy are now being asked to apply for jobs they most probably have little appetite for. Around 40 journalists, from a first tranche of applicants, had heard, almost two weeks ago, they had been successful, prompting a second tranche, of about ten, to submit their applications."
Journalists were told in a memo from Herald editor-in-chief Donald Martin: “The voluntary redundancy process in editorial is on hold after talks with the NUJ broke down."

Murdoch, The Standard and the conspiracy theories behind the Russian takeover

MediaGuardian commentator Roy Greenslade takes a sceptical look today at the conspiracy theories surrounding the sale of a majority stake in the Evening Standard to former KBG agent Alexander Lebedev.
Private Eye, among others, sees the hand of Rupert Murdoch and his son-in-law Matthew Freud behind the deal.
As Roy puts it: "Freud is frequently portrayed as a Rasputin-like figure by his enemies and Murdoch, of course, is routinely regarded as the devil incarnate. So I always suspend judgment on speculative stories about their activities."
He asks: "Are we seriously to believe that an ex-KGB officer who has built a vast personal fortune - amounting, supposedly, to £2bn - and who has negotiated his way through the quagmire of Russia's modern mafia politics is no more than a Murdoch patsy?"
Roy accepts: "It is true that Murdoch's company is likely to be the beneficiary of all that has happened. I understand that there were many chuckles of delight at Wapping when news first emerged of the Lebedev negotiations. And I concede that Rupert's son, James, seemed remarkably well informed about the bid hours before MediaGuardian broke the story on January 8."
He adds, however, "But there is a difference between having an inside track and actually running the train. I think too many of the conspiracists have started by accepting that Murdoch is the real winner and then composing scenarios to accuse him of a devious plot. Freud's undoubted involvement in Lebedev's affairs provides the essential link."
Roy argues bigger forces are at work: "The gloves are off. All the owners now know they are engaged in a battle to be the last one standing when the music stops. Papers will go to the wall. They will change hands.
"If a publisher like DMGT can be humbled, then imagine what might happen to lesser owners with fewer resources and much less commitment. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is fact. This is the real story."

Twitter it's all in the name

Interesting leader in The Independent today about the Twitter phenomenon. It argues that the success of the mini-blogging site is all to do with its name.
The Indy says: "Think of the big success stories: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Skype. What do they have in common? A euphonious moniker. Being able to turn the name into a verb helps too."
To make its case it lists some of the clunky names of flops.
"DigiScents; AmCy; E-loft. Can you imagine "AmCying" someone or "E-lofting" something? But when you Twitter? Well, that really can be gold."
According to my dictionary, "twitter" is described rather lyrically as to"utter succession of light tremulous sounds". On the other hand a "twit" is a "foolish or insignificant person".

No, Prime Minister

Nice exchange on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning between presenter Evan Davis and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Prime Minister: "I repeat, the banks.."
Davis: "Please, don't."
And, guess what? Brown didn't.

'FT makes £35,000 profit per employee'

The Financial Times makes £35,000 profit per employee the acting FoC of the paper's NUJ chapel David Crouch, told a rally held in the paper's canteen against proposals to cut 80 jobs - 20 of them journalists.
Crouch said the figure came from the FT's own accounts. According to the NUJ more than 150 members of the 220-strong chapel attended the the rally which was also addressed by veteran Labour politician Tony Benn. He told the gathering of business journalists: "Banking is far too important to be left to gamblers".

Thursday 22 January 2009

'Plight of local press must rise up political agenda and media jobs should not just be for rich kids' says Culture Secretary

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said today that the "plight of local newspapers" must rise up the political agenda and called for an end to media jobs only being open to those with rich and well-connected parents.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, he said: "I would like to signal today that the provision of local news – and the plight of local newspapers - has to rise up the political agenda.
"It is time to develop a sensible strategy that uses the converging nature of journalism to sustain a vital local media. There is a potential here for new partnerships which might include local media businesses, private sector partners, and communities, and may be – with proper safeguards- the public sector.
"There might even be potential for a national network of local consortia. The prize here is the opportunity to create entry points to the creative industries at the local level by providing apprenticeships, skills training, work experience and jobs.
"We must break a culture where jobs in the media go to the people whose parents have contacts for internships or where they can afford to support people in unpaid positions."

DMGT says Standard faced closure and blames Murdoch over London free paper war

The Daily Mail & General Trust says the Evening Standard faced closure if it had not sold a majority stake in the paper to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.
In a statement in the Standard, DMGT also hits out at Rupert Murdoch for starting the free newspaper war in the capital by launching thelondonpaper.
The statement outlines the decline in the Standard's financial fortunes: "Over recent years, the paper's jobs, cars and property classified advertising - one of the paper's main sources of revenue - started migrating to the internet, readership habits changed, as did the demographics of London, and the Standard started incurring very considerable financial losses. Despite repeated advice from bankers to sell the paper, however, DMGT continued to heavily support it.
"Two years ago, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp launched a free paper called The London Paper in a calculated bid to damage the circulations of the Standard and its own free sister paper, the Lite. To date, The London Paper is thought to have lost News Corp about £40 million.
"It was 18 months ago that Alexander Lebedev first approached Jonathan Harmsworth, the fourth Viscount Rothermere, expressing an interest in the Standard. Lord Rothermere and DMGT were reluctant to sell.
"But, as the recession bit - and all of Britain's newspapers came under bitter financial pressure - it became clear that DMGT couldn't indefinitely provide the investment needed to ensure the Standard's future.
"It also became increasingly apparent that if the Standard failed to secure new capital it faced the very real possibility of closure."

Dear blasts "greedy" newspaper bosses over state aid and relaxing ownership rules

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear is scathing on his blog about possible state help for the ailing newspaper industry or a relaxation of media ownership rules.
Both topics may be looked at in the Digital Britain report due out on Monday. But Dear says of the newspaper owners: "Does their greed know no bounds? Whilst they have made excessive profits over the past decade or so and failed to properly manage their businesses they now want taxpayers to bail them out - not because they are losing money but because they can't maintain such high profit levels.
"And on top of that they want further relaxations in media ownership rules as a way of solving 'the crisis'. Each time ownership rules have been relaxed we've been told this will solve the crisis, each time it has led to more job cuts, a fall in quality and a boost in profits - until the next crisis comes along.
"Any merger/takeover resulting from any relaxation of ownership rules should only be approved under conditions on investment, resources for news-gathering and employment rights. Anything less would simply be feeding the insatiable appetite of the corporate news industry."

Flying a kitemark for 'professional' journalists: Reuters Institute report on news out today

Adrian Monck's blog has a good run down on the recommendations of Andrew Curragh's 'What's Happening to Our News?' report for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) which will be released at the Oxford Media Convention today. They are:
A review of the legislation governing charitable giving, which largely rules out newsgathering, to open up this source of funding for independent professional journalism, bringing the UK in line with countries like the US.

A voluntary set of media standards, leading to a digital kitemark, to make transparent the sourcing of news and to enhance the visibility of professional journalism on the web.

The release by the government of more data on the operation and performance of publicly funded bodies in accessible electronic formats to support both professional and citizen journalism.

More interactivity between parliament and citizens, with digital media used to democratise knowledge and the understanding of political processes.

The extension of media literacy teaching in schools to incorporate the unique challenges and opportunities of new media.

MPs may have another go at concealing expenses warns Campaign for FoI

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the government's decision to withdraw the proposed Order excluding MPs’ expenses from the FoI Act but warned that the issue may resurface.
Campaign director Maurice Frankel said : "It was wrong in principle for MPs to try and conceal their expenses claims when all other public servants have to release theirs. It was improper for the government to try and rush the measure through without the public noticing or having time to object. MPs should not be legislating on the quiet to remove an existing right of access to information about their own expenses in the hope that no-one will notice.”
However, the Campaign suggested that it was possible that the measure would resurface in the near future in amended form. Frankel added: “Some MPs are clearly desperate to prevent the release of past expenses claims which are likely to have exceeded what could reasonably be justified to the public.”
The Mail's Benedict Brogan refers on his blog to the claims and counter claims by the parties in Westminster about the expenses affair but says: "This ding-dong should not distract us from the central question: why did the Government decide to expose itself to a PR disaster by siding with the Labour and Tory backbenchers who want to keep things secret? Some say cost, others say security, but neither explanation stacks up. Surely Mr Brown made greater transparency and reviving institutions the cornerstones of his administration, not sparing the blushes of his own side?"
In his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum ordering government agencies to examine Freedom of Information Act requests with a bias toward release of the documents -- overturning eight years of a Bush administration directives to find ways not to disclose information," reports Editor & Publisher.
"For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said. "The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known."
No wonder the press like him.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Journalists at Johnston Press in Leeds hold strike ballot over forced redundancies

Journalists in Leeds are to be balloted for strike action after Johnston Press announced three compulsory redundancies and called for fifteen more volunteers to leave the company, the NUJ said today. The cuts affect the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.
The union says today’s proposals from the company would mean three photographers being made compulsorily redundant and claim management is also seeking six job cuts from Yorkshire Post editorial, six from Yorkshire Evening Post as well as three picture technicians who serve both papers.
A joint chapel statement says: “The new round of job losses are not genuine redundancies within the definition of the term. Redundancy occurs when there is no longer any work for a person to do. In our case the work is still there. The company simply wishes to save the wages of some of the people doing it, and pass their workload on to colleagues who are left."
The chapel, which meets tomorrow, has a long-standing policy of balloting for strike action if any member is threatened with compulsory redundancy. They want to improve any settlement terms, and stop the compulsory element of the job losses, the NUJ says.

Remember when the Government used to vet newspaper owners? Ask David Sullivan

No one expects the UK government to block former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev's takeover of the Evening Standard, which was announced today.
But the Government has in the past intervened to stop an individual taking over newspapers. David Sullivan, the LSE * educated pornography publisher, who launched the Sunday Sport and Daily Sport was prevented in 1990 from taking a majority stake in the Bristol Evening Post and its sister title, the Western Daily Press.
The Monopolies and Mergers Commission (Competition Commission) ruled that Sullivan's acquisition of the Bristol newspapers would not be in the public interest. Interestingly, it was not his porn background that prevented the deal going head so much as a disastrous link up with the Daily Star and Express Newspapers.
The Commission ruled: "The evidence from Mr Sullivan's previous involvement with the Daily Star suggests that his proposed acquisition could well impair the ability of BEP newspapers to hold readers and advertisers and thus their profitability."
Sullivan, who was once described as "a munchkin porn baron,"claimed: "I've probably had the worst press in the world. People think if you are in the sex business you are not a good businessman. Well, I am. I'm good at what I do.”
You can read the Commission's ruling online.
*See posts

Russian Lebedev is Evening Standard's 10th owner - if you don't include the Germans

As Russian billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev finally clinched the deal to take a majority 75.1 per cent stake in the Evening Standard today it is interesting to note he is the paper's 10th owner.
Associated Newspapers has agreed the sale of the Evening Standard for what it is described as a "nominal sum" to Evening Press Ltd, a company formed by Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny Lebedev and owned by Lebedev Holdings Ltd.
'The Encyclopedia of the British Press', edited by ex-Fleet Street and Standard journalist Dennis Griffiths, describes the Standard as the "oldest evening newspaper in Great Britain" and "a great survivor" that has absorbed nine other titles.
The Encyclopedia says the paper was launched as the Standard by Charles Baldwin as an afternoon paper on May 1827. It then passed to Edward Baldwin, owner of the Morning Herald, who went bankrupt trying to beat The Times.
The next owner was James Johnstone who on June 29, converted it into a "first-class morning paper." Two years later on Thursday, June 11 1859, Johnstone launched the Evening Standard, published at 3.15 p.m. daily "containing all the latest intelligence up to one hour of going to press".
With the death of Johnstone, William Mudford, the editor, took over as chief executive. In 1904, the Standard was sold to C. Arthur Pearson but increasing blindness led him to sell it to Davison Dalziel. He in turn sold the Evening Standard to Edward Hulton junior.
Lord Beaverbrook secured the Evening Standard from Hulton in 1923 and for the next 40 year it was "his joy" as a fashionable London evening.
In 1977 it was purchased, along with the Daily and Sunday Express by the property and construction company Trafalgar House headed by Lord Matthews. In 1980 the Evening Standard absorbed the Evening News and six years later Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail & General Trust) assumed full control of the title.
'The Encyclopedia of the British Press' lists as the papers absorbed during its 181-year-history by the Standard as Traveller, Lane's Star, The British Traveller, The Albion, St. James's Gazette, Pall Mall Gazette, Globe, Evening News and Star.
Intriguingly, it also reveals that one issue of the Evening Standard, number 35941, was published by the German government during the Second World War as a propaganda exercise.

'Economic foundations of modern journalism crumbling in the digital age'

Digital technology is threatening the quality and commercial prospects of British journalism, according to a report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) which will be released at the Oxford Media Convention tomorrow. reports that Dr. Andrew Curragh, author of 'What's Happening to Our News?' has said in a release: "The economic foundations of modern journalism are crumbling due to unprecedented changes in the scale and character of news consumption."
The report examines the future of commercial newsgathering, the value of 'professionalism' in the age of blogging and what can be done to meet the challenges facing the industry.
Dr. Curragh warns:"Publishers are in danger of being reduced to the digital equivalent of a windsock, shaped by the short-term whims of the news consumer."
The report outlines several proposals, including targeted tax breaks for public interest news publishing, changing legislation to allow for charitable funding of newsgathering and a voluntary set of media standards to improve public trust and transparency within the industry.

Obama everywhere but it's a Fiat on the front of the Daily Express

On the day most papers across the world were splashing on the historic inauguration of President Barak Obama, the Daily Express sold a front page wraparound to an advert for a Fiat 500.
The ad is headlined "It's A Big Day For Firsts" - and readers are told "The World's Greatest Newspaper" is inside, where a proper copy of the Daily Express is found leading on the inauguration.
It's not the first time newspapers have sold their front page, Pepsi and the Mirror for instance, but I am not sure it's ever happened on such a strong news day.

'Free-ish' - The Economist's verdict on FoI

An excellent article in this week's Economist details the publication's frustration in trying to prise information out of Transport for London using the Freedom of Information Act.
The Economist lists the excuses it was given for delays: “Please accept my apologies for the delay.”…“Unfortunately, I have been off for most of this week due to illness.”…“I hope that we will be in a position to respond by the end of next week.”…“I have been on leave.”…“The response is still being finalised.”
The Economist says "18 e-mails gave nine different reasons for missed deadlines; it was two months before a response arrived, in the negative, and three more before an internal review confirmed that refusal".
The article argues "non-compliance is endemic" and claims: "Part of the reason they can afford to be so relaxed is that the commissioner’s office is itself slow in pursuing complaints. This newspaper’s beef with TfL was referred to it last April but the matter is still being pondered."
Its verdict on FoI is summed up by its simple one word headline on the article: "Free-ish".

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Murdoch the winner if Russian gets Evening Standard says Private Eye

Private Eye's take on Alexander Lebedev taking over the Evening Standard is that the real winner would be Rupert Murdoch, who sparked the fierce free newspaper war in the capital by launching thelondonpaper.
The latest issue of the Eye says "...the man with the most potential cause for rejoicing is Rupert Murdoch. Associated Newspapers, in the London freebies war, committed the same mistake Conrad Black made when he dragged the Telegraph into a price war with The Times: they thought they could outspend him. By forcing Rothermere to consider the sale of the Standard ... the News Corps boss has once again demonstrated that no one but no one, has deeper pockets than the Digger."
Richard Addis also closely examines how Murdoch would benefit from the deal on his Shake Up Media blog.

DMGT got over the 'emotional stuff' when it put Northcliffe titles up for sale

The Daily Mail & General Trust showed it had no sentimental attachment to its newspapers when it shocked the industry by putting its Northcliffe titles up for sale in 2005, Peter Williams, the company's long-serving finance director, says in an interview with the Financial Times today.
Significantly, Williams says of the possible sale of a majority stake in the London Evening Standard to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev: "From our point of view [the Standard approach] is simply a commercial transaction, equally as if we had a loss-making B2B business. That is the way we think of it. We went through the emotional stuff with the Northcliffe decision, I think."
The FT points out that though the sale of Northcliffe failed it did "show the group was open to selling treasured assets." Williams concludes."To be honest, we don't see this [proposed Evening Standard deal] as a hugely significant event."

Shoe-throwing journalist spends birthday in jail

The Iraqi journalist held in a Baghdad jail since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference has been visited by his brother and was given a birthday party by his guards as he turned 30, Associated Press has reported.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the December 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Via Editor&Publisher

NS welcomes Balls backing but warns: "In some parts of the country the local authority may become the only source of local news”

The Newspaper Society has welcomed the support of a Government minister in its battle to hold on to statutory local authority advertising. But it has warned that if newspapers are forced to close in the economic downturn, the only source of local news in some areas of the country will be from council-owned papers.
Ed Balls, the secretary for children, schools and families, voiced his opposition to any moves by local or central government to undermine local media – including local authority publications and websites competing for readers and advertising revenues and current government proposals to remove the obligation to place public notices in local newspapers - describing them as a “retrograde thing to do”.
Balls made the remarks at at a lunch organised by the Newspaper Conference , which represents London and political editors of regional newspapers who are members of the Newspaper Society.
He described local newspapers as playing a “very important role” in the community. “I don’t think it would be sensible to have any strategy on these things which actively damages them.”
The MP was asked by the NS for his views on removal of statutory notices from local papers. The NS claims local authorities are increasingly seeking to supplant the role of local newspapers by producing publications and websites offering local news and competing head-to-head with local newspapers for third party advertising revenues.
Lynne Anderson, director of communications for the Newspaper Society, warned. “It is probably not an exaggeration to say, in the current economic climate [with pressure on all media companies, the severe drop in advertising revenues and titles closing], that in some parts of the country the local authority may become the only source of local news,”

Demand forces NUJ Jobs Summit venue switch

The NUJ’s Jobs Summit to be held on Saturday has been switched to a bigger venue after registrations far exceeded the 70-person capacity of the union’s Headland House headquarters in London's King's Cross.
It will now be held at The School of Pharmacy, 29-39 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AX, close to the union's HQ. The summit's aim is to galvanise NUJ members to plan a response to the widespread redundancies, budget cuts and pay freezes currently being imposed across the media industry, particularly on newspapers.
Among speakers lined up for the event are Nick Davies, the investigative journalist and author of 'Flat Earth News' and Michael Klehm, of Deutsche Journalisten-Verband (DJV), the German journalist' union.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “The level of interest being shown in the summit just goes to show our members’ resolve against the latest media cutbacks. The event isn’t just about training people in how to respond to redundancies, budget cuts and pay freezes. Everyone will have a chance to add their ideas about how we can work together to challenge the short-term cutbacks that are damaging our industry.”
The latest job cuts in the regional newspaper industry have come with Johnston Press announcing a new centralised subbing system which could cut up to 49 jobs from its Midlands divisions.

Monday 19 January 2009

Government pledge on local newspaper crisis

The Government responded to the crisis facing newspapers today by announcing it was undertaking an investigation to see what could be done to help the industry, Parliamentary correspondent David Rose reports on the Press Gazette website.
Rose says:"Media secretary Andy Burnham said that he had asked Lord Carter of Barnes, the communications minister, to look at the local news media as part of his work on developing digital communications in Britain and agreed himself to meet with the National Union of Journalists."

Greenslade repeats extracts of Glover's pulled 'Telegraph a national tragedy' article

Roy Greenslade has on his MediaGuardian blog today reprinted parts of the contentious article by Stephen Glover in The Independent in which Glover claimed what was happening at the Telegraph was "a national tragedy" - even though it has been pulled from The Indy's website.
Greenslade has alleged that The Independent caved in to legal pressure from the Telegraph's owners, the Barclay Brothers.
He writes of Glover: "No word from Stephen Glover in The Independent today about his December 22 column having been deleted from the paper's website. So it looks as though the fearless media columnist and campaigner for press freedom has tamely accepted his bosses' censorship following complaints from Telegraph Media Group."
Greenslade then repeats some of the most critical comments made by Glover.

'Let freed Guantanamo journalist into UK'

The NUJ is calling for an Al-Jazeera video journalist, who was detained for seven years at the US Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba, to be allowed entry to Britain.
It is urging that Sami El-Haj be given a visa to take part in a speaking tour about his experiences in Guantanamo, which is expected to be closed by President-elect Barack Obama.
The Sudan-born journalist was a video reporter for the Al-Jazeera TV news channel when he was seized by American forces in Afghanistan in 2001 and taken to Guantanamo. The union claims he was was tortured and brutally force-fed through several hunger strikes.
Sami El-Haj was released last summer and returned to Al-Jazeera in Qatar to resume his career, as a programme producer. In December he was invited to join a speaking tour in the UK organised by the group Cageprisoners and sponsored by the peer Lord Ahmed but the union says the British Embassy is refusing him a visa.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written to the embassy, stating: “Journalists around the world campaigned for Sami while he was locked up and mistreated in Guantanamo. Now we want to be able to hear his story directly from him, and so should anyone else."

Burton Mail and Leicester Mercury editors quit

Another regional editor has quit his post. HoldtheFrontPage reports that former Sun journalist Paul Hazeldine, has resigned as editor of the Burton Mail after seven years.
He is to be replaced by Steve Lowe, previously group editor of LSN Media and editor of Bedfordshire on Sunday, who has been made editor-in-chief of the new Iliffe News and Media Central division, which now covers the Burton title. Hazeldine told HTFP:"I am leaving today but it's nothing to do with anything else that has been announced. I am just retiring from journalism and doing other things."
Lowe was recruited to Bedfordshire on Sunday by the paper's founder Frank Branston.
It was also revealed on Friday that Nick Carter, one of Northcliffe's longest-serving editors was leaving the Leicester Mercury after 15 years. He is to become the first chairman of the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Development Company, a new body set up by the city of Leicester and county councils to help drive economic growth across the area.
Meanwhile, HTFP is reporting more jobs gloom. It says up to 49 jobs are at risk on papers in Johnston's Midlands divisions. The company is proposing to create three centralised subbing operations to be based in Northampton, Peterborough and Milton Keynes. A staff consultation is due to finish by 6 March.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Mississippi paper apologises to readers for ignoring segregation and civil rights issues

A newspaper in Mississippi has on the eve of the inauguration of Barack Obama run a remarkable apology to its readers for ignoring segregation in the southern states of America and failing to fully report the struggle for civil rights, Editor & Publisher magazine reports.
The Meridian Star apologised in a leader column which concludes: "There was a time when this newspaper – and many others across the south -- acted with gross neglect by largely ignoring the unfairness of segregated schools, buses, restaurants, washrooms, theaters and other public places.
"We did it through omission, by not recording for our readers many of the most important civil rights activities that happened in our midst, including protests and sit-ins. That was wrong. We should have loudly protested segregation and the efforts to block voter registration of black East Mississippians.
"Current management understands while we can't go back and undo some past wrongs, we can offer our sincere apology -- and promise never again to neglect our responsibility to inform you, our readers, about the human rights and dignity every individual is entitled to in America -- no matter their religion, their ethnic background or the color of their skin."

Saturday 17 January 2009

A subbing guide for the digital age

Sub editors are beginning to look more and more like an endangered species in the digital age and economic downturn, with some newspapers dropping them altogether.
A new online subbing guide has been produced by which attempts to answer such questions as: What new skills do subs need and what existing traits are still relevant online? and what can journalists include at the writing stage to make their work more web-friendly?
The guide is interactive and contributors can help share and shape the rules of subbing as it develops for the web by contributing to the guides wiki page. describes the guide as "a work in progress".

Charles Moore versus Jonathan Ross: this will run and run despite lunch with the D-G

Lunch with the Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson has failed to sooth ex-Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore and stop him continuing his campaign against Jonathan Ross over the Andrew Sachs affair.
In today's Telegraph Moore stands by his vow not to pay his licence fee while Ross remains an employee of the BBC, despite being dined by Thompson.
Moore reveals today: "Responding to my complaint, the Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, invited me to lunch. He is a thoughtful, well-educated man. I suggested to him that the television licence fee was the modern equivalent of the tithes which people used to have to pay to the Church of England: even if you did not believe in Anglicanism, or even in God, you still had by law to enrich the Church because your "betters" considered it good for the nation. For the same reason as the tithes went, I argued, so should the licence fee.
"Mr Thompson did not demur from the comparison, though he rejected my conclusion. He explained to me that the role of the BBC was based on Matthew Arnold's idea that culture could perform the elevating role in society which religion, because people ceased to believe it, had vacated."
Moore remains unpersuaded and reveals he has even forced himself to read Ross's book "Why do I say these things?" Moore's answer to the question posed by Ross is... "because Jonathan, you are the big mouth of an age with nothing to say."

Manchester Confidential turns spotlight on journalists who followed up MP scoop

ManchesterConfidential's Sleuth column is quite rightly crowing over the way the media followed up its exclusive column by MP Graham Stringer claiming dyslexia was a "cruel fiction".
Sleuth notes: "Confidential got everywhere, the BBC TV news, BBC radio news, GMTV, The Times, The Independent, Reuters, The Sun, you name it."
But then turns on some of the journalists who followed up the story, claiming : "Weirdest call came from Deborah Summers of the Guardian who rang up the editor and asked if the story were genuine.
"What? As if Confidential would randomly write such a serious piece and then ascribe it to Graham Stringer and put his photo up there too. Somehow Sleuth thinks that sort of behaviour might land this Manchester magazine in court."
Sleuth said the question prompted an idea: "Let's make up lots of controversial headlines from famous people. So next week on Confidential: 'Abortion an option, argues the Pope,' 'Richard Dawkins isn’t real, says Jesus', 'Life on £120,000 a week is too hard, explains Ronaldo', 'Immanuel Kant was right, there is such a thing as the Categorical Imperative by Katie Price'."

Sleuth also dishes it out to Cassandra Jardine, who in her online column for the Daily Telegraph, wrote: ‘To judge by the responses to MP Graham Stringer's remarks there is indeed a severe problem with reading and writing in this country. Among the misspellings by furious responders to his article on who argue that dyslexia is real, I picked out – and this is just a tiny sample – "inacurate", "bluf", "mater", "concentarte", "dyselxicx", and "macnhester". Among those who agree with him, there were considerably fewer mistakes.’
Sleuth's verdict: "Oh dear Cassandra. Those errors are nothing to do with dyslexia, darling, it’s just that people often can’t spell very well. Do you use the internet much? Honist."

Friday 16 January 2009

Nick Carter quits as Leicester Mercury editor

One of Northcliffe's longest-serving editors Nick Carter is leaving the editorship of the Leicester Mercury after more than 15 years, HoldtheFrontPage reports tonight.
Carter is leaving to become the first chairman of the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Development Company, a new body set up by the city of Leicester and county councils to help drive economic growth across the area.

Barrow dispute over as job is saved

NUJ members at the North West Evening Mail in Cumbria have called off plans for industrial action after the union claimed today it had persuaded Cumbrian Newspapers management not to press ahead with a threatened compulsory redundancy.
A sports writer facing redundancy has transferred to news, meaning no journalists on the North West Evening Mail will be made compulsorily redundant.

One Brazilian footballer is worth more than Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press

According to The Sun today, Manchester City has valued Brazilian footballer Kaka at £108 million, plus wages over five years also of £108 million, making a staggering total of £216 million. Yahoo Finance! today gives Trinity Mirror a market capitalisation of £130 million and Johnston Press of £83 million, making a total of £213 million.

Tony Benn on menu in Financial Times canteen for journalists' day of action

Former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn will address a meeting of journalists in the canteen at the Financial Times as part of a day of action next week against proposed compulsory redundancies on the paper.
Management want to axe 20 editorial jobs but only eleven volunteers have come forward, according to the NUJ which is organising the day of action on Thursday January 22. NUJ members at the paper will wear stickers opposing the job losses and pledging support for the union’s 'Stand Up for Journalism' campaign.
The union claims to have seen a secret management document called "CCC" for "create-craft-complete" which would involve further job cuts. FT journalists have dubbed it “Cut-Cut-Cut”.

New multi-media venture for Jon Gaunt?

Sun columnist Jon Gaunt, who was sacked from his role as a talkSPORT shock-jock for calling a councillor "a Nazi", is understood to be in discussions with a major media player about a new multi-media venture.
Gaunt said today in an email to his supporters: "As for returning to air it is getting closer by the minute" but did not refer to the multi-media venture which is said to be at an advanced stage.
Meanwhile, Gaunt is due to appear on Tonight with Trevor McDonald discussing taste and decency on TV and Radio, is guesting on The Daily Politics show and will be in Dictionary Corner on Countdown on Channel 4 for a whole week in February.

Is Alexander Lebedev a "fit and proper" owner for London's Evening Standard?

MediaGuardian commentator Roy Greenslade poses this question today about Alexander Lebedev, the billionaire and former KGB agent, who is said to be about to buy a majority stake in the London Evening Standard.
He points out that the "fit-and-proper-person" test is no longer relevant. It was part of now defunct competition law and there is no regulatory requirement to consider the merits and demerits of individuals who wish to acquire papers.
After a good run through of the various profiles of Lebedev in the nationals (there is a particularly flattering one in The Independent, which is also said to be a target of the former KGB man), Roy says "the general consensus from commentators is that Lebedev would pass muster" if the old "fit and proper" test was still applied.
He says he can see why offloading the Standard is a good deal for the Daily Mail & General Trust but asks: "What's in it for Lebedev? Why buy a paper selling so few copies and losing so much money? It is, as Winston Churchill once remarked of the Soviet Union, 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.' "
Maybe Lebedev just likes the idea of owning a newspaper. It's fun, like owning a football club, but you need deep pockets.

Redundancy requests at Herald almost 50

allmediascotland reports today the number of people seeking voluntary redundancy at Newsquest's Herald group of newspapers in Glasgow is now almost 50.
Staff at the The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times were made redundant and asked to reapply for a reduced number of posts. allmediascotland says it understands efforts are on-going to prevent the number of production staff falling to "perilously low levels".
It quotes an insider: "There is a strange feeling in the building. There's euphoria among those leaving that the stress of working in the place will soon be behind them and real sadness that a great team is being decimated. Everybody fears for the future of the paper."

Sun chews up BBC's stolen hamster story

The Sun's most famous front page might be "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" but today it indulges in a bout of BBC bashing after Auntie's 24-hour News Channel ran the sensational breaking news ..."Lassie the hamster had been stolen from a flat in Stourport-on-Severn".
An outraged Sun reports: "Bulletins on the turmoil in Gaza and a third Heathrow runway gave way to a shock-horror news ticker along the bottom of the screen screaming:HAMSTER THEFT."
Despite mocking the "BBC chews flash," The Sun asks readers today to phone the paper if they know where Lassie is.
Oh, and The Sun's splash today? Is it the turmoil in Gaza or third Heathrow runway? No its "NASA scientists last night confirmed that there probably IS life on Mars".

NUJ urges 'conscience clause' to combat unethical editors: fines on rogue papers

The NUJ is urging MPs to back a "conscience clause" for jounalists so they can resist unethical demands by their editors without getting the sack.
Even more controversially, the union is also calling for papers to be fined if the Press Complaints Commission rules they are in breach of the Code of Practice.
The union has put both pleas in a submission to the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into Press Standards, Privacy and Libel.
The submission to the committee says a “conscience clause” would “allow reporters who feel they are being pressured to produce material that is not supported by evidence, or whose reporting is being stretched beyond credulity in its presentation, to refuse that assignment.
“We believe that journalists are responsible for their work and are therefore entitled legally to refuse instructions they consider unethical,” the union says.
The clause would protect journalists by giving them a case for unfair dismissal if they were sacked for refusing instructions. On fining papers, the NUJ says: “the fine would send out a message that the PCC has teeth and would be prepared to bite.”
The NUJ has always felt cold shouldered by the PCC. It had a seat on the PCC's predecessor, the Press Council. Although it resigned the seat in protest it rejoined the Press Council just in time for it to be abolished and replaced by the PCC.
The Code of Practice is drawn up by the Editors' Code Committe and underpins the work of the PCC.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Russian takeover of Evening Standard delayed but not dead says MediaGuardian

MediaGuardian - which broke the sensational news that Russian billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev was about to take a majority stake in the London Evening Standard - reports the deal has been delayed but has not stalled and was expected to go through "within days".
Lebedev's London-based son, 28-year-old Evgeny, was due to see DMGT's lawyers today for a meeting at which it was understood the final terms of the deal to buy a 76 per cent stake in the Evening Standard would be agreed, MediaGuardian reports, but adds: "However, tempers are understood to have frayed on both sides after news of the imminent signing of the Evening Standard deal were revealed by MediaGuardian yesterday."
Lord Rothermere, DMGT's chairman, is also said to still hold concerns over post-takeover issues such as redundancies.
Supporters of Lebedev say the paper he has backed in Moscow, Novaya Gazeta, is known for its editorial independence and published the work of assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The NUJ today bemoaned the lack of transparency surrounding the deal. NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick, said: “If it is true it is yet another example of sealed bid deals with no transparency about the new ownership's commitment to the future of the only paid-for title to cover all of London.
“Investment is clearly needed, and a long term strategy to serve Londoners in a more impartial way would be welcome. Once again no declarations have been made about editorial independence.”
Interestingly, Roy Greenslade on his blog tonight is more sceptical than the MediaGuardian story. He writes: "At this end of the day, almost 24 hours after it first broke, I am beginning to wonder if the story about Alexander Lebedev's acquisition of the London Evening Standard is quite as strong as we have been led to believe.
"By which I mean, the deal has not yet been sealed, and an official statement to that effect on behalf of the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) will emerge very soon. It does confirm that there have been negotiations between Lebedev and DMGT. But these are ongoing talks with a way to go before there is any possibility of them being finalised.
"I do know that DMGT's chairman Lord Rothermere and his senior executives were less than pleased - well, incandescent with anger - about the story's emergence way ahead of any firm agreement."

Union recognition talks 'back on track' at New Statesman but redundancies feared

The NUJ said today that recognition talks are "back on track" at the Left-wing political weekly New Statesman but redundancies at the magazine are also being discussed.
The NUJ claims 15 of the New Statesman's 16 editorial staff are in the NUJ and the union was shocked, given the magazine's Left-wing history, to be denied automatic recognition.
Businessman Mike Danson, who co-owns the magazine with Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, has invited the union for talks.
Sue Harris, the NUJ organiser for magazines, said: “It's great to see our negotiations back on track. We are delighted to be discussing recognition with a magazine that supports trade unions in its editorial columns."
The union said it is also in talks with the New Statesman about possible redundancies.

MSP repeats warning on how local press could lose out on Government advertising

Interesting interview on with MSP Ted Brocklebank in which he again outlines the danger to the press of losing vital Government and local authority advertising to state-owned websites.
Brocklebank first raised the matter in the Scottish Parliament in a debate about the reorganisation of the Herald newspapers. He mentioned trials being undertaken by local authorities in Scotland to put their ads on their own online sites rather than in local newspapers.
The MSP has submitted written questions asking how much the Scottish government currently spends on local newspaper advertising and how much is used on web advertising on local authority and government websites.
He tells's Judith Townend: "It seems to me that the government is moving away from placing recruitment ads with local and national newspapers, and from statutory and public notices. These are major parts of the income [for newspapers]. This is symptomatic of a much bigger thing.
"Governments are about saving money and it's very difficult to argue with that, but when it comes to statutory notices we think it's another thing. We think the public has a right to that information [via newspapers]."
Newspapers in the rest of the UK are also concerned that they might lose statutory advertising and public notices as well as recruitment ads from the Government and local authorities.
The MSP's comments comes on the day the Daily Mail & General Trust's annual report said of its regional newspaper arm Northcliffe: "The gloomy economic outlook points to extremely challenging conditions for our key advertising markets in the coming year".

Save the paper: stop the presses for a day

Blogger Martin Belam of Currybetdotnet has a humorous hit back at the proposal by Canadian journalist Cale Cowan, reported here on Saturday, that newspapers across the world should shut down their websites for a day to show its is the press that provides most of the news on the internet.
Martin's firmly tongue in cheek six point plan for how newspapers can show their "unique" value includes the following:" Stop the presses for a day. Newspapers could decide to all not produce a printed edition on a normal weekday, and then use all of the money they saved on materials and distribution to invest in technology, innovation, and keep on some of the journalists and sub-editors they are currently sacking.
But that, of course, would be utterly, utterly, utterly unthinkable...."

Newsquest parent company in US asks staff to take week off without any pay

Editor & Publisher is reporting that Gannett, which owns Newsquest in the UK, is asking its employees to take a week off without pay.
The magazine quotes a memo from Gannett CEO Craig Dubow: "Today Gannett is implementing a furlough program across all U.S. divisions and at corporate headquarters. This means that most of our U.S. employees - including myself and all other top executives - will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter. This furlough will be unpaid. Unions also will be asked to participate. We are doing this to preserve our operations and continue to deliver for our customers while confronting the issues raised by some of the most difficult economic conditions we have ever experienced."
Could it happen here?

Russian may be coming for more than Standard

The former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev who MediaGuardian has sensationally revealed is expected to take a majority stake in the Evening Standard today, also has his eye on The Independent, Press Gazette reports today.

Axe for 70 at Midlands newspaper group

HoldtheFrontPage reports today that aound 70 newspaper staff employed by the Midlands News Association, publisher of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, are facing the prospect of compulsory redundancy after a proposal for voluntary job losses failed to get enough takers.
Last October, the Midlands News Association said it wanted to shed 135 jobs in a major restructuring operation.
HTFP says it is not clear at this stage how many journalists' jobs will be affected. The Express & Star is the country's biggest selling regional daily with an ABC in the first six months of last year of 137,948.

When Kelvin MacKenzie looked crisp

From today's Sun, the paper's ex-editor Kelvin MacKenzie, writing about the death of 1960s pop star Dave Dee, remembers his own sixties sartorial elegance. " chiffon shirt, white hipster trousers, two-tone green and brown shoes and a tapestry jacket. With a bit of luck I could have been the Quentin Crisp of journalism."

Does the internet make privacy injunctions a 'ludicrous pantomime'?

That was the question posed by Clive Anderson on Radio 4's Unreliable Evidence last night.
Anderson argued that "those in the know, know" about famous people who have taken out privacy injunctions to stop newspapers publishing details about their private life and can easily find their names on the internet.
He suggested that such injunctions meant the courts were indulging in a "ludicrous pantomime" which meant "it was just the great unwashed that didn't know."
Anderson also suggested "we've arrived at an odd place" when a privacy injunction stopped a man from naming a famous person who had had an affair with his wife.
Former Telegraph legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg revealed that some injunctions were framed so tightly that he could not even report that an injunction had been granted.
He warned that newspapers would become "reluctant to do an Insight-type investigation unless they can be absolutely sure they can get a good story they can publish without getting a privacy injunction."