Thursday 30 April 2009

PG editor: 'Why I'm suspicious of big regional players calls for regulation reform'

Interesting blog from Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford about his exclusive interview with Culture Secretary Andy Burnham on the future of the local media.
Dominic says of Burnham: "He persuaded this correspondent at least that his government really is intent on taking action to help save the regional news industry."
He adds: "It seems likely that the government will do something to bolster local newspapers through the rules over the placing of statutory advertising notices. And movement is also expected soon on merger and competition rules."
But Dominic says: "I’m deeply suspicious of the big regional newspaper players’ calls to do away with regulation."
And he gives an example why. "Former Johnston Press chairman Roger Parry told me last month that there was no case in editorial terms for saying that regional press mergers will harm plurality of coverage. He said: 'Every piece of evidence demonstrates that local editors remain locally autonomous.'
"Yet just the next day it emerged that the long-serving group editors of his company’s Eastbourne and Hastings-based local newspaper groups had both been sacked to be replaced by a group managing director from another part of the country."
Dominic adds: "The fear that the big regional newspaper groups aren’t the best custodians of local journalism comes from the fact that even in the boom years they cut editorial costs to the bone in pursuit of ever higher profit margins of 30 per cent plus.
"Many believe that private owners who are more committed to journalism and their local communities - and who are willing to invest while taking out sustainable profits - would be a better bet."

David Montgomery says its 'demeaning' to work for loss making Guardian or Independent

Journalist Kristine Lowe reports on her blog her exchange with Mecom chief David Montgomery: "I asked Montgomery if it really was his opinion, as The Telegraph had suggested the previous day, that there was no rationale for The Guardian or The Independent to exist: "I didn't say that. The Telegraph did. But in general I think companies should make money. I think it's demeaning for people to work for companies that don't," he said."

Sarah Palin's on Twitter

Just when you thought she was history, Sarah Palin has joined Twitter And she is complaining about the way her staff were "gravely misquoted" quoted by AP.

GMG: 'terminator-in-chief of journalists' jobs'

The NUJ has reacted angrily to the Guardian Media Group's job cuts at local television station Channel M in Manchester following those at the company's Manchester Evening News and associated weekly newspapers.
The union claims that cutbacks by GMG will seriously damage the future of local journalism in Manchester and surrounding areas. The company announced on Tuesday that it wants to axe 41 out of 74 jobs at Channel M.
NUJ Northern regional organiser Chris Morley said: "Guardian Media Group has become the terminator-in-chief of journalists' jobs. In one fell swoop, it is looking to cut well over half of the staff at Channel M where the workforce has given their all to make the project work. This is a massive blow and little more than a kick in the teeth for all their efforts.
"GMG Regional Media has already cut down nearly half of all journalist jobs in its North West print operations this year and now this. We are looking to meet with staff and will work hard to find the best possible outcome from this disaster."

Swine Flu: The Sun's view

The Sun on Swine Flu crisis today.

Page One: "IT JUST GOT WORSE: Bug pandemic now imminent."

Page Four: "The Whole of Humanity is Under Threat."

Page Five: "TOP DOC's ALERT ON BUG" "HUNT FOR HOL JET BRITS" "Tears and fears after pupils told pal is sick" "The global peril from the Mexican virus was raised from "phase four" to "phase five" - one short of the most dreaded - as five Brits were confirmed ill."

Page Eleven: Kelvin MacKenzie: "A couple get a cold in Scotland and you would have thought that an earthquake had wiped out Stoke. Abroad is a dangerous place for health. I picked up a verruca in Majorca but it didn't make the Ten O'Clock News."

Swine Flu: 'It's a genuine risk' says Bad Science's Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog which corrects many of the myths about science perpetuated by the media takes a look at the Swine Flu story today, linked to a piece Goldacre has written for The Guardian.
On his blog Goldacre says of the article: "This is possibly the most boring thing I’ve ever written in the Guardian, but I have been genuinely weirded out by the number of people inviting me to be a naysayer on the aporkalypse. I’m not, it’s a genuine risk."
In the article, he writes: "For so many people, their very first assumption on the story is that the media are lying. It is the story of the boy who cried wolf.
"We are poorly equipped to think around issues involving risk, and infectious diseases epidemiology is a tricky business: the error margins on the models are wide, and it’s extremely hard to make clear predictions."
He adds: "By Tuesday, pundit-seekers from the media were suddenly contacting me, a massive nobody, to say that swine flu is all nonsense and hype, like some kind of blind, automated naysaying device. "Will you come and talk about the media overhyping swine flu?" asked Case Notes on Radio 4. No. "We need someone to say it’s all been overhyped," said BBC Wales.
I assumed they were adhering, robotically, to the "balance" template, but no: he kept at it, even when I protested and explained. "Yeah, but you know, it could be like Sars and bird flu, they didn’t materialise, they were hype." Simon Jenkins suggested the same thing. It’s not true, I said. They were risks, risks that didn’t materialise, but they were still risks. That’s what a risk is. I’ve never been hit by a car, but it’s not idiotic to think about it. Simon Jenkins won’t be right if nobody dies, he’ll be lucky, like the rest of us. "

Wednesday 29 April 2009

GMG wants role in local news consortium

Guardian Media Group wants to take a leading role in any consortium bidding to take over ITV's regional news programming in the north of England, MediaGuardian reports today.
Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG's regional newspaper division, said the company was keen to take the lead in any pilot scheme to take over news provision in one of the ITV regions in the north of England.
Dodson added that a pilot would need to be run one of ITV's English regions, possibly in addition to a similar trial in either Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, as the requirements for any consortium to provide public service news broadcasting would be significantly different in both.
He said GMG would look to forge partnerships with a number of different organisations to take the idea forward, possibly including radio broadcasters, other newspaper groups and news agency the Press Association.
"I think that GMG would be keen to lead a trial in the north of England on behalf of themselves and the Newspaper Society," Dodson added.

'Government will act to help local press'

Culture secretary Andy Burnham has issued the clearest indication yet that the government is planning action to help the regional press, Press Gazette claims today.
It says Burnham spoke exclusively to the magazine following the local media summit held yesterday.
Burnham told Press Gazette: "What was good about today was it really brought people together and there was a lot of shared analysis and agreement about the way forward."
He added: "Most MPs have got an incredibly good grip on a) how important their local paper is to local life and b) how well-resourced it is at any given time, because we are constantly working with them.
"So unlike other industries, MPs have a very close understanding of both the importance and the strength of the local media industry. I think that goes for MPs of all colours. People see the urgency."
For longer term solutions to both the crisis in local newspapers and broadcasting, Burnham indicated that will have to wait for the publication of Lord Carter's Digital Britain report this summer.
But he said: "There are potentially short-term measures that can be taken fairly quickly that might provide some immediate respite and help to local papers - possibly this year or next."
He added: "In terms of concrete steps that could be taken, there's the issue around council-run papers, there's the issue that was raised today around government advertising spend and to what extent government can prioritise local papers in that there's a justifiable public benefit that comes from the continuation of local papers.
"There's obviously issues around cross-media ownership rules that are being considered in the context of the Digital Britain report and the Office of Fair Trading have been looking at those issues."
"While I can't prejudge the Queen's Speech, clearly the final Digital Britain report will have recommendations possibly for legislation that the government will want to get on with pretty quickly because the prime minister has identified the digital economy as a key part of the new economy coming out of the difficult times we're in.
"This clearly is absolutely at the top of the government's agenda."

C4 News on council paper threat to local press

Channel 4 News has looked at the threat posed by local council newspaper-style publications to the local press.
It reported yesterday on the planned launch of The News, the new free publication planned by Barking & Dagenham Council, and had interviews with East London Advertiser group editor Malcolm Starbrook, Barking and Dagenham Post reporter Karen Moss and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, who stressed the importance of an independent local press.
You can see the report by Benjamin Cohen here on the Channel 4 website.

Greenslade hails local media summit for fostering new spirit of participation

Roy Greenslade writing in the Evening Standard hails yesterday's local media summit in the House of Commons as a "breakthrough moment."
He says an industrywide expression of a new spirit of participation was evident in a presentation by Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards, who argued that as ITV retreats from its commitment to providing a regional news service, independently funded news consortia should be established.
Greenslade writes: "What was so fascinating was to witness the apparent acceptance of this idea from a range of TV, radio and newspaper representatives, whether they were employers, editors, or trades unions or politicians. The reason, of course, is that no one else has anything like as good an idea that has the slightest hope of working.
"It was noticeable that none of the contributors, whether from the Newspaper Society, the National Union of Journalists, the Society of Editors or a variety of television and radio organisations, were able to explain how to fund a revitalisation of local journalism. All, however, agreed that there is a crisis.
"Most crucially, and this is what I mean by it being a historic meeting, all appeared to agree that they must work together to do something positive to sort it out."
Greenslade concludes: "So participation, at both industry level and in acts of journalism, is the new watchword. It could well prove to be the silver lining in the present dark clouds hanging over the media."

NUJ backs 'sacked' md Steve Brown

The NUJ chapel at Trinity Mirror's Newcastle centre is backing recently departed regional managing director Steve Brown, claiming he was sacked, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
The chapel has passed a a resolution saying it had no confidence in the ability of Trinity Mirror Regionals managing director Georgina Harvey to lead the company.
The resolution said: "The ncjmedia deeply concerned at Steve Brown's sacking by Georgina Harvey. The NUJ did not always see eye to eye with Steve but, despite a recent programme of redundancies, respects him as the man who led ncjmedia into its position as Trinity Mirror's most profitable centre.
"In these challenging times we want to have confidence in the person at the top. We need an exceptional MD: Steve Brown is that person.
"The chapel questions Georgina Harvey's motivation and long-term strategy following her removal of an executive who has brought financial success to one of Trinity Mirror's centres and who is widely respected by ncjmedia staff and the business community in the North East."
Brown's departure has angered many journalists in Newcastle and led to unprecedented support for him in postings on the HTFP website, which is part owned by Trinity.
The resolution added: "The chapel deplores the great uncertainty and instability caused by Steve's sacking and has deep concerns about Trinity Mirror's future plans for ncjmedia."

Swine flu: Is the media in a panic?

Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins commenting today on media coverage of the swine flu outbreak says: "We have gone demented."
He writes: "Two Britons are or were (not very) ill from flu. "This could really explode," intones a reporter for BBC News. "London warned: it's here," cries the Evening Standard. Fear is said to be spreading "like a Mexican wave". It "could affect" three-quarters of a million Britons. It "could cost" three trillion dollars. The "danger", according to the radio, is that workers who are not ill will be "worried" (perhaps by the reporter) and fail to turn up at power stations and hospitals."
Jenkins argues: "The cause may lie in the national curriculum, the decline of "news" or the rise of blogs and concomitant, unmediated hysteria, but people seem helpless in navigating the gulf that separates public information from their daily round. They cannot set a statistic in context. They cannot relate bad news from Mexico to the risk that inevitably surrounds their lives. The risk of catching swine flu must be millions to one."

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Snow: 'Beauty of the internet is that it's free'

Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow celebrates the internet in an interview with Jon Henley in The Guardian today.
"The whole beauty, the democratising aspect of the web, is that it's free," he says.
"I'll go every which way not to pay for content. This idea of citizen journalists taking over the world, that's crap. But what they are doing is democratising what we do, and deepening it. Look at the pictures from the G20 protests: we've collected material from 20-30 individuals, and used it and our equipment to vastly deepen it. We've been able to track an individual police officer over five hours. That's a crystal example of what can be done now. It's a delirious moment, a really exciting time."

Murdoch: 'Newspapers have wonderful future'

Newspapers have "a wonderful future" according to Rupert Murdoch, writing in the new Innovations in Newspapers 2009 World Report, an annual survey released by the Innovation International Media Consulting Group for the World Association of Newspapers.
Murdoch says in a preface to the report: "Our success will still depend on the bond of trust between readers and our content, not on how many platforms we use.
"This annual report demonstrates powerfully how newspapers around the world are being reinvented in the digital age. I believe newspapers have a wonderful future. As printed products and as newly empowered news brands that deliver great journalism across many platforms customized to the interests of readers."
But, Murdoch warns that complacency is the biggest threat to newspapers and that the real foe "is not competition from new technology, it is the complacency in our industry among people who have enjoyed monopolies, who have to compete for an audience they once took for granted, who don’t trust their audiences and who have not responded constructively to challenges from readers who no longer think editors are omnipotent oracles.
"If we earn the trust and loyalty of our readers, good newspapers, and their electronic siblings will become even stronger news brands. They may not always be thrown over the fence each morning but their impact will continue to resonate in the communities they serve," he says.
"Our role is to give our readers great journalism and great judgment. I am convinced circulation and readership will grow on web pages, through RSS feeds, in e-mails, on mobile devices and in printed newspapers."
The Innovations in Newspapers 2009 World Report and can be ordered through the WAN web site at or also in pdf and print format from the Innovations International Media Consulting Group at
The annual report looks at major innovations and developments in the newspaper industry world-wide.
Story via Tom McGowran

MEN Media to axe half Channel M staff

MEN Media in Manchester is expecting to make 41 of its 74 staff at local TV station Channel M redundant, Press Gazette reports.
Chief executive Mark Dodson said: "These further redundancies at MEN Media are deeply regrettable but, in the current climate and in the context of wider changes in our industry, they are unavoidable.
"The company continues to believe there will be a successful future for local TV in the UK. Channel M will continue to broadcast, and we reserve the option to restore aspects of the schedule should economic circumstances improve."

Government holds local media summit today

The Government is holding a summit on the future of the local media today which will involve Culture and Media Secretary Andy Burnham meeting representatives of the the NUJ, the Newspaper Society and Ofcom.
Regional publishers are said to want the summit to win support for the relaxing of the merger regime and to stop local councils launching newspaper-style publications that take public sector ads away from local papers.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said in advance of today's meeting.“The government summit must involve journalists, media owners, and community and co-operative groups. It must actively consider all options for the future of local media.”
Discussion at today’s summit will feed into the final Digital Britain report to be published by the Government this summer.
Burnham said: “Strong local media are vital to a healthy democracy and provide a crucial and trusted service to their communities.
“There are very real pressures facing local newspapers across the country, partly caused by the economic downturn, and partly by the transformation brought about by the digital age.
“Today’s summit will explore how we can support the local media industry in meeting these challenges, and continuing to thrive in the future.”

US newspaper circulations plunge

Latest ABC figures for US newspapers for the six months to the end of March show that major city titles continue to shed circulation at a record rate, Editor & Publisher reports.
According to ABC, for 395 newspapers reporting this spring, daily circulation fell 7% to 34,439,713 copies, compared with the same March period in 2008. On Sunday, for 557 newspapers, circulation was down 5.3% to 42,082,707.
Daily circulation at the Boston Globe was down 13.6% to 302,638 copies. Sunday decreased 11.2% to 466,665. New York's Daily News was down 14%, and rival New York Post fell 20%. The Star-Ledger of Newark dropped over 16%.
Daily circulation at the New York Times dropped 3.5% to 1,039,031. The Times' Sunday circulation was down 1.7% to 1,451,233.The Washington Post lost 1.6% of its daily circulation to 665,383 and 2.3% to 868,965.
One paper bucking the trend was Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal which was up 0.6% to 2,082,189.

Monday 27 April 2009

Parky: 'Local press vital to community'

Sir Michael Parkinson spoke up for the local press when he launched the UK’s largest student dedicated newsroom at Nottingham Trent University on Friday.
After opening Trent's new Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism, Sir Michael was interviewed by students.
He told them: “We should be worried about a state of affairs where local papers in particular are under threat and are closing. Local papers are a vital part of a community, most importantly as a means of ensuring local authorities serve the public in a right and proper manner as well as being a sounding board for opinion, and a guide to what’s going on.
“Although the industry is tough at the moment, journalism is still a very popular career and course uptake is high. Therefore it is important that those who are choosing to go into the industry are as well prepared and highly skilled as they can be, not only to compete for jobs but also to ensure that the media grows and remains fresh with new ideas brought in by graduates."
The new fully digital centre has 85 work stations, three radio studios, two voice-over booths, a six camera TV studio and high speed laser newspaper printing.

Talks today after Record and Mail strike

NUJ negotiators are due to meet senior executives of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail in Glasgow today following a three days of strike action against compulsory redundancies, which began last Friday with a rally addressed by Members of the Scottish Parliament and NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear. A video of the rally can be seen via the NUJ website.

Family Courts open to the media today

Family Courts in England and Wales are being opened to the media today, although reporting restrictions will still apply.
The Society of Editors says the UK press card will be the recognised accreditation that is needed to distinguish reporters from members of the public who will still not be admitted to the courts.
The SoE says: "We have been reassured that court staff will be told that the card should usually be sufficient and that there should not be a need to verify the card. Court reporting restrictions particularly those affecting children will apply and some cases may still not be reportable at all."
It has advised editors to set up meetings with judges, magistrates and court officials to discuss the way the system is changing and working arrangements.

BBC in deal to help local press

The BBC is close to agreeing a deal with local news providers that will see it share resources with newspapers and TV and radio stations for the first time, MediaGuardian reports today.
It says the BBC will unveil the proposals, which include giving local papers free access to video content for their websites, allowing them access to its school of journalism and making its iPlayer technology available to rivals, at an industry summit hosted by culture secretary Andy Burnham on Tuesday.
The summit will be attended by Helen Boaden, the BBC's head of news, and David Holdsworth, controller of the English regions, as well as other industry executives and the National Union of Journalists.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Henry Porter mourns death of local press

Henry Porter, who trained on the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, mourns the death of local newspapers in an article in The Observer today.
He writes: "All news starts off local. Without reporters dropping into a court case, pestering the manager of an NHS trust, sitting through an inquest or badgering the local bobbies, democracy and accountability in Britain would not be possible.
"Local news, effectively local newspapers and their websites, is essential to our society and don't let anyone tell you that the propaganda rags produced by local councils are a substitute for independent newspapers that can run campaigns, concentrate their fire on a council or simply cover the local sheepdog trials.
"The web might give you the cinema times but it won't tell you which planning official is in bed with a supermarket chain - unless that story has appeared in a paper - and it doesn't provide anything like the sense of community you find in, say, a paper like the News and Star in Carlisle."

Will Newsquest be carved up if media takeover rules are relaxed for regional press?

Observer media commentator Peter Preston predicts today that Newsquest's newspapers could be the ones sold off if the big regional publishers get their way and convince the Government to relax the takeover rules for the local press.
Preston notes that "broad rationalisations" could give Trinity the West Midlands, North-East and Lancashire, Northcliffe the East Midlands and South-West, and Johnston Press could have Yorkshire, but Newsquest's titles do not fit into such easily designated areas.
He also suggests that Newsquest's US parent company Gannett might be willing to get out of the newspaper business in the UK.
Preston writes: "Look at the first-quarter report from Gannett, the biggest chain in America and owner of Newsquest. Advertising 38.7% down at the British end and the outcome in dollars 27% worse than that because of sterling's slide. Economic and currency calamity. And examine how Newsquest's titles - inherited from Reed and the Westminster Press - are almost randomly spread: from Brighton to Glasgow, from Essex to Darlington. Bundle many of them for regional sell-offs and Trinity Mirror and the rest see deals that make sense if the price is right.
"The price will have to be right now, naturally, because silly bidding has brought perdition already. But if Gannett's masters, sitting sadly in Virginia, want to cut losses and problems away from their homeland base, opportunity is about to knock. If, that is, any potential bidders have the fire to do something better, not more of the same."

Saturday 25 April 2009

WSJ maps out plight of US press

The Wall Street Journal has produced a graphic Pressure on the Presses documenting the problems faced by the top 100 newspapers in the US over the past three years. The graphic uses a map of the US and reveals state by state data about the job losses, circulation declines, cuts in print days, bankruptcy and closures endured by the nation's newspapers.

Friday 24 April 2009

Where have all the court reporters gone?

Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell bemoans the lack of court reporters in an interview published this week in the Camden New Journal and its sister title the Islington Tribune.
Campbell is interviewed by Peter Gruner about his new book 'If It Bleeds', a novel about a crime reporter, and talks about the way celebrity coverage is eclipsing crime stories in the British press.
He says: “The Daily Telegraph used to have full-time court ­correspondents, but no longer. The Press ­Association had five or six full-time correspondents at the Old Bailey, now it’s two.
“You don’t get detailed court reports any more. People decided that readers won’t read them unless there’s a ­picture of Kate Moss half-way through.
“The space once given to crime coverage now goes to celebrity. There’s a long tradition of hypocrisy in the British media with people saying how awful this obsession with celebrity is, and then running another eight pages of the famous just to show how awful it is.”
Campbell tells Gruner he is planning to leave the Guardian, where he has worked since 1987, later this year to go freelance and concentrate on writing books. He was previously Los Angeles and crime correspondent for the paper. Before the Guardian, he worked for the London Daily News, City ­Limits, Time Out and LBC radio.

Gaunt follows Guido into the Guardian

First it was blogger Guido Fawkes, now shock jock and Sun columnist Jon Gaunt has penetrated the portals of the new home of The Guardian.
"Gaunty" says in his Sun column today that he was invited to a Radio Academy event at Kings Place to talk about the Sun's new online radio station SunTalk.
Naturally, Gaunt was on the look out for vegetarian, cycling Guardian journalists.
He wasn't disappointed, telling Sun readers that he knew he was in the right place when "a polished steel lift door opened and what seemed like hundreds of people exited on bikes."
Gaunt confesses, however, "Despite furious searching, we couldn't locate the tofu burger lift."

Praise for md Steve Brown axed by Trinity

Here's something you don't see very often, journalists praising an outgoing md.
HoldtheFront page reports today that Steve Brown, who was managing director of Trinity's North East and Midlands divisions, has left the the company in a major restructure of its North-East and Midlands operations.
HTFP, part owned by Trinity, says it is understood that he will not be replaced. Instead four senior managers who previously reported to him are now reporting directly to Trinity Mirror regionals md Georgina Harvey. They are centre mds John Griffith (Birmingham), Debbie Davies (Coventry), Bob Cuffe (Teesside)and Newcastle commercial director David Simms.
Brown was involved in therestructuring of Trinity's operations in the West Midlands and the North-East which led to the loss of more than 90 journalists' jobs.
But postings on the HTFP story are favourable to him.
tynesider posted: Steve will genuinely be missed in the North-east and probably elsewhere. Tough, maybe, but one of the good guys who treated everyone with respect
A Newcastle journalist: Not many journalists can say they'll miss their md. But we all will. Steve brought in the money for the company but he genuinely cared about the staff.
HTFP editor Paul Linford: Writing as an ex-Journal man rather than as HTFP editor, I would agree with the above sentiments. Steve had to do some difficult things over the past year, but he was one of the good guys.
HTFP notes that "Trinity Mirror is making no public comment on the changes".

Quotes of the Week

Journalism student Hannah Waldram on the tough task facing graduates trying to get a job in the middle of a recession: "We are all in despair. The situation is dire. People are applying direct to local newspapers but there is a massive recruitment freeze. People are trying to stay optimistic but they are wondering ‘what are we going to do?’ We are ready and raring to go, we have got the multi-media skills. We are trying to stay upbeat. Newspapers will become staid if they stop taking on fresh people.”

Chris Rushton, head of Journalism & Public Relations at the University of Sunderland: "Taking a degree in Journalism is as valid as studying English, History or Politics. To use the education jargon, a BA in Journalism has as many transferable skills as virtually any degree you care to mention and a lot more than most. The ability to access, analyse and communicate a wide range of information is now valued in all sectors of employment."

Bob Satchwell, Society of Editors director, on concern that officials are interpreting plans to open up Family Courts to the press too restrictively: "We cannot emphasise too highly that if this interpretation is correct, then its effect will be to nullify the entire purpose of the past several years’ discussions and the Government’s stated aim of openness and accountability."

Wilmington statement on the magazine it closed down a fortnight ago:"Press Gazette, the magazine and news website for journalists, has been saved from possible closure after being acquired by publisher Progressive Media. Yesterday evening, it completed a deal which safeguards the future of Press Gazette."

Roy Greenslade on local authority newspapers: "They are anti-democratic in both spirit and in practice, and their disappearance will not matter one whit to the public... It is time to put all such publications to the sword before they kill off independent local papers."

Blogger Guido Fawkes goes inside the Guardian: "Guido was at the Index on Censorship Awards ceremony last night, deep in the bowels of the Guardian’s new fancy offices. The purpose built modern building will make a great museum when the paper eventually goes bust."

Thursday 23 April 2009

MSPs call for talks over job cuts at Record

A motion calling on the management of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail to “listen to reason” before making compulsory redundancies has won a majority in the Scottish Parliament.
The resolution was proposed by a former Record journalist who is now a Labour MSP, and also backed by the Scottish National Party.
Journalists on the Glasgow-based papers start a three-day strike over job cuts tomorrow. NUJ members on the Trinity Mirror-owned titles have already held four days of strike action over the company’s plan to make 24 of their colleagues compulsorily redundant.
The Labour motion called for urgent talks before any compulsory redundancies go ahead. David Whitton MSP, the former Record journalist who moved the resolution, said: “Unfortunately time appears to be running out and the management at the newspapers need to listen to reason and stop these compulsory redundancies going ahead without talks taking place.
“Even Robert Maxwell never tried to make people redundant without proper consultation."
The Scottish Parliament passed the motion by 82 votes to 13 with the Conservatives voting against.

NUJ plea for sacked Ukranian journalist

The NUJ has protested about the sacking of Sergay Goos, vice-president of Ukraine’s Independent Media Workers’ Union, from his job on Kiev-based magazine Ukranian Weekly.
His sacking came after journalists on the magazine formed a chapel and asked for a collective agreement. The NUJ says union members on the title were angry about low pay and interference in editorial policy by shareholders.
In 2003-5 the British Foreign Office funded a series of seminars by NUJ activists to help the establishment of the independent media workers trade union.
David Crouch, NUJ FoC at the Financial Times, reported from Ukraine during the Orange Revolution and took part in the training sessions with the independent union.
He said: “Sergay is a brave and committed trade union leader. He fights to improve the pay and conditions of Ukrainian journalists and to safeguard the independence of the country’s media. I would urge NUJ members and other trade unionists to back the call for his reinstatement.” Protests can be emailed to Roman Tsuprik the boss of the Ukrainian Weekly magazine on .

Challenging myths about newspapers' woes

Donna Barrett in a comment piece in Editor & Publisher attempts to put readers straight on what she sees as some of the myths and misinformation about the newspaper industry.
She says: "Let's set the record straight: Newspapers still enjoy considerable readership and deliver strong results for advertisers."
Here are some quotes from the article High Time We Set the Record Straight on Newspaper 'Myths':
"Newspapers and their Web sites reach a larger audience than ever before."
"The crisis facing newspapers is not an audience problem. It is a revenue problem."
"Newspapers deliver vital information to communities."
"The recession has led to a significant decrease in ad spending. Everyone is hurting. Newspapers just talk about it more."
"Free sites such as Craigslist are the other factor. These sites siphon off considerable classified advertising."
"It is tough to compete against free, and free doesn’t pay for journalists."

She adds:" There is no shortage of other theories on why newspapers are hurting:
1.) Newspapers are too liberal and drive off readers as a result.
2.) Newspaper publishers are slow to embrace new technology.
3.) Newspapers are losing readers to the Internet.

But Barrett argues: "In reality, none of these theories is responsible for newspapers' woes. Overall readership is growing. Most publishers embrace technological advances to serve their audience, but they face a real-world problem that these advances usually provide much less revenue than their core business
"Finally, newspaper companies are losing classified revenue, not readers, to the Internet. In one of life’s ironies, newspapers are growing audience through the very outlet that takes away so much revenue. Newspaper publishers face many challenges in a changing world. They must answer some important revenue questions if their newspapers are to continue serving our communities as effectively as they have for more than 300 years. The least we can do is make sure the issues are not distorted and misinterpreted."

NS warns council papers 'compete aggressively' with local press for readers and ads

The Newspaper Society claims today an audit of local authority publications across the country shows councils are publishing their own newspapers, many of which compete aggressively with independent local media for readers and advertisers.
It says: "Councils have long published useful newsletters or guides to services, but the industry’s concern centres on the more frequent publications – monthly, fortnightly or weekly council newspapers or magazines (such as East End Life, H&F News, East Riding News) – as well as those websites and broadcast services (such as Kent TV) which compete for readers and advertisers with independent local media."
The NS reveals that council title Hackney Today’s media pack says it offers the “largest reach in the borough of any local paper” and takes “all sorts of advertisements including statutory notices and recruitment” at “extremely competitive rates”.
And H&F News (distributed in the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham) claims it has “more than double the readers of our nearest competitor” and quotes readership statistics from a survey undertaken by a commercial research company on behalf of Westminster City Council.
"Many of the council newspapers are laid out in a similar format to local newspapers meaning they are not easily distinguishable form independent press, as the mix of council and independent titles’ mastheads in this story illustrates," says the NS.
The NS audit of 436 local authorities across the UK found that many councils are publishing their own newspapers and many have names similar to those of independent local newspapers or are laid out to appear the same.
In a submission to a consultation on the Publicity Code for local authorities last month, the NS highlighted the government’s encouragement of ‘commercial’ local authority media offerings and says that council services which compete directly with local media for audience and advertising should be prohibited.
The NS has called for changes to the Code to include a requirement that market impact tests be conducted before local authorities are allowed to launch new publications or media services.

When NUJ leader was a wash-out

Comedian Mark Steel in his autobiography 'What's Going On?' muses about how the modern working class looks different from its stereotype.
He adds: "Even union leaders have begun to reflect this. I saw Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, at Glastonbury the day after his tent had been washed away in the rain while he was asleep in it."

Three Northcliffe dailies chop city finals

Three of Northcliffe's East Midlands dailies have dropped their city final editions this week as they switch to overnight printing, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
The Leicester Mercury and The Sentinel, Stoke, have moved from four editions to three while the Derby Evening Telegraph has moved from two editions to a single overnight edition.
The move means a name change for the Derby daily. The Telegraph has dropped "Evening" from its masthead and will now be known as the Derby Telegraph.
Historical note, courtesy of the The Encyclopedia of the British Press by Dennis Griffiths. The Derby paper had been called the Derby Evening Telegraph since 1932, although it began life as the Derby Daily Telegraph in 1879.

Guido gets inside the Guardian's HQ

How did this happen? Blogger Guido Fawkes managed to get inside The Guardian's plush new Kings Place HQ last night.
He reports on his blog: "Guido was at the Index on Censorship Awards ceremony last night, deep in the bowels of the Guardian’s new fancy offices. The purpose built modern building will make a great museum when the paper eventually goes bust."

'What are the nutty kids thinking?': Why student journalism is still booming

It is not just in the UK that demand for journalism courses is booming despite the job cuts hitting the media.
James Rainey, in the Los Angeles Times, notes that applications jumped more than 20% this year for the graduate journalism program at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism got 44% more applicants this year than in 2008. Other US journalism schools reported similar increases.
He writes: "For almost $100,000 (including room and board) over two years, USC's graduate journalism program will prepare you for a profession that features low pay, long hours and an uncertain future."
Rainey asks: "So what are these nutty kids thinking?"
He gets his answer from one Annenberg journalism student Adrianna Weingold, 24.
She says: "It's like an adrenaline rush. Every day is different. Every story is different. There are very few careers that let you get out in the world and talk to people and learn something new every day."
Rainey adds:"The young ones may not have the same reporting and writing chops, but they tend to beat the stuffing out of old-timers in their facile use of the Internet for reporting and writing and with their entrepreneurial spirit."
He quotes Jonathan Kotler, an Annenberg professor and chairman of graduate admissions, on student journalists:"They are much less afraid of change. Start-ups don't scare them, they excite them."
Another Addenberg student Chris Nelson,29, said: "I don't think people are feeding us a line when they say this is the most exciting time to be in journalism. It's a ground-floor opportunity to shape how journalism is going to be. . . . We are sort of setting the rules right now."
Story via the Newspaper Project

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Greenslade: 'Council papers should be put to the sword before they kill off the local press'

Roy Greenslade in his Evening Standard column today is highly critical of local council newspapers and their negative impact on the local press, particularly in London.
He writes:"Spokespeople at the councils of Tower Hamlets and Barking shrug off criticism by pointing out that they are merely fulfilling a Government requirement to inform their citizens about what is happening in their boroughs.
"The majority of their residents were unable to obtain that information because the sales of commercial papers have gradually fallen to such low levels and, arguably, those papers have also reduced public service journalistic coverage, mainly due to editorial cost-cutting.
"I have some sympathy with that argument. But I cannot agree with it. Though it sounds very democratic, it is deeply flawed because it ignores the fact that council-run papers are undermining the only publications that hold local power to account."
He adds: "Council-run papers are, in some respects, no more than "Pravda publications". Even if they do not specifically push council policy - and most do -they certainly do not criticise that policy. They may act as a (heavily censored) forum for critics, but they do not campaign against decisions. Nor, of course, do they investigate councillors or council officers.
They are anti-democratic in both spirit and in practice, and their disappearance will not matter one whit to the public... It is time to put all such publications to the sword before they kill off independent local papers."

When I interviewed the editor of a local council paper for a piece on Town Halls and the local press in The Journalist he told me: “Some council papers are trying to ape the look and feel of a local paper, but what we do is propaganda. When I report the council’s budget proposals I look for positive stories and don’t mention the £6 million worth of cuts. If I reported that I would be sacked. I don’t tell lies, but I always look for positive stories.”

Press Gazette back from the dead

Press Gazette has prised open the coffin and come back to life. It was announced today that the magazine and news website has been saved after a buyout by Progressive Media, owned by millionaire businessman Mike Danson, who has just has taken full control of the New Statesman. Danson made a multimillion-pound fortune when he sold his information business Datamonitor.
It was announced by owner Wilmington two weeks ago that Press Gazette was to close .
But a statement today says: "Press Gazette, the magazine and news website for journalists, has been saved from possible closure after being acquired by publisher Progressive Media. Yesterday evening, it completed a deal which safeguards the future of Press Gazette."
Wilmington said: "On 6 April we announced that we were unable to continue publishing the printed edition of Press Gazette.
"Since that date we have been in consultations with the staff of Press Gazette but we have also had a number of discussions with other parties with a view to seeing if there was any possibility of securing the ongoing publication of Press Gazette.
"We are therefore pleased to announce that yesterday we completed a transaction with Progressive Media Group for them to acquire Press Gazette.
"They intend to continue the publication of Press Gazette in both printed and electronic formats. "We have also signed an agreement to collaborate with them on the British Press Awards and a number of other events.
"We would like to thank both our staff and our customers for their support during this challenging period.
"We believe Progressive will provide an excellent environment in which Press Gazette may prosper. We look forward to working with Progessive over the coming years.”
Progressive Media has indicated that it is committed to the long-term future of Press Gazette and that it plans significant investment in the title.
"Online news coverage on this site and on Press Gazette's network of blogs will resume today.
The May issue of the magazine will go out as normal – but is expected to be delayed by a few days as a result of the sale process."
Press Gazette will be moving offices this week from Old Street in London to Paddington.
Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford said: "The purchase of Press Gazette is a positive sign for all journalists working on titles which, like us, are going through dramatic change at present.
"It proves the value that strong journalism brands have in an increasingly fragmented media world.
"The Press Gazette team will be endeavouring to return to a normal online and print service as soon as possible.
"And in the coming months we expect to build an even better service both for subscribers and online readers."
Has Press Gazette in Danson found its own Alexander Lebedev?

Jarvis to Kerry: 'Hold hearings on the future of news not on the death of newspapers'

Jeff Jarvis has not been asked to give evidence to Senator John Kerry's committee investigating the plight of US newspapers, but he has made his own submission on his Buzz Machine blog.
Here are some his thoughts: "Newspapers are going to die. That is wrenching, of course, for employees - not just journalists but the rarely mentioned pressmen, drivers, and classified ad takers - who will lose their jobs."
"We are undergoing a millennial transformation from the industrial, mass economy to what comes next. Disruption and destruction are inevitable."
"I fear that we are bailing out the past when we should be investing in the future. We are throwing huge amounts of money to shore up business models we know are failed."
"The issue I believe you are trying to address is not the fate of newspapers at all. It is the fate of journalism."
"The internet has provided no end of opportunities to journalism, for communities to gather, share, and organize news in new ways; to reach and serve new communities and audiences; to use all available media to inform the public; to find new efficiencies - both in the means of production and distribution and also in the practice of journalism itself."
"I urge you, Senator, not to equate journalism with newspapers and its future with its past. Journalism, like the other industries I listed, is going through a transition into a new economy and one could argue that the sooner it gets there, the better."
"Rather than holding hearings on the death of newspapers, I would like to see you hold hearings on the future of news in our new knowledge economy made possible by the internet."

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Press Gazette: the magazine that just won't die

I can hardly believe I am writing this, but there is speculation that Press Gazette closed by Wilmington a fortnight ago might be rescued (again) from its deathbed.
Staff weren't saying anything today but I understand there might me a new twist in the saga of the magazine that was started by Fleet Street editor Colin Valdar more than 40 years ago. It was subsequently owned by Timothy Benn Publishing, Maclean Hunter, Emap, Quantum, and then Matthew Freud and Piers Morgan.
When the Morgan-Freud partnership put the magazine into administration, Wilmington came in with an 11th hour rescue.
Could history be repeating itself?

Editors warn of 'disturbing developments' in plans to open up Family Courts to the press

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell has written to Justice Secretary Jack Straw warning that plans to open up Family Courts to the press are being undermined.
In a letter released today, Satchwell says to Straw: "I am writing to you urgently on behalf of the Society of Editors, the Newspaper Society, the Press Association and ITN following disturbing developments in our discussions with your officials about opening up the Family Courts.
"The discussions raised several serious concerns that could undermine the Government’s intentions to create greater openness that you made absolutely clear when Santha Rasaiah of the Newspaper Society and I met you at the House of Commons last month.
"The most important issue that requires your most urgent review is that MoJ officials put forward the view that family proceedings involving the application of the Children Act 1989 or those concerning the maintenance and upbringing of a child remained subject to S.12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 as still being “held in private”, notwithstanding the admission of the media.
"This would mean that such proceedings could not be reported at all – since the effect of S.12 is that to report any such proceedings would be a contempt of court.
"We cannot emphasise too highly that if this interpretation is correct, then its effect will be to nullify the entire purpose of the past several years’ discussions and the Government’s stated aim of openness and accountability.
"The great majority of the very cases in which public concern is most acute are those which involve children, and particularly State intervention in children’s care and upbringing. If the interpretation above is correct these proceedings would not be reportable and effectively there would be no change at all."

MP's video shows journalist detained by police cordon while covering G20 protest

Tom Brake MP, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman, has today released a video of a journalist detained within the police cordon while covering the G20 protest.
The video was taken by the MP and his team who were inside "the kettle" during the G20 protest at Bank on 1st April 2009 as legal observers.
The journalists is seen urging the police to follow agreed guidelines.
Brake said : "This video raises concern about the relationship between the police and the media during the G20 protests. This journalist was obstructed in his work as we was not allowed to leave the area. This was an attack on the freedom of the press. There are clear guidelines laying out how the police should deal with the media: they have to allow them to go about their business."
The video has now been submitted to The Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Tim Gopsill, editor the NUJ's magazine, The Journalist, attended the G20 demonstration as an observer. He said of the video: "Trapping people in a cage for hours on end was an outrage, whether they were press or not. For journalists it meant they couldn't get out to work on their reports, which was an assault on press freedom - journalists should have freedom to leave events as well to get into them."

Crisis conference for news publishers

Remember when newspaper conferences had optimistic themes like "How to Grow Your Brand"? A conference for news publishers planned for London this June captures the spirit of the times by being called "Managing the Crisis".
It is being organised by IFRA (Fédération Internationale des Editeurs de Journaux) and will be held at the Frontline Club from June 24 to 25.
Speakers will include new media guru Jeff Jarvis.
Among the conference topics are: "How to rebuild trust and motivate your staff after major cost cutting". The conference costs 1,000 Euros for IFRA members to attend.

Cornish journalist leads county job cuts fight

Journalist Stuart Fraser has rallied Cornish MPs to join a campaign to fight cutbacks at Northcliffe's weeklies in the county.
Fraser, a sub and columnist, wrote to Lord Rothermere, chair of Northcliffe Media’s owner Daily Mail and General Trust, protesting against cuts at Cornwall and Devon Media, publishers of weekly titles the West Briton, Cornish Guardian, Cornishman and North Devon Journal.
The letter was copied to Cornwall’s five MPs. One, Andrew George, replied that the letter “raises very serious issues and reflects concerns which I have commented on in Parliament” and said he would be seeking meetings with CDM management to “follow up the points raised in your letter”. Another, Colin Breed, said: “All the Cornish MPs very much support your views as in rural areas like Cornwall local media is vital.”
According to the NUJ, six journalists at CDM were among 38 staff to face redundancy. Stuart Fraser faces redundancy himself.
He said: “My letter to Lord Rothermere pointed out that with £317m in profit last year, £56m paid to shareholders, and an encouraging interim report for this financial year with profits exceeding expectation, DMGT can easily afford to treat its employees with the same concern and generosity it shows to its shareholders.
“It is very encouraging that our Cornish MPs are prepared to stand up for journalism.”

Kerry to review US newspaper crisis

Former US Presidential candidate John Kerry will hold hearings in Washington, D.C., next week to review the economic problems facing the newspaper industry, The Boston Globe has reported.
The hearings will be at the Senate Commerce Committee, and are set to begin April 30. They come at a time when numerous newspapers are in bankruptcy protection or seeking cost-savings, including the Globe which has threatened to close or sell if certain union concessions are not made.
Kerry, chairman of a Commerce subcommittee, "moved to spotlight the financial plight of newspapers after The New York Times Co. threatened earlier this month to shut down The Boston Globe unless its unions agree to $20 million in cost concessions, including pay and benefit cuts.
"America's newspapers are struggling to survive -- and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount," Kerry wrote in a letter sent to union leaders on Friday, according to the Globe.
Story via Editor & Publisher

Monday 20 April 2009

New job for Roy Greenslade

He's edited the Daily Mirror, blogs for MediaGuardian, is a professor of journalism at City University and now he's got another job.
Roy Greenslade reveals on his blog today that he is to be the community reporter for the Kemp Town area of Brighton, where he lives, for the local daily, The Argus.
The job opportunity came from a bit of smart thinking by Jo Wadsworth, the new web editor at The Argus.
She heard Roy extolling the virtues of hyperlocality at a recent Frontline Club event and offered him the Kemp Town patch....and he has accepted the challenge.

Frances Osborne PCC complaint resolved

Apologies at the weekend by the Sunday Times and News of the World to Frances Osborne, the wife of the shadow chancellor, after they repeated false allegations about her from the Downing Street "smear emails" have resolved her complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, MediaGuardian reports today.
Frances Osborne had complained to the PCC under the accuracy code, and claimed: "Although acknowledged as untrue, these false and damaging allegations were nonetheless gratuitously repeated and insufficient care was taken to make clear that they were unfounded."

Record and Mail journalists up strike action

NUJ members at the Glasgow-based Daily Record and Sunday Mail are to hold a three-day strike next weekend as they step up their campaign against compulsory job cuts.
They are also holding a fresh industrial action ballot to widen the scope of the disputes to cover the reorganisation of the papers and changes to working conditions, the NUJ said today.
The Record and Mail chapel have already held two one-day strikes and one 48-hour strike. They are protesting at the Trinity Mirror-owned titles’ decision make twenty compulsory redundancies.
This weekend the journalists will strike on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Between walkouts they are working to rule. On Wednesday the ballot papers required by UK law will go out to NUJ members working for the Record and Mail to enable them to authorise action over the planned reorganisation of the papers and the changes to working practices involved.

Eye on Press Gazette closure

The latest issue of Private Eye takes a look at the decision by Wilmington to close Press Gazette less than a week after hosting the lucrative British Press Award.
The Eye notes:"Wilmington made no mention of the closure ahead of the 2009 Press Awards on 31 March and with good reason. Would it have found it so easy to charge a corporate rate of £3,000 per table, plus VAT if the 700 paying guests knew the magazine which supported the awards was about to fold?
"With more than 60 tables at the Grosvenor House Hotel, it was a nice little earner for Wilmington. No wonder it still wants to continue the awards without the bother of producing the magazine - inspired no doubt, by those BBC executives who for several years carried on hosting a What the Papers Say awards lunch while killing off the programme itself."

Cameron kicks off SunTalk with Jon Gaunt

Tory leader David Cameron kicked off The Sun's new SunTalk online radio channel this morning as a guest on presenter Jon Gaunt's phone-in show.
Gaunt didn't pull his punches, asking Cameron about stories alleging that leading Conservatives were "snorting cocaine" and "having sex with hookers".
A little bit different to the Today programme.

It is tough for trainees but is studying journalism all about getting a job?

I've done a piece for MediaGuardian today on how tough it is for journalism students to get jobs this year with many trainee places and traineeships drying up.
What saddens me most is that a time when the newspaper industry needs to make the jump to a digital future it is losing out on loads of young journalists who have grown up with the web, have their own blogs, understand social media and have the multi-media skills that might just save the industry.
One academic, Chris Rushton, head of Journalism & Public Relations at the University of Sunderland e-mailed me this morning to point out that studying journalism is not all about getting a job as a journalist.
He said: "I just read your piece and it accurately sums up the depression currently engulfing practitioners, academics and students. The only thing I would have added - and it's something that MediaGuardian always ignores - is that taking a degree in Journalism is as valid as studying English, History or Politics (which probably covers the educational background of a high proportion of Guardian journalists).
"To use the education jargon, a BA in Journalism has as many transferable skills as virtually any degree you care to mention and a lot more than most. The ability to access, analyse and communicate a wide range of information is now valued in all sectors of employment. As I say at all recruitment sessions there is no shame in deciding halfway through a degree course that journalism is not for you - it will still equip you for many different career paths (e.g. other media work,teaching, research, PR)."
Applications at Sunderland are up 62 per cent on last year.
He has a point. I studied politics but am not a politician.

Cheer up with 'Saving newspapers: the musical'

Beat the Monday blues with the video Saving newspapers: the musical via this link on the advancingthestory blog. It will cheer up anyone who is worried about the future of the newspaper industry. The video was put together by staff at the East Bay Express, the alternative weekly in Oakland, California.
Story tip via

Sunday 19 April 2009

'Internet licence fee could save newspapers'

The Observer's media columnist Peter Preston argues today that to save newspapers anyone with a broadband link should be charged a licence fee.
He argues in the article - headlined 'As the web cripples papers, an internet licence fee could help deliver the news' -that the licence fee be split in two. One part would go to conventional TV and radio like the BBC and the other to news providers like newspapers.
Preston accepts that there would be contentious arguments over how to share the fee but says there is a risk of losing vital news stories, exposing the behaviour of baton-weilding police and politicians on the take, dug out by trained reporters on newspapers.
He concludes: "the best things in life can't be free."

Saturday 18 April 2009

Journalist jailed for 8 years in Iran

BBC News is reporting that Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, 31, accused of spying, has been jailed for eight years by Iran after a secret trial.
Saberi who denies the charge plans to go on hunger strike, her father said.
She has reported for a number of foreign news organisations including the BBC, NPR radio and Fox News.
The journalist originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a journalist without a valid press card. Then, in a period of less than two weeks, the charge of spying was introduced, and she was tried by the Revolutionary Court and sentenced.
No evidence of espionage was made public.

Friday 17 April 2009

Bailey calls for merger reform but not state help

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey has today repeated her call for a relaxation of merger rules for regional publishers and said they don't want state subsidies, HoldtheFrontPage reports.
Bailey told today's Digital Britain Summit at the British Library in London that she believed there were grounds for further regional newspaper consolidation.
"Let me be clear, we're not asking for state support. All we're asking for is a 21st century merger regime to suit a 21st century media. We believe there are grounds for further regional newspaper consolidation. The old narrow definitions of print markets and concern about our dominant positions simply don't apply.
"We have a myriad of new, able, well-funded digital competitors and if we're going to compete effectively with them, then we need more scale. Allowing regional newspaper publishers to merge and consolidate is the only way we will be able to face these threats head on and to limit the damage of the recession to our industry.
"If the pressures of this recession put local newspapers out of business then think very hard about what we'll be left with.....the death of journalism as we know it."

Quotes of the Week

Media editor Dan Sabbagh reports in The Times: "Ministers are quietly drawing up legislation that would tear up merger regimes for television, regional newspapers and local radio as part of the biggest shake-up in media regulation since the beginning of the decade."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary: “The big media companies are lobbying for mergers so they can swap titles and create regional monopolies with radio stations as well. This is not about improving the service to readers and advertisers or saving jobs. It is about a green light for more cuts to please shareholders. It would be government approval for soulless news factories producing allegedly local papers for huge areas with no real contact with the communities they serve."

Steve Brill of new company Journalism Online which aims to show newspapers how they can charge for content online: “We have formed Journalism Online because we think this is a special moment in time when there is an urgent need for a business model that allows quality journalism to be the beneficiary of the Internet’s efficient delivery mechanism rather than its victim.”

Howard Owens, former director of digital publishing at GateHouse Media, on newspapers charging for online content: "At this point, I would totally oppose it. I think it's going to open you up to failure and greatly expose your newspaper to competition. It's easy for one laid-off reporter — and there are many of them out there — to go and start his own Web site and be totally disruptive."

Guido Fawkes blows up the Lobby on his blog: "Cowardice and cronyism runs right through the Lobby. Fear of being taken off the teat of pre-packaged stories served to them. That is not journalism, that is copy-taking. The many stories filed this week which reveal just how horrible Brown’s cabal have been are of mere historical interest. They would have been brave if they had been written before McPoison was toppled."

Record and Mail journalists start 48-hour strike

Journalists on two of Scotland’s biggest national newspapers are stepping up their action over job cuts by starting a 48-hour strike today.
NUJ members from the Daily Record and Sunday Mail called the action after management selected 20 journalists for compulsory redundancy.
They have already held two one-day strikes and passed a vote of no confidence in the management of the Trinity Mirror owned newspapers.

Thursday 16 April 2009

NUJ backs whistleblowing Panorama nurse

The NUJ is backing a nurse who was sacked today for helping the BBC Panorama programme in undercover filming which exposed the mistreatment of the elderly at a Brighton hospital.
The union said Margaret Haywood, a nurse of 20 years experience, should be applauded, not sacked.
She was struck off the register today for her undercover filming featured in a BBC Panorama programme in 2005 that exposed the shocking and filthy conditions in which sick and confused old people in the Royal Sussex Hospital were left to die.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council said she had breached patient confidentiality, but the NUJ said she had performed a great public service.
The NUJ Code of Conduct says that surreptitious means of gaining information are permissible in the public interest, and the same should apply to whistleblowers, the union said.
The 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act protects employees who raise concerns about their workplaces, but they must follow internal procedures rather than go public, and the NUJ has warned that this often leads to internal cover-ups.
Tim Gopsill, the NUJ official who deals with professional ethics, said: “Sometimes the only way to get anything done is to go to the media. No-one could possibly argue that this story was not in the public interest.”
The union has supported public service whistleblowers in the past, notably Karen Reissmann, a nurse and union rep who was sacked in 2007 for going to the press with her worries about the state of the mental health services in Manchester.

Tanya is Gold for Guardian traffic

Guardian columnist Tanya Gold is said to be a hit with the powers that be on the paper because she generates such high web traffic.
Her article on 'Britain's Got Talent' singing sensation Susan Boyle 'It wasn't singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on Britain's Got Talent so much as our reaction to her' is the most viewed on today and has provoked more than 300 comments.

Newsquest classifieds drop 45 per cent but share price in parent company Gannett rises

Gannett, US parent company of regional publisher Newsquest, has reported classified revenues in the UK down 45.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2009.
The UK figures include a 60 per cent fall in property advertising, 51.4 per cent drop in jobs and 43.2 per cent decline in car advertising.
Gannett chief executive Craig Dubow said: "Our results reflect the pressure on advertising demand across all of our business segments due to continuing recessions in the US and the UK. Our results, however, highlight the positive impact of the company's efforts to operate its businesses as cost efficiently as possible."
Gannett, the biggest US publisher by circulation, reported operating revenues for the company were $1.4 billion in the first quarter compared to $1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2008. The profit figures met analysts estimates and led to a sharp rise in Gannett's share price.
Bloomberg reports Edward Atorino, a New York- based analyst at Benchmark Co., saying of Gannett: “They did a good job managing costs because their revenue was down pretty significantly. Gannett’s results weren’t worse than expected and, in this environment, that’s a good thing.”

NUJ to Government: 'Mergers mean more cuts'

The NUJ has reacted swiftly to a report in The Times today that the Government is preparing to push through a bill that would lead to a major shake up in the merger rules for newspapers, television and radio.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “The big media companies are lobbying for mergers so they can swap titles and create regional monopolies with radio stations as well. This is not about improving the service to readers and advertisers or saving jobs. It is about a green light for more cuts to please shareholders.
“It would be government approval for soulless news factories producing allegedly local papers for huge areas with no real contact with the communities they serve.
“If the government are considering changing the rules to bail out the media companies they must insist on enforceable guarantees about journalism and jobs.
“Well over 100 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion supporting this demand for guarantees. I urge Culture Secretary Andy Burnham to listen to Members of Parliament and the communities they represent not those media executives who have lead our industry into crisis and are dancing to the tune of the city speculators who have caused this economic crisis.”

Newsquest launches hyperlocal web sites

Newsquest’s Midlands arm is unveiling a network of hyperlocal website sections for its seven local media titles.
The first local modules are 24 linked through the Kidderminster Shuttle and will be followed by six other titles in the Stourbridge News, Halesowen News, Dudley News, Bromsgrove Advertiser, Redditch Advertiser, and Droitwich Advertiser, in the coming months.
The Shuttle has recently launched a drive to recruit unpaid ‘citizen’ correspondents based in the villages and towns covered by the hyperlocal sections.
They will upload news and content from schools, churches, clubs and societies in their areas which will feature alongside news stories created by Shuttle journalists. Video and audio reports could be added in the future.
The Shuttle recently struck a deal with Midlands-based Chamber TV which involves the television channel providing video for the title’s website in exchange for news stories.
In February, the seven titles notched up a combined record total of more than 110,000 monthly unique users and one million page views. The figures show a 50 per cent increase in traffic across the network since July.
Story via The Newspaper Society

New bill will change media merger rules and allow regional press consolidation says Times

Ministers are quietly drawing up legislation that would tear up merger regimes for television, regional newspapers and local radio as part of the biggest shake-up in media regulation since the beginning of the decade, media editor Dan Sabbagh reports in The Times today.
He says : "A short Bill - the Digital Economy Bill - is being prepared to implement the conclusions of the Digital Britain review, which will determine the future of Channel 4 and is expected to provide help for struggling newspapers and broadcasters.
"Although it is a convention that ministers do not publicly discuss the Bills that comprise the Queen's Speech in the autumn, Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, has been privately telling media companies that new legislation is likely.
"The expectation of a Bill gives regional newspaper groups and radio companies hope that they will benefit from an easing of regulations, with the Government increasingly sympathetic to a relaxation of the rules that could allow consolidation between the publishers Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press."
The big regional newspaper groups, along with the Newspaper Society, have been urging the Government to relax the merger and acquisition rules applying to the local press at a time of economic crisis in the industry.

Charging for online content: pro and anti

The latest issue of Editor & Publisher has a special report To Charge, or Not to Charge? by associate editor Jennifer Saba looking at the issue of whether or not newspapers should charge for content online.
Here are some quotes from the report which are for and against:
Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has introduced a pay wall: "My phone has been ringing off the wall. It's almost like the conventional wisdom is shifting. A lot of people are interested in looking at it. The point is, if they can't get the news for free, they are going to get it from a newspaper. That is the purpose for charging for content, not to get some heap of money. The purpose is to maintain the print edition."

"My sense is there are a lot of newspaper people who feel sorry for themselves," says Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. "That is not the way the world of business works." On charging for content he added: "It has to be best in class ... and something they cannot get for free elsewhere."

"I think it's the consequences of the times," says pundit Ken Doctor. "People are acting out of frustration given the straits the industry is in. There is this romantic notion that 'gosh darn it, those readers should just pay.'

Howard Owens, former director of digital publishing at GateHouse Media: "At this point, I would totally oppose it. I think it's going to open you up to failure and greatly expose your newspaper to competition. It's easy for one laid-off reporter — and there are many of them out there — to go and start his own Web site and be totally disruptive."

Matt Lindsay, an economist with Mather Economics in Atlanta: "I think there are a lot of people willing to pay. They just need a vehicle for doing it."

Saba also quotes media consultant Clay Shirky from his blog "Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know 'If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?' To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke."

NUJ to axe four posts as membership falls

The NUJ is to cut four posts as part of a bid to save £500,000 a year, with broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin taking voluntary redundancy, MediaGuardian reports today.
McLaughlin will be replaced in the broadcasting position by Sue Harris, the magazines, books and public relations organiser. The NUJ's research and information organiser position is to be axed. Two administration jobs will also be cut, while one other post due to fall vacant will not be filled. One administrator in Ireland has already also opted for voluntary redundancy.
Background to the cuts is a fall in membership as a result of journalists being made redundant across the media. More than 900 jobs have been lost in the regional press alone. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear is quoted on MediaGuardian as saying: "We are not immune to what is happening in the industry."
Dear revealed on his blog in January: "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."
The crash in property prices stopped plans by the the NUJ to sell its London HQ and move in with broadcasting union BECTU.

NUJ view of deal with MEN Media

This is the NUJ's take on the agreement announced yesterday over MEN Media's restructure which involves 70 editorial redundancies and the closure of weekly newspaper offices throughout Greater Manchester.
The NUJ said on its website: "A deal over redundancies at Guardian Media in Manchester will mean pay rises for weekly-paper journalists moving into the group’s city centre office. Eight jobs previously earmarked for the chop have also been saved.
"Management still want to make 11 journalists on the Manchester Evening News compulsorily redundant. However they have agreed to extend the period for volunteers to come forward until the autumn."
It quotes Bethan Dorsett, Mother of the Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers South NUJ chapel, saying: “Our members have fought long and hard against the sweeping cuts proposed by MEN Media Ltd. While we deplore any job losses particularly as a result of compulsory redundancy, we are pleased that management have finally listened to our concerns.
“By making a stand, we have been able to save eight jobs and have made a significant step towards obtaining equal pay for staff working for weekly titles. The onus is now on our managers to enter into meaningful talks with the NUJ over the new house agreement.”
A new pay band in the agreement will mean rises of up to £2,000 for some weekly journalists, the NUJ said.
Manchester NUJ branch has pledged to continue with its campaign to support local journalism in towns where Guardian Media has closed offices.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Kent Police apology for press photographer

Kent Police have apologised to a press photographer who was stopped and searched four times while covering last year’s climate camp in the county, the NUJ said today.
An assistant chief constable has written to NUJ member Jess Hurd acknowledging that police failed to recognise her press card as they should have done.
The photographer had complained to the police with the support of the NUJ and Bindmans solicitors. She said in a statement that she had been searched once on 5 August 2008 and three times on 8 August and on 9 August a policeman took her press card because it didn’t “look authentic”.
Now, in a letter Allyn Thomas, Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police, has said to Jess Hurd: “It is clear that officers on the ground did not understand the accreditation arrangements for journalists and indeed did not generally recognise the press card that you (and others) presented.
"The failing appears to lie with the planning and management of the operation. This is my responsibility for which I am sorry.”
Thomas added: “This issue of more effective liaison with journalists has been clearly identified through the de-briefing process as an area for development.”
Jess was one of six journalists filmed as they filed their work by a police surveillance team looking through the window of a McDonalds restaurant several miles from the climate camp. The police video was obtained by The Guardian.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “The police and the home office have made repeated promises that officers will be properly trained to deal with photographers at demonstrations but the problems keep on happening.
“Let’s hope this welcome apology marks the start of more equitable treatment of journalists by police at protests and demonstrations.”

MEN Media and NUJ agree on restructure

A joint statement from MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News and weekly newspapers in the North West, and the NUJ says they have reached an agreement over the restructure of the group.
The agreement will see the number of compulsory redundancies at the MEN cut from 16 to 11 and means the NUJ has agreed to make its ballot on industrial action against job cuts null and void.
The statement says: “MEN Media Limited and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have reached agreement on the re-structure of MEN Media’s newspapers in the North West. The Company has agreed to the introduction of a new pay grade for journalists previously working solely on weekly titles. This new grade will take effect in 2010.
"The NUJ has declared its recent ballots for industrial action to be null and void. Unfortunately, 11 journalists from the MEN will be made redundant by compulsory means. This is a reduction of five from earlier proposals.
"The total number of editorial redundancies across MEN Media is 70. These redundancies will take place later this year. Talks will start immediately on a new house agreement to encompass all three NUJ chapels.
"The agreement means that all MEN Media journalists will be based in Scott Place, Manchester by early October 2009. Both MEN Media and the NUJ record their intention to work together to ensure the editorial re-structure is successful and that this agreement,reached after a great deal of negotiation, should become a landmark in their future relationship.
"They also record their commitment to the newspapers they produce and the communities, readers and advertisers they serve.”
MEN NUJ MoC Judy Gordon told “Our chapel is pleased to have saved five jobs under threat at the MEN, but bitterly disappointed that 11 of our journalists will still be made compulsorily redundant, along with 18 volunteers, five other editorial compulsories and 35 colleagues from the weeklies who have opted to go.
"It’s going to be hard to pick up the pieces of these massive changes, but we are determined to do the best we can for those who are leaving, those who remain and those weekly staff who will be joining us at Deansgate in the future. We have great faith in our journalism and believe the Greater Manchester public does too.”

Chris Bullivant buys Observer Standard Newspapers group from administrators

The Observer Standard Newspapers group, founded by free newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant, has been bought out of administration, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
It has been sold for an undisclosed sum to Bullivant Media Limited, a company associated with Bullivant, previously chairman of Observer Standard Newspapers.
Bullivant told me: "I'm delighted that we will be able to look after our people. It has been horrible for them worrying about the next pay day." He said he will have to look at some rationalisation across the new company.
Observer Standard Newspapers was founded by Bullivant in 1989 and publishes weeklies, magazines and websites. It was put into administration last month. It is understood that a major regional publisher also put in a bid to the administrators.
Bullivant last month broke ranks with the big regional newspaper companies by putting in a submission to the Office of Fair Trading arguing against a relaxation of the media merger rules as applied to the local press. He claimed such a move would lead to the regional press being dominated by two giant groups.

Guido Fawkes blasts Lobby journalists

Blogger Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) is riding high following his Downing Street "smear emails" scoop which led to the resignation of Damian McBride and today rounds on Lobby journalists.
He says: "Cowardice and cronyism runs right through the Lobby. Fear of being taken off the teat of pre-packaged stories served to them. That is not journalism, that is copy-taking. The many stories filed this week which reveal just how horrible Brown’s cabal have been are of mere historical interest. They would have been brave if they had been written before McPoison was toppled."
Guido does praise three political journalists - Peter Oborne, Fraser Nelson and Martin Bright - for their independence and standing up to Downing Street.

New company aims to show news media how to make quality journalism pay online

PaidContent has a story about a new company which aims to develop ways that the news media can charge for content online.
It reports that entrepreneur Steve Brill, former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz and ex cable tv executive Leo Hindery have founded Journalism Online to provide news publishers with content-based e-commerce and other revenue-generating solutions.
“We have formed Journalism Online because we think this is a special moment in time when there is an urgent need for a business model that allows quality journalism to be the beneficiary of the Internet’s efficient delivery mechanism rather than its victim,” Brill says in a press release. “We believe we have developed a strategy and a set of services that will establish that model by restoring a stream of circulation revenue to supplement advertising revenue, while taking advantage of the savings to be gained from producing and delivering content electronically.”
Editor & Publisher is carrying an Associated Press story which reports:"Journalism Online's business model will share some elements with the cable and satellite TV packages that have become staples in millions of households. The company plans to offer an "all-you-can-read" option that would give customers access to the content of all the participating publishers for a monthly fee, expected to range from $15 to $20. The publishers will divvy up the revenue, based on which articles draw the most readership each month. Readers also will able to buy a pass for one-day access to the content kept behind the so-called pay wall."
Journalism Online aims to offer products to publishers as well as work with them on strategy and hopes to work with newspapers, magazine and online only publishers—anyone looking for a way to make money from news online. Journalism Online has posted a press release.
Some bloggers are already giving Journalism Online a kicking. Mark Potts on his Recovering Journalist blog writes: "the dinosaur's dream: a mechanism that will allow newspaper sites to hide their online content behind paid subscription walls. . . . I think the whole online subscription idea is harebrained and doomed to failure. . . Getting newspapers to agree to work together on anything is well-nigh impossible."
Story via

What newspapers do that the internet can't

Professor of Journalism & Communication at the University of Strathclyde Brian McNair has posted a piece on allmediascotland claiming the internet can't replicate many of the basic features of a newspaper.
For example: "turning the page, then turning it back again in an instant, just to check something that might have been tucked away in a corner column; tearing out a travel piece or a review and leaving it on the kitchen table over breakfast as a reminder; tucking your paper into your bag or pocket without adding a kilo in weight to your baggage.
"The beauty of these superficially banal features is what gives the newspaper use value. We will continue to buy newspapers because we WANT to, not because we have to, or feel that we ought to."
Professor McNair admits, however, "With print advertising in decline, and unlikely to recover to anything like pre-credit crunch levels, the newspaper business model is indeed bust. Where will the revenue to support good journalism come from? On that point, I’m afraid there are as yet no clear answers."
He concludes: "If we want 400 years of British press history not to end prematurely with the double whammy of technological shift and economic recession perhaps we are all going to have to put a little more of our money where our ink-stained paws are."

Stand Up for Journalism benefit tonight

A ‘Stand Up for Journalism’ comedy benefit for striking journalists is being held by the NUJ Left in London tonight (Wednesday 15 April).
The line-up includes Attila the Stockbroker, David Mulholland, Andrew O'Neil, feminist, journalist and comedian Kate Smurthwaite and NUJ member Julia Brosnan, a former journalist turned comedian.
The benefit will be at Bar B Lo, 76 Marchmont Street, corner of Tavistock Place, London. Doors open 7.30pm. Nearest tube Russell Square. Tickets £5 waged/£3 unwaged. There will also be NUJ speakers and DJ Miles 'Ahead' Barter playing ska, new wave and punk beats.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

NUJ predicts 'escalation' of Record dispute

Journalists at the Glasgow-based Daily Record and Sunday Mail are preparing for a substantial escalation in industrial action, following last week’s second 24 hour stoppage in the campaign against compulsory redundancies, the NUJ said today.
Hundreds of workers from both papers, part of Trinity Mirror, were joined by three Glasgow Members of the Scottish Parliament for a rally outside the papers’ headquarters last Friday. They included former Daily Record industrial correspondent David Whitton.
He told chapel members and other supporters: “Even Robert Maxwell didn’t try to make reporters at the Daily Record compulsorily redundant."
More strike days are now scheduled for 17 and 18 April.

Press watchdog drawn into 'smear emails' affair

Here's a difficult one for the Press Complaints Commission's new chair, Baroness Buscombe. The PCC is about to get embroilled in the Downing Street 'smear emails' affair.
The Daily Telegraph reported this morning that Frances Osborne, the wife of the shadow chancellor, has complained to the Press Complaints Commission under the accuracy code after the emails, which included a fabricated story about her, were repeated in The Sunday Times and the News of the World.
The Telegraph says Mrs Osborne is "baffled" and "hurt" to have been dragged into the controversy. The paper says she wrote in her letter to the PCC: "Although acknowledged as untrue, these false and damaging allegations were nonetheless gratuitously repeated and insufficient care was taken to make clear that they were unfounded."
Blogger Guido Fawkes who broke the smear emails story, prompting the resignation of Damian McBride, has never published the contents of the emails on his blog.
The newspapers are likely to argue that the contents of the emails went to the heart of the story and publishing them was in the public interest.
Guido (aka Paul Staines) says on his blog today: "Guido did not take a penny from either the Sunday Times or the News of the World for their front page stories."