Saturday 31 October 2009

At last...The Heather Brooke Story

I am always worried that the role of campaigning Freedom Of Information journalist Heather Brooke in exposing MPs' expenses will be overshadowed by the Daily Telegraph's sensational scoop in buying the stolen data which made the story of pilfering politicians front page news for months.
But according to the Guardian, Heather Brooke's five-year battle to force MPs to reveal details of their expenses is to be the subject of a satirical BBC4 drama. Brooke is acting as a story consultant on the play, which has a working title of The Heather Brooke Story.
She told the Guardian that her ideal choice to play her on screen would be the X-Files and Bleak House actor Gillian Anderson, who is a fellow American and a fellow redhead.
The Guardian says BBC4's hour-long dramatisation will follow Brooke's tortuous battles with officialdom that began with a straightforward request under the Freedom of Information Act and saw the Commons authorities, led by the then Speaker Michael Martin, go to the high court in a vain bid to prevent information coming out.
Just one question. Why is it a "satirical" drama and not just a straight one? It is a great story.
I like the way the Associated Press reported it back in May: "It took a sassy American to force stuffy British lawmakers to come clean over their expenses."
To me, that reads like a great Hollywood script.
Pic: Jon Slattery

Friday 30 October 2009

Hostage Alan Johnston backs BBC canteen staff

BBC World Service journalists protested outside their London headquarters at Bush House today in support of sacked canteen staff.
The journalists included Alan Johnston who spent four months in captivity after being kidnapped in Gaza in 2007.
Members of the NUJ and broadcasting union BECTU waved plastic cutlery to demonstrate their support for the canteen workers and opposition to changes to the catering facilites at Bush House.
The union members, who boycotted the canteen today, have also launched a petition calling on the sub-contractors Aramark to re-instate the canteen workers while negotiations continue.
There is a good picture by Jonathan Warren of Alan Johnstone brandishing plastic cutlery outside Bush Houe on the NUJ website.

George Orwell's NUJ card

This is a George Orwell's NUJ card from the time he was working for The Tribune. It is part of the UCL Orwell archive than can be accessed here.
Orwell was recruited to be Tribune's literary editor by Aneurin Bevan. He joined the NUJ in 1943 and remained a member until his death in 1950.

PA public service could cost £18m to go nationwide and need up to 800 reporters

Proposals for a public service reporting initiative run by the Press Association, to fill the gap left by cuts in journalists' jobs in covering courts and local authorities, would cost £15m to £18m a year and require 500 to 800 reporters if rolled out nationwide, according to PA's own estimates, paidContent:UK reports.
PaidContent quotes PA's training head Tony Johnston saying:"That's a lot of new money to bring in to the public spending round but, in terms of the BBC, it's three Jonathan Rosses." Johnston, speaking at a Digital Editors Network meeting in Preston, added that PA is not seeking BBC funds and the estimates are rough.
Johnston said it has already conducted a two-week trial in Essex. Now it wants to consider a trial of six to 12 months in Liverpool, to review that project with an "academic partner" and, depending on the outcome, "lobby for national funding" to take the idea nationwide. That would see teams of reporters covering council, police authority and health board meetings that many newspapers no longer send reporters to because, Johnston said, the current model is "broken".
Copy produced under the new public service initiative would be "available to all free of charge", Johnston said. The PA wouldn't hire all those 800 writers itself, even if it can take its idea nationwide – bloggers could be tasked with feeding in material if they can be verified, Johnston said.
Asked by paidContent:UK whether PA would consent to any government stipulations during the handing out of any public money, he said:"Any strings attached to the journalism ... we would find incredibly difficult to support."

Quotes of the Week

Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman: "People I know who work in local newspapers now find themselves having to produce so much stuff that there is very little room for them to even go through the basic functions of journalism, of putting in the phone calls and casting a sceptical eye on what people with powerful, vested interests tell them. You can look at the sums. The NUJ will give you the figures. You will find there are fewer local newspapers and there are fewer journalists working on each of those papers. That means they have to cover more ground and cover that ground more thinly"

NUJ on the workload at the Worksop Guardian: "Over the past 18 months the Worksop office has lost a sports editor, a news editor, two full-time reporters and a part-time reporter and those journalists left behind have been expected to work on an extra title - the Gainsborough Standard - and to add video, audio and website reporting to their regular duties."

Baboon-killer AA Gill in the Sunday Times : 'Now, baboons aren't stupid. Well, no stupider than Piers Morgan."

Duncan Campbell on scruffy journalists: "The Guardian newsroom, it has to be said, has always stood for free expression in clothes – from berets and fedoras to cycling shorts and singlets – as in everything else."

Steve Auckland, managing director, Associated Newspapers Free Division, on London Lite: “The latest development in the London afternoon free newspaper space dictates that we look again at the future of London Lite. Despite reaching a large audience with an excellent editorial format, we are concerned about the commercial viability in this highly competitive area”.

Thursday 29 October 2009

NightJack is back: Policeman-blogger outed by The Times is to be Orwell Prize blog judge

NightJack, the policeman blogger outed by The Times after a landmark legal ruling, is to be a judge in this year's George Orwell Prize it was revealed tonight at the awards launch at the Frontline Club in London.
NightJack, who was named by The Times to be Richard Horton, a Lancashire detective, will be one of the judges in the Blog Prize category. NightJack won the inaugural Orwell Prize for Blogs in April 2009, but then lost a High Court bid to protect his anonymity which allowed The Times to identify him. After he was named Horton stopped blogging.
Horton's outing caused controversy in the blogosphere with many bloggers condemning The Times. He will be joined in judging the Blog Prize by Oona King, head of diversity at Channel 4 and former Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.
Documentary maker Roger Graef and Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, will judge the Journalism Prize.
Jean Seaton, executive director of the Orwell Prize, said organisers were "anxious" at the way Horton had been identified after being an Orwell award winner and was "thrilled that Richard is going to be a judge this year."
Entries for the Orwell Prize 2010 close on 20th January 2010, for all work published or broadcast in the UK or Ireland between 1st January and 31st December 2009 (inclusive). The longlists (18 books, 12 journalists, 12 bloggers) will be announced on 24th March 2010, during a week of Orwell Prize events at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival.
This year’s Orwell Memorial Lecture will be given by Man Booker Prize winner, Hilary Mantel, on 17th November.

NYT video: Held by the Taliban

New York Times journalist David Rohde has given a five-part video account of his capture by the Taliban.
In the fall of 2008, Rohde went to Afghanistan to do some reporting for a book. He and two Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by the Taliban and held for seven months.

Tribute to bravery of BBC staff in Kabul bureau

BBC World News Editor Jon Williams has paid tribute to the bravery of BBC staff in Kabul following the attack this week on the Serena Hotel and a guesthouse used by the UN.
Writing on the BBC editors' blog, he says the attack "underscores the dangers facing journalists in Afghanistan."
He adds: "The BBC is the only British broadcaster to have a permanent bureau in Kabul.
We were there during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, and remained throughout the US led assault on the country in 2001.
"It would be so much easier to simply report that troubled country from behind the wire of the British base at Camp Bastion or position ourselves alongside the Canadian media pool at the ISAF base in Kandahar.
"But we have a responsibility to tell all sides of the story - not simply report Afghanistan as it looks from inside the perimeter of an army base.
"That we're able to do so is a tribute to the bravery of my colleagues in Kabul - not just those you read online or see and hear on air such as Ian Pannell and Martin Patience, but those behind the scenes who help them tell the story."

BBC Trust agrees management pay cuts

The BBC Trust today agreed to proposals put forward by the BBC Executive to cut the amount the BBC spends on paying its 650 senior managers by 25 per cent over the next three and a half years.
The Trust has also endorsed a new pay strategy for senior managers joining the BBC and agreed to the proposal to freeze the pay of Executive Board directors for a further three years.
The BBC will also seek to reduce total numbers of senior managers by 18 per cent by July 2013.

'Schools jobs site could cost local press millions'

The Newspaper Society has warned that a national online jobs website for schools launched by the government last week could divert millions of pounds in advertising revenue away from the local media.
Schools Minister Vernon Coaker announced last week that the Schools Recruitment Service portal would save up to £30 million annually if all schools in England signed up.
The Schools Department said the service will "cut down the costs of advertising and re-advertising posts” from the “costly, long-winded process” of recruiting staff for schools.
NS communications director Lynne Anderson said: “The NS is very concerned about public sector advertising portals such as the Schools Recruitment Service which can seriously limit the field of applicants to jobs in the public sector.
“At the same time, they cause serious damage to independent local media by diverting millions of pounds in advertising revenue at a time when the industry is looking to strengthen its position in time for the economic upturn."
Government recruitment websites for the health service, education and social services are seen as a threat to the ad revenues of weekly magazines covering those sectors as well as national newspapers, like the Guardian.

Suzanne Breen could face £25,000 legal bill

Journalist Suzanne Breen could be hit with a legal bill of at least £25,000 following her successful fight against the Police Service of Northern Ireland's bid to force her to hand over source material relating to articles about the Real IRA , the Belfast Telegraph has reported.
At Belfast Recorder's Court this week, the PSNI opposed an application by Breen, northern editor of the Sunday Tribune, for the costs she incurred at the hearing last June when Judge Tom Burgess dismissed the Chief Constable's application for a Production Order.
Barrister Tony McGleenan said the proper order for Judge Burgess to make was no order as to costs between the parties, meaning each side would pay their own costs.
Judge Burgess, agreeing that costs was a purely discretionary matter for him, said he would look again at the entirety of the evidence before giving his decision.
The application by the PSNI was rejected in June because to pass an order would have threatened Suzanne Breen’s right to life. Serious concerns about the implication an order would have for press freedom were also recognised in the judgment.
NUJ Irish secretarey Séamus Dooley said: “It would be a travesty of justice if Suzanne Breen or her newspaper were expected to pick up the costs in relation to this case. The application for an order had to be resisted. These costs could be in the region of £25,000. It would be completely unfair to expect her to cover costs in a case that she had no choice but to take.”
Pic: Jon Slattery

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Paxman slams pay and conditions in local press

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman today described pay for journalists in the regional press as "terrible".
Paxman, by video-link to the Is World Journalism in Crisis? conference hosted by Coventry University, also spoke about regional journalists being so overworked that they can't hold the powerful to account.
Paxman said: "People I know who work in local newspapers now find themselves having to produce so much stuff that there is very little room for them to even go through the basic functions of journalism, of putting in the phone calls and casting a sceptical eye on what people with powerful, vested interests tell them.
"You can look at the sums. The NUJ will give you the figures. You will find there are fewer local newspapers and there are fewer journalists working on each of those papers. That means they have to cover more ground and cover that ground more thinly.
"It's not a reflection on them. It is not a criticism of them. It is an expression of the environment in which they find themselves."

Steve Dyson: 'Why it's time for a new editor'

Steve Dyson has posted on his editors' blog about why he has decided to quit the Trinity Mirror-owned Birmingham Mail which is to switch to overnight printing. Trinity is also taking the Birmingham Post weekly.
Dyson writes: "The company owns the papers and has every right to plan their futures. It has done so after lengthy consultation with many parties, including me."
He adds: "It has been quite a wrench to come to the decision to move on, but I feel it is the right time to seek new challenges elsewhere. I leave wishing everyone at the company the very best for the future."
In a reference to his successor, David Brookes, Dyson says: "I've known David since I first spent some time on work experience with the Birmingham Mail as a student in 1990. He was then chief sub on the Mail . . . while it was a wrench to leave the Mail myself, I know that in David is a worthy successor. And whatever the various opinions on the new strategy for the paper, I know that David will lead it well and that it has the best chance of success with him in the chair."
Dyson adds: "Although I'm currently on a pre-booked holiday, I'm pleased to be returning to work as normal on November 2 and to be staying on until December to help pave the way for David.
"It's going to be a difficult period to assist with taking 40-odd journalists into redundancy, but I'm wanting to be involved in that as I know all those affected, and want them to have the best-possible, most consistent approach as they go through this consultation.
"And then, come the end of 2009, it's the time for new beginnings for many of us."

Crumbs! Brown biscuit story was crackers

Hats off to Private Eye hack Adam Macqueen who has got to the bottom of the story that claimed a dithering Gordon Brown could not answer the question "what's your favourite biscuit ?" during a web chat on parents' networking site Mumsnet.
Macqueen has found the story is complete baloney. Read the truth here on First Post.

New look for Wall Street Journal Europe

The Wall Street Journal Europe is to have a revamp and extra features from 17 November. The re-designed newspaper will include new analysis features, new columnists and a new front page design, combined with what the WSJE says will be easier navigation, a more simplified layout, and a greater use of colour.
It will also launch a series of eight-page special reports on topics and themes of European concern. The new features and reports will be adapted online at the recently-launched, which will have additional online-only content, blogs and daily emails.
"The changes we're planning are fundamentally a new approach to meet the needs of senior executives," said Patience Wheatcroft, editor-in-chief for The Wall Street Journal Europe and the former editor of the Sunday Telegraph. "We're offering our time-pressed readers more trusted and authoritative content with essential analysis, but housed in a more impactful and accessible format across print and online. We're leveraging our unrivalled global resources - including an integrated news staff of more than 400 in Europe alone - to deliver our unique content in a way that is more in tune with our audience."
The company has also launched a new series of conferences for Europe, which includes the forthcoming Wall Street Journal Future of Finance Initiative; an event which will convene over 100 leading international financial experts and policy makers in the United Kingdom from Dec. 7-8.
The World Street Journal in the US has just overtaken USA Today to become the country's top selling newspaper.

World journalism: Crisis what crisis?

Today at 2pm journalists and academics from around the globe are giving their verdict on the state of journalism in a conference entitled 'Is World Journalism in Crisis?' coming from Coventry University.
Taking part in the live video, real-time and webcast conference are Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman, Nick Davies, author of 'Flat Earth News'; Professor Richard Keeble; from New York, Professor Jeff Jarvis; and from Geneva, Professor Adrian Monck, now of the World Economic Forum in Davos and formerly head of journalism at City University.
With live links to the USA and Africa, the conference will be chaired in Coventry by Kevin Marsh, the editor of the BBC College of Journalism and former editor of the Today programme. Coventry University's world journalism live video conference is supported by and sponsored by Camelot.

Foot in the dorm student journalists charged

Can't believe this story from from Editor & Publisher in the US. Surely these student journalists are just showing a bit of old fashioned, foot in the door journalism and should be commended?
"Two university students are facing trespassing and disorderly conduct charges after they entered a campus dormitory to interview students for a news article about a "Peeping Tom" incident.
"The Society of Professional Journalists has called on James Madison University to drop the charges brought by the university's Office of Judicial Affairs against 21-year-old Tim Chapman, editor-in-chief of campus newspaper The Breeze, and 19-year-old Breeze reporter Katie Hibson."

Tuesday 27 October 2009

More on Johnston Press' new content system

Johnston Press has signed for a groupwide, 2,500-seat Atex content management system to develop a converged newsroom strategy, reports Editor & Publisher.
Last month subs within the company were reported to be concerned that the new system could lead to a "clear out" of sub-editors.
E&P says the Atex CMS will help Johnston Press create a unified central system for use with all its products. The converged newsroom will also accelerate an online strategy to offer hyper-localized content created through reader participation and the deployment of micro-sites.
It quotes Johnston Press group IT director Roger Davies saying in a statement: "Quickly producing micro-sites was another crucial functionality. We realize that local and national events, such as the Olympic Games, which are coming to London in 2012, may require new Web sites dedicated to local athletes."
Implementation began with Johnston Press' Midlands Division, to be followed by the South Division. All seven divisions are expected to be operating by the end of next year. The completed project will among the largest publishing CMS implementations, E&P says.
Via Tom McGowran

Looks like lights out for London Lite

Associated Newspapers today announced it has entered a period of consultation over the future of London Lite, its free London evening title, which may result in closure. The Lite has been under threat ever since the London Evening Standard decided to go free.
Consultation will take place with 36 London Lite employees before a final decision is made.
Steve Auckland, managing director, Associated Newspapers Free Division, said: “The latest development in the London afternoon free newspaper space dictates that we look again at the future of London Lite. Despite reaching a large audience with an excellent editorial format, we are concerned about the commercial viability in this highly competitive area”.
News International closed its free in the capital, thelondonpaper, last month.

No Bush tucker: BBC canteen boycott

Staff at the BBC World Service headquarters in London are to boycott their canteen on Friday in protest at cuts to the service including the redundancy of union members.
Instead of lunching on the premises they will join the sacked workers for a rally and picnic outside Bush House.
Members of the NUJ and broadcasting union BECTU - which represents the canteen workers - will join the protest at noon.
The unions have also launched a petition calling on the sub-contractors Aramark to re-instate the canteen workers while negotiations continue.

Are reporters getting scruffier?: In the Guardian newsroom anything goes

Writing about claims that reporters are getting scruffier in G2 today, Duncan Campbell notes: "The Guardian newsroom, it has to be said, has always stood for free expression in clothes – from berets and fedoras to cycling shorts and singlets – as in everything else."
I can vouch for that. When I had a job as an editorial assistant at the Guardian in the 1970s one of the journalists, Martin Walker I think, wore beads. Although, as a prank his collegues had told him he had to write to the news editor, Jean Stead, asking her permission to wear them in the office.

Jan Moir: Petition calls for PCC to be axed

A petition on the Number 10 website is calling for the Press Complaints Commission to be scrapped in the wake of the row over Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gately in the Daily Mail.
The petition, backed by more than 1,600 signatures, says: "Following the article in the Daily Mail on Friday 16th October by Jan Moir in relation to the death of Stephen Gately, the PCC received over 21,000 complaints; however the chairman the Code committee for the PCC is currently the editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre.
"As the formula one boss Max Mosley said when giving evidence to the culture, media and sport committee at the House of Commons "It's like putting the mafia in charge of the local police station. You can't let them regulate themselves."
"The PCC was weakened by preferential treatment to the newspaper industry and it lacked sufficient powers to appropriately deal with cases. The government needs to abolish the current PCC and re launch the committee as a public body so the public can have faith in the PCC once again."

Daily Express spreads a bit of sunshine

The most famous editor of the Daily Express, Arthur Christiansen, insisted the paper "should make everyone feel it is a sunny day".
The Express lives up to that tradition today with a lead 'Britain Gets 70F Indian Summer'.
Now, if only it would stop raining.

Monday 26 October 2009

Johnston journalists' action vote over workload

Weekly paper journalists in Nottinghamshire have passed a motion of no confidence in their management - claiming job cuts are putting intolerable demands on remaining editorial staff - and agreed to ballot for industrial action over workloads.
Members of the NUJ chapel at the Johnston Press owned Worksop Guardian are concerned that the non-replacement of staff, responsibility for another title, and a reorganisation have contributed to unreasonable demands and stress in their office.
According to the NUJ, over the past 18 months the Worksop office has lost a sports editor, a news editor, two full-time reporters and a part-time reporter and those journalists left behind have been expected to work on an extra title - the Gainsborough Standard - and to add video, audio and website reporting to their regular duties.
Lawrence Shaw, NUJ assistant organiser, said: “The chapel have repeatedly written to their local management about the situation and to ask for information - but received no satisfactory response.
“Other nearby Johnston Press centres have recently advertised for extra reporting cover and there are numerous vacancies advertised by the company. Yet the Worksop chapel are continually told that there is a recruitment freeze and there are no resources available to replace staff.
“The journalists in Worksop have been completely disregarded in consultation over plans for a centralised subbing unit, and there has been no consideration of the knock-on effects this has had on staff morale, workloads or health.”

Wall Street Journal number one in US sales

Editor & Publisher has reported the latest ABC circulation figures for the top 25 US papers. Best performer is the Wall Street Journal with average sales of 2,024,269, down a mere 0.61%. The WSJ has overtaken USA Today, whose circulation dropped by 17.15 % to 1,900,116, to be the top selling newspaper in the US market.
E&P reports the circulation at many of the country's largest newspapers continued a steep slide for the six months ending September 2009 -- "proving yet again that the industry can't shake the dramatic declines that have taken hold over the past several years."
On a comparable basis, ABC reported that for the 379 newspapers reported average daily circulation plunging 10.6% to 30,395,652.
The New York Times is down 7.2% to 927,851. The Los Angeles Times reported its daily circulation fell11% to 657,467 and the Washington Post was down 6.4% to 582,844.

Question Time executive editor hits back at critics of Nick Griffin programme

Question Time executive editor Gavin Allen has hit back at the critics of last week's programme which had BNP leader Nick Griffin on the panel.
Writing on the BBC editors' blog, Allen says: "Various publications and commentators are clear: it was a "typical BBC conspiracy". The audience was clearly "rigged" to ensure a "lynch-mob mentality". The "usual Question Time format was changed" to focus entirely on the BNP and to "ignore general topics of the week". David Dimbleby pursued a "personal attack against Nick Griffin". And the "publicity-seeking" programme "did it all for the ratings".
On the questions asked by the audience, Allen says: "The programme is driven by the questions submitted by the audience itself. And unsurprisingly, they chose to focus on topics that were in the news this week - immigration, Jan Moir's article on the death of Stephen Gately, the BNP's co-option of historical figures and, yes, Question Time itself. What, no post strike? No Afghanistan? They were on the list of issues to be debated. But, from the weight of questions, other topics galvanised our audience more, and there simply wasn't time to get to them."
On the "rigged audience", Allen states: "The audience, as always, was made up of a broad cross-section of views and backgrounds reflective of the location. That would be the same whether we were in Liverpool, Llandudno or - as in this case - London."
On David Dimbleby, Allen says his job was "not to "get" Nick Griffin, or to "expose" him as a racist and crush him in public. It was to chair a debate. Which he did, brilliantly."
On chasing ratings, Allen claims: "The decision to invite Nick Griffin onto the programme had nothing to do with ratings. It had to do with our obligation to show due impartiality and the fact that only now has the BNP crossed a particular electoral threshold in securing European parliamentary seats."

Indy goes ape over baboon killer Gill

The Independent devotes page three today to outrage at Sunday Times writer AA Gill and his admission that he has killed a baboon while on safari.
Gill made the admission yesterday in a restaurant review in the Sunday Times Style Magazine about a trip to Tanzania.
The review opens: "I shot a baboon in Africa, last Wednesday, just after lunch."
Gill adds: "I know perfectly well there is absolutely no excuse for this," he said. "Baboon isn't good to eat, unless you're a leopard. The feeble argument for cull and control is much the same as for foxes: a veil of naughty fun."
The Indy quotes spokesmen for the League Against Cruel Sports, RSPCA and International Fund for Animal Welfare condemning Gill, who described baboons as "no stupider than Piers Morgan".

Hacked Guardian site 'now secure'

The Guardian says its jobs site is now secure after suffering a "sophisticated and deliberate" hacking attack.
It emailed 500,000 people over the weekend warning them that their personal data may have been breached.
The Metropolitan Police's e-crime unit are investigating the hacking. The Guardian claims the police have asked it not to reveal how the hack was accomplished.
"The police remain anxious to keep information about the apparent theft to a minimum, in order not to compromise their investigations, but did agree with us that we could inform those users who may be affected. We have been assured by our provider that the system is now secure and, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance on data protection, we have identified and contacted, or attempted to contact, everyone who may be at risk," the Guardian said.
It is expected to be several days before the extent of the hacking of the site will be known. The precise number of people affected should become clear in the next few days. A Guardian technology director said: "We will have final numbers of real users and the type of data in next few days once we strip out duplicates, auto & false emails and so on. It's been reported that all user data has been compromised. which is simply not true."

Sunday 25 October 2009

AA Gill: 'Dimbleby let Griffin be bullied'

AA Gill in the Sunday Times on Nick Grifin's appearance on Question Time: "Then there was David Dimbleby. The BBC stood by its higher calling to offer an impartial platform to all political parties, but he dumped the disinterested stance of an interlocutor and became the captain of the prefects, overseeing the ritual bullying of a new boy."

Guardian jobsite hacking fear

Got this email last night from the Guardian: "We learned yesterday evening that the Guardian Jobs website has been targeted by a sophisticated and deliberate hack, which has breached the security of the data on the site.
"You have used the site to make one or more job applications and we believe your personal data, relating to those applications, may have been accessed. We are absolutely committed to the privacy of our users, and would like to assure you that we are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness.
"The matter has been reported to the police, who are now undertaking a full investigation through the police central e-crime unit at New Scotland Yard."
I was not sure if it was genuine as it began "Dear Mrs. Slattery" but Timesonline is running a story here and quoting a Guardian spokeswoman: “We are committed to protecting the privacy of our users and are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness.”

Jan Moir and the 'typhoon of tweets'

Peter Preston in the Observer today looks at the furore over Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gately and is troubled by the way the Mail had to remove ads surrounding the piece when it appeared online.
He remembers how the Guardian was once threatened that it would lose advertising after running an award-winning investigation into the low wages for black workers employed by British firms in South Africa.
Preston writes: "Twenty-two thousand complaints – an all-time, knee-trembling record – to the Press Complaints Commission. A torrent of tweeting, blogging, battering ire poured over the Mail. A tidal wave of vituperation engulfed Moir. But what's this? Her home address out there in cyberspace? And her Mail website page cleared of ads as anger and protest swills in every direction?
"We're used – this month at least – to hailing the magic of Twitter. See what it did to Carter-Ruck! But how do we feel about such digiforce when it drives advertisers off site? It's easy for liberal goodies to slap their sides, deeming that Fox and the Mail bad guys had it coming. But there is a principle here that applies to whoever stands in the firing line, and a commercial precedent that should set us quaking.
"The internet makes seemingly massive protests easy, typhoons of tweets on demand. Opinion can be gathered online far faster than is possible on the streets. Companies with stocks to sell can be swamped or frozen in a trice.
"Do we say, then, that all's fair in a comment war, that free speech – however much we may dislike a particular viewpoint – is fair game for blogging attack? That the instant voice of the many can silence the few – and frighten the living daylights out of those who want to make a living selling stuff to them?"

Saturday 24 October 2009

What the Papers Say: 'You're a traitor'

Newspapers are good at criticising everyone else but notoriously sensitive to criticism themselves - particularly from people who they see as part of their own industry.
I thought this was a relatively recent phenomenon, coinciding with the growth of media correspondents and commentators, who are often ex-editors.
The "ex-editors club" is often the target for venom, particularly from the tabloids when they are under fire.
But reading Harold Evans' biography 'My Paper Chase' reveals the hostile reaction he got from the national press when he was one of the first presenters on Granada's What the Papers Say in the early 1960s.
Evans writes: "My commentary did not win friends in Fleet Street."
The Mirror attacked Evans, then editor of the Darlington-based Northern Echo, in print, saying somewhat snobbishly: "Evans dedicates his spare time to denigrating the rest of the press. Loftily he lectures the national newspapers as if Darlington exudes a special degree of insight and wisdom denied to newspapers in London and Manchester."
Evans tells how he was warned by an editor that some of the "Top Boys" in Fleet Street were upset that "a newspaperman" who was "one of our kind" should be criticising the press on a commercial television company and claimed that he would put some newspapers out of business.
Evans' reaction was: "I had the curious notion that if 'helping newspapers' survive was the criterion, surely improving their performance would help."
He also successfully resisted an attempt by his boss at Westminster Press, which owned the Northern Echo, to ban him from appearing on the programme.

Friday 23 October 2009

Six types of journalist: Which one are you?

Northwestern University’s Media Management Center in the US recently produced a report called, “Life beyond print: Newspaper journalists’ digital appetite”—a survey of almost 3,800 people in a cross-section of newspaper newsrooms.
The report identified six types of journalists:

1. Digitals – about 12% of journalists, the youngest cadre and one that spends most of its time online.
2. Major shift – about 11% of journalists, individuals who typically have 15 years of experience. They spent time online but not in the newsroom. They think newsrooms need to get on it and make a more ambitious shift. They could devote as much as five times more effort to contributing to a digital migration—if they could only have an indication of a worthwhile investment.
3. Moderately more – at 50%, it’s the biggest slice of the newsroom and one that desires to split its efforts equally between online and print. They usually have about two decades of newsroom experience and generally think publications are going in the right direction.
4. Status quo – about 14% spend about 30% of their efforts online. This is just dandy to them. Things have been pretty good.
5.Turn back the clock – 6%. The Web sucks! This set of journalists just wishes this Internet journalism was a big, bad dream.
6. Leaders – about 5%. These seasoned journalists are the movers and shakers (or at least publishers and managing editors) in the industry. They typically devote most of their energy to print products but want to shift efforts online.

Griffin complains to BBC over 'lynch mob'

BNP leader Nick Griffin said today he is to complain to the BBC over his appearance on Question Time last night, saying he had faced a "lynch mob".
Griffin claims the normal format of the programme was changed and it should not have been held in London.
The BBC said there were more than 240 complainants from viewers who felt the show was biased against the BNP, while more than 100 of the complaints were about Griffin being allowed to appear on Question Time. More than 50 people contacted the BBC to show their appreciation for the programme.
Griffin's appearance was given a hostile reaction from the national press. The Sun splashed on Griffin's comment that he was 'the most loathed man in Britain' and the Daily Mail described him as 'Bigot At Bay'.

Strike off at Trinity papers in Wales

The NUJ today withdrew its threat of strike action at Media Wales in Cardiff after the company confirmed that no union member will be made compulsorily redundant.
In a ballot result announced last week there was a 96% vote in favour of a strike following an announcement that 13.2 editorial jobs would go at the Trinity Mirror subsidiary. The company publishes the Western Mail, the South Wales Echo, Wales on Sunday and the Celtic series of weekly papers.
NUJ Media Wales FoC Martin Shipton said: "We are very pleased that industrial action will not now be necessary. Our clearly stated aim in these circumstances was to ensure that none of our members were forced to leave employment against their will and that has been achieved. A number of NUJ members decided to opt for voluntary redundancy and they will leave with our best wishes.
"We look forward to working with the company to ensure that new working arrangements do not create excessive workloads for those who remain."

Journalist election extended due to post strike

NUJ members have been given an extra ten days to vote for a new editor for the union's magazine- the Journalist because of the strike by postal workers. The ballot will now close on 16 November.
The eight candidates for the job have been sent an email which reads:
"Following advice received this morning from Electoral Reform Services, the deadline for receipt of ballot papers for editor of the Journalist election will now be extended to Monday 16 November.
"Ballots received up to and including 1st post on Monday 16th November will be included in the count. The count will now take place at 1.30pm on Monday 16 November.
"The report of the election will be made available to the National Executive Council on Wednesday 18 November."

Sun hits Nick Griffin again

For the third time this week the Sun today has an editorial attacking Nick Griffin and a front page splash dominated by the BNP leader's own quote from last night's Question Time appearance: "I'm the most loathed man in Britain' - with the added comment : "we couldn't have put it better, Mr Griffin."
The editorial asks: "ONLY one question matters this morning. Has BNP leader Nick Griffin's BBC outing made it more likely that voters will support his odious party?
"The answer, The Sun believes, is an overwhelming NO.
"Nervously twitching under the Question Time spotlights, Griffin looked exactly what he is: A pathetic bigot whose only policy is to ask voters to drink from the poisoned well of racism.
The tougher the questions, the more he wriggled and smirked."
The Independent's front page says of Griffin: "The BBC gave him the oxygen of publicity. He choked."
But the Guardian comment piece by Aditya Chakrabortty is headlined: 'No big gaffes so he will say it's a success.'

Jan Moir: 'The truth about my views'

Jan Moir in the Daily Mail today attempts to answer the critics of her article on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately with a column headlined: 'The truth about my views on the tragic death of Stephen Gately'.
She says: "To my horror, it has been widely condemned as 'homophobic' and 'hateful'. Obviously, a great deal of offence has been taken and I regret any affront caused. This was never my intention.
"To be the focus of such depth of feeling has been an interesting experience, but I do not complain. After all, I am not - unlike those close to Stephen Gately - mourning for the loss of a much-loved partner, son, family member and close friend.
"To them, I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral."
Moir comments on the "bile, the fury, the inflammatory" hate mail she has rfeceived and the repeated posting of her home address on the internet.
She says: "To say it was a hysterical overreaction would be putting it mildly, though clearly much of it was an orchestrated campaign by pressure groups and those with agendas of their own.
"However, I accept that many people - on Twitter and elsewhere - were merely expressing their own personal and heartfelt opinions or grievances. This said, I can't help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part?
"Certainly, something terrible went wrong as my column ricocheted through cyberspace, unread by many who complained, yet somehow generally and gleefully accepted into folklore as a homophobic rant.
"It lit a spark, then a flame and turned into a roaring ball of hate fire, blazing unchecked and unmediated across the internet. "
Moir ends the articleby asking: "Can it really be that we are becoming a society where no one can dare to question the circumstances or behaviour of a person who happens to be gay without being labelled a homophobe? If so, that is deeply troubling."
She adds: "Finally, I would just like to say that whatever did or did not happen in Majorca, a talented young man died before his time. This, of course, is a matter of regret and sadness for us all."

Quotes of the Week

Charlie Brooker on super-injunctions: "For the sake of all mankind, I sincerely hope that in future, any corporations trying to cover something up would do the decent thing and simply start strangling journalists and bombing their offices. Same results, less paperwork. Dead men tell no tales. And even if they try, Carter-Ruck can probably issue a gagging order that follows them into the afterlife and kicks their larynx off its hinges."

BBC director general Mark Thompson: "My point is simply that the drastic steps of proscription and censorship can only be taken by government and parliament … It is unreasonable and inconsistent to take the position that a party like the BNP is acceptable enough for the public to vote for, but not acceptable enough to appear on democratic platforms like Question Time. If there is a case for censorship, it should be debated and decided in parliament. Political censorship cannot be outsourced to the BBC or anyone else."

The Sun's Fergus Shanahan on Nick Griffin: "My bet is that after this week Griffin will wish he had never accepted the BBC invitation. Cockroaches only flourish in the dark. Shine a light on them and they scuttle away."

Nick Griffin on Question Time: "I am the most loathed man in Britain."

Emily Bell on Jan Moir and her Daily Mail article on death of Stephen Gately: "Moir, or her editors, or both, misjudged the speed and breadth of the real-time web and social media in their power to highlight and pressurise at speed and with force. To see the Daily Mail taught a lesson about public outrage in the electronic age would no doubt have raised a weak, battered smile at the BBC."

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern regional organiser on cuts by Trinity Mirror in Birmingham: “There is overwhelming disbelief and anger among our members in the Midlands at this announcement. It is the latest – and worst – betrayal in a long line by Trinity Mirror of its Midlands operations and is nothing less than the corporate equivalent of self-harm."

Thursday 22 October 2009

Brum and Coventry journalists in action vote

NUJ journalists in Birmingham and Coventry have voted to ballot for industrial action over plans to cut 40 editorial jobs at Trinity Mirror’s Midlands operation.
The Coventry NUJ chapel is balloting over plans to cut jobs on weekly titles and introduce a new system for filing copy – which it claims eliminates sub editors.
The Birmingham chapel is balloting in a bid to prevent compulsory redundancies.
A statement from the Coventry Newspapers NUJ chapel committee said: "These proposed changes mean an effective 60 per cent cut in staff performing traditional subbing and/or news desk responsibilities for the Coventry Telegraph, with much of their role passed down to a hard working reporting team already trimmed to the bone. This chapel feels the changes, entirely driven by short-term economics, are unworkable and would result in unacceptable workloads."
The NUJ chapel committee in Birmingham has accused Trinity of entering the consultation over the proposals to take the Birmingham Post weekly and switch the Birmingham Mail to overnight printing "in bad faith".
The chapel has issued a lengthy statement which you read on the NUJ website here.
Meanwhile, a group of MPs has put down an Early Day Motion opposing the changes in Birmingham and calling for a meeting with Trinity.

Video: More on Jan Moir and the Gately row

This video from features media reactions to the Jan Moir article on Stephen Gately, including those who believe an issue of free speech is involved. videos synthesize global news coverage using multiple sources.

NUJ joins fight against secret inquests

The NUJ is opposing government plans to hold some inquests in private – and promised to step up campaigning against the measure.
Last night the House of Lords voted down the proposal – contained in the Coroners and Justice Bill – but ministers have vowed to bring it back in the House of Commons.
The bill would give the Lord Chancellor absolute discretion to order a secret inquiry from which even bereaved relatives would be banned.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “All inquests should continue to be open to the press and public. “It is only by that level of public scrutiny that people can be assured there has been a proper investigation into the deaths of their loved-ones.
“This idea is an attack on the basic principle of open justice and open scrutiny of state institutions. The NUJ will be working with MPs and others to oppose this authoritarian measure.”

MPs oppose Trinity Mirror Brum shake-up plan

Birmingham Northfield Labour MP Richard Burden has put down an Early Day Motion calling for Trinity Mirror to meet local MPs before switching the Birmingham Post to a weekly and bringing in overnight production for the Birmingham Mail.
The EDM states: "That this House expresses its opposition to Trinity Mirror's plans to reorganise the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail in a way that will cut over 80 jobs and leave Birmingham, a city of over a million people, without a live daily newspaper; notes that whilst the editors of the newspapers sought the views of their readers, Trinity Mirror has not sought the views of Birmingham's citizens nor their elected representatives in this House before making its decisions; and, whilst recognising the challenges that all regional newspapers face in a rapidly changing media environment, nevertheless calls on Trinity Mirror to meet hon. Members from the Post and Mail's readership area to discuss its plans and any alternatives considered, before taking action to implement these changes."
Birmingham and West Midlands' MPs backing the motion are Gisela Stuart, John Hemming,Lynne Jones, Roger Godsiff, Steve McCabe, Clare Short, Jaqui Smith, Peter Luff, Mahmood Khalid and Lorely Burt.

BNP supporting website uses Mark Watts email

Far Right website London Patriot has picked up the email sent out by Journalist candidate Mark Watts attacking his rival Rich Simcox, who he accused of being part of a Left wing "cabal" aiming to hijack the NUJ.
It says in a posting: "As the smear campaign against the British National Party is up and running again, Nationalists see this as proof that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demands that any NUJ Left reporter must give the BNP only negative coverage.
"Now an insider confirms what everyone has suspected for a long time. Mark Watts, one of the candidates in the election for editor of NUJ magazine ‘The Journalist’ has accused a “political faction” called NUJ Left of trying to hijack it."
It adds that Journalist candidates can email NUJ members as part of the election: "Watts has used his to launch a lengthy diatribe against NUJ Left and the candidate it has endorsed as ‘The Journalist’ editor, Richard Simcox (who is a member of the group)."
The post quotes at length from Watts' email and mentions that Channel 4's John Snow is one of his supporters.
The site says: “We are an independent site for London nationalists. We fully support and will promote the British National Party as we believe it is the only serious vehicle for the advancement of British Nationalism. However, any opinions expressed in posts or comments are those of the authors and not necessarily that of the British National Party.”

Indy highlights 'secret inquest' plans

The Independent on its front page today warns: "Plans to introduce secret inquiries into controversial deaths from which the public and bereaved families could be banned are to be pushed through the House of Commons by the Government.
"Last night ministers suffered a humiliating defeat for the proposals in the House of Lords, but insisted that they were "clear" that "harmful material" must not be made public, and would reintroduce the measures in the Commons.
"The new powers would allow them to turn inquests like that of Jean Charles de Menezes or those involving the deaths of British soldiers into secret hearings."

How I was Peter Carter-Rucked for Christmas by the owner of the Daily Mail. . .

Here's a story combining two subjects of major media interest at the moment: Carter-Ruck and the Daily Mail.
It was just before Christmas 1997 and I was acting editor of Press Gazette. The fax machine (remember them?) beeped into life. The paper chugging out of the fax carried the fearful heading "Peter Carter-Ruck And Partners" - and it wasn't a Christmas card.
It was a strongly worded complaint on behalf of Viscount Rothermere, proprietor of Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail etc., which accused us of "a gross and extremely hurtful libel".
Gosh! What had we done? We had carried the front page of the latest issue of Punch magazine that had mocked up a picture of Lord Rothermere reading a copy of the Daily Mail, referring to his wife, headlined: "My Life With Bubbles By Her Toyboy." Our story said, accurately, that the Evening Standard, also part of the Associated empire, had, perhaps not unsurprisingly, pulled an advert for that issue of Punch.
I phoned Peter Carter-Ruck, who had previously been our lawyer, and made the point that of all people journalists would know that Punch was a satirical magazine and realise that the Daily Mail would never in a million years run a front page splash headlined: "My Life With Bubbles".
Peter's response to my compelling argument was "shall I send the writ to you personally, or to the magazine?"
Several weeks and many faxes later we carried a statement that made clear there was no issue of the Daily Mail that carried the front page headline 'My Life With Bubbles', nor was Lord Rothermere in any way party to the publication of any such article. We regretted causing any embarrassment to Lord Rothermere.
That was the end of the matter. All that was left for me to do was to explain to our new publisher how come we had to pay out £587.50 in legal costs to Carter-Ruck for reproducing the front page of a magazine freely available at newsagents across the country.

Thompson: 'Not up to the BBC to ban BNP'

BBC director general Mark Thompson in the Guardian today says it is up to the Government not the BBC to outlaw the BNP.
Writing ahead of BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time tonight, Thompson says:"The case against inviting the BNP to appear on Question Time is a case for censorship … Democratic societies sometimes do decide that some parties and organisations are beyond the pale. As a result they proscribe them and/or ban them from the airwaves."
Referring to the ban on Sinn Féin in the 1980s, he says the BBC opposed the move by the Thatcher government, but abided by it. The corporation would similarly abide by a decision to proscribe the BNP.
"My point is simply that the drastic steps of proscription and censorship can only be taken by government and parliament … It is unreasonable and inconsistent to take the position that a party like the BNP is acceptable enough for the public to vote for, but not acceptable enough to appear on democratic platforms like Question Time. If there is a case for censorship, it should be debated and decided in parliament. Political censorship cannot be outsourced to the BBC or anyone else."
Thompson says the BNP will be challenged tenaciously on the programme.

Vote twice for your Journalist favourite is running its own poll for who should be the new editor of the NUJ's magazine, the Journalist. You can vote here.
John Thompson of says: "For a bit of a fun, we have decided to run an open poll in which anyone can vote, anonymously, NUJ member or not. The debate will continue right up to the official closing date of 6 November for the real election, but you can still vote one way now and change your mind later.Strictly first past the post this poll (unlike the NUJ's real election) but it will be interesting to see how close we get to the actual results based on what will obviously be a much smaller number of voters. And candidates, we don't mind if you get all your supporters, friends, families etc to vote for you, this is just a piece of fun."

Wednesday 21 October 2009

BBC Trust says it will not block the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time

Here is the BBC Trust's decision on the BNP and Question Time which was issued tonight. The Trust is not going to block the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin.
It said in a statement: "The BBC Trust has decided not to hear appeals on the BBC Executive’s decision to invite a BNP representative on to tomorrow’s Question Time because to do so would be inconsistent with the BBC’s constitutional arrangements that the governing body of the BBC does not intervene in programmes before they have been transmitted, and would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC.
The BBC’s Charter and Agreement makes it clear that complainants on appropriate matters have the right of appeal to the Trust, and that the Trust has the right to decide whether or not to hear any appeal. An ad hoc committee of three Trustees today considered two appeals, one from Peter Hain MP, the other from a member of the public, relating to the invitation to the BNP to appear on Question Time on 22 October 2009. The Trustees were Richard Tait (chairman), Mehmuda Mian and Jeremy Peat.
They took the view that the Charter and Agreement establishes the Director-General as editor-in-chief of the BBC - the individual responsible for the editorial content of BBC programmes. The Charter also makes clear that the BBC Trust should not exercise the functions of the Executive. This carries the clear implication that the Trust should not attempt to take upon itself the role of editor-in-chief. In practice this means not intervening in editorial decisions relating to individual programmes before they have been broadcast. After broadcast any BBC programme is, of course, subject to the BBC complaints process, in which the Trust plays a key role as the final court of appeal.
The committee decided that since the appeals covered issues already considered by the Director-General in his role as editor-in-chief and related to a programme not yet transmitted, these were not appeals that they should hear.
Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Trust Chairman (pictured) said: "The BBC Trust is aware of the debate and public controversy on this issue and understands that this is a matter of considerable importance to many licence fee payers. We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously in line with the BBC’s constitutional arrangements."
Richard Tait, BBC Trustee and chairman of the committee said:"We have decided it would be wrong for the Trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast – even one as plainly controversial as this. To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC – something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday’s Question Time is entirely a matter for the Director-General acting as the BBC’s editor-in-chief, and we have impressed upon him his duty to ensure the programme is fully compliant with the law and with the BBC’s published editorial guidelines. Once the programme has been broadcast, any member of the public who feels it breaches the guidelines can make use of the established BBC complaints process to make their case."

BBC Trust clears BNP leader for Question Time

The BBC Trust has cleared BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time, according to Ray Snoddy on Twitter. Snoddy presents the BBC's Newswatch programme which this week will look, with the help of viewers, at the BNP-Question Time row.

BBC 'wrong' to have Griffin on Question Time

The NUJ today condemned the BBC’s decision to invite BNP leader Nick Griffin on tomorrow's Question Time.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "We believe the BNP should be subject to proper journalistic scrutiny which would challenge their anti-social policies and their dishonest propaganda which seeks to spread disharmony and fear.
"We believe this requires rigorous questioning backed up by detailed research. There is no opportunity for this sort of forensic examination in the knock-about soapbox environment of Question Time.
"We believe the BBC is wrong to invite the BNP to appear on Question Time and will support any member who refuses to work on this week's programme in line with the union's code of conduct and conscience clause.
“The NUJ applauds journalists in the BBC and elsewhere around the UK who are subjecting the BNP’s racist propaganda to professional scrutiny - and exposing their lies where they find them.”

Indy editor on Jan Moir piece: 'Nasty, loopy, nutty...and it's meant to make you angry'

Independent editor Roger Alton almost ran out of adjectives to describe Jan Moir's Daily Mail article on the death of Stephen Gately on Radio 4's Media Show today.
According to Alton, the article was "nasty, loopy and nutty." But he defended Moir saying she was not homophobic. He told the programme: "Columnists are there to get you angry."

Peer raises Journalist election in Lords

The FOIA Centre , co-ordinated by Journalist editorship candidate Mark Watts (pictured), reports today that Lord Laird of Artigarvan has put down a question in the Lords about a rival for the editor's post on the NUJ's magazine not declaring his political affiliation. It follows Watts' email attack on Rich Simcox which claimed he was part of an NUJ Left cabal trying to "hijack" the union.
The FOIA website says: "Concerns about a candidate not declaring his political affiliation in the Journalist editorship election have been raised in the house of lords. A life peer who is a member of the national union of journalists (NUJ), which publishes the Journalist magazine for its members, raised the matter in a written parliamentary question. Lord Laird of Artigarvan, the well-known public-relations figure in Northern Ireland, said: “I under-stand that one of the candidates standing for this key position has an affiliation with a particular group within the union, one that he did not declare in election material sent to the electorate. In my opinion, undeclared factionalism is not acceptable.” The crossbench peer continued: “In union elections, I think people should be suspicious of the candidates and, where possible, opt for the independent.”
Watts has asked the NUJ, on behalf of four candidates – Tim Arnold, Christine Buckley, Michael Cross and himself – to make a formal request to the Electoral Reform Society to extend the voting deadline in the election because of the disruption to postal services.
Watts said: “At least two of the candidates have not received ballot papers. I have had enormous feedback because of that e-mail circular, and it is clear that many members have not yet even received their ballot papers. An extension is vital in the interests of democracy.”

Whealie: 'Why I'm putting Mark Watts last'

NUJ insider and activist Chris Wheal has described yesterday's attack by Journalist editorship candidate Mark Watts on rival Rich Simcox, over his links to the the NUJ Left, as "McCarthyite" and "a strange and misguided mistake". Wheal writes on his blog: "Watts claims in his email that it was his experience as an investigative journalist that led him to uncover the truth about the NUJ Left. Yet plenty of other people have been commenting on the NUJ Left backing Simcox for weeks. What investigative power did that take? It was an ill-researched diatribe."
Wheal also claims Watts has exaggerated the threat of the Left in the union."The NUJ left has about 50 paid-up members and about 30 turned up to its conference last Saturday. It’s a talking shop for activists, not a militia organisation plotting a coup."
He adds: "Watts’ attack was poor journalism, childish, divisive, spiteful and fit only to run alongside Jan Moir’s anti-gay rant in the Mail. "He was high on my list of candidates. He is now bottom."

New 'secret inquests' warning

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Baroness Miller warned on Radio 4's Today programme this morning that secret inquests could be back on the agenda due to amendments tabled in the House of Lords to the Coroners' Bill.
You can hear what she had to say (item starts at 07.32) here.
It was thought the issue of secret inquests had gone away after an outcry by the media. In May it was reported that Justice Secretary Jack Straw had abandoned his plans to hold parts of inquests in secret and without a jury on the grounds of national security.

'Griffin on Question Time could spark racist attacks' warns NUJ leader Jeremy Dear

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear joins other trade union leaders in a letter to the Guardian today condemning tomorrow night's appearance on Question Time of BNP leader Nick Griffin. The letter claims: "There is a real danger that the broadcast may have unintended, tragic results: racist attacks have increased in areas the BNP target. For example, in Barking and Dagenham — where the BNP has 12 councillors — according to figures from the local Race Equality Council, racist attacks increased by 30% between 2002 and 2004.
"Moreover, the Central London county court ruled on 15 October that the current BNP constitution contravenes equality legislation. Therefore, as an "unlawful organisation", they have no legitimacy to appear in the media and should not be given a platform to promulgate their views. Given the court ruling, it is even more pressing that the BBC should consider its invitation to Mr Griffin."
The Guardian reveals today that BNP supporters have been invited to be in the Question Time audience.
Meanwhile, the Sun has kept up its attack on the BNP with another editorial describing Griffin as "BNP snake-in-chief".
The BBC Trust is meeting today to discuss the matter.