Sunday 31 January 2010

TheBusinessDesk West Midlands goes live - Tomorrow's news today
TheBusinessDesk West Midlands, the new online business news service headed by former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, has gone live.
Reeves is described on the site as "launch editor of the West Midlands service". Deputy editor is another ex-Birmingham Post journalist, Duncan Tift who was the paper's deputy business editor. Tift has also worked for the Wolverhampton-based Express &Star. was launched by former Yorkshire Post business editor David Parkin in 2007. It launched in the North West in September 2008 headed by former Manchester Evening News business editor Chris Barry.

The West Midlands site describes itself as: "Insightful, thought-provoking and always relevant, is the only website dedicated to West Midlands business news."
 It says it will offer:

  • The news you want when you want it (to your PC, PDA, mobile and BlackBerry);
  • Authoritative articles on issues relevant to the region;
  • Interviews with key figures in the West Midlands business community;
  • Online exclusives;
  • Searchable archive.
  • Our team of award-winning journalists includes former regional business editors and published business authors.

    NUJ 'vigorously' opposed the scrapping of Nottingham Evening Post's independent board

    The NUJ has welcomed Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s decision not to permit Daily Mail and General Trust to abolish an independent editorial board for the Nottingham Evening Post and says it "vigorously" opposed the move. When the Evening Post  was bought by Northcliffe Newspapers in 1993 in a £93 million deal from T. Bailey Forman a condition was imposed that it should maintain an independent editorial board to oversee key decisions.
    The board was charged with maintaining the paper's editorial independence and having the final say on the appointment or dismissal of the paper's editor.
    However the board now considers its role obsolete and its chairman, former airline boss Sir Michael Bishop, suggested to Northcliffe's parent company Daily Mail and General Trust that it should be disbanded. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills invited comments.
    The NUJ says it opposed the proposal "vigorously", and the union’s Nottingham branch expressed concerns about editing functions at the Nottingham Evening Post being combined with those for other Northcliffe titles in the East Midlands region, and also voiced deep unease about the threat to jobs. The union also warned that the newspaper and other Northcliffe-owned local titles could lose their individual identity in favour of Northcliffe corporate branding
    Lord Mandelson has declared: “The interest of ensuring people have access to a sufficiently wide range of views and opinions on both local and national matters and preventing too much influence becoming concentrated in too few hands remain legitimate concerns for the Government. The original purpose behind requiring an independent editorial board for the NEP related to the desirability of ensuring the editor of that title remained free to take editorial decisions independent of the title’s new owner, Northcliffe. Those concerns remain relevant.”

    Saturday 30 January 2010

    Telegraph on lifting of John Terry injunction: 'A step away from a privacy law via the back door'

    The Daily Telegraph today welcomes yesterday's court ruling lifting the super-injunction which stopped the press reporting England football captain John Terry's affair.
    It says in a leader: "The decision of the High Court yesterday to lift the injunction preventing newspapers identifying John Terry, the Chelsea and England captain, as the footballer alleged to have had an extramarital affair marks an important step away from the imposition by the back door of a privacy law on the British media. It follows the ruling of the Supreme Court this week that removed the blanket anonymity surrounding four suspected terrorists who had challenged a decision by HM Treasury to freeze their assets. The anonymity orders had been granted, as they usually are, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for a private life. Lord Rodger, giving the judgment of the Supreme Court, said there were powerful public interest rights that justified curtailing the right to anonymity. A similar decision has been taken in the Terry case.
    "This is not about prurience or a desire to assuage a public appetite for tittle-tattle. There are bigger issues at stake. The courts have been increasingly using "super-injunctions" – catch-all measures that make the reporting of their existence unlawful, as in the Trafigura pollution case, when even a parliamentary question referring to the injunction could not be reported. If we have now seen the end of the super-injunction and a reassertion of the public interest, then it has been a good week for a free press."

    Hooray for Hannah and her new Guardian beat

    Glad to see on that Hannah Waldram has been appointed one of the Guardian's new beatbloggers, writing a local news blog covering Cardiff.
    I interviewed Hannah  last year for an article in MediaGuardian about how tough it is for journalism students to get jobs.
    A postgrad at the Cardiff Centre for Journalism, she told me: "The situation is dire. People are applying direct to local newspapers but there is a massive recruitment freeze. Papers aren't even taking on people to do shifts...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 multimedia skills. We are trying to stay upbeat. Newspapers will become staid if they stop taking on fresh people."
    Really pleased she's got this new job. Tom Allan and John Baron have been taken on by the Guardian to be beatbloggers  in Edinburgh and Leeds. The blogs are dueto start in the first half of this year.

    Friday 29 January 2010

    Business Desk WM launches.....on Twitter

    Business Desk West Midlands, thought to be be the new online business venture headed by former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, has launched on Twitter.
    Its Twitter address states as its location "West Midlands" and it is clearly linked to, the online business news service which covers Yorkshire and the North West. There is a cryptic tweet: "We're getting there. Slowly". was launched by David Parkin, a former Yorkshire Post business editor, in November 2007 covering Yorkshire business news with the backing of a group of professional investors and entrepreneurs. It launched in the North West in September 2008. It now has 28,000 registered users, employs five journalists and sends out a daily email to subscribers.
    Reeves is thought to be heading a team of two journalists but has been keeping quiet since news of the venture broke this week.
    It is thought that his former employer, Trinity Mirror, may not be best pleased to find Reeves launching a rival online news service to that of the Birmingham Post, which targets the business community in the West Midlands.
    Reeves left the Post at the end of last year shortly after the newspaper switched from daily to weekly publication and put its daily business news online.

    Guardian names England captain John Terry as privacy super-injunction is overturned

    The Guardian named England captain John Terry today as the footballer at the centre of  a privacy gagging order after a super-injunction preventing the publication of allegations about his private life was overturned today.
    Lawyers for Terry succeeded in applying for a high court injunction on Friday last week, having learnt that a Sunday newspaper – believed to be the News of the World – planned to write about his private life.
    The Guardian reports: "Under the terms of a super-injunction agreed by a high court judge on privacy grounds, newspaper groups were unable to reveal who had applied to stop the story coming out. But today the judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, lifted the injunction altogether.
    "I do not consider that an interim injunction is necessary or proportionate having regard to the level of gravity of the interference with the private life of the applicant that would occur in the event that there is a publication of the fact of the relationship, or that [the applicant] can rely in this case on the interference with the private life of anyone else," he said.
    Although the judge did not name Terry in his order, the Guardian says it can reveal that he was the player who made the application.
    And while the injunction did not cite a specific paper, the judge said that the evidence named News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of the News of the World.
    Apparently the story was posted on the Spurs website on January 25.

    Daily Mail exposes secret injunction banning reporting of England footballer's affair

    The Daily Mail reports today that a Premier League footballer has won a gagging order stopping the public learning about his affair with a team-mate’s girlfriend.
    The paper says: "The so-called ‘super-injunction’ was granted by a High Court judge under human rights laws.  The married England international successfully claimed that exposing his infidelity would be a breach of his right to a ‘private and family life’.
    "So draconian is Mr Justice Tugendhat’s order that even its existence is supposed to be a secret."
    Last month, a married Premier League manager succeeded in keeping his identity out of the papers despite being spotted visiting a brothel.
    The latest injunction will spark more concern that a privacy law is being bought in via the courts rather than voted on in Parliament.

    This isn't news is it?

    And bears shit in the woods. Headline classic from the Ormskirk Advertiser, via HoldtheFrontPage. It ranks alongside the alltime great headline 'Man Battered in Fish Shop.'

    Quotes of the Week

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on paywalls: "If you erect a universal pay wall around your content then it follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content. Again, there may be sound business reasons for doing this, but editorially it is about the most fundamental statement anyone could make about how newspapers see themselves in relation to the newly-shaped world."

    Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff on what Rupert thinks of Rusbridger: "In my many conversations with Murdoch, he would occasionally and with some anxious attention bring up Rusbridger, who can seem like a Delphic and mysterious character. Murdoch did not know quite what to make of Rusbridger and his Internet ambitions, seeing him as something quite different from a newspaper man, at least one in the Murdoch mold.  He did not insult Rusbridger, as he does most of his competitors, but he didn’t quite regard him as someone he might ever want to be alone with either: “Kooky,” was his description. “And what’s with the way his hair falls in his face?” Murdoch asked once, scowling in his dark way, about Rusbridger’s bangs and mop-top. “How old is he? He looks like a kid.”

    Independent media columnist Stephen Glover: "The New York Times intends to charge online readers for the simple reason that it is losing lots of money. So too is The Guardian. Could it really afford to stand on its principles if The New York Times made a go of its paywall? Whether or not to charge on the net should be a commercial consideration, not an ideological one."

    Guardian writer "Sir Bufton Tufton KBE" in a missive to the paper's Open Door column: "I noticed a 'rushed to hospital' in an intro last week. I winced but let it pass. Two days later, it was in a front-page caption. Can you deal with it in the appropriate ­fashion? Surely only news if the ambulance carrying the grievously injured victim dawdles on the way to hospital, stopping at a drive-thru McDonald's, taking in a movie etc etc. What's to become of us all?"

    Sky News associate editor Simon Bucks on a celebrity threatening to sue a national newspaper over a crossword clue: "This is the extent to which minor celebrities are prepared to exploit our absurd libel laws to make themselves a few hundred smackers for minimal effort, aided and abetted by avaricious lawyers with eye-watering rate-cards."

    Milton Kenes Citizen journalist Sally Murrer, who was prosecuted after being accused of encouraging a police officer to leak information, on her soon to be published novel According to Bella: "Because the main characters were a local newspaper journalist and a detective sergeant, bearing a striking similarity to my co-defendant Mark Kearney, they [the police] assumed it was evidence. Thus we assume Thames Valley police had to plough through all 94,000 words of it. Perhaps I ought to ask them to do a review."

    Thursday 28 January 2010

    Fear and foreboding about the future at the Frontline... and some reasons to be cheerful

    There was fear at the Frontline Club in London tonight not from journalists setting out on dangerous foreign assignments but from those wondering how they are going earn enough money from the profession to pay the rent.
    One of the speakers at the Club's networking event summed up the mood. Karl Schneider, editorial director of Reed Business Information, said: "There's a lot of fear. People are scared whether we are going to be able to fund the journalism that we love doing."
    On the paywall issue, Schneider claimed: "There's not much confidence that we can charge."
    Wired and Press Gazette columnist Peter Kirwan said of all the journalists he had talked to at the event only two paid for online editorial content (to the Wall Street Journal and a German newspaper).
    He claimed the mood among journalists was one of uncertainty. "People just don't know where journalism is going."
    Kevin Anderson, digital research editor at the Guardian, said he believed something more sophisticated would be developed by newspapers than simply imposing a universal paywall and said he believed there was "an exciting future for journalists".
    There were some other reasons to be cheerful.
    Schneider revealed that 60% of RBI revenues now came from online. He suggested that people were being "too negative about the scope for ads on digital" once we were out of recession.
    Kirwan claimed readers were getting conditioned to paying for content, noting that Emap was doing very well from subscriptions across paywalls. He also said that Apple's just announced iPad offered "an interesting opportunity for magazine publishers."

    Covering the Stop the War demo at Iraq Inquiry

    The NUJ says it has been pursuing the right of journalists - photographers, in particular - to cover the planned demonstration tomorrow (Friday January 29) morning by the Stop the War Coalition at the Iraq Inquiry in London’s QE2 Centre.
    In response, the Metropolitan Police have told the union that the following sites should be available:
    • One on Westminster Green (for camera crews mainly)
    • A pen for photographers on the right hand side facing the QE2
    Police say that arrangements for the media will be handled by staff from the QE2 centre and photographers will need their press passes. For media inquiries about the Iraq Inquiry use this link.

    Sex and drugs and. . . the Islington Gazette

    Here's a tale to make Steve Dyson happy. "Divorced fetish club fan Freddie King, 49, turned his flat into a chemistry lab to make deadly dance drugs ...and traded them for sex with young clubbers."
    Yep, it's this week's splash in the Islington Gazette.

    Why news agencies are struggling to survive: 'Newspapers are ripping off freelances'

    Some interesting posts on the Greenslade blog, which yesterday picked up my story that Kent News and Pictures was ceasing to trade, about the tough times facing news agencies and freelances.
    Naturally, some took a pop at the payments made to freelances by Guardian News and Media but they did reflect the slashing of rates by the national press.
    Persemillion posted: "It's not just The Guardian. Last year The Express cut page lead rates from £125 and more to £100. The Scotsman used to pay £80 a lead, now they pay as little as £40. The Sun and Times cut rates in January last year. All these papers now pay less for all rounder stories than they did 17 years ago. And they pay no extra for using the story online as well as the paper = although they are happy to charge advertisers extra if they want to advertise online as well as the paper.
    The whole newspaper industry is ripping off freelances, even more than usual."
    PercyHoskins posted: "Slowly but surely the light of news coverage is being turned off all around the country - OK, Kent has an excellent agency in Ferrari but there are many other areas that only have individuals and small teams and when they go nothing will ever be heard from those areas."
    The post about slashed rates fits what I've heard. Some nationals that used to pay £150 for a picture are now paying £75 or even £50.
    I used to work for a news agency (Raymond's of Derby) and the rates for page leads now seem lower than in my day - and that was 25 years ago. But then the Sun was going head-to-head with the Mirror and paid very well for exclusives. It was arguably one of the factors that made the Sun the country's best selling newspaper.
    Also I remember that pick-up pictures of people involved in scandals or tragedies were very valuable to the nationals. Now national reporters just have to lift them from Facebook pages.
    Kent News and Pictures founder Chris Eades told in an interview today today he knew of several other major photography agencies also threatening to pull the plug. "Their management are saying 'we're not sure how long we can hold it together'."
    Eades said he could not foresee online offering new opportunities, as the papers simply wouldn't pay enough for content.
    The Kent News and Pictures business had suffered when newspapers began paying for the photo space in the paper, rather than the time on the job, and cutting retainers and advance fees, he said.

    NS: 'Government must act on council papers'

    The Newspaper Society is calling for an urgent meeting with the Government to ensure curbs are placed on council publications which take private sector advertising in  competition with the local press.
    “Central government must not turn a blind eye to this practice any longer,” said NS director David Newell.“It undermines local democracy and must be stopped."
    Newelladded: “In light of the urgency of the problem, widely acknowledged by senior ministers when the Digital Britain report was published last June, and the subsequent catalogue of quango delays and buck-passing, it is vital that the Government intervenes immediately to prohibit local authorities from setting themselves as newspaper publishers and competing with local newspapers for advertising revenues.”
    His comments follow the findings of an Audit Commission investigation that concluded spending on council publications was "not unreasonable".
    Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey branded the investigation a“complete waste of time” as it did not look at the impact of council newspapers on independent local media.
    She added: “The government should stop trying to pass the buck to bodies that cannot tackle the core issues and must take direct action and intervene immediately before it is too late for some local newspapers.”

    Will Trinity block Reeves' new business venture?

    There is speculation that Trinity Mirror may try and block former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves from launching an online business news operation in the West Midlands.
    Reeves is believed to be in the process of launching a West Midlands version of the successful TheBusinessDesk online news service which operates in Yorkshire and the North West.
    Reeves left the editorship of Trinity's Birmingham Post, which is aimed at the West Midlands business community, at the end of the year  shortly after it switched from daily to weekly.
    It is not uncommon for editors to have non-competition clauses in their contracts to stop them directly competing with their old titles when they leave.
    Yesterday a story about Reeves' new business website was carried on The Drum, on which he has a blog, but was taken down within minutes of being posted. has reported that the new venture would be run by Reeves and two other journalists and says one of those involved is believed to be the former Birmingham Post deputy business editor, Duncan Tift. It also says that it is understood that Reeves has begun offering banner advertising for the new site.
    Update: HoldtheFrontPage says today: "Mr Reeves has so far not responded to our requests for comment on the plan.  However, HTFP understands from other media sources in the West Midlands that yesterday's reports were accurate and that Mr Reeves has already begun selling advertising for the new site."
    HTFP also makes the point that when the Birmingham Post went weekly it said it would put all breaking news online.

    3am spills beans on Peter Andre's copy demands

    Celeb website 3am has published the terms of a copy control contract Peter Andre's management  tried to impose when they were invited along to see him promoting a new product from Costa Coffee.
    Among the highlights:"The interview will be about Costa Coffee and the event only. 3am online understands that they cannot ask any questions regarding anything else; anything asked will not be answered and will be removed from the copy without exception."
    • "3am online agrees to give Can Associates Limited full copy and headline approval of the interview, if approval is not agreed upon 3am online understands that they cannot run the feature."
    • "3am online understands that no images of Katie Price can run with this feature relating to this feature at all."
    • "3am online, under all circumstances, must accompany the photographs of Peter Andre with positive text/captions/headings.
    3am says: "We emailed Pete's management back and said we would no longer be attending, telling them "we're simply not prepared to agree to such ridiculously strict terms... we would happily use pictures of Peter promoting the Costa event and give it plenty of plugs, as well as writing about Peter in a positive tone since he is well-liked by us and our readers but... we wouldn't agree to these insanely restrictive terms for Britney or Brad, so we're hardly going to for Peter. We're not losing anything by not covering the event. But we'd be losing the respect of our readers (who care more about Peter himself than they do about coffee) if we published a dull, sycophantic glorified press release."
    Story tip Patrick Smith on Twitter.

    Wednesday 27 January 2010

    Jon Gaunt wins right to challenge Ofcom

    Outspoken SunTalk presenter Jon Gaunt  today won permission to bring a High Court challenge over media regulator Ofcom's decision to uphold complaints against him. Gaunt was sacked by talkSPORT and censured by Ofcom after calling a Redbridge Council representative a 'Nazi', a 'Health Nazi' and an 'ignorant pig' during an on-air discussion about the Council's ban on placing vulnerable children with foster parents who smoke.
    He argues that Ofcom infringed his right to free speech under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
    Gaunt is being supported in his claim by human rights and civil liberties group Liberty despite having once, in a Sun column, described its director Shami Chakrabarti  as "Britain's most dangerous woman".
    Chakrabarti said today: “We’re delighted that the judge granted permission in this plainly arguable and very important case for free speech. It is disappointing that Ofcom saw fit to resist even permission being granted.
    "The most chilling moment involved counsel for the regulator arguing that Jon Gaunt’s comments didn’t even count as "political speech".
    "Thank goodness the Human Rights Act is there to protect us from the speech police and we look forward to supporting Gaunt in the next stage of this crucial legal battle.”
    Sources MediaGuardian and Liberty.
    See also my post earlier today.

    Government Minister: 'Local press deserves to walk taller and show a little more swagger'

    Sion Simon MP, the Minister for Creative Industries, believes that the local press deserves to "walk a bit taller, with a little more swagger" according to a post on  HoldtheFrontPage.
    The Minister  was commenting on the Dyson at Large blog by ex-Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson in which he looks at a different regional paper each week.
    Some posters have attacked Dyson, claiming ex-editors should not comment on editors still doing the job. But Simon is a fan, as you can see from his post.

    New business web venture for Marc Reeves

    Former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves is launching a new business website. Reeves left the Post at the end of last year after the Trinity Mirror title switched from a daily to a weekly.
    It is thought he could be launching a Midlands version of the, the online business news service which covers Yorkshire and the North West. was launched by David Parkin, former Yorkshire Post business editor, in November 2007 covering Yorkshire business news with the backing of a group of professional investors and entrepreneurs. It launched in the North West in September 2008. It now has 28,000 registered users, employs five journalists and sends out a daily email to subscribers.
    Parkin raised £300,000 for the launch. Speaking at the recent NUJ 'New Ways to Make Journalism Pay' conference in London, he said that after 14 years as a newspaper journalists he realised: “I was working in a dying industry and worried that I’d end up on the scrapheap.”
    Since he left the Post,  Reeves has been appointed to sit on the panel to help the Government select the consortia to run the Indepently Funded News Consortia pilots.

    Kent News and Pictures ceases trading

    These are tough days for news agencies. Yesterday staff at Kent News and Pictures were told that the agency, started by former Evening Standard journalist Chris Eades in Maidstone in 1993, is to cease trading.
    Around 10 editorial staff are expected to lose their jobs. Agency insiders claim that the nationals are slashing the rates for stories and pictures and putting out far fewer commissions making it extremley hard for news agencies to stay afloat in the recession.
    It is also claimed that cutbacks in the regional press are leading to less news stories with national appeal being uncovered and published.
    In 2003, Kent News and Pictures was the first independent British news agency to send journalists to Iraq. Reporter Grant Hodgson was the only British journalist to cover the UN headquarters bombing and his first-person account was widely syndicated throughout the national press.

    Shock-jock Jon Gaunt in 'free speech' High Court challenge to Ofcom backed by Liberty

    The High Court is due to hear a judicial review application today, brought by outspoken SunTalk radio presenter Jon Gaunt, against Ofcom with the backing of Liberty.
    Gaunt is claiming that Ofcom infringed his right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention by upholding complaints against him under the Broadcasting Code.
    Gaunt was sacked by his previous employer talkSPORT for calling a councillor "a health Nazi".
    The case is ground breaking, as it is the first time that a known media personality has brought a direct legal challenge against Ofcom for stifling his rights to free speech during a live broadcast. The judge is expected to give an initial ruling, on the day.
    Gaunt has instructed the leading media lawyers, Gavin Millar QC and Mark Henderson, and his solicitor, Martin Howe, recently won the Gurkha human rights cases alongside Joanna Lumley.
    Liberty, the pressure group campaigning for human rights in the UK, has intervened in the case because of its wider importance to free speech.
    Gaunt, who once described the Liberty director, Shami Chakrabarti, as “Britain’s Most Dangerous Woman”, is arguing that his fundamental right to free speech and to criticise a professional politician has been infringed by Ofcom’s adverse findings.
    Gaunt said:“The right of every British citizen to speak his or her mind, free of the fear of sanction from faceless government-appointed bureaucrats is a right that we must all protect and preserve. It cannot be right that in this century, after generations of Britons gave their lives to preserve free speech, that a radio commentator is still not able to express his views about a professional politician without those words being subject to the approval and vetting of an unelected group of men and women in the Ofcom building.
    "If I lose my case today, then it will be a sad day for our society. It means that no matter how poor our politicians are, they can expect Ofcom to protect them from the scrutiny and the words used by any radio or TV presenter.
    "Ofcom overstepped its remit in my case, and infringed the free speech which I and every other British citizen has enjoyed since the time of Magna Carta. I do not intend to allow an unelected Quango like Ofcom to rob me of my right to free speech”.
    Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said: "Jon Gaunt’s job is fierce debate on the radio. Whilst he apologised for any offence, talkSPORT and Ofcom went completely over the top. People fought the real Nazis so that we could enjoy our freedoms, the Human Rights Act is there to protect us from the speech police”.

    Steve Dyson on the Islington Gazette: 'Asylum seeking fishmonger knifes butcher to death' and that's just the splash... inside drugs, drunken rampage, guns, hammers and cat burglars

    Ex-Birmingam Mail editor Steve Dyson on his blog reviewing the local press, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage,  takes a look at the Islington Gazette this week and likes its shock, horror hard news content.
    He writes: "From the moment I spotted the Islington Gazette, I was excited by its direct, punchy, grisly stories and headlines.
    "Page one on 14 January was a truly 'penny dreadful'-style piece of news, a schizophrenic fishmonger battering a Holloway butcher with a dumbbell before slitting his throat after suffering paranoid delusions.
    "And it all took place between two Afghan asylum-seekers who worked in the busy Nag's Head Market in Seven Sisters Road."
    Dyson notes: "Inside there were more sensational gems:"
    • 'Mechanic fined for drunken rampage' on page five, after havoc at the Walkabout pub in Upper Street. Islington;
    • 'Woman cat burglar is spared jail sentence' on page seven, telling the amazing tale of Sandy Rung-Ruangsap, who specialised in gaining access to flats in Holloway to feed her drug habit, with her 18th appearance in court ("staggering", said the judge); and
    • 'Primary school worker charged with guns plot' on page eight, which told how a teaching assistant in local classrooms had been charged with plotting to own and sell guns.
    He adds: "Just to check it wasn’t a one-week special, by the way, I grabbed an online peek at last week's Gazette content as well  and was delighted to see 'Church service hammer terror': "A bare-chested intruder sparked pandemonium at a church service on Sunday after allegedly threatening the congregation with a hammer."
    "This was a wonderful news story that would have been the talk of the town."
    That's great Steve but what happens if, like me, you live in Islington. Isn't reading the Gazette going to make you a bit scared to go out?

    Tuesday 26 January 2010

    Rupert Murdoch on 'kooky, kid' Rusbridger

    Rupert Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff has posted on Newser what Murdoch thinks of Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger (left) as the pair take up positions on opposite sides of the paywall.
    Wolff writes: "As for Murdoch and Rusbridger, this is a curious juxtaposition. Rusbridger has become something of a digital autodidact; temperamentally old-school, he has nonetheless crossed over into the new world. Murdoch, on the other hand, has stubbornly, belligerently, and, in an increasingly agitated state, denied this world.
    "In my many conversations with Murdoch, he would occasionally and with some anxious attention bring up Rusbridger, who can seem like a Delphic and mysterious character. Murdoch did not know quite what to make of Rusbridger and his Internet ambitions, seeing him as something quite different from a newspaper man, at least one in the Murdoch mold.
    "He did not insult Rusbridger, as he does most of his competitors, but he didn’t quite regard him as someone he might ever want to be alone with either: “Kooky,” was his description. “And what’s with the way his hair falls in his face?” Murdoch asked once, scowling in his dark way, about Rusbridger’s bangs and mop-top. “How old is he? He looks like a kid.”

    Tory local government spokesman says Audit Commission got it wrong on council papers

    Conservative local government spokesman, Bob Neill, has claimed the Audit Commission’s investigation into whether council newspapers are a valid use of resources did not tackle the core problem of how they compete with local papers.
    He said some council publications were "clearly anti-competitive" and added: "Councils need to keep their residents informed about the frequency and scope of local services, but there is no case for branching out into weekly newspapers with entertainment listings and sports reviews.
    "Labour's weakening of the rules on town hall publicity is not only wasting taxpayers' money, but is now starting to erode a free press. Shutting down genuine local newspapers will harm the cause of localism by undermining robust local accountability," Neill said.
    Via the Newspaper Society

    Boris joins the council newspaper bashers

    London local paper News Shopper has an exclusive interview with Mayor of London Boris Johnson in which he claims council-run newspapers are a "real threat to the democratic process".
    He said: "Council produced newspapers are a ludicrous waste of money and a very real threat to the democratic process, which is why I instantly scrapped Ken Livingstone's self-serving propaganda sheet, The Londoner, saving £2.9 million of council taxpayers' money a year to be spent on, amongst other things, 10,000 trees.
    "We simply cannot afford to find that we've suddenly arrived in a future where independent local newspapers cease to exist and the local council paper is all there is to go on.
    "Some of London's independent local papers have been holding the executive to account for over a hundred years and too many of these valuable publications are already closing.
    "Without them we face dark days of partial news management."

    IFJ backs Guardian over Iraq defamation case

    The International Federation of Journalists, ARTICLE 19  and the Iraqi Union of Journalists have called on the Iraqi authorities to drop charges of defamation against the Guardian and its journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.
    The IFJ and ARTICLE 19 have filed a joint amicus brief to the Iraqi Appeal Court in advance of its hearing tomorrow (27 January).
    In November 2009, an Iraqi court ordered the Guardian to pay a 100m dinar (£52,000) fine to the Prime Minister over a story published in April last year under the title "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq".
    The article quoted three anonymous members of the Iraqi Intelligence Services who alleged that the Prime Minister was running Iraqi affairs with a totalitarian hand, that the Iraqi government was close to the United States and that officials attached to the Iraqi national intelligence service were monitoring intelligence and military activities within the government itself.
    The prosecution was under the Saddam-era Publications Law for reportedly defaming the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Intelligence Services. The court had also asked the journalist to disclose the names and contact details of the three officers. They refused.
    ‘‘At the heart of this case is the fight for independent journalism and for protection of sources in Iraq," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "We urge the Iraqi authorities to drop the charges and to put media law reform on their agenda."

    Washington Post: 'No plans to follow New York Times with paywall...but stay tuned'

    In an online question and answer session with readers, the Washington Post's managing editor Raju Narisetti says the paper has made no decision to follow the New York Times by planning to put up a paywall for its internet content.
    Narisetti was asked: "With the news that the NYT is going to a paywall at the start of 2011, what is the likelihood that the Post will also? Or is there an expectation that Post traffic will increase as the Times's decreases?"
    He replied: "Like most media companies, we believe that our content has value to both readers and advertisers and do want to find ways to get paid for the costs we incur to generate such content--in print and online. Much like subscriptions and advertisements pay for a print paper, it would be good to have a model where both advertisers and readers pay online. But, while we continue to keep a close eye on such announcements as well as some emerging models, no decisions have been made about charging for washington post content online. But, stay tuned."
    Via E&P in Exile

    Monday 25 January 2010

    Alan Rusbridger: 'We won't turn our back on the digital world by putting up a paywall'

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said tonight that the openness of the web had created a new style of journalism that via links, multiple sources and collaborations with readers meant journalists can tell a story more effectively than ever before.
    Giving the Hugh Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communication, he likened the paywall to cutting newspapers off from the digital world and claimed that although 2009 had been disappointing for digital ad revenues it would be premature to base future predictions on what happened during a deep recession.
    Rusbridger said that the Guardian had earned £25 million in digital ad revenue last year and would earn only "a fraction of that from a paywall." He said that although he admired Rupert Murdoch as a "brave and radical owner of the Times" the paywall model was "not right for us now".
    He added: "If you erect a universal pay wall around your content then it follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content. Again, there may be sound business reasons for doing this, but editorially it is about the most fundamental statement anyone could make about how newspapers see themselves in relation to the newly-shaped world."
    Rusbridger argued that readers liked links and multiple sources and that collaborative stories were "likely to get to the truth faster".
    He said stories such as the Guardian's investigations into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 demonstrations in London, Trafigura and Tony Blair's tax affairs had all combined traditional reporting with collaborations with outside sources on the web.
    Rusbridger said the growth of digital audiences should be a "beacon of hope for newspapers" and celebrated. He predicted that more and more institutions, like museums, colleges and government departments would be producing their own digital material.
    "What a chance for newspapers," he said. "If we turn our back on all this then we will be sleepwalking into oblivion."
    There were a couple of lighthearted moments during the evening. At one point technical gremlins meant the message: "You are now running on a reserve battery power" flashed up on the screen behind Rusbridger.
    Also, Lady Cudlipp thanked Rusbridger after his speech for introducing the Berliner-sized Guardian because it perfectly fitted the bottom of her parrot's cage. That's something can never do.
    Pic: Jon Slattery

    Media Standards Trust submits PCC reforms

    The Media Standards Trust has today submitted 28 recommendations on how the Press Complaints Commission and self-regulation of  the press could be reformed.
    They include making investigations of breaches of the Code of Practice for journalists without a complaint having been made; accepting complaints from any source; placing a financial value on an adjudication which would be reflected by the size and prominence of the publication’s correction.
    The MST says its proposals are supported by its survey on the press, conducted by Ipsos MORI. The findings were released last week.
    It also says the submission - "Can independent self-regulation keep standards high and preserve press freedom" - made today to the PCC's independent governance review, recognizes "the valuable mediation work done by the PCC, but shows that the public expect more."
    The MST says: "The public does not appear to support the PCC’s current constitutional limitation of usually investigating only when a complaint is received from someone directly involved in the article."
    Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, said: “The Press Complaints Commission was established to act as a newspaper and magazine complaints mediation body. Since then public expectations, fuelled by the media, have changed.
    “The public wants an independent self-regulator that, in addition to mediating complaints, monitors compliance with the code and conducts regular investigations. The PCC, as currently constituted, does not and cannot do this."

    Are churnalists swept way on a raft of webese?

    Guardian readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth in her last Open Door column today includes an epistle she and the editor of the style guide were sent by one of the paper's writers last April. It was addressed to the "Custodians of the English" language:
    "You may think I am making too much of this, but bear with me. I just started reading this story on our blessed website [about cricket] and of course, the first thing I read was the intro: 'Former England captain Michael Vaughan is among a raft of high-profile omissions from the first Test squad to take on West Indies at Lord's next week.'
    "Now, I'm afraid at that point I gave up, such is my loathing of the word 'raft' when used out of context in this absurd way, but more generally because it signifies that the piece is not written in English but in a new language called webese which I fear will increasingly take over, as hard-pressed writers have to churn out stuff and use words like "raft" to ramp up (is that webese?) the significance of what they are writing about. I noticed someone wrote to the readers' editor yesterday criticising the rampant cliche levels in the Guardian and picking out "eye-watering" as swine flu-like in its contagiousness. This bleedin' raft is another example: four players who might have been thought to have a reasonable chance of being selected for the first Test have been omitted. Sink the raft and just give us the facts. Please be vigilant as we float, on our non-metaphorical raft, towards the linguistic rapids."
    It was signed: "Your obedient servant, Sir Bufton Tufton KBE"
    Sir Bufton returned to the fray in October,  writing: "I noticed a 'rushed to hospital' in an intro last week. I winced but let it pass. Two days later, it was in a front-page caption. Can you deal with it in the appropriate ­fashion? Surely only news if the ambulance carrying the grievously injured victim dawdles on the way to hospital, stopping at a drive-thru McDonald's, taking in a movie etc etc. What's to become of us all?"
    Whose to succeed Butterworth? No decision yet, but my vote goes to Sir Bufton Tufton.

    Audit Commission blow for local press

    The Audit Commission's chief executive Steve Bundred has claimed that the money spent on local council newspapers is not "unreasonable" and few are published frequently enough to be viable media for most local advertising.
    In a letter to the Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, Bundred makes seven key points:

    The letter will be a big disappointment to the Newspaper Society which has claimed that local council newspapers are taking away advertising from the local press and threatening its future. Last week Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey likened them to "mini-Pravdas" and said they must be stopped.

    Scotland's first online newspaper launched

    Scotland's new online newspaper, the Caledonian Mercury, has launched today. Behind the venture is  the former editor of, Stewart Kirkpatrick. A print version is expected to follow but will not be a weekly or daily.
    The Caledonian Mercury says of its aims: "We seek to revive Scottish journalism by using the internet rather than railing against it. The Caledonian Mercury stands for intelligent reporting, informed analysis and raising the standard of debate in Scottish life. It also seeks to return journalism to journalists and is a platform to display the work of selected specialist writers – freed from the demands of filling space, toeing the line and “feeding the beast”.
    "We believe that there has never been a better time to be in the business of journalism, never a better time to find fascinating stories and never a better time to be part of a conversation with our readers. The internet frees us from machine media and brings us closer to the people who inspire and consume our writing.
    It adds: " And instead of following the pack we will seek out our own path. Our purpose is to provide in-depth and unique coverage of specific areas of Scottish life. Our print edition will not be daily or weekly and will celebrate the debate we hope our writing provokes.
    "This newspaper is an experiment in the evolution of media. It is a statement of belief in a better public life. It does not fear the possibility failure and instead relishes the prospect of change."

    Stephen Glover: 'Putting up paywalls should be a commercial and not an ideological decision'

    Stephen Glover in his media column in the Independent today wonders how the Guardian will react to the announcement by the New York Times that it will charge frequent online users from next year.
    He suggests: "Possibly The Guardian will see an opportunity. It bills itself on the net as "the world's leading liberal voice" and may think it can profit from the decision to charge by a rival that is, in fact, the world's leading liberal voice."
    But he adds: "It is one thing to criticise a plutocrat and arch-capitalist such as Rupert Murdoch for charging on the web, a different one to attack a fellow liberal newspaper, especially if it succeeds. The New York Times intends to charge online readers for the simple reason that it is losing lots of money. So too is The Guardian. Could it really afford to stand on its principles if The New York Times made a go of its paywall? Whether or not to charge on the net should be a commercial consideration, not an ideological one."

    Sunday 24 January 2010

    Why PRs shouldn't mess Chris Wheal about

    Chris Wheal tells on his blog how he turned to his MP Joan Ruddock after Government PRs took weeks to answer his questions about Council Tax.
    It did the trick. Chris was phoned with an apology 15 minutes after the MP receivied his email asking whether he should complain about the poor response of the PRs to a minister or the head of the Civil Service.

    Saturday 23 January 2010

    The Times and Sunday Times for sale?

    Look what story Rupert Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff is working on, according to his post on Twitter. The possible sale of The Times and Sunday Times.

    Photographers in mass Trafalgar Square protest

    Hundreds of photographers flooded Trafalgar Square in London today in support of the 'I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!' mass photo gathering.
    The gathering was a protest against the police using anti-terror laws to harass photographers taking pictures in public places.
    It follows a series of detentions of photographers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act including police detaining an architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning Santas at City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Paul's Cathedral.

    Pics: Jon Slattery

    Sally Murrer novel about reporter and police

    Sally Murrer, the Milton Keynes Citizen journalist who was prosecuted after being accused of encouraging a police officer to leak information, is to have a novel published about a local newspaper reporter and a detective.
    Murrer spent 19-months with the threat of a jail sentence hanging over her but charges against her of “aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office” were thrown out at Kingston Crown Court in November 2008. She, and her co-defendant, a police officer, were cleared after a judge ruled that Thames Valley Police had no right to bug their conversation.
    Sally describes her book 'According to Bella' as "a light crime novel with a romantic twist" and not based on her prosecution, although it draws on her 33 years as a journalist and contacts with police.
    The manuscript was seized on her laptop by the police when she was arrested.  Sally says: "Because the main characters were a local newspaper journalist and a detective sergeant, bearing a striking similarity to my co-defendant Mark Kearney,  they assumed it was evidence. Thus we assume Thames Valley police had to plough through all 94,000 words of it. Perhaps I ought to ask them to do a review.
    "In fact, the book was utter fiction and ironically the whole theme revolves around the police sergeant refusing to tell the poor journalist anything at all. Because the police also seized my work computer on which I had backed up the manuscript, I was left with no electronic copy. It was held in 'custody' for 19 months until the court case collapsed."
    Sally is still still working part-time for the Citizen.
    'According to Bella' is published on March 25 by Brighton-based Book Guild Publishing, price £6.99.

    Friday 22 January 2010

    Sky's Simon Bucks: 'Newspaper threatened with libel action by actor over crossword clue'

    Sky News' associate editor Simon Bucks has a great posting  on his blog exposing the latest ludicrous libel threat to a national newspaper - "we'll sue you over a crossword clue".
    Bucks writes on his blog: "One of our national newspapers was threatened with a libel action this week over a crossword clue. I'm not kidding.
    The paper's crossword had a clue which invited the solver to name the current beau of a young actress. You will understand why I am going to refrain from naming either the beau or the actress.
    Anyway, not long after it appeared, a letter was delivered to the paper's managing editor from one of London's top libel lawyers. It said they represented a young man, also an actor. They complained that the number of letters in the answer to the clue was the same as the numbers of letters in the surname of their client! Since he was adamant that he was NOT stepping out with the young woman in question, he had been potentially libelled, so would the paper a) promise not to do it again, b) pay his costs and c) pay damages.
    This is the extent to which minor celebrities are prepared to exploit our absurd libel laws to make themselves a few hundred smackers for minimal effort, aided and abetted by avaricious lawyers with eye-watering rate-cards.
    Alice In Wonderland stories like this deserve wider currency because they underline the urgent and long overdue need for reform of Britain's libel legislation.
    Meanwhile the crossword editor is planning to leave a gap when he publishes the puzzle' s answers, with a note blaming the omission on legal considerations. Is this a first?"
    The puzzle is which national? From the clue it sounds more like a tabloid as it is about a celebrity rather than a cryptic clue more common to the posh papers.
    Story via the Society of Editors

    Donald Martin quits Herald for Sunday Post

    Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of  Glasgow-based The Herald, and its sister titles, the Sunday Herald and Evening Times, is leaving to become the editor of the Sunday Post it was announced today.
    Martin is leaving after just over a year in post as Herald & Times editor-in-chief. He had previously been editor of the Evening Times.
    According to allmediascotland , in a memo appearing on The Herald staff intranet, Martin said he was joining the Sunday Post to 'follow in the footsteps' of his grandfather, Jack Campbell, a former Sunday newspaper editor. He succeeds David Pollington, who retired at the end of last year.
    It quotes Martin, saying: "The Sunday Post is a great family newspaper with a proud history and I look forward to helping the newspaper, staff and group deliver an ambitious and exciting future.
    “I would not be in the position to have been offered the role without the tremendous career development and confidence senior management had in me during my four years at the Herald &Times Group, firstly editing The Evening Times and latterly The Herald as editor-in-chief.
    “I will always be grateful for the opportunities I have been given and will be sad to leave behind such a talented team.”
    Martin is the current president of the Society of Editors. He is a former deputy editor of the Cambridge Evening News, and was also chief sub-editor and production editor of the Reading Evening Post, editor of Thames Valley Free Newspapers and launch editor of the Edinburgh and Lothian’s Post. In 1993 he took over as editor of the North West Evening Mail, part of Cumbrian Newspapers, which he edited for four years.

    Guardian confirms 'around 40' volunteers for redundancy, including Brook and Tryhorn

    MediaGuardian confirmed in a story today that around 40 journalists at Guardian News and Media, publisher of the Guardian, Observer and,  have taken voluntary redundancy. They include MediaGuardian reporters Stephen Brook (pictured) and Chris Tryhorn and production editor Aly Duncan, as well as the Guardian's San Francisco-based technology reporter Bobbie Johnson.
    In November GNM revealed that more than 100 of the publisher's 1,700 editorial and commercial posts were to be cut. The company was estimated to be losing around £100,000 a day.

    Quotes of the Week

    Greg Hadfield, ex-head of digital development at Telegraph Media Group: "No longer can newspapers survive by publishing at their readers, by talking down to them, by controlling what can and can't be written or said. In future, they will have to provide – and share, not "own" – the online environment in which they can meet the needs of individual members of their community. They have to be part of social media, not monolithic media."

    Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt warns media companies bidding for government money to run replacement ITV regional news pilots: "Let me be clear, we do not support these provisions in the Digital Economy Bill and we do not support the pilot [regional news] schemes. The contracts are not due to be signed until May [and] anyone looking to sign one should understand that we'll do all we can to legally unpick them if David Cameron enters No 10."

    Blogger Guido Fawkes: "I have achieved the Marxist ideal. I own the means of production and distribution. I have job security, I can't be fired and do much better than many journalists."

    Lord Heseltine on Media Week and the decision to make it online only: "It's always been a very weak publication. . . by retaining the name and Media Week brand we can make more money, without having to print a magazine, with awards and events."

    Steve Dyson on the Manchester Evening News: "We all know that the Guardian Media Trust 'only exists to further the survival of The Guardian,' or some-such grandiose principle. But hey, guys, how about a spell of stability with not too many more wild ideas for this grand old (yet very modern-looking) newspaper? "

    Thursday 21 January 2010

    Bobbie Johnson says goodbye to the Guardian

    US-based correspondent Bobbie Johnson, who has covered many new media stories, is one of the journalists taking voluntary redundancy from the Guardian.
    He writes on his blog: "For many people, redundancy is an unexpected shock that leaves them devastated and reeling. For me, it's entirely different: I volunteered. We've been undergoing a voluntary redundancy programme for the past year and I'm part of the latest round of people to take the jump.
    "I'm young, I've got bags of experience, a small number of commitments and I'm itching to try new things. This is a chance to do something new. The entrepreneurial zeal here in San Francisco is infectious, and perhaps I can soak some of it up and use it to my benefit. I am ready for fresh challenges.
    "That's not to say I won't miss my job, or the tremendous people I worked with over the years."

    Guardian agrees redundancy with staff today

    Journalists at Guardian News and Media, publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers and website, have heard today whether their applications for voluntary redundancy have been accepted.
    I am told the number of journalists who are to leave the paper is around 40 although the company won't confirm this figure. It says conversations are still taking place with some staff and it is still open for journalists to come forward and discuss redundancy. The company says its cost savings are "on target".
    The redundancy programme was introduced to stem losses at the national newspapers and which together are said to be losing around £100,000 a day.
    It is understood that a number of well known by-lines will be disappearing from the papers and website as reporters as well as production staff opt for redundancy.

    Sly Bailey: 'Council papers must be stopped'

    Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey attacked council newspapers again today, describing them as ''propaganda masquerading as journalism."
    Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention she said: "If we truly value local press we must stop council newspapers; imagine if it happened on a national level with a government newspaper."
    She claimed the"Mini Pravdas are damaging circulation and advertising of local papers".
    Her comments follow those of Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw who has said he has “some sympathy” with the argument against council newspapers which divert advertising revenue from independent titles.
    In the House of Commons this week,  Bradshaw responded to questions from MPs about his department’s plans to secure the future of high quality regional news.
    David Crausby, MP for Bolton, North-East, asked what could be done to ensure that Government advertising was steered towards “vital” local newspapers.
    Bradshaw responded: “The first thing that I would say to my hon. Friend is that local newspapers and local newspaper groups have warmly welcomed the Government’s proposals for the new regional news consortia.
    “Many local newspaper groups are involved in bidding for some of the pilots to which I have just referred. I have some sympathy with his point about the impact of local government free sheets and their advertising on local newspapers.
    “He might have noticed that we announced in December, just before Christmas, that we would continue to require local authorities to advertise in paid-for newspapers.
    “The Department for Communities and Local Government is undertaking a review of the publicity code for local authorities, in which we have made our opinions quite clear.”
    Sources: MediaGuardian: Emily Bell and Matthew Wells on Twitter; Newspaper Society.