Sunday 28 February 2010

'It is invaluable for detained journalists to know their peers are campaigning on their behalf.'

Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek correspondent held in an Iranian jail last year, is helping to spearhead a campaign calling on Iran to free all journalists, writers and bloggers who have been detained.
He is calling for supporters of press freedom in Iran to sign a petition on Facebook.
Bahari says: "More journalists and writers are now in prison in Iran than in any other country in the world. As you are no doubt aware, there has been a continuing brutal crackdown on press freedom since the disputed elections last summer.
"In view of this extreme situation, international press freedom groups are launching a joint international campaign which is running from the anniversary of the revolution on 11 February to Iranian New Year on 21 March. I urge you to sign this petition which we will be sending to Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, as well as leading ministers in the Iranian government.
"We are not only concerned at the scale of arrests and detentions, but at the treatment of detainees. There are reports of torture and solitary confinement. It is important that the Iranian authorities are aware that their actions have an impact on world opinion and it is invaluable for detained journalists to know that their peers are campaigning on their behalf."
You can find out more about the campaign at

Saturday 27 February 2010

100 days: Remembering the 32 journalists and media staff massacred in Philippines attack

Journalists and human rights campaigners will join forces on Wednesday to mark 100 days since 32 journalists and other media staff were killed in the southern province of Maguindanao in the Philippines - believed to be the worst single massacre of journalists in history.
A forum - “The Massacre in Maguindanao: Impunity and Political Killings in the Philippines” on Wednesday March 3 - is being organised jointly in London by the NUJ, the International Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines.
The forum will hear first-hand accounts by investigators who went to the crime scene following the massacre as well as a detailed report of an investigative mission by the International Federation of Journalists, and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which visited Maguindanao and met with families of the victims and government officials.
The event is at 6.00 p.m. on Wednesday, 3 March, at Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. Places can be booked at
Via the NUJ website

An advert too far?

Thanks to George Dearsley for sending me this somewhat unfortunate juxtaposition of story and ad from the Today newspaper, Singapore.

Friday 26 February 2010

When headlines go bad..blame the gremlins!

Headline disaster from the Stratford Herald about local music venue Cox's Yard is explained away as a "gremlin attack".  

Watts: 'Guardian complaints system a sham'

Mark Watts, the candidate for the Journalist editorship who alleged that the NUJ Left was plotting to take over the union, is claiming today that the editorial complaints system at the Guardian is "a farce and a sham".
He says: "After three months of delay and obfuscation, the newspaper has finally reached a conclusion on my complaint about two blog articles written by its media commentator, Roy Greenslade, attacking my exposure of “NUJ Left”, the far-left faction attempting to hijack the National Union of Journalists.
"The complaint was partly upheld and partly rejected. But the handling of the complaint makes the newspaper industry regulator, the Press Complaints Commission – which the Guardian often likes to criticize – appear thorough, considered and credible."
He has written, at some length, about the way his complaint was handled on his FOIA website.

NUJ: 'We'll fight BBC cuts'

The NUJ says it will fight the BBC proposals, leaked to The Times today, to make £600m of cuts which would including closing two radio staions - the BBC Asian Network and BBC 6 Music -  and cutting the online budget by a quarter and disposing of BBC Worldwide's UK magazine titles.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "If true, these cuts will result not just in the loss of hundreds of jobs, but the loss of valuable, quality output aimed at young people and the Asian communities. We will fight them with all our might.
"I will be meeting with BBC management today, where I will seek assurances around job security for our NUJ members at the BBC and will make clear that we will do everything that's required - including taking industrial action, if necessary, to defend jobs at the BBC."
Update: Jeremy Dear and Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of BECTU, received a detailed briefing from Lucy Adams, director BBC People, today, confirming media reports as largely correct. The BBC issued a statement to its staff this afternoon.
Dear said: "It is deeply disappointing that staff once again face a period of turmoil and uncertainty as a result of these leaks. We have received initial assurances that the proposals are subject to consultation and that any staffing changes will not happen until next year. There will be further meetings with BBC management in the coming days at which we will seek further details about the plans.
“If true, these plans smack of an attempt to appease commercial and political interests. Hard-working staff shouldn't be used as a political football and we will fight any compulsory redundancies.”

There ain't nothing like a Wayne Sun headline

The Sun went a bit puntastic today adapting a song from My Fair Lady to sum up the decision by footballer Wayne Bridge to quit the England World Cup team over John Terry's affair with his ex-partner.

Max Mosley privacy case being 'fast tracked'

The European Court of Human Rights is fast-tracking the case brought by Max Mosley to tighten UK privacy laws, the Independent claims today.
Lawyer Mark Stephens, who is acting for a group of media and free speech organisations opposing Mosley in court, believes that the pace with which it is proceeding suggests that the judges are about to rule in the former Formula One boss's favour.
The Independent says: "That would mean a change in the law that would force the press to contact anyone that they are intending to run a story about to warn them if it could potentially breach their privacy, giving public figures a chance to gag newspapers before publication."
The Culture Media and Sport committe in its report on press standards, privacy and libel, which was published this week recommended that the Press Complaints Commission should amend the Code of Practice to include a requirement that journalists should normally notify the subject of their articles prior to publication, subject to a "public interest" test.
On the News of the World's revelations about Mosley's sex life, the committee said: "We found the News of the World editor's attempts to justify the Max Mosley story on 'public interest' grounds wholly unpersuasive, although we have no doubt the public was interested in it."

The Times: 'BBC to cut website by half''

In an exclusive this morning The Times says the BBC will shut half its website, close digital radio stations 6 Music and Asian Network and introduce a cap on spending on broadcast rights for sports events.
The story by media correspondent Patrick Foster says BBC director-general Mark Thompson will, as part of a strategic review, admit that the corporation, has become too large and must shrink to give its commercial rivals room to operate.
The story says: "The BBC will also try to calm the nerves of local newspaper groups — who are suspicious of the corporation after its aborted plans to develop video-driven local websites — with a pledge not ever to produce services at a “more local” level than is currently the case."
It is also claimed: "The corporation’s web pages are to be halved, backed by a 25 per cent cut in staff numbers. Its £112 million budget will also be cut by 25 per cent. It is also pledging to include more links to newspaper articles to drive traffic to the websites of rival publishers."
The report is said to be being considered by the BBC Trust and is due to be made public next month.  

Kevin Anderson to leave the Guardian

The Guardian's digital research editor Kevin Anderson is taking redundancy and will leave the paper at the end of next month.
Before joining the Guardian, Anderson worked for the BBC and developed a blogging strategy for BBC News.
Writing on his bog, Anderson says: "I’m joining many of my colleagues in accepting another offer from the Guardian, voluntary redundancy. My last day is 31 March...It’s been a real honour to work at the Guardian and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me. We’ve achieved a lot in the past three and a half years, although it felt like we were always impatient to do more."
As for the future, he adds: "I’m hoping it will be one that helps journalism make the transition to the future. I have almost 15 years of experience in digital, multi-platform journalism ... Nothing is settled, though, so I’m still open to offers, as well as being available for short-term writing and freelancing."

Quotes of the Week

Andrew Rawnsley interviewed in the Guardian about Gordon Brown's reaction to his book: "He hasn't been on the phone. I expect he is quite cross."

Andy McSmith in the Independent on Gordon Brown: "We read of him seizing an adviser by the lapels and shouting in his face, but the next day, the same adviser still has a job. If that is a "reign of terror", to quote a phrase in common use yesterday, I wonder what phrase would sum up the management techniques of some newspaper proprietors and editors, past and present."

Rod Liddle interviewing Piers Morgan in the Sunday Times:" 'Gordon is obsessed with Britain’s Got Talent,' Morgan says, laughing, and I want to tell him that I am too, that I am obsessed to the point that I want to shoot everyone on it."

Ian Herbert in the Independent about the bitterness felt by the Manchester Evening News staff over its sale by Guardian Media Group: "The abiding sense among MEN staff that The Guardian occupies another world to them was never felt more acutely than when the journalists from the Manchester trade union chapel headed to London last year for a crucial meeting with their highly supportive Guardian counterparts - only to be told that they must wait around for a meeting room to become free, as it was being used for a yoga class."

Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on press standards: "There is still a great deal of good, responsible journalism in the British press. However, the picture painted for us of corners being cut and of fewer journalists struggling to do more work is cause for concern. If the press is to command the trust and respect of the public, the public needs to know that the press is committed to high standards even in difficult times."

Charlie Brooker in the Guardian: "Even if Terry had been caught ­having sex with a Cabbage Patch Doll in the window of Hamleys, he'd still be a better role model than any tabloid newspaper. A child who idolised the tabloids would grow up to be a ­sanctimonious, flip-flopping, phone-tapping Peeping Tom who thinks puns are hilarious and spends half its life desperately ­rooting through bins for a ­living. If I had a child like that, I'd divorce it. Or kill it. Whichever proved cheapest."

Thursday 25 February 2010

NUJ backs blogger banned from coroner's court

The NUJ has condemned a coroner’s decision to deny a blogging journalist access to the Isle of Wight coroner’s court.
NUJ member Simon Perry, who runs VentnorBlog about life on the island, says he was ordered to leave the court by the coroner’s officer because he was not recognised as a member of the press and the coroner didn’t want him there.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written to the Isle of Wight coroner's office expressing his concern at the decision to ban Perry from the hearing.
"The principle of open justice is vital to a democracy," Dear said. "Any journalist will tell you that the right of the public to know what happens in a coroner's court is fundamental to a free society. As Simon Perry's union, the NUJ will certainly pursue the issue vigorously."
Hat-tip Judith Townend

Importance of independent journalism will be focus of this year's Local Newspaper Week

Local Newspaper Week 2010 will take place from 10-16 May this year with the theme ‘Your Voice’, focusing on the importance of independent local journalism holding public bodies to account.
The theme reflects the Newspaper Society's campaign that independent coverage is under threat from council owned newspapers taking ad revenues away from the local press. Editors are being encouraged to provide examples of the hard-hitting investigative journalism, coverage of courts, councils and other public bodies, and influential campaigning work which their papers have undertaken.
Source: Newspaper Society

With Glowing Hearts documents social media at the 'Twitter Olympics' in Vancouver

This is worth checking out. A new insight into the Winter Olympics in Vancouver using social media.
Vancouver-based documentary producer Jon Ornoy is currently in production on a film called With Glowing Hearts.
WGH uses the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics as a backdrop for an exploration of the power of social media to tell stories, empower citizens, and break down the digital divide. The film focuses on four stories of citizen journalists and media collectives working in the city's impoverished Downtown Eastside who challenge the negative image of the community using social media and affordable technology to bring the power of digital storytelling into their neighbour's hands.
There is a trailer for the film, blogs about the Winter Olympics and the background to the project at this website:
Ornoy says: "The stories that are unfolding before our cameras examine the very real sense of power which comes from making the transition from just being a consumer of media to being a producer as well.
"Vancouver is a leading centre in the social media world, and it's been fascinating to see how it's being embraced and employed here across the board from protests to hospitality houses in what many here are calling 'The Twitter Olympics'."

New high for Mike Lowe's Cotswold Life

Good to see on HoldtheFrontPage that Cotswold Life magazine edited by Mike Lowe has picked up a top international award.
Cotswold Life was named best consumer magazine of the year at the Niche Magazine conference in Arizona, USA. Lowe was editor of the Bristol Evening Post and a legend within Northcliffe before his shock exit in a management shake-up.
Cotswold Life is owned by Archant and Lowe is group editor of all its Life titles in the Midlands and West.
Lowe, who joined Archant four years ago,  told HTFP: "It's a completely different world. Much more fun. I'm still getting used to the idea of year-on-year sales increases for a start."

Wednesday 24 February 2010

'My shame at being duped over Iraq war'

Journalist David Rose has told how he still feels "shamed and disgusted" at the way he was duped by those who wanted to go to war in Iraq.
Speaking in a debate at the Frontline Club, Rose who reported for the Observer and Vanity Fair in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq said he had interviewed people who had purported to be defectors from the Saddam regime who had told "a pack of lies".
He said that intelligence services knew that some of the sources were fabricating information about Iraq but they were still used to back claims that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Rose added: "I don't think people quite realise how cynical the process of manipulation by those who wanted this war was. I still feel shamed and disgusted at being duped to that extent."
The Independent's Iraq correspondent Patrick Cockburn  said the opposition to Saddam knew there was no chance of a coup inside the country to overthrow him and knew they had to keep prodding the US to get rid of him.
Cockburn claimed that "if you know which US and British correspondents to go to you can have a good idea of what's happend in Iraq since the invasion". But he said coverage in the run-up to the war was "notoriously bad". Cockburn criticised as "appalling" the many "experts" and "talking heads" who are used by the media to comment on Iraq.
Former Radio 4 Today programme editor Kevin Marsh, now editor of the BBC College of Journalism, claimed: "Some parts of the media may have some accounting to do but the media as a whole has together done a far better job than any of the official inquiries into the Iraq war have done."
He did add, however, "I think the way in which the Lobby was orchestrated by Alastair Campbell was not the Lobby's finest hour."
Cockburn stressed the importance of having experienced reporters on the ground. "Good reporting comes from people who've been there a long time." But he admitted it had become far more dangerous for journalists to operate on their own in war zones. 
Rose pointed out that the media industry was in danger of collapsing as the old business models failed and editorial budgets came under pressure.
"The first place that feels the pinch is covering foreign conflicts - not Cheryl Cole," he said.
Pic: (Left to Right) Patrick Cockburn, Kevin Marsh and David Rose.

'Dictators not democrats suspend newspapers'

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell has hit out at the suggestion by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee that newspapers could be suspended from publishing if found guilty of bad behaviour.
He told BBC News: “On the question of suspending publication, the committee say quite right that the media has an important part to play in a democracy it is therefore strange that Members of Parliament should countenance the idea that a publication might be suspended by the PCC. That is the kind of censorship that is usually associated with dictators and totalitarian regimes, there is no place for it in a democracy."

NUJ claims victory for FT Chinese journalists

The NUJ says the Financial Times has withdrawn what it claimed were plans to force a specialist group of Chinese journalists at the paper to return to China on half their current salaries or else accept redundancy.
The NUJ chapel at the Financial Times voted unanimously to demand that the threat of redundancies be lifted from their Chinese colleagues, who produce a specialist Chinese language website for the newspaper. The chapel had threatened to ballot for industrial action over the issue.

NUJ chief: 'PCC has got it wrong it again'

Jeremy Dear gives his verdict on his blog today to the Culture Media and Sport committee's report on press standards, privacy and libel.
He says: "It’s a shocker. The PCC has got it wrong. Again. The problem with such failings by the PCC is that it gives ammunition to those who want to introduce statutory controls. The NUJ stands firmly in favour of self-regulation – but in the public interest not in the interest of newspaper proprietors. The PCC needs drastic reform (like with the Labour Party there are those who argue it is no longer capable of reform) and as long as it is incapable of imposing meaningful sanctions it will remain toothless in the face of the commercial interests of media companies."

Quotes of the Day: Culture, Media and Sport Committee on press standards, libel and privacy

Here are some of the major conclusions and recommendations from today's Culture, Media and Sport select committee's report on press standards, privacy and libel which you can read, in full, here.
  • We recommend that the PCC should amend the Code to include a requirement that journalists should normally notify the subject of their articles prior to publication, subject to a "public interest" test, and should provide guidance for journalists and editors on pre-notifying in the Editors' Codebook.
  •  There is still a great deal of good, responsible journalism in the British press. However, the picture painted for us of corners being cut and of fewer journalists struggling to do more work is cause for concern. If the press is to command the trust and respect of the public, the public needs to know that the press is committed to high standards even in difficult times.
  • We found the News of the World editor's attempts to justify the Max Mosley story on 'public interest' grounds wholly unpersuasive, although we have no doubt the public was interested in it.
  • Of course, it is impossible to say for certain that untrue articles were written in the McCann case as a result of pressure from editors and news desks. It is, however, clear that the press acted as a pack, ceaselessly hunting out fresh angles where new information was scarce.
  • We have received no evidence in this inquiry that the judgments of Mr Justice Eady in the area of privacy have departed from following the principles set out by the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.
  • The free and fair reporting of proceedings in Parliament is a cornerstone of a democracy. In the UK, publication of fair extracts of reports of proceedings in Parliament made without malice are protected by the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840. They cannot be fettered by a court order.
  • We look forward, clearly, to the outcome of the important Simon Singh case. Even from the limited evidence we have received, we believe that the fears of the medical and science community are well-founded, particularly in the internet age and with the growth of 'libel tourism'. We urge the Government, therefore, to take account of these concerns in a review of the country's libel laws, in particular the issue of fair comment in academic peer-reviewed publications.
  • Whatever the constitutional situation, or diplomatic niceties, we believe that it is more than an embarrassment to our system that legislators in the US should feel the need to take retaliatory steps to protect freedom of speech from what they view as unreasonable attack by judgments in UK courts.
  •  All the evidence we have heard leads us to conclude that costs in CFA cases are too high. We also believe that CFA cases are rarely lost, thereby undermining the reasons for the introduction of the present scheme. However it is vital to the maintenance of press standards that access to justice for those who have been defamed is preserved.
  • During our inquiry, regarding the reporting of personal tragedies, we also asked how the press - local newspapers, in particular - moderated their websites, when asking readers to comment on stories. Certain comments of which we have been made aware have been sick and obscene. The PCC told us, though, that it did not consider this a major issue.
  • We remain of the view that self-regulation of the press is greatly preferable to statutory regulation, and should continue. However for confidence to be maintained, the industry regulator must actually effectively regulate, not just mediate. The powers of the PCC must be enhanced, as it is toothless compared to other regulators.
  • In order to command public confidence that its rulings are taken seriously by the press, we believe that, in cases where a serious breach of the Code has occurred, the PCC should have the ability to impose a financial penalty.
  • The freedom of the press is vital to a healthy democracy; however, with such freedom come responsibilities. The PCC has the burden of responsibility of ensuring the public has confidence in the press and its regulation and it still has some way to go on this.

'PCC must cajole newspapers to change'

The Media Standards Trust said today that the Press Complaints Commission must work "to cajole and command" the newspaper industry to change.
It was responding to the publication of the culture, media and sport select committee' s report into press standards, privacy and libel.
Trust director Martin Moore said: "The select committee's report sets out two important principles: that the press must be free to be wrong but accountable when it makes mistakes. The committee heard stark warnings of threats to press freedom but also the cost to individuals of when that freedom was abused.
“The hard work begins now. This committee's report contains many important recommendations for the Press Complaints Commission. In particular, it establishes that acting as a complaints mediator is insufficient for safeguarding public trust. As opinion research commissioned by the Media Standards Trust in January 2010 reveals, the public expects a press self-regulator to be proactive in monitoring breaches of the code and have responsibility for reporting on press standards.
"This important work must be taken forward by the PCC's governance review which must work across the industry, on behalf of the public, to cajole and command the newspaper industry to change. The press demands transparency and accountability of others. Now it must show that it too can be transparent and accountable."
You can read the committee's report here.

Steve Dyson looks at Posh evening paper

Steve Dyson in his Dyson at Large blog reviewing the regional press, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, takes a look at the Peterborough Evening Telegraph today.
Steve writes: "A top splash, confident news and sports intros and strong online boosts to the newspaper made the Peterborough Evening Telegraph an enjoyable review."
He praises the paper for its tightly written intros but adds: "For goodness sake, spread this succinct style into the business section, which felt slow, awkward and read like an advertising supplement."
On the paper's online service, Steve notes the Evening Telegraph  has a live link to an online page about the newspaper, its daily features, paper round jobs, back issues service and how to get it home delivered.
"This is great stuff, simple online calls to print that so many newspaper websites could immediately emulate," he says.

Culture Committtee MPs urge libel law reform

Good to hear Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning talking about "overwhelming evidence of the chilling effect" of  the defamation laws and the "astronomical costs" of libel actions.
Whittingdale was talking on the day the committee's report on press standards, privacy and libel is published with some of the coverage concentrating on the report's claims that News International  was guilty of "deliberate obfuscation"  and "collective amnesia" over the extent of illegal phone tapping by its journalists.
Naturally the Guardian believes its investigations into the phone-tapping affair is totally vindicated by the report. Whittingdale on Today said he believed illegal phone tapping was no longer a problem at NI and stressed the committee's recommendations on libel laws and reforming the PCC.
The report expresses concern about the use of 'super-injunctions' - and criticises oil company Trafigura for trying to use a super-injunction to prevent the reporting of Commons debate on its dumping of toxic waste - and the huge legal costs of libel actions. It also calls for action to stop foreign litigants coming to the UK to launch libel cases - so called  "libel tourism" - in Britain's courts.
The committee describes the burden for the media in libel cases of proving that allegations are true are "complex, time consuming and expensive". It suggests and says the Government should examine the requirement that defendants, rather than the person making a libel claim , bear the burden of proving the case.
It says there is no justification for lawyers demanding 100% success fees in "no win, no fee" cases.
The report criticises the Press Complaints Commission as 'lacking credibility' and says it should be able to fine rogue papers and ban them from publishing for a day.
The arguments against the PCC being able to fine or suspend newspapers has been that it will lead to newspapers contesting the sanctions by seeking judicial reviews  which would lead to the law and lawyers becoming involved in self-regulation.
It is the recommendations on the reform of the libel laws that will be most widely welcomed in the press. Something on which the Guardian and News International can agree.
You can read the full report here.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

BBC Four drama shows how much public owes Heather Brooke for MPs' expenses exposure

On the day that the Telegraph was deservedly nominated for a string of British Press Awards for its coverage of MPs' expenses, it was good to see Heather Brooke's role in uncovering the scandal recognised in BBC 4's  On Expenses tonight.
The drama, by Tony Saint, highlighted the way MPs and Speaker Michael Martin tried to block her Freedom of Information requests at every turn and the entrenched culture of official secrecy in the UK.
It also portrayed Brooke's frustration that the final scoop went to the Telegraph, after it had paid for copies of the MPs' unedited expenses, despite her five year long FoI battle.
Great central performances from Anna Maxwell Martin, as Heather Brooke, and Brian Cox, as Speaker Michael Martin, backed up by a stellar supporting cast did justice to a story once described by the Associated Press as: "It took a sassy American to force stuffy British lawmakers to come clean over their expenses."

Headline competition: Spot the difference

One of these headlines about nominations for the British Press Awards is from Press Gazette. The other is from Media Guardian. Can you guess which one is which?
Press Gazette reports: "The Daily Telegraph leads the nominations in this year's British Press Awards with 19 shortlisted entries...The Guardian has the next most nominations with 17 (with an additional two nominations shared with sister title The Observer)."
Whereas MediaGuardian reports: "The Daily Telegraph is equal top in terms of nominations for the 2010 British Press Awards, after a year in which its run of exclusive stories on MPs' expenses dominated the UK news agenda and boosted sales. Telegraph Media Group's daily is tied with the Guardian – part of the group that publishes – on 19 BPA nominations."

Simon Singh in Appeal Court today

Another step in science writer Simon Singh's long running legal case, in which he is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an opinion piece he wrote in the Guardian in 2008, began in the Appeal Court today.
The case has prompted the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign and has already cost freelance Singh more than £100,000 in legal costs.
Singh was sued by the BCA over his article which questioned the lack of evidence for the claims some chiropractors make on treating certain childhood conditions including colic and asthma.
In May last year, Mr Justice Eady, in a preliminary ruling in the dispute, upheld the BCA's pleaded meaning and held that Singh's comments were factual assertions rather than mere expressions of opinion - which means that he cannot use the defence of fair comment.
At the Court of Appeal in London today, Adrienne Page QC, for Singh, told the judges: "The appeal raises important issues of principle as to the limits of free expression on matters of public interest, particularly in the context of the fair comment defence.
She said Singh met the "cardinal test" or "touchstone" of a fair comment defence.
Before the hearing Singh said: "I am determined to defend my article as I maintain that it is fair and touches on an issue of serious public interest, namely the health of children. My greatest desire is that journalists in future should not have to endure such an arduous and expensive libel process. Cases like mine mean that people are afraid to speak out about whether treatments are worthwhile and effective.
"It has been almost two years since the article was published, and yet we are still at the preliminary stage of identifying the meaning of my article. It could easily take another two years before the case is resolved. As well as the drain on time, the case is financially very damaging and I have already accumulated legal bills in excess of £100,000, and even if I do win my case I will not be able to recover all of this."
The appeal hearing is set to last all day and the judges are expected to reserve their decision.
Sources: PA Mediapoint, Press Gazette
Pic: Jon Slattery

Hardcastle pokes finger at Observer staff

Daily Mail columnist Ephraim Hardcastle comments today: "The Observer's allegations about No 10 violence sound rather like life at the Left-wing paper itself. One recent editor was involved in a violent tussle with an underling; then business editor Frank Kane was knocked out by a colleague during a 'bonding' excursion; an arts editor had his nose broken in a fracas; there was a punch-up at the 2002 funeral in Edinburgh of the paper's foreign news editor, Arnold Kemp, at which Gordon Brown read the lesson."

Monday 22 February 2010

US newspapers' staff cut by 105,000 since 2001

The number of staff who have left the US newspaper industry since 2001 is now estimated at 105,000, according to the MediaPost website.
Based on records kept by the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor and tallies by various industry watchers, total employment in the newspaper publishing business has declined from 414,000 in 2001 to 309,000 at the end of 2009, a 25.4% drop over the course of eight years.
MediaPost says that the layoffs accelearted through 2009. "After losing an average 3.5% per year from 2001-2006, in 2007-2009, the average rate of loss increased to 5% per year. After a period of relative stability, newsroom losses grew steeper towards the end of the period: Total employment declined by an average 1% per year from 2001-2006, then accelerated to 5% from 2007-2009, including an 11% drop from 2008-2009."
MediaPost concludes: "Though it's hard to generalize about the meaning of these figures with certainty, they may indicate that, having held out against newsroom layoffs as long as possible, in 2009 newspaper publishers finally decided they had cut other business functions to the bone, and reluctantly began cutting costs in the newsroom.
"If this is the case, and if 2010-2011 doesn't bring a big rebound in newspapers' fortunes, coming years may see the quality and quantity of journalism suffer noticeably."
Via E&P in Exile

Reign of terror? Try working on a newspaper

Andy McSmith in the Independent today compares the alleged bullying by Gordon Brown with the management style of newspaper owners and editors.
He writes of the PM: "We read of him seizing an adviser by the lapels and shouting in his face, but the next day, the same adviser still has a job. If that is a "reign of terror", to quote a phrase in common use yesterday, I wonder what phrase would sum up the management techniques of some newspaper proprietors and editors, past and present."

The News censured by PCC over suicide report

The Press Complaints Commission has today upheld a complaint against The News, Portsmouth, for publishing an article which contained excessive detail about the way that a woman had taken her own life.
It ruled that the story was in breach of Clause 5 of the Editors' Code of Practice because it gave "excessive detail" on the method of suicide.
The article reported the suicide of the complainant's mother, based on information obtained at an inquest. Following the woman's death, her handbag had been found to contain pill packets for a set number of a named anti-depressant. It went on to report the precise quantity of pills that were missing and the dosage she had ingested. There was also a reference to the amount of alcohol found in her blood.
The PCC said: "Although newspapers are entitled to report inquests, they must take account of the requirements of the Code. In this case, the Commission ruled that the combination of the name of the anti-depressant, the number of pills missing from the packet and the post-mortem result showing the level of drug's in the woman's system was "sufficient information to spell out to readers the precise method of death". This was therefore "excessive detail" in breach of Clause 5 (ii) of the Code and the complaint was upheld as a result."
Further concerns that the newspaper had not handled publication sensitively at a time of grief and shock were not upheld.
PCC director Stephen Abell commented: "The Code makes clear that 'care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used' when reporting suicides, because of the risk of copycat actions. This adjudication builds on the Commission's case law in this area and sets out the high standards the PCC expects of editors when reporting such a sensitive subject".
You can read the full adjudication here.

Spot the difference

Various Gordon Brown defenders spoke at the weekend about how Andrew Rawnsley's allegations about the way the PM treats his staff should not be taken seriously because they came from "unnamed sources".
When the National Bullying Helpline pops up with claims of receiving phone calls from Downing Street staff it is accused of breaching confidentiality.

Indy and Guardian: When two tribes go to war

This isn't going to help the already strained relations between the Guardian and the Independent. Both papers' media sections feature stories about each other today.
Ian Herbert's piece in the Independent is about the bitterness felt by the Manchester Evening News staff over its sale by Guardian Media Group. It contains this par: "The abiding sense among MEN staff that The Guardian occupies another world to them was never felt more acutely than when the journalists from the Manchester trade union chapel headed to London last year for a crucial meeting with their highly supportive Guardian counterparts - only to be told that they must wait around for a meeting room to become free, as it was being used for a yoga class. 'Nothing against that but we were fighting for our professional lives at the time,' says one Manchester staffer."
Media Guardian leads on a piece by Peter Kirwan on the hidden costs involved in the sale of the Independent which speculates that ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev may even get the title for free. His article also contains a quote from a media analyst, Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis, saying of the Independent: "They have a real problem of scale. At these levels of circulation, you start to drop off the radar screen at advertising agencies. The Independent's circulation is now the size of a big regional newspaper."
Let the postings begin.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Now BBC says coma man story is unture.

It was a feel-good triumph over tragedy story that was reported by the media around the world last year.
Belgian Rom Houben "woke up" from a 23-year long coma in a hoax and was able to communicate.
But BBC News is now reporting: "The doctor who believed that Rom Houben was communicating through a facilitator now says the method does not work. Dr Steven Laureys told the BBC: "The story of Rom is about the diagnosis of consciousness, not communication."
The BBC says: "His conclusions follow a study to test the validity of so-called facilitated communication. Claims that  Houben - who was seriously injured in a car crash in 1983 - could communicate were reported around the world last November.  After more than two decades in a coma, he was filmed apparently tapping out messages on a special touchpad keyboard with the help of his speech therapist. By holding Mr Houben's forearm and finger, the therapist was said to feel sufficient pressure to direct her to the correct keys on the keyboard.
"Dr Laureys, a neurologist at Liege University Hospital in Belgium, had earlier established that Mr Houben, was more conscious than doctors had previously thought - and that is still thought to be the case.
"But he also believed that his interaction with the speech therapist was genuine. Following further study, however, Dr Laureys says the method does not work.
"He told the BBC that a series of tests on a group of coma patients, including Mr Houben, had concluded that the method was after all false. The results of the study were presented in London on Friday."
Back in November I reported how Michael Shermer on Huffington Post had questioned the veracity of  the story. He wrote: "Houben's communications, his 'statements' about how he's been aware all along of his condition, his 'talking' to reporters (all descriptive terms used by hardened journalists softened into bleeding heart jelly) is nothing more than the "ideomotor" effect, where the brain subtly and subconsciously guides the hands and fingers over a keyboard, or a Ouija board, or directs the movements of dowsing rods in search of underground water. You think it, the hand will move there."

Friday 19 February 2010

Independent spared Rod

MediaGuardian is reporting today that Rod Liddle is no longer in the running to be editor of the Independent if/when it is sold to ex-KGB man Alexander Lebedev. There seems to have been more of an outcry about the possibility of Liddle editing the paper than Lebedev owning it.

Remember Llama drama ding dong? Sun's Obama Lama headline rings old bells

One of the all time great newspaper headlines “Llama drama ding dong!” is adapted by the Sun today as "Obama Lama ding dong" over the story of President Obama meeting the Dalai Lama despite sparking a row with China.
The original "Llama drama ding dong!" appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post above a story about a llama that escaped and caused havoc in a school playground.
It was the title of a book of headlines by former Press Gazette editor Tony Loynes. It was also featured in comedian Dave Spikey's book featuring funny headlines, which was wonderfully titled: "He took my kidney then broke my heart."

Quotes of the Week

Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy in a Frontline Club discussion on the General Election and use of social media by political parties: "If you have a 'Twitter strategy' it is probably shit,"

Chris Condron, head of digital strategy at the Press Association, also at the Frontline Club, on the General Election: "It won't be Twitter wot won it."

The Press Complaints Commission in not upholding a complaint against Jan Moir's Daily Mail column on the death of singer Stephen Gately: "The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law)".

BNP leader Nick Griffin: "That we're not going 'soft' was shown to millions of viewers who will have seen the report of us ejecting a lying Times journalist from the press conference."

Peter Cole and Tony Harcup, in their new book Newspaper Journalism, on why print journalists are used as commentators by the broadcast media: "It is of course partly because the electronic media are obliged to be impartial whereas print journalists take positions. None of this is good for the egos of the print journalists who are so magnified across the electronic media."

Former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell pays tribute to Heather Brooke in the Radio Times:  "There would have been no front page revelations had it not been for a largely unknown investigative reporter called Heather Brooke. It was Brooke who brought the House down."

Newspaper Publishers Association director David Newell on the BBC's news and sport apps: “We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information.”

Kelvin MacKenzie in his Sun column: "The only joy I get is seeing the race to the death of the Daily Mirror and the Guardian. Excuse me if I don't weep."

Thursday 18 February 2010

NUJ launches Reporting the BNP website

The NUJ has launched a website Reporting the BNP advising journalists on how to report the British National Party.
The website has a statement from NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear which says: "Our job is to scrutinise people from all parties. Our job is also to tell the truth, which is why we have provided this resource for journalists covering the BNP in the course of their work.
"It gives background information on the party, its past, its policies and its personnel; it provides information on how to follow the party’s progress in the European Parliament; it provides resources to help challenge the party’s claims on housing, immigration and race, and it explains why the BNP is not like any other party."
The site says no other party:

■was founded on the basis of a whites-only admission policy

■feels the need to remind members: ‘We are not a racist party’

■denies the Holocaust

■shelters so many convicted criminals in its ranks

■has links with a website that encourages attacks on journalists

Dear says: "This website provides you with a starting point for that research and puts the party, and its members, into a political and historical context. We hope you find it useful."
Reporting the BNP highlights a quote from BBC special correspondent Gavin Hewitt: "No one I spoke to in Dagenham knew much about the BNP beyond the fact it was anti-immigration. They knew nothing of the history or the background of the party’s leaders or activists."

York editor responds to Steve Dyson

Steve Hughes, editor of The Press, York, has responded to the criticism of his paper by ex-Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson.
In his Dyson at Large blog, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, Steve reviewed The Press and suggested it had chosen the wrong splash -  which was an unknown vagrant found dead in a York park rather than the sudden death of a 13-year-old girl.
But Hughes in a posting on HTFP states: "I have just returned from holiday to be informed of your latest blog and feel it is only right, on behalf of my staff, to give you a little bit of context. Of course, the story about the 13-year-old girl is a more compelling story than the death of an unknown 48-year-old and, of course we knew it was strong enough to make the following day's nationals.
"But, and it's a big BUT, she didn't die in our core area of York but in a village 22 miles away which is actually closer to Leeds than it is to York. With a little bit of research you would have discovered that we have another edition covering some of our outlying areas and the splash in that edition was: Girl, 13, Found Dead in Alley. Now, you could make an argument for that story to be the page 1 lead in both editions but experience and knowledge of our market tells us that our readers in York expect their local paper to concentrate on local news.
"Admittedly, the death in the park story was short on detail but York is not a big metropolitan city with a high crime rate and on the day it was the best story."

National press hits out at BBC's new apps

The Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the national press, has today called on the BBC not to "strangle" the important and developing market for news apps on mobile devices by launching its own iPhone services.
The members of the NPA claim that the launch of free BBC news and sport apps, announced this week, will undermine the commercial sector’s ability to establish an economic model in an emerging but potentially important market - and will reduce members’ ability to invest in quality journalism.
The NPA will raise its concerns with the BBC Trust, the DCMS and the Media Select Committee. It will ask the BBC Trust to block the launch, and argue that any BBC iPhone apps would constitute not an extension of an existing service but an entirely new service in a particular market, and should therefore be subject to a Public Value Test.
Newspapers argue that the BBC's existing online presence is a key obstacle to the development of sustainable advertising and paid-for models for online content provision. The emergence of news apps on mobile devices represents a potentially significant opportunity for news organisations as they look to establish new digital models, the NPA says.
David Newell, director of the NPA, said: “Not for the first time, the BBC is preparing to muscle into a nascent market and trample over the aspirations of commercial news providers.
“At a time when the BBC is facing unprecedented levels of criticism over its expansion, and when the wider industry is investing in new models, it is extremely disappointing that the Corporation plans to launch services that would throw into serious doubt the commercial sector’s ability to make a return on its investment, and therefore its ability to support quality journalism.
“The impact of the BBC’s existing online presence is well known. However, this is a very different and particular case. The market for iPhone news apps is a unique and narrow commercial space, which means that the potential for market distortion by the BBC is much greater. This is not, as the BBC argues, an extension of its existing online service, but an intrusion into a very tightly defined, separate market.
“The development of apps for a niche market does not sit comfortably with the BBC’s mission to broadcast its content to a wide, general audience. In other words, this is not about reach, and we believe the BBC’s efforts - and the considerable investment - would be better directed elsewhere.
“We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information.”

Jan Moir Twitter backlash against PCC

There's a massive backlash on Twitter  today against the Press Complaints Commission decision not to uphold the complaint against Jan Moir's column about the death of singer Stephen Gately. Some contrast the ruling to the suspension of Jonthan Ross from the BBC after the Mail on Sunday story about the "Sachsgate" affair and the subsequent press campaign against him.
This tweet is typical:


Radio 4 comeback for What The Papers Say

The What The Papers Say newspaper review programme is being revived for BBC Radio 4 in the run-up to the General Election and may be given a permanent slot if it is a success.
Radio 4 is planning a 12-show run of the show for the general election.
What The Papers Say was first made by Granada Television for ITV and ran for 52 years. It  switched to Channel 4 in 1982 and then BBC 2 in 1989 before being dropped in 2008. It was the second longest running British tv programme after Panorama. 
Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer says that the format for the revived programme will remain largely untouched.  He said that a roster of presenters had yet to be decided but added he was keen to find a permanent slot for the show after the election. The date of the first programme will depend on the timing of the general election.
Among the early  presenters of What The Papers Say was Harold Evans when he was editor of the Northern Echo in the 1960s. He tells in in his autobiography My Paper Chase 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."
WTPS hosts have included Brian Inglis (pictured), Paul Foot, Alastair Campbell, Ian Hislop, Simon Hoggart and Auberon Waugh.

PCC rejects complaint over Jan Moir's Daily Mail column on death of Stephen Gately saying its 'the price of freedom of expression'

The Press Complaints Commission said today it has not upheld a complaint from Andrew Cowles, the civil partner of singer Stephen Gately, against the Daily Mail column by Jan Moir which provoked a storm of protest on Twitter and 25,000 complaints to the Commission after it was published last October.
It has welcomed Moir's apology to the family of Stephen Gately but claimed "the price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree".
The PCC said: "After detailed and thorough consideration by the Commission, the complaint was not upheld. The Commission could, however, fully understand why the complainant - and indeed the 25,000 people who also complained to the PCC - were upset by the article. At the heart of the story was the tragic death of a young man which had affected a large number of people, and the Commission considered that the newspaper had to accept responsibility for the distress it had caused. It welcomed the columnist's apology to the family for the ill-timed nature of the article, which was the right response on her part.
"However, the Commission also had to consider the complaint in the wider context of press freedom - a fundamental component of a working democracy. The complaint raised an essential point of principle for the Commission: the extent to which a newspaper has the right to publish opinions that many readers may find unpalatable and offensive."
In its ruling, the Commission said: "As a general point, the Commission considered that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they may be. The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law)".
PCC director Stephen Abell commented: "This was a difficult but important case for the Commission to deal with. The article clearly caused distress to Mr Cowles, as well as many others, and this was regrettable. It was right that those concerned about the article should be able to register their anger in a variety of ways: by writing to the newspaper, by communicating on the internet and by complaining to the PCC.
"The fact that there were so many forums for challenging Ms Moir's view is evidence of a strong culture of public debate and accountability. In the end, the Commission, while not shying away from recognising the flaws in the article, has judged that it would not be proportionate to rule against the columnist's right to offer freely-expressed views about something that was the focus of public attention".
You can read the full adjudication here.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Crazy choir sings about woes of print

Staff on the Globe and Mail in Canada have formed  a "Complaints' Choir" called The Fine Grind which has come up with a song about the woes of newspapers versus the internet. It's all done to the tune of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". Lyrics by Globe and Mail reporter Siri Agrell.
Take it away Marc, Lucas, Sean and Brian.
Via Twitter

OFT seeks views on Guardian's MEN sale

The Office of Fair Trading has called for representations about whether it should investigate Trinity Mirror's acquisition of Guardian Media Group's regional newspapers, including the Manchester Evening News, the Greenslade blog reports.
Among the factors the OFT will have to consider is whether the deal may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition that warrants reference to the Competition Commission for investigation and report.

How many holes does it take to fill Old Oak Drive?: Guardian Local launches in Leeds

The Guardian today launches its new Guardian Local collaborative community journalism initiative in Leeds with beatblogger John Baron.
Top story is about a pot holed scarred road which may be the worst in Leeds.
Similar Local sites are to follow in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Each has access to tools provided by mySociety, a charitable project that builds democracy and transparency websites, such as and
Local site users will be able to use both Fix My Street and Contact Your Councillors. Fix My Street enables users to flag up and monitor local problems such as graffiti, fly tipping, broken paving slabs, or street lighting, which are passed on to the relevant department at the local council.
Contact Your Councillors allows users to find out who their local councillors are and to contact them directly by filling in a form with their message.
Emily Bell, Guardian News and Media director of digital content, explains the background to the launch here.

Steve Dyson diced by HTFP readers

Predictably, Steve Dyson is getting a bit of a kicking for his blog on HoldtheFrontPage today shredding the Newsquest-owned The Press, York.
One Ex-Mail journo states of the former Birmingham Mail editor: "From his biting comments it is hard not to reach the conclusion that Dyson is far more adept at ripping other papers to pieces than he was at producing one of his own. The massive decline in circulation that the Mail achieved under him hardly reflects to his credit. In an earlier blog he talked haughtily about the possibility of his returning to an editor's chair at some point. Would anyone really want him to do that?"
Another describes Steve's blog as "obnoxious". Although there are those who support his views criticising The Press' splash.
When I was at Press Gazette, Newsquest (who don't speak to the press) would often cut up rough about what it saw as any "NUJ-inspired" negative publicity and at one point withdraw all advertising from the magazine.
Surely, newspapers should be able to take a bit of criticism. I hope Steve Dyson remains "At Large" and not "At Bay".

Juries: 'Fade factor on media coverage proved'

 Key findings of a new Ministry of Justice research report on juries shows that the "fade factor"  - whereby jurors recollection of media coverage of crimes diminishes in the period leading up to the trial -  does exist.
But the report Are Juries Fair? says that a fifth of jurors find it difficult to put media coverage out of their minds.
Some jurors admitted to using the internet to look for information during trails. The report found little evidence of unfairness by juries.
Key points of the report, as regards the media, are:

  • The fade factor exists. Most jurors that recalled media coverage of their case recalled coverage published during, not before, the trial. But a third of jurors on high profile cases recalled some pre-trial coverage.  
  • Most jurors who recalled media coverage did not recall any emphasis in the coverage. 
  • A fifth of jurors on high profile cases said it was difficult to put the media coverage out of their minds. 
  • More jurors said they saw information on the internet during the trial than admitted looking for information on the internet during the trial. 
  • More jurors on high profile cases admitted to looking for information about their case on the internet during trial than jurors in standard cases. 
  •  Most jurors who looked for information on the internet during trial were over 30.