Tuesday 30 November 2010

Blanket coverage: There's no news like snow news

There's nothing like a bit of snow to provoke a blizzard of 'Brrr..Brrr..Britain' type stories in the UK press, as shown by Journalisted which says the white stuff got the most coverage in the week ending Sunday 28 November.

Snow, with school, work and road closures as it began to cover the UK, generated 229 articles; more student protests, including school pupils marching on Whitehall, wrecking a police van and constrained by kettling, 187 articles; North Korea and South Korea, with the North firing across the western sea border killing two civilians and two soldiers last week, 174 articles.

Covered little, according to Journalisted, was the stampede at a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, killing over 350 people, 21 articles; workers holding austerity protests in Portugal, said to be the first general strike action in over two decades, 16 articles; three teenage boys adrift in the Pacific Ocean for 50 days, rescued off Fiji, 6 articles; first successful libel action brought against the Press Complaints Commission, with its chair apologising and paying damages, 2 articles.

Echo staff join Argus in Newsquest strike action

NUJ members at the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton are to join their colleagues at The Argus, Brighton, by taking strike action next week after an unsuccessful meeting with the title's management, journalism.co.uk reports today.

The Echo journalists will strike next Tuesday and Wednesday, December 7 and 8. The same days as journalists on The Argus are taking action over the transfer of six subbing jobs to Southampton and the company's pay freeze.

Echo staff have already held a two-day strike, on November 9 and 10, in protest at the pay freeze.

WikiLeaks accused of 'a kind of censorship'

Stephen Glover in the Independent today questions why WikiLeaks has rationed its release of the US embassy cables to five titles - the Guardian, the New York Times, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.

He asks: "Why doesn't Wikileaks make its material available to all media outlets at the same time? It is almost as though a kind of censorship is going on. For while it is true that other newspapers can gain access to the same information once it has been presented by The Guardian, the caravan moves on, so that the newspaper will today again be publishing revelations on evidence which in this country it alone has seen, and the same tomorrow, and so on for many days. Moreover, The Guardian has had many days to assess and edit the mountains of information which Wikileaks then dumps on the internet for others to make sense of.

"Presumably Wikileaks believes that The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France and Der Spiegel in Germany share its liberal values, and so it can rely on a sympathetic presentation of its revelations. No doubt it can. Wikileaks is in effect trying to shape the reaction to its disclosures when it should – if it truly believes in freedom – be putting them in the public domain for all to see, allowing responsible but widely differing publications to make of them what they will."

He adds: "Mr Rusbridger [Guardian editor-in-chief] may be confident that The Guardian is a responsible and trustworthy filter, but his paper does not have a monopoly on truth and wisdom. There are other ways of looking at the world, which is the glory of a free press. If Wikileaks really does believe in openness and transparency, it should try a bit harder to live up to these high ideals."

Making a splash: WikiLeaks sets UK news agenda

revelations from US embassy cables dominate the UK front pages this morning with the combination of stories about claims China might abandon North Korea and the "rudeness"of Prince Andrew.

The Daily Mirror is the only red-top to splash on a WikiLeaks' story. The Daily Star goes for 'Becks: New sex plot to wreck World Cup bid', and the Sun: 'Cheryl's £3m X Factor USA deal'. The Financial Times leads on 'EU growth funds lie idle under red tape.'
  • According to the cables, Prince Andrew has a dim view of Guardian journalists: A dispatch about the Prince's briefing businessmen at a brunch says he "then went on to 'these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National [sic] Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere' and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped."

Media Street in $90,000 funding bid from Knight

Media Street, the hyper-local web application project being developed by the people behind King's Road , which covers the famous street in London's Chelsea, is seeking $90,000 funding from the Knight Foundation.

The Knight Foundation runs the Knight News Challenge which awards up to $5 million a year for innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news.

In its bid application, Media Street is described as a project that has focused on developing a new approach to supporting local news and "was started to better serve the local community of King’s Road and to develop a sustainable business model for local news."

The bid application states: "We have recruited over 40 paying customers for Kingsroad.co.uk and have generated nearly £15,000 GBP in revenue over the last quarter of 2010...We are confident that after six months, Media Street and our case study site, King’s Road, is providing a new way to support news and information in geographically defined areas.

"Our application for the Knight News Challenge is intended to help jump-start the completion of the Media Street software and to fund the launch of other sites such as Fulham Road with the recruitment of a local community editor. At present, we can also plug in any domain we want so Media Street has the potential to scale and support other English speaking communities.

"With the Kingsroad.co.uk project, we are testing whether Media Street can support a road but there is no reason why is can’t support other communities; from roads and streets to wider areas such as cities and towns - whether they're in the US or UK. It has the potential to be a global product which runs local sites around the world."

Media Street,
co-founded by Jack Rutter and Jonathan Lloyd, says it aims "to bring interest back to local communities and the high street. By having a focus on local business, start ups like Media Street are in a position to better serve local online news."

Monday 29 November 2010

Argus journalists vote for second two-day strike

NUJ members at the Newsquest-owned The Argus, Brighton, have voted for a second two-day strike.

It will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday (7 and 8 December) in the dispute about the loss of six news sub-editors’ jobs, whose work is being transferred to Newsquest's Southampton operation, and a continuing company-wide pay freeze.

Argus NUJ members went on strike on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 November (see pic) over the same issues.

Source: Brighton and Hove News website. Pic: Argus NUJ chapel.

Media Street: New hyper-local web application

The people behind the hyper-local King's Road website, which covers the famous street in the London borough of Chelsea, are developing a new web application.

It is called Media Street and will run local websites like King's Road. A holding page for Media Street was launched today and new features will be added before Christmas and in the New Year. A website is coming soon.

You can follow Media Street's progress on Facebook and on Twitter.

Jonathan Lloyd, co-founder of King's Road and Media Street, told me: "Our goal is to help local communities and High Streets and develop a new business model for local news."

Guardian video on the US embassy cables leak

This is a Guardian video of interviews on the issues surrounding the publishing of the US embassy cables, obtained via WikiLeaks. Contributors are Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, FoI campaigner Heather Brooke, Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell, the Guardian's investigations executive editor David Leigh and historian and political writer Timothy Garton-Ash.

Tobias Grubbe is free to give his opinions

Gentleman journalist Tobias Grubbe, the creation of Michael Cross and Matthew Buck, is freed from prison and able to give his opinions about strikes and national recovery on telegraph.co.uk today.

Top 20 classic headlines made in tabloid heaven

Editorial training consultant Peter Sands has come up with a list of his top 20 classic tabloid headlines on his blog. More than half are from the puntastic Sun.

Guardian and New York Times defend publication of US embassy diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks

The Guardian and New York Times have defended the publication of US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Simon Jenkins, on guardian.co.uk, says: "The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport."

He also says: "The Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.

"In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard."

Jenkins concludes: "What this saga must do is alter the basis of diplomatic reporting. If WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power. Words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not. The leaks have blown a hole in the framework by which states guard their secrets. The Guardian material must be a breach of the official secrets acts. But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate."

In a note to readers, the New York Times, which is also publishing some of the WikiLeaks material, said: "The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.

After its own redactions, The Times sent Obama administration officials the cables it planned to post and invited them to challenge publication of any information that, in the official view, would harm the national interest. After reviewing the cables, the officials — while making clear they condemn the publication of secret material — suggested additional redactions. The Times agreed to some, but not all. The Times is forwarding the administration’s concerns to other news organizations and, at the suggestion of the State Department, to WikiLeaks itself. In all, The Times plans to post on its Web site the text of about 100 cables — some edited, some in full — that illuminate aspects of American foreign policy.

"The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest. As a general rule we withhold secret information that would expose confidential sources to reprisals or that would reveal operational intelligence that might be useful to adversaries in war. We excise material that might lead terrorists to unsecured weapons material, compromise intelligence-gathering programs aimed at hostile countries, or disclose information about the capabilities of American weapons that could be helpful to an enemy.

"On the other hand, we are less likely to censor candid remarks simply because they might cause a diplomatic controversy or embarrass officials."

  • The New York Times has published the correspondence between WikiLeaks and the US Government.
  • The Guardian in an editorial says: "Once the material fell into the hands of WikiLeaks, an organisation dedicated to publising information of all kinds, there was no realistic chance of it being supressed. While opposing publication, the US administration has acknowledged that the involvement of news organisations has not only given protection to many sources, but has also given a context to information which, had it been simply dumped, would have been both overwhelming and free of any such context. As Timothy Garton Ash puts it: it is both a historian's dream and a diplomat's nightmare."
  • Daily Telegraph deputy editor Benedict Brogan has blogged: "The WikiLeaks story is great fun. The embarrassment of others always is. But however much the Guardian, the New York Times and Julian Assange assure us that this represents a shattering blow to every assumption we hold about foreign relations, the fact remains that it’s a collection of little substance that will do nothing to reshape geo-politics."
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tells The Times in the UK: “You only live once, why not do something worthwhile?. The cables cover serious issues for every country in the world with a US diplomatic presence. In as far as knowledge about what is truly going on in the world can influence our decisions, this material must result in political change and reform.” [The Times is behind a paywall]
  • Stephen Glover in the Independent today questions the role of the D-notice in the age of the internet. He writes: "In the pre-internet age, the secretary of the Government's D-notice committee was a personage whom editors took seriously. His role was to inform them that a story had implications for national security and request them not to publish. As patriotic chaps they were expected to comply.It is difficult to see how the advice of the present secretary of the D-notice committee, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance, will inhibit The Guardian, which is carrying the latest batch of WikiLeaks documents. If its editor, Alan Rusbridger, got out his black pen and began to cross things out, that would have no effect on what is published on the internet or by newspapers abroad, where no one gives a fig for British national security. Our enemies have no need of The Guardian."

Sunday 28 November 2010

Sunday Times says DMGT may sell Northcliffe

The Sunday Times has again claimed that the Daily Mail and General Trust may sell its regional newspaper arm, Northcliffe.

James Ashton writing in the Business section today claims: "The Daily Mail group is preparing to water down staff pension benefits in a move that may ease the path for the sale of its regional newspaper arm.

"The publisher, which has one of Fleet Street’s best retirement packages, is in talks with pension trustees to cut liabilities of its national and regional schemes. The 2,500 staff affected and pension members should learn the details next month.

"The Mail closed its final salary scheme to new recruits in 2009. The revised scheme is likely to blend defined benefits with defined contributions.

"Efforts to sell Northcliffe Media, the regional arm, in 2006 hit trouble when trustees raised the spectre of a one-off cash injection to bolster the pension scheme, which would have depressed proceeds from the £1.3 billion deal."

In a separate article, comparing DMGT's business strategy favourably with that of the Guardian, Ashton writes: "Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) has made an easier transition in anticipation of falling newspaper profits. When it finally hives off its regional publishing arm, it will have become a business media firm with just two trophy titles."

The Sunday Times is behind a paywall

  • DMGT reported last week: "Northcliffe: facing another tough year; UK advertising revenue in the first seven weeks down 7% on last year, continuing year-on-year trend experienced in September (like-for-like decline of 8%). Outlook for first quarter not expected to improve on this trend; will also be affected by higher newsprint costs; focus remains on reducing costs and new revenue opportunities."

Friday 26 November 2010

Prosser: Getting to the hub of centralised subbing

Really good article Why the hubs will turn full circle about centralised subbing by Allan Prosser, one of the newspaper industry's most respected experts, in the latest issue of InPublishing magazine.

Allan quotes an editor whose paper was subbed at a hub: “My problem – call me a control freak – was that I had little if any influence over what the pages looked like. Page design? Headlines? Copy fitting and cutting? Picture selection? Signing off pages? All of that was done miles away. None of it was my business – at least that was the position of the subs and the chief sub to whom they were answerable. I carried the blame as far as readers (and sometimes advertisers) were concerned, but had little responsibility.

“The chief sub and staff did, I’m sure, their best… their best to get not only my paper out on time but also the other half dozen or so titles (plus contract jobs) owned by the company. There were many corners cut, and it wasn’t long before I believed that most of them came off my paper, not least because it was the only broadsheet.

“ 'These broadsheet pages,' I was told by the sub assigned to my paper for a day or so each week, 'are really difficult to fill'."

He quotes another journalist: “The problem is that there are very few people left in here who know anything about design, so they can’t express their opinions properly on what they want from the outsourced operation. The paper is full of errors. Every day.”

Allan concludes: "It doesn’t have to be like this. If it was Nissan, they would have specified the job properly. Every worker would have been trained intensively. Style and quality guidelines would be embedded into the DNA of the system. Performance feedback would be constant."

I also liked Allan's anecdote: "Just the other day, I was listening to a fascinating debate between executives about who should be responsible for 'curating' (for that is the modern phrase) a hyper-local website.

"The task involved aggregating multiple sources of information, some provided by professional journalists, some delivered through user-generated content; the ability to update quickly; to make sound professional judgements consistent with the law, ethics and a general sense of publishing responsibility. Also required was local knowledge, commitment, and a disciplined approach to design.

“ 'Do you know what that reminds me of?' I said. 'An old-fashioned sub-editor'.”

Lord Black: 'CFAs biggest threat to press freedom'

Lord Guy Black of Brentwood, the Telegraph director and chairman of Pressbof, has warned that lawyers' Conditional Fee Arrangements are the most serious threat to press freedom - and a possible component in the closure of local newspapers.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Black said: "I would go so far as to say that, even bearing in mind the highly unwelcome growth of the so-called 'super injunction', there is currently no more serious threat to media freedom and to the public’s right to know than the unfettered use by claimant lawyers of CFAs backed by the toxic combination of 100% success fees and 'after the event insurance.'

"First of all there is cost. It is not uncommon, as evidence submitted to Lord Justice Jackson's review revealed, that libel and privacy actions against newspapers can often end up with damages of as little as £5,000 - but costs of twenty times or more that amount, a frightening prospect that could put some small publications out of business.

"I cannot overstate enough the difficult commercial situation many publications are still in. The perfect storm of structural change and recession has left many bruised and battered. Too many local newspapers – the engines of local democracy – have already folded, and there may be others. And CFAS may well be a component in that.

"Even more important is the chilling impact on free speech. It is now too common that newspapers will fail to defend a claim, no matter how spurious it might be or how important the issue, because they cannot afford the risk. CFAs have become a distorting factor in the editorial process, with issues often avoided because of fear of the consequences and the scrutiny role that is inherent in a free press undermined."

Via Society of Editors

Police warn London newspaper editors on sex ads

The Croydon Guardian is running a story today saying that newspaper editors across London have received a letter from the police warning them to stop running advertisements for sex establishments which may involve trafficked women.

The Guardian says the letter: "Warns editors that they could be held criminally liable if they run ads which turn out to be linked to human trafficking, exploitation or proceeds of crime" and "was sent to more than 170 editors yesterday afternoon and asks them to support the police initiative."

The letter from Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Unit, reads: "Advertising in newspapers can play a key role in facilitating the exploitation of trafficked victims. The adverts in question often purport to be massage parlours, saunas or escort agencies, but are in reality a front for criminal networks to advertise trafficked victims for sexual services."

DCS Martin asks editors to put in place a system to make sure they do not accept adverts which are “fronts for criminal networks to advertise trafficked victims for sexual services”.

He warns: “As you will appreciate, criminal liability can arise in certain circumstances where evidence clearly shows that the advertising in question supports or promotes offences associated to trafficking, exploitation or proceeds of crime.”

In 2008, Croydon Guardian publisher Newsquest dropped sex advertising from its newspapers after becoming convinced of the link between them and women being trafficked into the country to be used as sex slaves.

The Guardian has a link to the police letter here

Newspaper nightmare: The day without any news

According to today's Sun, scientists have pinpointed the 20th Century's most boring day - April 11, 1954 - when there was no news.

The Sun says: "It was the only 24 hours in the momentous hundred years with NO major event, birth or death. In a century that saw two world wars, space exploration, and the invention of the telly and the internet, the spring Sunday could only boast a general election in Belgium.

"There was the death at 69 of journeyman footballer Jack Shufflebotham, who played a few games for Oldham - but a planned coup in Yanaon, a French colony in India, failed to go ahead. The main birth was that of Turkish academic and microwave electronics expert Abdullah Atalar.

"Boffins in Cambridge arrived at the date after feeding 300 million facts into a new search engine called True Knowledge. Founder William Tunstall-Pedoe said yesterday: 'When the results came back, the winner was April 11, 1954. Nobody significant died that day and no major events apparently occurred'."

Mind you in 1954 there was no X Factor or I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to help fill the tabloid pages.

The Sun
has mocked up a front page from April 11 with "er..." on the front.

Frontline award for Jerome Starkey of The Times

The Times' Afghanistan correspondent Jerome Starkey was last night presented with the Frontline Club's annual excellence in journalism award.

Starkey has reported extensively on civilian casualties during the Afghanistan War. His coverage of a raid in February this year in which five civilians were killed prompted a US military commander to visit the victims' families.

Accepting the award, Starkey revealed he had previously worked for the Sun writing about celebrities.

BBC special correspondent Allan Little, one of the judges of the award, has paid this tribute to Starkey: "When I have been in Kabul I get more call-backs on Jerome Starkey's work than anyone else's. He has found ways of getting at what is going on on the ground, in places where he himself can't physically travel. I think he is brave, physically and editorially, has an independent mind, seems genuinely on top of things and leading the thinking among the resident hacks. And I think he cares about what's true, as opposed to what people say is true."

  • There was also a special award for New York Times photojournalist Joao Silva, who was severely injured by a landmine while embedded with the US military in Afghanistan. A website supporting Joao Silva has been set-up where you can buy one of his prints and make donations.

Quotes of the Week: From Newsquest's salami slicing to the workie who took on the Indy

Frank le Duc, ex-deputy editor of The Argus, Brighton, on this blog: "Newsquest has used a salami slicing technique which has its limitations. You can slice the salami only so many times before there’s no meat left. Perhaps more aptly you can cut the cost of feeding your goose but don’t be surprised if it keeps laying fewer golden eggs until you end up strangling the scraggy old bird."

President Obama's spiritual adviser Rev. Jim Wallis in the Independent: "The Murdoch/Fox News channel is trying to religiously assassinate Barack Obama."

Simon Heffer in the Telegraph: "There are a number of people in my trade around the world who have the blood of Diana, Princess of Wales on their hands because of how she was pursued literally to her death in 1997. We cannot control the foreign press; but the bottom-feeders of the British media should be aware of one thing regarding Kate Middleton. Any treatment of her that smacks of prurience, unfairness, impropriety or cruelty will go down exceptionally badly with the British public."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger giving the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Australia: "Something is dangerously out of kilter when elected members of parliament confess – as they recently have – that they have held back from probing into, or criticising, one particular media company for fear of what that company might do to them. Or when that company's former employees – who know what went on and also what the company is capable of – are too frightened to speak publicly about what they know."

Alan Geere, editor-in-chief of the Essex Chronicle Media Group and editorial director of Northcliffe Media South East, on his blog: "Earlier in the week I’d been walking with dinosaurs at the Society of Editors annual conference in Glasgow. A largely uninspiring selection of self-important big-wigs trooped on stage to tell it like it was/is/will be, few of them displaying any of the verve, excitement and ability to have a go that marks out the real leaders in journalism."

Patrick Cockburn in the Independent: "Perhaps the most damaging effect of "embedding" is to soften the brutality of any military occupation and underplay hostile local response to it. Above all, the very fact of a correspondent being with an occupying army gives the impression that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries which have endured 30 years of crisis and warfare, can be resolved by force."

Jack Wood posts on
HoldtheFrontPage about Northcliffe's latest results: "I suspect the people making the cost cuts have not seen their wage packets getting smaller through this nasty experience. And when the bigwigs see their kids on Christmas morning opening their presents - think about the guys you laid off/sacked/pushed who won't have such a great experience. This might sound corny and ghost of Christmas past, but just consider how many people were forced to move in last year's reshaping of sub desks and how many are out of work now. Merry Christmas Northcliffe managing editors and a slashed new year to you all....

Girish Gupta, who billed the Independent after doing two weeks' work experience, on this blog: "I'm sure I won't be having too many bylines in the Independent anytime soon but I hope that other editors can see that I'm doing what I believe to be right. Journalism is meant to be about outing what you think is wrong so hopefully I am doing that."

Thursday 25 November 2010

More on the workie who challenged the Independent: Is he a Clark Kent or David Brent?

My story today on Girish Gupta, who tried to bill the Independent after doing two weeks' work experience on the paper, has sparked quite a debate on Twitter.

The jury seems split about Girish's attempt to invoice the Indy and his campaign that anyone doing work experience should get the freelance rate for any work published.

Some think he should have realised he wasn't getting paid, others praise him for being brave enough to speak out on the issue of young journalists being exploited.

As Girish, now a freelance in Mexico, emailed me: "Twitter seems to be ablaze with this. Have been called the David Brent and Clark Kent of interning! It's so very divisive. My site's had more hits today than a usual month." The site has published his email correspondence with the Independent.

Posts on my story ranged from: "Girish sounds like just the kind of gutsy person we need to be attracting into our floundering industry, instead of the servile, chinless off-spring of the privileged mummies and daddies, who can fund their kids to "work" as unpaid interns for how ever long it takes"... to..."Don't encourage him. You're supposed to research things like pay before you start these thing. You are a journalist right?"

Malcom Coles has interviewed Girish by email at length today.

Strikes at Johnston Press Irish titles called off

Strikes planned by NUJ chapels in Johnston Press owned titles in Ireland have been averted, the union says.

Ballots in favour of industrial action were passed in eight JP titles -- The Limerick Leader, The Leinster Leader, The Clonmel Nationalist, The Tipperary Star, The Leitrim Observer, The Leinster Express, The Offaly Express and The Kilkenny People.

But the NUJ says that negotiations "took on a new vigour" following the ballot and jobs under threat were saved. In other cases redundancy was accepted after packages were improved. Vacancies were created after the company accepted volunteers for redundancy who had previously been rejected.

The NUJ also claims management gave assurances that issues that arose concerning the introduction of the new ATEX editorial management system would be dealt with constructively with the chapels.

The Limerick Leader NUJ members deferred their strike action on the morning that it was due to take place on Tuesday.

The odd couple: Michael White and Andy Coulson

Sky News' chief political correspondent Jon Craig has blogged about yesterday's Parliamentary Press Gallery Lunch Club bash which was addressed by David Cameron.

Craig says: "It's always fascinating at these lunches to see who journalists take as their guest. We're each allowed one. (Mine was a distinguished former Fleet Street political editor and Conservative Party spin chief.)

"Rory Bremner was guest of David Hencke, a Guardian veteran, former Press Gallery chairman and now freelance commentator for Tribune and other fine organs.

"The oddest of odd couples at the Cameron lunch was the pairing of Michael White of The Guardian and Andy Coulson. After all the bile The Guardian has thrown at Andy!"

Northcliffe facing 'another tough year' says DMGT

Northcliffe, the regional newspaper arm of the Daily Mail and General Trust, is facing "another tough year" the company said in its preliminary results for the year ended October 3, which were announced today.

DMGT reported: "Northcliffe: facing another tough year; UK advertising revenue in the first seven weeks down 7% on last year, continuing year-on-year trend experienced in September (like-for-like decline of 8%).

"Outlook for first quarter not expected to improve on this trend; will also be affected by higher newsprint costs; focus remains on reducing costs and new revenue opportunities."

Northcliffe increased its UK operating profits by £6.7 million (34%) to £26.5 million. Underlying revenues were down £16 million or 6% and reported revenues by 8% to £262 million, with advertising revenues down by 7% to £186 million.

DMGT says digital advertising revenues of £17 million grew by an underlying 13% and the company continued its programme of restructuring and process innovation and delivered year-on-year underlying cost savings of £26 million.

By category, recruitment revenues declined by an underlying 19%. DMGT Says: "Although the increase in unemployment levels showed some early signs of slowing, recent Budget cut announcements have, as expected, had a heavy impact on our private and public sector recruitment spend. "

Newspaper circulation revenues fell on an underlying basis by 6% or £4 million. For the January to June 2010 ABC period, circulation of our dailies was down 7.7% compared with an industry average of 6.7%. The weekly titles recorded a fall of 4.4%, a result which outperformed the industry average by 1.5 percentage points.

DMGT says: "Northcliffe has continued to innovate and change processes to drive down operational costs which have been reduced by £26 million or 10%. Staff costs fell by an underlying £14 million as headcount was reduced by 242 or 7% since September 2009. Greater efficiency has been delivered across all departments."

What happened when a workie sent the Indy a bill

I've already written about how the NUJ is taking up the case of unpaid journalism interns and wants to help them claim the national minimum wage for work done for free .

Now Girish Gupta has contacted me about his campaign for those on work experience to be paid the freelance rate for any of their work that is published.

When Gupta invoiced the Independent after a two week placement, during which he had stories published in the paper, he was given short shrift. He has published his email correspondence with executives at the Independent on his own site.

In one email, the Independent's deputy editor Adam Leigh described Gupta as "particularly idiotic" and he was told not to contact the paper again.

Gupta says he believes it is "morally unjustifiable" for the Independent not to pay for work it published. He also says the reason he is targeting the Independent, as opposed to other places he did work experience, is because "it was, by far, the one at which I most did the job of journalists, essentially filling in for a paid freelancer or staffer".

Gupta, now freelancing in Mexico, told me: "I'm sure I won't be having too many bylines in the Independent anytime soon but I hope that other editors can see that I'm doing what I believe to be right. Journalism is meant to be about outing what you think is wrong so hopefully I am doing that."

Wednesday 24 November 2010

CPJ video: Impunity on trial in the Philippines

Video Report: Impunity on trial in the Philippines from Committee to Protect Journalists on Vimeo.

A year after the massacre of journalists in Maguindanao province, a faltering Philippine legal system struggles to bring justice.

From the murder scene in Ampatuan to the presidential palace in Manila, a CPJ delegation travels the country to examine the shocking attack and the many obstacles to winning convictions. Family members, justice officials, and political leaders talk about the challenges in this video, which premiered at the 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Awards on Tuesday this week.

Punctured lunch?: Bring back the sub-editors

Seamus McCauley on his virtualeconomics blog makes the case for sub-editors over auto spellcheckers after the Herts Advertiser website managed to publish a story about a cyclist sustaining a "punctured lunch" rather than a "punctured lung".

Irish Daily Star's verdict on Irish Government

The Irish Daily Star doesn't pull any punches in its description of the Irish Government and its handling of the financial crisis.

Via Seamus McCauley's virtualeconomics blog

Royal wedding: The Sun sings the news

Smart Sun front page today on date of the royal wedding and the news that it will be a bank holiday. Just wonder how many young Sun readers have heard of the great Billie Holliday. It's not as if she's been on X Factor.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

News of the royal wedding engages the press

News of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton swamped the main and celebrity news for the week ending Sunday 21 November, according to journalisted.

The announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate after 8 years of courtship, generated 411 articles; Ireland's debt crisis, with the country reluctantly accepting an EU bailout, 285 articles; the Nato summit in Lisbon, where members discussed Afghanistan, Russia, arms control, and the Turkey (Nato) Cyprus (EU) veto problem, 119 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were: Riots in Haiti against UN peacekeepers, accused by locals of bringing cholera to the country, the subject of 16 articles; North and South Korea on the brink of conflict, 15 articles; first human case of bird flu in seven years, diagnosed in Hong Kong last week, 6 articles.

Celebrity versus serious news: Nutritionist Gillian McKeith on TV show 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here', 67 articles vs. Britons Paul and Rachel Chandler freed after being held for 13 months by Somali pirates, 50 articles. X Factor contestant Wagner Carrilho, 44 articles vs. flooding in Cornwall, 42 articles.

    Massacre in Maguindanao: Families speak out a year after murder of 32 journalists and media staff

    One year ago, on 23 November 2009, 32 journalists and media staff were massacred in Maguindanao province, on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, by a private militia controlled by the local governor’s family.

    It is believed to be the worst single massacre of journalists in history.

    Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders says: "The tragedy’s shocking nature did not reside solely in the record number of journalists killed but also in the criminal desire of the perpetrators to eliminate all the witnesses, down to the very last man and woman.

    "The international community was stunned as the details of the massacre emerged. At first it was shocked by the scale of the death toll. Then it was appalled by the revelations about the criminal nature of the Ampatuan family.

    "Now our common goal must be to press the authorities to allocate sufficient material and human resources to the trial of the main defendants, so that it can be completed within a reasonable time and conclude with the conviction of those responsible, both the perpetrators and the instigators.

    "By commemorating the victims, every press freedom organisation can help to promote the deep-seated changes that the Philippines needs. Together, let’s say: 'Never again'.”

    Monday 22 November 2010

    Want a job in journalism? Then get me a story

    Alan Geere, editor-in-chief of the Essex Chronicle Media Group and editorial director of Northcliffe Media South East, has blogged about his methods of recruiting journalists - which he describes as "The Apprentice meets X Factor".

    Alan talks to trainees on NCTJ courses and sets potential candidates an assignment. "Find a story for a specially devised publication and write it up. In that hour I can see if the ‘driven, ambitious and motivated’ applicant on the CV can actually talk to people, find an angle, write an intro that makes sense, construct a sentence and make a deadline. And you’d be surprised how many can’t...

    "With my sidekick Deanne Blaylock, editor of the Surrey Mirror Series and a perfect Margaret/Karren to my Sir Alan, we tease out the how, the why and the where of the stories and work out whether these people have got any chance in journalism.

    "Key for me, though, is the ability to engage with people. All the doom-mongers for journalism in general and newspapers in particular seem to have forgotten that finding people and getting them to talk to you is at the heart of it."

    Alan doesn't support the argument, put forward by Aberdeen Press and Journal editor Derek Tucker, at the Society of Editors conference, that the industry should take back the training of journalists from academics.

    He says: "The trainees I see are trained to the highest standard by people who know and care. I don’t have the capacity or capability to teach shorthand to 100 wpm in 16 weeks or give a thorough grounding in media law or public affairs. I’ll leave that to the experts, thanks, Derek.

    "What I can offer, though, is a step on the first rung of a ladder that has taken the likes of Derek and me into a rewarding, unpredictable, at times frustrating yet always fascinating career. And I want to do my bit to keep that flame alive."

    This week Alan is meeting trainees in Newcastle and Brighton.

    Newsquest: 'You can slice the salami only so many times before there’s no meat left'

    Guest Blog: Former deputy editor of The Argus, Brighton, Frank le Duc on the strike by journalists at the Newsquest-owned paper and the challenge facing the big regional publishers from the rise of new local competition. Frank now runs the Brighton and Hove News website.

    Staff at The Argus returned to work this morning after a two-day strike on Thursday and Friday.

    Tomorrow they are due to hold a chapel meeting to work out their next move.

    On a positive note, the six sub-editors who were going to be made redundant on Friday are among those back at their desks.

    But the stay of execution is unlikely to last more than four weeks.

    Brighton is not the only place where Newsquest staff have been on strike or are balloting on whether to strike.

    And Newsquest is not the only local newspaper company to face unrest.

    But allow me to plead what I shall call the Greenslade defence in writing about Brighton as an illustration of what is happening more widely.

    I do this in part because it is where I live and in part because I used to work at The Argus as a reporter and more recently as deputy editor.

    The demise of local newspapers has long been predicted.

    Respected commentators Claire Enders last year and Ross Dawson last month have forecast widespread closures and even extinction, albeit with caveats.

    The advent of radio then television, free newspapers, desktop publishing and more recently the internet have all prompted the last rites.

    But there are those who would argue that the greatest threat comes from within.

    Dan Sabbagh, for example, has been critical in describing the process of “disinvestment” as the big players have chased unrealistically high profit margins.

    And the NUJ joined the chorus of condemnation when Gracia Martore, the finance director of Newsquest’s American owner Gannett, said that the British titles made healthy profits.

    Newsquest journalists had been told jobs were going because of the harsh economic climate.

    The difficulty for companies like Newsquest is that their profits are not coming from a resurgence in advertising revenues but a ruthless cutting of costs.

    Newsquest has used a salami slicing technique which has its limitations. You can slice the salami only so many times before there’s no meat left.

    Perhaps more aptly you can cut the cost of feeding your goose but don’t be surprised if it keeps laying fewer golden eggs until you end up strangling the scraggy old bird.

    If any of the wounds at The Argus have been self-inflicted, it has faced plenty of external competitive threats too.

    These range from the launch of the Friday Ad in the Brighton area, which quickly captured the valuable classified advertising market, to the most recent recession.

    Three staples of local paper revenues – jobs ads, motors and property – have migrated online but often to commercial rivals.

    And if we avoid a double dip, we cannot be sure that those advertisers will return to local papers. After all, their target audience seems to like the searching and filtering functionality of the web.

    The structural changes have brought a new fragmentation to a dynamic market not so long after local newspaper publishers borrowed heavily during the corporate consolidation of the 1990s.

    Changes in ownership were followed by a drive for higher yields and margins along the lines of the Glazers’ debt-loaded takeover of Manchester United.

    In response one group of football fans set up FC United of Manchester (who travel to Brighton for an FA Cup tie next weekend).

    The equivalent in local news has been the plethora of community publishers picking up display ads from small traders who find rates for space in papers like The Argus too expensive.

    Now their online counterparts are springing up too in places like Saddleworth, Ventnor and Welshpool.

    They too can undercut a paper like The Argus – and its website.

    The Argus has its brand name advantage. But if jobs and functions keep being relocated to Southampton, another football comparison may be relevant.

    When Wimbledon became the MK Dons and relocated to Buckinghamshire, disenfranchised fans responded by setting up AFC Wimbledon.

    Like FC United, AFC Wimbledon is on the march.

    Yet though the ground is shifting in local newspapers, Sir Ray Tindle has shown that even in a recession it’s possible to be truly local and make good money.

    He has been busy launching titles and editions. But his expansionism is unusual. So is his commitment to local communities.

    In any case, sites like mine – Brighton and Hove News – are unlikely to displace papers like The Argus (and I’d hate to see the paper fold).

    But these sites are adding to the truly local choices available to readers and advertisers.

    And as publishers increasingly vacate the towns they purport to serve, they will have fewer eyes and ears on the ground to tackle the growing threat from the web – editorially or commercially.

    When I went to the Argus offices to report on the strike it was clear that the journalists there had widespread public support.

    Their goose may not yet be cooked but – with so many potential online rivals ready to fill any void – they are plainly anxious that corporate greed should not prove fatal.

    Pic: NUJ Argus chapel

    Tobias Grubbe. 'Is it a bird?, is it a plane?...

    ...No, it's a flying condom. Gentleman journalist Tobias Grubbe, the creation of Michael Cross and Matthew Buck, gives his latest opinions today on the Pope, the Royal Wedding and other subjects at telegraph.co.uk

    Crowdfunding campaign to publish Middle East journals of photojournalist Tom Hurndall

    Trolley Books is launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to publish ‘The Only House Left Standing' - the Middle East journals of the aspiring British photojournalist and peace worker Tom Hurndall who was shot in the head in Gaza by an Israeli soldier in April 2003 and died nine months later in a London hospital, aged 22.

    The book will contain Tom Hurndall’s photographs in the weeks running up to his shooting, as well as extracts from his diaries and poems, and contains a preface by the Independent's Robert Fisk.

    The eight week crowdfunding campaign will launch next Friday (November 26), the day before Tom’s birthday, with a webinar panel talk starting at 16.00 GMT. The panel includes:
    • Tom’s parents Anthony and Jocelyn Hurndall.
    • BBC Panorama journalist John Sweeney.
    • Rowan Joffe and Simon Block, the director and screenwriter of Channel 4's documentary The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall.
    • Mohammed Qeshta - who was with Tom Hurndall when we was shot and worked for the International Solidarity Movement.
    • Gigi Giannuzzi, publisher and founder of Trolley Books.

    The panel will be filmed and streamed live online to launch the fundraising campaign. To watch the online panel talk live, on computer, ipad or iphone, register with your email in advance http://tomhurndalltrolleybooks.eventbrite.com/.

    An edited version of the talk be uploaded to an Indiegogo page online. Indiegogo is a pledge-for-reward social platform where supporters of the project will be able to pledge anything from £5 upwards. It is hoped enough funds can be raised in time for the book to be published in April 2011, the eighth anniversary of Tom Hurndall's shooting.

    Sunday 21 November 2010

    EDP holds the front page for something different

    The Eastern Daily Press devoted its front page on Saturday to a petition form calling on the Prime Minister to maintain RAF Marham in Norfolk as the base for the UK's Tornadoes.

    EDP editor Peter Waters, writing in the paper, said: "You'll have noticed that there is something different about today's front page. Normally there is a sizable headline in Centennial Black typeface and an accompanying story. There is usually a large photograph.

    "Today we've published a petition form, something I don't believe we have done in the 140-year history of the Eastern Daily Press...We have, as we do in Norfolk , 'dun diff'rent' because the issue at stake is of the highest importance - it is the future of the last RAF flying base in the county."

    • According to the EDP's 'Make It Marham' campaign, the base employs around 5000 staff, with family members making a community of around 8000. Their incomes, combined with the purchase of goods and services from local businesses, contribute in excess of £130 million to the local economy.

    Saturday 20 November 2010

    Irish Examiner: 'Proclamation of Dependence'

    Great front page in the Irish Examiner contrasts the plight of the Irish economy with the impending EU bailout, and subsequent loss of sovereignty, by re-writing the country's famous 1916 Proclamation of Independence and the Irish Republic as the "Proclamation of Dependence".

    The original Proclamation of Independence begins: "IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom."

    The Examiner's "Proclamation of Dependence" begins:"IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God how have we come to this? And in the name of the dead generations from which she received her old tradition of nationhood,Ireland, through our new masters at the European Central Bank summons her children to her financial sovereign funeral."

    • Via Peter Sands blog. Peter says the Examiner front page is "a reminder how effective print journalism can be".

    Heffer warns press not to hound Kate Middleton

    Simon Heffer in the Telegraph today warns the "bottom-feeders" of the British press that the public will not forgive them if they mistreat royal bride to be Kate Middleton.

    Heffer writes: "There are a number of people in my trade around the world who have the blood of Diana, Princess of Wales on their hands because of how she was pursued literally to her death in 1997.

    "We cannot control the foreign press; but the bottom-feeders of the British media should be aware of one thing regarding Kate Middleton. Any treatment of her that smacks of prurience, unfairness, impropriety or cruelty will go down exceptionally badly with the British public.

    "Their sense of decency was violated by what happened to Prince William’s mother. They will not forgive so easily next time. If anyone thinks that exploiting Miss Middleton is a route to building bigger audiences, I would warn them that the reality may be rather different."

    Friday 19 November 2010

    Newsquest to cut at least 10 more jobs in Scotland

    At least ten editorial posts at the Newsquest-owned Herald & Times Group - publishers of The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times newspapers in Glasgow - are at risk of redundancy, as part of a cost-saving exercise, allmediascotland reports today.

    The reason for the planned redundancies, says the company, is "current trading conditions and the outlook for the business in 2011".

    The company told allmediascotland it "would seek volunteers for redundancy where possible in the [newspaper] division and overall fewer than 20 employees would be affected" and that "like most regional newspaper groups, is has been badly affected by a downturn in advertising".

    Bloggers: What to do when facing legals threats

    Sense About Science, the group that has been campaigning for the reform of the libel laws, has published a guide - Bloggers and libel law - about what to do when your blog is the target of a letter threatening legal action over something they've published.

    All bloggers should read and save this report.

    Via Paul Bradshaw.