Tuesday 31 January 2012

Murdoch biographer Wolff joins Guardian in US

Michael Wolff, the outspoken biographer of Rupert Murdoch, is joining the Guardian in the US to cover media, tech, publishing and politics.

Wolff is a columnist for Vanity Fair, wrote the biography of Rupert Murdoch The Man Who Owns the News, and was editorial director of Adweek.

Wolff tweeted: "Yup. Hanging my hat at the Guardian."

Wolff has predicted: "Leveson reform could well produce US-style newspapers in UK. Of course US-style newspapers have all gone (or will shortly go) bankrupt."

Pic: Jon Slattery

When the NUJ lorded it - and Snowdon had to join

One of the interesting exhibits on show at the Saatchi Gallery's celebration of 50 years of The Sunday Times Magazine (see post below) is an application by Lord Snowdon to join the NUJ (top).

When Snowdon was appointed artistic adviser to the magazine in February 1962 he had to join a union because the Sunday Times was a closed shop.

Initially he applied to join the NUJ as a full member but this would have given him voting rights which might have proved awkward as he was married to Princess Margaret at the time.

A compromise was reached and he became a non-voting associate member of the NUJ.

Marking 50 years of The Sunday Times Magazine

An exhibition celebrating 50 years of The Sunday Times Magazine has opened at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

It features work by many of the great photographers published in the magazine since its launch in February 1962. They include Don McCullin, David Bailey, Eve Arnold, Snowdon, Richard Avedon, Eugene Richards and Sam Taylor-Wood.

The exhibition also highlights contributors such as Ian Fleming, VS Naipaul, Bruce Chatwin, Jilly Cooper, Nicholas Tomalin, James Fox and Zoe Heller.

When the first issue of The Sunday Times Magazine was published, the then owner of the paper, Roy Thomson, remarked: "My God, this is going to be a disaster."

But the readers liked it, and the magazine is said to have added 250,000 sales to the Sunday Times.

A special isasue of the magazine will be published by the Sunday Times next Sunday. (Feb 5)

The exhibition runs until February 19.

'Nevermind RBS, what about the media fat cats?'

Following the row over RBS chief executive Stephen Hester's bonus payments, the NUJ is turning its guns on the bumper rewards paid to executives in large media companies.

The NUJ today declared that public outrage directed at RBS should now be aimed at directors of the Trinity Mirror media group, who it says are pocketing more than £1.3 million a year - equivalent to 50 journalist jobs - at a time when editorial staff are facing another pay freeze and 700 job have gone in a year.

The NUJ says there can be no excuses for excessive bonus payments in the media industry and the money should be used to save jobs.

It claims the total directors’ pay and pensions bill for Trinity Mirror last year was £3.9million - £1.3million of which was cash bonuses - and chief executive Sly Bailey's package of pay and pensions was £1.7m, including a cash bonus of £660k.

Chris Morley, NUJ organiser said: “Stephen Hester has shown the way that most decent people in this country expect directors to act in companies that are failing to deliver growth. We need those at the top of companies such as Trinity Mirror, Newsquest and Johnston Press to show a real example and instead of thinking about their own wallets, to think instead about protecting their workforce and the overall business.

“Bonuses need to be earned and where that is in doubt the money should go to keeping up the resources of editorial departments across each business - not a race to the trough where rewards are showered on those who have done little to earn them.”

Press Gazette declares Feb 8 'Journalism Day'

In a bid to restore journalism's battered image, Press Gazette is urging journalists to send in a snapshot of their work - in newspapers and magazines, TV and radio, and online - to record a 24-hour news cycle, from 6am Wednesday 8 February, to 6am the next day.

The idea is to declare 'News-Day'and record a day in the life of British journalism over a 24-hour period.

Journalists are asked to send in a summary - 100 to 500 words - describing what they did during the 24 hours: news jobs, stories, features, photos, mishaps, interviews, events, meetings, humour, even an office party.

Overseas journalists supplying British news media are also asked to contribute.

Press Gazette contributing editor John Dale, ex-editor of Take a Break, says PG will publish its News-Day special report in the March issue, with coverage also appearing online.

He says: "It will give an unprecedented insight into the role and the dimensions of the news industry across Britain and Ireland, how we really work, how we enrich our society and culture, and how we make a huge difference to the lives of every man, woman and child, on an hour-by-hour basis.

"It will be entertaining, enlightening and intriguing and, at this time when journalism is under profound scrutiny, point to answers to the questions being raised at Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry. But we are not doing it for him. We are doing it for ourselves out of the pride we take in doing the greatest job in the world."

  • Contributions (as soon as possible after Feb 8) should be emailed to johnkdale@msn.com.

  • To follow the action on the day on Twitter, use the hashtag #news_day.

Monday 30 January 2012

'Scrap local tv news and leave it to newspapers and online coverage': says Janet Street Porter

Janet Street Porter has called for local television news to be scrapped and for local coverage to be left to newspapers and online.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, the former BBC television executive argues: "Local television current affairs should be culled. Leave it to newspapers and online coverage. As for local radio – just because bands of people complain, it doesn't mean these stations have a meaningful audience.

"The BBC is still guilty of massive over-staffing in news and current affairs. Why do we have to have a completely different hourly news bulletin on Radio 3 from Radio 4? News is news. Local bulletins are necessary only twice a day in drivetime.

"The current local regions are so large as to be pointless. Community radio and television broadcast online and staffed by special interest groups is the only way forward. That way I can watch my council meetings on my laptop."

Street-Porter is scathing about her experience of local tv news: "Look North, in Yorkshire? It is appalling, presented by a weird-looking bunch of people with zero charisma. At 10.15 it regularly features just three items covering a huge part of the UK. In Kent, South East Today has an equally random pick-and-mix agenda that tries and fails to cover a region ranging from wealthy bits of East Sussex to poverty-stricken Sheppey."

Guardian reveals latest 'open journalism' phase

The Guardian has today unveiled the next phase in its experiment in "open journalism" - following its move last October to publish its daily news list - by launching a new live blogging platform Newsdesk Live.

Newsdesk Live is hosted by Polly Curtis, the Guardian journalist who has been running the paper's Reality Check blog.

It will incorporate the open news list, but will also feature a live comment thread allowing readers to discuss what's going on directly rather than having to do so via Twitter.

For the period of the experiment, Polly Curtis is joining the national newdesk to work alongside other UK editors to help feed ideas from readers back into the newsgathering process.

Blossom water vs cheap cuts: In hard times what does a Guardian reader have left in the cupboard?

In this new age of austerity the readers' editor of the Guardian has taken up complaints about the paper featuring luxury fashion goods and expensive food.

Chris Elliott in his Open Door column today highlights a letter from a Guardian reader who asked: "What is blossom water and pistachio halva?" (which were both listed as ingredients for a salad scheherazade featured in some free recipe cards offered by the Guardian).

The reader suggested: "In these straitened times we need recipe cards for cheap cuts of meat like ox cheek, brawn and breast of lamb, recipes that our parents might have used, not those that need a trip to a big city to gather their ingredients … none of which, I suggest, would be found in an average reader's cupboard."

Elliott writes that readers have been making "irritable noises" in these difficult economic times about the Guardian's coverage of food, fashion, gadgets and cars.

He adds: "Last September, after the price of the Saturday Guardian rose to £2.10, one reader said she felt the paper was good value 'compared with £2.99 for a card from WH Smith … But then you go and fill the Weekend magazine with pictures of expensive tat, culminating in four pages entitled Vital Extras. Personally, I have never considered kitten heels or a handbag vital, let alone those costing £425 and £1,700 respectively.'

"One interesting division between readers and journalists is that the former, when they complain, tend to feel that coverage means a recommendation. The latter strongly disagree."

Various section editors tell Elliott that just because they write about expensive items doesn't mean they are instructing readers to go out and buy them.

Jess Cartner-Morley, the Guardian's fashion editor, says: "There are a variety of factors influencing what product we feature. Price is one. But newness, originality, desirability, usefulness, availability, suitability for different ages and ethical production credentials are others. Fashion pages are not merely shopping lists."

Elliott concludes: "These are all good and valid reasons for covering subjects that represent major industries or major areas of interest for readers, and Guardian coverage of them has been appreciated by the overwhelming majority of readers hitherto. But a further prolonged period of austerity may bring a change in outlook."

Friday 27 January 2012

How the Mail become biggest newspaper on web

Ex-Guardian technology correspondent Bobbie Johnson has written an article on GigaOM on the reasons why the Daily Mail has become the biggest newspaper on the web.

Johnson writes: "There is no secret formula, just a lot of hustle and plenty of shamelessness. Anyone who thinks the Mail can show them how to succeed in online news must understand its increasing prominence has been the result of editorial choices that not everybody will be prepared to emulate."

He argues: "The core of the Mail’s success is down to its planet-sized ambition and incredibly aggressive approach to the news...the paper is entirely unashamed by its desire to win at all costs. That tone is set right from the top with rapacious editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, who retains an iron grip over the paper’s output and is regarded as one of the shrewdest — and most vindictive — editors around."

Johnson praises MailOnline's broad approach, saying: "Headlines and stories are often written in such a way that the stories transcend location, class and gender."

He adds its editorial trademark is jaw-dropping, salacious headlines (“Swinging couple in drug-fuelled orgy with sex partner sprayed him with bear repellent after he refused to let them take explicit photos”); paparazzi shots of attractive women and fame-hungry celebrities, often in various states of undress; and a constant stream of stories about personal health.

Johnson says the other big factors in MailOnline's success is that it is free and has the financial support from its corporate parent.

He concludes: "While upmarket audiences and rivals sniff at it, the rest of the world, it seems, couldn’t care less. and in a media industry that is struggling, it is not hard to imagine some who are looking at what the Daily Mail has achieved and thinking they can do the same."
  • Judy Shields post on Johnson's article: "The writer of this article goes in for the same kind of over-the-top, selective BS which he complains about…in the end the Daily Mail is successful because it’s put together by proper news journalists – ones who are extremely professional, well motivated, and well paid. No amount of ranting by jealous bloggers will change this. There’s no substitute for professional, mainstream, quality journalism."

Media Quotes of the Week: From the Sun to rise on Sunday to should Leveson ban page 3 girls?

Tom Watson MP in a tweet: "A News Corp source tells me Rupert Murdoch has seen the draft designs of the Sunday Sun with a launch in April at a discounted price."

Guardian readers' editor Chris Elliott on reader reaction to the new slimmed down paper: "Among those who feel the changes most keenly are the readers who have taken the paper for 40, 50 or even 60 years, who are more likely to be subscribers; they feel they are either being pushed towards reading online or subsidising the digital Guardian."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on the changes to the newspaper: "We are not disguising the fact that we have brought the paper down in size. But in fact the total universe of what we are doing is expanding, not shrinking. We publish much more but decisions about limited resources are difficult; there is a fine balance between the production and expense of print versus digital."

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield interviewed in InPublishing: “The fundamental aspect of the business is that every newspaper in the group has a healthy margin over 20 per cent and all up the business is very profitable. The challenge is, can you migrate that business into the digital realm quickly enough before profits decline.”

Johann Hari on his decision not to return to the Independent: "I’d like to thank the Independent for the privilege of working for them over the past nine years, and for offering me my job back, starting in a few weeks. But after nearly six months living in New York City, and plenty of time to reflect, I’ve decided to not take them up on their kind offer."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, on the BBC cuts: “Local radio is for some sections of the population, particularly the elderly, a lifeline. I am pleased that the BBC Trust has made this small concession, but it has obviously not listened to the concerns of the many others who took part in the consultation. These cuts, which will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs, on top of the 7,000 jobs lost since 2004, will severely damage the quality of the service provided by the BBC. It will damage its ability to produce quality creative programming and investigative journalism. It will damage its function as a public service broadcaster."

Reporters Without Borders press freedom index: "Despite universal condemnation, the UK clings to a surreal law that allows the entire world to come and sue news media before its courts."

Jon Snow in his Hugh Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communication: "We journalists are not a breed apart – we must be of the world we report. The hacking scandal reveals an echelon of hacks who removed themselves from the world in which the rest of us live – they took some weird pleasure in urinating on our world."

Clare Short in the Independent: "Tabloid vilification helped kill off a debate that would have forced Page 3 images out of British newspapers and perhaps obliged the media to behave and report in a less sexist way. Twenty-six years on, Lord Leveson should seriously consider the case that has been made."

Thursday 26 January 2012

The only way to fight company pay freeze is to go on strike say NUJ Newsquest Essex journalists

NUJ members at Newsquest South East Essex plan to take strike action next month over a pay freeze.

Members of the chapel voted overwhelmingly in favour (90.5%) of the strike action and action short of a strike (95.2%) on the grounds that the company had introduced another pay freeze.

The industrial action will consist of a two-weeks work to rule, starting on Monday 30 January followed by three days of strike action starting on Monday 13 February.

The NUJ claims staff were due a pay rise in January this year but were told this would not be given and would be reviewed again in June, without any guarantee that any pay rises will be given then.

If no pay awards are made in 2012 the NUJ says it will be the third year in four that Newsquest journalists’ salaries have stood still.

Sally King, MoC of the Newsquest South Essex chapel, said: "No one wants to take this action. It is a reflection of the deep disappointment and genuine concern about their ability to pay bills that members feel, that they voted this way.

"By freezing pay - and even when a rise is offered keeping it well below inflation - it seems members of staff are being penalised for their loyalty.

"The chapel is also disappointed to hear management has told non-unionised members of editorial team at the Echo and its sister papers, the Colchester Gazette, Thurrock Gazette and Chelmsford and Brentwood Weekly News, that they will be awarded overtime payments for working 10-hour shifts during the strike action."

New boss Highfield on future of Johnston Press

Fascinating interview with new Johnston Press boss Ashley Highfield (pictured) by Ray Snoddy in the latest issue of InPublishing which is also online.

Highfield tells Snoddy: “The fundamental aspect of the business is that every newspaper in the group has a healthy margin over 20 per cent and all up the business is very profitable. The challenge is, can you migrate that business into the digital realm quickly enough before profits decline.”

Highfield's appointement as Johnston chief executive last year raised eyebrows because he has no newspaper experience but had made his name in digital working for the BBC and Microsoft.

He tells Snoddy: “Yes I have absolutely no previous newspaper experience but the board had already made the decision that the future of Johnston Press lay in moving the organisation beyond print and that was explained to me in the first sentence.

“Not closing down print but moving beyond an almost entirely solus print operation.”

Snoddy says it is believed that the name of Ashley Highfield was raised the last time Johnston was looking for a new chief executive two years ago but the former chairman Freddy Johnston, then on the board, argued that the job should go to someone with newspaper experience. Highfield was never contacted and the job went instead to John Fry.

Highfield tells Snoddy: “I have learned a great deal from the BBC and Microsoft about the importance of process. Microsoft was particularly instructive. There was a reason why it’s the world’s most profitable company because it manages itself so well and so effectively and I am certainly hoping to bring across that discipline into my current job.”

Snoddy asks: "That presumably means more jobs will go at Johnston Press?"

He adds: "Too early to comment on that insists Highfield, although for 2011, like-for-like cost savings are expected to total £20 million - a process that is likely to continue."

As for the future, Highfield says: “I think within three years, I would expect all our titles, our brands to have a healthy, growing audience when looked at across print and online and to be profitable.

“I would also expect in three years to have confounded those who said this was a sunset industry and, along the way, thus transforming the share price."

IC: It would be 'phenomenal undertaking' to contact all those named in the Motorman files

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told the Leveson Inquiry today it would be a "phenomenal undertaking" to contact all those named in the Operation Motorman files as having been targets of private investigators acting for newspapers.

But he said individuals were able to make legal access requests for information.

Graham told Leveson that some of the information covered by Operation Motorman was "deeply obscure" and not everyone named was a famous celebrity.

Campaign group Hacked Off had written to Graham asking him to inform the thousands of people who are listed in the Operation Motorman files held by the Information Commissioner's Office as having been the targets of apparently illicit searches, including criminal-records checks, vehicle-registration inquiries and information 'blags'. (See post below)

The Hacked Off letter to Graham says: "We are writing to ask you to take steps to notify those who were subjects of data-mining by the national press where you are in possession of such knowledge by virtue of the information that you obtained in Operation Motorman. Such individuals should be told that information had been sought on them, possibly illegally; what information that was; and who (newspaper and journalist) procured it."

Graham told Leveson that a number of individuals have had access to the Motorman files as a result of court orders and "subject access requests" could be made via lawyers.

He suggested that to contact some people named in the files but about whom there was very little detail could be a greater breach of privacy because people would think "there's no smoke without fire".

Independent: 'Press faces new wave of legal action if Operation Motorman victims are named by ICO'

News organisations responsible for more than 17,000 dubious personal information checks carried out by a disgraced private detective could face civil litigation under plans to notify victims that they were targeted, the Independent reports today.

It says Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, is facing a legal challenge to release details of victims identified in Operation Motorman, the investigation into the activities of private eye Steve Whittamore, who was convicted of illegally accessing personal data in 2005.

The Independent adds: "Acting on legal advice, the campaign group Hacked Off has written to Mr Graham, demanding he inform the thousands of people who are listed in Whittamore files held by the Information Commissioner's Office as having been the targets of apparently illicit searches, including criminal-records checks, vehicle-registration inquiries and information 'blags'.

"Newspaper groups have in recent months been given access to the files by the ICO. In its letter, seen by the Independent, Hacked Off argues that targets should be notified so they have an opportunity to challenge claims by the news groups that the searches were done in the public interest."

The Independent claims: "If the ICO refuses to notify the people who were targeted by Whittamore, Hacked Off and its supporters will likely seek to have that decision subjected to judicial review."

UK's rating falls in RWB press freedom index

The United Kingdom has dropped to 28th in the Reporters Without Borders annual International Press Freedom Index.

The press freedom campaign group raises concerns about the way the Government responded to last year's riots by threatening social media and urging tv companies to hand over unbroadcast film.

It is also concerned over moves to protect privacy in the UK and the country's continued role as a centre for libel tourism.

In 2010/2011, the UK was ranked 19th in the RWB Press Freedom Index.

RWB says: "Against the extraordinary backdrop of the News of the World affair, the United Kingdom caused concern with its approach to the protection of privacy and its response to the London riots.

"Despite universal condemnation, the UK also clings to a surreal law that allows the entire world to come and sue news media before its courts."

In the wake of the riots in the UK, Reporters Without Borders voiced concerns about police being provided with personal data of BlackBerry Messenger service users and possible restrictions on social media. It urged the British authorities to rule out any possibility of shutting down or drastically restricting the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

RWB also come out against David Cameron's request that tv companies should give police unbroadcast riot film, claiming: "this would turn them into police auxiliaries and seriously endanger their independence".

RWB says in a review of the index: “Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.

“It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive.

“This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom."

Wednesday 25 January 2012

NUJ welcomes reduction in planned BBC local radio cuts but still wants licence fee renegotiated

The NUJ has welcomed the BBC’s Trust move to reverse some of the cuts to local radio, but says its interim findings on Delivering Quality First, the director general’s plans to cut BBC funding by 20 per cent, do not go far enough and has called again for the licence fee to be renegotiated.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Local radio is for some sections of the population, particularly the elderly, a lifeline. I am pleased that the BBC Trust has made this small concession, but it has obviously not listened to the concerns of the many others who took part in the consultation.

"These cuts, which will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs, on top of the 7,000 jobs lost since 2004, will severely damage the quality of the service provided by the BBC. It will damage its ability to produce quality creative programming and investigative journalism. It will damage its function as a public service broadcaster.

"I am also amazed that the Trust is happy to agree to the 40 per cent cuts at the Asian Network, a launchpad for new Asian talent. Fifteen posts will go by 2013 and the news team will move out of Leicester to London. The Trust appears to have rubberstamped the BBC’s management plans, without listening to the concerns made in the consultation.

“The scandal is that the reason why the corporation is forced to make these cuts is because of the shocking deal, made behind closed doors, by Mark Thompson. He agreed to freeze the license fee until 2017, while agreeing to take on extra responsibilities, such as the World Service, which will cost an extra £340 million. NUJ research shows that licence fee payers are prepared to pay more to prevent a downgrading of the service. It is vital that the license fee settlement is renegotiated.”

The Trust’s interim report largely backs the DQF proposals, however it has asked the BBC management to scale back plans to make local radio stations share afternoon shows, to review plans to cut Radio 5 Live’s weekly current affairs and has asked for a rethink on the plans to merge the BBC’s local current affairs programme Inside Out, which faced cuts of 40 per cent, into super regions.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Costa Concordia disaster dominates national press

The Costa Concordia disaster dominated the national press for the week ending Sunday 22 January, according to journalisted.

Costa Concordia running aground off the Italian coast, generated 413 articles; Newt Gingrich wins the Republican primary in South Carolina, 210 articles; Labour faces union criticism of its stance on cuts, 202 articles; the Leveson Inquiry continues, 169 articles; and Michael Gove calls for a new royal yacht to celebrate the Jubilee, 111 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were China faces an economic growth slowdown, 19 articles; Croatia votes to join the EU, 13 articles; Arab League calls for Syrian reform, 10 articles; final results in Egyptian parliamentary elections show victory for Islamist parties, 5 articles; China sees 'dragon baby' boom, 4 articles; and Jon Huntsman withdraws from the GOP presidential nomination race, 3 articles.

    Call for digital entries for Amnesty media awards

    Amnesty International UK is looking for entries for its digital media awards which show new and creative ways to bring human rights issues to growing online audiences.

    There is more information on how to enter here.

    The digital award forms part of the 2012 Amnesty International Media Awards which also has categories for
    documentary; Gaby Rado Memorial Award; international tv and radio; magazines; national newspapers; nations and regions; photojournalism; radio; television news and student award.

    Last year's digital winner at the Amnesty awards was the Bureau Of Investigative Journalism: Iraq War Logs.

    Redknapp tax trial is dogged by tabloid headlines

    Newspapers are usually careful about how they headline court cases but the Mirror and Sun could not help themselves when it was revealed in the Harry Redknapp tax trial that the Spurs manager had named a Monaco bank account after his dog.

    Even the Independent joined in with its front page teaser "How much has that doggy got in Monaco?" (top).

    Jon Snow: 'Phone hacking journalists took some weird pleasure in urinating on our world'

    Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow was scathing about journalists who hacked phones when giving this year's Hugh Cudlipp Lecture at the London College of Communication last night.

    Snow made a plea for media bosses to let their journalists get out in the real world, claiming: "We journalists are not a breed apart – we must be of the world we report. The hacking scandal reveals an echelon of hacks who removed themselves from the world in which the rest of us live – they took some weird pleasure in urinating on our world."

    "Bosses must carve out time for journalists to get out of the newsroom," he said. "Leveson should recommend many of the people and institutions that have been before him find a way of allowing their staff to get stuck into the real world, it will vastly improve and deepen their journalism.

    Snow gave an upbeat view of the media future, claiming: "We are poised for the golden age of journalism.

    He said: "For the first time since Caxton, Alexander Graham Bell, Marconi, or Logie Baird – the entire media has been liberated; liberated in a way that allows the reader, viewer, listener the true capacity to answer back.

    "We are in the age of answer back, better still we are in the age in which ‘we the people’ have their greatest opportunity ever to influence the information agenda…But above all we are in the age of more. More potential to get it right, to get it fast, to get it in depth. We have that illusive entity ‘the level playing field’; we can compete on equal terms and yet be the best. Sure, we are justifiably scared of ‘we the people’ – where will they lead us – we want control, order.

    "Fear not! Our editorial control remains. It’s just that we no longer live in a vacuum – unknowing of the effect of our reporting. We know more about how to interest our consumers, how to engage, and what effect what we do have upon them.

    "We can detect them switching on or off. We can see their comments surge on Facebook or Twitter: – they interact – they augment – and if we are open enough, we learn. In short, the democratisation of information through the web is providing journalists with opportunity to enter the gateway to the golden age."

    Snow added: "So how do we make money out of our dawning golden age? Well not by selling newspapers, that’s clear. I believe it unlikely that many people will be turning paper pages in a decade’s time. But the brands will live on in our golden age."

    In his lecture, Snow said there was no evidence anyone was harmed by revelations from WikiLeaks. "The Americans told us that WikiLeaks would result in the deaths of many agents and informers. Are we to suppose that if even one had died the Americans would not have broadcast the fact to prove their case? How about a challenge: I believe there is no evidence that anyone has died from a WikiLeak. WikiLeaks told us what we know: the most extraordinary quantity of stuff is kept from the citizenry because it’s easier that way – it’s the culture."

    On Leveson, he argued: "Our secretive society is being opened up. Our media society is being opened up with it. If the Leveson Inquiry does nothing else it reveals the questionable values of key elements of the tabloid press – to the grave detriment of the very fine work that is done by other elements of that same tabloid press that help keep sport, politics, and business straight. Well instanced by both the cricket fixing story and key aspects of the Stephen Lawrence investigation. The tabloid street is not one way – but when it reaches the gutter it is devoid of proportion, care, and all too often, truth."

    On regulation, Snow praised the way Ofcom had regulated broadcasting, claiming "they have done an excellent job regulating my end of television: firm, fair, intelligent" and asked: "What are these print guys afraid of – if their story is right, is justified, they have nothing to fear from a regulator.

    "Even the most hardened of tabloid journalists must have been, mortified, embarrassed, even shocked at the rubbish that has tipped across Leveson’s desk; what age do these supposed journalists and editors, the agents of this stuff live in… what lives do they live?"

    He said: "I see no reason why print journalism wouldn’t benefit from a credible regulator in the same way TV has. Alas thus far they have not enjoyed a credible regulator. I’m not suggesting Ofcom should take over. But an independent system with its own powers to investigate wrong-doing seems an essential given what has gone wrong in the past couple of decades.

    "It should be at well over arms length from Government, exclude any serving editors from its ranks, and probably - a very long way down the line have recourse to the law to enforce its will. But I would hope that the mere spectre of the law would be enough to sort things out.

    "By the way the establishment of the regulatory system should be accompanied by the wholesale abolition of the UK’s current libel laws and any recasting to ensure both free speech and the rights of the individual – it could probably be achieved within the Human Rights Act.

    "If we can practice cutting edge journalism on television with regulation I see no reason why an Ofcom style regulator, although not necessarily an identical system, with full access for public complaint - should not be perfectly applicable to the print world too."
    • Ben Bryant, a City University journalism graduate, won this year's Cudlipp Student Journalist Award for features about gang culture published in the London Evening Standard. He is now with the Telegraph.

    Monday 23 January 2012

    MP Tom Watson says Sunday Sun for April launch

    Tom Watson, the MP who has led the tough questioning over phone hacking, tweeted today that a News Corp source has told him the company is set to launch a Sunday version of the Sun to replace the News of the World in April.

    New look Guardian: What the readers think so far

    Interesting Open Door column in the Guardian today on what reader reaction has been to the new smaller - or "streamlined" - newspaper.

    Readers' editor Chris Elliott notes: "As I write more than 1,400 readers have been in touch via email and phone. There is more lament than downright anger among the bulk of those who responded. The majority of the responses are complaints, or demands for further explanation for specific changes. Most pertain to highly compartmentalised bits of the paper, rather than to the generality of change. High on the list are changes to the cryptic crossword, daily TV listings, the weather page, and the loss of a separate sport section in the Tuesday-to-Friday papers."

    He notes: "The paper is smaller, but not by as much as people may think. The numbers of pages for comment and leaders, obituaries, and sport, have returned to 2005 levels, but there is still the extra reviews page, which didn't exist before then."

    Elliott reveals there has been a more fundamental change to the paper rather than just reducing its size to save on production costs.

    "Beyond the familiar theme of the need to save money at a time of declining newspaper advertising and sales, there is another aspect to the change. There is an unseen but important restructuring of the editorial staff to improve the workflow – to ensure stories go on to the web faster and in a more even flow. Planning has become a great deal more important."

    Elliott quotes deputy editor Paul Johnson stating: "We are pre-planning more of the paper, partly by anticipating events but also laying an even greater emphasis on making our own news, our own bespoke content, be it investigations, reportage, interviews or profiles – this will be at the core of the paper we produce."

    Elliott also writes: "Among those who feel the changes most keenly are the readers who have taken the paper for 40, 50 or even 60 years, who are more likely to be subscribers; they feel they are either being pushed towards reading online or subsidising the digital Guardian."

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger tells Elliott: "People are very proprietorial and people get very comfortable with the way they use the paper. People have said they understand what we are doing but are making understandable pleas for their part of things not to change.

    "We are not disguising the fact that we have brought the paper down in size. But in fact the total universe of what we are doing is expanding, not shrinking. We publish much more but decisions about limited resources are difficult; there is a fine balance between the production and expense of print versus digital.

    "News and comment is not going back at all: one day last week we published 125 news stories. All the evidence shows that digital is growing and newspapers are in decline. If you care about the Guardian's future then you will understand why we are investing in the future and why it's vital."

    Friday 20 January 2012

    Johann Hari quits Independent to write a book

    Columnist Johann Hari has quit the Independent to write a book just a few weeks before he was due to return to the paper following a period of retraining in the US after admitting plagiarism.

    Hari says on his website: "I’d like to thank the Independent for the privilege of working for them over the past nine years, and for offering me my job back, starting in a few weeks. But after nearly six months living in New York City, and plenty of time to reflect, I’ve decided to not take them up on their kind offer.

    "There are two reasons. I’m willing to take the flack for my errors myself: when you screw up, you should pay a price. But I’m not willing to see other people, who are played no part in those errors and are unimpeachably decent people, take the flack too. It’s not fair on them.

    "The Independent has been great to me, and we need its principles in the public arena without distractions. Secondly, while doing some journalistic retraining in the US, I’ve started working on a book on a subject I believe is important and requires urgent action. To be done properly it needs international travel and the kind of in depth focus that’s not possible when you are writing a heavily researched column at the same time.

    "So, while I’ll be writing occasional articles elsewhere, I’ll be mainly delving deeply into this one subject for now. Above all else, I’d like to thank all the readers of the Independent. Ever since I started as a columnist as a 23 year old I have learned so much from you. I often learned the most from the more critical messages – you have talked me out of a dozen positions – but your supportive letters and emails since last July have hugely moved me.

    "I’ll continue to be a loyal reader and supporter of the Independent. It is one of the world’s great newspapers, and I feel privileged to have been part of it all these years."

    Local paper has dig at council's £66k PR job ad

    The Islington Tribune today highlights that despite this being a time of "belt-tightening austerity" Islington Council is advertising for a temporary head of communications - at an annual salary of between £62,460 and £66,366 a year.

    The Tribune says the job description "with no hint of irony in the online advert" describes how the successful candidate will be working in a borough which is "home to serious inequality and deprivation" and with "rich and poor living side by side."

    And the local weekly dismisses the job as "pushing out positive reports about how well the council is doing."

    The ad says the post is a fixed 9-12 month contract to cover the current communications chief who is on maternity leave.

    Lib Dem opposition leader Coun. Terry Stacy is quoted by the Tribune saying the job should not be advertised at time when the council is making redundancies.

    • Pic: Islington Town Hall (Jon Slattery)

    Quotes of the Week: From Sly Bailey on regional press ads to comparing MacKenzie to Shipman

    Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey on regional press advertising at the Leveson Inquiry: "At the peak, we had around £150m recruitment advertising supporting our titles, and last year we had less than £20m."

    Spencer Feeney, editor of the South Wales Evening Post, at Leveson: “The local press is in a fragile financial state. Please don't make any recommendations ... to exacerbate that."

    Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace at Leveson: "Just after I was appointed editor of the Daily Mirror, the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, asked me to 10 Downing Street. One of the first things he asked me was when was I going to sack one of my journalists who had been a constant critic of the Government and Mr Blair in particular. Of course, I did not react to it."

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger at Leveson on the newspaper industry: "We've been under-regulated and over legislated."

    Brian Cathcart in the Independent on Leveson: "This is not a case of the press fighting an unending battle for its liberties. It long ago accepted the need for effective regulation and indeed it has long insisted that such regulation existed. It just cynically would not allow it to happen. If, after all that has happened in recent months, Leveson, or parliament, or the public, accepted the industry's latest promises, that would be to run an unacceptably high risk of joining a line of history's suckers – and of failing to learn from all that experience. This time we should ensure change is real and lasting."

    The Times in a leader: "We make two points above all. The first is that we believe in the freedom of the press and argue that preserving this freedom requires resisting any form of statutory regulation. The second is a more ambitious, optimistic argument. The report of the Leveson inquiry, for all the inauspicious circumstances of its establishment, can prove to be a positive moment, one where Britain gains both a better and a freer press."

    Nick Cohen in the Observer on the British libel laws (from his book You Can't Read This Book): "With an aristocratic prejudice against freedom of speech, the judges imposed costs and sanctions on investigative journalism that would have been hard to endure in the best of times, but were unbearable after the internet had undermined the media's business models. Instead of aiming its guns at the worst of British writing, the law of libel aimed at the bravest."

    Andrew Neil, interviewed in the Independent on Sunday, on Rod Liddle's article about the Stephen Lawrence case which is under investigation for possible contempt of court: "It's quite clear it shouldn't have been published, but if you are going to be a magazine like The Spectator, and take strong positions and be controversial, every now and then you may do something stupid."

    Chris Horrie, quoted in the Independent, on Leveson: "Kelvin MacKenzie is a national treasure and he's very funny, but asking him for advice on the ethics of journalism is like asking Harold Shipman for advice on medical ethics. This thing is just a circus."

    Thursday 19 January 2012

    First weekly Liverpool Post published today but Daily Post name lives on for revamped website

    The Liverpool Post, the new weekly version of the city's 156-year-old Liverpool Daily Post, was unveiled today with 100-pages and a £1 cover price - but the Liverpool Daily Post's name lives on in a revamped website.

    The Liverpool Post’s companion website liverpooldailypost.co.uk has a new look and aims to keep readers up to date with breaking news.

    It has retained the Liverpool Daily Post name, telling readers: "You'll have noticed that we haven't changed our name. That's not because we forgot, rather that our focus remains on keeping you right up to date with what's happening in Merseyside every day."

    The new weekly Post has an extended 24-page POST Business section, a new 24-page weekly pull-out, POST Culture,covering the arts scene, together with full listings – and seven days of TV pages.

    A new free daily email newsletter will be delivered direct to readers’ inbox every morning with links to the paper’s key breaking stories.

    New free weekly newspaper launches in Norfolk

    The new independent free weekly newspaper the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Gazette has launched today in print and with a website.

    The Gazette is published by MGMT Media based in Great Yarmouth which describes itself as Norfolk's "newest media company".

    The Gazette has a planned distribution of 50,000 and will compete with Archant's long established paid-for Great Yarmouth Mercury and free Yarmouth Advertiser.

    NUJ confirms it wants ombudsman to replace PCC

    The NUJ has confirmed it will tell the Leveson Inquiry that it wants a press ombudsman system to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

    NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley confirmed the union is in favour of the creation of the post of ombudsman as part of a new regulatory system to replace the PCC in his response to a charity for relatives of murder victims - Support After Murder and Manslaughter Northern Ireland - which has called for the appointment of an ombudsman to help relatives aggrieved by media coverage.

    An ombudsman system was introduced in the Republic of Ireland four years ago.

    Dooley said of Leveson: "The current inquiry represents an opportunity to see how we can improve and how journalism can become more accountable. We fully support the concept of a Press ombudsman based on the model which has proved so successful in the Republic of Ireland. We do not believe that the current PCC model is capable of reform.

    "A new regulatory body and the creation of an Office of Press Ombudsman is something we are exploring and we will be giving evidence on this point to Lord Leveson. We do not at this stage see the need for a separate ombudsman for Northern Ireland. Part of the work of the new ombudsman would be to draw up new guidelines and to work with the media and civic society – that might include guidelines on the type of issues raised. We would welcome the opportunity to meet SAMM NI and will be in contacting the organisation in the coming weeks."

    NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet will present the union’s proposal for a press ombudsman to the Leveson Inquiry.

    Dooley in response to a report by SAMM NI said: “Journalists covering murder and manslaughter should always treat relatives, friends and colleagues with sensitivity. Throughout the Troubles reporters, photographers and editors have tried to demonstrate care and compassion in extremely harrowing circumstances.

    "Certainly there may have been lapses of judgment but for NUJ members working on the ground covering the Troubles represented a daily challenge to act in the public interest while respecting the privacy of individuals. "

    In a new report, SAMM NI is calling for a new code of conduct that would see journalists:
    • Recognise a family's fears that speaking to the media might prejudice a legal case.
    • Refrain from intrusion at funerals, or "door stepping" family members for information or interviews.
    • Be honest and not mislead anyone in pursuit of an interview with a family member.
    • Acknowledge it is not appropriate to attempt direct contact with families, but to use the official intermediaries, such as police family liaison officers.
    • Refrain from publishing unsubstantiated rumour and stick to known facts.
    • Ensure families have an opportunity before publication to satisfy themselves with the factual accuracy of stories, without prejudice to the editorial independence of the publication.
    • Seek approval for the use of all photography relating to the loved one and the circumstances of their death.
    • Not publish distressing photographs, such as the removal of a loved one's remains in a body bag.
    • Warn families if there is an intention to run stories or photography relating to the death of their loved one, weeks, months and years later.

    Wednesday 18 January 2012

    Times and Sunday Times free home delivery deal

    The Times and the Sunday Times is to offer London readers a free home delivery deal for new subscribers.

    Next week a marketing campaign launches which will offer new subscribers throughout London the opportunity of having their newspaper delivered free of charge for three months.

    The Times has been running a home delivery service since 2008, however this is the first time the free trial will be offered along with a subscription price. Previously customers paid full cover price.

    Under the new deal, copies of The Times are guaranteed to be hand delivered, couriered by branded vans, before 7am to addresses within the M25 area on a free three month trial.

    Archant launches readers' community news site

    Archant has launched a community news platform iwitness24 that it says will transform the way it gathers news by allowing readers to contribute pictures and videos.

    This material is published on a standalone website – but Archant says it is also a quick and easy way to promote the material into the company's own newspapers and websites.

    Archant teamed up with Citizenside to build a platform that makes it easy for readers to connect with their local titles.

    It says the technology will allow Archant’s readers to better connect with the group’s 64 local newspapers across the UK and via the iwitness24 site and iPhone and Android applications, readers have already begun sharing geotagged photos, videos and text articles directly with their local newsrooms.

    James Foster, editorial director of Archant Norfolk, who led the project, said: “This is about reaching out to our readers and engaging with them directly. We know people are eager to share material with us but at the moment we just publish an email address and it’s hit and miss whether anybody sees their content.

    “It’s about getting news and pictures we wouldn’t otherwise get, and also using our readers to send us stuff we would miss. Whether it’s a picture from a community group activity or a fire, we know that by engaging with our audience and telling them how much we value their contributions, we can add to the richness of the material that we produce.

    “It’s not about replacing existing content but about adding to our huge mix of reader content – community news exists in every newspaper. This puts it into the digital age and tells our readers our serious we are about them.

    “For example, our best reader picture of 2011 was of a burning bus. By the time our staff photographer got to the scene, the fire had been put out. Both pictures are great, but the flames made it so much more dramatic and unless we invent a time travel machine, we always risk missing those pictures.”

    The website comes with smartphone apps. More than 100 people have signed up after just one day. And one picture has prompted an investigation after a reader sent in picture of litter dumped in a river in Norwich.

    Foster said: “A reader sent us a picture of how bad the litter was in the river. We wouldn’t have thought of it, and we were able to harness our news journalists to write the story but the idea was prompted by a reader. It will certainly be an element on the front page.”

    A dedicated room for readers has been created in Archant’s Norwich headquarters and there will shortly be launched an iwitness roadshow to tour the towns and villages to show people how it works.

    The platform includes a social gaming element which means that reader’s contributions are measured and tracked and when they reach certain levels, different rewards are triggered.

    “We offer a variety of different rewards, It could vary from a substantial cash commission on a scoop picture to asking a regular contributor to join a reader’s panel to meet the editor and shape the future of their title,” said Foster.

    The platform is divided into 7 regional sub-communities, and the “Calls for Witnesses” tool allows Archant to send geotargetted news alerts to members within 1 km of breaking news events to ask for their help in coverage. Other features include a one-click sign in with Facebook Connect, and the ability to follow members in the community and see their updates in a Facebook-like activity feed.

    Philippe Checinski, co-founder of Citizenside adds, “We are very excited to be launching with Archant as our first partner in the UK. They have really taken the platform and run with it, and we can’t wait to see what new ways they’ll find to get closer to their audience through iwitness24.”

    The slogan of iwitness24 is “your news is our news”.

    • Archant's announcement comes at a time when it is planning to make a number of staff photographers redundant. (See posted comment below).

    Scottish independence referendum tops the news

    Plans to hold a referendum on Scottish independence dominated the news for the week ending Sunday, January 15, according to journalisted.

    First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond announces plan to hold independence referendum in autumn of 2014, was covered in 225 articles; Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins the New Hampshire primary, 146 articles; the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and phone hacking continues, 124 articles; the cruise liner Costa Concordia capsizes off Isola del Giglio, Italy, 102 articles.

    Covered little, according to journalisted, were MPs to hold an inquiry into racism in sport, and will hear evidence in March, 23 articles; Turkish authorities charge the Duchess of York with secretly filming orphans for 2008 TV documentary, 22 articles; TVShack student founder Richard O’Dwyer faces extradition to the United States, 21 articles; and French ferry firm SeaFrance goes into liquidation, 13 articles.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Venezuela as part of his Latin American tour, generated only 10 articles; dozens killed in bomb blast in Karbala, Iraq, 6 articles; boundary changes in Welsh constituencies proposed, cutting the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30, 6 articles; 15 arrests are made following clashes between English Defence League supporters and youths in East London, 3 articles; and police remove protestors from St. Peter’s Square, Rome, 1 article.

      Tuesday 17 January 2012

      Rusbridger backs conscience clause for journalists

      Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has backed the idea of a conscience clause in work contracts to protect journalists from being sacked if they refuse to do journalism which is unethical.

      Asked today at the Leveson Inquiry if he supported a conscience clause, Rusbridger said he did and that he thought there was "unease" among a lot of journalists at the News of the World about what was going on at the paper.

      He said there ought to be a way for journalists to say that unethical jobs did not fit with their professional code or conscience.

      Lord Justice Leveson intervened to say he thought a conscience clause would be of "limited value" because, once their cover was out, while you could protect people in law it was quite difficult to protect them from insidious issues.

      Rusbridger replied: "I hope a union or staff association could give protection to anyone who triggered that [conscience] clause."

      He said of the newspaper industry: "We've been under regulated and over legislated."

      The NUJ has long campaigned for a conscience clause in contracts to protect journalists who refuse to breach the union's Code of Conduct.

      Belfast Tel holiday promo gets that sinking feeling

      Sometimes ads and front page news collide. Like this holiday promo from the Belfast Telegraph, the newspaper that covers the city that built Titanic. Via Steve Dyson.

      Bauer behind wannabe journalists reality tv show

      Bauer Media has joined forces with production company Twofour to create a new reality show called The Exclusives for ITV2 in which six wannabe journalists compete for a one year contract with the magazine publisher, which produces titles such as Closer, heat and FHM.

      According to a Bauer press release: "The Exclusives’ will showcase the fast-paced and competitive world of magazine publishing, plus the kind of talent needed to make it."

      It adds: "Each trainee will learn to hone their skills working closely with the successful teams behind some of the UK’s best known magazines including heat, FHM, Closer, more!, Kerrang! and Empire. They will be given incredible backstage access to some of the most high profile and glamorous events of the year, and will be coached and mentored in the crafts of interviewing, organising photo shoots and connecting with their reader."

      Bauer Media says it will cover and promote the programme across its magazine, online and radio portfolios. The series of seven one-hour programmes is made by the Twofour team behind Educating Essex and will be broadcast later this year.

      Abby Carvosso, MD lifestyle & advertising, Bauer Media, commented: “This breakthrough media partnership will deliver an exciting new TV programme that shows what it really takes to create the most exciting magazines in the country. We’re on the hunt for a gutsy, fearless and talented individual who stands out from the crowd and we’re sure it will be a great watch!"
      • I asked Bauer if the six wannabe journalists would be paid, or was it like work experience? A spokeswoman told me: "The six journalists do not get paid during the show so in a sense yes, it can be seen as work experience but with the added opportunity to gain a full time contract with Bauer Media. The winner of the 12-month journalism contract with Bauer Media will of course be paid for their job."