Wednesday 29 February 2012

Oborne: 'Is Murdoch fit to run a British company?'

Political commentator Peter Oborne in the Daily Telelegraph today queries whether Rupert Murdoch is "a fit and proper person" to run a UK company.

Oborne argues that allegations of bribery against the Sun are not isolated. "The newspaper’s sister title, the News of the World, has already been closed down because of shocking revelations about phone hacking.

"Until now, it is only the lesser people who have carried the can for the culture of criminality that flourished inside News International, with the buck stopping with editors such as Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. The time has come to look higher up – and I am not thinking of hapless James Murdoch, who belatedly resigned as the chairman of News International yesterday afternoon.

"Rupert Murdoch, the company’s founder, insists that he never had any knowledge of wrongdoing, and no doubt that is true. But he was the man at the top. He took a very keen interest in the way his British newspapers were run (a newspaperman to his fingertips, last weekend he could be seen hard at work in the newsroom as the Sun on Sunday was launched) and it was he, and nobody else, who set the culture.

"We learn more about this culture practically every day. It was a culture of bullying and intimidation, where facts were distorted and lies told. It was a culture which merged the boundaries between police, media and the political class. Though brilliant in many ways, it also did a great deal to debase and even to destroy our public life. Now Rupert Murdoch, an American citizen of Australian heritage, is promoting the break-up of Britain through an alliance with Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (they met yesterday).

"Murdoch’s culture, we now know for a fact, included the criminal culture at the News of the World. We have also heard the corruption allegations from Sue Akers concerning the Sun. Of course nothing has been proved, but if even half of what she says turns out to be true, then it is time to ask whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run not just a newspaper, but any British public company."

NUJ appeals against order to make media hand over film of Dale Farm evictions to Essex Police

The NUJ has submitted a legal appeal to challenge a production order forcing journalists and broadcasters to hand over all their film of the Dale Farm eviction to the police.

The union says the appeal raises fundamental issues about the ability of the press to report matters of public interest impartially and without fear of intimidation, with reference to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The application is on behalf of NUJ member and video journalist Jason Parkinson and the BBC, ITN, BskyB and Hardcash Productions have also submitted appeals.

It follows a court judgment requiring the media to comply with a production order and hand over all the film gathered during the first two days of the Dale Farm eviction to Essex Police.

The police claim the film will help identify those guilty of violent disorder and attacks on the police.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Journalists played a critical public interest role in reporting on Dale Farm, producing footage on the ground so the public were informed about exactly what was happening. Their reward is to be hounded and criminalised by the state simply for doing their job as journalists.

“The appeal launched by the NUJ will have significant implications for the whole of our industry and we are challenging this decision because the union’s code of conduct compels the union – and our members - to defend a vital principle, the protection of journalistic sources and material."

“Our members regularly face attack and intimidation whilst doing their jobs. The danger increases if footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police. This is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets. Journalists are not there to carry out investigatory work for the police.”

Jason Parkinson said: “The production order against me could have grave professional consequences and there is a danger it will have a serious impact on my ability to carry out my job in the future.

“I want to protect the integrity and impartiality of journalists on the frontline – journalists should not be forced to be evidence gatherers for the police. We are reporting in the public interest and there should be a clear distinction between police surveillance and the press.”

Roy Mincoff, NUJ legal officer, added: “If the order for production is not overturned by judicial review, the future safety of reporters and photographers will be at risk. They will be seen merely as evidence gatherers for the police, with major consequences for their ability to report objectively and impartially in the future. The vital role of the media as the public watchdog, so important to a democratic society, would be seriously undermined.”

Rebekah and a police horse is a gift for cartoonists

When I read that Rebekah Brooks was given the loan of a police horse by the Met all I could think was: "What will Steve Bell do with this?"

Today Bell did not disappoint with his Guardian cartoon (top).

Dave Brown in the Independent also couldn't resist such a great subject (middle).

And Matt in the Telegraph (bottom).

Now I'm thinking: "What will Private Eye do?"

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Fighting in Homs and killing of Colvin leads news

The fighting in Homs and killing of Sunday Times foreign correspondent Marie Colvin was the most covered story by the UK media in the week ending Sunday, February 26, according to journalisted.

The continuing violence in the Syrian city of Homs, generated 202 articles, with Colvin among those killed, 195 articles; 'Back-to-work Tsar', Emma Harrison, steps down from the role and quits as A4e chair as police probe irregularities, 96 articles; and the Sun on Sunday is launched, 85 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were hosepipe ban a possibility as UK drought widens, 16 articles; 49 people killed in train crash in Buenos Aires Argentina, 13 articles; and Nikki Sinclaire, MEP for Birmingham, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the European Parliament, 7 articles.

Mercury journalists send direct message to boss

Members of the NUJ chapel at the Northcliffe owned Leicester Mercury have sent a scathing open letter to their boss - publisher David Simms - highlighting his alleged admission to journalists that he doesn't read a daily paper or like sport.

The letter from the chapel, which is facing another round of redundancies, also says: "For many of us, the Leicester Mercury is not just a place of work. It is our local newspaper; something that has been read and enjoyed by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents; something some of us used to deliver as paper boys and girls long before we had the privilege of working in its newsroom.

"To use one of the business buzzwords you seem so fond of, we are stakeholders in this newspaper - and we have grave concerns for its future viability."

The letter states:


The Leicester Mercury NUJ chapel condemns the latest ruthless round of redundancies in the Leicester Mercury’s editorial department.

The devastating job losses proposed amount to a 20% reduction in staff in a department - the people who produce this newspaper’s coverage of news, features and sport - that has already been savaged time and again by swingeing cuts.

Five years ago, editorial had 97 employees. If these cuts are implemented the departmental headcount will have halved. Put simply, we are are already doing more with vastly reduced resources. To further undermine a department that is already stretched to breaking point not only jeopardises the wellbeing of those who will remain, it endangers the entire business.

The refrain that used to run beneath the Mercury’s masthead was “clearly better”. Now senior managers are telling us “good enough is good enough”. Quality, no longer, is a watchword.

We are being run by a man - you, Mr Simms - who recently told journalists here that you did not read a daily newspaper. You also said that you did not like sport - one of the main drivers of the Mercury’s sales. Neither statement inspired confidence, and now our fears have been abundantly justified.

For many of us, the Leicester Mercury is not just a place of work. It is our local newspaper; something that has been read and enjoyed by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents; something some of us used to deliver as paper boys and girls long before we had the privilege of working in its newsroom.

To use one of the business buzzwords you seem so fond of, we are stakeholders in this newspaper - and we have grave concerns for its future viability.

The cavalier attitude to axing editorial staff is actually at odds with your own stated plan for taking the business forward.

Your plan is to develop new revenue streams by extending the Mercury’s brand into other areas and across other platforms. But how do you propose to do that Mr Simms if the core product of that brand - its daily newspaper - becomes a tarnished shell of its former self?

Our readers are not stupid. If we can no longer offer them local journalism that entertains, informs and stands up for their interests by properly scrutinising the decisions that affect their lives - holding our elected officials, public bodies and companies to account - then they will desert us in their droves. Advertisers will swiftly follow. The “brand” will command no respect whatsoever.

We are well aware that hard-working, loyal and talented people across Leicestershire are being put out of their jobs. We have reported their stories and we are not seeking special treatment.

The Leicester Mercury, in common with newspapers nationally, has faced a sharp decline in revenues. However, at a time when this paper remains the most profitable in the Northcliffe group, slashing editorial numbers by a fifth appears to be nothing more than profiteering.

Northcliffe’s parent company DMGT reported operating profits of £320 million in 2010. Its directors received £13.39 million in total remuneration last year, including £6.5 million in bonuses alone.

It has been stated that Northcliffe has asked for a set level of cost reductions from the Leicester Mercury.

We would like you to tell us how much money that is and whether you argued against those reductions or put forward alternative proposals. We also want to know why editorial is bearing the brunt of these so-called “efficiency” savings. Were they your idea? If not, who is the architect of these plans?

We are particularly concerned that loyal, long-serving staff are being shown the door. How does that fit with a commitment to maintaining the quality of the newspaper? It would appear to us that the company has no interest other than putting as much money as it can into the hands of its directors in the short-term.

What evidence can you give us that there is no alternative to these unwarranted and damaging cuts?

We ask you, the acting editor Richard Bettsworth and the Northcliffe board to give both us and the readers assurances going forward. Will these be the last of the job losses in editorial this year and for the foreseeable future? Are there any plans to make staff reductions elsewhere? What are your projections in terms of revenues and staff numbers over the next 24 months?

We would also like a clear acknowledgement that continued cuts in staffing will damage the quality of the newspaper, exacerbate the decline in its readership and, therefore, diminish revenues still further.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters. Please be aware that we also reserve the right to take appropriate action if the explanations and assurances we are seeking are not forthcoming.

Yours, the Chapel.

Sunday Times Mag exhibition extended at Saatchi

An exhibition celebrating 50 years of The Sunday Times Magazine at the Saatchi Gallery in London has proved so popular that it is being extended until March 18.

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.

Monday 27 February 2012

FT journalists vote for strike action over pay claim

NUJ members at the Financial Times have voted by three to one to take strike action over their 2012 pay claim.

According to the union, management has offered a pay rise of 2 per cent, while retaining a third of the money set aside for this year’s increase to use as merit pay or for staff retention at the managing editor’s discretion.

Steve Bird, FoC at the FT Group chapel, said: “Voting to strike is very big step to take, especially for committed journalists. The size of the majority is a sign of the anger at management’s intransigence and the unfairness of the pay deal."

The NUJ says the strike call came as the FT announced a 27 per cent profit increase at the group and says there was anger within the chapel at the pay offer when it was revealed that John Ridding, FT Ltd’s ceo, took home £928,000 in 2010 at a time when staff were asked to accept redundancies and a one-year pay freeze.

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: “The union remains open to meaningful negotiations and suggests that FT management reconsider their response to our repeated requests to meet in order to break the deadlock. If they will not, it now seems inevitable that NUJ members will be left with no other option but to take strike action if they are to achieve a fair pay rise.

"In the context of several years of below-inflation pay rises for our members whilst executive reward at the company continues to soar, it is hardly surprising that FT staff have reached the end of their tether.”

The company said in a statement: "We view the vote for industrial action and the risk of disruption unwarranted and unreasonable. The Financial Times has continued to invest in its editorial operations because we strongly believe that quality journalism is at the heart of our global success. The proposed salary increase of 3.5 per cent - with 2-2.5 per cent for all editorial staff and 1 per cent for merit, plus a bonus, compares favourably with the rest of the industry and we have avoided any compulsory redundancies at a time when news organisations around the world are facing exceptional challenges.

"We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure business as usual at the FT and there will be no adverse effect on the quality of our coverage."

A spokeswoman also said FT profits referred to by the union are for the FT Group which includes Mergermarket and other joint ventures.

Media Quote of the Day: UBM chief David Levin

UBM chief executive David Levin in the Daily Telegraph: "In my generation some of the brightest people amongst my colleagues chose to be journalists, and that is a fantastic endorsement of all the best values of journalism. But those same people are talking to me now, saying I don't want my kids to do that because it's not structurally safe."

Saturday 25 February 2012

Sun rises on Sunday eclipsing News of the World

The first Sun on Sunday front page looks very much like the Sun rather than a clone of the News of the World. Note the emphasis on the "Sun" in the masthead/titlepiece and the tiny use of "Sunday".

David Wooding, the ex-News of the World political editor who has joined the Sun on Sunday as associate political editor, told Sky News that readers expecting a new NoW would be disappointed. "It's not the News of the World, it's the Sun," he said. "The idea is that it's a seven day paper."

UPDATE: Rupert Murdoch said on Monday (Feb 27) Sun on Sunday sold 3.26 million copies.

Katie Price is right for Sun on Sunday column

The Sun on Sunday has unveiled its latest columnist - model Katie Price - who says she's "writing to show people I'm not just boobs, lashes and a fake tan."

According to the SoS: "Katie Price is getting serious. Tomorrow she launches a new career as a Sun columnist in our first Sunday edition, offering frank and forthright views on everything from feminism to failing schools."

She says: "It's simple. Katie Price has grown up. I am now 33 and I am much more interested in what's going on in the world than I was before."

  • The Independent in a leader today headlined 'The dark side of the Sun on Sunday' says: "The impression is gaining ground that Mr Murdoch is behaving like a saint, bestowing beneficence on a troubled Fleet Street and a Britain desperate for The Sun's brand of journalism, its Sundays blighted by the loss of the News of the World. True, jobs are being created, and true, the opening of a newspaper in these hard times is a cause for celebration. But the cynicism of the exercise should not be ignored."

Friday 24 February 2012

Quotes of the Week: Marie Colvin, Sun on Sunday, whistleblowers, the MSC and 'chilling' Leveson

Marie Colvin:

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph:
"Some will observe that many other people died in the Syrian fighting yesterday, and may very reasonably ask what is so special about one Western journalist. There is great insight in this question because it points to the solipsism of a world in which it seems sometimes that terrible events only really register when an affluent white person gets killed. But remember this: without the staggering fortitude and self-sacrifice of Marie Colvin, and her journalist colleagues still reporting from the carnage in Syria, we simply would not have a sense of the nature or the scale of the killing."

Sunday Times editor John Witherow:
"Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice. Above all, as we saw in her powerful report last weekend, her thoughts were with the victims of violence."

Channel 4 News' Jon Snow on Twitter: "Assad's assassination of Marie Colvin:Utterly devastating: the most couragious journalist I ever knew and a wonderful reporter and writer."

French president Nicolas Sarkozy: "That's enough now. This regime must go and there is no reason that Syrians don't have the right to live their lives and choose their destiny freely. If journalists were not there, the massacres would be a lot worse."

Marie Colvin in an email to
Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East editor, on Monday about her Sunday Times article on Homs: "I thought yesterday's piece was one of those we got in to journalism for. They are killing with impunity here, it is sickening and anger-making."

The Sun on Sunday launch:

Sun editor Dominic Mohan: "This is a truly historic moment in newspaper publishing and
I am proud to be part of it. The Sun's future can now be reshaped as a unique seven-day proposition in both print and digital. Our readers' reaction to the announcement of a seventh-day Sun has been huge and we won't let them down."

Rupert Murdoch:
"We will build on The Sun's proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday ...Our duty is to expand one of the world's most widely-read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before."

Charlie Brooker in the Guardian: "There was something slightly wonky about the hand-rubbing relish with which some predicted the death of the Sun. Call me an organic hessian-chewing, hummus-eating Guardianista, but I believe in reform, not capital punishment."

Historian Simon Schama on Question Time: "There are few things in the world I don't give a toss about and this is one of them."

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: "The Sun also rises this Sunday, alas. Rupert Murdoch doesn't do remorse for long."

Roy Greenslade on Rupert Murdoch: "Love him or hate him, you have to admire the chutzpah. What a guy!"

Whistleblowers, the MSC and Leveson:

Kelvin MacKenzie in the Daily Mail: "If the whistle-blower asks for money, so what? It’s better that we know, for example, that our local hospital is killing its elderly patients through lack of care than have the Press ignore a nurse or an ambulance driver who is asking for payment for such information."

Jon Ungoed-Thomas in the Sunday Times on News Corp's Management and Standards Committee: "Will Lewis, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, and Simon Greenberg, former director of corporate affairs at News International, also sit on the committee. The two executives are said to dine at their desks on organic beetroot juice and quails’ eggs."

Education secretary Michael Gove to Lobby journalists: "I want to concentrate on the big picture and the big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson."

Thursday 23 February 2012

Sun on Sunday reveals more signings as the Eye takes cyncial view of Murdoch's new venture

The Sun on Sunday has named its latest signings in the run-up to its launch at the weekend.

Nancy Dell'Olio will write a weekly style column while TV chef James Martin will provide SoS readers with recipies. In February, Martin had to pay his former stepmother damages and pulp copies of his autobiography after branding her "the ugliest woman I have ever met."

Guido Fawkes is reporting that Toby Young, Telegraph blogger and author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, is joining the SoS as a political columnist.

The Sun's Bizarre showbiz column will go seven days a week for the new Sunday which will also have a TV Biz pullout with local listings, a money column, travel tips, puzzles and agony aunt Deidre Sanders.

SoS has already announced that former Man United star Roy Keane will be its football pundit.

Meanwhile, Private Eye (top) has taken a somewhat cynical view of Rupert Murdoch's new venture.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Newsquest US parent Gannett to put up paywalls

Newsquest's US parent company, Gannett, is planning to introduce paywalls on all of its 80 local newspapers by the end of the year, Forbes magazine reports.

Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the US, made the announcement during an investor day held in New York. The only Gannett newspaper that will not have a paywall is its national title USA Today.

“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, president of community publishing.

According to Forbes, the model is similar to the metered system adopted by the New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.

Gannett projects its new paid content initiative will contribute to a 25% increase in annual subscription revenues companywide. That in turn will swell earnings by $100 million per year.

Reuters: Sunday Times' journalist Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik killed in Homs

Reuters has reported that Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs when shells hit the house they were staying in, according to opposition activists and witnesses.

A witness told Reuters by phone that shells hit the house where the journalists were staying and a rocket hit them as they were escaping.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the attack on the journalists has triggered suspicions that a makeshift media centre was deliberately targeted by regime forces.

Colvin reported on the shelling in Homs in a video for the BBC yesterday, in which she described the bloodshed as “absolutely sickening”.

Throughout her career Colvin has covered many conflicts , most recently Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in the Arab spring.

She also worked in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, where she was injured in an ambush by government soldiers.

Colvin once said of frontline war reporting: “Our mission is to report the horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice”.

She has won the British Press Award for “Best Foreign Correspondent” twice, for her work in reporting the conflict in Yugoslavia, Iran, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe; the International Women’s Media Foundation award for “Courage in Journalism” for her coverage of Kosovo and Chechnya, and the Foreign Press Association's Journalist of the Year award.

Channel 4 News' Jon Snow tweeted: "Assad's assassination of Marie Colvin:Utterly devastating: the most couragious journalist I ever knew and a wonderful reporter and writer."

Last night, Colvin described to Channel 4 News the "merciless" attacks on civilians surrounding her.

She said: "I think the sickening thing is the complete merciless nature. They're hitting civilian buildings mercilessly and without caring. The scale of it is just shocking."

The French television journalist, Gilles Jacquier, was killed in Homs on 11 January, while visiting the city on a government-organised trip.

Update: Sunday Times editor John Witherow said in a statement:

"I want to report with great shock the sad news of the death of Marie Colvin in Syria today. We have reliable reports that Marie was killed in Homs while covering the devastating bombardment by the Syrian army. She was with Paul Conroy, the freelance photographer, who was injured in the attack. We do not know the extent of his wounds but the early reports suggest he is not too seriously hurt. We are doing what we can to get him to safety and to recover Marie's body

"Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice. Above all, as we saw in her powerful report last weekend, her thoughts were with the victims of violence.

"Throughout her long career she took risks to fulfil this goal, including being badly injured in Sri Lanka. Nothing seemed to deter her. But she was much more than a war reporter. She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humour and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery.

"Marie was recruited to The Sunday Times more than a quarter of a century ago by David Blundy, her predecessor as Middle East correspondent, who was himself killed in El Salvador in 1989. It shows the risks that foreign correspondents are prepared to take in the pursuit of the truth.

"Marie will be missed sorely by all of us and her many friends."

Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sunday Times, added: "Marie had fearlessly covered wars across the Middle East and south Asia for 25 years for The Sunday Times. She put her life in danger on many occasions because she was driven by a determination that the misdeeds of tyrants and the suffering of the victims did not go unreported. This was at great personal cost, including the loss of the sight in one eye while covering the civil war in Sri Lanka. This injury did not stop her from returning to even more dangerous assignments.

"Our immediate thoughts are with her family."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “We send our condolences to Marie’s family and the family of Remi Ochlik, also killed in the attack. Marie was an excellent reporter who said that her mission was ‘to report the horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice’. She did that with bravery and grace. The unspeakable violence that the government of Syria is meting on its own people is something it does not want the eyes of the rest of the world to see. Marie and her colleagues knew they had to be there to shine a torch on such atrocities, with the consequent risk to their lives.”

The International Federation of Journalists is calling on the Syrian authorities to avoid indiscriminate attacks which risk costing lives of civilians, including journalists. This follows the Red Cross appeal to warring factions to cease fire so as to enable humanitarian assistance for the benefit of the civilian population.

"The Damascus government is persisting in its bloody policy of censorship and suppression of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It has decided to punish the entire population collectively and to use the most violent means to silence those journalists who witness its excesses.

“The international community can no longer remain passive in the face of the tragedy sweeping towns and cities that are the strongholds of pro-democracy protests.”

"Our colleagues Marie Colvin and RĂ©mi Ochlik gave their lives to report a story of grave importance, a story the Syrian government has sought to choke off from rest of the world," said Committee to Protect Journalists deputy director Robert Mahoney. "The killing of these journalists, who were observers in a conflict zone, represents an unacceptable escalation in the price that local and international journalists are being forced to pay."

French president Nicolas Sarkozy described the deaths of the two journalists as an assassination, and said that the Assad era had to end."That's enough now," Sarkozy said. "This regime must go and there is no reason that Syrians don't have the right to live their lives and choose their destiny freely. If journalists were not there, the massacres would be a lot worse."

Sun signs up Roy Keane for new Sunday edition

The Sun has signed up ex-Man United star Roy Keane as a football pundit for its new Sun on Sunday edition which will major on sports coverage when it launches at the weekend.

The Sun says: "Our big-money signing of Keano is sure to ruffle the feathers of lesser Sunday newspapers. His no-nonsense punditry will be a perfect fit for our punchy pages, which will cover all Saturday's big sporting action from our award-winning Sun Sports team."

Keane's scorching criticism of some of the young players in the Man Utd side and his low opinion of the current Arsenal team has already angered managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
  • As well as Keane, the Scottish Sun on Sunday's regular pundits will be former Celtic star Davie Provan, ex-Rangers skipper Richard Gough and Rangers and Scotland international Steven Naismith.

UK media shows its love for St. Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day was the top story for the UK press in the week ending Sunday, February 19, according to journalisted.

St. Valentine's Day generated 313 articles; the death of singer Whitney Houston, 254; Rangers FC going into administration, facing a tax bill of £75 million, 183 articles; boxer Dereck Chisora slapping opponent Vitali Klitschko ahead of their world title fight, and brawling with David Haye after it, 111 articles; and David Cameron stating his commitment to political union between Scotland and England, after talks with Alex Salmond, 104 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were Cameron and Sarkozy striking deal for joint military operations, 22 articles; German president Christian Wulff, an ally of Chancellor Merkel, resigning, 22 articles; and Venezuelan opposition parties choosing a single candidate, Henrique Capriles.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Lord Lucan and the lessons for the Sun on Sunday

Former Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson writes in the Independent today how running a a story about Lord Lucan which turned out to be rubbish gave him an insight into red-top tabloid journalism - and shows why the Sun on Sunday could succeed while a new quality Sunday would be commercial suicide.

Lawson tells how he he bought the serial rights to a book, Dead Lucky, by a retired Scotland Yard detective that claimed Lord Lucan had emerged in Goa hippy commune under the assumed name Barry Halpin and had died in 1996. The story was knocked down in hours by Halpin's friends - but added tens of thousands of sales to the Sunday Telegraph.

Lawson writes: "Although a broadsheet journalist for my entire newspaper career, the episode did give me a brief insight into the wild and wacky world of the red-top press for whom murder, celebrity and cops with some hot information to sell are meat and drink.

"I suddenly appreciated just how much more gripped are the public with such material than with the most important stories about splits in the Cabinet. Sad to say, those don't increase the sales figures of even the most serious of our national newspapers, which goes some of the way to explaining why such titles as The Times (and The Independent) now give much more coverage than ever they did before of the doings of pop stars and actors.

"Thus, while it would now be thought commercial suicide to launch a new upmarket Sunday newspaper, no one seems to be questioning Rupert Murdoch's business sense in launching the Sun on Sunday.

"I must declare my interest as a columnist for his Sunday Times, but I don't think you can fault the man's insight that in the end all newspapers, from the top of the market to the bottom, are about telling stories – and that the more vivid and compelling the tales, the more copies of the paper will be sold. Obviously, it would be better still if the stories were also true."

The article reminded me of a fantastic quote from the former Mirror journalist Garth Gibbs, who died last year. "I regard not finding Lord Lucan as my most spectacular success in journalism. Of course, many of my colleagues have also been fairly successful in not finding Lord Lucan. But I have successfully not found him in more exotic spots than anybody else.

“I spent three glorious weeks not finding him in Cape Town, magical days and nights not finding him in the Black Mountains of Wales, and wonderful and successful short breaks not finding him in Macau either, or in Hong Kong or even in Green Turtle Bay in the Bahamas where you can find anyone."

  • The Sun confirmed today it will be switching its award-winning Fabulous magazine from Saturday to the Sun on Sunday.
  • The Guardian says in a leader today: "The Sun on Sunday means that once again Murdoch is publishing four national newspapers – and surely aspires to regain his former dominance, which saw him owning nearly 40% of the national newspaper market. Last July we saw all too clearly the malign effect that dominance had on the cultural, political and regulatory life of this country, not to mention policing. So one can wish that the new Sun shines brightly while still keeping very focused on learning the lessons of the past. But to learn from them, they must first be confronted."

Sunday 19 February 2012

Sun says Sun on Sunday will launch next weekend

Well, Rupert Murdoch said the Sun on Sunday would launch "very soon" when he spoke to the troops at News International headquarters in Wapping last week.

Tonight the Sun confirmed that the new Sunday edition will launch next weekend.

Sun editor Dominic Mohan said: "This is a truly historic moment in newspaper publishing and I am proud to be part of it. The Sun's future can now be reshaped as a unique seven-day proposition in both print and digital. Our readers' reaction to the announcement of a seventh-day Sun has been huge and we won't let them down."

Murdoch is said to be staying in London to oversee the launch of the new paper.

Sunday Times insight into MSC lunch menu

Like this bit of colour in a Sunday Times article on News Corp's Management and Standards Committee by Jon Ungoed-Thomas:

"The MSC is chaired by Lord Grabiner, the Labour peer and QC. A team of commercial lawyers from the firm Linklaters have been scouring emails and other internal documents for possible unlawful behaviour.

"Will Lewis, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, and Simon Greenberg, former director of corporate affairs at News International, also sit on the committee. The two executives are said to dine at their desks on organic beetroot juice and quails’ eggs."

Sure that will go down well with NI journalists who might end up doing porridge thanks to the MSC's actions.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Kelvin MacKenzie defends Sun journalists: 'If a whistle-blower asks for money, so what?'

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie in his Daily Mail column has defended journalists making payments to whistle-blowers and says the "real scandal" is the arrest of staff on his old paper.

He writes: "Remember, the Sun journalists who have been arrested are not accused of enriching themselves — they were simply researching stories about scandals at hospitals, scandals at Army bases and scandals in police stations that they believed their readers were entitled to know about.

"This was not phone-hacking, but suspected payment for information. It’s not so unusual — even the police do it!

"And since our taxes are funding the wages of the public sector workers who provide such information to the Press, we are entitled to know what murky things are going on with our money — which journalists everywhere quite rightly want to expose.

"Anyone who makes such a disclosure in the public interest is called a ‘whistle-blower’ and is protected by the law so as to encourage people to speak out if they find malpractice in an organisation or workplace.

"If the whistle-blower asks for money, so what? It’s better that we know, for example, that our local hospital is killing its elderly patients through lack of care than have the Press ignore a nurse or an ambulance driver who is asking for payment for such information.

"I suspect you, as a reader, will be pleased that newspapers report such scandals, even if they have to pay money to find out about them. How, otherwise, would we discover what’s really happening? These arrests are the real scandal — not the manner in which the reporters may have got their stories."
  • MacKenzie reveals that when he was a junior reporter on the South East London Mercury every Christmas he would tour the seven police stations on his news beat and leave a bottle of whisky on the station sergeant’s desk. "They were my thank-yous to the local rozzers for opening up their incident ‘book’ to me every Monday and Wednesday morning all year long." He says the information provided by police was "journalistic gold" and what the paper’s readers were entitled to know since it involved news in their local area. The Mercury was, MacKenzie adds, happy to pay for the whisky.

Friday 17 February 2012

Murdoch lifts suspensions on arrested Sun staff and says Sunday edition will launch 'very soon'

Press Gazette is reporting sources saying Rupert Murdoch told staff at the Sun today he will launch a a Sun on Sunday "very soon".

Murdoch, who was visiting News International's Wapping headquarters, also announced suspensions of all staff who were arrested over alleged corrupt payments will be lifted.

He also said News International would do "everything we can to assist those who are arrested", adding: "All suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise."

In a memo sent to News International staff, Murdoch reaffirmed his support to the Sun: "I've worked alongside you for 43 years to build the Sun into one of the world's finest papers. It is a part of me and is one of our proudest achievements. The Sun occupies a unique and important position within News Corporation."

Goodness, gracious... that pants bomber headline

The sentencing to life imprisonment of 'pants bomber' Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab, who tried to detonate explosives in his underwear on a flight bound from Amsterdam to Detroit, is an opportunity to revisit the Jerry Lee Lewis inspired New York Post headline following his arrest.

The Post news story went on to refer to Adbulmutallab's briefs as “jihad jockeys”, “frighty whities” and "the real hot pants".

New orbit for Thurlbeck with the Surrey Comet

The Surrey Comet has unveiled Ex-News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck as its new theatre critic.

Comet assistant editor Julia Kennard said: "We are thrilled Neville Thurlbeck has joined us as the Surrey Comet’s official theatre critic.

"As a newspaper at the heart of the community we welcome the opportunity to have even greater coverage and comment on the arts in Kingston."

Thurlbeck added: "I did English and theatre studies at university in 1980 so it has been a 32-year passion."

Media Quotes of the Week: From Trev and Nev on the Sun arrests to Nat taking a beating in court

Trevor Kavanagh on the arrest of Sun journalists: "Before it is too late, should we not be asking where all this is likely to lead? Will we have a better Press? Or a Press that has been bullied by politicians into delivering what they, not the readers, think fit?"

Neville Thurlbeck on his blog: "The anger among Sun staff at the moment is straight from the furnace and springs from the company’s desire to sacrifice anyone in order to protect itself. They have effectively declared war on their own staff, a disastrous corporate strategy. Many have called me to vent their anger. One told me: 'The hatred the Sun is at such a pitch, senior executives ought to seriously consider hiring bodyguards when they go out at night'.”

Brian Cathcart of the Hacked Off campaign: "The bathwater of unethical and illegal practices in journalism needs to be drained, and the Leveson process exists to do that. There is no reason to suppose that the baby of free expression will be washed away in the process. A far more realistic prospect is that, if we are persuaded to leave this bathwater where it is, the baby will drown in it. Corrupt journalism is the enemy of free expression; it places us at the mercy of monopolists, bullies and lawbreakers. We surely don’t want that."

Nick Ferrari on Newsnight: "We are living in a country where Abu Qatada walks free but we are banging up the picture editor of the Sun."

Michael Wolff, the US media commentator, on Newsnight on News Corp: "The US operation has had it with the Brits...I would say the Sun is screwed."

Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail: "The Establishment has declared war on the Press and by extension our very democracy. They want to stifle criticism and suppress stories about wrongdoing in public office. If the politicians can shackle popular newspapers they are far less likely to be called to account for their actions."

Stewart Lee in the Observer on The Word magazine: "I was reading Word, the culture primer for the time-poor ageing hipsters, a midlife crisis in magazine form."

Lords Communications Committee report on investigative journalism: "It is important for the future of responsible investigative journalism that journalists are able to offer adequate protection to their sources. We therefore call on the Government and Lord Justice Leveson to make the question of the suitable protection of whistleblowers a core part of their ongoing inquiries."

Ray Snoddy on MediaTel's Newsline: "There is a dramatic way for the press to fight back against its many tormentors, one that would take real guts. Rupert Murdoch could relaunch the News of the World in time for the first anniversary of its closure in July and in time for the Olympics."

James Kirkup in the Daily Telegraph on Nat Rothschild losing a libel case against the Mail: "The aristocrat may love the exquisite torment of the Russian banya, but yesterday he discovered the words of a learned English judge can sting more than birch twigs on cold flesh."

Thursday 16 February 2012

For Neville - NUJ general secretary posts on Thurlbeck blog asking NI journalists to join union

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet has used ex-News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck's blog to make a direct appeal for News International journalists to ditch the NISA staff association and come over to the union.

Stanistreets writes: "The NUJ has been defending many journalists at News International – reporters, subs, photographers and others – who have given decades of their life to Murdoch’s newspapers yet who have been cynically and brutally dispensed with in a consistent corporate policy of damage limitation and obfuscation.

"The corporate strategy has been nothing if not consistent – blame those lower down the rung and ringfence those truly responsible at the top. The actions of the Management and Standards Committee show there is now no way back.

She adds: "If ten per cent of journalists at News International say they want NISA to be derecognised, the case can be made and won. With derecognition comes the opportunity for recognition of the NUJ.

"I need journalists on the titles to get in touch, to join the NUJ and to come together to form an organising NUJ chapel.

"Two eminent QCs – Geoffrey Robertson and John Hendy – are working with me on a range of legal measures to challenge the actions of the MSC and to provide help and support to members at News International before more members are thrown to the wolves.

"I will need journalists willing to be part of this legal challenge. There’s no time to wait. The company has shown where loyalty and committed service leads to. Journalists need an independent voice like never before. It’s time to join the NUJ and work together to stand up for journalists and journalism across News International."

  • The NUJ was derecognised by NI in 1986 when it left Fleet Street for Wapping.

NUJ backs Lords call for protection of journalists' sources - and says it should apply at Wapping

The NUJ has highlighted a call in the Lords Communications Committee report on the future of investigative journalism for the Government to give greater protection to whistleblowers.

The report, published today, says: "It is important for the future of responsible investigative journalism that journalists are able to offer adequate protection to their sources. We therefore call on the Government and Lord Justice Leveson to make the question of the suitable protection of whistleblowers a core part of their ongoing inquiries."

The union notes the call comes at a time when News Corps' Management and Standards Committee is accused of handing over emails to police that could identify journalists' sources.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said that “in the light of recent events at News International, where journalists have had their emails and documents handed over to the police" that she fully supported what the Lords Committee has said on whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail says in a leader today: "Forget the Leveson Inquiry, the dawn raids on senior Sun journalists’ homes and the brouhaha over phone-hacking.

"British journalism has now received the most devastating blow of all. The reporter’s sacred rule is always to protect sources by refusing to identify them, whatever the duress. Newspapermen have gone to jail to uphold that trust.

"This week, as human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson pointed out, Sun owner News Corp smashed that convention, with dire implications for the public’s right to know.

"The firm’s risibly named Management and Standards Committee has disclosed the names of public sector sources to the police on the grounds that they may have been paid for their stories.

"Commendably, a Lords committee yesterday extolled the ‘vital role’ of investigative journalism in democracy.

"However, all this will come to nothing if the sources essential to good journalism fear exposure. Truly, News Corp’s MSC should hang its head in shame."

Why Murdoch should relaunch News of the World

Media commentator Ray Snoddy is urging Rupert Murdoch to relaunch the News of the World so that the beleaguered popular press can stage a fight-back against its critics.

Writing on MediaTel's Newsline, Snoddy warns: "We are now getting to the dangerous situation where this is not merely a witch-hunt against The Sun but one that concerns all the supposedly free press in a supposedly free country.

"The cumulative effect of Leveson, the MSC [Management and Standards Committee], three separate police investigations and Parliamentary inquiries could add up to an hysterical over-reaction. This is particularly so when the most unambiguous abuse, phone-hacking, is already a thing of the past."

Snoddy says: "There is a dramatic way for the press to fight back against its many tormentors, one that would take real guts. Rupert Murdoch could relaunch the News of the World in time for the first anniversary of its closure in July and in time for the Olympics.

"In retrospect the closure looks more and more like a mistake - bowing to emotional impact of the unprecedented Milly Dowler scandal.

"Now we know the most shameful act of all, which provided the coup de grace for the NotW, the deletion of Milly Dowler's voicemails may never have happened - or if it did, it wasn't the work of the Screws.

"A seven-day Sun would help attract some of the hundreds of thousands of lost readers back to newspapers. But can you imagine the publicity that a re-launched, totally spring-cleaned News of the World would garner.

"It would be rough on the innocent individuals who lost their jobs but for the sake of perceptions the paper would have to have a new editor and senior editorial staff untainted even by previous geographical proximity to the scandal. There is no shortage of unemployed journalists who would welcome the prospect of a freelance shift or two.

"It would be a very dramatic way for the popular press to begin a fight-back against its many tormentors. It would also be a last hurrah for Rupert Murdoch, who must feel some pangs of regret and guilt for closing a paper founded in 1843.

"If News International believes the controversy caused by such a bold move would be unsustainable then the company could distance itself by allowing the paper to reappear under licence.

"With the co-operation of NI over the title, including its printing capacity, a new News of the World could rise from the ashes and could be economically viable with a sort of virtual staff structure. There would have to be a tiny permanent staff - essentially an editorial commissioning team drawing on a network of freelance journalists around the country."

Snoddy admits: "It will probably never happen. Dead newspapers never come back to life do they? But it would be bloody marvellous if it did."

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Sun journalists are urged to join union after management 'betrayal' in identifying sources

The NUJ has called for all journalists at the Sun, who it says were "betrayed by their management" when their confidential emails identifying sources and whistle-blowers were handed over to the police, to join the union.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “We have been approached by a group of journalists from the Sun. We are now exploring a number of ways to support them, including discussing legal redress.

“We recognise that NISA [News International Staff Association] officials are trying their best for staff, but they have no chance because they are seen as creatures of Rupert Murdoch’s management.

"The NUJ can defend staff at the Sun, and elsewhere in News International, and represent them against a management that seems prepared to throw them to the wolves.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that if journalists are not allowed to offer protection to their sources – often brave people who are raising their heads above the parapet to disclose information – then the free press in the UK is dead.

"The protection of sources is an essential principle which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights as the cornerstone of press freedom and the NUJ shall defend it. In 2007 a judge made it clear that journalists and their sources are protected under article 10 of the Human Rights Act and it applies to leaked material.

“I will be writing to News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee asking what authority it had to disclose this information. I will also be writing to staff at News international to invite them to join the NUJ.”
  • The NUJ was derecognised by News International when it left Fleet Street for Wapping in 1986.
  • In 2001, the Certification Office denied NISA recognition as an independent trade union because it was set up by the News International management.

Cry Harry for England and filling the front page

Harry Redknapp found not guilty of tax evasion and lined up to be the new manager of the England football team was the top news story for the British press in the week ending Sunday, February 12, according to journalisted.

Redknapp walking free from court and into speculation about managing the England football team, succeeding Fabio Capello, generated 462 articles; the death toll rises as Syrian government forces bombard the city of Homs, 233 articles; the Leveson Inquiry continues, hearing from witnesses including Mail editor Paul Dacre and recalled editors James Harding and Dominic Mohan, 190 articles; Luis Suarez avoids shaking Patrice Evra's hand, reigniting racism row, before apologising, 187 articles; and an immigration commission rules that radical cleric Abu Qatada can be released on bail, 143 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were Emil Boc resigns as Prime Minister of Romania following protests against austerity measures, 17 articles; Mikhail Gorbachev criticises Vladimir Putin following protests and ahead of March presidential election, 6 articles; Elections in Turkmenistan, with opposition candidates all praising the incumbent, and 2 articles; and Brazilian journalist Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes and his girlfriend are kidnapped and killed, 1 article.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Daily Mail speaks out over arrest of Sun journalists as Littlejohn likens police raids to 'Gestapo tactics'

The Daily Mail in a leader today voices its concern over the arrest of Sun journalists and the need for the press to have confidential sources apart from those sanctiond by senior police officers.

It says it is only due to an 11-year-long investigation by the Mail that police chief Ali Dizaei is back behind bars. The Mail also highlights its Stephen Lawrence campaign.

The Mail says: "In all these cases of immense public interest, the Mail braved the threat or reality of legal action whose costs would have closed down many papers.

"In the Dizaei and Lawrence investigations, meanwhile, our reporters relied on confidential sources to help expose truths that would never otherwise have emerged.

"This is why we view with deep concern the current official efforts, reinforced by intimidating dawn raids on newspaper executives’ homes, to stop all contacts between journalists and the police apart from those sanctioned by senior officers."

The Mail adds: "Let it be said loud and clear: the police need the Press and the Press need the police if Britain is to have faith in the way we deal with crime in this country.

"We repeat. Intercepting voicemails (itself exposed by a newspaper) and improper payments to public servants are criminal acts, which should be properly investigated.

"But if the free Press is silenced, corruption and incompetence will be the only winners."

Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn also joins the attack claiming: "Gestapo tactics are being used by police investigating alleged illegal practices by journalists working for News International."

He adds: "No one arrested over the past few weeks has been charged with any offence. Yet they are being treated worse than terrorist suspects, subjected to draconian bail conditions and have had their lives and distinguished careers put on hold."

Littlejohn asks: "Why is it that senior executives at News International, such as former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, are allowed to attend police stations by appointment to be questioned, yet lowly foot soldiers are rounded up from their homes like violent armed robbers or drug dealers?"

He claims: "The Establishment has declared war on the Press and by extension our very democracy. They want to stifle criticism and suppress stories about wrongdoing in public office.
If the politicians can shackle popular newspapers they are far less likely to be called to account for their actions."

Littlejohn concludes: "It used to be said that Britain may not be the best country to live in, but it was the best country to go to sleep in.

"Not when you’re being dragged out of bed by the Scotland Yard Stasi, it isn’t."
  • Steve Richards in the Independent today argues that no journalist is above the law. "If a politician is in trouble, or a trade union leader out of control, the likes of [Trevor] Kavanagh and his newspaper are on to them. There is no room for nuance or qualification, no paragraph acknowledging that perhaps an embattled minister was trying to do the right thing but ended up in a mess. Some journalists, newspapers and police officers are now in a mess. Making sure they obey the law and face the consequences of not doing so is not the same as an assault on press freedom."