Friday 31 May 2013

Quotes of the Week: From Guardian's Woolwich front page to who is Britain's best columnist?

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger in the Guardian on the paper's front page on the Woolwich murder (above): "This was an extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, event. In broad daylight on a British street a man was hacked to death allegedly by someone who then essentially gave a press conference, using Islamist justifications. It was, by any standards, a unique news picture – but in a new media context in which the killer's message had already been distributed around the world virtually in real time."

Guardian readers' editor Chris Elliott in his Open door column on the same front page:  "It was right to use the picture and the video, as both were crucial to an understanding of the event. It's not the first time shocking images have been run on the front page. However, the effect of the quote embedded in the photograph meant the message was unmediated."

Daily Mail in a leader: "It is morally unfathomable of our national broadcaster to seize on the gruesome murder of a British soldier as a reason to give a platform to hate preachers blamed for inspiring his killers. Yet such is the BBC’s grotesque thinking when it invites the likes of Anjem Choudary, who refuses to condemn Lee Rigby’s slaughter, to outline their case for destroying our country’s way of life."

Sarah Branthwaite of Foot Ansty on Woolwich and the contempt law in the digital age, on HoldtheFrontPage: "In order to assemble a truly neutral jury for any future trial of these suspects, one imagines enquires being made to locate individuals who were in a coma last week but fully recovered in time for the trial."  

Carl Bernstein interviewed in the Daily Telegraph claims Britain is: "On the verge of inhibiting press freedom and that is corrosive, even potentially fatally corrosive, to a democracy, and to your great democracy, because a free press is the only institution that, when push comes to shove, is liable to keep up freedom."

Matthew Parris in The Times [£] salutes newspaper proprietors after they were criticised in a speech by ex-Labour MP Chris Mullin at The Orwell Prize:  "Does he not understand how many proprietors down the ages have loved newspapers, cared about their survival, believed in their journalism and knowingly acted as patrons to talented journalists and tremendously important investigation, reporting and scrutiny, whose commercial usefulness is often a complete unknown? Does he realise how precarious now is the whole future of daily newspapers in Britain? Apart from historic buildings and football clubs I know no other sector where owners and investors appear so willing to pay for the privilege of losing money in the public interest."

Michelle Stanistreet in the Guardianon Local World boss David Montgomery: "Amid the management-speak, Montgomery's vision is a chilling one. Does he really have so little inkling that it is high-quality journalism and top-quality writing that is the key to successful newspapers and websites? His thinking is sadly not unique; it is a pattern we are already seeing. Journalists are being reduced to pouring words – sorry content – into pre-determined grids, with the danger of turning newspapers into open sewers."

Former Irish Times editor Conor Brady, quoted by Roy Greenslade, on problems facing the press in Ireland: "There are fewer journalists and they're working longer hours, discharging more tasks and spreading themselves across a wider range of duties than ever before. Not only this. Many of them are being poorly paid; there are very few new entrants now with the security of staff jobs."

Ex-Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson on HoldtheFrontPage on why he no longer buys his old paper: "The reason I’ve stopped buying the paper is because an exact replica is now available free of charge – yes, completely buckshee – on my iPad. I’m owning up to my print desertion because this iPad moment deserves comment, debate and careful consideration by the industry."

The NUJ in a submission to the Culture Secretary opposes the industry's proposed Royal Charter on press regulation:  “The alternate charter removes the obligation to offer an arbitration system, run under the auspices of the regulator set out in the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The NUJ believes this attempt to drop the arbitration system is a sign of contempt for both the public and parliament from UK publishers. They are not prepared to accept their past bad behaviour; they have little intention of behaving better in the future and they will continue to put profit before ethics.”

Roy Greenslade on his MediaGurdian blog on steep cover price rises on some of Newsquest's regional newspapers: "You have to hand it to Newsquest/Gannett. They certainly know how to milk a cow to death." 

on Twitter: "Let's say it again, not just because it irritates people, but because it's true: Rod Liddle is the best columnist in the English language."


Friday 24 May 2013

Quotes of the Week: Twitter becomes a Weapon of Mass Destruction and winds up Polly Toynbee

Ben Brogan about Twitter on his Telegraph blog: "Politically, the micro-blogging site has become a weapon of mass destruction. Where Alastair Campbell complained about the drumbeat of the 24-hour news channels, Mr Cameron must contend with the minute-by-minute verdict of social media, where his performances and policies are scrutinised, judged and discarded instantly. Where journalists used to meet in the bar, they now exchange gags and gossip on Twitter. It is a political accelerant."

Times executive editor Roger Alton picking up the London Press Club award for best daily newspaper of the year, as reported by Press Gazette's Axegrinder: "Thanks to the London Press Club for standing by the British press and celebrating its excellence at a time when it’s under some ferocious attack from an unruly collection of clapped-out hackademics, coked-up celebrities, loved-up lawyers, vengeful politicians [applause, cries of ‘well-said Rog’]. They are bastards one and all."

John Humphrys picking up the London Press Club's broadcaster of the year award, modestly suggests it should have gone to someone else: “All I had to do was get the director general sacked.”

ITN spokesman defends broadcasting video of bloodied Woolwich murder suspect, as reported by the Guardian: "We carefully considered showing this footage ahead of broadcast and made the decision to do so on a public interest basis as the material is integral to understanding the horrific incident that took place."

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: "The Woolwich killers wanted publicity for their crime, available nowadays at the click of a mobile phone. They got it in buckets. Any incident is now transmitted instantly round the globe by the nearest 'citizen journalist'. The deranged of all causes and continents can step on stage and enjoy the freedom of cyberspace. Kill someone in the street and an obliging passerby will transmit the 'message' to millions."

Max Hastings in the Daily Mail: "Some 30 years ago, Margaret Thatcher, as prime minister, imposed a ban upon the broadcasting of interviews with members of Sinn Fein and the IRA, to ‘deny them the oxygen of publicity’. But in the modern world in which privacy is almost extinct, and censorship unenforceable as well as unacceptable, it would have been impossible to prevent the Woolwich killers from triggering an avalanche of national and worldwide publicity." 

Melanie Hall in the Telegraph: "Every officer in England and Wales will have to formally declare any friendship outside his workplace with a journalist, effectively meaning that people working in media organisations would be placed in the same bracket as criminals." 

Keith Perch on his blog: "Johnston Press is gaining just £1 in digital sales for every £21 in print sales lost. There can be little doubt that newspaper companies are shrinking in size.  Indeed, it is my belief that the only way local newspaper companies are going to survive is if they become small, low cost, digital and print businesses."

Local World chairman David Montgomery speaking to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, as reported by Press Gazette: “We can’t keep taking costs out but employ the same production techniques in print. We have to be truly digital, so that in three or four years from now, much of our human interface will have disappeared. We will have to harvest content and publish it without human interface, which will change the role of journalists."

BBC Trust Review of  BBC online services: "The BBC should develop plans to provide better local news and information, as a number of consultation respondents, and the BBC Trust’s Audience Councils, told us the BBC’s local sites are not as strong as its UK and international news."

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald in the Mail on Sunday on keeping arrests secret: "It is, of course, true that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) doesn’t really represent the police. Instead, it is an unaccountable club of senior policemen who have tended over the years to serve their own interests. But even so, their recent announcement that, when officers make arrests in the future, the identity of their prisoners will be kept secret from the public, is deeply shocking. This new policy is, it seems, a poorly judged over-reaction to perceived media and police excesses in the past and, in particular, to the strictures of the Leveson Inquiry."

Times obit on Richard Beeston, the paper's foreign editor: "Richard Beeston was one of the finest and most courageous foreign correspondents of his generation. Fearless, always fair, and unflappable even in the most extreme situations, he reported on many of the wars, civil wars and violent upheavals of the past 20 years, from Chechnya to Iraq, the Lebanese civil wars to the present bloodshed in Syria."

Judges' ruling that public has right to know that Boris Johnson fathered a child during an affair, as reported by the Guardian: "It is not in dispute that the legitimate public interest in the father's character is an important factor to be weighed in the balance against the claimant's expectation of privacy. The core information in this story, namely that the father had an adulterous affair with the mother, deceiving both his wife and the mother's partner and that the claimant, born about nine months later, was likely to be the father's child, was a public interest matter which the electorate was entitled to know when considering his fitness for high public office."

Chris Elliott, readers’ editor at the Guardian and chair of the NCTJ’s accreditation board, on HoldtheFrontPage about his struggle to learn shorthand: "I bought the cassettes and practised Ted Heath’s speeches until I finally became competent in Teeline. I paid to take exams and got 80 wpm – not perfect, but over the years it has become an invaluable tool that I still use every day. I wish I had got the 100. Of course there are tape recorders and mobile phones. There are also trains, boats and planes, but everyone takes their driving test because most of the time you drive yourself. Once learned, shorthand is there as a basic support forever; learn it because you’re worth it."

Polly Toynbee ‏@pollytoynbee  on Twitter: "Twitter suggests I follow Mail DepPol Ed. Check blurb:he boasts 'Breaking news and reputations' Is poison+malice re politicians prime purpose?"

on Twitter: "Time for bed: twitter is suggesting I follow Melanie Phillips."

Friday 17 May 2013

Quotes of the Week: From nightmare interview with Ginger Baker to Fleet Street's Fergie frenzy

Michael Hann on the Guardian's Music Blog on interviewing drummer Ginger Baker (top) in front of a live audience: "I've had peculiar interviews before. I once sat on the floor in the dressing rooms at Spurs' training ground to talk to Sol Campbell, while John Scales stood just to my right, listening in. He was naked. His penis kept dangling in and out of my eyeline at disconcertingly close range. But I've never had any interview experience quite so unsettling as half an hour with Ginger Baker in front of a couple of hundred people. It's not something I want to repeat." 
  • Mark Ellen interviewed an irascible Ginger Baker for The Word in 2009, you can read an extract here.
Les Hinton on Twitter re-departure of Ian Katz from Guardian to edit Newsnight: "Do journos feel a little abandoned with the popular heir-apparent editor jumping ship just when things get rocky?" 

Police Federation chairman Steve Williams, as quoted by the Daily Mail: "There’s been a sea change on the back of Leveson. Cops are very reluctant to speak to the media and say how it really is."

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: "Giving in to terrorism has given data intrusion, "back door" surveillance and press restriction all the best tunes. The Pentagon pleads 9/11 and Whitehall pleads 7/7. Lord Justice Leveson can only plead Hugh Grant, but he is enough. They all say they want a "responsible press". But the direction of travel is the same, towards the pollution of freedom. Acts of government that would once have caused outrage are now met with a shrug."

 Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times [£]: "I’m constantly being hauled over the coals in the Daily Mail and the Daily Star and the Mirror for all sorts of things. Calling Gordon Brown a one-eyed Scottish idiot. Saying public sector workers should be executed. Sparking fury with fox enthusiasts. I’m portrayed as an evil, racist, homophobic misogynist who goes through life stabbing baby badgers for fun. And I’ve worked out that it makes no difference. Taxi drivers still pick me up. People still watch my television shows. My books aren’t remaindered for weeks; sometimes months. That’s because the endless criticism is just a background hum. The BBC should accept this. It should make decisions on what it thinks to be right, not on how that decision will be reviewed in the next day’s papers."

Grey Cardigan responds to a PR on TheSpinAlley: “Dear Kacey-Lee. Thank you for your interest in the well-being of myself and my family. Unfortunately I couldn’t get out in the sun to enjoy myself because I am twice-divorced and therefore don’t have enough money to even pay for a Mr Whippy. As for a barbecue, a Lidl sausage toasted over a blow-lamp is about my limit. My children won’t talk to me, my latest ex-wife is shagging an investment banker while still shafting me for every penny she can get, and I can’t go out in the sun because I have red hair and turn bright crimson if I even walk past a microwave oven. Anyway, it was rainy and foggy up here, somewhere north of Kensington, so there was no sun anyway. Oh, and my dog died, which somewhat took the gloss off the weekend…”

David Simon in The Observer: "You already have too much prior restraint of the British press. I couldn't operate under your press law, couldn't do good journalism consistently. Your ability to criticise people in public or reveal secrets that are in the public's interest are much more constrained than ours. And I find that to be unworkable in terms of democracy."

The Times [£]: "Local authorities are threatening to withdraw advertising from newspapers that publish stories they do not like, according to a survey that examined the impact of the Leveson inquiry on the local press. Nearly half of all local newspaper editors believe that the inquiry into press standards has negatively affected their titles’ relationship with readers. More than a quarter (27 per cent) had received a threat from a public body to suspend advertising as a result of journalistic activity, such as a story being published, a query being made or a reporter attending a meeting."

Brian Cathcart, the executive director of Hacked Off, in a letter to regional newspaper editors, as reported by HoldtheFrontPage: “You may be concerned that any changes to the press regulation system could make your job harder and put extra burdens on regional and local papers. That’s what the Newspaper Society has been warning. I am writing to say that what the Newspaper Society has been telling you is not correct. The Royal Charter approved by all parties in Parliament in March is good for working journalists, good for the regional and local press – and good for the public."

Private Eye on coverage of Alex Ferguson's retirement: "Perhaps the most spectacular example of Stockholm syndrome was displayed by the BBC. Having been sent to Coventry by Ferguson for a full seven years after daring to expose his son Jason's activities as a football agent - a ban which ended only in 2011 -  the corporation found the perfect pundit to  pay tribute to Sir Alex on Radio Five Live. Step-up long-standing Fergie friend and fellow Labour stalwart Alastair Campbell, the man whose rabid desire to 'fuck Gilligan' over the BBC's WMD story in 2003 brought the corporation  as close to extinction  as it has ever been."

on Twitter: "'I've never held a grudge against the media, not my style' - Sir Alex Ferguson, who refused to speak to BBC for 5yrs."

BBC Sport Interactive editor  Stuart Rowson ‏@StuartRowson on Twitter: "Led by the #MUFC and Fergie coverage, last week was the biggest ever outside of the Olympics for @bbcsport - 17.3m unique UK browsers."

SubScribe by Gameoldgirl on Press Gazette: "The Ferguson retirement killed almost as many trees as the Iron Lady's death. Every daily newspaper, bar the Express, lost touch with reality in a race to be the most obsequious...This is daft. The Knight of the Hairdryer is a football manager. He is retiring, he has not died - and even if he had, this would still be over the top." 

[£] = paywall

Tuesday 14 May 2013

New survey on legal claims made against media

A new survey hoping to establish solid data on the nature and quantity of legal claims made against the media in the UK, is being conducted by Judith Townend, who runs the Meeja Law blog.

She says: "There is very little solid data about the nature and quantity of legal claims made against the media, including small bloggers. Because the majority of libel claims, for example, are believed to be resolved out of court, there is no complete record of disputes. In short, little is known about bloggers’ and journalists’ actual legal experiences and opinions."

The questionnaire can be found here:
It is part of Judith Townend’s doctoral project at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ), City University London. The research project, which has been given ethical approval by the CLJJ, explores how journalists and online writers are affected by libel and privacy law, as well as other social and legal factors. It will draw attention to the issues faced by online writers and journalists, and help inform the development of resources in this area.
  • The questionnaire is open to all types of journalists and online writers who expect their readership to be predominantly based in England and/or Wales.
  • It should take between 10 and 30 minutes to complete, depending on your experiences and views. Some questions require an answer so you can be taken to the next relevant question.
  • All data will be collected anonymously with no identification of organisations or individuals.

Friday 10 May 2013

Quotes of the Week: From a fond farewell for Ferguson to Burchill on the joy of punctuation

Mark Ogden in the Telegraph on Alex Ferguson and the press: "Many reporters have been banned, myself included, for a vast number of random reasons. They have been banned for getting stories wrong and getting them right. Others have been exiled for writing books about Ferguson or making oblique references that have irked him deep within their articles. Yet Ferguson’s departure will be mourned by those who are employed to report on United, regardless of the bans, the hairdryers and the flying voice recorders. One sentence from Ferguson can carry more weight than a thousand words from his managerial counterparts – which can be a negative as well as positive quality – but being witness to the Ferguson years at United has been a rare privilege." 

Greg Dyke in the Sunday Times [£] on the BBC row with the Government over the 'sexed up' dossier: "The basic allegations were that they sexed up the dossier — I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Our story was fundamentally right. It was not completely right, but then journalism is not an exact science. What was clear was: did they sex up the dossier? Yes. Did they know they were sexing it up? Yes. About the only person who I’ve ever come across who doesn’t believe that is Alastair Campbell.” 

Peter Preston in The Observer: "Northern newsrooms – like Midlands correspondents and the rest – have all but vanished. Local news agencies feeding the nationals are similarly diminished. London, reaching for its newspaper or clicking online each morning, gets no consistent sense of what non-metropolitan life is like."

Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times [£]: "Bullying is another word that has long since lost its original meaning. It no longer refers to someone having his head put down the lavatory; it now means to compromise someone’s opinion of themselves by suggesting that they might have got something wrong."

The Guardian in a leader: "One of the final arbiters of press regulation in this country is likely to be a former military intelligence officer who once successfully sued a British media organisation for reporting that he was part of an SAS operation training allies of the dictator Pol Pot in Cambodia. The libel trial was halted after the then defence secretary granted authority for gagging orders – public interest immunity certificates – preventing evidence about the security services from being disclosed to the court. Too far fetched, even in the feverish world of post-Leveson wranglings? Alas not. Under any proposal for a press royal charter, the ultimate fate of media regulation would be the subject of private conversations between the head of the privy council (Nick Clegg) and the aforesaid individual –  Sir Christopher Geidt, private secretary to the Queen (and, inevitably, himself a member of the privy council)."

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, quoted in the Daily Mail: "Police briefing against arrested individuals to pressure or punish is clearly abusive but it’s equally chilling for officers to refuse to confirm names of those detained or charged." 

Sun Royal editor Duncan Larcombe in a statement after being charged with bribery offences: "I hope to demonstrate that I am a responsible journalist who reported in the public interest.  As a royal reporter I worked harder than any other at the Palace putting in place and ensuring the application of a series of criteria that had to be satisfied before a story would appear in my paper. For the past year I have had to remain silent but my aim now is to fight these allegations with every breath in my body in the hope that justice and common sense will prevail."

Grey Cardigan on TheSpinAlley: "I had expected great things of the re-designed websites of Local World’s regional newspapers. Surely a company so wedded to digital expansion would produce something useful and accessible, sexy and sophisticated. So I was more than a little disappointed when I clicked on one of the re-launched sites to find something that looked like it had been put together by a 14-year-old kid in his bedroom… in 1996. Huge tabloid fonts smashing you in the face, negligible help with navigation, poor or non-existent labelling – they’re a real mess and about as sexy as an unflushed toilet." 

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail on her days as a Guardian journalist: "Increasingly, I saw how journalists on highbrow papers write primarily for other journalists or to impress politicians or other members of the great and the good. They don’t actually like ordinary people — especially the lower middle class, the strivers who believed in self-discipline and personal responsibility.  They dismiss them as narrow-minded, parochial and prejudiced (unlike themselves, of course)."

Michael Wolff on USA Today: "Murdoch survives. And his fortune has only increased. But the legacy he has most wanted, a permanent patrimony for his papers, and the conveyance of his company from his leadership to his children's, is still a struggle that, at 82, he will not win."

Julie Burchill on her husband Daniel Raven in the Sunday Times Magazine [£]: "Dan is the only person who’s more obsessed with punctuation than I am. It’s the secret of a good marriage, sex and punctuation.” 

[£] = paywall

Friday 3 May 2013

Media Quotes of the Week: Wanted a Fleet Street champion, fear at the BBC and the most significant invention for journalism since the telephone

Ian Burrell in the Independent: "Since the Leveson inquiry was announced, the press has lacked a credible figurehead who can connect with the public in a similar way to Hugh Grant of the media-reform group Hacked Off. Fleet Street lacks a champion."

Respect at Work Review on the BBC: “Throughout our conversations we heard a strong undercurrent of fear; fear of speaking out, fear of reprisal, fear of losing your job, being made redundant, fear of becoming a victim, fear of getting a reputation as a troublemaker and not getting promoted if an employee, or further work if a  freelancer, supplier or contractor."

Torin Douglas, the BBC's media correspondent who leaves the Corporation this month after 24 years, in a Press Gazette interview: “The fact is, morale within the BBC is not good – particularly with the strikes and everything. A lot of BBC staff are unhappy about the pay of their managers, the way the BBC is managed and so on.”

Downing Street source quoted by the Independent: “The Royal Charter put forward by the three parties and agreed after 22 weeks of consultation with the newspaper industry is the one we think should go forward.”

A statement from Stuart Hall's solicitor, when he was first charged in December, as reported by the Daily Mail: 'Stuart Hall is innocent of these charges. He is unable to comment further at this stage. It is a matter of concern that in the week following publication of the Leveson Report there appears to have been systematic, measured leaks to the media which have given a misleading impression of what this case is about."

Joel Simon, executive director of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, responds to Hacked Off's Brian Cathcart: "Of course, it is natural that Cathcart would come to a different conclusion, since he has a very different role. His brief is to advocate on behalf of the victims of media abuses, who unquestionably deserve our support and sympathy. Our role is to defend the basic principles of press freedom and the rights of journalists to report the news. I have no doubt that Cathcart believes a Royal Charter supported by statute is the best solution for Britain. But it is not the best solution for journalists around the world, and that is why we oppose it." 

Oxford Mail group editor Simon O'Neil, quoted by the Newspaper Society on the Government's draft Royal Charter on press regulation: "I am disappointed, but not surprised, that despite fine words from MPs of all parties, including the three leaders, the impact this would have on the regional press has been completely ignored, or at best viewed as collateral damage. They clearly believed that if they patted us on the head we’d just go away. They were wrong."

The Daily Telegraph after being banned by Newcastle United for claiming there was a 'split' in the dressing room: "We regret the club's decision to ban the Telegraph from attending matches and press conferences, but will not allow it to prevent us providing the most incisive, trustworthy Newcastle coverage, rather than pandering to what the club want you to read."

Southern Daily Echo editor Ian Murray after revelations in the paper (above) forced the leader of Southampton City Council to quit, as reported by HoldTheFrontPage: “It was shocking in the end that the council’s legal department attempted to silence us with threats before we published our investigations based on their own report. This was a clear matter of public interest. If we had not lifted the lid on this issue then no one else would have revealed what was going on. As a lesson in why a free and vibrant local press is needed to scrutinise local democracy I can think of no better example.”

Martin Kettle in the Guardian: "In the course of the post-Leveson debate, a great principle – the free press – has been shamelessly hijacked by vested interests. Freedom has been elided with press self-interest. Press opposition to reform has been brash, heavy-handed and single-minded. Even the extraordinary all-party agreement in March to put significant parts of Leveson under the umbrella of a royal charter caused only momentary hesitation. In the end, not even the fact that no single MP voted against the agreement counted for anything. The press ignored parliament's verdict."

Steve Hewlett in the Observer: "With the moonlight flit to Wapping, Murdoch moved to take on the print unions who had supported his purchase of the Sun. And difficult and brutal as it was, there is now a consensus, more or less, that change had to happen and that, by acting in a way no other press owner dared to do, Murdoch has extended the commercial life of Britain's press by at least 20 years."

Janet Street Porter in the Mail on Rachel Johnson: "Pushy Rachel has talked up editing a minor magazine (The Lady) into a major journalistic achievement - at least I've edited a national newspaper." 

Roy Greenslade on his MediaGuardian blog: "Journalism is too important to our democracy to be permitted to wither on the vine because rapacious bankers are squeezing companies that put profit before public service."

Emily Bell, speaking at the International Journalism Festival: "Twitter is the most significant invention for journalism since the telephone".

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Industry Royal Charter submitted to Privy Council

The newspaper and magazine industry’s proposed Royal Charter for self regulation of the press has been formally submitted to the Privy Council Office.

The Charter submitted by the four newspaper and magazine trade associations - The Newspaper Society representing regional and local newspapers, Newspaper Publishers Association representing national newspapers, Professional Publishers Association representing magazines and the Scottish Newspaper Society - was published by the industry on April 25th.

Since then there has been one small amendment to include in the recognition criteria the provision by the new independent regulator of a whistle-blowers’ hotline.

It is understood that the next meeting of the Privy Council is due to take place on May 15th.

Via the Newspaper Society