A free monthly newspaper in Glasgow has ceased publication after struggling to generate enough advertising revenue.
Local News Glasgow founder Grace Franklin told AllMediaScotland: “If I had been a hard-nosed business person, I would have wrapped it up a long time ago. Towards the end, it was the love of it, rather than money, that kept it going.”
The value of industry body accreditation in journalism has been at the centre of debate this week, following a meeting of the NCTJ’s cross-media accreditation board last week, where members raised concerns about the impact of potential education funding cuts on the journalism industry.
Quoted in a report from the NCTJ Professor Richard Tait, director of the Centre of Journalism Studies at Cardiff University, argued that accredited courses must be protected in the face of cuts.
While the NCTJ is quite right to insist on sufficient resources and expertise so that skills are properly taught and honed, education is a competitive market, and NCTJ courses are expensive to run. In the likely cuts ahead, it is vital for accredited courses to retain their funding so that they are not forced to charge students exorbitant fees; otherwise, diversity will be further compromised.
Speaking to Journalism.co.uk about his comments further this week, Tait said he was voicing real concerns that courses which meet industry standards may be more at risk because of their expense:
There has been a huge expansion of courses about journalism and about the media, but not all of them are accredited. These are not real journalism courses, they are journalism studies courses. There’s nothing wrong with them at all, some of them are very good courses, but they are not a professional training of journalists.
It’s really important that whatever happens to journalism education we protect those courses that provide this professional training of the journalists of the future.
If you’re running a journalism course that does not have a digital newsroom, does not teach videojournalism or students how to report online or what podcasts are, what’s the use of that? Some universities have invested heavily in these areas. But when money gets short people will say “do we really need this digital newsroom, do we need to teach shorthand etc”. There is a danger of people saying “frankly bad courses might be cheaper”.
Just days after the meeting, Brian McNair, former professor of journalism at Strathclyde University and now working at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, happened to discuss his decision to pull Strathclyde’s journalism course out of NCTJ accreditation in 2008 in a post on allmediascotland. His comments, which were picked up by media commentator Roy Greenslade, have since prompted huge debate about the value of the body. In his post McNair said accreditation is not enough:
In a world where (…) the supply of traditional journalism jobs has fallen by as much as 30 per cent (and those that remain are scandalously low-paid), the high flying journalist of the future needs more than NCTJ certificates in Public Affairs and Media Law to get on. He, or she, needs talent, imagination, a spirit of independence, an understanding of IT and social networking and their impact on media, culture and society in general; everything in short, that the NCTJ curriculum squeezed out with its relentless stress on externally-decreed learning by rote.
Many, maybe most, successful journalists never passed an NCTJ exam. NCTJ-certified journalists are being sacked, perhaps as I write, sometimes by editors who sit on NCTJ boards and declare their allegiance to the “gold standard” of training. The old world of print journalism in which the NCTJ was formed is passing into history, replaced by content-generating users, citizen journalists and all those journalistic wannabees who make up the globalised, digitised public sphere in the 21st century.
But while Tait reiterated McNair’s call for talent to be the measure of a journalist, he insisted that accreditation is a vital tool for students:
The problem is that there are a huge number of courses which have got the magic word journalism in them. If you’re a student and you’re looking at this multiplicity of courses and trying to work out what one is up to a certain standard, that’s absolutely essential.
What you’re already seeing in journalism is that it is becoming a profession where who you know is becoming more important than what you know. It should be about talent. I think that if you don’t have the accreditation process, the rigorous approval of courses by accreditation bodies, how can the students work out what to do?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments or by voting in the poll below:
Scottish media news website Allmediascotland wants to know whether journalists working in Scotland want a media club. Such a club could offer “regular speaker events, parties and dinners” as well as space for hotdesking and interviewing.
The site is conducting a survey to gauge interest in the club, which could lead to a festival of journalism, annual media awards and exhibitions of Scottish press photography, it says.
Yesterday, the Sunday Times reported that a ‘consortium of Scottish businessmen is trying to buy The Scotsman newspaper from the debt-laden Johnston Press’. It claimed:
“Martin Gilbert, the chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, has joined forces with Edinburgh financier Ben Thomson and property developer Mark Shaw to acquire the daily.
“Talks have taken place in recent weeks but the two sides are believed to be a long way apart on price. Industry sources say Johnston is holding out for about £40m for The Scotsman, which it bought from the Barclay brothers for £160m in 2005.
“Sources close to Johnston confirmed an informal approach for the division, which includes Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, but said there were no plans for a formal sale.”
Also of note is the claim that JP is in discussions with Newsquest, publisher of rival The Herald, ‘about a joint venture to pool resources. Previous attempts to merge the titles were blocked by politicians’.
Kachingle.com, a system which will collect ‘voluntary contributions in exchange for easily displayed social recognition’ and bills itself as ‘a way for readers to choose and equitably share their $5 monthly contribution with the web sites they appreciate the most’ is delaying its full launch, allmediascotland.com reports.
“Kachingle’s founder, Cynthia Typaldos, told allmediascotland.com: “The delay in our launch is because we needed to make sure our initial system could scale to hundreds of thousands of active users….which is what we now expect given that newspapers will be some of our initial launch sites.”"
The blog post in question – published on Friday 19 – mentioned, amongst other things, Clayton’s attempts to sell his house and the following statement, which seems to have riled The Scotsman:
“All but one of the too many estate agents I spoke to told me not to bother advertising in The Scotsman. Whether you’re looking for work or a home, the web’s the place to go.”
Clayton was told he was fired by Alison Gray, editor of the paper’s Saturday magazine, just hours after the post was put live, with it cited as the key reason behind his sacking.
“I’d written a slightly controversial blog entry for allmediascotland.com suggesting that, as websites replace printed newspapers, there would be little need for physical offices and that the role of the sub-editor would disappear. I hoped it would be a little provocative, but the most I expected was to have a few virtual brickbats lobbed in my direction,” said Clayton, in a follow-up piece.
Journalism.co.uk tried contacting the Scotsman, leaving messages with Alison Gray and the office of Tim Bowdler, chief executive of Scotsman Publications, but received no response to the following:
- does the Scotsman have a set policy on staff writing for external websites? and are journalists aware of this?
- could the blog post have been amended to prevent Clayton from losing his job?
Admittedly there’s no disclaimer on Clayton’s AMS blog – e.g. ‘the views expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of my employer’ etc etc – but nevertheless was this the right course of action for the Scotsman to take?
There’s nothing to stop a journalist from setting up their own personal blog or contributing in their professional capacity to another blog site – either as poster or commenter – and as the trend for doing so continues to grow more popular, will publishers start setting out stricter guidelines for what staff can and can’t say elsewhere?
Reactions like this and the idea of more stringent restrictions on where journalists can write online are counterproductive: letting journalists write, comment, engage and react with colleagues and readers online can help build an online community around them and their content, driving users back to the publisher’s site.
Spilling company secrets is one thing, but Clayton’s post was hardly exposing something that’s hidden from the rest of the newspaper industry.
Clayton has told me he’s contacted the National Union for Journalists (NUJ) (who haven’t got back to me either for that matter) – and I’ll be really interested to hear its stance on this: firstly, in reaction to the immediacy of his sacking; and more importantly, as to what this means for journalists working online, in multimedia and for multiple taskmasters.