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Scott Trust chair calls for bylined leader articles

February 22nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

Dame Liz Forgan, chair of the Scott Trust – the body that owns Guardian Media Group – believes that newspaper leader columns should be bylined.

“I have always thought leaders should be signed,” Forgan, a former leader writer herself, said in a video interview with Editorial Intelligence. “I think that it is a very curious convention that leaders are unsigned. If they were all written by the editor that would be understandable. But they’re not: they’re written by a group of people who are professional leader writers, usually.”

She nearly persuaded the Independent’s founding editor Andreas Whittam Smith to break the trend with his new paper, she said: “I nearly won the argument but he chickened out in the end.”

Watch the clip here:

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Major MEN changes ‘are designed to protect the business and its journalism for the future,’ says GMG Regional Media statement

March 10th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Journalism, Newspapers

Following the news that 150 jobs – 78 of those journalists’ – will be cut in GMG Regional Media, this statement has been released from the group:

“MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News and weekly titles across Greater Manchester, has today briefed staff on a range of proposed changes to the business.

“The local and regional press is facing the worst conditions in living memory as the economic downturn exacerbates and accelerates longer-term structural changes in the behaviour of advertisers and readers.

“The viability of local and regional titles is under threat due to steeply falling revenues that we do not expect to return to previous levels even when economic conditions improve. Publishers therefore need to find a sustainable new model if they are to survive.

“The major changes announced at MEN Media today are designed to protect the business and its journalism for the future through a new model with significantly lower fixed costs.

“By far the largest cost within the business is salaries, and while we have examined every option short of job losses, it has become clear that it is impossible to bring stability to MEN Media without substantially reducing the number of people we employ. We expect approximately 150 positions to be made redundant across MEN Media.

“While we will seek volunteers for redundancy wherever possible, we anticipate that compulsory redundancies will be unavoidable. Those people affected will be offered significantly enhanced severance terms.

“MEN Media has reviewed all aspects of its business. In addition to salaries, we have targeted various other costs and looked at how we can
improve in areas such as advertising sales, working practices and editorial systems.

“The proposed changes announced today are summarised below:

  • Approximately 150 positions across all functions and disciplines to be made redundant within MEN Media. This includes 78 journalists across 23 titles.
  • One consolidated editorial team for the MEN and weeklies at Scott Place in Manchester, working across MEN Media’s various titles and websites.
  • All branch offices apart from Stockport will be closed in the coming months. Offices in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford and Wilmslow will be closed.
  • Reporters will continue to work their patches, but no longer from a local office. There will be increased remote working to support this.
  • Investment in a new editorial system common to all titles, and training for all users. The new system has improved web and multimedia capabilities, and will enable journalists to work across MEN Media’s different outlets.
  • New layout and design for weekly titles.
  • Central section of common pages for the weeklies, drawn from the MEN’s leisure/entertainment content.
  • Greater sharing of content between the MEN and weekly titles.
  • A new house agreement to cover the new editorial department.
  • A revised pay schedule for journalists based on the current weeklies pay schedule. Journalists who are paid in excess of the schedule will have their pay ring-fenced and protected.
  • Fewer free copies of the MEN and weekly titles distributed.
  • Reduced pagination of the MEN.
  • Revamped advertising sales operation with greater focus on growing new business and selling multimedia solutions.
  • Better targeted advertising sales strategies, with improved use of customer data.”

Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG Regional Media (parent company of MEN Media), said:

“MEN Media’s role is to produce great journalism for our readers, users and viewers in Greater Manchester. If we want to continue to be able to do this, we need to find a new, sustainable, lower-cost business model to support it. The economic viability of local and regional newspapers is under very real and imminent threat.

“The decision about job losses has been a very difficult one to make, and I deeply regret that it has been necessary. Nonetheless, I do believe this is the right decision for MEN Media’s future and for the majority of staff who will remain with the company.

“There is a successful future for local and regional journalism in the commercial sector, but we need to protect our businesses now to give ourselves the best chance of reaching it.

“This is a worrying time for everyone working in the local and regional press. Some argue that our industry has no future. I think this is completely wrong – people still want local and regional journalism, and advertisers want to reach those people.”

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SoE08: What next for local media?

November 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers

Two questions being repeatedly raised at today’s Society of Editors (SoE) conference:

  • stop talking about the nationals, how can regional media get in on the digital act?
  • what to do about the BBC – or the ‘boa constrictor’ as Mail Online’s editorial director Martin Clarke called the corporation.

Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall told delegates that there is a model for the local press, focusing on hyperlocal.

“There will be models that emerge: investing in SEO, local press have to do that. There’s an opportunity for local press to go very local and build revenue around this. There are models, but it will have to be off a very different cost base,” said McCall.

She went on to describe Channel M – the television offshoot of the Manchester Evening News – as ‘a good model’ for local media that could be replicated in the future.

The business risks associated with online and sustainable digital business models, she added, need to be shared regionally and locally.

Regional media will have to take ‘a real hit’ on their bottom line when it comes to online to if they are to maintain standards of quality journalism, she added.

Malcolm Pheby, editor of the Nottingham Evening Post, took up the regional press’ baton in explaining how the NEP had successfully integrated its newsroom with staff now trained to treat all news stories as rolling news to be broken on the web.

But the pervading theme of the day has been the opposition from regional newspapers to the BBC’s proposed local video plans.

Pete Clifton, head of multimedia for the Beeb, did his best to defend criticisms of the plans, saying that the proposals are subject to assessments by the BBC Trust and suggesting that the BBC could forge stronger relationships with other news providers.

Still it was comments from McCall and Clarke, whose affiliate Northcliffe added its voice to the debate today, that received impromptu applause.

According to both, the BBC’s plans present unfair competition to the local press

Cue videojournalism evangelist and consultant Michael Rosenblum, who promised to teach the audience how to beat the BBC at its own game. Key to this he said is embracing technology, in particular video, wholeheartedly and not incrementally.

In response to a question from a Rotherham newspaper publisher, which currently has no video on its website, Rosenblum said there was a demand for the content and the potential for partnerships with regional broadcasters like ITV local.

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