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Jon Slattery: Unicef asks to move agenda on from phone hacking

July 20th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Advertising, Editors' pick, Legal

Over on his blog, Jon Slattery reports that Unicef took out adverts in the national press today to urge readers “to move the news agenda on from phone hacking” and instead be alert to the famine in parts of southern Somalia.

The ad, in the form of a letter from UNICEF UK executive director David Bull, states: “I am writing for your support in moving the news agenda on. The story about phone hacking does matter, but there’s another, far bigger and vital story that’s going unreported.”

Read more here…

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Jon Slattery: Government urged to set aside time for gagging law debate

May 5th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

An MP urged the government to set aside time for a Commons debate on gagging orders today, suggesting there are rumours circulating that another member of Parliament has taken out a super-injunction to prevent discussion of their activities, Jon Slattery reports in this blog post.

The allegation was made in the Commons as MPs discussed future Parliamentary business – including whether to debate judge-made privacy laws and gagging orders.

Conservative MP for Hendon, Matthew Offord reportedly said:

“Is the Leader of the House aware of the anomaly this creates if, as has been rumoured, a member of this place seeks a super-injunction to prevent discussion of their activities?”

Leader of the House Sir George Young was said to reply that it was “a very important issue about how we balance on the one hand an individual’s right to privacy and, on the other hand, the freedom of expression and transparency”.

He said the government would wait for the report from Lord Neuberger’s special committee on the issue, before deciding the next step.

“It may then be appropriate for the House to have a debate on this important issue,” he added.

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Kelvin MacKenzie sparks big debate on journalism training

Kelvin MacKenzie’s rubbishing of journalism courses has sparked a heated debate across numerous websites.

“There’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper,” he wrote in today’s Independent, saying he would shut down the colleges.

This post on Wannabe Hacks gives four reasons why MacKenzie is wrong and makes this interesting observation of why the former Sun editor – who has only one O-level – ended up in journalism.

This is key for me: the fact Mr MacKenzie had no choice but to scrap at a local paper when he was 16. He had few prospects and no options beyond an early entrance to the newsroom. But when you have the chance to go to uni or do a postgrad course, I think it’s natural to want to do so and to push yourself academically. It’s not for everyone and the jury’s out as to whether courses do you good. But let’s not take advice from a man who didn’t have a choice.

Over on Jon Slattery’s blog, he points out it is not the correct climate for newspapers to take on trainees.

The trouble with the local press route into journalism is how are regional newspapers going to take on trainees when they are cutting staff? Look at today’s news. Midland News Association, publisher of Britain’s biggest selling regional, the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star, is planning 90 [95] redundancies.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists agrees. HoldtheFrontPage has this interview with the chief executive of the NCTJ, Joanne Butcher.

She said: “Kelvin MacKenzie, of course, exaggerates to make some valid points about media degree courses and the value of learning the journalist’s craft by cutting your teeth on a local paper.

“But he does seem stuck in a time warp. Unlike when Kelvin trained on the South East London Mercury and was sent away to college, newspapers simply don’t take on many raw recruits these days.

In this post, a journalism student from University of Central Lancashire, Wordsmith, also argues the difficulties in being accepted on a paper directly from school.

On papers you don’t have time to fail, because of the pressure on you and the hundreds of people waiting to take your job.

A blog post on Rantings of a Sub Editor suggests a non-journalism degree first does help and some training, in a sub’s case the “basics of libel, copyright and privacy law, which are essential, a grounding in public affairs – local and national – and a working knowledge of Quark” and Substuff has some pretty good advice for wannabe journalists too.

Roy Greenslade also believes it is important to get a university education before going on to take a postgraduate journalism training course and, in this blog post, responds to MacKenzie’s jab at Greenslade’s City University lectureship.

I came up by the same route as Kelvin. He is right about it having been a terrific combination of learning-on-the-job and fun. But that was then, and this is now.

A university education is far better for journalists – and for journalism. It sharpens their critical faculties. It provides a great grounding in the basic skills. It is so good that many graduates are able to step straight into national papers.

Over on the Press Gazette blog, Dominic Ponsford argues MacKenzie “has a point about the ballooning cost of journalism training”.

MacKenzie does highlight a looming problem for the journalism industry, and one which it desperately needs to address. On the whole journalists are nowadays expected to fund their own training (the industry used to provide it on the job via block-release schemes). With first degrees costing up to £9,000 a year, and post-grads another £10,000 on top, and with food and board added in,  you are looking at spending £50,000 to to bag a job which, in the regional press, offers starting pay of £15,000.

How many aspiring journalists are realistically going to do that?

Journalism.co.uk’s earlier comment post – where you can tell us why you think MacKenzie is right, or wrong.

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Malcolm Coles: Why the Guardian’s future does look bleak

Writing on his blog, SEO expert Malcolm Coles claims the disparity in price between the Guardian’s digital services and print product is a problem for the company’s revenue.

Responding to a comment piece by former Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie, which predicts the Guardian’s print edition will be dead in a decade, Coles asks the paper: “Please, let me give you more money”.

A newspaper buyer until he got an iPad, Coles now pays £3.99 a year instead of £230 to read the Guardian everyday in print.

The collapse in what I pay is because I read most of the news for the next day’s newspaper on the Guardian website on my iPad the evening before. And I read anything new on my iPhone on the way to and from work. The newspaper has nothing in that I need.

Read the full post on Coles’ blog at this link.

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New code for council newspapers being ‘considered’ in review of East End Life

March 31st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Local media, Newspapers

A council newspaper currently under review, will continue to be published weekly while the local authority considers a revised code of practice passed by parliament last night.

Tower Hamlets Borough Council, which publishes East End Life, said the code would “be considered as part of the review” due to go before the council’s cabinet on 11 May.

The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity – of which there is no legal obligation for councils to follow – was put forward in an attempt to crack down on “wasteful” use of council resources. It was passed by parliament last night.

Tower Hamlets’ review, which was launched in January, will “fully take into account the views of residents, businesses, schools and anyone else with an interest in the paper”, the council said in a statement. In February Jon Slattery reported that the Conservative opposition leader at Tower Hamlets said the council is ‘fighting to the death’ to preserve East End Life.

Commercial newspaper for Tower Hamlets, the Archant-owned East London Advertiser, today welcomed the revised code.

“The problems that we face, not just in the East End but across other areas too, are that the councils are out to control the papers by starving them of revenue in some cases and also being able to control messages they are putting out,” group editor Malcolm Starbrook told Journalism.co.uk.

The Newspaper Society has also welcomed the new code, highlighting the importance of ensuring the new rules are effectively enforced.

“We hope that all local authorities will be encouraged to use the local media, which remain the best-read and most trusted form of local news and information,” Lynne Anderson of the Newspaper Society said in a statement.

The National Union of Journalists, which had called for an independent review to establish the impact free council newspapers have on commercial titles, dismissed allegations of blame placed on local authority publications.

We reject the assertion – made by the Communities and Local Government Secretary, that local authority publications are responsible for the decline in local newspaper sales. We believe that attempts to maintain profit margins by cutting overheads, rather than by investing in quality journalism lies at the heart of the current decline in circulation amongst many local and regional newspapers.

The union also pointed out that some commercial newspaper groups such as Trinity Mirror have “lucrative printing contacts” for several London borough publications.

The NUJ does not recognise the Communities and Local Government Secretary’s description of biased, politically motivated local government publications, lacking editorial integrity, which he claims are so prevalent. The day-to-day reality for journalistic staff working on these publications is one of habitual struggles to resist attempts by local authority cabinet members and chief executives to dictate content. Indeed, NUJ members working in Press and PR – both in and outside of local authorities, are bound by both defamation law and the union’s ethical code.

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Jon Slattery: ‘You can slice the salami only so many times,’ warns ex-Argus man

Former Brighton Argus deputy editor Frank le Duc guest posts on Jon Slattery’s blog about the recent strikes at the Argus and other Newsquest titles, and about the challenges facing regional publishers from new local competition.

The difficulty for companies like Newsquest is that their profits are not coming from a resurgence in advertising revenues but a ruthless cutting of costs.

Newsquest has used a salami-slicing technique which has its limitations. You can slice the salami only so many times before there’s no meat left.

Full post at this link…

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Comment: Tension mounts in Johnston Press newsrooms

Unless Johnston Press executives do something quickly, internal pressure could rival Eyjafjallajokull’s. Week after week the resentment bubbles up. A summary of recent events, according to the National Union of Journalists and previous reports:

  • JP staff stuck abroad due to the ash cloud were asked to take it out of their holiday allowance, or as unpaid leave.
  • On the same day NUJ members attended the Edinburgh shareholders’ meeting, asking the board “questions about executive pay, staff morale and the pressures on journalists to continue to produce quality newspapers in the face of 12 per cent staff cuts, a pay freeze and inadequate training on the Atex editorial production system.” (NUJ May 2010)

Across the group, there was a 70 per cent vote by NUJ members for industrial action “to combat job losses and  increased levels of stress and workload caused by the introduction of the Atex content magagement system,” according to the NUJ.

New content management system, Atex, is causing embarrassment for its journalists, resulting in misaligned pictures, or even missing pictures. They have difficulties with formatting the content properly.

Jon Slattery hosts a candid and sensibly anonymous account from a Leeds-based Johnston Press journalist this week:

Here in Leeds, on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, we have been waiting for months now to be told we are going Atex – i.e. replacing subs with templates for reporters to fill. We have heard from smaller centres all over the group what is likely to happen. It started to get close when we heard Scarborough subs had been “offered” redeployment to Sheffield – a two-hour drive on a good day.

Much of a recent NUJ meeting agenda was taken up by Northern divisional manager, Chris Green, says the anonymous correspondent. He adds:

We have seen a lot of nice suits pass through this place and walk away with pockets bulging, leaving the papers thinner and crappier.

JP’s recent strategy would suggest that the ‘suits’ aren’t really prioritising the web, after its failed pay wall trial – with reports of very (very) few subscribers. Journalists aren’t even asking for that much. Slattery’s man on the ground says:

…I do not want to make a stand for standards in journalism. I want to make the best of a bad job. I am not even sure I want to make a stand for strict demarcation between subs and reporters. But however you carve it up, somebody has to do the bloody work…

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Behind the scenes of a council rag

April 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Media blogger Jon Slattery has persuaded an anonymous editor of a council-run newspaper to reveal his publication’s agenda and motivation.

In a specially commissioned post, the editor who does not describe himself as a journalist, is critical of new and expanding ‘council rags’ – as well as local newspapers for their cost-cutting measures.

[I]f you look at what some of the boroughs, like Hammersmith and Fulham, are doing with their faux newspaper, complete with motoring, gardening and sports pages and property supplements, they have crossed the line between a council rag and a thing that you would pick up casually, and think ‘this is a real newspaper’. I think that is dangerous.

Full post at this link…

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BBC iPlayer: On Expenses

Missed last night’s BBC Four drama about American journalist Heather Brooke’s fight for the disclosure of MPs’ expenses?

Catch up here: BBC iPlayer at this link.

Jon Slattery praised the show on his blog, saying it showed how much the public owed freelance journalist Brooke, for expenses exposure.

Brooke told Journalism.co.uk she hoped the film would help people understand the importance of investigative journalism and the role they play in holding political leaders to account: “If we don’t want corruption then we each have some responsibility, if only to care about where our taxes are going.”

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Former Birmingham Post editor to launch West Midlands business site

January 27th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Online Journalism

It is thought that Marc Reeves, former editor of the Birmingham Post, is to launch a West Midlands franchise of TheBusinessdesk.com.

First publicly reported on Jon Slattery’s blog and on the Drum (in a story with a dead link), the news follows industry speculation and hints of pastures new on Reeves’ blog.

Journalism.co.uk has learned the site will be run by Reeves – who left the Post at the end of 2009 when the the Trinity Mirror title went weekly – and two other journalists. One of the journalists involved is believed to be the former Birmingham Post deputy business editor, Duncan Tift.

It is understood that Reeves has begun offering banner advertising for the new site.

Reeves, who we were unable to contact today, was recently appointed to the panel to decide the Independently Funded News Consortia pilots.

The Business Desk, who could not be contacted for comment today either, was launched in 2007 as business online-only news site for Yorkshire, by former Yorkshire Post business editor, David Parkin. Former Yorkshire Post journalists Ian Briggs and Anastasia Weiner also joined the site.

In 2008, the Business Desk also launched in the north west. At the time Parkin told Journalism.co.uk:

“We think it can work in every region in the country. We’ve got to see how it goes in the north west, but we don’t want to stop here.”

“We are purely online, that’s all we do. All the other players in the area have a print product to support,” he added.

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