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Bristol branch of NUJ to protest over Evening Post cuts

The Bristol branch of the National Union of Journalists is due to hold a peaceful demonstration later today following news that 20 jobs were at risk with publication of the Evening Post’s Saturday edition to be stopped from next month.

The protest will take place outside an exhibition marking 80 years of the Northcliffe Media’s title from 6.15pm outside the Galleries in Bristol. The union branch says it has received much support from the local community.

Last week NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the changes to the Evening Post were a “shock announcement”.

We call on the paper’s management to take steps to avoid job losses and enter into meaningful consultation with staff and their union representatives.

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Newsquest editor owns up to writing death penalty editorial

Earlier today I spoke to group editor of Newsquest’s South London titles, Andy Parkes, who refused to confirm whether or not he had penned an editorial printed by the Wimbledon Guardian and Streatham Guardian calling for the return of the death penalty and corporal punishment.

Parkes did say that we could “put his name to it”,  claiming that it was “tongue in cheek” and a “just a bit of fun”.

The piece – and Parkes subsequent comments to Journalism.co.uk – proved to be controversial however and he was asked to appear on BBC Radio Scotland this afternoon alongside Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade, who first blogged about the editorial.

Parkes admitted on the show to writing the leader, and said that he stands by the call for the death penalty and corporal punishment to be reinstated.

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Editorial in Newsquest papers calling for capital punishment ‘was just a bit of fun’

An unsigned editorial that appeared on the pages of the Streatham Guardian and Wimbledon Guardian calling for the return of capital punishment does not represent the views of publisher Newsquest and was “just a bit of fun”, the papers’ group editor said this morning.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Andy Parkes denied the editorials represented the views of Newsquest or Newsquest’s parent company, Gannett.

Parkes said the piece was “tongue in cheek” and “a bit of fun”, and had been “blown out of all proportion” in a post by the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade this morning, which initially claimed that the piece had been run across Newsquest’s South London Guardian series and elsewhere.

Parkes refused to comment on who wrote the piece at first, but later said: “You can put my name to it”. Pressed over whether he was the author, he refused to say any more, adding: “I absolutely don’t want to get into this any further”.

The hard-line leading articles – one of which was headlined simply “Rioting scum: the solution is as simple as 1, 2, 3″ – call for capital and corporal punishment to be brought back in the wake of the recent rioting and looting.

The full comment reads:

RIOTING SCUM – the solution is as simple as 1,2,3.

1 Bring back corporal punishment.

2 Bring back capital punishment.

3 Throw out all the stupid namby-pamby laws and regulations which actually stop adults interacting with children.

The first two are so blindingly obvious no more needs to be said.

The third is equally sensible – allow parents to discipline their offspring as they need to, put power back into the hands of teachers and actually encourage, not discourage, adults to be involved with children.

Personally I’d ditch CRB checks altogether – after all, if you use points 1 and 2 correctly they would be far more effective than any CRB check could ever be. And, as for the suggestion an adult shouldn’t be allowed to carry other people’s children in the car… blah, blah, blah unbelievable. It’s no wonder adults are are terrified to get involved. I heard the other day that teachers are now discouraged from even raising their voices – the world’s gone mad.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more radical solution. One idea would be to simply arm pensioners. On the same day you get your bus pass you receive a handgun and the legal right to use it. Those in post office queues might be a bit more jumpy, but I guarantee we’d have a new-found respect for the elderly.

As well as appearing in print in the the Wimbledon Guardian and Streatham Guardian, the piece appears to have been published on the websites of the Lewisham and Greenwich News Shopper, Surrey Comet, Waltham Forest Guardian and Watford Observer, and Wandsworth Guardian. This was due to a “technical complexity” that meant content was syndicated automatically within London, a member of staff at the Wandsworth Guardian said.

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Review: QuickSurvey relaunches online tool

Online survey tool QuickSurvey has relaunched after a full makeover.

The tool, developed by market research firm Toluna, offers news organisations the opportunity to carry out market research using an online community of people who are ready and willing to respond.

It has obvious uses for businesses, including media organisations, and potential for PRs, but our review of the software struggled to see how it can assist journalists.

Testing out QuickSurvey

I decided to create a sample survey to test out the technology by asking QuickSurvey to find out how often people buy a local newspaper, why they buy one, how often they read local news online and what they would like to see from their local newspaper. Within an hour I had received 250 responses at a cost of around £200.

Click here for the results of my example QuickSurvey on local newspapers. You can play around with the data, graphs and pie charts and see a long list of things people would like to see from their local newspaper.

How does QuickSurvey work?

When I started playing around with QuickSurvey I thought of surveying a hand-picked group of respondents. For example, I thought I could ask 20 news sites what percentage of their web hits came via Twitter, which had the potential to result in a news story.

QuickSurvey is not the best tool to use for this as it doesn’t allow you to enter figures as an answer, such as percentages. I soon realised that QuickSurvey’s main strength is the community of online respondents who willing to answer your questions.

You decide on how many people you want to complete the survey, what type of person (you could pick an all-male survey, for example) and, if carrying out a survey with your own respondents, you can ask them to include an email address (information which, like the research carried out, is yours to keep).

You can embed the active survey on your news site, email it to particular contacts or, if you want to use the Toluna community, you can allow it to be displayed on Toluna only.

If you are asking your own respondents to answer questions QuickSurvey is free, but if you ask the Toluna community you pre-pay for credits and are charged for the number of clicks from the community. One credit is deducted for every one person who answers one question.

I had 250 respondents answer four questions costing me 1,000 credits. A pay-as-you-go deal for 1,500 credits costs £240.

Results were returned in minutes and it was interesting to see people responding in real time. The company has a million poll rates a day globally and 2,000 responses can be gathering in eight to 12 hours so it offers a fast response to market research.

When your survey is completed, in less than an hour in my case, you can download reports, including word clouds of the answers.

The verdict: QuickSurvey is incredibly easy to use and within an hour you will have some very usable feedback and market research at a cost of around £200.

Not allowing people to respond using percentages was slight problem, as was not being able to select a very specific geographical area, like a newspaper’s distribution area. Another obvious problem is the respondents, who are all web savvy by nature, which skews results when asking a question about whether they read news online.

Is it of use to the news industry? No doubt there are uses in gathering data by using QuickSurvey.

Is it of use to journalists? Probably not, unless they have the money to pay for large surveys to provide research for a story.

Is it of use to PR professionals? Almost certainly. I can envisage a press release starting with the line: “A new survey shows 90 per cent of women think…”

Tips on creating a survey using QuickSurvey

Be short and relevant:

  • Give your survey a name that speaks to the audience. ‘Local Newspaper Survey’ is better than ‘Sarah’s Test Survey’, for example;
  • Ideally opt for three to eight questions (although you can include up to 15);
  • Short questions, ideally 10-15 words or less.

Keep answers simple:

  • Fewer than 12 answers – longer answer lists are a turn off;
  • Give options to answer ‘none of these’, ‘other’ or ‘don’t know';
  • Use logos, videos and images where possible – all can be seamlessly integrated into the tool.

Be clear:

  • Precise vocabulary;
  • Avoid double negatives;
  • Be unambiguous.

Stay neutral and cautious:

  • Use neutral words to avoid bias;
  • Randomise answers for brands, products or services (this stops the top brand or option being overly represented in the results, as people have a natural tendency to pick the answers near the top);
  • Use generic questions as screening questions when targeting specific profiles – for example if you’re looking to talk to Toyota drivers, don’t ask ‘Do you own a Toyota? yes/no’ but ask which of the following cars do they own – and give a list of manufacturers.

Always test your survey:

  • Get someone else to check your survey makes sense and spell check it.
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Northcliffe Media selling Staffordshire titles

Northcliffe Media is to sell off a number of its regional titles to Staffordshire Newspapers, part of Iliffe News and Media Limited.

In March it was reported that Northcliffe Media’s new managing director, former Metro director Steve Auckland, was planning to launch a review of the division’s 115 regional newspapers.

Parent company the Daily Mail and General Trust had previously ruled out buying or launching any more local newspapers, but had said it was interested in any approaches for its regional newspaper division.

Titles affected by the latest announcement are from its Leek Post & Times Business, including the Leek Post & Times, Uttoxeter Post & Times, Moorlands Advertiser and South Cheshire Advertiser.

In a statement Northcliffe Media said the sale is subject to the appropriate legal consultation with the employees of the Post & Times.

The sales will give the publisher “a greater opportunity to concentrate on developing our Stoke portfolio”, a statement added.

No one from Staffordshire Newspapers was available to comment at the time of writing.

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10 steps to getting ahead as a young regional journalist

March 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards, Local media

John Mair is a judge for the Society of Editors’ Regional Press Awards, in the Young Journalist of the Year category. After trawling through nearly 200 articles by more than 60 young journalists, he offers a ten-step guide to getting ahead in regional news and taking home an award in the process.

1. Get the skills

Story-telling and accuracy are still key. So is shorthand

2. Get the stories

It seems bleeding obvious, but it’s what we do. Think of what makes a story and how you get it. Avoid “churnalism”, originality always shows.

3. Go off diary

The best tales are those which nobody else has. That “exclusive” tag at the top of the story is worth so much to the reader (and to you!).

4. Build a contacts book

It is still true that contacts tell you things (sometimes things that they shouldn’t). Good stories are not found in the newsroom but in the real world. Shoe leather still pays.

5. Use the internet

Surprising how many yet how few young journos use social media to get or enhance stories. Like it or not, this is the Facebook and Twitter generation (especially for young people). Most people are now are just a few clicks away.

6. Use the law, especially FOI

It’s fascinating how many stories in local papers are worked up from a hunch and a Freedom of Information request to the local hospital, police, council, etc . And you can always find anomalies in any set of disclosed documents or a story if they refuse you access. Tony Blair may have called it “my greatest mistake”, but FOI is a gold mine for journalists.

7. Don’t be overawed by the nationals

Some of the best stories are local angles on huge national stories, like Raoul Moat in Newcastle and Derek Bird in Cumbria. Local knowledge and door knocking always pays dividends in these situations. You and your paper can end up looking much better than the nationals.

8. Remember that the words are just the beginning

Attractive modern newspapers are about style and production. Side bars, standfirsts and explainers all to build the story. The reader is very busy and you must assume has attention deficit syndrome. Think of how you get some of their attention in a media-rich world

9. Multi skills

Have them. Very few of the sixty wannabes appeared to have audio and video skills. These will be the essential tools of the journalistic future, like it or not.

10. Read the rules properly

If you want to be reporter of the year than read the rules of the competition. If you can’t be bothered to submit your entry properly then why should I be bothered to judge it properly.

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Cakes, crows, bees: celebrating the strangest newspaper names in the world

February 8th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Local media, Newspapers

What do cakes, crows and mosquitoes have in common? They all have local newspapers named after them.

The BBC has asked readers to suggest some of the strangest and most distinctive newspaper titles in the world. Highlights from the UK include the Banbury Cake (“the work of a complete lunatic or a marketing genius”), the Royston Crow and the Falmouth Packet, not forgetting the Arran Banner – “the only newspaper named after a potato”.

It’s not just a UK phenomenon: the United States does well with the Sacramento Bee, the the Youngstown Vindicator, the Carlisle Mosquito and the Unterrified Democrat.

Here’s the full list.

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Greenslade: MPs reject code to restrict council-run newspapers

January 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Local media, Politics

A Commons committee has rejected a plan by communities minister Eric Pickles designed to restrict council-run newspapers, reports Roy Greenslade.

MPs on the communities and local government select committee argue that a revised code drawn up by Pickles to prevent the publication of so-called “town hall Pravdas” should be reconsidered.

In a lengthy report released today on the proposed code of recommended practice on local authority publicity, the committee accuses the minister of failing to provide proof that council-run papers threaten commercial newspapers.

Full report on Greenslade blog at this link.

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Newsquest: An update on the reported pay freeze thaw

December 24th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Local media

There have been several reports this week that a long-standing, group-wide pay freeze at Newsquest has shown signs of thawing. Journalism.co.uk has reported extensively on the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) campaign against the pay freeze and the series of strikes that have taken place at Newsquest titles in the past few months.

So has the pay freeze been lifted? Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as that. Here’s what we know:

  • An NUJ update and official has confirmed that a 2 per cent pay increase has been offered at some Newsquest centres;
  • The centres that have been confirmed so far are Bradford, York and Darlington;
  • The NUJ has not yet returned our calls to confirm what centres, if any, in the south or Scotland have been made an offer;
  • Journalism.co.uk has learned that in the current offers, no move to backdating pay has been included;
  • The date from which a pay increase would take place – if the offers are accepted – depends on each centre’s “pay anniversary”, a date agreed between NUJ chapels and management when new pay or holiday settlements would be introduced.

A step in the right direction – but there’s more to come on this story…

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Brighton Argus’ new out-of-town subs fall at the first hurdle

December 20th, 2010 | 12 Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Journalism, Newspapers

Today is the first day that local title the Brighton Argus has been subbed from Southampton, following a controversial move by publisher Newsquest to centralise news subbing operations and lay off the paper’s Brighton-based subs.

And today’s edition brings with it a typo perfectly emblematic of the staff’s complaints that local papers need subs with local knowledge.

From today’s BRIGHTEN Argus…

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