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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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Brighton Argus launches parliamentary candidate tracker

The Argus in Brighton is to track the whereabouts of different parliamentary candidates in the run-up to the general election, using Google Maps.

The project, launched by the Argus’ online editor Jo Wadsworth today, was originally the brain child of journalist and media trainer Steve Bustin, journalist Sarah Marshall and others, during a group activity at the first Brighton Future of News event [Disclaimer: I was the organiser of the inaugural meet-up].

The map allows Google account users to mark where they have seen candidates for the Brighton Pavilion constituency – Green Party candidate Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Nancy Platts and the Conservative’s Charlotte Vere – and upload additional information about what they said.

The MP candidate tracker page also displays tweets sent out by each candidate.

“I was really glad when election coverage was one of the discussion ideas, and when I heard Steve Bustin suggest the map, I loved it, and as soon as I had a spare couple of hours, I decided to put it together,” said Jo Wadsworth.

“Here in Brighton we’ve got one of the most interesting election battles in Brighton Pavilion, where the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas has her party’s best ever chance of picking up a seat in Parliament. But it’s a very close-run thing, with strong competition from both Labour’s Nancy Platts and the Conservative’s Charlotte Vere.

“Luckily for me, all three are also on Twitter, which gave me enough material to kick-start the data on the map, with very interesting results. It’s surprising how little green there is there, for instance, and the red and blue markers are already showing a clear geographical divergence. But that was the easy part – the real challenge now is actually getting voters to add their own markers.”

Within a few hours of launch, the project had already received its first public edit – from Green Party councillor Jason Kitcat (@JasonKitcat).

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Journalism: an aspiration solely for the elite?

July 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

The all-party report led by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, has triggered a nationwide debate on issues of social mobility and whether social class divides can be overcome to provide equal career opportunities to all. Journalists found their profession branded ‘one of the most exclusive middle-class professions’. The industry was urged to provide financial support to interns from less wealthy backgrounds and adopt a best practice code.

Media organisations were accused of recruiting trainee journalists for internships for as long as one year, without payment, as a means of filling staffing gaps instead of providing appropriate training. The unpaid placements automatically filtered out students to only those who could afford the experience, usually middle class ones, or those willing to incur massive debts.

  • The National Union of Journalists immediately welcomed the outcomes of the report and heralded the best practice code for internships as ‘a first step in tackling bogus work experience‘. The union has been campaigning for years against exploitation of work experience placements, proposing the payment of a minimum wage to students on training. Speaking in a release issued earlier in the week, the NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said that the report ‘shows how the use of unpaid internships has undermined the diversity of our profession’. “Too many employers see internships as a way of getting work done for free, without any thought towards their responsibilities to provide would-be journalists with a learning opportunity.”
  • In his Guardian blog, Roy Greenslade talked about his humble beginnings as a working-class journalist, alongside others of the same social class at regional newspapers until he was struck by the class divide between the middle-class broadsheets and the working-class tabloids in Fleet Street. Although boundaries are now less obvious between the papers, higher tuition fees at universities meant education was dearer, and less accessible. As journalism became increasingly popular in the 1990s, degree holders were preferred over school-leavers, starting the unfair selection process which favoured the middle class.

A report in 2006 by the Sutton Trust [PDF at this link] showed that more than half of editorial posts at leading national newspapers had been educated at private schools, that is to say, middle class. As middle-class senior editors tend to appoint others like themselves, birds of a different, less privileged feather cannot find a way into the flock.

The Milburn report also pointed out that ‘qualification inflation’ is a barrier towards equal social opportunities. If once an academic degree or an MA were considered desirable for a career in journalism, some people, such as Press Gazette’s Dominic Ponsford, believe it is not the case any more as theoretical courses often do not provide the practical skills needed in a ‘real’ newsroom.

Degrees do not come cheap. Whereas a full-time MA at City University will set back an aspiring journalist by £8,000, a number of institutions offer NCTJ-accredited courses of much shorter length.

The Brighton Journalist Works, for instance, offers a 10-week fast-track course leading to a Certificate in Production Journalism for £3,600. Journalist Works MD Paula O’Shea, who set it up in April 2007 in The Argus’ Brighton offices, says the course is intense as it exposes students to as many hours as they would in an academic year on an MA, but graduates had landed jobs at The Argus, Johnston Press, Time Out, local TV stations and B2B magazines.

There is recourse for students who could not afford the fast-track course: “Our course is accredited by the Learning and Skills Council, so students can apply for a career development loan (www.direct.gov.uk) or the Journalism Diversity Fund (www.journalismdiverstityfund.co.uk),” says O’Shea.

A lack of diversity in news media could pose a problem for journalism, says Charlie Beckett, director of the journalism think-tank Polis. “If the news media is not diverse then it will not reflect the wider population,” he says in his blog.

“At a time of crisis in the industry and the wider economy, that is not a good thing economically, let alone politically.”

Here is Beckett, interviewed on Channel 4 News:

Useful links:

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#FollowJourn: @jowadsworth/web editor

July 15th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Jo Wadsworth

Who? Web editor of The Argus.

What? Leader in editing the Argus website, develops daily news service, and builds communities.

Where? @jowadsworth

Contact? jo.wadsworth@theargus.co.uk

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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Brighton Argus printing presses could close; 53 jobs threatened

June 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Journalism, Newspapers

Journalism.co.uk has learned that Newsquest is considering closing the printing presses for the Argus in Brighton.

Fifty-three jobs could be lost as a result, Journalism.co.uk was informed by a member of staff at the paper, and a 30-day consultation period will be undertaken.

We will follow up for further information with the concerned parties, although an enquiry to Newsquest Sussex yesterday about proposed subbing job cuts received this response: “We do not comment on our business.”

Update: The company did not wish to comment, when contacted.

(Jon Slattery beat us to it and noted reported closure of the presses on his blog too).

Yesterday we reported:

“There is speculation among staff members that the Argus will move ‘most if not all’ of its production to the Southampton centre in the future.

“‘They’re also proposing to move a subbing job focused on ad features, and six advertising jobs on the Propertynet online system, to Southampton,’ the chapel member said.”

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Greenslade: ‘Putting my hyperlocal money where my hyperlocal mouth is’

A nice hyperlocal story in which Journalism.co.uk plays a wee bit o’ a role.

A few weeks ago a good discussion got going at the Frontline Club on the future of regional media.

Roy Greenslade, journalism professor, blogger and resident of Brighton said:

“It’s for the good of the whole community that it [a local newspaper] acts. That loss is something people won’t necessarily be fighting for because they don’t know they’re losing it. We as journalists – that’s our job – it’s for us to ensure that we try and fight to save it.”

In the audience, next to your very own Journalism.co.uk contingent (we didn’t quite out-number the ex-Press Gazetters) sat Jo Wadsworth, who started as web editor of the Brighton Argus in February.

Now – as context – Jo Wadsworth had corrected one ‘Weige’ on Greenslade’s blog a little while back. Weige had it on ‘good authority’ that the Argus didn’t have an online team. Oh yes it does, retorted its new web editor.

Fast-forward a few months: Greenslade’s comments at the Frontline got Wadsworth thinking. Wouldn’t it be good to get him to put his hyperlocal money where his hyperlocal mouth was, she cheekily joked to Journalism.co.uk afterwards. Go on… we egged her on. J.co.uk, for one, had been impressed by his local butcher knowledge over a drink in the bar afterwards.

So, today comes this announcement from Roy Greenslade:

“So, dear readers, since I happen to live – at least part of the year, anyway – in the city of Brighton and Hove, I am planning to become the community reporter for the Kemp Town area of Brighton.

“Now that’s what I call going back to basics.”

Jo Wadsworth had this to say to Journalism.co.uk: “We were talking after the Frontline event about Kemp Town, where I’ve just moved to, and it became very clear he was passionate about the neighbourhood he’s lived in for many years. From there, it was an obvious step to take to invite him to be our newest community correspondent – and the first, I hope of many more.”

And Greenslade? His patch is not exactly defined yet, he told Journalism.co.uk, but he has started to form some ideas.

“I hope to take up topical issues raised by the people who live in what is a very diverse community, whether it be the proposals to develop the marina and the Blackrock shoreline or the continuing annoyance of litter and rubbish on the streets. And I expect to open a dialogue with the city’s councillors who represent the area. What do they do? Who are the community police officers, and how do they operate?

“I want to highlight some of the characters who one sees on the streets and in the shops. I also plan to deal with some of the rich history of the Regency houses, which were originally homes to the titled, the famous and well-heeled.  Though there are  many blue plaques in this area, for example, many the names mean nothing to current residents. Who was Harrison Ainsworth, for instance, the man who once lived in the Arundel Terrace house where I have lived for 38 years?

“I guess I might get into arts and culture too, with the Bombay Bar as one obvious prospect.”

We’ll keep you posted with the link to Greenslade’s content when it goes live. Journalism.co.uk, also residents of Brighton, will definitely be making the most of his local contribution.

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The Argus: Reading a newspaper can help reduce stress, says study

March 31st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

A study by the University of Sussex has suggested that newspapers are a better way to reduce stress than listening to music or going for a walk.

Full story at this link…

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South Wales Argus’ ‘name and shame’ audio campaign

June 12th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

The South Wales Argus has added an innovative multimedia element to their campaign against hoax callers to the fire service.

The paper has added audio clips of hoax calls to their campaign page in the hope readers will identify the culprits.

“The campaign will feature particularly nasty or persistent callers that continually blight the life and death work done by firefighters,” says the Argus, which has selected seven calls so far.

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