Author Archives: Laura Oliver

Newsquest: An update on the reported pay freeze thaw

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…

Ofcom to allow product placement on UK TV

Broadcast industry regulator Ofcom has announced that product placement will be allowed in UK TV programmes from 28 February 2011. The rules for paid-for references on radio broadcasts have also been revised.

Full news release on Ofcom’s website…

LA Times: Online journalism ‘contaminated’ by web format, says Flipboard chief

The LA Times’ technology blog interviews Mike McCue, chief executive of Flipboard, an iPad app that creates a magazine-style package of news, features, videos and images circulating within a user’s social networks – and it’s well worth a read.

The problem with journalism on the web today is that it’s being contaminated by the web form factor. What I mean is, journalists are being pushed to do things like slide shows – stuff meant to attract page views. Articles themselves are condensed to narrow columns of text across 5, 6, 7 pages, and ads that are really distracting for the reader, so it’s not a pleasant experience to “curl up” with a good website.

Journalism is being pushed into a space where I don’t think it should ever go, where it’s trying to support the monetisation model of the web by driving page views. So what you have is a drop-off of long-form journalism, because long-form pieces are harder to monetise. And it’s also hard to present that longer stuff to the reader because no one wants to wait four seconds for every page to load.

Full story on LA Times at this link…

The Bivings Report: Comparing the success of US newspaper Facebook pages

The Bivings Report has ranked US newspapers according to the success of their Facebook fan pages – using the number of fans and their level of interactivity with the content posted by each title on Facebook as factors.

Interesting to compare those titles with smaller circulation figures that maintain very active social network profiles with the bigger names.

Full post on the Bivings Report at this link…

What was ‘first’ about tweeting from the Julian Assange bail hearing?

There was a great deal of excitement amongst media commentators and Twitterers during the bail hearing of WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange. As if Assange’s second bail attempt wasn’t enough of a news story, the judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court gave permission for those watching in the court – specifically the Times’ special correspondent Alexi Mostrous – to tweet from court. Mostrous and journalist Heather Brooke’s updates from the scene were fascinating to follow:

There is no statutory ban on tweeting form court, as the Guardian’s Siobhain Butterworth explains in this excellent piece from July:

The Contempt of Court Act 1981 does not allow sound recordings to be made without the court’s permission. It’s also an offence to take photographs or make sketches (in court) of judges, jurors and witnesses – although the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 says that doesn’t apply to the supreme court. Since there isn’t a statutory ban on creating text by means of electronic devices, it surprises me that journalists and bloggers haven’t already lobbied British judges about reporting directly from the courtroom.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, barrister and former government lawyer Carl Gardner explained that there is the idea that jurors should not Twitter, “which raises particular issues of its own”.

What I think the courts don’t want is people using devices that make noises, or typing constantly, or even getting messages that make them keep getting up all the time. That I think is the reason for the normal court etiquette of switching off phones (silencing isn’t good enough; as in cinemas, people forget and trials end up being disrupted). So if a judge was sure people could tweet silently and that it wouldn’t disrupt proceedings, it wouldn’t amaze me if he/she permitted it.

I think tweeting from court could be a good development – subject to certain restrictions, such as jurors not looking at Twitter while on a case. I worry a bit though that it’s an unsatisfactory half-way house to transparency, though. People can tweet misleadingly and selectively, even without meaning to. For live cases of special interest like Julian Assange, what we really need is televised justice. Good reporting will do for cases of less immediate interest.

Claims that yesterday’s tweeting from the Assange hearing was a first in UK courts need a bit of explaining. It may well have been the first time a magistrate or judge has expressly given permission – although it was in response to a question from Mostrous and not an unprompted declaration. Several legal commentators I have spoken with suggest this, but it is difficult to track and the Justice Department, on the face of it, does not seem to keep a database of such decisions.

As there is currently no statutory ban, there have been previous occurrences of live-tweeting court cases in the UK. Ben Kendall, crime correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, for example, tweeted from within the courtroom when covering the John Moody murder trial in August. As he told Journalism.co.uk, he didn’t ask the judge for permission to tweet as there’s no ban, he has a good relationship with the court and “figured they’d pull me up on it if there was a problem”.

But Assange’s hearing was a significant case to be allowed to tweet from nonetheless – but what are the pitfalls and benefits of live-tweeting judicial proceedings? The UK Human Rights blog has this to say:

Despite its sophistication, in an ordinary case with no reporting restrictions in place, tweeting does not, on the face of it, pose any danger to the administration of justice. Rather, the ability for people to produce a live feed of selected information from a hearing could improve public understanding of the justice system. But it is by no means an ideal channel through which to communicate details of a complicated hearing.

It is unsurprising that the case of an man credited with improving transparency in government (while causing headaches for diplomats, soldiers and spies) could result in a watershed for the use of social networking in court. Perhaps the slow but steady opening up to social media by judges will eventually lead to a softening of the attitudes towards live video feeds. And that would mark a huge improvement for open justice.

Independent: Vaughan Smith – ‘Why I’m sheltering Julian Assange’

Fascinating piece from Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith on why he has given WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a place to stay as part of the conditions of his release on bail. Assange was granted bail yesterday at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but is still in jail following an appeal of the decision by Swedish prosecutors (background to his arrest on Journalism.co.uk at this link).

I ponder the disservice to Julian done by the media. With their stockings stuffed by WikiLeaks they dehumanise him with images printed and screened of a cold, calculating Machiavelli pulling strings from secret hideouts. The main hideout, of course, being the Frontline Club, where many of them have interviewed him.

They made him out to be the internet’s Bin Laden. The likeness might be poor, but that was OK because the colours were familiar and bright. Now the focus is on Julian’s court fight, instead of on the opaque political system that his leaks have exposed.

Full story on Independent.co.uk at this link…

Bloomberg: Interview with Arianna Huffington as HuffPost eyes first profits

The Huffington Post will post its first profit this year, according to a Bloomberg interview with founder Ariana Huffington, which also looks at the site’s plans for growth.

The Huffington Post aims to more than triple its sales to $100 million in 2012 from $30 million this year, according to a person close to the company who declined to be identified.

Full story at this link…

#newsrw: How to follow news:rewired – beyond the story

If you’re not able to make Journalism.co.uk’s digital journalism event news:rewired – beyond the story taking place tomorrow (Thursday 16 December), never fear – we’ll be providing lots of coverage of the day’s events, news and views on newsrewired.com, Journalism.co.uk and Twitter. You can read more about who’s attending and who’ll be speaking on http://www.newsrewired.com.

On newsrewired.com there will be blog posts covering each session and a liveblog of the day broken down into the sessions again from Wannabe Hacks’ Nick Petrie and Matt Caines.

The BBC College of Journalism will be on handing filming snippets from the day’s action, which will also be posted on the site and speaker presentations will be added to the website as soon as possible after the event.

To follow others’ tweets and blog posts about the day, use the newsrewired.com buzz page or follow the hashtag #newsrw. We’ll also be tweeting from the @newsrewired Twitter account.

#cablegate: Judge permits tweeting from court in Assange bail hearing

As the second bail hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is about to start, take a look at some of the following Twitter accounts to follow what’s gone on in court so far and what’s happening outside.

Earlier today filmmaker Michael Moore announced he had added his name to the list of sureties for Assange.