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Former Trinity Mirror employee Craig McGill on the GMG Regionals sale

February 9th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Newspapers

Craig McGill from digital communications company Contently Managed worked at Trinity Mirror – at the Sunday Mirror and Daily Mirror from 2000 to 2006 – and has freelanced for The Guardian.

Journalism.co.uk asked him for his comments on today’s announcement that Guardian Media Group is selling its regional news business to Trinity Mirror. His reaction is in full below:

Well, this is just comical – or it would be if it didn’t show the state of hysteria in UK press ownership and the fact that it will probably lead to a loss of jobs.

Firstly, we have Guardian Media Group looking as if it wants to go from being a ‘group’ to just looking after The Guardian because I wonder how much this sale was driven by the £89.8 million loss that GMG made last year.

Secondly, The Guardian is the very title that tells us constantly – almost as much as it goes on about The Wire in fact – that local content is what people want, it’s the future, it’s the killer app that will keep people looking for news.

If that’s the case why are they dumping all their local content creators? Or are they admitting that instead of highly paid professionals, a couple of bloggers can do the job instead? Or do they just want to be London-centric with a stringer or two elsewhere? That’s hardly inspiring in an age of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What should readers in those areas do? Go elsewhere?

Secondly, what makes this even more tragic is that they are being bought by Trinity Mirror. Now there’s two aspects to this: one, Trinity Mirror continually says that it has no money and is skint. However, they managed to pull together a £44 million package – including nearly £8 million in cash – that’s hardly my definition of skint. That’s a complete slap in the face to the journalists Trinity Mirror has thrown out over the years and for the miserable pay freezes, small pay rises and ridiculous cost cutting measures that the survivors have endured – all because there was a lack of money. That £8 million could have done so much more in many titles.

To add to that, Trinity Mirror has a record of poor investment in the regions – it chopped the Scottish Daily Mirror from a team of 30 to one over three years, the Daily Record and Sunday Mail titles work wonders with a small budget but are walloped by having to do more with less each year, which lead to the Scottish Sun overtaking them as the best selling daily in Scotland.

This buy smacks of a panic buy – almost as much as it was a much-needed sale for GMG. Who are the losers going to be? The obvious one is the people who have already lost their jobs – more will follow, we can be sure of that. Over time the readers will be losers too as there’s less journalistic competition bringing more stories.

And even at the Mirror’s Manchester office, there must be people wondering what’s going to happen next. After all, does Manchester need two big news hubs? Surely a building merger is on the cards, followed by ‘shared resources’ and then ‘merged resources’.

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Media is Social: What the Herald’s new deal says about freelance journalism

July 24th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Freelance

Craig McGill reflects on news reported on Journalism.co.uk and Allmediascotland regarding changes to freelancing terms at the Herald Group.

McGill suggests the changes, while meaning lower rates for contributors, aren’t as bad as they could be:

“The underlying issue here isn’t actually that of what the Herald titles are paying, it’s one simple fact: freelance journalists for years have allowed themselves to be systematically and consistently lowly paid,” he writes.

It comes down to market forces too, he adds: “If there are too many people (or products) in a market then prices will be low as labour is cheap. If someone has a USP or top skills (for example, bringing in tons of scoops) they should do better.”

But how many freelancers will confront editors offering lower rates with a record of their work and its success?

Full post at this link…

Update: Allmediascotland is reporting that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is now offering a consultation session with an intellectual property lawyer for freelancers affected by the Herald changes.

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Essential journalism links for students

June 30th, 2009 | 9 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Training

This list is doing the rounds under the headline 100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students… and we’re not on it. Nope, not even a smidgeon of link-love for poor old Journalism.co.uk there.

The BachelorsDegreeOnline site appears to be part of e-Learners.com, but it’s not clear who put the list together. Despite their omission of our content and their rather odd descriptions (e.g: Adrian Monck: ‘Adrian Monck writes this blog about how we inform ourselves and why we do it’), we admit it is a pretty comprehensive list; excellent people and organisations we feature on the site, our blog roll and Best of Blogs mix – including many UK-based ones. There were also ones we hadn’t come across before.

In true web 2.0 self-promotional style, here are our own links which any future list-compilers might like to consider as helpful links for journalism students:

And here are some blogs/sites also left off the list which immediately spring to mind as important reading for any (particularly UK-based) journalism students:

Organisations

  • Crikey.com: news from down under that’s not Murdoch, or Fairfax produced.
  • Press Review Blog (a Media Standards Trust project) – it’s a newbie, but already in the favourites.
  • StinkyJournalism: it’s passionate and has produced many high-profile stories

Individuals

  • CurryBet – Martin Belam’s links are canny, and provocative and break down the division between tech and journalism.
  • Malcolm Coles – for SEO tips and off-the-beaten track spottings.
  • Dave Lee – facilitating conversations journalists could never have had in the days before blogs.
  • Marc Vallee – photography freedom issues from the protest frontline.
  • FleetStreetBlues: an anonymous industry insider with jobs, witty titbits and a healthy dose of online cynicism.
  • Sarah Hartley previously as above, now with more online strategy thrown in.
  • Charles Arthur – for lively debate on PR strategy, among other things

Writing this has only brought home further the realisation that omissions are par for the course with list-compilation, but it does inspire us to do our own 101 essential links for global online journalists – trainees or otherwise. We’d also like to make our list inclusive of material that is useful for, but not necessarily about, journalists: MySociety for example.

Add suggestions below, via @journalismnews or drop judith at journalism.co.uk an email.

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Going back to the backlink licensing case: NLA’s full statement

June 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments | Posted by in Legal, Online Journalism

This goes back to last week, but it seems worth putting up here anyway. Last Thursday Matt Wardman covered this story for Press Gazette: about the Newspaper Licensing Agency regulating hyperlinks for commercial agencies and aggregators.

“The NLA will be introducing a new form of licence from 1 September to regulate ‘web aggregator’ services (such as Meltwater) that forward links to newspaper websites and for press cuttings agencies undertaking this type of activity.”

Craig McGill also picked up on it and asked a series of provocative questions. He got a lengthy response from the NLA, including this:

“This is not about bloggers adding links to newspaper sites. Our focus is on professional media monitoring organisations (news aggregators, press cuttings agencies) and their client business who make extensive use of the newspaper content.”

More questions are raised in the comments beneath McGill’s piece, including this one about copyright law.

Last Friday Journalism.co.uk spoke to the NLA who said it was part of their new e-Clips service – ‘a feed of newspapers’ online content direct to cuttings aggregators and press cuttings agencies.’

Here’s the NLA statement in full:

“The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) today [dated June 2009] announced a new business-to- business clippings database for newspaper websites to launch in January 2010. It also has said it will extend its licensing remit to cover newspaper websites from January 2010.

“The new service, called eClips web, will offer a complete feed of newspapers’ online content direct  to cuttings aggregators and press cuttings agencies. Powered directly from newspapers’ own content-management systems, eClips web will make web-based media monitoring faster and richer and provide a permanent record for PR and communications professionals.

“The NLA will also extend its licensing remit to cover local and national newspapers’ web content. David Pugh, managing director of the NLA, said: “We have two aims: to contribute to the growth of web monitoring; and to protect the rights of publishers. Research shows that 23 per cent of newspapers’ online content never appears in print and that the internet is growing in influence as a resource for news. So it is vital to have comprehensive monitoring coverage of newspapers’ websites – and vital that the publishers are properly rewarded for their work.”

“From September 2009, web aggregators that charge clients for their services will require a NLA licence and be charged from January 2010, The press cuttings agencies that either ‘scrape’ content themselves or buy in services from aggregators will also be licensed and charged. Client companies that receive and forward links from these commercial aggregators within their organisation will also require a licence.

“David Pugh added: “We have consulted extensively across the industry – the incremental charges for web cuttings will be low and manageable. I stress this is not about individuals sharing links – we think that’s great for newspapers and promotes their websites and their readership.  What we are doing is making sure that newspapers are rewarded fairly for professional use of their web content by businesses.””

Further notes:

“The NLA is owned by the 8 national newspaper publishing houses and generates B2B revenues for
1,300 national and regional publishers through licensing use of their content by press cuttings
agencies (PCAs) and their client companies.

“The new licences will cover all local and national titles with the exception of the Financial Times and
the News International titles. These will all, however, be included in the eClips web database.”

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Craig McGill: NLA charging for backlinks – a response

As reported by Craig McGill last week, the UK’s Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) is considering charging organisations for links to newspaper articles.

On Thursday, McGill asked whether the agency would backdate charges and have they considered the impact on traffic this might have for newspaper websites.

The agency has now responded in full to McGill’s questions – including the information that it will not backdate charges and that the change is aimed at organisations and not individuals.

“This is not about bloggers adding links to newspaper sites. Our focus is on professional media monitoring organisations (news aggregators, press cuttings agencies) and their client business who make extensive use of the newspaper content,” it says.

“The monitoring industry is highly responsible and wants to work with us – because they want a healthy newspaper industry too. The NLA has been in dialogue with the media monitoring companies for over a year on this subject.”

Full post at this link…

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Craig McGill: Pitch by Twitter, says Guardian’s Charles Arthur

Craig McGill discusses the Guardian’s technology editor, Charles Arthur, request that PRs pitch only by Twitter, via a public ‘@’ if they are not able to direct message him (you have to be mutually following each other to do that). Arthur has removed his email details from Gorkana in an attempt to reduce the clutter in his inbox.

Full post at this link…

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Craig McGill: ‘The Redundant Journalist Guide to PR’

February 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs

Journalist-turned-PR man Craig McGill offers his downloadable guide to switching professions.

Full post and download of the guide at this link…

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BNP members list leak gathers pace online – to link or not to link?

Removing the original online posting of the leaked list of members of the British National Party (BNP) has failed to contain the spread of the information online.

The list and reactions to it are being avidly Twittered, as a search for BNP on Twitter search engine Summize shows, while the document has made its way onto Wikileaks.

According to the party’s website, the blog that posted the ‘outdated’ list was removed from Blogger ‘after urgent legal action was instituted by the BNP leadership’.

In a Guardian.co.uk article, BNP leader Nick Griffin has admitted that the party is relying on the Human Rights Act, which it opposes, to help protect its members’ privacy.

Meanwhile reporting on the incident has raised questions of linking, as this blog post from TimesOnline suggests:

“The Times decided not to link to the list, even though we often do link to material without taking that as some kind of endorsement.

“There were various reasons for the decision, most of them expressed in other comments on our various online reports. Firstly, BNP members have as much right to privacy as anyone else. Secondly, last time we checked it was still a free country: there is no law against membership of the BNP.

“The list is out there now, even if a Google search no longer throws it up. The anti-fascist campaigners and phone-prankers are having a field day. We don’t need to help them.”

Blogger Craig McGill adds the following observation on the list’s travels online:

“I see the list has appeared on file sharing outlets? Will social crusaders claim this is a good use for P2P which is normally associated with piracy?”

Similarly a Google Maps mashup has also been created, though, as TechCrunchUK warns, it’s dangerously inaccurate and has the potential to aid vigilantes – while I write the map was taken down because of inaccuracies.

McGill also suggests that this story was broken first by mainstream media, despite being an online story – is this the case? If so, for an online leak, this could be a good sign of ‘traditional’ outlets upping their game when it comes to online news tracking.

Blogger Matt Waldman suggests the story of the leaked list was broken by the Lancaster Unity blog, while TheRegister.co.uk posted a report on the leak at 2:31pm (GMT) on Tuesday – also citing the Lancaster Unity post. MSM not quite first past the post then.

Waldman goes on to discuss the potential legal implications of linking to it:

“Links to material that is alleged to be defamatory (e.g. reports about Nadhmi Auchi preserved on Wikileaks) is part of the basis for the objections that the law firm Carter-Ruck have put to the New Statesman that have caused them to take down articles about Nadhmi Auchi by Martin Bright. No determination has yet been made whether that will stick under English Libel Law, but if the New Statesman and their legal advisers are taking it seriously I wouldn’t go the other way at this point. You will be relying on not being sued, which is your call.”

I haven’t linked to it in this post (though it’s easy enough to find with or without the directions given) for the reasons cited by both Wardman and the Times’ blog post.

The UK’s national newspaper websites aren’t linking either, though Mail Online posts both a screengrab of the list and pictures of alleged members and individual articles are being posted about ‘members’, their identies and any action taken by employers.

Debate on the blogs also focuses on how the list can be used – both journalistically and otherwise. The list was posted despite an injunction granted by the High Court in earlier this year banning its publication, so how will journalists (and the police and employers) act on it when it has been obtained in this way?

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