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Rob Grimshaw on the paywall backlash

January 22nd, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Advertising, Journalism, Online Journalism

FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw, regular spokesperson for the paid-for content model,  has a real problem with the language used by critics of the paywall, he told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

“It’s always put into pejorative terms.” he said, “It doesn’t happen to any other product: you don’t talk about restaurants giving people a bad user experience by giving them a bill at the end of it.

“It’s understood that something has been produced and it needs to be paid for; somehow with news content it has become a totally different argument,” he said.

It is almost regarded as a “sort of a criminal act to have the temerity to charge for some of our products,” Grimshaw added. “It’s something that we need to get away from.”

“We’re not a charity, we’re a company with shareholders: there’s nothing free about the information we produce – our editorial operation costs millions of pounds to run and we don’t see it’s odd to put a price on it. In fact, it’s probably the only way to run a reasonable business.”

Needless to say, he supports the NYT’s newly announced FT-style subscription model, scheduled for 2011: “Publishers need to get themselves out the hole and be a bit more bold and brassy,” he said.

Publishers shouldn’t, he added, be afraid to say their content has got a value. While he admitted the FT has a niche and affluent reader base for its subscriber model, he believes general news sites can do it as well.

“Our sense [is that] if other publishers do go for it, they will be able to build successful models.”

FT.com is not without its free content rivals, he said: “[W]e’re not short of competition – for every topic we cover on FT.com you can find a list of sites as long as your arm.”

“There are parallels between what we’re doing and what general news publishers will have to do as well. For me, the big thing is quality. It all comes back to quality. Whether it’s niche [or not] it’s got to be good”.

General news sites have the capability, brand and long heritage with which to build better quality sites, Grimshaw argued. They can be “far more compelling than one man blogging in a room,” he said.

“There are numerous ways that publishers can create sites which people are prepared to pay for because they are better than anything else that’s out there.

“I don’t see that the publishers are going to have trouble to get their users to pay for content.”

Grimshaw’s firm belief, as he has said before, is that newspapers cannot  live by advertising alone.

Citing IAB figures from last year (available at this link), he said it was paid-for search that took “by far” the bulk of the money: around 62 per cent; with 19 per cent to classified; and only 18 per cent to online advertising spend.

“It seems everybody in the whole world is trying to float their business on that [advertising model]. It’s just not big enough for every one of those businesses  (…) so something is going to have to give.

“Either publishers are going to find themselves in serious difficulties, or they’re going to have to come up with another way of making money.”

FT.com’s forthcoming content plans include a new Blackberry app, ‘one day pass’ subscriptions, and video for iPhone.

Read more about it on our main site.

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More Trinity Mirror cuts: three North West and North Wales weeklies closed

September 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Journalism, Newspapers

Trinity Mirror today confirmed the closure of three weekly titles in the North West and North Wales. The Wrexham Chronicle, the Mid-Cheshire Chronicle and the Whitchurch Herald will all publish their last editions the week commencing September 28.

The company anticipates that eight editorial and three commercial roles will be lost as a result of these closures. ‘A period of consultation has begun with all affected staff,’ Trinity Mirror said in a release issued today.

The company claimed it would now focus on ‘market-leading, healthy and profitable titles and associated online products’.

“Whilst these announcements relate to the closure of three titles and the subsequent effect this will have on jobs, these decisions also herald the strength and robustness of the titles that remain, namely the Chester Chronicle series, Flintshire Chronicle, Ellesmere Port Pioneer, Crewe Chronicle series, Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News and the Mid Cheshire Buysell,” said Carl Wood, publishing director at Trinity Mirror Cheshire.

“This decision reflects the challenging economic conditions affecting our local advertising markets and, as such, the current revenue and circulation of these titles does not provide us with a strong enough base for sustainable and profitable publication of these titles either now or in the longer term,” added Sara Wilde, managing director, Trinity Mirror Regional North West and Wales.

“Taking this difficult decision now will enable us to move forward into 2010 and beyond as we look to protect and develop our strong portfolio of print and online products within the North Wales and Cheshire market.”

Trinity Mirror announced in August it was entering a period of consultation at its Midlands titles, with a plan to make the Birmingham Post weekly and to print the Birmingham Mail overnight. In July, Trinity Mirror announced the closure of seven of its weekly titles in the Midlands region, resulting in 94 redundancies from a number of departments across the publisher’s Midlands operation.

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Possibility of more redundancies at the Guardian; GNM losing £100,000 a day

September 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

Fifty editorial jobs needed to be cut at Guardian News&Media as part of an attempt to reduce costs by £10 million, it was announced in May this year. Now it looks like there could be more jobs at risk, as the managing director of Guardian News & Media, Tim Brooks, told staff in a memo posted on the Guardian’s intranet.

“We are looking at everything – literally everything – that we do, to see how we can economise, and we will do whatever we can to keep the impact on staff to a minimum. However, because the biggest portion of our costs is people’s salaries, we have to review staffing levels,” he said.

GNM was losing £100,000 a day – a rate that cannot be afforded by its parent company, Guardian Media Group, Brooks said.

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News.com.au: Fairfax ‘open’ to paid content talks with its rival

August 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

In the wake of news that Fairfax – Australia’s major newspaper owner – has posted a net loss of $380 million for the year to June 30, its managing director has said he he would be ‘happy to talk’ to his rival, Murdoch’s News Corporation, about paid content plans.

Fairfax’s newspapers includeThe Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne, and The Australian Financial Review.

Full story at this link…

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Academics threaten Observer boycott: the letters in full

August 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

As reported on the main site, a number of high profile figures in business and academia have already, or are threatening to, cancel their subscriptions to the Observer, after the paper – the threatened closure of which has been widely reported – cut the weekly column by management expert Simon Caulkin. Below:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer protesting the decision from over 60 signatories, never published.

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley on behalf of over 80 signatories, questioning the lack of response, never published.

(3) Email reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland.

Hat-tip: Private Eye Issue 1243, August 21 – September 3, page 7, for a story that alerted us to the protest.

Letters in full:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer

15 June 2009

The Editor
The Observer

Dear Sir

We are astonished and appalled by your decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column just at the point when the ideas he has covered over the years have become more relevant than ever.

We are living through one of the biggest crises of governance in history. September 2008 saw not just the end of Lehman Brothers but the end of 30 years’ dominance of neo-liberalism as the guiding ideology in running major private and public sector institutions. The notion that ‘maximising shareholder value’ can be considered in isolation from society was exposed as a pretence – bad for business as well as for society. The mechanistic strictures of the dominant management orthodoxy, with its dehumanising notion of people as a ‘resource’, its target culture and its opaque lexicon of competences, outputs and so on, have wrought terrible damage in social care, the NHS and education, as well as in the private sector.

Over the past 16 years, one journalist alone has been consistent in exposing the shallowness and limitations of these approaches. Simon Caulkin has set out a coherent alternative, rather than merely channelling protest. The unifying theme of the thinkers that he has championed – W Edwards Deming, Jeffrey Pfeffer, John Seddon, Gary Hamel and others – has been that organisations and economies are best managed by understanding the inter-dependence of different stakeholders.

Your decision, therefore, is ill-judged and ill-timed. A wiser choice would be to elevate Simon’s column to the main section of the paper. There is huge potential in the ideas he has promoted to assist ideological renewal of political parties, as well as to help governance generally.

We hope that you will see this as not just a letter of protest, but as sincere advice to recommend urgently that you reconsider your decision, and retain a vital element of your paper that could continue make a major contribution to policy debate.

Yours sincerely

Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Keith Reader
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Margaret McCartney (Dr) GP and writer
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader – Technology Management Programmes ITT
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Warwick Mansell, freelance journalist and author Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley, on behalf of 80 signatories

29 June 09

Dear Mr Rusbridger, Mr Mulholland

We write to register a double protest over the unjustified decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column, and your refusal to acknowledge the wave of anger that this decision has provoked.

Some 60 distinguished figures, including some of the most influential people in the world of business and management education, jointly signed a letter condemning your decision. You did not publish this, nor even give any of us the courtesy of an acknowledgment. In addition to this jointly signed correspondence, we know that over 200 people have individually registered their protest. The only letter to appear was mildly expressed. In short, you have seriously misled your readers over both the nature and extent of the protest, and of the support that Simon commands.

The Guardian/Observer has a strong tradition of respecting and upholding the principle of freedom of speech and dissent, so we find it shocking to be denied a space for an entirely legitimate argument, made by some of your (previously) most loyal and long-standing subscribers.

Doubtless you have made this move on business grounds; but you appear to have made no calculation of the business consequences of this decision. The supporters of this campaign are not just any readers, but long-standing subscribers who have passed on the habit of reading the Guardian/Observer to friends, colleagues, children and (given the number of professors and authors co-signing) to students and readers also, but who are now reconsidering their loyalty.

Questions of governance and management do not constitute a side issue to those of economics and politics: quite the reverse. It is the culture of management that has led to chronic waste in the public sector and the banking crisis in the private sector. Simon Caulkin possesses a deep understanding of the underlying causal factors of these crises.

Since we began this campaign, the extent of the protest has grown, as can be seen by the extended list of signatories to this letter.

If there is a necessity to drop pages, we urge you to move Simon’s weekly contribution to the main section of the paper.

Yours

Philip Whiteley
On behalf of over 80 signatories (see list below)

Cc
Will Hutton
Polly Toynbee
Dan Roberts
Liz Forgan

Signed by:
Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Professor Christopher Grey, Head of Industrial Relations and Organizational Behaviour Group, Warwick Business School
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Hilary Wainwright, Co-editor Red Pepper magazine, Fellow Centre for Participation Studies, Bradford University
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Charlie Hedges, Chartered Geologist
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Professor Martin Parker, University of Leicester
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
David Davies, Director Didero Ltd
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader, Technology Management Programmes, Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School
Kieran Doyle, General Manager Production at Sulzer Pumps UK Ltd
Dr Luke Mitcheson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Paul Buxton, Policy Officer, Crawley Borough Council
Roger Evans
Martin Meteyard (former Chair, Cafedirect plc)
Christopher Bird Owner, IT U Consulting Group
Laurence Barrett Associate Management Consultant
Paul Hodgkin Chief Executive at Patient Opinion
Bob Birtwell Tutor at University of Surrey
Andrew Campbell Director at Ashridge
Kathy Sheehy Williams Programme Manager at WEA
Rob Worth
Natascha Wolf, self-employed writer
Paul Summers, Corporate Programme Manager, Portsmouth City Council
David Kauders, Partner, Kauders Portfolio Management
Dave Kerr, Business Improvement Manager, Atkins
Paul Barratt, PMBprod
Kate Gott, PhD Student, Brunel Business School
Kevin Cryan, Analyst at DHL
Donal Carroll Associate at Open University Business School & Director at Critical Difference
Tim Casserley, Discovery Alliance & Edge Equilibrium & Author
Emma Langman, Head of Business Improvement at E Squared Thinking Ltd and Visiting Fellow in Systems at University of Bristol

(3) Reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland (by email)

1 July 2009 [by email]

Dear Phil Whiteley

Thank you for your letter and I must apologise for the delay in responding.

Simon Caulkin is a tremendous writer and his column has added enormously to our understanding of British business and management. For these reasons, the decision to lose the column was not taken lightly. It followed much discussion and only after exploring many different options did we reluctantly conclude that we had to take this course of action.

As you will doubtlessly appreciate, this was just one of a host of difficult decisions we have had to make in order to reduce costs across the newspapers at Guardian News and Media.

Newspapers and media groups are experiencing the most difficult trading conditions imaginable. Not only are we suffering, like everyone else, from the catastrophic fallout from the credit crunch in terms of severely reduced advertising revenues but, additionally, our industry is under structural assault from digital media which is causing enormous disruption to our business models.

In these circumstances, we are having to make extremely difficult decisions many of which have caused real anguish as we seek to cut costs. I do hope that Simon can continue to have a relationship with the paper and that we can continue to publish his writing from time to time. Should the economic climate change, then perhaps we can revisit the issue.

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and I completely understand your sense of loss but hope you can appreciate the dilemmas we are facing.

Yours sincerely
John Mulholland
Editor
The Observer

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New Media Knowledge: The UK blogosphere and making money from blogging

New Media Knowledge interviews Thomas Vollrath, managing director of domain name registry site 123-reg, for his thoughts on the state of the UK blogosphere and whether there’s money to be made in them there blogs.

Vollrath outlines the differences between running a not-for-profit blog and a design for a ‘sustainable monetised blog’, in particular the importance of content, ownership, not over-advertising, finding a niche and navigation.

The recent end of Shiny Media’s blog network merely underlines the difficulty of making money from blogs, he says.

“What I would say is that blogging isn’t going away any time soon. There still aren’t many other ways to publish short to medium-length articles easily and quickly. Lots of individuals and businesses have proved blogs are useful – whether they’re looking to make money from them or not,” he adds.

Full interview at this link…

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Pagemasters editorial outsourcing spreads to the US and Canada

August 13th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

Editorial outsourcing firm Pagemasters has announced a partnership with the Canadian Press to provide a range of production services, including design, sub-editing and headline writing, to titles in the US and Canada.

The new division, Pagemasters North America, will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Canadian Press, which already provides pagination services to Canadian daily newspapers including The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

The move by Australian Associated Press (AAP), the national news agency of Australia, which owns the editing company, follows a contract with Telegraph Media Group announced in January to provide sub-editing services for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph’s weekend supplements.

In a previous article in The Sunday Morning Herald, Pagemasters managing director Bruce Davidson commented on how useful a time zone difference is for the editing process: “The Telegraph can deliver pages at the end of their day, and when they come in the next morning we have completed the work.”

In today’s release, Davidson said: “The launch of Pagemasters North America is a major development and I believe one which has the potential to lead to significant changes in the editorial production model for US and Canadian newspapers.

“We will be heavily involved with The Canadian Press in setting up editorial production centres in North America, working closely with newspaper publishers as they grapple with the radical changes sweeping the industry.”

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Global Voices Online: Finding alternative revenue streams as a non-profit org

July 31st, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Like all other media organisations in times of economic crisis, Global Voices ‘has to be creative and innovative when it comes to thinking of ways to sustain our organisation,’ writes managing director Georgia Popplewell in a blog post.

GV,  a non-profit community of over 200 bloggers, provides reports from citizen media and blogs around the world. Its funders can be found here. But now the organisation is exploring other source of revenue too: content commissions and underwriting, advertising, consulting and online donations. Popplewell outlines the developments in the post, and calls for further ideas.

Full post at this link…

NB: I am an occasional contributor for Global Voices. If you’ve got story ideas about citizen media in the UK which I can follow up for Journalism.co.uk and GV please get in touch: judith@journalism.co.uk. I am currently looking into examples of asylum seekers in the UK using online media to raise awareness of their situations.

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Trinity Mirror Regionals: Vote of no confidence in management is ‘publicity-grabbing stunt’

July 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

The National Union of Journalists announced yesterday that its members at Trinity Mirror titles in Birmingham have ‘unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the company’s management of its regional titles.’ NUJ members at the Birmingham titles are currently balloting for action, following the announcement of  job cuts and closure of weekly titles.

Trinity Mirror responded in a statement, accusing the NUJ of undermining efforts for the two parties to work together.

“This is yet another publicity-grabbing stunt by the NUJ which, once again, does absolutely nothing to address the commercial challenges facing our Midlands businesses and completely undermines their claims to be working constructively with us,” said Georgina Harvey, managing director at Trinity Mirror Regionals.

“A point further proved by the fact that, to date, we haven’t received a letter from the NUJ themselves and have only been made aware of its existence by the trade media.

“The NUJ’s constant claim that we are making cuts in the pursuit of short term profit is frankly laughable and insulting. The bottom line is the Midlands business is no longer profitable – it’s running at a loss. Our first priority has to be to stop the losses and reverse the trend. That will involve some hard choices; difficult decisions but necessary ones if we are to save our businesses in the Midlands.”

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Who will the PCC question at NOTW if it re-opens investigation into phone hacking?

July 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Will the PCC question News of the World’s Stuart Kuttner, who yesterday stepped down as the paper’s managing director, if it re-opens the investigation into phone hacking?

[Update 10.07.09: News International said the ‘departure of managing editor Stuart Kuttner has no connection whatsoever’ with events referred to in a statement]

In evidence given to the House of Commons culture select committee in April, Nick Davies criticised the PCC for failing to hold the News of the World to account on charges of phone hacking:

Mr Davies: If you say to [Andy] Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.”

The PCC is now looking at the case again in light of Nick Davies’ exclusive report for the Guardian and could re-open the investigation. So who will they question?

Stuart Kuttner, as Davies suggested? “Kuttner will remain at the News of the World part time to work on special projects for the tabloid, including its Sarah’s Law campaign,” the Guardian reported yesterday.

The PCC decided not to question former News of the World editor Andy Coulson (as we write, he is still the Conservative Party’s communications director) for its 2007 inquiry, citing that he was not longer ‘answerable to the PCC’.  But would they question Kuttner, in his new part-time role?

In 2007 the PCC stated in its report on subterfuge and newsgathering:

“Despite Mr Myler’s [new News of the World editor] appointment, the question arose whether the PCC should ask Mr Coulson to give an account of what had gone wrong. The PCC decided not to do so. Given that the PCC does not – and should not – have statutory powers of investigation and prosecution, there could be no question of trying to duplicate the lengthy police investigation. Furthermore, Mr Coulson was, following his resignation, no longer answerable to the PCC, whose jurisdiction covers journalists working for publications that subscribe to the self-regulatory system through the Press Standards Board of Finance.

“As a result, that part of the investigation involving the News of the World was conducted by the Director of the PCC with Mr Myler.  The Chairman of the Commission also discussed the matter on a number of occasions with the Chief Executive of News International, Mr Les Hinton.”

The PCC stated today:

“Any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay. In the meantime, the PCC is contacting the Guardian newspaper and the Information Commissioner for any further specific information in relation to the claims, published today about the older cases, which suggest the Commission has been misled at any stage of its inquiries into these matters.”

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