Tag Archives: pence

Were these MPs’ expenses stories misleading? The screen grabs

As reported on the main site [“Telegraph ‘didn’t tell any lies but was selective in its facts’ – says Lib Dem Voice site editor“] several MPs, or others on their behalf, have voiced various concerns in regards to claims about their expenses in the Daily Telegraph, and subsequently reproduced in other stories by other media organisations.

Here are the screen grabs of the Telegraph and other news organisations’ headlines, in the order featured in the article, with links to the complaints. If you wish to add any examples, your own thoughts or information about the questions raised, please leave them in the comments below, or email Judith at journalism.co.uk. As stated in the original article, a spokesman from the Telegraph said: “The Daily Telegraph does not discuss individual cases.”

Update: the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has confirmed that it has not received any complaints from MPs over stories about expenses to date. Generally, third parties cannot complain on the first party’s behalf.

1. Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire
Issues raised on Quaequam blog by James Graham [he discloses that he is a friend of Swinson’s] and other Liberal Democrat blogs, e.g. Mark Reckons.

Swinson denies claiming for eyeliner or other cosmetics and dusters but said they were included on the same receipt as items she did claim for.

  • Telegraph.co.uk May 21, 2009. The online version reproduced below; the print version of the headline read: ‘Tooth flosser, eyeliner and 29p dusters for the makeover queen’




2. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives and the Isles of Scilly
Issues raised on the Liberal Democrat Voice website in a piece by Alix Mortimer and also by George in media interviews: the MP claims that he owns a third of the flat in question, it is for his use, and is only used by his daughter occasionally.


3. Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute
In the same piece (see above) on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, Mortimer claims that unfair criticisms were made of Reid’s B&B expenses: she argues that the size of his Scottish constituency, and the number of islands within it, more than justifies the money spent. Other pro-Lib Dem bloggers, Andrew Reeves and Stephen Glenn make similar points.


4. Andrew Turner, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight
The VentnorBlog reproduces Turner’s response to the Telegraph the day before publication. It shows that Turner denied claiming for life coaching for his girlfriend, stating that it was for another member of staff in his office. Turner also responds to the allegations on his site. Issues raised on OUuseful.info.


5. Martin Horwood, Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham
Gloucestershiretoday.co.uk has published an article reporting that the Telegraph apologised to Horwood for stating that he had claimed mortgage interest in parliamentary expenses.


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Too old to become a journalist: The NCTJ exams

I finished my NCTJ course at Lambeth College a couple of weeks a go (hurray! And thank God – I don’t think I could have done another day of such intensive brain cramming).

My last week was spent doing back-to-back exams. For those about to embark on the law (court reporting and general reporting), PA (central and local government) and news writing exams you have my condolences. For those thinking about doing the course here’s what I wish I had known before I sat them:

My absolute top tip? Start revising in the first week if you’re doing the fast-track course and probably if you’re on a longer course as well. That might sound obvious, but you will be so overwhelmed with learning shorthand that law can often seem like a subject to put on the back burner.

Get home from the lecture and look at your notes. Look at the handouts. Look at relevant case law in McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists and make a note of which case studies you’re going to learn for that particular topic. Do everything you can to get the law into your head.

Don’t be swayed by what the press are doing either: there was always fierce debate about this in class especially if a victim had been identified and, according to the law, shouldn’t have been. Go with what the book says just for the exam and leave your own opinions at the door.

Learn the strict liability rule and the elements of what makes a defamatory statement. You will need to write these out verbatim and it’s best to get them in your head early. Why not write them out in shorthand?

Attempting to learn the law syllabus is a bit like standing at the foot of Everest. The exam differs from public affairs (PA) in that you have to know it all and can’t really second guess what might come up and hope for the best.

Having said that, there are obvious headline topics: contempt, defamation etc. On my exam a lot of the questions were defamation-based so those areas would seem like the ones to concentrate on.

Go through old exam papers. The answers are quite logical, but it’s easy to miss a section of the law because you don’t realise it applies. If you’re doing a distance course you can buy past papers from the NCTJ.

Finally have a look at this YouTube video – it features Cleland Thom, who taught law and marked exam papers at various colleges and is now legal adviser to around 50 different newspapers, websites and radio stations. Here he gives his two pence on how and what to revise and how to pass. I came across this video at around 2am on the eve of my law exam when the desperation started to kick in. Hopefully it will be of more use to others.

Public Affairs
Again start looking at this early. It is so easy to put it off because of the shorthand and also because some topics are like having a conversation with the most boring person alive. The good news is that you don’t have to answer all the questions on the exam paper.

This should mean that you don’t need to bother learning some topics, but a word of warning here: make sure you do more than the bare minimum. If you’re relying on luck and probability you may get your fingers burnt. It’s good to have definite subjects that you know inside out and then have back up topics, just in case.

Getting yourself familiar with how central government is structured is also really useful. The teacher may assume that everyone in the class has a good general knowledge of things like the differences between the House of Commons and Lords so if you have no clue, swatting up can make other things easier to understand.

The exam, like law, must be handwritten. I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t written an essay with a pen for years. Get used to writing at length for long periods and do practice exam questions. Again those on the distance course can add to the NCTJ’s coffers further by buying past papers.

Good old Cleland Thom dishes out yet more advice in his handy ‘how to pass PA’ video.

To the uninitiated, you may think this will be an easy couple of hours to spend your life. Wrong. Spell someone’s name wrong and you’re likely to fail immediately.

The NCTJ try and trick you as well: my favourite one in the practice exams has to be the use of ‘Pinky and Percy’ rather than Perky for two, on-the-run parakeets (don’t ask). The younger contingent of the group didn’t have a problem with this obviously having no reference point to the cartoon. Watch out oldies.
Be careful with county and country as well. I got that in my exam and, luckily, realised at the last minute.

Apart from accuracy the most important thing to learn is what the actual news values are in the question. You will be given a press release with additional quotes from various sources. The news is often buried and not obvious and, with my exam, pretty much non existent.

Practicing writing papers and going through the marking guide and with others is the only way to get to grips with it. There might be more than one newsy element in the release so best to bung both as far at the top as possible. Also be aware that a news element can sometimes appear in one of the quotes.

And, you guessed it, Cleland Thom has even done a video on the news exam. He really, really wants you to pass.

Also watch out for the syllabus guidelines that come with the portfolio. These proved invaluable to me.

Good luck and have a holiday standing by for when it’s all over.

To read previous posts in this series, visit the ‘Too old to become a journalist’ feed.

Rebekah Wade’s first public speech in full

If the Wordle and other coverage isn’t enough, here’s the Hugh Cudlipp speech by the editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade, in full [note: may have differed very slightly in actual delivery]:

The challenging future of national and regional newspapers is now the staple diet of media commentators.

If you have been reading the press writing about the press you’d all be forgiven for questioning your choice of career.

I’m not denying we’re in a tough place – we are.

But I don’t want to use this speech to make grand statements on the future of our industry.

I want to talk to you about journalism.

Continue reading

Too old to become a journalist – The NCTJ fast-track course: say so long to your social life

I am now on week seven of my NCTJ course at Lambeth College, London.

As previous posts to the Journalism.co.uk forum will prove, I spent a large amount of time wondering whether or not to do an NCTJ course – was it worth the money and the time? Did I want to concentrate on news when I was a features writer?

I spoke to a few working journalists in the hope they could make the decision for me, but surprisingly opinion was mixed, especially in the dreaded shorthand debate (a national newspaper journalist I know doesn’t have a word of shorthand).

With the benefit of hindsight here’s my two-pence on the NCTJ:

It’s worth every penny.

Even if you want to be a features writer the NCTJ is a well-recognised qualification within the industry. There is a magazine equivalent but I’m not sure if it’s so well-known or respected.

I can only speak for the course at Lambeth but I am staggered by how much I already know about journalism, the government and the law and I can’t imagine walking into any publication – features or news – without it.

The Lambeth Course
The fast-track course at Lambeth is only 18 weeks. It’s Monday to Thursday and they expect you to spend your Fridays on work experience. The homework and revision has me working literally all the time.

The fees are £800 (international £3,390) at the moment and, according to the college website, are set to remain at that level for next February and September’s courses as well.

After that there is talk of the fees going up to a couple of grand. I found other NCTJ courses in London cost around £3K and some were wildly more expensive so at the moment Lambeth is great value for money.

While Lambeth College and the surrounding area may not be the most attractive place in London or the world (if you want leafy go to NoSweat), the course has an excellent reputation and pass rate.

The entry exam will see you writing a news story from a press release and quotes given to you. My story was about 500 plastic ducks that had been found on the local village pond. Yes, I did put: ‘Villagers thought they were going quackers…’ With phrases like that you better hire me before I get snapped up.

There is also a current affairs test with the usual questions like: ‘Who is the Chancellor?’ etc.

Once you’re on the course it is broken down into four sections:

Mainly geared to hard news writing but I’ve found it really sharpens up feature writing as well.

You are taught what makes news and how to sub your copy to within an inch of its life to make your writing clear and concise.

It’s pretty formulaic but a quick read of any news story in a newspaper, national or local, applies the same principles.

Favourite quote from the teacher so far: “This is probably the hardest exam you will ever do.”

Using the trusty tome ‘McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists’ you deal with all aspects of media law. Defamation made me want to lie down in a dark room. You also get out in the field: we went to the Jean Charles De Menezes inquest this week.

Public Affairs
Or ‘how central and local government works’. It’s an absolute minefield and I have no idea how councils function with the amount of regulations they must adhere to. Very interesting stuff however and satisfying when you read the paper and see what makes the political news – Russian Yacht trip anyone?

Favourite quote from the teacher so far: “If the council like you, then you’re not doing your job properly.”

Shorthand (Teeline)
Ah, the beast you must tame. To pass the exam you must be able to write 100 words per minute (this is only a C grade however, in other words, just a pass).

That’s a tall order in only 18 weeks but it can be done. The teacher says you must do two hours a night practice and she ain’t joking…

It’s two hours a night or re-take the exam. I am at around 50wpm now and it’s only week 7 – cue the ticker tape. If I can do it anyone can.

Favourite quote from the teacher so far, said after a discussion on the importance of keeping letters neat.: “If your colleague walks under a bus, then you need to be able to translate their shorthand.”

You also have to complete a portfolio of work, i.e. cuttings, but these don’t necessarily need to be published.

If you’re currently doing a journalism course, at a college or at a distance, then let us know how it’s going in the comment box below. What’s good, what’s bad?

It would also be interesting and helpful to hear from industry people with their thoughts on the NCTJ:

  • Do you think it’s worth it?
  • What are your criticisms of it – the video and online aspects perhaps?
  • Would you hire someone with an NCTJ over someone without?
  • What do you think of the magazine equivalent course?

Calling all feature writers and magazine editors – NCTJ, do you need it?

Daily Mail tries to lure users with free international texts

Following the launch of their MailTXT texting service earlier this year, the Daily Mail has now announced that new users will get 50 free international SMS messages to any phone when they sign up.

The intention of the scheme is to ‘build a more interactive relationship with its readers’, a press release said.

According to the Mail, ‘tens of thousands’ of users have already signed up to the service.

Users are charged for the network connection, and a message from a registered user to another costs 1.4p, and 6.4p to a non-user. Users collect 0.5p in ‘MailTXT Credit’ for every message sent and received, and are encouraged to access the Daily Mail’s content and special offers from their phones.

Hello magazine launches mobile alert service

Hello magazine is introducing two new mobile services to deliver celebrity news.

Subscribers to MMS alerts will receive daily updates from Monday to Friday of the latest news from the website including an image, while SMS subscribers will be sent the latest headline.

“A launch of a mobile service has been long overdue, and I feel that it will be an important addition to our digital canon. A natural extension of a web presence is a mobile offering,” said Verity J. Smart, editor of the magazine, in a press release.

Users will be charged £1 for MMS messages and 25p for SMS, though monthly bills for each service will not exceed £23 and £10 respectively.

To sign up for the service users should text HELLO1 to 62233 for MMS alerts and HELLO2 to 62233 for SMS, or visit the mobile registration page of the site.

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Personality pays in the pay-per-click economy of blogging

Image of Kristine LoweKristine Lowe’s (left) Online Journalism Scandinavia this week looks at the demand for celebrity bloggers in Sweden.

Swedish lifestyle sites are using celebrity bloggers to drive traffic and to help lure attractive advertisers to their sites.

Swedish blogger Katrin Schulman (below) recently made it known she was keen to move her delicately named blog, Fuck you right back, away from lifestyle site Stureplan.se, in search of a pay per click deal.

Schulman is big news in the Swedish blogosphere. She is married to one of the nation’s most successful bloggers (neither known for mincing their words, hence the name of her blog), her husband is also part of a family that is old, aristocratic and influential in its own right.

image of Katrin Schulman

She told the Swedish media: “I only work on commission. Four pence per unique visitor per month,” and promised to deliver nothing short of 120,000 visitors to any potential site wanting to host her blog.

It’s a far cry from the digital era sweatshop described by The New York Times.

She was eventually hired by Sthlmsfinest.com, a website and online community focused on celebrities and a direct competitor of Stureplan, which is a general lifestyle magazine and site born out of Stockholm’s club scene.

“We have seen a 15,000 increase in visitors just in the couple of days Katrin has been blogging here. She has a lot of readers,” Alexander Erwik, editor-in-chief of Sthlmsfinest, told Journalism.co.uk.

All the bloggers the site hired by Sthlmsfinest.com to write high-profile blogs about music, fashion and trends have to bring in their own audiences, Erwik added.

He also said that he hoped that in just two weeks hiring Schulman would have brought a substantially traffic increase from 70,000 users to around 100,00 readers to the site.

Evening Star breaks Steve Wright trial verdict on new SMS service

A new SMS news alert system from Ipswich’s Evening Star newspaper marked its launch yesterday by delivering the verdict in the Steve Wright prostitute murder trial.

Wright, who was yesterday found guilty of the murders of five prostitutes in the Ipswich area in 2006, is expected to be sentenced this morning.

Yesterday’s alert added another layer to the online coverage of the trial by the paper, which has featured live news updates, video and interactive maps relating to the case.

“We think using it [the SMS service] we were the first media outlet to deliver the verdict. We were also the first to deliver police-supplied footage of Wright being interviewed,” James Goffin, web editor at Archant Suffolk, told Journalism.co.uk.

The text message service, which is being trialled by the Archant title, will be used to cover large breaking news stories in the area and enables newsroom staff to send a message directly to subscribers from any computer or device connected to the internet.

To access the alerts, which will cost 25p to receive, users should text ESTAR ALERTS NEWS to 84070.