Tag Archives: ray snoddy

InPublishing: New chief executive’s plans for Johnston Press

InPublishing has a revealing interview with Johnston Press’ new chief executive, a former technology boss with no newspaper experience.

Ray Snoddy interviews Ashley Highfield, who was former head of technology at the BBC and later in charge of Microsoft’s online and consumer operations, on his plans for the newspaper group.

It is worth reading the whole interview to find out why Highfield took up the challenge of joining the company, which seen its share price fall from 480p to 5p.

Here are a couple of extracts:

The new Johnston chief executive also points out that while not a newspaperman, he has run two of the largest online news portals in the UK, MSN and BBC online, where he was editor-in-chief responsible for several hundred online journalists.

Then of course there is the money, which included a welcome package of £500,000 worth of seriously deflated Johnston Press shares.

If the new chief executive can conjure up a little alchemy, find a better model for linking the print and digital world and get the share price on the move then he could become seriously rich.

Those however who expected Highfield to come in to Johnston Press and wave a magic digital wand on his first day at the beginning of November have already expressed disappointment.

Highfield insists he has a digital strategy but says it would be “premature” to say in any detail how he is going to implement it.

Highfield discusses content dissemination via iPads and other devices (incidentally, JP title the Scotsman launched a £7.99-a-month iPad edition earlier this week), but was less forthcoming about paywall plans (JP dismantled its trial walls in April 2010).

And what about paywalls and charging for online content?

“Watch this space”, is all Highfield will say but, clearly, increasing digital revenues is a central part of the emerging strategy.

The full InPublishing interview is at this link.

#ReutersEthics: Trust and Twitter debated at Thomson Reuters

“It’s good for trust in journalism to be low,” the Evening Standard’s executive editor said last night, “and we should feel like our back is against the wall”.

Taking part in the ‘What Price The News?’ debate on the ethics of modern journalism hosted by Thomson Reuters, the Evening Standard’s Anne McElvoy said that while society as a whole is less trusting, ‘it’s right for people to be skeptical’ about where their news is coming from.

Journalism will benefit, she claimed. “We’re not Mother Teresa – we don’t expect to have a high trust rating.”

Twitter ethics

The debate inevitably covered Twitter, and its value as a source of news. “Twitter was not designed to cover the world. It was designed to give a flavour of the conversation at the moment,” said Joe Lelyveld, Pulitzer prize winner and former New York Times journalist.

The panel also saw a use in ‘getting privileged information out there fast’, as with the Guardian-Trafigura case, but were wary of it becoming more than ‘just a tip-off service’ for journalists without subsequent fact checking.


While Nick Griffin sat in a BBC studio recording his appearance on the Question Time panel, the panel at Thomson Reuters considered how they would have dealt with the issue.

“It’s the responsibility of journalists in this country to report the hell out of this situation. You need to give your readers and viewers a truthful view of who this character is, and do so clearly, intelligently and aggressively,” said Lelyveld.

Sean Maguire, Reuters political and general news reporter, could see himself ‘making the same decision’ to allow Griffin on the programme. “It’s about time he showed himself up (…) Let’s turn the stone over and see what comes out.”

The situation paralleled the BBC’s contact with the Taliban, added Simon Robinson, European editor of Time magazine. “It was never going to change the outcome, but it is important to know what local people are thinking.”

Meanwhile Ray Snoddy, BBC Newswatch presenter and chair of the panel, wondered whether the BBC had ‘jumped the gun’ by letting Griffin appear before knowing the outcome of the court case concerning BNP membership.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has produced an Ethics Handbook, copies of which have also been printed in Arabic and distributed to journalists in the Middle East thanks to a fund left by journalist Mona Megalli. The debate could be followed on Twitter (#ReutersEthics) and Reuters ran a live blog on its site.

Marion Dakers (@mvdakers) is an MA newspaper journalist student at City University.