Tag Archives: Stephen Glover

Independent: January launch ‘highly probable’ for Sun on Sunday

It is “highly probable” that the Sun on Sunday will launch in January, media commentator Stephen Glover predicted in the Independent today.

In his article on the rumoured new Sunday paper, Glover also explains why he thinks a Sun on Sunday makes better business sense than the News of the World, which “despite selling some 2.8 million copies a week, was barely breaking even”.

Glover argues that the Sun will need to recruit a fraction of the 160 News of the World journalists in order to “produce a seventh-day edition of the newspaper”.

If it sells at 50p (half the price of the News of the World, and cheaper than Sunday red-top rivals) it would probably be profitable with a circulation of a million. In the event, it may well sell many more copies than that.

Glover describes the axing of the News of the World and anticipated creation of the seven-day Sun as a “cynical charade” by the Murdochs.

In other words, far from being a sacrifice, shutting down the Sunday red-top and launching a seventh-day edition of The Sun carries a significant economic benefit. The Murdochs were able to represent themselves as acting decisively and almost altruistically – rather as a farmer might regretfully shoot a rabid dog that has been a cherished family pet. Now it turns out that the dog was old, unloved and expensive to keep, and there is a young puppy waiting in the wings which will be a much better proposition. The whole process has been a cynical charade.

He also argues the case against the launch of a red-top title from Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail. After an initial boost for the Mail on Sunday, sales have now slowed, according to August circulation figures, and Glover suggests “Associated would probably be wise to stay away”.

Glover’s full post is at this link.

Stephen Glover: ‘Attack Google too, if you value privacy’

In an article for the Independent this morning, Stephen Glover critiques the Murdoch backlash championed, he claims, by the Guardian and suggests that those opposing the BSkyB bid should consider how Google affects privacy.

there is a more powerful organisation that may pose a far greater threat than Rupert Murdoch, and yet it is barely criticised by right-thinking people. Its name is Google.

Glover looks at the role Google plays in daily life through features such as Google Maps and Google Mail as well as comparing the company’s Conservative political sway with that of Rupert Murdoch.

I know which organisation worries me more. I should say in his defence that my old friend Henry Porter has attacked Google in the past, describing it as “an amoral menace”. I am sure he would agree with me that, for all his sins, Mr Murdoch publishes some very good newspapers and produces some good programming. Google may provide an invaluable service but it actually produces nothing much of value while taking billions of pounds of advertising from newspapers and television.

You can read Glover’s opinion piece in full here.

Thelondonpaper – what everyone’s saying

A quick round-up of the weekend and Monday morning comment on the fate of the londonpaper:

“thelondonpaper is closing – with a pre-tax loss of £12.9m last financial year on £14.1m turnover. Maybe if they’d sorted out their SEO strategy, they’d have got more website visitors and sold more adverts?”

“Let’s assume, then, that when James Murdoch says he’s concentrating on his ‘core’ responsibilities henceforth, he means no more fishing in Metro ponds. That phase is gone. News International has retired hurt. But what does this mean for London itself, apart from much less waste paper?”

“Free newspapers funded by advertising are a volatile business model in any downturn, let alone a recession. While freesheets are unlikely to disappear altogether, in closing the London Paper the Murdochs have underlined their belief that charging for news is the way forward.”

  • Stephen Glover (the Independent, 24/08/09): ‘A vicious press war with no real victors
  • “[T]he supposedly invincible media mogul has raised the white flag. He is closing thelondonpaper. In my view, of course, he should never have launched it in the first place. It was an expensive distraction that contributed little or nothing to good journalism.”

“News International’s decision to close its only freesheet highlights the newspaper industry’s move towards charging for content in print and online and away from the focus on ‘free’, which gave us the London Lite, Metro, thelondonpaper and City AM, the morning business paper.”

and from last week:

“[The decision] shows just how much the axis of publishing has shifted: just as proprietors are growing weary of readers enjoying their online news for free, there is not nearly the same confidence in the free print model there was three years ago and publishers are reverting to ways of maximising user revenue in all media instead of giving it away for nothing. And, more fundamentally for News International, London’s free newspaper war was just costing too much.”

Journalism industry reaction to ‘churnalism’ claims

The publication of journalist Nick Davies’s book, Flat Earth News, in which he makes the accusation that a significant proportion of the news served by UK institutions is simply regurgitated PR or wire copy by time pressured hacks with too much work on their plates, has caused a wave of strong reaction through press watching circles.

Davies claims that journalists are failing at the essential job of telling the truth by ever greater commercial drives in the industry:

“Where once we were active gatherers of news, we have become passive processors of second-hand material generated by the booming PR industry and a handful of wire agencies, most of which flows into our stories without being properly checked. The relentless impact of commercialisation has seen our journalism reduced to mere churnalism,” he wrote in the Press Gazette.

Taking a donation from the Rowntree Foundation, Davies asked the journalism department at Cardiff University to research home news coverage (download report here: quality_independence_british_journalism.pdf ) in the UK’s leading national newspapers over a two week period, he claims that the research found that only 12 per cent of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. For eight per cent of the stories, researchers couldn’t be sure. Yet for the remaining 80 per cent they found were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry.

Media commentator for The Independent, Stephen Glover, claimed the book presents ‘a damning picture of a dysfunctional national press which is spoon fed by government and PR agencies’. Glover added ‘Many journalists will recognise his portrait of editorial resources being stretched ever thinner’.

But he sees the more damning element of the book to be its attack on the relationship between the Observer newspaper and the Blair Government:

“It is amazing stuff. Mr Davies suggests the editor and the political editor of a great liberal newspaper were suborned by Number 10, and so manipulated that The Observer became a government mouthpiece. Not even The Times’s endorsement of Chamberlain’s appeasement policy in the 1930s involved the degree of editorial submission to governmental power that Mr Davies alleges in Flat Earth News.”

Although broadly in agreement with Davies, Peter Wilby wrote in the Guardian that his methodology and conclusions of increased workloads hadn’t quite made allowances for some of the positives changes in the newsroom:

“Davies overstates his case. For example, the internet, email and mobile phones have all made information and contacts more easily accessible. It isn’t, therefore, unreasonable to expect journalists to fill more space. Time spent “cultivating contacts” was, in any case, often time spent on overlong, overliquid lunches. But experience also tells me his argument is fundamentally sound”

There was a little more scepticism about the research from Adrian Monck, he wrote that study ‘links full-time employees to pagination’:

“But what about: freelance employees? Bought-in copy? The amount of agency material used? Changes in technology? The reduction in the number of editions?

“Could any of these things have a bearing on the analysis? And shouldn’t journalists be more productive? What about these innovations: Electronic databases, computers, mobile telephones, the Internet?”

He also takes issue with Davies line about PR being used to fill news pages, suggesting that it’s not a new argument.

Simon Bucks, Sky News associate editor, also draws out the point that new technology can negate some of the issues brought up.

“There’s a wider point in this debate. Web 2.0 allows the public to play a much bigger role in journalism. If we get a fact wrong or miss out something important, it won’t take long before someone lets us know. Big mistakes generate an avalanche of comment.

“So there’s no reason for any news organisation to keep reporting a flat earth story, if it isn’t accurate.”

More predictably, the editor of the Independent on Sunday, John Mullin, and the managing editor of the News of the World, Stuart Kuttner, argued the defence against Davies on Radio 4’s Today programme, choosing the more well-worn line of British journalism being the best in the world.

Roy Greenslade wrote that it was ‘heartening’ that Davies work was being taken seriously. Dismissing the Mullin/Kuttner rejection line as ‘not being good enough’, he added that the Davies work was ‘an indictment of journalistic practices that deserves wider debate’.

Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, sounds a warning on this last point:

“The trouble is, though, the British newspaper journalist has no history of taking criticism well… or working out what it is that needs to be done to turn a dysfunctional, distrusted press into something that performs a useful public purpose.”