Tag Archives: the Press Gazette

FT.com: Birmingham Post ‘might cease daily publication’

At the weekend the FT reported that Birmingham Post might cease daily publication after 152 years, ‘becoming the first flagship newspaper of a large city to go weekly in response to the recession and competition from online media.’

“The circulation of the Birmingham Post has dropped from 18,500 to 12,700 since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Locally, a fully paid circulation of less than 7,000 is spoken of. It is understood that options studied by Trinity Mirror, which owns the white-collar morning title, include converting the lossmaking publication into a weekly title. The media group might publish the Birmingham Mail, an evening newspaper with a blue-collar readership, in the mornings instead. This would trigger wide-ranging redundancies, from delivery drivers to newsagents and journalists in a newsroom that services several titles.”

Full story at this link…

Yesterday, the Press Gazette’s Grey Cardigan said his sources back the report:

“I knew that sales were poor, but I didn’t realise that paid-for copies had dropped to fewer than 7,000 – a claim made by the FT and stood up by my own sources this morning. (Just what you want on the golf course early on a Sunday – a call from Mr Cardigan suggesting that you’re about to lose your job.”

What would a UK-based ProPublica look like?

In today’s MediaGuardian, City University of New York (CUNY) journalism professor Jeff Jarvis writes that that foundations will not take over newspapers, à la Scott Trust / Guardian relationship. He told Journalism.co.uk: “It is an empty hope for white knights to save news from inevitable change and business reality. But he says: “We’ll see foundation and public support able to fund a decent number of investigations.”

Yesterday, Journalism.co.uk published comments from New York University (NYU) professor, Jay Rosen, and ProPublica’s managing editor, Stephen Engelberg, as well as from Jarvis in a feature looking at the sustainability of ‘lump sum’ funded journalism – they all said that the point was not to look at ‘one solution’ but at a hybrid of funding opportunities (an issue picked up by Julie Starr here.)

US-based ProPublica, funded by the Sandler Foundation, for example, employs full-time journalists to conduct investigations which are then supplied to other media bodies. Journalism.co.uk raised the point with some of the NYJournalism interviewees (fuller features forthcoming) that similar foundation funding is a bit trickier to come by in the UK: just what would a UK version of ProPublica look like and could it be funded?

Would the equivalent of ProPublica work over here? Or, for that matter, something in the mould of Spot.Us, New America Media, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, or the Center for Public Integrity?

Last week the Guardian’s Stephen Moss mentioned Paul Bradshaw’s new project, HelpMeInvestigate.com in his giant G2 feature on the troubled regional newspaper industry. It’s a proposal not quite on the scale of ProPublica, which has an annual operating budget of $10 million, and it’s seen success so far, making it to third stage of the (American) Knight News Challenge 2009 and it awaits news of further progress.

How about existing organisations in the UK? There’s the Centre for Investigative Journalism with its annual summer school, but it doesn’t run and supply investigations in the way ProPublica does. There’s MySociety which can help journalists with stories, but is not designed as a primarily journalistic venture.

Author of Flat Earth News, Nick Davies, has previously told the Press Gazette (which has just announced its last issue) about his idea of models of ‘mini-media’.

“It may be that we are looking at funding mini-media or a foundation that will give money to groups of journalists if they can pass the quality threshold,” Davies said at an National Union of Journalists (NUJ) event in January, as Press Gazette reported.

“The greatest question in journalism today is what will be our ‘third source’ of funding,” Davies told Journalism.co.uk last week.

“If advertising and circulation can no longer pay for our editorial operation, we have to find this third source.

“I suspect that place by place and case by case, the answer to the question will be different, a matter of wrapping up whatever package of cash is possible, using donations or grants or sponsorship or micropayments from foundations, rich individuals, local councils, businesses, NGOs, universities – anybody who can understand that the collapse of newspapers is not just about journalists losing their jobs but about everybody losing an essential source of information.

“And in an ideal world, central government would lead the way by setting up a New Media Fund to provide seed money to help these non-profit mini-media to establish themselves and to find their particular third source.”

So could a third source-funded model work? And what shape would it take? It’s a question Journalism.co.uk will continue to ask. Please share your thoughts below.

Baldy blogger wins regional journalism prize

Adrian Sudbury, who has blogged about his experiences as a sufferer of terminal leukaemia, was named multimedia journalist of the year in the Press Gazette’s Regional Press Awards on Friday.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner journalist Sudbury accepted the award with a video message, while at the ceremony his parents asked the audience to support his bone marrow donation campaign.

The campaign, which aims to make education about bone marrow, blood and organ donation a compulsory part of sixth-form education in the UK, has already led to a meeting with Gordon Brown for Sudbury.

The Hull Daily Mail was named multimedia publisher of the year and daily newspaper of the year (above 40k) at the awards, and picked up the prize for best front page.

Three spheres of relevance for news online

Today’s a good day to point at three examples of how you can enhance the value of online news by linking it to additional, meaningful and relevant content.

I’m calling them the Three Spheres of relevance, three different approaches to creating news relevance: locally on a news site by bringing related content to a single destination, by using tagged metadata to enable better linking to relevant material and in the newsgathering process itself (stick with me, this might get into seriously tenuous segue territory).

Thomson Reuters has launched a new version of its semantic tagging tool Open Calais that broadly enhances and builds on its first round of development (hat tip Martin Stabe).

Open Calais has made publicly accessible a piece of internal software used by Thompson Reuters that automatically reads content and creates relationships between different articles, news pieces and reports based on the businesses, places, events, organisations and individuals mentioned in them.

External developers have been encouraged to play with the technology to create an additional level of metadata for their own sites that could offer users a more sophisticated level of additional content around news pieces and blog posts by relying on automatically generated semantic links rather than more rudimentary manual or algorithmically created versions.

The second round of development two has brought WordPress plugins and new modules for Drupal to allow developers to more easily integrate metadata into the applications and third-party tools they are building.

As part of round two, Thomson Reuters has also launched Calais Tagaroo, a WordPress plugin that automatically generates suggested tags for bloggers that want to incorporate additional relevant content to their posts.

This weekend has also seen the launch of New York Times’ Olympics blog, Rings, as a destination where readers can get a plethora of Times content about the Beijing games. The blog is the latest edition to the Times’ Olympics sub-site.

In addition to covering the sporting competition the blog – like the Times’ sub-site – draws in reporting from Times’ sports, foreign and business desks, as well as taking pieces from bureaux in China.

Compare this with the Olympics destination the BBC is running for the games. It could easily draw sporting coverage together with relevant material from the news pages but it has chosen not to make that link and instead leave its users to drift off elsewhere to find out about the other issues surrounding the games. It doesn’t make the most of pulling all the relevant and related material togther in the way the Times does with its blogs and sub-site.

The final example of news organisations working on relevance comes before any of that content is even written.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told the Press Gazette that as part of the newspaper’s adoption of an integrated print and digital news production process reporting staff would abandon the traditional newsdesk structure to instead ape the set-up of Guardian.co.uk reporting staff and be rearranged into subject-specific teams or ‘pods’ to allow closer working between reporters and the ability file for both the web and the print edition as the story demands.

Press Gazette: Rusbridger says integration of Guardian and Observer will ‘unlock creativity’ of staff

The independence of the Guardian’s three national titles – Guardian.co.uk, Observer and Guardian in print – will not be compromised by the integration of the news production process across the titles, editor Alan Rusbridger told the Press Gazette.

Rusbridger claimed that combining the titles would ‘unlock the creativity’ of his staff but that the distinct voices of each title would remain. Senior editors met with staff last week to discuss the future of the newspapers as it integrates its production processes.

Press Gazette: BBC News opens multi-platform newsroom

News 24 Journalists and colleagues from radio and the TV news bulletins have become the first to move into the BBC’s new integrated newsroom and start work.

According to the Press Gazette, the first stage of the project was completed on Monday.

International and World News staff will be phased in over the next few weeks, along with journalists covering the text-based areas of the BBC News website.

Express Newspapers staff plan three-day strike

Journalists at the Express newspapers have postponed today’s planned industrial action in favour of a three-day strike starting on April 22, the Press Gazette reports.

The union has described suspension of today’s action as an ‘act of good will’ and has urged the paper’s proprietors to open up talks to avert further strikes.

The 24-hour strike planned for this Friday will go ahead, as staff continue to campaign against a pay offer of 3 per cent.

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Norway’s leading news sites strategies for attracting online audience

Image of Kristine LoweKristine Lowe is a freelance journalist who writes on the media industry for number of US, UK and Norwegian publications. This week Online Journalism Scandinavia looks at how Norway’s leading news sites attract their audiences. Continue reading

Press Gazette: Trinity Mirror looks to cut £7m after announcing falling profits

Trinity Mirror, publisher of over 340 newspapers and websites in the UK, has announced that it will look to cut costs by £7m, after the company announced flat revenues and falling profits in its regional newspaper division.

The Press Gazette says Trinity achieved 13m in cost savings in 2007 and said it hoped to increase this to £20m by the end of this year after announcing a below-inflation increase in overall like-for-like revenues – up 1.6 per cent to £932.3m. Operating profit rose 3.6 per cent to £186.1m.

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.”