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www.nuj.org.uk | february/march 2011
INSIDE: News hubs
An emerging cafe culture
Plugging the gap
Making news in Manchester
Contents Cover feature
16 Digging through data
Why data journalism needs old skills
he full force of the Government’s spending cuts is starting to be felt. Local councils are cutting thousands of jobs and scaling back services. Journalists at the BBC have been on the frontline of resistance, ﬁrstly with an attack on their pensions which many saw as the tester for general public service pension changes. Now there’s the threat of sweeping job cuts at the World Service, BBC online and other departments. In March the TUC will hold a rally for an alternative to the cuts, which the NUJ and other unions are backing strongly. Details are on our back page. Of course, it isn’t just the public sector that is being squeezed. Many journalists are enduring pay freezes and job cuts from companies whose ﬁnancial health seems robust. Newsquest is one such business that the union has in its sights. Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary, has been co-ordinating opposition and explains the background on page 7. In this issue we also report the departure of Jeremy Dear as general secretary after 10 years leading the union. He’s been a tireless advocate for journalists and journalism and has transformed the proﬁle of the NUJ. I’m personally hugely sorry Jeremy is going and I know he will be greatly missed. And as an independently elected editor, I say that not because of any obligation, only because it’s true.
Christine Buckley Editor
Editor Christine Buckley email@example.com Design Surgerycreations.com firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising email@example.com Print Warners www.warners.co.uk Distribution Packpost www.packpostsolutions.com
NUJ 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8DP firstname.lastname@example.org www.nuj.org.uk
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Cover picture Imagebroker/Alamy
04 Murdoch and BSkyB
Pressure grows for bid to be referred
05 BBC job cuts begin
World Service and Online hit ﬁrst
06 Organising against cuts
Unions step up co-ordinated opposition
07 Uniting to fight a giant
Campaigning at the Newsquest group
10 Made in Manchester
The resurgence of independent media
20 Heading goes here
The perils of template news systems
09 Jeremy Dear 19 The NUJ and me 28 Training Courses 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters and Steve Bell Pages 26-27
news JESS HURD/REPORTDIGITAL.CO.Uk
dear to go after decade as leader
he NUJ is to elect a new general secretary after Jeremy Dear announced he will not stand for re-election following a decade at the head of the union. Jeremy was the union’s youngest ever leader when he was elected in 2001 at the age of 34. He was re-elected in 2006. Prior to becoming general secretary he
served the union as national organiser for newspapers, as President, as an NEC member and as a branch and chapel officer in Birmingham and Essex. Jeremy first rose to prominence after leading one of the union’s first – and longest – disputes against de-recognition at the Essex Chronicle. The strike lasted for 11 months. As a full time official Jeremy was responsible for the union’s recognition campaigns – winning back union rights in national and local newspapers, magazines and book publishers – which TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady described as having ‘made the NUJ a force to be reckoned with once more’. He became the first NUJ leader to be elected to the TUC General Council in 2002 as part of a new wave of left-wing leaders who took office in a number of unions. His election as NUJ general secretary saw the union adopt a more militant, active stance as members sought to tackle low pay, job cuts and win back collective bargaining rights. Jeremy said: “It was the proudest moment of my life being elected general secretary and to have had the opportunity to serve our union at every level over the past 20 years. Throughout all my years as a lay activist or a full-time official I have been inspired by the spirit of members and their continued commitment to fight for social and economic justice. My deep thanks go to all those – staff, reps and members – who have done so much to make the NUJ the fantastic union it is, and whose friendship and solidarity have been a great source of strength to me.”
in brief... tiMes takes worst hit in sales fall All national daily newspapers saw circulation falls in December last year. The Times recorded the most dramatic year-on-year sales decline at 14 per cent. The Guardian fell 11.9 per cent and the Daily Telegraph slipped 10.2 per cent.
It was the proudest moment of my life being elected general secretary
tributes to an energetic and committed gS
ete Murray, the president of the NUJ, said: “Jeremy Dear has been a uniquely inspiring general secretary; constantly, energetically and faithfully representing journalists across the Uk and Ireland.
The whole union owes him enormous thanks for a decade of commitment and success. Jeremy has never lost the zeal and passion which drives the best campaigners for justice and people’s rights.”
Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary said: “Jeremy’s passion and dedication to the union he loves, his unrivalled commitment to trade unionism and his sheer energy have made him a
general secretary the NUJ can be truly proud of. Jeremy is leaving the union in fighting shape ready and able to carry forward his work and legacy as the voice for journalists and journalism throughout the Uk and Ireland.”
PioneeR tWeedie reMeMBered
enny Tweedie, the pioneering photographer and NUJ member, has died at the age of 70. She made her name covering war and conﬂicts around the world, including the Bangladesh war in 1971 during which she refused to photograph prisoners who it became apparent were being killed for the cameras.
She was thrown out of Uganda by Idi Amin and had a narrow escape in the Yom Kippur war. Penny was also an award-winning chronicler of Australian Aboriginal culture and took many iconic pictures of the slums of Glasgow in the 1960s for the housing charity Shelter. PENNY TWEEDIE/ALAMY
dacre’s total pay rises to £2.8M Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, bolstered his position as the bestpaid national editor with a 70 per cent rise in his total remuneration last year to £2.8m. His pay from Associated Newspapers was boosted by a £1m bonus after a record operating profit for the paper last year. desMond Quits self regulation systeM Richard Desmond’s newspapers and magazines, which include the Daily Express, have been formally excluded from the system of press self-regulation. The exclusion follows the refusal of Desmond’s company, Northern & Shell, to pay fees to the organisation responsible for funding the Press Complaints Commission. pcc probes coVert telegraph eXercise The Press Complaints Commission is investigating the Daily Telegraph’s covert recording of Liberal Democrat ministers. The move follows an official complaint by the party after several key figures, including the Business Secretary Vince Cable, made embarrassing remarks to undercover reporters. rebuke for council papers restriction The Commons Local Government Select Committee has said that plans by communities minister Eric Pickles to restrict the publication of council-run newspapers and magazines would have ‘potentially negative implications for local democracy’. The NUJ argued that, despite isolated examples, there was ‘scant evidence’ that council publications compete unfairly with independent papers to any significant extent. theJournalist | 3
in brief... sugar closes after sharp sales fall Sugar, the teenage girls’ magazine, is to close after a dramatic fall in its circulation. It has suffered a 75 per cent drop over the past decade. Publisher Hachette Filipacchi blamed young readers’ appetite for free content. Cn group cuts jobs and freezes pay CN Group, the independent regional publisher, is cutting 29 jobs and implementing a company-wide pay freeze. The group, which is based in Carlisle and has newspapers in Cumbria, Northumberland and Scotland, said that it needed to make the cuts to ensure financial stability. Macclesfield paper clocks up 200 years The Macclesfield Express has celebrated 200 years in print. The 13,000 circulation weekly is published by Trinity Mirror and is part of the MEN Media stable of titles which was sold by Guardian Media Group in February 2010. Macclesfield Express journalists were able to toast their anniversary with a special beer called Bicentenniale and brewed locally by the Bollington Brewery Company. paisley editor’s job to disappear The Trinity Mirror-owned Scottish and Universal Newspapers is to axe the editor’s role on its Paisley Daily Express title. The responsibilities for the newspaper will transfer to a group editor under a shake-up of associated titles. Tweets from scottish courts Journalists may be able to tweet from Scottish courts more often after tweeting was permitted for the first time at Tommy Sheridan’s sentencing hearing. Reporters for the BBC, STV, Sky and the Guardian published updates as Sheridan was jailed for three years for perjury in his libel action against the News of the World in 2006. The move follows the decision to allow journalists to tweet during Julian Assange’s bail hearing last year. 4 | theJournalist
Pressure grows over Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB
he NUJ and other organisations are stepping up the campaign for News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB to be blocked as the allegations of phone hacking at the group’s News of the World newspaper have grown. The increased pressure comes after Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, resigned his role as the Prime Minister’s head of communications. Mr Coulson had resigned as editor following the prosecution of royal reporter Clive Goodman for phone hacking. The NUJ has also attacked the decision by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt to delay action on the Ofcom recommendation that the Competition Commission consider the planned total takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch’s organisation while News Corp makes new proposals. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Jeremy Hunt has not just shifted the goalposts in considering the Murdoch plan to damage media plurality. He has allowed Rupert Murdoch to take the goalposts home, to return when he feels he’s more likely to win the game.” News Corp’s attempts to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that it doesn’t already own have intensified in recent weeks after the arrival of Rupert Murdoch in London and the revelations that
David Cameron had dinner with James Murdoch just before Christmas. At the same time more public figures have alleged phone hacking by the News of the World, and the newspaper sacked an assistant editor, Ian Edmondson. Rupert Murdoch has also made a further attempt to make a success of digital publishing following the so far muted response to paywalls at some of his titles. He has launched the Daily, a news operation created specifically for the iPad. Meanwhile News Corp’s second quarter profits more than doubled after a jump in advertising at its cable TV networks and TV stations. The company earned $642m (£396m) for the quarter, against $254m in the same period a year ago. Jeremy Dear, Page 9
Police pay £30,000 to photographer
hotographer David Hoffman received £30,000 in damages from the Metropolitan Police. The money was paid after action by the NUJ following injuries sustained by David while he was covering the G20
protests in London two years ago. The photographer had his teeth broken after being hit in the face. As well as paying compensation and the cost of extensive dental work, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner
has also apologised to David for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely. An amateur video had captured the attack.
Receivers put Sunday Tribune up for sale
eceivers are attempting to find a buyer for Ireland’s Sunday Tribune newspaper. The paper went into receivership after Independent News and Media, which owns a 29.9 per cent stake, decided it would no longer provide loans. The group had been supporting the loss-making Sunday paper. The receivers, McStay Luby, stopped production of the newspaper and its online output pending a sale but staff have been retained. Staff have attempted to keep the Sunday Tribune afloat by taking pay cuts and the newspaper had been revamped. Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary (right), said: “The Sunday Tribune remains a lively, vibrant and authoritative newspaper and its demise would be a major blow to media diversity in Ireland. We find it inexplicable that having provided funding for so long to the Sunday Tribune the board of INM has pulled the plug at this time.” pete jenkins
BBC job cuts begin with loss of 1,100 posts
he BBC has begun its first swathe of job cuts following last year’s licence fee settlement, with nearly 1,100 posts being axed from the World Service, the corporation’s online operations, and its monitoring division. The World Service is the hardest hit with the loss of up to 650 jobs and the closure of five language services and the scaling back of others. The language services facing closure are Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Portuguese for Africa, and English for the Caribbean. The House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee is to mount an inquiry into the implications of the reductions for the BBC World Service.
BBC online is to cut 360 jobs as the department’s budget is reduced by 25 per cent to £103m by 2013. The job losses in the online division have been anticipated since last summer following a strategic review. The BBC Trust sanctioned them along with further cutbacks in the corporation’s web output, including halving the corporation’s websites. The restructured BBC Online department will comprise 10 divisions including News, iPlayer, CBeebies and Search. There will be fewer news blogs, and local sites will be stripped of non-news content. Blast, Switch and h2g2 are among the sites to be scrapped. BBC Monitoring, which gathers information on the output of TV, press and internet sites worldwide, is to lose 72 posts although 18 new jobs are also being created. More cuts could soon follow as the corporation responds to loss of income following the decision to freeze the licence fee at £145.50. Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “These cuts are a direct result of the Government slashing funding to an internationally respected broadcaster.”
The World Service is the hardest hit with the loss of up to 650 jobs
O’Reilly wins age discrimination case
iriam O’Reilly, a former presenter on BBC’s Countryfile rural affairs programme, won a case for age discrimination against the corporation after she was dropped from the show
when it was moved to a prime-time slot. O’Reilly, 53, claimed age and sex discrimination after she and three other female presenters in their 40s or 50s were dropped from the programme.
An employment tribunal upheld her claim for age discrimination and for victimisation, but not sex discrimination. The presenter also said that she was hounded out of the BBC after she
Contest for new chair of Trust
he outgoing CBI director general and former Financial Times editor, Sir Richard Lambert (right), and Lord Patten, the former Tory party chairman, have emerged as the favourites to become the new BBC Trust chairman. They became the favourites after Sir Howard Davies, also a former director general of the CBI and a deputy governor of the Bank of England, withdrew from the contest. Sir Richard, who has served on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, is
regarded as a safe option because of his media and financial experience. He has also shown interest in the job previously, having applied after Gavyn Davies resigned in the wake of the Hutton inquiry seven years ago. But it is thought that Lord Patten’s bid has been strengthened by senior Liberal Democrats indicating privately that they wouldn’t oppose his bid for the role
was unfairly blamed for newspaper stories criticising the corporation for dropping middle-aged women presenters. She has been paid undisclosed damages by the corporation.
Terrestrial TV takes a tumble All five main terrestrial networks suffered a fall in all-day audience share for the fifth year running. BBC1 fared best with its share falling to 20.8 per cent from 20.9 per cent in 2009. BBC2’s share of the audience fell nearly eight per cent to 6.9 per cent. ITV1’s audience share fell 4.7 per cent to 17 per cent. BBC spends £16m on redundancy pay In the past three years the BBC has spent more than £16 million making redundancy payments to 115 senior managers, according to the Daily Telegraph which had submitted a Freedom of Information request. The highest payout was about £600,000. The BBC said that the redundancies were are an essential part of its £2 billion savings drive. Arabic service strikes over rotas Journalists from the BBC’s Arabic Service staged a 48-hour strike in January in protest at changes to staff rotas which they say are unworkable. In the NUJ ballot 64 (89 per cent) of the 72 people who took part backed strike action. one’s husband and I are on the sky The Queen’s Christmas message will this year be produced by Sky News for the first time. The address to the Commonwealth was once the sole preserve of the BBC until its monopoly was broken by ITV News and Channel 4 News producer ITN in 1997. Now responsibility for the broadcast will be a three-way split between the BBC, ITN and Sky. sissons says policy made on the hoof Former BBC newsreader Peter Sissons accused some BBC managers of lacking coherent policy over big stories. In his autobiography he said: “The BBC has a policy on everything, yet, when the chips are down presenters make up editorial policy as they go along.” He said when Princess Diana died he was asked only to leave difficult questions to the following day. theJournalist | 5
news in brief... More journalists killed in action Last year 94 journalists and media personnel died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents, according to the International Federation of Journalists. The IFJ list puts Pakistan top of the list of the most dangerous zones for journalists in 2010, largely because of insurgency attacks. The drugs war in Mexico also took a large toll, as did the political unrest in Honduras. In 2009, 139 journalists were reporterd as killed. Amnesty 20th media Awards Amnesty International is inviting entries for its 20th Media Awards, which recognise excellence in journalism that has made a significant contribution to the British public’s greater awareness and understanding of human rights issues. The closing date is Tuesday 1st March. www.amnesty. org.uk/awards irish daily star sunday closes The Irish Daily Star Sunday closed suddenly just after the New Year with the loss of 17 permanent full-time posts. The sister paper of the Irish Daily Star also employed a significant number of regular freelances and casual staff. Louis Mcredmond dies at 78 Louis McRedmond, the well-known journalist and author, has died at the age of 78. Mr McRedmond, who was from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, was a former editor of the Irish Independent. He was also the first director of the course in journalism in Rathmines, Dublin in 1970. new editor for Aberdeen P&J The new editor of the Aberdeen Press and Journal is Damian Bates. He moves to the title from the Aberdeen Evening Express, the P&J’s sister publication. Mr Bates succeeds Derek Tucker, who retired after 18 years in the role. His period in office made him the longestserving editor of a daily newspaper in Scotland.
Unions are hoping that the London march will be a powerful show of public opinion against the spending cuts
Organising against cuts
nions are stepping up co-ordinated work to campaign against the Government’s spending cuts. The move comes ahead of a national demonstration on March 26th in London which is being organised by the TUC. The TUC is holding monthly meetings of public sector unions and is taking evidence of cuts across the country at its general council meetings. The issue of pensions is emerging as the clearest one which can unite the unions in action without leaving them open to accusations of secondary or sympathetic action, which is illegal. The decision to step up campaigning came after a special meeting at the TUC as a number of local authorities announced large-scale job cuts. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary (above), said the meeting was called “to consider the appropriate industrial response to the volatile cocktail of issues that face union members across the public sector – the pay freeze, job cuts and attacks on pensions. No-one is talking about a general strike, but of course these attacks on our members could well give rise to industrial action around specific disputes.” The TUC has also been facilitating dialogue
between different groups opposed to the cuts including students, community groups, and health campaigners. The pressure group False Economy is also collecting information about the cuts from across the country. Unions are hoping that the London march will be a powerful show of public opinion against the spending cuts. Left-led unions had criticised the TUC for arranging the demonstration so late after the cuts were announced in last October’s Comprehensive Spending Review. But others had argued that the delay was necessary to build alliances with as many other organisations as possible. Rallies against the cuts have already been staged in London and Edinburgh and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions mounted a full demonstration at the end of November.
Tributes paid to the heroes of Wapping
he NUJ and other unions have begun a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the strike by printworkers and journalists at News International’s Wapping plant. The dispute began in January 1986 when 6,000 printworkers at the company’s four titles began a strike. News International moved production to a clandestinely-built plant at Wapping with the help of the
EETPU union. The 6,000 printworkers were sacked overnight. The Wapping strike, like the 1984-85 miners’ strike, was a seminal point in trade union history. Many NUJ members refused to work at Wapping after the union had asked members not to work unless there was an agreement covering the move to the new plant. The dispute lasted just over a year.
relighting The labour flame
he TUC is attempting to revive industrial reporting following the steady demise of specialist union and labour correspondents across the media. Their star waned as large industrial disputes declined. That decline
arguably accelerated with the 1997 election of the Labour Government and Peter Mandelson’s inherent distrust of industrial journalists as too close to unions. The TUC is hosting an evening of discussion and ideas on March 16th to
try to encourage more reporting on the world of work. Guests include the Mirror’s Paul Routledge and Kevin Maguire, Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn and the former BBC correspondent Nick Jones. Tickets available from www. labourgroupreunion.org.uk
6 | theJournalist
uniting to fight a giant
t the same time as we’ve all been layering up to keep warm in the coldest and snowiest winter for years, things have been hotting up across local newspaper group Newsquest. NUJ members experiencing the third year of a pay freeze decided enough was enough, it was time to take action, and since then the industrial action ballots have been flying. It’s hard to accept the corporate line that no wage rises – an effective pay cut – and wave after wave of job losses and budget cuts are a necessary, if unpalatable, medicine that journalists need to swallow if the company is to survive the economic crisis, when at the same time Newsquest bosses have continued to make hay. No belt tightening for fine wine lover Paul Davidson, Newsquest’s chief executive. At the same time as journalists were being urged to take a week’s unpaid leave “to help the company through hard times” he saw his already very unaustere salary rise by a whopping 21.5 per cent to £609,235. His pension pot shot up from £38,536 to £94,986 at the same time as an axe was being taken to pension schemes across the group. And why – when Newsquest continues to make huge profits for its American owners Gannett (£71.7million for 2009 compared to a loss of £462,000 in 2008) – are journalists being deprived of a genuine pay increase that reflects the economic pressures they are under, and why are titles throughout the group being starved of the resources they need to
Deputy General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet has been leading widespread action against Newsquest. She explains why produce the quality local papers that readers and communities deserve? So it’s no surprise that journalists in Southampton, Brighton and Darlington have been out on strike, winning over local readers, community groups and politicians to their campaign for fair pay and decent resources. At the same time, NUJ members at The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times in Glasgow have been driving home their fight against proposed job cuts with a hard-hitting work to rule that shows just how much managements across the Newsquest group relies on the professionalism and goodwill of journalists to get the papers out. Chapels have organised excellent, vibrant campaigns and demonstrations that have showcased NUJ grassroots activity at its heartening best. The pay offers on the table to date are a direct response to the efforts of all those members who stood firm and made it clear they were prepared to take industrial action. The penny finally seems to have dropped at the Newsquest HQ in leafy Weybridge – where we held a rousing demonstration in January – that journalists are not going to stand for another year of cuts. The end of the big freeze is just the first step.
Paul Davidson has repeatedly rejected invitations to talk, either with the NUJ or ACAS
We’ve lots of activity planned for the coming weeks and months to build on the campaign. We’ll continue to work to raise awareness of Newsquest’s shabby treatment of its journalists in parliament and across local communities. Together with our sister union in the United States, the Writers’ Guild, we’ll also take the arguments to the Gannett AGM in May and drive home the message that we’re calling time on poverty wages and relentless cuts across the Gannett empire. It’s time Newsquest managers grew up, and engaged in sensible and meaningful national negotiations with the NUJ on pay and conditions. Paul Davidson has repeatedly rejected invitations to talk, either with the NUJ or the conciliation service ACAS, and persists in the line that his managers have complete autonomy in their local Newsquest centres. Hmm, so they all simply come to the same decisions – whether it’s budget cuts, the introduction of ‘hubs’ that isolate papers ever more from their readerships, the all-out attack on subs, or the recent pay offers of two per cent – by a process of osmosis? It’s time Davidson and his paymasters in the States accept the really rather basic need for national discussions between NUJ officials and Newsquest. We’re ready to talk – what’s Newsquest waiting for? NUJ members, chapels and branches can donate by sending funds made out to the NUJ, making it clear it is for the Newsquest fund theJournalist | 7
FALSE ECONOMY WHY CUTS ARE THE WRONG CURE
DEEP RAPID SPENDING CUTS WILL DAMAGE PUBLIC SERVICES AND PUT MORE THAN A MILLION OUT OF WORK. The poorer you are, the more you lose. Ministers say there is no alternative. But there are smarter, better and fairer ways of reducing the deficit that can help economic recovery rather than risk it. FALSE ECONOMY is a new website for everyone concerned about the impact of the government's spending cuts on their community, their family or their job â€“ and wants to do something about it.
www.FalseEconomy.org.uk Watch Sam West explain the alternative Contribute your stories about the cuts and their impact Link up with local campaigns
IHQXMDGLQGG 624_JOURNALIST_JAN_P08_AD.indd 3
General Secretary Jeremy Dear on the urgent need to ﬁght Murdoch’s bid for BskyB
We must learn from Wapping
recently had the chance to pay public tribute to the men and women who stood up to Rupert Murdoch 25 years ago when he sought to destroy trade unionism in the print industry. It was an inspiring occasion. And meant a lot to me, having been blooded – literally – in trade unionism in 1986 outside Fortress Wapping, as Murdoch’s allies in government unleashed the police on strikers and the local community. If only Wapping were conﬁned to our history. Whilst the Wapping strike ended after a long brutal year, the consequences of Murdoch’s actions are still felt in every newsroom, today. New technology turned in massively increased proﬁts for the owners while destroying decent working conditions and undermining quality journalism with stafﬁng levels pared to the bone. The many heroes of Wapping stood against Murdoch’s vision of a compliant, corporate, proﬁt-at-all-costs media at the expense of the truth or journalistic ethics. It is a stand a new generation is making again today. There could be no more important time for us to take that stand. Wapping opened the door to Murdoch to grab power. He uses and abuses his media dominance for his own business ends – buying political favours to suit his own corporate interests. Now he’s making his latest power grab. The proposed takeover of BSkyB by News Corporation raises deep public interest issues. News
Corp already controls 37 per cent of newspaper circulation. BSkyB, one of only two UK commercial TV news companies, supplies Sky News, Channel 5 news and virtually all commercial radio news. The merged company would have a reach of 52 per cent of the adult population, with profound consequences not just for media plurality but for democracy. With Murdoch’s economic control comes editorial control – exerted through the selection of editors and heads who are expected to follow the company line or pay the price.
The UK needs a range of news providers offering a mix of viewpoints
ky News risks going the same way, with profound consequences for the UK’s news agenda. Rupert’s political machinations continue. He helped secure the election of a government committed to allowing him to extend his power. Unminuted meetings and that Christmas dinner with Cameron and come at a time when claimants in the phone hacking scandal have been bought off and more allegations have surfaced about the company paying police ofﬁcers for information – ofﬁcers from the very same force charged with investigating claims of criminality in the News of the World. Never mind referring the matter to the Competition Commission: it is unacceptable that the merger is even being considered while such serious charges are outstanding. These events give us new and important opportunities. The phone hacking scandal, Murdoch’s UK tax avoidance, the bile poured forth by parts of his empire have awoken a new interest in the role of the media. We must shape that debate. At its heart must be a total rejection of the Murdoch philosophy – that proﬁt is the best guarantor of media quality and independence. It is not. We must commit to a new and more powerful movement for media democracy and accountability built on the spirit of the Wapping resistance.
For all the latest updates from the General Secretary visit his blog at: http://jeremydear.blogspot.com theJournalist | 9
Rachel Broady sees an independent press rise again in a city shaped by newspapers
eople in Manchester face a news blackout. Freesheets, funded by advertisers who predict few conservatory sales in poor areas, are no longer delivered; the internet is not widely accessed across the city; and the Manchester Evening News, with new headquarters six miles out of the centre, is not relied on for local interest stories. This leaves residents dependent on television news and the council papers to hear about their home towns. But a few independent newspapers are challenging this – and some suggest that it could even bring an improvement in local journalism. The Salford Star is an established award-winning, fullcolour magazine written by locals, providing news about their own area. It never takes money from any organisation or
individual with a ‘vested interest’ and writers rarely get paid, not even expenses – but this leaves them able tackle stories ignored by the mainstream media. Its founder Stephen Kingston explains: “The people in my area are disenfranchised. The Salford Advertiser stopped delivering to certain areas a long time ago and 60 per cent of people in Salford don’t have the internet so they just get the council magazine, which is dreadful.” The city’s regeneration provided the impetus and the basis for many stories, uncovering corruption and injustice where the mainstream media provided glossy pictures and a positive spin. This gave the chance to deliver the publications’ aims of ‘giving the community a voice and making public bodies more accountable’. “Every penny in town is linked to regeneration,” says Kingston. “Grants, the government, Europe, public money, so how the hell is a media organisation going to hold those involved to account when it gets money from them? “We live in the community and we are our community’s
10 | theJournalist
community Left: Nigel Pivaro, Salford Star reporter and formerly a star on Coronation Street and the newspaper’s editor Stephen Kingston
magazine. The decisions that are made by the council affect us directly. We see our council tax going to certain things, our schools and nurseries closing or merging, our ice rink closing down, the very things that everyone is talking about and have questions about – so we ask those questions.” It can be a tough ﬁnancial challenge though, costing £7,000 per issue to produce and distribute. Mule is doing a similar job in plugging a gap in Manchester. It is distributed free, intending to ‘promote social justice by getting out the news and views you won’t ﬁnd elsewhere’. Ten thousand copies go for distribution in shops, Sure Start schemes, local venues, and there is an online presence. Some writers are paid by the Future Jobs Fund, a scheme allowing Mule to employ ﬁve young people on minimum wage for six months. But the scheme is to be scrapped.
ule writer Tim Hunt, who also writes for Ethical Consumer magazine, says: “It gives people in communities an outlet, and it is a voice to people already involved in community activism who are totally ignored by the likes of the Manchester Evening News. “We’re not a party organisation or highbrow and academic, but we maintain our quality. We want to do investigative stuff. We’re trying to ﬁll a gap because there is little critical reporting of the council, for example, and if we’re writing about the student occupation at the universities we can get a full article not four lines.” Mule staff work as a collective, proof-reading and scrutinising each other’s copy and providing ‘rigorous feedback, trying to work collaboratively with journalists rather than just changing their article’. They also check the validity of each other’s sources and provide training,, including editing and interview skills. The long-term ambition is to be able to pay all contributors. “Mule is important because it is part of a tradition of publications that have challenged the powerful,” says Hunt.
TERRY’S RETURN The Salford Star boasts one of the country’s most
infamous soap characters among its loyal team. Nigel Pivaro played Terry Duckworth but is now an award-winning journalist dedicated to ﬁghting injustice in his hometown, where Coronation Street is set. The former actor, now an NUJ member, gained his NCTJ qualiﬁcation and has since worked for numerous publications and television, regionally and nationally. Pivaro stomped the streets for over a year trying to
uncover corruption behind the regeneration of Salford, ﬁlming a piece for Inside Out, and sharing contacts and ideas with Salford Star led to a long-standing relationship. “People are drinking out of the same trough,” says Pivaro. “We should be asking how our money is being spent and what on but while
“Now, while the accepted story is one of the necessity of cuts when that the country’s deﬁcit is at a 300-year low, we are here to challenge that.” Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, a former chair of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, and an NUJ member, says: “I believe that independent newspapers play an important part in news delivery and democracy, but also in terms of comment. If you’re picking up a copy of a national newspaper today you know what you are going to see because they have entrenched positions and a lot is based on political commitments, regardless of the merits of the case.” Tony Harcup, senior lecturer in Journalism Studies at Shefﬁeld University, has seen the emergence of an alternative and radical press before, having worked on the former Leeds Other Paper in the 70s. “These publications can serve the role of watchdog,” he says. “Keeping an eye out, not just writing opinion but reporting and investigating. They’re clearly necessary and were at a time when local newspapers were well-staffed because they were often not taking a critical and investigative approach. But when we’re struggling to cover communities in any realistic way, because there are so few journalists, then something that stems from the community and is more interested in people’s views and news than chasing a proﬁt is vital.” Now the Manchester Evening News has left the city – after a 189-year presence – people have both the necessity and the opportunity to ﬁnd and provide news that matters to them. Harcup says: “In the best of times this journalism helps keep mainstream media on their toes, especially in a situation where it is withdrawing from communities.”
FACT FILE In Manchester 1821
Manchester Guardian founded 1868
Manchester Evening News is founded 1902
Daily Mail published 1927
Daily Express and Sunday Express published 1928
News of the World published 1930
Daily Herald published and is renamed The Sun in 1964 1940
Daily Telegraph published at the then biggest printing house in Europe 1955
Daily Mirror published 1959
Manchester Guardian renamed The Guardian
To help fund Salford Star or Mule visit:
Guardian published in London – editor moves there in 1964
newspapers rely on revenue from advertisers they’re in a difﬁcult position and exposed to the machinations of market forces, whereas the Salford Star and other independents aren’t and we can piss on anybody’s parade. “In regeneration often anybody but the local population are those that beneﬁt and exposing this is really what I love about being a journalist.” Being famous can have drawbacks as a reporter, with questions about not attending his dad’s funeral being asked before interviews, but Pivaro says: “It’s much
Sun stops production 1976 Guardian stops publishing 1985
News of the World quits Manchester 1988
Daily Mirror stops publishing 2010
more fun than being an actor. I’m interested in people, in what is happening to them. And as an actor you’re at the end of the creative process but now I’m a part of the entire process and feel I can own my story, as much as that is possible.”
Guardian Media sell Manchester Evening News to Trinity Mirror 2010
Manchester Evening News moves out after 189 years. No regional titles now produced in city centre
ANDREW YATES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
theJournalist | 11
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12 | theJournalist
David Hencke, a contributor to Tribune, on the digital archiving of the magazine’s rich history
New from old
ribune – which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year – is to leap into the 21st century with the launch of a new digital archive allowing anyone to search its entire content of 250,000 articles published since 1937. The left of centre magazine is the latest print publication to look at a way of generating new interest by capitalising on an illustrious past. It joins The Gramophone (all articles and reviews since 1923); Classic Rock magazine (from Led Zeppilin to Metallica) and possibly soon, depending on negotiations, Time Out (42 years old with one million potential web pages). The idea for a new searchable and potentially profitable digitalisation for such a variety of magazines comes from John Hazell, co founder
of a company called Netcopy. The company has put up the cash for Tribune to bring to the net a lifetime of contributions from Michael Foot, George Orwell and Bertrand Russell, just to name a few. They plan to recoup an investment not far short of £100,000 with a profit-making share of the release of the archive. Tribune, famously always short of cash, has not the money to do so itself. But the idea does not just appeal to cash-strapped Lefties, and the company’s policy of not asking firms to contribute cash up front has attracted wide appeal. It has found favour among right wing capitalists such as Lord Heseltine (owner of Haymarket which publishes The Gramophone), and newspaper groups hoping to attract passionate sport fanatics, such as the Mirror which has digitalised its entire World
Cup coverage since the 1950s to the present day. Mr Hazell explains that his idea is to get ‘new value from old content’. The aim – which could benefit many print titles – means that anybody clicking onto a website can immediately get into a hugely valuable archive. It also means that anybody searching on Google for say Michael Foot or George Orwell will also find themselves directed towards the Tribune website because of the wealth of articles by both men. As a result the magazine gets a surge of new traffic, and possibly new digital or print subscriptions adding to its growth. The company has also used enhanced technology to ensure that any magazine can launch digital subscriptions for a worldwide readership, and be read on an Ipad. It would also allow magazines to compile an instant digest or book to respond to events, almost overnight. Mr Hazell says: “If a digital archive had existed when Michael Foot died, for example, Tribune could easily have produced a book of all his articles and letters since 1937.” Scanning in the new information has also produced a series of amazing gems. One is comedian Spike Milligan interviewing the Marx brothers (not the Marx traditionally associated with Tribune), which was found hidden away in the archives. There are also archives of interest to Labour members on people the party has long forgotten – like Seymour Cocks, the Labour MP for Broxtowe (yes Labour, given it is now a Tory stronghold) from 1929 to 1953. And for historians who want to look back at the birth of CND, Tribune has key documents about the issues that led to the creation of the movement. What will be interesting is whether this new idea – which seems to be spreading, with more and more newspapers digitalising their past – can revive the media, create more jobs and attract a new internet-savvy generation to look at the past as well as the future.
Anybody searching Google for Michael Foot or George Orwell will also find themselves directed towards the Tribune website
theJournalist | 13
Rosie Niven on new ways the media mix with their communities
logging and digital media help to make journalism a more open process, yet many journalists are still hidden away in remote newsrooms far from the public view. Research by the Media Trust says that journalists are becoming less visible in their communities and this is contributing to a feeling of irrelevance and disempowerment across the wider population. The Trust’s chief executive Caroline Diehl says that those involved in the research want journalists, local news and local newspapers back at the heart of their communities. “They want to see and know local journalists, want them to ‘walk the beat’ and engage face to face,” she notes. One problem is that many journalists are no longer based in the heart of the community. Peter Lazenby, chairman of the Leeds NUJ branch, joined the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1972. It was there that he was introduced to the windowless, open-plan office which replaced the ‘rabbit warren of offices’ in Leeds city centre that journalists inhabited until 1970. “The building, which is today considered an eyesore, removed reporters and ad reps from front-line contact with the public who used to call in at the city centre shop-front, but who wouldn’t walk the half a mile to the new offices.” While media organisations frequently seek to engage consumers through social media and open investigation, the opportunities for direct contact between journalists and their communities does not appear to be increasing at the same pace. In fact, some journalists think this detachment is getting worse. “In my experience reporters’ face to face contact with the public has declined dramatically,” Lazenby says. “We used to go out onto our patches, visit pubs and community centres, have a drink and chat. This unearthed characters in the communities we served. “Today we are chained to our keyboards and telephones. Repeated staff cuts and demands for constant copy flows leaves no time to do the job as we used to do it.” Paul Lewis, The Guardian’s special projects editor, says that most journalists would like to get out of the newsroom more, although he admits to being more fortunate than most.
In search of a
cafe culture “We’re not badly staffed at The Guardian, but I think every good hack knows that they’re not going to stumble across stories on their desk. Meeting people is what it is all about.” The Guardian is one of the media organisations that are taking steps to reconnect their journalists with the public. When the newspaper moved out of its 1960s Farringdon Road offices to Regent’s Place near London’s King’s Cross station in 2008 one of its requirements was to have public space to exhibit its journalists’ work. While there is an entrance for staff, visitors can get a coffee and visit the exhibition in the public area next door. Modest as this concession to openness may be, it points to a greater commitment from media organisations to making the journalism
I think every good hack knows that they’re not going to stumble across stories on their desk
14 | theJournalist
process more transparent. There are currently more ambitious plans afoot at the BBC, which is in the latter stage of a massive redevelopment project at Broadcasting House. A recent issue of the Corporation’s staff magazine Ariel says the New Broadcasting House welcomes people without a BBC pass. Staff and members of the public will share the canteen and the plaza outside the new entrance. Pedestrians can even take a short cut through a public thoroughfare dissecting the building and keep an eye on journalists at work in the newsroom from a viewing gallery. The BBC’s leased buildings in Salford’s Media City are also designed to help the Corporation become more outward looking and inclusive. However, while the BBC seeks to become more open, of course it has to balance this with a duty of care to its staff. It remains to be seen how these more open arrangements will work in practice, but the BBC insists that it will not allow the enhanced
VIEW Pictures Ltd/Alamy
open engagement Shoreham Bfong Project
visibility and accessibility to compromise the safety and security of its staff or broadcasting. A spokeswoman said: ‘The design of the building and the way in which it will be run will ensure that visitors can enjoy the space and learn more about the BBC . But access to working and broadcasting areas will be strictly controlled.’
f course, many journalists now find the concept of working from a big corporate newsroom quite alien. Freelance journalist and digital strategist Kevin Anderson, formerly a staffer at the BBC and The Guardian, says that when working in the field his office was a cafe. “If you work in a cafe, you get out and about and talking to people,” he observes. And some staff journalists are joining Anderson in swapping their desk for a table in a cafe. The most famous example was the Naše Adresa project in the Czech Republic, which produced a newspaper from cafes across Prague.
When residents of Shoreham-onSea saw that an empty shop had been taken over, they discovered that it had been turned into a newsroom for one day only. The project, organised by the Brighton Future of News Group (Bfong) and Dan Robinson, a social entrepreneur who specialises in reusing empty shops on a temporary basis, brought together journalists and members to tell the story of Shoreham through words and pictures. Bfong host Sarah Booker says some locals came to the event because they wanted to talk about Shoreham with journalists, while others were simply curious about what was happening in the shop. Bfong member Judith Townend, says the shop offered a sociable and less formal setting. She says one interviewee wanted to see how her story would be presented, and before it went online they looked at it together. “It wouldn’t be a suitable or efficient way to conduct all journalism clearly, but it was interesting to make use of the time and informal environment and be able to experiment with different methods for these types
of blog features,” she notes. http://shorehambfongproject. tumblr.com/
reason for people to drop in?” http://www.leedstrinity. ac.uk/news_events/news/ Pages/Leeds_Community_ News_Hub_opens_for_ business.aspx
Leeds Community Hub
News: From the Field
The Guardian and Leeds Trinity University Collage’s collaboration is prompted by a desire to connect with the community and to help them unearth the stories that matter to them. “We had very good working relationship with Leeds Trinity journalism school, which also wants to reach out into the community so it seemed a good match,” says Sarah Hartley, Guardian Local’s launch editor. The project has been marketed at community groups and people active in their neighbourhoods. Hartley says this kind of project is particularly important for those who are not digitally engaged at present. But she admits that the community hub is not a particularly new idea. “I remember in the late 90s when I worked at Northern Echo there was an experiment with an internet cafe below the Darlington newsroom,’ she recalls. “I don’t know how successful that was for newsgathering or co-operation but why not provide another
When Kelly Metz’s newspaper The Morning Journal was building up its relationship with readers through social media, she read that The Register Citizen in Connecticut was opening a newsroom café in its building. She decided to create her own version in Lorain, Ohio. “We have a growing relationships with readers over these social media outlets, however, they still don’t really see us,” she says. “Because we don’t have that option of a cafe newsroom here, I decided to turn a small corner of a coffee shop into the newsroom.” Metz approached the owner of a café who agreed and also let her post on his Facebook page. While she says readers haven’t come with ideas in person, they like the fact she is making herself known. “If newsrooms don’t think they should be more open to the readers, they might as well plan an eventual decline in readership both in the online and print editions.” http://fieldlessons.wordpress. com/
The project ended last year, but not before it attracted the interest of journalists worldwide. US newspapers are further ahead than those in the UK in delivering the newsrooms cafe concept. The Register Citizen in Connecticut is the most famous example of this development. It is currently in the process of launching a newsroom cafe, community media lab, community journalism school and a local news library in New Haven. In the UK, Professor Natalie Fenton of Goldsmiths University and the author of Media Trust’s report suggests an alternative approach – creating local authority-backed news hubs. These would bring together communities and professional journalists to identify, investigate and report local news. The Media Trust suggests that the BBC could
play a vital role in setting up and resourcing such hubs. However, one of the first examples of this concept is a joint project between The Guardian and Leeds Trinity University College’s journalism department which has created a community hub. Lazenby, along with many of the other journalists, appears to welcome moves to reconnect journalists with the community. However, he does think the newsroom cafe idea is a non-starter in those regional newspapers that are stuck on industrial estates. But the move to embed journalists in the surrounding communities is not just about getting more stories. For Kevin Anderson, it is also about being a good ambassador for an organisation: “Being a good member of the community is a good commercial decision.” theJournalist | 15
Digging through data irst it was the industrial scale leak on MPs’ expenses to the Daily Telegraph. Then that was capped by the Wikileaks disclosures to The Guardian of US embassy cables. Now the Government has got in on the act by releasing streams of data from Whitehall, and local government is following with councils having to publish every contract above £500. Never has so much information been released for analysis by journalists and never have there been so few journalists capable of keeping pace with the avalanche of statistics. Ironically, just at the point when the industry is still reeling from coping with 24/7 coverage and local papers are desperately short of staff, a wealth of new information that could provide thousands of stories has just been dumped on journalists’ desks. Data journalism – mining stories from statistics – is seen as the next big thing. Just as the internet and the mobile phone revolutionised the ability of journalists to get instant information and to contact people, the provision of data has added a new dimension. Some believe it could supplant traditional journalism. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the world wide web and is on the Government’s public sector transparency board, claimed recently: “Data/arts/ driven journalism is the future. Journalists need to /study/courses www.city.ac.uk l be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories m nalism-ma.ht interactive-jour lism na by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that ur Jo Interactive The new MA in you’ll do it that way sometimes. “But now it’s also going to be about poring over co.uk/data www.guardian. data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse information Interesting data it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it ch www.wikileaks. at all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.” yone is looking er ev The website There is a danger that enthusiasm for the latest fad outstrips its potential contribution and ignores its .co.uk www.govdata ers’ limitations. Freedom of information, for example, has covering minist ts se ta da 0 5,60 ts pay, made a big contribution to the creation of new stories, but an rv , top civil se expenses, gifts the long delays and battles in getting information mean 0 er £25,00 and contracts ov that it can be more useful for authors than journalists, as it can take months or years to get hold of vital documents. The stories that have had the biggest impact – the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of MPs’ expenses and the two
tranches of Wikileaks documents in The Guardian– mean mining through huge amounts of data and e-mails. But both would never have had the impact if journalists did not have traditional skills and resources to sift through the information in the first place. Of course, the Wikileaks revelations were also somewhat augmented by the dramatic arrest of its founder Julian Assange for alleged sexual offences, and the clamour for retribution for the leaks by some in the US. The Telegraph’s exposure of MPs’ expenses required the setting up of a special team of political and investigative journalists to pull together all the information and carry out the investigation: checking receipts, MPs’ addresses, chasing up information from the Land Registry, and then seeking an explanation from every minister and MP involved. The Telegraph devised its own unique computer program to read and analyse all the expenses information on the leaked disks to facilitate journalists searching for information on MPs. It was the skill in piecing together this information that has led to the conviction of some MPs for false accounting; the raw data itself only provided the clues. Similarly, the Wikileaks operation required not only journalists to sift through hundreds of diplomatic cables and
.uk/index.php/ www.biolap.co .html councilexpenses ove on contracts ab es ns Council expe items. al du vi di in k to chec £500 with tool itter. Tw eunisVilijeon on For updates: Th
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David Hencke examines the potential of data-based journalism and finds traditional skills and moles remain vital
pot.com/ and storycurve.blogs g /journalism/blo www.bbc.co.uk ure at fe is th in raised Blogs on issues ordpress.com davidhencke.w hich mchair Audits w Ar My blog with orising th au e ar le who investigate peop rvices. cuts in public se and advocating
16 | theJournalist
reports – a huge task in itself – but it also needed people with a knowledge of the Iraq War, Afghanistan, the Middle East and NATO, to name just a few examples, in order to use their knowledge and contacts to turn data into stories. The Wikileaks operation, which also requires help from a large number of students at the Bureau for Investigative Journalism at City University, is still in its infancy. The massive scale of the leaks – some 250,000 documents – means there is much more to come. So far The Guardian has covered a mere fraction, about 700 documents.
he decision by the Government to release all spending above £25,000 and all contracts above £500 for local councils has led to an extraordinary flood of information that does require more than just basic journalist skills to uncover. So far 5,600 databases have been put on the new website datagov.uk, covering everything from ministerial expenses and gifts to the growing number of deaths and injuries among Ministry of Defence personnel. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who decided to
It also needed people with knowledge of the Iraq War, the Middle East, NATO
do this, admitted it was ‘risky’ since the information released could be used for any purpose, not just the government’s aim of making Whitehall and local government more efficient. Local councils are releasing details of contracts, and one enterprising business intelligence company is providing a free service using software which allows you to burrow down to individual contracts in councils. Biolap has a council expenses dashboard on its webpage and people can follow its chief executive TheunisVilijeon on Twitter as he tweets each council that releases its results. He told me: “I decided to do this as a public service. I have asked councils to put a link to the dashboard on their websites but they don’t seem keen to do it”. I wonder why. The presentation of such information is going to require the techies who mine the data and design websites to work together with journalists who can spot stories and have ideas of what the public would like to know. Presentation is going to be key. It is here that journalists will require new skills – from using an Excel spreadsheet to higher skills in using software to develop information already being released on databases. theJournalist | 17
So far, there is little training of journalists to do this job. This September however, City University is adding to its wide range of journalism courses with a fresh option at the cutting edge of this new development. Jonathan Hewett, director of Interactive and Newspaper Journalism, is launching an MA in Interactive Journalism. He believes that by combining basic journalists skills with detailed knowledge of how to use databases and present them using mapping techniques, interactive graphics and working with social media sites, it will be possible to train journalists who could turn out to be very employable in an uncertain world. He has also found that sending students out to cover events such as local councils is as useful as ever, as they pick up stories that no local paper is covering because nobody is there; a fact that suggests you need more than data crunching. Data journalism is beginning to take off in a growing number of news organisations such as The Guardian, Financial Times and, in a smaller way, The Times, BBC and Channel 4 FactCheck. Simon Rogers, editor of guardian.co.uk/data, is one of the pioneers of the new approach â€“ having moved from graphic
It will be possible to train journalists who, in an uncertain world, could turn out to be very employable
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design to heading a unit which has covered everything from MPsâ€™ expenses to Wikileaks. He is adamant that web designers and journalists have to work together to get the best results, because the journalists are able to sift through the vital information from a huge pile of data. â€œYou need experienced journalists to run their eye over the data to highlight the facts,â€? he says. There are, however, a number of sceptics â€“ notably Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism. He believes that there is a mismatch between the flood of information and the number of journalists who are around to compile the stories. Nor does he accept that data journalism and using the net will ever replace proper investigative journalism. He wrote in a blog recently: â€œInvestigative journalism is much more than sifting data or collecting data that would otherwise have remained uncollected.â€? In my view it could be said that Sir Tim Berners-Lee has over-egged the role of data journalism and ignored the vital role of a source in the pub. Francis Maude is right to be worried. A good journalist will leap at all the fresh information, and then have a drink with a Whitehall mole to tell him or her how to use it in the most devastating way to undermine him.
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18 | theJournalist
David Ayrton is assistant organiser for the NUJ’s publishing team
THE NUJ AND ME
I guess it must be Adolf! See above – but perhaps the term ‘villain’ is rather an understatement.
What made you become a union organiser?
James Connolly, Soong Ching-ling, Michael Foot, Karl Marx, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexandra Kollontai.
I’ve always been a committed trade union activist so working for a union is like being a professional footballer. I am employed for doing what I love and what I have done much of my life for no pay.
What other job might you have done? I started out as a shunter in the rail freight yards in Doncaster, after my time as a British Rail ofﬁce messenger. So I guess I might have continued to be a rail worker.
When did you join the NUJ and why? Nine years ago when I was appointed an ofﬁcial for the union although I’ve always been a member of other trade unions. PHOTOS BY SIMON DACK/KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES AND TRINITY MIRROR/MIRRORPIX/ALAMY
damnedest to make sure that the coal was mined in order to fuel the ﬁght.
Are many of your friends and family in a union? Many of my friends are trade unionists as I’ve always been active in the labour movement.
What’s been your best moment in your career? In my union career I think my best work was as an activist in the rail strike of 1989, which served to fetter some of the assault of the Thatcher government on the trade unions.
And in the union? In the NUJ my best work has probably been organising the campaign against the dismissal (on the eve of the Iraq war) by the BBC of two senior Arab journalists who were critical of Britain’s stance on the war.
And the worst ones? Five years of unemployment in the early 1980s as a consequence of the Tory government’s policy of deindustrialisation.
What was your earliest political thought?
What is the worst place you’ve worked in?
As a boy I was passionately opposed to racism as I had a very good friend called Clifford, whose family came from Jamaica. Ever since I have been committed to the struggle for equality and against discrimination.
As a spot-welder at a tractor manufacturer. I really came to know what alienation from one’s labour was about. Nothing I welded ever looked anything like the tractors we produced and I didn’t know what the part I was working on would be in the ﬁnal product!
And the best?
What are your hopes for journalism in the next five years? Michael for dinner..
The best places I have worked are here at the NUJ and as a part-time history tutor at Warwick University under the stewardship of James Hinton, whom I greatly admire.
That due to cuts in journalism, a lack of specialisation will have negative consequences on the quality of information available.
To focus on your professional ethics and the social role of objective journalists as the only major provider of reliable information about the events in the world.
Join the NUJ – you’d be crazy not to!
Who is your biggest hero? The great Second World War mineworkers’ leader Arthur Horner. He was supremely committed to the military victory over fascism and he did his
That a renewed focus on objectivity and genuine independence be achieved. That there will be a move away from sensationalism and that quality journalism will serve to genuinely inform.
And your fears?
What advice would you give to someone starting in journalism?
What advice would you give a new freelance?
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite to a dinner party?
What one thing would you most want to change in the next 12 months? ... and miners’ hero Horner
A change in the trade union movement to shift from a reactive and defensive stance towards a more offensive, yet constructive, approach.
Who would you like to see join the NUJ? Robert Fisk of The Independent
How would you like to be remembered? ‘He wasn’t too bad when you got to know him’. theJournalist | 19
Kim Farnell on the perils of content management and using templates
Heading goes here NOTE
ords can be pesky things. Sometimes, they take on a life of their own and have to be organised, controlled. Even more so now that so many of them are turning up unsupervised on the internet. Obviously the only answer is to get them under control,to manage them in some way. That’s exactly what a content management system (CMS) is supposed to do – a process that is becoming the bane of many journalists’ lives as systems are rolled out across news organisations, radically changing working patterns and jobs. Content management is the set of processes and technologies that support the collection, managing, and publishing of information. Along with newspapers, many other organisations like e-commerce websites, educational institutions and use content management systems. In newspapers now it may be increasingly contentious but it isn’t a completely new idea – in many ways, it’s been happening for years. Defined sections and lay-outs are reserved for things such as weather reports, TV listings and classified ads. Using a CMS extends this to news. Editors get a limited number of templates to choose from for section fronts. Each spot has a number, and the section editor decides which story and photos go in particular holes. At some point, someone needs to check that all the holes are filled and that everything looks OK. On the plus side, a CMS makes it easy to create and update content quickly. And, of course, it can save a fortune. If reporters directly input stories to template lay-outs, you can bypass sub-editors and production editors. On the negative side, a CMS makes it easy to create and update content quickly. Many systems don’t have the ability to track revisions in text meaning that it can be impossible to tell who messed up or to restore older versions of edited text. Content managements systems are simply a form of new technology that can make journalists lives easier – depending on how they’re used. The problem comes with the attitude that sub-editors and page designers are no longer necessary when reporters can type their copy into boxes. Reporters are expected to write their stories straight to page, supply headlines, and get it right first time. As well as
the obvious tasks of checking their writing is grammatically correct, they also need to be alert to potential libel, reporting restrictions etc. And they need to be prepared to fit more work into the working day. The idea that stories are ‘content’ and a product that can fit neatly into boxes gives rise to the idea that you’re writing for computers rather than people. And it results in a fundamental shift in attitude from the model that something is mocked up and approved before being printed to one that allows publication of copy that can be changed and deleted once it’s live – or when it’s too late. The approach that some newspapers are adopting towards using a CMS is summed up in an Atex workflow memo sent to Johnston Press editors by Paul Bentham, JP’s managing director. Best practice is for all pages to be templated – those requiring bespoke lay-outs should be processed through the central hub. All locally written stories must be ordered out to reporters and written using Incopy to fit the requested page shape... Editors need to ensure that the policy of ‘right first time’ is embedded in the newsroom culture. They should not however continue with the old practice of reading every story. Editors should evaluate the risk for each story based on content and the seniority of the journalist and act accordingly. It was the content of this memo that prompted the NUJ to write to the Press Complaints Commission to complain that
when it goes wrong Bedfordshire’s free Times & Citizen newspaper has a
circulation of more than 58,000. It also now has one of the most famous front pages ever. Last summer the paper accidentally ran the headline headghgh. Helpfully, the instruction strapline for the main story ‘like this if needed’ appeared directly above. Apparently, the front page had been sent off with the correct headline intact, but somewhere along the line it reverted to a template. A bemused reader snapped a photo on his phone and posted it on Twitter. Within a few hours he’d sent it to the journalist
Grace Dent, and on Friday morning the comedian Peter Serafinowicz retweeted it to his 391,000 followers. It was then picked up by the Guardian’s Media Monkey and appeared in the Huffington Post on Saturday. By then, the original photo had received 57,000 hits. Within a couple of days, CitizenBB, who originally posted the photo, had put the t-shirt up for sale. If that were the only incident, it might have been forgotten more quickly. But it is far from being alone; there are many examples. There have been blank spaces galore elsewhere: the accidental decapitation of a jazz band in The
Scarborough Evening News, and the familiar ‘write caption, standfirst or byline here’. There has been plenty of talk about misaligned or even missing pictures, and journalists having problems in formatting the content properly. And more than enough warnings that with fewer staff and fewer checks, more errors would get through. But no-one expected the t-shirt.
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Reporters are expected to write their stories straight to page, supply headlines – and get it right first time
JP journalists were being ordered to compromise editorial standards and put accuracy at risk. And, of course, whether or not copy is checked doesn’t change the fact that the editor of a newspaper is still legally responsible for the content. The editor will still be the one hauled up in court for any transgressions.
ngela Phillips, a senior media lecturer at Goldsmith’s College, says: “In many ways we need subs more when we use CMS and work at speed because it’s very easy for mistakes to be made. When employers suggest that CMS doesn’t require subs it must be remembered that they said that in the early ‘80s when direct input first came in. All responsible newspapers realised pretty fast that reporting and subbing are two different specialisms and they brought the subs back again.” But sub-editors are being lost or moved to centralised subbing hubs across the country, triggering not only workload issues but disconnection with local knowledge. Atex has made it clear why companies should buy its systems – to cut costs. Forward-looking publishers are no longer in the newspaper business; they are in the content business.
Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Plus ça change: a bygone Daily Express newsroom tries to get it right first time
True newsroom management has surpassed editorial production as the necessary requirement to manage content, resources and delivery channels capable of driving the enterprise to maximum efficiency at minimum cost. This approach makes no allowance for potential advantages of a good CMS – including the ability to include live links for the web in stories. With sub-editors being seen as superfluous, jobs are disappearing fast and from places once thought of as subs’ papers. The Mirror last year cut more than 200 jobs with the implementation of ContentWatch – the group’s CMS. The assumption behind this is that going digital means fewer staff. No matter that content still needs to be written and checked by someone. Pages still need to be designed at some point. And, unless cookie cutter newspapers are what’s aimed at, even templates need to be updated. And staff using the system claim that, far from cutting production time, being slow and buggy means that it actually slows down production. The Mirror sees itself as moving towards a digital future. Staff see the introduction of a CMS as a cost cutting exercise. A CMS is simply a piece of software – a tool. Used well, it can make it easier for journalists to do their jobs. Or it can simply be an excuse for shedding those jobs. theJournalist | 21
Susan Coughtrie went to Europe’s poorest country to find a rich area of work
itting in a crowded conference room last Spring, it was taking all my energy to concentrate. I was listening to a panel of experts talk about multiculturalism and the need for better interethnic relations. It was an interesting topic but I could only understand every fifth word or so. After a while, my head was aching from the sheer effort of listening. I was in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The press conference was in Russian, and when it was over the extent of the challenge I’d set myself sank in. It was my third day working for a local Russian language newspaper and, while I’d been learning Russian for more than two years, reality proved harder than the classroom. I’d decided to step into the unknown and move to Moldova for three months. After a year of failing to find work in the UK relating to my MA in Russian and Eastern European studies, I was ready for a challenge. The opportunity to see life in a former Soviet republic, practise my Russian and do something constructive seemed the perfect solution. Sadly there is little written in English about this small corner of Eastern Europe. If people have heard of Moldova, it tends to be because of negative stereotypes, not helped by its status as Europe’s poorest country. As I began shadowing my new colleagues, I didn’t experience a culture shock, but rather a kind of information tsunami. I went to hospitals and universities, lectures and press conferences, and learnt more than I ever thought I would need to know on topics as varied as medical science and the construction industry. A welcome discovery was the pluses that come with being a journalist – complimentary stationery and considerable amounts of free food and drink. 22 | theJournalist
Even Google Translate, a tool I frequently used, had its limits
A couple of weeks later my first article, a full-page interview with a Moldovan artist, was published. When I went to one of the many news kiosks on the way home from work, I had to resist the strong urge to open the paper right there and show the slightly confused woman why I wanted to buy four copies. Flicking through and seeing my byline – in Cyrillic no less – was a thrilling moment. The following weeks went by in a whirlwind of excitement and frustration. The latter was often the result of the language barrier. Even if my Russian was slowly improving, there were times when I struggled to communicate. Russian, while widely spoken in Chisinau, is not the country’s official language. That is Moldovan, a form of Romanian. Even Google Translate, a tool I used frequently, had its limits. To overcome this, I began to build up a network of English speaking contacts and seek out my own stories. There is a significant number of international organisations with offices in Moldova, such as the World Bank, the EU and of course various embassies. The British Ambassador and his staff were extremely helpful and supportive. It became surprisingly straightforward to find people willing to speak to me. In a country with few foreigners, the novelty of being one certainly worked in my favour. While getting material became easier, it was sometimes difficult to get articles published. As I was writing in another language it meant extra work for my editor to get them ready for printing. However, this was not the only problem. The paper focused on social issues and like many Moldovan media outlets it was keen to stay away from anything that could appear too ‘political’. Figuring out what this applied to was baffling.
While preparing for my interview with the artist for my first feature, I was surprised to be told that a question about her hopes for the future of the Moldovan art scene would be potentially contentious. The issues I encountered, while sometimes testing on a personal level, were at the same time thought provoking. I realised how fortunate I was to have grown up in an environment in which freedom of speech and media integrity are norms. After I finished at the newspaper, I spent two weeks working for the Centre for Independent Journalism (IJC) which aims to engender a more independent and impartial press in Moldova.
he few days I spent at the IJC had a huge impact both on my opinion of journalism in Moldova and my own abilities as journalist. Being able to write in English helped significantly, but it was writing about politics that really excited me. I was given the opportunity to cover a conference on the transition to democracy after totalitarianism, and contributed three articles to the centre’s news website. It was the first time I had felt I could properly call myself a journalist. Last October, with funding from the EU, I returned to Moldova and to the IJC, where I will be until July. I am fortunate enough to have been given the freedom to write about what interests me, and currently Moldova is a very exciting place to be politically, economically and socially. There is a smorgasbord of events happening in the capital every week – on topics such as EU integration, the frozen ‘conflict’ with Transneistra, relations with Russia, and immigration. Recently, I’ve had greater opportunities to cover
stories and interact with people at a much higher level than I would do starting out in the UK. Before I came to Moldova, I wasn’t sure that journalism would be for me. Now, this country has not only shown me how important good journalism is, but inspired me to want to be a part of it.
media in moldova The media landscape in Moldova is
undergoing unprecedented transformation. Once heavily state controlled, it is increasingly stepping out of the authorities’ shadows. Last year saw a sharp rise in new private media outlets, including two national TV channels and several newspapers. The catalyst has been the political power change in 2009 from the long incumbent Communist Party to a coalition of parties known as the Alliance for European Integration. This more liberal government, whose main goals include Moldova’s entry into the European Union, has allowed greater press freedom. But in Europe’s poorest country, economic factors have long replaced state censorship as the primary dictator of
editorial policy. Aside from the state-run media, news organisations have to operate as businesses and journalistic content often reflects the political views of those on whom the publication is dependent financially. Reporters are less free to cover politically contentious topics for fear of losing advertising or private funding. Yet while bias and partisanship are still evident, there are signs of improvement. Greater efforts are placed on adhering to journalistic ethics and there is a developing number of civil society organisations which actively monitor and report on media behaviour. Last year, Reporters without Borders placed Moldova 75th on its Press Freedom Index, a significant improvement on the previous year’s ranking of 114th.
theJournalist | 23
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
INDEPTH INTO THE STREET ART ZONE Street Art: Contemporary prints from the V&A Touring
Music Folk ‘n’ fun in April Plans are underway to make the week running up to May Day a special one for folk music enthusiasts. Folk Against Fascism week is being organised by the eponymous organisation formed to draw on the decent traditions of the British and Irish folk movements to curb the growth of extreme right, racist politics in Britain. The organisation promises lots of events under the Folk Against Fascism banner from April 23 to May 2. The organisers are keen to hear from local folk club, bands and festival organisers who want to help the project. Details of Folk Against Fascism activities are available at www.folkagainstfascism.com
Dates are: 02 Academy, Newcastle March 4; HMV Picture House, Edinburgh March 6; 02 Academy, Liverpool 8; Rock City, Nottingham March 9; HMV Apollo, Hammersmith, London March 11; 02 Academy, Leeds March 12; 02 Academy, Leicester March 13; The Regal, Oxford March 15; Corn Exchange, Cambridge March 17; Dome, Brighton March 18, 02 Academy, Birmingham March 19; University of East Anglia, Norwich March 21; Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth March 22; 02 Academy, Bristol March 24; 02 Academy, Shefﬁeld March 25; Academy, Manchester March 26 and then Wilko plays a few dates on his own at Boardwalk, Shefﬁeld April 2; The Fleece, Bristol April 6 and Fibbers, York May 27.
The Stranglers and Wilko Punk icons The Stranglers whose rat-infested songs plagued both the album and singles charts through the subsequent decade are touring with original Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson.
Jarvis Jives Back Jarvis Cocker’s Pulp have reformed to play a series of major gigs in 2011 with two major festivals – Isle of Wight, June 10 to 12 – alongside other names such as Kings of Leon, Kasabian, Foo Fighters, Iggy and the
Street Art is a diverse, constantly evolving
art form, one that moves across derelict buildings, bus shelters and hoardings of cities across the world. Grafﬁti galleries on the internet take the street art scene from local to global, in your face but transient. The genre is as difﬁcult to pin down as it is to deﬁne – shifting rules apply. Street art has its roots in history, echoing cave paintings and stenciled slogans and images in political campaigning. Urban art delivers social commentary while illustrating the subconscious of the 21st century city. Traditional genres are newly interpreted: portraiture, surrealism, pop art. Random references and symbols run through the street art story. Warhol’s kids stencil ﬁlm stars, political propagandists take on the self-promoting signature taggers. Narratives emerge, visual worlds are created. Politics are less discussed, more shouted. A psychedelic sense of visual humour bounces through. Everything is a fair subject. Spiky comments on the state of the world exist alongside images of forgotten celebrities of yesteryear. There is no common aesthetic, more an attitude. Irreverence, democracy and freedom. The V&A has collected works in an effort to capture an ephemeral contemporary aesthetic and a form of printmaking that have inﬂuenced mainstream graphics. Most notably, recent advertising has been using the language of street
stencils, plundering underground visuals in an effort to appeal to the young consumer. There exists an energetic production of websites and magazines that archive this work, created by a network of peers. The one deﬁning feature of the genre is its accessibility. It is unexpectedly available for view on the boarded up windows on your high street, or shared on the internet for all to see. Although street art is a genre deﬁned by its outsider status, some galleries are now exhibiting it, bringing it in from the outside. The V&A has traditionally collected new forms of printmaking, as well as ephemera and various forms of graphic art. Artists use varying methods of image-making, ranging from simple stenciling to digitally printing multiple stickers, all of which can be grouped together under the heading ‘printmaking’. Catch V&A’s touring street art exhibitions all this year and into 2012 at: The Civic, Barnsley from now until 23 March; Black Rat Press Gallery, London, April 14-29; Nottingham Castle and Museum, July 2 – September 25; Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent, October 8 – November 27; Ulster Museum, Belfast, December 9-4 March 2012; Bradford One Gallery, March 17 – June 10; Tullie House, Carlisle, September 22 – December 9. Alf Martin
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arts Stooges, Seasick Steve, Tom Jones, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Boy George. They will also be headlining the Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London, July 1 to 3, and the rumours are going around that they could also be one of the acts for this year’s Glastonbury Festival. www.pulppeople.com Fundraising events Get ‘Em Off Now in its fourth year, celebrities and shoppers will support the biennial Cancer Research UK campaign across the country. Last time it raised £3.2million worth of donations for groundbreaking research and this year aims to raise even more. Give Up Clothes for Good is the UK’s largest ever clothes collection. From April 5 – 25, TK Maxx, HomeSense and Cancer Research UK are joining forces to ask the nation to donate their unwanted quality clothes and home wares to help beat childhood cancers. Strip your wardrobes as bare as you dare, ﬁll up any bag and drop it off in your nearest TK Maxx or HomeSense store. There’s a ‘celebrity auction’ of donations from people in the public eye between March 25 – April 1. All proceeds will go to Cancer Research
UK. For more details on how to support the campaign, visit www.tkmaxx.com/clothes.
Stirring media passion: Fay Godwin at Bradford’s National Media Museum
Once more, with Wilko: The Stranglers
Woody Sez Musical Woody Sez is the award-winning, foot-stomping, heartfelt theatrical journey through the life of America’s greatest folk icon, Woody Guthrie.
Love Music Love Food LoveMusicLoveFood is a project that aims to raise funds and awareness for Teenage Cancer Trust, combining passions for music, food and photography in a collection of images portraying musicians with their favourite food or drink. It’s been made possible by the collaboration of celebrities to create a series of images that will form two books available later this year. The proceeds, after print costs, will go to Teenage Cancer Trust which builds units in NHS hospitals to improve the quality of life and chances of survival for young people with cancer. A selection of images will be exhibited at the Royal Albert Hall to coincide with numerous gigs at the venue from March 21 until April 18. firstname.lastname@example.org History National Media Museum Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1NQ If you have a passion for media The National Media Museum in Bradford is the place to be. The Museum is home to seven ﬂoors of interactive galleries, three cinemas, including
Yorkshire’s only IMAX cinema, plus two temporary exhibition spaces A packed programme of exhibitions and events covers photography, ﬁlm, animation, television and gaming. Entry to the Museum and exhibitions is free, but donations will support the work of the Museum and preserve the collections. To ﬁnd out more go to: www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk. To mark the 25th anniversary of the very successful exhibition and book, Land, celebrating British landscape by Fay Godwin, one the the great landscape photographers, Land Revisited is currently exhibiting at the Museum and runs until March 27. Coming soon is The Lives of Great Photographers – April 14 to September 4. From photographs by William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret, Cameron and Eadweard Muybridge to Tony Ray-Jones and Weegee, the exhibition highlights some of the most famous and historically memorable images ever produced and illuminates the extraordinary and sometimes exceptional lives that the photographers led. This exhibition will present a selection of photographs by some of the greatest photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk
ET K C TI FER OF
Weaving together Guthrie’s words and songs, Woody Sez paints an engaging portrait of this folk hero’s fascinating life. Featuring a talented cast of multi-instrumental musician/ actors, this show brims with infectious enjoyment. With such classic songs as This Land is Your Land and Bound for Glory, it’s easy to see why Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash idolized Woody, and why his music continues to inspire some of today’s finest songwriters including Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Billy Bragg. Don’t miss the limited West End engagement of the show that has audiences and critics on both sides of the pond cheering. Don’t miss Woody Sez.
Top price tickets for £25 (normally priced £39.50) Call Box Office 020 7907 7092 and quote “Dustbowl” theJournalist | 25
We should stand up for Murdoch’s paywalls I read with interest Raymond Snoddy’s appraisal of the Rupert Murdoch paywall versus the Guardian’s open and free approach to the internet. While Mr Snoddy’s article was very even-handed, the cover illustration of the December/January issue was anything but. It may be useful to recall Rupert’s ‘other big risk’, the investment in Sky TV. At the time he sunk virtually all his print group profits into this project and was thought, by many, to be mad! I am sure Mr Murdoch would agree that, in a free market economy, people only truly value that for which they pay. Therefore, as journalists, we should hope, nay pray, that his paywalls are a success because when we start giving away our talent for nothing, nothing is all it’s worth. Paul Myles London
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH News Corp’s power grab must be stopped It was a pleasure to be one of the speakers at the packed public meeting organised by the NUJ in the House of Commons against the takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch. I thought the tremendous response demonstrated two things. Firstly, there is widespread public concern across all age ranges. It was noticeable how many younger people turned up to the event. Secondly, politicians turned out too, and many more who weren’t there will by now have been alerted to the fact that Murdoch’s power grab has to be stopped. The public and politicians have become aware of just how much media Murdoch controlled before the plan to take over BSkyB emerged. So congratulations to the NUJ and the campaign work by 38 degrees and the CPBF to build public awareness. However, we need to think about what happens next. Murdoch is desperate to avoid a lengthy Competition
Commission investigation and we know that he has held talks with the DCMS to offer remedies, like selling Sky News, to avoid one. We have to keep up the pressure and argue that vital decisions on media plurality should not be made in backroom deals by Conservative ministers like Jeremy Hunt who are on record for their admiration of Murdoch. Granville Williams West Yorkshire
World Service cuts will hit diversity in the media The proposed loss of 650 jobs at BBC World Service and the closure of five foreign language services has been rightly condemned by the National Union of Journalists. A similar idea was suggested by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and was described as ‘profane’ by Lord Carrington. He clearly understood the value of the station as a leading voice in international broadcasting and its reputation across the world for ethical
reporting. What he probably didn’t realise was that the World Service employs a large proportion of the BBC’s staff from black and minority ethnic communities. While the rest of the media, particularly the newspaper sector, has either struggled or been reluctant to employ black and minority ethnic journalists, the BBC has endeavoured to lose its ‘hideously white’ label and work towards its staff reflecting the communities it serves. The loss of these jobs and those at the threatened BBC Asian Network will reduce the diversity of BBC’s staff at a stroke and will drastically reduce the number of black and ethnic minority journalists working in the British media and those reporting on international issues. This action is a further example of the Government pursuing a policy of decimating quality public services without stopping to consider the consequences. NUJ Black Members’ Council
Civil servants can’t expect subsidised pensions Laura Cockram suggests (Letters, October/November) that we should support the demand of civil servants to continue to have their pensions subsidised. Most of us in the private sector do not have pensions subsidised by anyone; many can’t afford private pensions, and know that they will have little money in old age; yet they still have to pay towards the pensions of public sector employees, at least half of whose pension payments come from the rest of us. Public sector employees are also outraged by any suggestion that they might work beyond 60. Given the ages most people live to these days, that is ridiculous. They were originally given these and other perks because they were paid less than private sector workers, but that hasn’t been the case since the 80s, when our hours and workloads increased while our pay was cut. Public sector workers have long been protected from that sort of treatment. They don’t usually work long hours, and there’s a far greater tolerance of time off for illness and other things. It’s ridiculous that their pensions and their early retirement are partly paid for by people who work harder than they do and get paid less. Sheila Miller London
Pensioners and ageism? You’re having a laugh I write in support of Roy Jones’ splendid letter about clichéd media attitudes to senior citizens. (December/January). Having experienced 3,000 rejections after my redundancy from a company newspaper when I was 48, I launched myself into tourism just as my severance money was running out. Last year – disgusted by the ageism in Britain – I tried my hand as a stand-up comic, specialising in material relating to pensioners, in the inaugural London Fringe Festival. My hour-long act, The Age of Arthritis, ran for six nights and received good reviews.
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This January, after I had written in support of a 61-year interviewed about his job-seeking difficulties, I was invited by BBC Radio 4’s PM programme to do part of my act in their studio. Subsequently, I took part in Vanessa Feltz’s new Radio 2 show. I was also delighted to read Stephen Cape’s feature on his new life as a horologist, especially as my late Dad was a jeweller and watchmaker for most of his working life. I worked with Stephen at the Basildon Evening Echo more years ago than I care to remember and wish him well as he learns completely different skills. If former NUJ colleagues would like to contact me or if my comedy skills can be used I am at davidsavage8@ btinternet.com. David J.Savage Essex
Unions need effective PR to wage strong campaigns Francis Beckett (‘Fighting fire with fire’ December/January) vividly illustrates the absolute necessity for unions to have expert PR advice in disputes fought out in the public arena
To win, you need to understand how the media work, particularly the time frames. And ‘understand’ means more than pub talk theorising about capitalist plots. The professional PR advisor needs to have a policy input to veto ‘own goals’, including putting forward duff spokespeople. The London fire crews’ cause was served by immediate forceful rebuttal of lies and half-truths by someone who knows the game, and bolstered by absolute discipline on the picket lines. Like Francis, I wander between being a hack and doing PR, including union work. My best outcomes come from having an input at policy level. The failures happen when I end up writing press releases for initiatives that are doomed to fail, but nobody internally listens. PR is not a coat of whitewash on something inherently smelly. I’m not convinced that unions fully grasp that. Thank you, Francis, for spelling it out. Kieran Fagan Dublin
Email your letters to: email@example.com Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
Sole traders can do well to employ accountants Re: ‘A solo act’ (December/January) I don’t agree there is a straightforward distinction between being a sole trader and not having an accountant and being a limited company and having one. I am a sole trader and I have an accountant. It costs me about £600 a year and is definitely worth it. I was advised to register for the flat rate VAT scheme. This means that I charge VAT at 20 per cent but only pay the HMRC 10 per cent (the percentage varies depending on what you do and is discounted by one per cent in your first year). I keep the remaining 10 per cent to cover the VAT I pay on goods and services and, as my accountant pointed out, this more than covers her fee. Also, I suspect that the reason some freelances are told they have to be a limited company is because of where the responsibility lies if they are later deemed to be an employee. As I understand it, if the freelance is a sole trader then the responsibility for employer’s NI contributions lies with the client, but if the freelance is
a limited company then it lies with the freelance. Clients who insist that freelances are limited companies are doing so to minimise their exposure to this risk. Abigail Woodman Freelance Publisher
When the unexpected strikes help is at hand It could happen to you. Anyone can suddenly have a career ended by illness, accident or the sack. There are also fewer people who can be sure of an adequate pension when they retire. And how about finding suitable accommodation or a nursing home in old age? The Journalists Charity is run by journalists and is there to help journalists and their dependents through these problems. If you need help or would like to support this charity you can find out more about us on journalistscharity. org.uk. Brian Ager Treasurer Journalists Charity
theJournalist | 27
professional Training courses Non Members
To book a place on any of these courses or if you would like some advice or have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7843 3730.
Tue/Wed 1/2 March
Build Your Own Website
Wed 9 March
Reporting the NHS
Mon 28 March
Making Internet Journalism Pay
Tues 19 April
Intro Public Relations
Weds/Thurs 11/12 May
Writing for the Web
Fri 13 May
Tues/Weds 17/18 May
Introduction to InDesign
Sat 21 May
Getting Started as a Freelance
Weds 1 June
Reporting the NHS
Fri 3 June
Social Media For Journalists
Weds/Thurs 15/16 June Introduction to Sub Editing
Thurs/Fri 16/17 June
You can view course outlines at www.nujtraining.org.uk
march - june 2010 London
The NUJ offers a wide variety of short courses in professional subjects. Whether you want to learn the best way to video blog or sell your services as a freelance, you can get to grips with the techniques you need over one or two days. The courses will help you increase and refresh your skills whether you’re at the start of your career or further along the professional path.
Lost Your Job? If you’ve lost a staff job you could be entitled to a free course. Bookings must be made within three months of losing a job and are free at the union’s discretion and subject to availability.
Build Your Own Website
*For Students and members in their first year of employment
Multimedia Storytelling Martin Cloake In the film Jurassic Park, one character says: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Reflecting on that thought was partly what prompted NUJ Training to create a new type of course on Multimedia Storytelling. The new course provides space to examine the opportunities offered by current media technology to tell stories better. The focus is not on how to use a piece of software, but on how available software can best be used. Journalists are being asked to work on new platforms and master new tools, but few are being given the chance to think about how they can use what’s on offer. The idea is that much of the industry has forgotten that it’s the message, not
the medium, that is key and the course attempts to give journalists the confidence to put themselves back in control. It allows delegates to discuss good examples of multimedia storytelling, before offering the chance to create and pitch their own brief multimedia project. The emphasis is on discussion and editorial judgment rather than how to use umpteen bits of kit. It’s based on a series of workshops that I helped to deliver on the Journalism foundation course at the London College of Communication. There, students were asked to create stories for a single media brand in print, on the web and using video and audio. Most of them were frightened by the technology at first. But by putting the story at the heart of what they did we boosted their confidence and they produced some great work.
The NUJ course also aims to give journalists ammunition to argue for proper resourcing. Employers tend to focus on technology as a means of cost-cutting and that has led to the idea that journalists should be equally able to write, shoot and edit, record, and construct and manage web pages. We want to enable people to take on the arguments about multiskilling and deskilling, so part of what we do will be to look at how best particular parts of the process can be delivered. The course also aims to help people identify what further, focused technical training journalists need. And as an added incentive there is a 25 per cent discount on a further course for all those who attend. Martin Cloake is a freelance journalist and journalism lecturer
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DEAD TREES STILL STAND TALL
Michael Cross on the latest trends and kit
f there’s one thing more irritating than paying Rupert Murdoch money, it’s paying him twice for the same newspaper. Yet that’s what I’ve been doing at least once or twice a week since I became an enthusiastic early adopter of The Times on iPad. While I’m still a big fan of The Times iPad app (and of the web paywall principle) I still ﬁnd myself regularly forking out a quid for a deadtree edition. The reason is a problem that needs sorting out before we contemplate moving to an all-electronic news future. The main point of an iPad app, as opposed to simply browsing the web, is that you download the whole edition in one go. You can then read it on the bus or the train – and, yes, in the smallest room – without the tyranny of a mobile data connection. But however cleverly you compress it, a newspaper or magazine edition is a big ﬁle. On my home Wi Fi network I reckon it takes at least 70 seconds to download. That doesn’t sound much in theory – it’s a sight quicker than opening a batch of web pages, let alone nipping out to the newsagent – but it’s still an age to spend looking at a blank screen. It is particularly so in the
REVIEW DIGITAL VOICE RECORDER: SONY ICD-UX200 Tech confession time, again.
Although I’ve used digital voice recorders for nearly 10 years now, I’ve never actually done anything with the electronic sound data they create. I just store the ﬁles on my trusty Olympus until it runs out of memory, and then delete. I’ve never been bothered with copying, archiving or clever editing: life’s too short. However, since I’ve been trying out Sony’s new ultra pocket-size ICD-
But however cleverly you compress it, a newspaper or magazine edition is a big file
UX200 recorder, I’ve started building an archive of interviews. I can’t help it – the damn thing almost does it for you. When you’ve done your recording, just open the recorder’s pop-out plug, stick it in the USB port of your computer, and you’ll see your interviews displayed as MP3 ﬁles, to be played back, copied, or just archived for the day Carter Ruck comes calling. Most impressively, and against expectations, my laptop PC and desktop Mac both instantly recognised the machine as a digital recorder, with no ﬁddling around, no software downloading and no need even to open the manual. The same goes for recording, and
busiest time of day, in the rush to get out of the house in the morning. That would still be OK if you could launch the app in the background and get on with checking email while it downloads, but the iPad doesn’t multiple-task. In fact even touching the screen while an app is downloading can freeze the whole thing. The outcome – if I’m commuting into town and I *have* to read The Times that day, I’ll pick up a copy at the news stand rather than mess about with downloads. Brilliantly designed as The Times app is, it is still quicker to read on paper. For publishers, one approach to the problem is to offer a stripped down edition for maximum download speed. This seems to be the thinking behind the Telegraph’s somewhat dumbed down iPad version. However, I don’t believe that is satisfactory, particularly if they are expecting readers to pay for it. Maybe all this is a Murdochian trick to extract more money from readers, but I doubt it. The lesson is that, given current newspaper reading habits and the state of public Wi Fi coverage, newspaper junkies will continue to get their daily ﬁx on dead trees.
for transferring MP3 ﬁles from your computer so it becomes a personal music player, too. Sony says the 2-gigabyte memory is enough for 535 hours of voice recording. All this in a £60 device that will ﬁt in a shirt pocket without showing a bulge. The only downsides arise from the recorder’s very tinyness. The control buttons may be too small for some, and the gadget is also prone to disappearing down holes in pockets. In fact the ﬁrst time I wanted to test it, I spent an embarrassing few minutes scrabbling in my bag before resorting to notebook and shorthand instead. Technology is great, but Mark 1 Teeline scores every time.
theJournalist | 29
Raymond Snoddy on the culture secretary’s drive to ﬁre up regional TV
The hunt for viable local news
y next year the row over the Rupert Murdoch bid for BSkyB should be over. Then we can see whether culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s other headline grabber – local television – has any life in it. Expressions of interest have been submitted and franchises could easily be awarded before the year end with stations launching next year. What is now certain is that Hunt is like a very tenacious dog with a bone over local television. The culture secretary is determined to implement his vision, or ride his hobbyhorse, in the face of widespread scepticism. The theory is absolutely ﬁne. It could even create jobs for journalists in areas that desperately need them and opportunities for learning new skills. Alas there are many problems. The BBC could easily have offered more local services, except that the Corporation has, under pressure, been forced to take a self-denying ordinance. No ultra local services. Instead the BBC has been strongarmed by Hunt to contribute £40 million to his pet project – something that will, directly or indirectly, hit BBC jobs. What’s the tally so far on local TV in the UK? From Manchester to Oxford some of those involved believe they have proved only that there is no viable ﬁnancial model in such a centralised country. You could go straight to internet, cheaper than broadcasting, but lose impact as a result. The professional advisers called in by Hunt haven’t been very reassuring. The team led by merchant banker Nicholas Shott was obviously straining to come up with anything that sounded reasonably
There is very little appetite for new ways of losing money at the moment?
positive. With careful nurturing there might be room for 10- 12 metropolitan stations in the short term. Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke is more gung-ho and believes there could be as many as 80 stations. Richard Horwood, former managing director of Mirror Television, occupies the middle ground. Horwood’s Channel 6 proposal would aim to provide full-blooded competition, mainly via Freeview and a prominent slot on the electronic programme guide. National advertising would help fund up to 40 local afﬁliates who would provide opt-out local programming and sell local advertising. It might just work except that commercial television advertising specialist Professor Patrick Barwise of London Business School doesn’t believe there will be enough local or national advertising to fund the project.
ocal newspapers could step forward and here Hunt has offered a small carrot. The culture secretary will bring forward an order to relax local cross-media ownership rules. A welcome step, but work by communications regulator Ofcom last year found very little clamour in the local and regional newspaper industry to move into television. There is very little appetite for new ways of losing money at the moment So has local television any chance of making the grade? The best chance probably lies with enthusiasts who can launch low-cost operations which can expand if they provide content that audiences want. The large top-down operations looking to spend up to £100 million to compete with Richard Desmond’s Channel 5 should have a care. If Jeremy Hunt handles the Murdoch poisoned chalice adroitly it could be a case of onwards and upwards. A successor might not be quite so enthusiastic about local television. No-one could.
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
30 | theJournalist
Cashback for interns
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