Archive for the ‘Tabloids’ category

Huff Post UK: Piers Morgan, can you hear me?

April 9th, 2009

Right then, I’ll get straight to it:  The UK needs its own Huffington Post, and Piers Morgan is the only man for the job.

Is there any newspaper (online or otherwise) making such good investment in journalism than the Huffington Post? Last week it announced it would be investing $1.75 million in investigative journalism. The new Media Talk USA podcast asks whether Arianna Huffington could be the unlikely savour of the very finest strand of journalism — the investigators.

The Huffington Post is a strange beast. Launching in 2005 as essentially a ‘celebrity blog’, the HuffPo received a lukewarm reaction. Some disagreed with its mission, and others ignored. It was nothing too important — just a load of ego-tripping celebs doing no ‘real’ journalism. Newsweek described its aims as “[to] put heat (and perhaps even shine a little light) on the news of the day through diarylike musings, opinions and links”.

Which, for a good while, it was just that. Blogs, opinion… shouting. All good fun, but it’s no New York Times.

Taking a look at the site today, we can still see hallmarks of its birth, but it has evolved. The main content is still blogs — although for some reason they feel like columnists rather than bloggers, a set up more in keeping with Comment is Free. But it’s now referring to itself as ‘The Internet Newspaper’, dealing with news and video as well as the shouty blogs.

And now it’ll be pumping cash into its own investigations. I can’t wait to see the results — I hope the team can show the mainstream media guys how it’s done. While they’re sweating about re-writing a press release, the HuffPo can get back to the roots of journalism: finding stuff out.

But here’s what kills me: all this Huffington Post talk is very exciting — but it won’t affect me too much. Where is the UK HuffPo? Why don’t we have an online newspaper?

Why aren’t we getting investment for investigative journalism?

So I’m asking you, Piers Morgan. It’s up to you. Call it ‘The Morgan’ if you have to. Grab some friends, some cash, and set up office. Canary Wharf would be nice — you did your finest work there.

I find our lack of a good, well-read online-only newspaper very depressing. And the only thing stopping it is a lack of a big name. Someone who’s mere involvement would get clicks. For the first week — the buzz would be about it being new, but from there on in it’ll be the content that brings them back.

We’re long overdue anything like this. Piers is the only person I know who has the status, the money and, let’s face it, the skill to bring something like this to reality.

Now I know he’s busy with his career as a TV talent show judge/chat show host, but having read Piers’ book, I have a sneaky suspicion that you can take the man out of newspapers, but you can’t take newspapers out of the man. Come on Piers, I know you miss it.

Tipping point: The Big Journalism Bail Out

March 25th, 2009

There was always going to be a tipping point. A moment when a cut back meant no newspaper — rather than just less subs. Or less court reporting. Truth is, a newspaper can’t survive without journalists. Now that serious redundancies are knocking at the door — of the regionals, for now — newspapers face a year of desperation.

In the past six months we’ve jumped from being a throw away society into a bail out society. It was only a matter of time until those over-used words started to get banded about with the newspaper industry in mind.

So should it happen?

Yes. It should.

Will it happen?

Perhaps.

That’s a scary ‘perhaps’, isn’t it? When you consider what’s at stake, you could be forgiven for getting more than jittery about our chances. Like all bail outs, it would take millions. And can we justify millions of taxpayers money to publications that do things like this? We may not miss the Daily Express, but I would resent any plan that chose certain newspapers over others. Every newspaper has a right to exist. While we could perhaps sell the benefits of having the likes of The Times bailed out and saved (not that I’m suggesting it’s in trouble), it would be nigh-on impossible to convince the masses that taxpayer’s money should be spent saving the Daily Star.

Because here’s the killer: If people wanted to save the Daily Star, they’d buy it. Same with every newspaper out there.

And think of the consequences. Suddenly all newspapers would face the same kind of scrutiny that the BBC comes under every day. If a newspaper publishes a story that people disagree with — the public would have more weight behind them knowing it was their cash spent saving it. Imagine The Sun and Hillsborough happening all over again?

A bail out is akin to a mother slipping a son a tenner a few weeks before pay day. It’s borrowed, yes, but probably won’t get paid back any time soon. But the son needed that money and things will pick up once pay day arrives, so not to worry.

Bailed out banks are — fingers crossed — waiting for that pay day. When the economy recovers, they’ll be able to go back to their lucrative money-making selves.

But can newspapers?  Probably not, no. Newspapers were in trouble well before the credit crunch took hold. There is no evidence to suggest it’ll be any better when all this mess is over. A newspaper bail out pot would not be bottomless and it would soon run out, leaving us right where we are now.

Polly Toynbee wrote about this in yesterday’s Guardian. Craig McGill has a decent dissection of her main points here. She’s sticking up for newspapers, as you’d expect, but with, as Craig agrees, blatent snobbery, she clouds her very good points. In Polly’s bail out, we save ‘quality’ papers like the Guardian, but ditch rubbishier ones like the Express. I’ll admit I’m not its biggest fan, but to steal a quote, I’ll defend its right to exist to the death.

My two pence? The newspaper industry needs help. It’s on life-support, and the only way it can be saved is by outside intervention. Journalists of old would spin in their graves knowing that the free press is reaching out to the government for a hand out, but it’s for the greater good.

But let’s not see that money wasted on newsprint.

Money should be spent on giving regional news outlets a proper online presence. It should be spent on equipment for local audio/video. It should be spent on allowing every regional newsroom to be right in the heart of the town it covers — not in some soulless newspaper factory in a big city. It should be spent on giving regionals better individual controls over their web output. It should be spent on making the coder and the graphics person as important to the news operation as the reporters, subs and editors. It should be spent on community managers, whose sole job is to reach out to readers in a way that goes far beyond a drab letters page.

A bail out is needed. But this is no bail out for newspapers — it’s a bail out for journalism.

We have to convince the British public that what they’ll be getting in return for their money will be noble and dignified. Like the bankers who will have learned the hard way for risky loans, the press needs to learn the hard way about bad journalism. Paparazzi garbage has no place in the bail out plan.

We need to become PR people. We have no excuse getting this wrong. Hell — we tell PRs how badly they’re doing their jobs all the time. Let’s show them how it’s done.

Without a powerful press, our country will suffer. But ask Joe Public whether they’ll miss newspapers and I think we all know that he wouldn’t. We need to stop making this argument about newspapers, and start making it about democracy and freedom. Only then will we win the psychological battle with the public mindset.

Good luck everyone.

Reports of her death are greatly exaggerated

January 26th, 2009

Without wanting to seem flippant over this tragic story, I couldn’t help notice something very strange on on the Daily Mail site today.

Headline: Miss World finalist who had hands and feet amputated after being hit by infection dies

Other than being a very good piece of SEO, this headline is also very matter of fact. The Miss World finalist has died.

And then here’s the first paragraph:

A two-time Miss World finalist whose feet and hands were amputated after contracting a drug-resistant infection has died.

Very straight forward there.

Like most Daily Mail stories, there are comments a plenty (probably down to that great SEO). But something about the comments on this story in particular struck me as a little bit, well, strange:

My heart goes to the beautiful girl, what a tradegy! Praying for her speedy recovery!
Leila, Gibraltar, 22/1/2009 16:11

And another:

Beauty is only in the eyes of the beholder. How she fights this and pulls through will show her true beauty, and that’s the real beautiful and strong person everyone will see; not just what’s on the outside, but the fight inside too. I bet she can do it!

And there’s loads more.

Of course, the reasonable explanation for this is that the original story told of a girl fighting for her life. The comments came in. Then, sadly, the girl lost that fight — and so the story was altered. But now the comments come across as rather haunting. I’ve stuck a picture of the comments on Flickr in the event of them being removed.

Presumably the Mail would have wanted to keep the most up-to-date information on one article page, rather than several new articles whenever a story develops. That makes sense. But surely a development as serious as the death of the subject shouldn’t just be edited?

Blogging gives you cancer

January 12th, 2009

Not really. Don’t panic.

Here’s a great new blog following cancer stories in the Daily Mail:

“A blog following the Daily Mail’s ongoing mission to divide all the inanimate objects in the world into those that cause or cure cancer. This blog will be logging the Daily Mail’s progress through 2008 using the tools of pedantry, swearing and Venn diagrams.”

I LOVE it. In the latest entry, energy-saving lightbulbs are getting a kicking:

Oh wait, energy saving lightbulbs will give you skin cancer (and migraines, and eczema, and dizziness).

If they continue at this rate they will classify 936 objects into cancer causing or cancer curing in 2008. That’s not counting the Mail on Sunday.

Christ on a bike.

Notdailymail_uk saga: Associated Newspapers step in

January 12th, 2009

Mystery one has been solved.

Associated Newspapers Limited have, according to the fake Daily Mail blogger, got Twitter by the short and curlies and demanded they rename the ‘dailymail_uk’ account. So they did.

He writes:

All of a sudden and with no warning I was locked out of Twitter.

I checked through my email archives. One minute I was receiving email to @dailymail_uk like this…

A scant 45 minutes later, I was receiving emails to @notdailmail_ukI checked, double checked and – for the hell of it – triple checked all my inboxes, labels, spam folders and deleted items. There was no sign of twitter sending me any notification as to when or wherefore they had disabled my account.

Ouch. He pressed Twitter for a reply and got this explanation:

Hello,

We did send out the following notification yesterday. Did you check your spam folder?

We received a letter from the Associated Newspapers Limited, part of Daily Mail & General

Trust Plc, legal adviser. regarding Trademark violation and impersonation.

http://twitter.zendesk.com/tickets/5377 :

Hi

We’ve received a complaint from a fellow Twitterer . It has come to our attention that your Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/dailymail_uk

is in violation of our basic Terms of Service, specifically article 4 which mentions impersonation:

4. You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.

In this case “impersonation” is the issue. Impersonation is against our terms of service unless it’s parody. The standard for defining parody is, “Would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke.”

To settle this issue we’ve removed the profile image and changed the user name to “notdailymail_uk” in the full name and username fields in order to eliminate confusion. You can change your real and user names to something else if you’d like:

1. Visit Twitter.com/settings
2. Edit the Full Name and Username fields
3. Click “Save”

Please honor Twitter’s Terms of Service accordingly. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

(The bold is added for emphasis.)

So the question is: Would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke?

Tricky. One commenter pointed out that of the massive Daily Mail readership, there aren’t too many reasonable people to pick from. And, chances are, they’re not on Twitter either.

He expresses concern that Twitter cannot be trusted when they have the power to just tell you to clear off. But I wouldn’t be alarmed. Most businesses in the world operate with a ‘Management reserves the right to not serve/sell’ etc get-out in place — and this doesn’t seem to be any different.

But it begs the question: How do you measure satire?

(Updated) Two mysteries behind the fake Daily Mail tweeter

January 10th, 2009

The fake Daily Mail Twitter account has been causing a few laughs lately. Status messages like: “Tomorrow’s front page “COULD CURRY GIVE YOU CANCER?” Also inside: Free Chicken Tikka for EVERY reader,” have made me chuckle greatly. In fact, I think I enjoy reading this Twitter feed more than I do reading the paper — but that’s another matter.

Anyway, until very very recently, the fake Daily Mail account had the username of @dailymail_uk. Now it sports @Notdailymail_uk. So what gives? Did the Daily Mail come down heavy on this impersonator? Were the fake account’s opinions (“@tom_watson You put pics of your kids online? Are you mad? Don’t you know the internets are full of perverts? Do all Labour MPs hate kids?“) too similar to that of the actual paper?

I find it hard to believe. After all, the Daily Mail doesn’t hold Twitter in very high regard. So why do they care? (Note to students: Try to avoid starting your articles with the words ‘How boring’…). If Twitter is used by sad, time-endowed losers, then surely they don’t need to bother forcing the tweeter to change his name?

So that’s mystery one: Have the Daily Mail stepped in?

Mystery two is: Who is he?

I say ‘he’, because there have been plenty of tweets alluding to male-dom. Most noticeably: Thinking about having a quick “Power Wank” before heading in to the office. It’s excellent for relaxation AND helps flavour the porridge.”

I’ve not heard (m)any women use the phrase ‘Power Wank’ lately.

And I think he’s an insider at the paper. The tweet: “Fuck! We’ve got an injunction saying we can’t say anything about the Scientology involvement with Travolta’s son. May print any way,” was backed up by a (non-Twittering) Mail colleague who confirmed: “It is true about the Travolta thing, I was working there today and the story got pulled for just that reason!”

Of course, this doesn’t mean he works at the Daily Mail — he could, in theory, work anywhere within the UK media. Or even, I suppose, be an avid follower of media news. But he seems a little too close to the newspaper to not have some involvement. He also seems to post using mobile Twitter site Slandr a lot more than than any computer-based Twitter tools. Much sneakier in a work situation ;-)

Update: @Notdailymail_uk has just posted this:

[Meta: twitter renamed me to @notdailymail_uk & changed my password. They didn't contact me or offer any redress. How safe is your account?]

Does this mean, then, that the Daily Mail got in direct contact with Twitter demanding the change?

From newsroom to mailroom

November 21st, 2008

Redundancies are terrifying. Right now, all the news reports are focusing on statistics. 90 lost here, wage freezes there.

Soon we can expect to learn of the human side. The personal losses, the mortgages not paid, the ‘Christmas is cancelled’ stories of once great journos assigned — wrongly — to the scrapheap.

It’s getting so bad, in fact, that blog software company SixApart is offering free Typepad accounts to any journos who have recently been given the chop. They’ll be signed up to the advertising scheme too, meaning they can potentially blog their way into a little money. The emphasis on little.

And I’ve just spotted this on the Reuters Mediafile blog. They quote from Editor and Publisher:

But as The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. slowly says farewell to 151 newsroom folks who took buyouts last month, at least two longtime journalists have been reassigned to the mailroom.

Reporter Jason Jett and Assistant Deputy Photo Editor Mitchell Seidel have been filing, sorting, and delivering mail for more than a week, according to sources.

Scary.

For an idea of just how bad it is around the UK, take a look at this neat interactive timeline the Guardian has patched together:

Russell Brand: Analysis or overkill?

October 30th, 2008

Wowzers. Take a look at this list of stories on the Russell Brand fiasco, all taken from Media Guardian. There’s 49 in total — and that’s before the inevitable truckload of posts that will follow now that Brand has resigned. I predict we’ll hit the 100 mark by the end of the week.

None of the links I’ve added here have been online for more than four days. Can anyone honestly say there has been this many developments? I don’t think so.

There’s analysis, and then there’s just anal. Enough of this madness.

Web-savvy standup with a licence to thrill and offend
Puerile prank that left BBC stars and executives on the ropes
Suited and booted: fall and rise of a showman
Patrick Barkham on Russell Brand’s ‘Hare Krishna’ chant and temple visits
Georgina Baillie: the Satanic Slut at the centre of the Ross-Brand controversy
Video: Russell Brand quits as BBC radio host
John Harris: What they did was grotesque
Andrew Sachs: profile
Russell Brand resigns from BBC as Jonathan Ross apologises for ‘juvenile remarks’
Video: Andrew Sachs on Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand: ‘I’m not collecting apologies’
Maggie Brown: Suspension is not enough for Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand
Broadcast rules should have saved BBC
In pictures: ‘Sachsgate’ – who’s who in the BBC hierarchy
Media Monkey: more from Sachsgate
‘Sachsgate’ – who’s who in the BBC hierarchy?

Loads more after the jump…
» Read more: Russell Brand: Analysis or overkill?

It’s the journalism that counts, not the technology

June 30th, 2008

G’day and Kia Ora from Down-Under. (See… picked up the lingo and everyfink.)

*ahem*

Right, we’re verrrry close to launching the news website that I have built. It’s called NewsWire, and come launch day, you’ll find it right here: www.newswire.co.nz . Until then you’ll have to do with a little coming soon note. Unless you know your way around Wordpress, in which case you’ll be able to load the homepage with a bit of URL jiggery-pokery.

But you wouldn’t do that, would you? It would be like opening window 24 on the 1st of December. It’s just not the done thing.

Anyway. To the point:

I hit a dilemma today. How involved in the web process should my students be?

In a perfect world, they’d do it all. Gather news, write copy, take pictures, record audio, take video, produce multimedia packages and so on. And then plonk it all into a CMS ready to hit the web at the click of a button.

However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Some people won’t get it. It’s not their fault. I can safely say that I could be taught by the artist in the world — but I’ll never be able to draw. Slightly different, yes, but the principles are still there. We have to get used to the fact that not everyone will be able to be an online journalist to the full degree.

But that’s not to say they can’t do some of it.

It’s like when I do radio. I can edit audio, cue clips up, do all (most?) of the technical things. Not to mention all the newsgathering beforehand. Yet, I couldn’t present a sandwich, let alone a radio show. So I leave that to someone else.

For web, what skills should we be insisting students learn at least?

Well, me and my crack team (so that’s myself and two tech-minded students, then), have decided that every student should probably be expected tonewsgather (audio, pictures and video included), and then accompany that raw material with a written article.

Said article should then be loaded onto the CMS (as I said, we’re using Wordpress. A doddle?).

That, the team decided, should probably be it. Students will then email their multimedia to a special Gmail account (for the storage, you understand) for it to be prepared and then uploaded before eventually going live.

The people doing the uploading will be a squad of four. Jim (the program leader), myself (tutor) plus Luke and Aaron — the two tech-minded students.

The process that the normal students won’t get involved in — unless they show a desire to — is cropping and resizing images; cutting, compressing and uploading audio/video; and producingslideshows with Soundslides. And, they will also be spared the hassle of using all the custom field bits of Wordpress that are necessary to make sure our template works correctly.

This is good from our point of view. It’ll mean we get sorted quicker, and content will be clean, consistent and well-produced from the offset.

But am I doing the other students a disservice by not insisting they get involved with the WHOLE procedure?

I’m tempted to run a series of 2-hour workshops on Audacity, Soundslides and Windows Movie Maker (no comments on the software, please. That’s all that’s on offer. And anyway, it’s a good bunch). But in doing so I risk making the whole experience seem too complex and, as a result, very offputting.

For me, online journalism isn’t about what goes on inside the computer. It’s more about attacking stories with a certain state of mind. It’s about knowing that certain stories work better with video. It’s about knowing that audio just HAS to be downloadable if we are to know how that greasy politician really sounded. It’s about seeing news in a way that isn’t just printed or spoken word.

That seems the greater goal: Giving the students that bite for online reporting. Once that’s laid down, the technical expertise can come afterwards — if at all.

Am I right?

Anyone fancy taking me up on this bet?

June 3rd, 2008

I’m willing to bet one of you 50 pounds that one of the major UK newspapers will go completely free within three years.

In fact, I’ll narrow it slightly to the following titles:

The Guardian
The Independent
The Times
The Daily Telegraph
Financial Times
The Sun
Daily Mail
Daily Express
Daily Mirror

So I bet fifty quid that one of the those papers goes free within three years. Anyone fancy a flutter?