Saturday, October 15, 2016
I often tell – and, I admit, delight in the comic irony – of the time I subbed a piece one Saturday afternoon for the Sunday Telegraph praising the way John Major effectively saw off a back-bench revolt, only to skip across town to do the late-stop on the S. Mirror and get stuck into the same story - telling how party “rebels” had a now red-faced PM bang to rights. But that’s politics. I cared only that the copy sang. To what tune was not an issue when it came to time and a half for the anti-social nature of the shift. So, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Boris Johnson, entirely coincidentally, a Telegraph staffer at around that time, was just as, shall we say, flexible with his political “angle” when it came to penning his thoughts on the EU. aircraft carrier through the English Channel as a sign of open defiance over Syria. According to Shipman, the article was written two days before Bozza’s surprise announcement that he would campaign to leave the EU. So the story goes; he had already written one Telegraph column arguing a case for leaving, then wrote the Remain piece as a way of clarifying his thoughts, before doing a final pro-Brexit one for publication. Sky News’ Jon Craig goes behind the scenes on the intrigue in what appears more reminiscent of Brian Rix than the likes of Jim Hacker or Malcolm Tucker. But for the rest of us, it does make it ever more difficult to appear positive when faced with the usual down-the-pub attacks about how you can’t believe half of what you read in the papers. no less than 300 of them so far. That's one of their graphics above. In tandem with others, it’s the work of the former BBC investigative reporter Jon Danzig, not one I've ever known to pull his punches – and, from first reading, appears to do a far better job of challenging the sort of outrageous spin, half-truths and downright untruths behind the Leave campaign than David Cameron, George Osborne and Jeremy Corbyn could muster between them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be either out of a job, or struggling to keep them - and the country wouldn’t be in the desperate state it is now. It’s gloomy reading in places but worth bookmarking as there's, sadly, lots more to come.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I remember as a teenage copy boy back in the day making a point of reading the text beneath the red pen lines of the subbed copy I had to dash off to the composing room. I did it because a likely lass who'd been in the job a few months longer warned me not to. Too gruesome, she said. The bits they take out. But I was young. So these were the juicy bits the guys in green eye shades had all the fun of censoring. Storyful and Reported.ly and other eyewitness organisations are having to adopt policies to protect their, I imagine quite youngish, staff from the worst effects of days spent trawling social feeds and coming across what Storyful’s news projects chief Derek Bowlder describes as “unmediated and graphic evidence of brutality”. One of the reasons the organisation has teamed up with a Dublin-based counselling service to introduce an Employee Assistance Program which lets them seek help in confidence if they feel unduly affected. And all power to them. It's not that long ago an expression of disgust at an unsavoury scenario or other would have been met with an empathetic nod but a request for "a few minutes' fresh air" would have prompted raised eyebrows and a dismissed with a simple: “wuss”.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Ipso, Another day, another regulator. The names change, the stories come in anew. But the one thing guaranteed to stay the same: MPs will reach for the cliché drawer and brand the watchdog “toothless”. It happened again a few hours ago when Sir Alan Moses appeared before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. MPs wanted to know why Ipso, set up two years ago after the Leveson inquiry, had not fined any newspaper it found to be in breach of its rules. They also couldn’t understand why it had not insisted on equal prominence for corrections of dodgy headlines and why no-one had bothered to call the whistleblower’s hotline it set up for disgruntled staff with issues about what is expected of them. Now, it may just be me but, reading through the ever-growing archive of complaints adjudications, I’d be hard pushed to find one worthy of a financial sanction, equally hard-pushed to find a breach so bad it warranted a splash apology and can’t realistically envisage many circumstances thus far when anyone would phone the hotline. On the last point, I’m not suggesting there has never been any justification for such a call in the past two years, although I hope not. It’s just that, in the main, I think it’s something most journalists would have a problem with. What I wouldn’t want to see is any regulator feeling pushed into a position where it felt it needed a scalp or two to feel properly blooded. It’s early days, the changes to the culture of certain newsrooms is palpable at the ground level and I sense a strong feeling among those at the top that they don’t want Ipso on their case lest it can be avoided. That can have as much to do with the Leveson legacy as anything else but, for the moment, it exists. And while it does, there’ll be little to seriously test a fledgling watchdog. Early days. Methinks the MPs were questioning in haste.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Peter Foster’s piece in the Telegraph today recalls the day America came under attack on September 11, 15 years ago. He nicely mixes fact with anecdote to bring quite a vivid inside view of what it was like to be in a daily newspaper office as the story of the decade was evolving.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
It's appropriate that the passing of any newspaper should be mourned. But, in the case of the now online-only Independent, the eulogy should be a positive one. Launched in the frenzied days of what was then called the newspaper revolution ( a rather hopeful euphemism for journalists being able to publish without asking print unions permission), it stood aloft for both standing by its founding principle and staying the course for three decades. Oh how the other revolutionaries would have coveted such an achievement: Today (nine years), the Sunday Correspondent (14 months), the London Daily News (six months), the News on Sunday (eight months), the European (eight years) would surely loved to have seen the dawning of another day. Big names were built on those papers as the hitherto hard-to-breach wall that was Fleet Street opened up a wealth of opportunity to provincial wannabes ( me included) who arrived and moved from on as one paper closed, knowing another would be opening sometime soon and, besides, you were eminently employable anyway because the established ones were still waking up to new technology (such as it was) and in need of your so-called skills. The Inde stood apart because it deserved to. As a sub, I'd be among those who ridiculed the wordiness, the pomposity and the indulgence of those early editions but it excelled in the bigger picture by doing what great newspapers do - marking their territory. This eulogy has many contributors but I was struck by one this afternoon. Eddie Shah, the man who started it all with the launch of Today, described it as the paper he would love to have launched. Many of us who joined him in that adventure thought it was. The so-called independent voice we had been sold at our interviews was sold within xxx to Tiny Rowland's Lonhro - and quickly became the voice of the Lib-Dems, a fact most of us only discovered when we went went upstairs for an early view of the latest ad campaign !
Friday, February 05, 2016
There used to be a Fleet Street branch of the Leicester City supporters club. All unofficial, of course, and it's meetings were fairly ad-hoc and usually reserved for when there was a London game on and enough local knowledge to be assured 'the first pub you see when you turn left out of the tube' was all that was needed. I won't name them all for fear of getting one wrong and confusing affiliations which just isn't done. It's players who go through transfer windows, fans stay put. There weren't that many of us and in the latter years it was left to Express man Bill Wheeler to muster a crew together (usually his son from the Sun and a pal) to join us in being able to say 'I was there' when we lost to some old first division side whose players I'd never heard of. Tickets were easy to come by if your annual membership or share certificate wasn't enough to get you into a big game because most sports editors we knew would find a couple going spare. And your rarity meant you were easily identified among the fans of 'real' clubs. One Saturday afternoon in the Mirror building in Holborn a sports sub on deadline was sent my way when struggling to get a Midlands slip away. 'You from Leicester?' he asked as if expecting an apology. the best live game I've ever seen - and I was so proud ok my share dividend that I didn't even cash it. And not just because it was for 3p. How times have changed. The City fan who wept his way through a radio interview shed tears for a forgotten generation of fans who are no longer asked 'do you know who this is?' But, 'do you think you'll hang on to him next season?' I sat alongside Robbie Savage at the Watford Hilton a few Fridays ago. He was on his mobile the whole time so I eventually left without asking him whether I could replay his radio phone-in slot in which he repeatedly insisted a club like Leicester, with the funds and squad size they have, will never (his emphasis) win the premiership. If, sorry, when, they do, I've every confidence my childhood local, the Leicester Mercury, will win the sort of plaudits given to the Oxford Mail for their recent performance in celebrating their club's achievement. And they can run the pictures without captions. Anyone who cares will know who they are.