Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tough call on Monday: it's either drinks at the Hurlingham with the Princess Royal or standing in front of 60-odd undergrads at Kingston University. One sees me learning more about a highly worthwhile charity, the other teaching print media in the digital age. The coin is in the air. Heads it's her Royal Highness, tails it's the one where I get paid. Watch this space. . .

Friday, September 22, 2006

I was in Cambridge yesterday for a speculative PR chat. Love the city to death. I was twice offered reporting jobs there at the Cambridge Evening News - in the seventies and eighties and turned them down.

They got their own back a few years ago by refusing to shortlist me for the editoriship. I wasn't too surprised. Many regional publishers are wary of the ex-Fleet Steet Factor. Even so, as I sat in the sun in King's Parade discussing weblogs and their role in direct marketing, I couldn't help contemplating my Keep Cambridge Tidy/U's for the Premiership/keep cyclists safe campaigns.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Former Express editor Richard Addis did some interesting sums for the media Guardian in making a business case for all papers going free within 10 years.

He’s right on the percentages (most of the revenue comes from ads, not circulation), bang on when he talks about the consequences (you spend more on printing, less on marketing) and makes a valid point about the lifting of restraints to web publishing.

But I did a double-take when he said a £1m cut in the freelance bill could be justified by “making better use of citizen journalism”.

Last year I launched a publishing economics module for MA students at the University of Westminster. It ran over two days and was project-based. On day one, we produce a business plan and saw a make-believe magazine through to the newsstands. On day two, we deal with the consequences of over-spending, under promoting and wishful thinking.

There’s a lot to be said for widening the information net . . . but replacing bona fide freelancers?

I’ll see if I can work that into the next course. I’d love to see what a few bright minds could make of that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

So, an A-level in media studies will not do much for your chances of getting into Cambridge, according to its director of admissions, Dr Geoff Parks.

A degree in the same subject will not help you get a job on the Evening Standard, because editor Veronica Wadley who reckons she’s never even interviewed a media grad.

I know what they mean, but as someone who spends much of his time teaching this stuff at various universities, it may be worth pointing out that I took half a dozen media grads out of school and into the Telegraph’s digital newsroom in the five years I was running it and I’d have taken any of them with me if I’d anywhere to go.

There were a couple from the university of Westminster, a trio from Cardiff media school, a few from City University and I recall one from Bournemouth who would have made the grade had she not been tempted elsewhere.

To be honest, media as an academic subject, provides just that: an academic exercise. It produces candidates of degree standard. It’s the approach that matters.

One of the Cardiff trainees made his best pitch when he approached me after I’d addressed 300 of them in one of their lecture theatres. He listened, fired testing questions and fronted me up at the end with the words: ‘I want a bit of that. What do I do?’

The question for me at moments like that is not so much, can he speak three languages, quote Browning or name every King since Cromwell, it’s how would I feel if I were a punter and he was a reporter? Better still, how would I feel about the organisation he represents - and I run?

Okay, I'd prefer ay media grad to have an advanced understanding of how the industry works than the influence of EastEnders plotlines on racial equality but the clincher is the look in the eyes that says 'I would slay dragons for this job.'

There's only one caveat. They have to be able to write.

And surprisingly few can do that these days – whatever they’ve studied.