Friday, June 29, 2007

Trinity, trains its sights on the future

Trinity Mirror has become the latest publisher to send its journalists back into the classroom to learn how multimedia works.

Spending a week learning how to shoot video certainly has practical merit and the fact that they’re doing it in conjunction with the University of Teesside will benefit a lot of them.

But I was most impressed that Editorial director Neil Benson and head of multimedia Michael Hill are doing the rounds of the papers, giving tips on how to optimise their searching.

So many print journalists still know nothing of CAR or the wonders of what we used to call Deep Web, and many think if Google can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.

Over at Reed Business, meanwhile, I gather staff are being taught the benefits of SEO and encouraged to write for “findability”.

Good stuff, but word reaches me that the company plans to put all new recruits through psychometric tests designed to assess their ability to write online.

Search terms fail me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TV gives us the press we deserve

Bill Hagerty let his nostalgia run wild with his Inside Story spread in the Independent, recalling six of the best TV media dramas, from Compact (which my mum watched) to Ugly Betty (which my kids watch).

I'd have been peeved if he hadn't included Lou Grant, the news editor I wanted to work for when I was a junior reporter covering Bodmin magistrates and dreaming of covering LA City Hall.

Actually, I secretly modelled myself on Joe Rossi, the Tribune's own Carl Bernstein who drank gallons of coffee, had more snouts than a bacon factory and exposed the crap out of mobsters and politicians on a golfball typewriter.

Hagerty also mentions Drop the Dead Donkey, Hot Metal, and State of Play. But he's left the best ones out, so for the record, there's:

1. Mitch, a grizzled Fleet Street hack played by a post-Sweeney John Thaw in the early eighties. He wore a raincoat, moaned about the world, looked divorced and was convinced life was a cover-up.

Best moment: risking his life to bag a world exclusive and retiring to the Pen and Wallet to be told: 'the printers have walked out again.'

2. Lytton's Diary with sitcom smoothie Peter Bowles; all g and t and cravats and set in the world of the gossip columnist.

Best moment; when it was revealed that behind all the schmoozing was his desire to write a book and that no-one would touch it.

3. Hold The Back Page, which followed sport's Poet laureat, Ken Wordsworth as he left a posh broadsheet to slug it out on a tabloid, pitting himself against a gobshite upstart called Steve Stevens waving a big chequebook and a bigger ego.

It was all about excess. Everyone earned buckets, filed copy from El Vinos and stitched each other up. The opening scene even saw Wordsworth take a 20-yard taxi ride to cross the road to his new job.

It was on during the red top heyday when Kelvin McKenzie's Sun was still rising and no-one questioned expenses.

Best moment; when his paper wanted to sponsor a teenage tennis star they hoped would become Britain's first black 1imbledon winner. They asked their best headline writer to come up with a name that evoked British and winning. He came up with Winston Bingo. When it wasn't erhnic enough, he said Winston Umbingo.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Such big ambitions

I always scan the student journalism awards to see if I can lay claim to any successes and big up my credentials on the back of someone else's hard work.

I'll occasionally see a name from somewhere such as Sheffield, where I've been twice, or Kingston, where I've been once, and convince myself that a 30-minute seminar on 'sharpening style' set some snapper on the road to greatness and they'll see the potential for a column I can write on the beach in 20 years' time.

But today I had to look no further than the student team awards section to find, the product of a group from City University and one I described as the best student site I'd ever been involved with.

Judge for yourself. I have my fingers crossed.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Emily's out, but it's not black and white

Boy, the knives are out for Emily Parr, the loose-lipped BB blonde who blurted out a word Mark Twain couldn’t have completed a novel without.

The Sun have managed to drag up a former student pal who gleefully recalled how she used to make racist remarks at college and the Mirror doorstepped an uncle long enough to confirm he was “sickened, disgraced, shocked and appalled” before even got to the second par.

I admit I was one of the first to condemn the baying mob that victimised Shilpa Shetty earlier this year but had that furore been avoided would we really have had to endure the ritual public execution of a 19-year-old dragged out of bed, bleary-eyed and still in a nightdress?

OK, it was great television. And she didn’t do herself any favours by admitting she uses the word “at home”, something bound to get family and friends running for cover.

But, come on, whatever she has or hasn’t done in the past, what she did yesterday was no more than an attempt at rappin’ with her mates?

And wasn’t the real architect of her demise, fellow housemates Charley (a better Little Britain character than anything Matt Lucas could devise) and the scheming Shabnam, who stoked a spat into a full-blown incident.

As a result, the eviction vote was cancelled and Shabnam was spared the indignity of being voted out.

With not one but two Jews in the house (health worker Carole Vincent may not have come out like former model Zach Lichman, but she is) I can’t wait for the first anti-semite to reveal themselves.

Then we'll have a real reality show.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Choking on my Cornflakes

GMTV are really plumbing the depths. Their story on the family hounded out of a series of council estates because they have ginger hair was misguided and plain naïve.

I squirmed as the reporter listened intently to their stories of graffiti and abuse and how their young rascals can’t play outside safely. For two reasons.

Only one of them was a real ginger, even after I adjusted my set – and the neighbours were united in their view - that they were the family from hell.

Not the first time the newsroom has learnt to its cost that they may have got the angle slightly wrong. I was once bollocked when a news editor read my council-blamed-for-damp-house story and found a quote from the town hall claiming that they had a paraffin heater in every room and had blocked the air bricks to stop the draft.

It never made page 29, let alone national TV. Odd. That I could find it the Sky News site on but not on GMTV’s. Or maybe it’s not.

Anyway, I'm not alone in thinking a little old fashioned news judgement wouldn't have gone amiss.