Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ross and Brand fail the screen test

The complaints that forced the suspension of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand had less to do, I fear, with the rather juvenile, but otherwise (let’s be honest) harmless messages on Andrew Sachs’ answering machine – and more to do with the webcam images screened when the row first broke.

The transcript seemed to suggest they’d had a liquid lunch. But the images were far more disturbing. The sight of two of the biggest beneficiaries of licence-payers money acting like stag-night karaoke stars while supposedly at work for our public service broadcaster were what jammed the BBC switchboard.

But, let’s be honest, it was a disaster waiting to happen. That these highly talented and experienced broadcast professionals were caught out by a camera defies belief.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The dangers in parish pump

My village magazine has done it again. Hard on the heels of a contempt so blatant I now use it as a teaching aid, this week's issue sees it questioning a court’s decision to jail a teenage sex pest.

After about five pars of routine evidence - including a bit of questionable description that could well identify the unnamed youth - it suddenly began to editorialise, chipping in with lines such as how the defendant must be "in denial" and that the offence was "clearly not a one-off".

Hopefully, a circulation of a few thousand may help to mitigate in the unlikely event that the judge decided to refer it up the line, and I wasn’t in court so don’t know if there was any privileged basis on which to base such comments, but that’s not the point.

Publications like this are springing up all over the place. Rather like the Gestetner-produced leaflets and newsletters that emanated from the Amstrad boom of the 80s, everyone is a publisher these days.

Except that, when you have a 120-odd page glossy with a high advertising ratio and a clearly well-organised circulation network, it does become more than a more back-bedroom affair. I know these organisations can’t afford a £500-an-hour night lawyer to peruse their copy, but a copy of Essential Law for Journalists could be theirs for under £20.

One amusing point: in their attempt to hype up the fact that they actually had a story, they flagged it: The story others would not print!

They clearly didn’t understand it was a fairly trivial local court case, not something that would catch the eye of the agency lads I know well who cover St Albans Crown Court for the nationals.

But they may well have unwittingly hit on the fact that local papers simply don’t have the resources to send anyone to court any more.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back home and nothing changes

While I was sunning myself on the Amalfi Coast, Max Hastings was predicting darker days for newspapers with a James Cameron Memorial lecture attack on multi-skilling.

Further down the pile of industry comment set as aside for post-holiday reading was the announcement that Newsquest had become even further ingrained in the multi tasking bandwagon by replacing subs with multimedia journalists and giving them a breathless 31-point job description that included everything bar doing the delivery round.

And under that were two widely leaked emails from top brass at the Express and the Telegraph bemoaning the sort of schoolboy errors that would hold parish magazines to ridicule.

But just when all seemed lost, I received in my inbox an invitation to a PPA training course on effective subbing with a promise to: “Develop you copy writing skills!” (their screamer, incidentally. The laughter was all mine).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Puff and be damned

Should Journalism students be taught how to write press releases? Teachers at Highbury College in Portsmouth think so. As well as commendably giving them patches to cover around town and encouraging them to find exclusives, they are now being given the chance to learn new skills in a project run in conjunction with the campus marketing department.

Apparently, the marketing people feel it will give them an advantage when it comes to finding jobs. I’m not sure what advantage that would be – or what jobs they’re thinking of - but I can’t help feeling the future of journalism would be best served if they maintained a healthy distance.