Friday, November 28, 2008

The future - in a single breath

I spoke to students and academics at Kings College this week, wired for sound.

Apparently, the entire 60-minutes is to be transcribed word-for-word for a university paper, which is why I had to wear a lapel microphone as I delivered a lecture on the problems facing newspapers in the digital age.

I'm not sure anyone is going to relish the task of typing up my remarks. But for the more fortunate, here in 150 words are the highlights of my advice to publishers:

Make integration work on a technical level before you integrate people and workflows/Don't ditch your print edition until you can afford to ditch your brand/don't imagine you'll have the same pulling power online when faced with more organic and innovative competition/Be honest that the main point of integration is to cut jobs – and cut the right ones/Give blog space to new voices with something to say, not to corporates trying to appear on-message/Tailor your content to the actual medium and not to your perception of how it should be/Remember you are multi-media so don't treat any platform as a favourite son/Listen to those on the front line working with technology you don’t understand/Integrate best practice from both sides of the divide/Don't try to model yourself on something you’re not/Make SEO work for you, don't work for it/Re-structure staffing around key strengths and forget the romantic myth of the multi-media journalist - and never, ever, use the word content.

I'm not sure that'll spare a typist an afternoon's work, but it brought me down to earth, reducing my “keynote” address to a glorified nib.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Such gaffes are no laughing matter

I look forward to Simon Heffer’s missives to Telegraph staff more and more. The latest was doing the rounds on Wednesday, a classic, and one that, while entertaining, worried me for one reason: the more mistakes he catches, the wittier are the ripostes.
Among the latest gems, we had phrases that told us:

If you sleep with dogs you get flees
You can connect things to a computer with a UBS cable.
Russell Brand, was not "descent".
There were "peels of thunder".
Someone "seems let to loose" something.
A cook made a meal with suede and carrots
A Liberal Democrat MP was called Normal Baker

And on it goes… including the classic mention of the fact that Lucian Freud's unfinished portrait of Francis Bacon was completed in 1967.

All very amusing. But about 12 years ago, as a down-table sub there, I let through a nib on Randolph Churchill (spelt Randolf). The next morning the managing editor, Andrew Hutchinson, had his secretary call me for “an explanation”. I then endured a ritual bollocking in which involved a glass of wine, the words, “if you are to remain a Telegraph sub” and having to sit in a glass box while the rest of the 3pm shift filed in past us.

Needless to say, I didn’t do it again.

But, had my gaffe been reduced to the folly of a jolly round-robin email, I may well have done.

As we used to in those days, subs please note . . .