Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Trainee bullshitters the lot of 'em...

We all have our own weirdo.

That person who rings at least once a week, proclaiming some controversy or other regarding the council, the NHS or some other organisation.

We tolerate them, we print their letters, in the hope that once, maybe, they may come up with something sensational.

And then they do. No, it's not a world exclusive on how Zimbabwean people are repressed or an insider scoop that will bring the council down in one fell swoop.

No, your weirdo has a muffin bearing what he or she claims is the face of the Virgin Mary, or John Lennon, or Mother Theresa.

You diligently get the pictures and blow me, if you tilt your head to one side, in the correct light, you can see it, there does appear to be a face!

So you write up some words and the news editor plonks it on page three for the next day's paper and wait for the fallout...

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what it's all about.

Because the following morning, once the paper hits the stands, while nipping in to the shop to pick up 20 fags and a Daily Moron, you realise that everyone in the queue is talking about page three, laughing, holding the picture up to the light.

They're enjoying it.

Yes, they're mocking the story, trotting out the usual "must've been a slow news day" bullshit, but carrying on about how they'll tell their mates about this at work.

Now, forgive me, but this to me is what it's all about. Yes, we all love a major scoop, exposing corruption and fighting for the under-represented, but we also like a good laugh. A real lump of good-old local news fodder.

But now, enjoyment of stuff like this seems to have disappeared from newsrooms. Every trainee appears to be so full of themselves - and shit - that this is beneath them in some way.

They sneer at stories like these, tell you constantly that they're not newsworthy, that this is a waste of their time.

Wankers, the lot of them.

I don't know whether it's a subconscious attempt to legitimise themselves in the post-hackgate world where they call themselves 'journalists' instead of 'reporters', but it pisses me off.

They all seem obsessed not with understanding what makes a great regional paper, but with furthering their own career, with what they believe is their own inevitable rise to the head of the 'wanky-shit-we-read-to-look-intelligent' desk at the fucking Guardian or some such.

Or they want to write about shoes.

Well, fuck them. Give me a cracking set of pictures from a Warhammer 40,000-themed wedding any day of the week.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

If customers deal with this, it's no wonder they're not advertising.

If you've ever had to bridge the gap between editorial and advertising departments, you will share my pain.
Now, I'm not one to abide by the usual stereotypes that all advertising staff are ameoba that fit into a cheap suit.
I've always attempted to give them more credit that that, to assume they have some intelligence, rather than speak to them like small children and not give them anything to do that involves using more than one brain cell.
I know many who do and I always thought it a touch wrong.
However, in recent months, there seems to have been a noticable decline in the basic skills possessed by people who sell pictures in papers and on websites.
I don't know whether it's due to financial constraints or the trimming of departments, but I have to admit, they really don't seem a very bright bunch.
The other day, an ad rep called up our editorial department and asked our internet monkey to post a story on our website.

When we received the email containing the 'story' they wanted us to post, under our masthead, in the 'News' section of the site, us hacks were summoned over to have a read.
I shit you not, the copy was unbelievable.
It was, to all intents and purposes, an ad feature at best. At worst, it was a barely-legible blurb for an ad in a village newsletter.
Sentences included the likes of: "Popshit hairdressing offers a fantabulous experience for anyone who has an IQ lower than a puddle."
And: "If you want the latest jaw-dropping styles then Popshit will happily grin inanely at you in one of the greatest salons in the world."
You know what I mean.
Anyway, we merely laughed and the web guru proceeded to email the poor, misguided advertising rep back and explain that this copy was going nowhere near our website - let alone the news section - and that it was barely fit to be seen by human eyes.
Perhaps arrogantly, we presumed the copy would be changed and something would be sent that we may be able to squeeze - at a push - on the advertorial section online.
But no, instead followed one of the funniest and bemusing telephone conversations I have ever overheard and had recounted to me later, in the pub.
A senior, very senior, advertising manager called our web desk and proceeded to launch into a tirade at the web editor about how this copy should go online and how, basically, editorial was the primary reason our publisher looks like going bankrupt within two days, or some such tripe.
The responses which came from the web editor were, as you would expect, perfectly rational, gradually becoming more and more frustrated.
"But the 'news' section is editorial, not advertising space."
"I wouldn't put this in the 'news' channel, but we could work on it and post it in the 'advertorial' section."
Progressing to...
"I'm sorry, but it's not news."
And ending in...
"Look, I'm telling you, you can cc in who you like on the emails, but this load of shit is going now nowhere near my fucking 'news' channel."
However, if that wasn't bad enough, I heard the killer line come from the web editor, who asked how much the client was paying for this 'news' story to appear online.
The response, I later learned in the pub, was astounding.
The senior, very senior, advertising manager replied that the client wasn't paying for any online content, but had taken an ad in the paper.
Now, I may be wrong here, but aren't we in an era when online advertising is supposed to be playing an ever-growing role in our revenue stream?
We are forever hearing from such senior, very senior advertising staff and MDs that the "digital platform" or whatever they are calling the website nowadays, is the future and how we are attempting to "grow these revenues" and "pursue this market", blah blah blah.
So why the fuck is a senior, very senior, advertising manager berating a journalist for refusing to give away a prime piece of editorial space online to a client who is paying precisely fuck all for the priviledge?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a clear example of why we are all wading through shit to produce newspapers and websites which contain anything more than recycled press releases, why we have two people to every 300,000 readers, and why we're fucked as soon as one of them dares go on holiday or be ill.
Because fucking morons are selling us down the river for a £50 ad, attempting to cling on to whatever shite money they need to earn their extra £50 that quarter, while killing the very product they need to survive in order to earn their money.
And I repeat, for the final time, that this was a senior, very senior, member of the advertising team.
What a fucking joke.
Anyway, the story didn't go online and I'm willing to bet the client didn't give a fuck. Why? Because they hadn't paid a penny for it.
NOTE: I later learned that the same senior advertising manager had been treated to a trip to the smoke for an expensive lunch for her recent efforts.
I puked in my bowl of last night's leftovers.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, @haplesshack, and you can email me with your anger at thehaplesshack@gmail.com


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Hello again old friends, it's been a while, what with silly season kicking in, riots in London, no money in any of our bank accounts.

Still, the bitter winter is coming and that always enlivens a newsroom.

Anyway, I thought I'd return with a new tone of blog - a bitter and cynical rant. There, I knew that would surprise you.

The Guardian. Yes, I've mentioned it.

Set to scoop all awards this year for the paper's phone-hacking coverage, the whole sorry business still raises some questions for me.

In recent days, we've had story after story - certainly online, which seems to be their tactic these days - regarding the Met's attempts to garner sources from the paper.

Now, while I naturally don't agree with any journalist being forced to reveal their sources, the saga does raise some questions for me.

The Guardian is, quite rightly, outraged by this move and is standing firm against the attempts, legal or otherwise.

But something doesn't sit right with me.

After the shocking phone-hacking scandal and the investigations, inquiries and debate that will continue as it all goes on, doesn't the world's most worthy paper think that just this sort of thing could be the outcome?

Is the Guardian really naive enough to think that there will be no legislation after these inquiries and the resultant reports?

Could something enabling public bodies to demand sources really be that far from thinking in the corridors of power?

The Guardian would argue, of course, that what they have done is in the public interest, something which should be protected from any possible legislation.

But I'm not so sure that this will be as clear cut as they - or the likes of the Hacked Off campaign - think.

I hope I'm wrong, of course, but in urging full disclosure, and by going after those at the NoTW with such vigour an being so keen to condemn their tactics, the Guardian and those hanging on their shirt tails need to be careful what they wish for.

Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter - @haplesshack - or email at thehaplesshack@gmail.com

I'm determined to have another moan today so look out for that if you're inclined to be as miserable as I am.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Johann to be kidding...

I have read and dismissed a lot of Johann Hari over the years. Not for any political reason other than much of his flowery, overly-ambitious copy goes against my very being.

However, it never came as any surprise to me that such writing would garner awards from across the world of journalism.

Well, from the world of journalism that puts so much stock in whether a former editor and a Channel 4 news presenter removed from what many would call the 'coal face' these days thinks of you after reading your stuff, with only a 250-word piece you've written blowing smoke up your own arse and a complete lack of any 'real' context for company, anyway.

I must admit to being hugely surprised at his actions, however, and I am attempting to stick to those which he has admitted himself were wrong, involving using previously spoken quotes in his own interview pieces.

I am also surprised at the amount of support he has had. Who the fuck thinks this is okay?

The Independent? Surely not.

Fuck how flowery he can make his copy, simply put yourself in this situation, if you can remember being anywhere but a completely self-facing, patronising place as most national newsrooms are these days.

Your reporter returns from an interview of some importance, yet when you ask how it went and what he or she got, they respond with a blank face and say '[whomever they interviewed] didn't say much, but not to worry as I'll whack in some quotes form their book or from other interviews and write well around it'.

What would you do?

Please do not tell me - while expecting me to keep a straight face - that your reaction would be to pat him on the head, tell him what a good job he was doing and endorse the cheeky little fucker's nomination for a prestigious award.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An allegation too far for the News Of The World?

A while ago, I wrote a piece on how newspapers should be very careful when judging the News of the World as more and more details of the alleged phone-hacking scandal emerged.

I argued then that many newspapers should be wary of the heat given to the News of the Screws as it would inevitably come back to haunt them - and the industry as a whole.

I stand by that, to an extent.

Yet, the latest allegations - that reporters/private detectives hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler before we discovered the horrific truth of her disappearance - do put something of a new light on things.

While never excusing the use of phone hacking, if indeed it was a common tactic for harvesting stories, I defended the needs of reporters under extreme pressure to produce exclusives and stated that many of us would use any means necessary to get the exclusive yarn.

But this does indeed feel like a step too far.

This is not using the tactic to find out if Jude Law is back together with Sienna Miller.

No, this allegation does not simply centre on listening in on messages, but claims messages were deleted once the missing girl's mailbox was full.

This is a whole new ball game, for everyone.

Not only could it have caused the police and her family problems, indeed may well have done, it also suggests a deeper heartlessness which many would have subconsciously ignored when reading of previous allegations and cases.

This story has now entered the world which the NoTW itself loves to harvest - that of the human interest story.

The News of the World itself ran an exclusive interview with the Dowler parents shortly after their daughter disappeared.

Now, it is alleged that they themselves had some hand in what those traumatised parents spoke of, what they thought, what they believed.

Journalists, if we could ever call them that, on the red tops may well have committed the ultimate act of suicide, launched the bullet with their name on it into their own foot, by crossing a line so cherished by their readers and which forms the basis of their own content.

The same self-righteous readers championing NoTW campaigns and shedding tears over interviews like that with the Dowlers, may well now turn on the paper that likes to think of itself as their voice.

The housewives and white van men who take so much comfort in bemoaning the actions of celebrities and the apparent idiocy of councils/the EU/the government highlighted by the NoTW week in, week out, may no longer hide behind the seemingly harmless world of 'well, you can't believe what you read in the papers anyway'.

No, now there is something they simply won't ignore. The News of the World has become the story, exactly the wrong type of story for them because they are now the aggressor against a traumatised family going through the kind of hell they milk every Sunday for sales.

The Milly Dowler allegations take this whole sorry saga to a new level, a level so base that not even the NoTW can ignore it, though they will doubtless hide behind another cloak of denial and shameless misinformation on what went on.

Other papers too must now brace themselves for the fallout, as I predict this won't be the last scandal to emerge from the murky underworld that has become national newspaper journalism.

And while I once warned of the consequences of such a collapse, I now rather welcome the possible demise of the tabloids (and possibly broadsheets) as we know them.

For while these people are spending thousands on private detectives and solicitors to fight battles they really have no right to wage, there are thousands of hard working reporters in the world who have no such resources to call on, no such tactics to use, who walk in to newsrooms up and down the country every day unconvinced they will walk out with a job.

The meek shall inherit the earth, and please, let it be those still working with some sort of integrity.

Great empires such as News International do fall, history tells us so, yet the world keeps turning.

Hopefully, painful though it will be for anyone linked with any newspaper, this could ultimately send it in the right direction.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Oxbridge? Groaniad indeed...

In my opinion, this 'research' is vastly underestimating that proportion.

I would estimate it's nearer 50 or 60 per cent, but that's just a guess - which basically makes it a fact, going by the same criteria as the research itself.

What other background could Guardian journalists have? I mean, no aspiring reporter - no matter how good - could afford to work in central London, have travelled to far-flung parts of the world and studied at Oxbridge before deciding they fancy having a go at journalism.

And that's before we consider the cost of the clothes these people wear, be it in court, a press conference or elsewhere.

No, these guys and gals wouldn't be seen dead in an ink-stained shirt that fitted you nicely in 2003 (the last clean one you had in the wardrobe), your old school shoes and a tatty suit your mum bought you for the interview.

And unfortunately, the distant reality enjoyed by these employees is coming through in the printed product and its agenda more and more.

The very idea that anyone doesn't already know this, or gives a flying fuck about where little Crispin wasted three years studying philosophy, is proof enough of the arrogance The Guardian now uses as fuel with which to power the continual production of inane drivel under the guise of 'proper' or 'meaningful' journalism, which is largely wide of the mark and equally wide of the agenda such a paper should be pursuing.

I am not a Guardian hater, but the percentage of what it does that has any merit or integrity is decreasing at a rapid rate.

The Guardian is now surviving on the very same principles as its reporters; portraying a fashionable facade with very little real content inside.

However, should anyone at The Guardian feel the need to correct my opinions, feel free to do so via thehaplesshack@gmail.com, or via Twitter - @haplesshack

Friday, 20 May 2011

Someone said it for me. And well.

As a follow up to my recent berating of 'aspiring' hacks who wouldn't know a story if it bit them on the arse, I thought I'd post this piece by former Guardian editor Peter Preston, who has expressed my sentiments far better than I could ever hope to do.

However, to chip in my foul-mouthed tuppence worth, read this you fucking wannabes and stop bleating on about how The Guardian is impartial while sitting in Starbucks.

And MDs across the country could do with reading it too, perhaps then they may take that 'mission statement' which is on the wall of their office on a nice plastic plaque a bit more seriously.

Anyway, Peter's piece full:

"Journalism isn't about sitting in some lofty office thinking great thoughts. It is about knowing the people you're writing for, understanding their concerns, their hopes and fears. And you can only do that if you’re out there amongst them, being part of the community you aim to serve.

"I started in journalism, long ago, doing school holiday shifts on my local paper, writing my first features about life at the university just up the road. When I went to university myself I did every job going on the twice-weekly student paper there - and then learned my trade on Liverpool's big evening and morning papers. I did funerals, Rotary Club speeches, dog shows, council rows and rugby matches. And at the end of that stint, when I moved on to cover local politics for the Guardian, I think I’d learned something precious. That politics doesn't exist in some rarefied world at Westminster. That democracy lives, breathes and reacts in the minds and the lives of the people you catch a bus to work with every morning. That the local dimension isn't some remote step ladder on the route to the top. It's where everything begins. It’s the foundation stone of society.
"And that's as true today as it ever was. Your local paper, in villages, towns and cities up and down the land, is there to reflect you, yourself - your own running commentary on life. In the mazy world of the world-wide web, where nothing seems more than a click away, it is still the place where the people around you put down their roots.
"There's been a local press in Britain for as long as there have been newspapers. There will be newspapers - in one form or another - for as long as people care about what happens around them. News is a necessity, your link to your neighbours. Prize
it, relish it, support it... because, not just in Local Newspaper Week but every week of the year, it helps your world go round."

Keepin' it real.