Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Secret of Daily Mail's Success...

Sorry to harp on about the Daily Mail website - actually, scrap that, I'm not sorry at all - but it really is becoming such a beacon of excellence for both newspapers, news websites and newspaper executives who are stuck in the pit of trying to justify everything, to everyone, all the time, even though they have no fucking clue what they're actually talking about.

I give you Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke, and his recent address at the Society of Editors Conference.

He said: "Mail Online has succeeded because it does what newspapers have always done, it tells fascinating stories clearly with great headlines, punchy words and brilliant pictures."

Let's take this one step at a time...

"Mail Online has succeeded because...":

* "fascinating stories": Really? Where? A quick look today reveals 13, yes, 13 celebrity-based stories in the top half of the Mail homepage. There are nine 'news' stories in the main section.

* "great headlines": Again, really? Headlines today include: 'Rent boy quizzed by police over claims that husband of honeymoon murder victim paid him for sex sessions', 'Big freeze returns tonight with EIGHT inches of snow and temperatures of -10C on the way, prompting fears it will eclipse the winter of 1962-3' and 'He has an army of liberal millionaire supporters bit WikiLeaks boss is STILL trying to raise £240,000 in cash for his bail'.

Yeah, fuckin' fascinating those Martin...

* "punchy words": See above.

* "brilliant pictures": See below - I'll let you judge.

Now, to all those executives now knocking one off over Clarke's genius thinking and incredible figures on Mail Online, I give you the response.

* "Please, stop wallowing in a vat of your own clueless thinking and realise that whacking celebrity names in headlines, along with words like "rent boy" and "sex sessions" (preferably together) does not indicate some kind of genius online thinking, it indicates a blatant attempt to produce plastic figures based on wankers who know nothing about anything reading shit stories."

If that is the future, then you can stick it right up your arse and we should all quit now.

Thank you Mr Clarke for killing our industry. Still, you'll be long fucking dead with millions in the bank when the final person left trying to preserve some sort of integrity is handed a P45.

Still, at least he has some sense of how shit his own site is.

"I don't think we'll ever win any web design awards."

No shit Sherlock.

Monday, 13 December 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly...

Christmas is a tricky time for every department at a newspaper.

Sales are struggling to cut down supplies and deciding on which day to leave off their ABCs as sales are just so shit.

Editorial is stockpiling features like never before, while trying to maintain some semblance of actual news in a see of festive press releases.

And managers are, well, looking forward to the posh lunch/day off event they have planned despite giving every employee a £5 pot to piss in for their Christmas party...

Yet they shouldn't be the only ones reveling in the opportunities December presents.

Surely, for advertising departments up and down the land, Christmas is the time of joy, the time to make hay as it were, while the snow falls?

Every shop in the land should be queueing up to show off their wares in the pages of the local rag, giving away this that and the other and basically cosying up to newspapers all over the shop (I'm on fire for puns today).

However, it has to be embraced, and let's be honest, it's a bit of a God-send (can you see what I did there?) for stories in the week or so before the day itself, and for the week after. There are picture stories galore to be had, Christmas miracle births, Christmas Day births, swims, walks, etc etc.

So it was with interest that I took a little looksie round the usual band of high-flying news websites in a bid to see how each had harnessed the new season and was somewhat let down by my findings.

Various big hitters had nothing at all to do with Christmas online that I could find, including,, and to name but a few.

Others had a very small nod to the festive season, including the Lincolnshire Echo, which was flagging up a Santa's Letter scheme (prime advertising fodder I would imagine, as mentioned above) - a snip at £3.95!

The Reading Evening Post too seemed to have found a way of trying to eek out some cash, with a tie-up for Christmas shopping with an external retailer (see picture below).

Others had made a bit more of an effort, including Newsquest big hitters and, who put their stablemate the Argus to shame with full sections dedicated to everything snow- and Santa-based. A quick peek at the Bolton offering is below.

It would be interesting to know how much money their efforts made? Hopefully a lot.

Same with, which is running a Christmas lights competition, a natural home for such competitions what with page-starved books for most papers.

Anyway, the point of having a look really was just to harness whether anyone is actually trying to do anything differently in this sea of 'difficult financial times'.

My answer, as has been exposed so many times while writing this blog and working in a newsroom, is no in pretty much all cases.

I can only presume we're all too full of piss and wind (as well as mince pies and cheap Champagne) to actually try and do anything?

I sincerely hope those attempting to innovate and fight their way out of this paper bag of a recession succeed. Those who moan a lot but have tried nothing? Well, the papers will survive, hopefully without you...

NUJ action? You must be joking...

Now, the seemingly endless saga of strikes at Newsquest newspapers up and down the country is something I've mused on before.

However, previously, I targeted the sloppy coordination of the NUJ, which has singularly failed to galvanise the clearly strong voice for protest at many centres.

And I'm going to do exactly the same again.

I realise there is strict legislation in place which governs such moves, but surely the NUJ has some idea of how to go about coordinating a nationwide strike, as that clearly seems to be something Newsquest employees are craving?

It would seem that would be the only way to truly do something about the shoddy treatment of so many journalists by a company which makes "lots of money", apparently.

This is what you're there for NUJ, not your usual sprouting of bullshit rhetoric.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Student rags, or not?

As students started acting up this afternoon, I thought I'd do a quick run round the news sites, to see what everyone was making of the whole thing...

Anyway, here's the summary!

The Times:



Daily Mail:


Evening Standard:


Interesting? Hardly... Mind you, the good old Express had nothing. Nothing at all. Can't say they don't know their audience, as there has been absolutely no mention of either Princess Diana or Madeleine McCann at the protests so far...

Carried out at around 2pm on November 24, 2010.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mail order from the Daily Mail website?

Now, the Daily Mail website is something I've written about before.

Namely, HERE and HERE.

However, a recent article from The Guardian made me revisit it today.

Basically, as we already knew, the site has become quite a big player as far as 'news' sites go. I use the word news in inverted commas because, quite frankly, the lack of news on the site is my major gripe - and possibly the obvious reason behind the site's success.

While you do get some stories, you don't really get news, as such, in any prominent position, or in other words, anywhere that may attract a real news reader.

That is, of course, unless you count anything mentioning I'm a Celebrity, X Factor, chavvy footballers or benefit cheats as high-ranking on the news agenda, which sadly, I don't.

So I thought I'd just write this as an adendum to my previous post if you like, to say that the Mail website is the X Factor of news sites.

Yes, it appeals to the masses, and you can't knock it for what it does, it does well.

But when you look at it for any actual value, it's dog shit.

Sadly, this is something we're now seeing mirrored across the DMGT group's regional newspaper arm, Northcliffe.

ThisIs sites across the land now bear a little section on the bottom of their front pages titled 'SHOWBIZ'.

Basically, this is simply an excuse to post headlines that will attract the chav Googler to the site.

But while it may bump numbers for the site - the below is from but it is everywhere - it has absolutely nothing to do with that area.

Just as the Daily Mail website has absolutely nothing to do with news.

I compare this bandwagon thinking to what the likes of Northcliffe are doing to our newspapers.

They have something that works (name me a site doing ONLY solid, regularly-updated local news that is falling in visitor numbers), yet far from being happy with that, they need to have more, more, more, and some complete fuckwit has told them Google looks in headlines and picture captions for searched terms and the even bigger dipshit who actually makes decisions has jumped on the bandwagon.

As with their newspapers, they'll soon release (too late, I would assume) that this will only work in certain circumstances and the gains will be limited.

Just as cutting staff back continually will when the papers are folded, despite still making a healthy profit.

Still, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the old tricks brought in 30% profits for them knowing fuck all...

Here's the link to the previous Daily Mail website article again if you missed it the first time!

And don't forget, follow me on Twitter and you'll get a mention every now and again!

@haplesshack is my address. You can debate my 'the Daily Mail website is dog shit' verdict on there right now if you like...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Twitter heroes

As promised, here is a list of the heroic Tweeters (apparently that's correct jargon) who are following me - you should follow them too as clearly they are very nice*!


* I cannot make any guarantees on the content these people tweet, so if they are simply trying to sell dodgy laptops or have money to give you from African diamond deals, it;s not my fault!

Conference bullshit. As usual.

Oh, how I love conferences where top bods at regional, national, shit, good, middling newspapers get to shout their opinions from a stage.

The best thing about them is that many of them serve only to show what a complete bunch of fools those overseeing our industry are.

I realise I am turning in to a complete whinger these days, but let's be honest, the fodder is too obvious to overlook.

Case in point: Society of Editors conference in Glasgow.

Editors and execs from up and down the country have thrown expenses caution to the wind (leaving behind reporters whose claims are thrown out if they submit them a bit late) for a few nights in a plush hotel to catch up with old mates over far too much food and drink.

Oh, and they might talk about newspapers a bit too.

The subject the other day was, as it inevitably is for at least one session at these things, the interweb.

And we saw the full scale of the problem encapsulated in one opinion, voiced by the revered editor of the Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Derek Tucker.

Revered, from what I can gather, for running a paper that managed to lose 3.4% of circulation in the January ABCs.

Right, anyway, his quotes included this glorious nugget...

"We have not sold our souls on creating an all-singing, all-dancing website. We have always adopted a stricter attitude to the industry norm."


It was also reported that not all Press & Journal stories are uploaded to the web and that none, repeat NONE, were uploaded before they appeared in the paper.

I'm sure countless editors and MDs up and down the land were gasping at this revelation.

"Derek Tucker doesn't upload everything? And nothing before it's been in the paper? Why, we must adopt this revolutionary process immediately!"

What a fool.

I don't care how revered he is, or by how much less his circulation has fallen than anyone else, he is talking utter tosh.

How can he quantify, for example, the amount of newspaper sales he may have gained by promoting things from the internet? Or by breaking news on the internet, even if it is in a scaled-down story or feature, flagging content in the printed product?

Content is free Derek, end of.

As an internet sceptic myself, I used to follow your way of thinking, but I soon came round when I witnessed the positive effects the internet can have on stories later published, be it comments from online, submitted pictures, whatever, it made the papers better.

You may have so far escaped this new-fangled interweb rubbish and flaunted a meagre 3.4% loss in front of some hapless MD, but your time is over.

Needless to say, he is stepping down in the new year after 18 years in the chair.

Let's just hope that ill-informed comments such as these do not have a lasting effect on the industry he clearly loves.

Because if his policy is continued, newspapers - and their websites - will be dead in 30 years. Completely.

And while that may be fine for those retiring in January, what about the rest of us?

Twitter update to follow - and mentions for my eight followers as promised!

Follow me now for a mention: @haplesshack

I'm also going to have a look at the Daily Mail's website today in light of a very interesting article...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sod local, minor celebrities are the way forward...

Farcical, often-offensive comedy.

Yes, I am talking about regional newspaper bosses and their recent running of the industry we all care so much about.

Yet decisions made by those who have some actual power took perhaps the most surreal turn of all this week, with the announcement of 'comic' Jim Davidson taking on a column in Torquay's Herald Express.

While the jokes make themselves, obviously, a decision such as this really does raise serious questions about what the hell we are all doing here.

In an industry where we are constantly cutting back on local columnists, loved by many readers, to - as we are told - satisfy the desire for "higher story counts"*, what does it say to our faithful when we will happily give over God knows how much space to what many regard as an offensive comedian with no real link to the area**?

The mind boggles.

I'm sure the Herald Express would argue the publicity they have gained will bump up circulation a bit in the first few weeks, but really, is it worth isolating such a large faction of readers for a quick gain?

Again, the questions are so appropriate for decisions taken within the industry as a whole it's untrue.

The way this was announced is also not great, from the perspective of someone reading these papers.

The piece on the Herald Express website informs us that Davidson will be "jotting down his words of wisdom" in the column.

One can only marvel at what such words of wisdom may be, from a man who penned such beauties as this, a quote attributed to Davidson when asked of the reasons behind his move to Dubai when a Labour Government was elected:

"I may as well go to Dubai and be an ethnic minority there than wait five years till I become one here," he said.


Well, I suppose one age-old newspaper adage that will remain true is that the readership will be the best judge of what works in the paper.

And what doesn't.

* regardless of quality.
** A "regular visitor and former seasonal resident", according to the Herald Express piece, which makes me a qualified columnist for Majorca quite frankly.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

When splashes go bad...

We've all been there.

You're running the newsdesk, an hour before deadline, and the splash falls through.

You've sold it to the editor, who has been touting it around his editor chums (I presume they call each other 'chums'? I think they should), telling them the next day's paper will sweep the board at next year's awards dos.

Then, almost in slow motion, you notice the reporter writing it is speaking to you.

The words come out slowly, deeply... And it's gone.

You compose yourself, try not to shout at them too loudly for waiting a week before actually doing any work on the story, then pop and see the editor.

This goes well, as you assure him you have an equally brilliant story as a back up, which of course, you don't.

A quick check with the court reporters proves fruitless, your 'banker' reporter has nothing, even the geeky bloke in the corner who only does FoI stories draws a blank.

Okay, compose yourself, there's a planning agenda on the desk. Yes, a planning agenda! Good old-fashioned reporting.

Yes, there has to be something in the planning agenda for God's sake...

And there is. Sort of.

Oh dear.

Imagine the editor's face when you go to him with this? You've oversold it, you know that, but you can make it work, you can...

But sometimes, you just can't.

The above story is a woeful tale. Planning application for a nursery. That's it. No hidden agenda. It's not a nursery for criminally-insane toddlers or anything like that.

No, it's just a nursery.

Quite how it has turned in to a honey trap for paedophiles is never actually explained, until mum-of-two Natalie Rooney steps in to the fray...

“We think there will be traffic problems because of all the parents dropping off and picking up their children.

“We think there will be noise problems because the children will be playing outdoors. We are also worried that paedophiles will be attracted to the area to be close to the nursery.”

Okay... She is worried that paedophiles will move in to the area to be close to the nursery.


Not only should the reporter have dismissed this immediately, actually, reporter Michael Purton should have 'mmm'-ed and 'aahhh'-ed in an agreeable tone before putting down the phone and pissing himself, but when the desk got this copy, they should have sorted it.

And the subs, surely the subs would not let such a thing through?

Wrong again.

All round, this is really not a ringing endorsement of the quality of reporting at News Shopper.

It;s lazy, it's desperate, and while I don't doubt it's probably the most-read edition for many years, it is NOT the way editors should be tempting in readers.

Sensationalism of the worst kind, done badly (what is going on with that headline?), and a copy of this should be held up at every single meeting to discuss why newspapers are a. hated and b. why sales are falling through the floor.

Do follow me on Twitter - I do get on there occasionally, so I will reply to any direct tweets or whatever it is you do on there! @haplesshack

Still on a massive seven followers - who I am eternally grateful too and will give a shout out to in the next blog! Join them and you'll get one too!

Strike me down, but they need organising...

I find the recent upsurge of strikes across Newsquest centres very sad.

Not simply because of the moves which have made them inevitable - ever-falling staffing, sub hubs, pension changes, senior executives behaving like banking fat cats - but also because of the seemingly random way in which they are organised.

Speaking to colleagues on Newsquest papers, it seems there is no coherent thinking by that age-old bastion of a union, the NUJ.

I would expect the NUJ, as the NUS did yesterday in London, to organise something on a slightly larger scale than a handful of people outside a newspaper office on an industrial estate.

This is what happens to a union when it simply doesn't do enough.

After many years of membership, I eventually stopped my direct debit, as the cost of the union seemed to constantly increase in direct proportion to the loss of representation I actually felt.

I'm not alone.

So, say what you like about the NUS action on Wednesday, the NUJ can only dream of such a turnout.

And that, I'm afraid, is largely their own fault.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Here we go again on our own...

Well, well, well, just when we thought it was safe to come out from under the desk (where we all hide from time to time in the hope of avoiding the MD's eyes when he's playing ennie-meenie-minie-mo to select the next round of redundencies) it appears Northcliffe have once again opened that particular can of 'further efficiencies' worms...

Yep, another 50-plus subbing jobs are set to go across the Northcliffe stable in a fresh bid to save (and make) even more money.

While many business gurus will say that these things will happen in "times of economic downturns" and other such bollocks, the previous set of redundancies and creation of subbing 'hubs' seems also to have been abandoned, suggesting at best shortsightedness, at worst, a complete balls up of a business plan.

Why, all of a sudden, would a decision taken - at great expense and moral-sapping staff costs - less than 12 months ago, suddenly be a bad idea?

I just don't understand it.

And nor, it appears, does anyone at Northcliffe.

Just read that information again...

"The Plymouth hub is set to lose all responsibility for production of the Plymouth Herald, Torquay Herald Express, Exeter Express and Echo and Mid-Devon Gazette, all of which may move to Bristol."

So, that makes sense, they're moving Plymouth away from Plymouth and up to Bristol, which will, obviously, potentially see the need to lose a few subs from Plymouth.


"Around 20 of the job losses are likely to occur at the Bristol hub, with responsibility for producing the Western Daily Press and Western Morning News moving to Plymouth."

Right, so the production of these newspapers are swapping 'hubs', yet that means staff can be lost?

How? This is not explained. Why would it not make sense to just leave them where they are and cut staff, rather than, as the evidence above indicates to me, swap some duties around and say this means you need less people?

If you need less people to sub the Herald, then come out and say it.

And of you need less people to sub the Western Daily Press etc, then again, say so.

You would think it could be down to buildings or something, not having enough room for all of the over-proportioned subs or something, but anyone who has ever seen either the Plymouth or the Bristol buildings knows that's a feeble argument at best.

Instead, they've played newspaper musical chairs and also added in to the mix the possibility of reporters writing their own headlines and typing up copy directly in to template pages.

This is a whole other argument, but does also serve to highlight how ridiculous this plan is.

Okay, so the thinking is that we need less subs because reporters are entering their copy directly in to a page.

Fine, disregarding the enforced absence of any kind of creativity in page layout, but who is checking that copy?

The reporter? The news desk?

In theory, we all know two people checking the copy should work, but it doesn't.

That's what copy subs are there for. If they weren't needed at all, they would have been cut before, believe me.

No, what all of these things indicate is not that the business is necessarily struggling (although I'm sure all are experiencing a drop in profits), but rather that the newspaper groups have finally given up pretending that they care about the quality of their offerings any longer.

Perhaps, initially, when sales figures started to drop, they did think quality was important and that producing a good paper would bring back readers (you know, they only made half of us redundant at first!).

But it hasn't, and this seems a clear example of a publisher saying 'bollocks to it, whatever we do, noone's buying it, so let's put out any old shit'.

And what hope is there for the reporters and subs after this?

None, surely.

No, what you need to invest in now is lots of middle-managers with ipads who can walk around and sell digital something-or-others.

While it gives no comfort to anyone facing the prospect of yet another round of redundancies, the same old result will come.

Those who should go; won't.

Does anyone else feel like giving up and letting the industry wallow in the shit it has so eagerly created for itself?

Oh, as usual, here's a plug for Twitter! @haplesshack - do log on there and let me know what you think of all these changes Northcliffe staff - and those beyond!

Monday, 25 October 2010

BBC you later...

The BBC has, for a long time, been something of a concern to me, as I'm sure it is to many other hacks around the UK and beyond.

Coming from a commercial standpoint - I have never worked for Aunty - it is easy to be angry at those who work within the vast estate that is the Beeb.

They don't have to 'earn' their money, as such, have lost no staff due to 'diminishing advertising revenue' (I can honestly recite that phrase verbatim having heard and read it so much in recent years) and, if perceptions are to be believed, seem to enjoy greater resources for even the smallest of assignments when compared to others.

A colleague of mine informed me, as we here at Hapless Times were putting together the newsroom plan for General Election coverage, that the count she was attending did not have 'wifi'.

I had been briefed, so understood that many reporters were expected to write and send stories throughout the night via the internet to give our readers a blinding, live insight into events, as they happened.

"But we could do what the BBC has done," she said, somewhat sheepishly. "And pay to have broadband installed at the count."

Imagine my consternation. Taking her - and the press officer who told her - word at face value, I am still somewhat pissed off by this.

The BBC - and as it later emerged from said press officer, Sky News - had teamed up to have broadband installed so that their coverage wouldn't be affected.

Fuck me, but that is not what I pay my license fee for I'm afraid.

Ground-breaking television, yes. Hell, I'll even cough up for those wildlife programs my mum likes, but broadband for one night? Feck off.

The BBC, for me, is not there to compete with the likes of Sky News, CNN, ITV, hell, even local or regional newspapers.

It is there to be the national broadcaster. To present news, television and the likes in an impartial, unbiased fashion.

Does it matter if it breaks the news first? Not really. So long as it gets there in the end with the facts and figures all stacked up, they shouldn't give a shit.

So why are they using my money to have broadband installed?

Anyway, all of this is really a ranting way of getting round the news that the BBC is facing a 16% cut as part of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review - or as it has been labelled, the CSR (which sounds like a motorcycle to me but there you go).

My response? Why the fuck shouldn't they?

Is there anyone, working in local, regional, even on most national papers, that has not felt the pinch? That has not sweated over whether they will be among those facing the chop when the MD calls the editorial staff together for another "announcement"?

Quite frankly, it's about time the BBC took a share of the pain.

Here's a suggestion to the BBC: Sell that heap of shit Strictly Come Dancing to ITV, along with anything which could be sold for a lot of money, and actually cut my license fee.

Brucie could be sold too. And Graham Norton. And Chris Moyles.

Because what is the BBC doing paying these people ludicrous salaries when that is not what they're there for?

You could get someone to present Strictly, if they kept it, that would cost half Brucie's salary (me, for example). Yeah, I'd be rubbish, but what does it matter?

Hell, I'd even make my own way there and back for £500 a show.

As usual, my point could have been made so much more succinctly were I not to whitter on, so a cursory glance at a breakdown of the BBC figures reveals some interesting facts (granted, these are for 2005-2006, I couldn't get a similar chart any more up to date).

Of our monthly license fee, the spend is broken down thus:

BBC One: £3.52
BBC Two: £1.52
Transmission and collection costs: £1.08
Nations and English regions TV: £1.04
BBC Radio 1,2,3,4 & Five Live: £1.02
Digital: £1
Nations' and local radio: 68p
BBC Online: 36p
BBC Jam: 14p
Digital radio stations: 10p
Interactive TV: 8p

Forgive me, but what the fuck is BBC Jam (strike from my costs)? And I know lots of people who can't get digital TV or radio (strike interactive and digital radio).

Already I've saved 32p. No, it's not a lot, but of the £10.54, it's more than 3%, so it's a start eh?

Get rid of Chris Moyles' salary and I think my work here is almost done...

Oh, and don't forget, you can follow me nowadays on Twitter - I'm still on an enormously pleasing seven followers - via @HaplessHack

I will return with my first experience just as soon as I can find the conversation and work out how to display it here. As I've said, I'm new to all that tweeting business.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Twits, the lot of us.

Oh, and before I go, a quick update on my foray into the world of social networking...

I now have seven, yes, seven, followers on Twitter. I am amazingly pleased with that!

God love you all. I will post details of my first row later...

But if you should wish to have a looksie, I'm @haplesshack apparently.

More from across the pond...

I had to post this, as it is out there, from the Fox Sports Network website.

Clearly, some Americans really don't understand what is offensive and what isn't...

If you can't see it, it's the headline regarding some bloke called Wayne Rooney, who apparently has had a tiff with a manager.

It begins: "Later, wankers..."

Either they just don't get it, or a rogue Man City fan is working for Fox.
Wow, such a lot to contemplate in recent days...

The over-arching issue is, of course, the announcement of a new daily newspaper; i (apparently it is supposed to be in italics, as all modern titles should be, naturally, as a single, italicised letter clearly means cutting edge and new).

It's going to cost us 20p and from what I can gather, is intended to give us all of our news, in a deep enough format to make it interesting, yet still take something like 25 seconds to read in order to fit in with our hectic lifestyles.

So which is it? Is it the Metro? Or simply a butchered Indy? Either way, it'll be interesting to see whether it can challenge the early-morning dominance of the free, unitalicised, Metro.

The most ironic journalism news of the week however could only go to one issue. Newsquest.

Our esteemed friends from across the pond, at parent company Gannett, have really put their feet in said pond with comments made last week.

Gracia Martore, president and CEO (you have to say that with an American accent don't you?), is reported to have said: "Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn't make money.

"Newsquest makes a lot of money. In fact, their margin, as I have said a couple times, is consistent with the margin that our local US Community Publishing operations generate.

"So their margins are in the high teens to low 20s and they have consistently made money throughout the years."

Oh right, well, that's okay then! If you're so chuffed Gracia, why not reward your staff? Oh, my mistake, you have, in the form of a 20% pay rise to one "top earning director" (believed to be Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson).

The irony, of course, came in the form of a news story published in the hours following this brilliant news from the US regarding Newsquest, that jobs were to go as two new subbing hubs were being created in southern England, including shipping The Argus subs from Brighton to Southampton.

And which company is responsible for this? Newsquest of course, who are so good at making money.

While we're at it, I would urge Newsquest to issue a statement addressing the concerns of many friends of mine who work for that group, which is clearly so successful, on why there is a group-wide pay freeze which clearly, if we are to believe Gracia, only runs up to the buffers of "top earning directors".

Clearly, this is a cleverly-worded piece of super-jargon that is so clever and cunning that none of us will realise no journalist will ever have a cat in hell's chance of getting such a rise because when would one ever be a "top earning director".

It's enough to make you puke isn't it?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sex ads here... Or not...

Well, the dramas roll on in regional newspapers.

It really is like something from The West Wing, or more accurately The Thick Of It, at times.

Case in point: sex ads in local newspapers.

The age-old debate over the morality of publishing adverts for 'massage parlour's and the likes raised its ugly head again this week with a huge story from the Croydon Guardian.

It was a good piece, a reporter had secured an exclusive from the police that they were intending to prosecute editors who publish ads which are found to be involved in human trafficking, and included a raft of condemnation at rival newspaper groups who still publish such ads (the Croydon Guardian is published by Newsquest, which has banned such ads).

My opinion on such ads is, of course, a little old-fashioned, in that I have always had the 'don't ask, don't tell' mantra thrown at me when raising concerns over the issue.

The ads shouldn't be accepted, that's obvious. But then, how do you prove exactly what they are advertising? Is a ban on 'massage parlour' ads then putting genuine establishments in trouble?

Why should that particular line of business be the focus?

A mechanic could be dodgy, but do we send ad reps out to check their credentials (wrong choice of phrase?) before allowing them to advertise? No, of course we don't.

So I can see an argument, that's for sure.

However, Newsquest's stand was always to be applauded, except in situations like this, when the decision was used to beat its rivals with a decidedly shitty stick. Surely not the point of the ban?

UPDATE: The Thick Of It plot thickens, as a piece by Press Gazette - as is the way with these things - seems to claim the Croydon Guardian piece is not accurate.

It reads: "Press Gazette was told by the Met that it wanted to work with the newspaper industry but it has yet to receive a response from the service on the specific issue of whether it would seek to charge editors for carrying ads."

It's funny how, whenever someone has the balls to stand up on this issue, the industry quickly defends itself.

Perhaps, like me, those pointing at the Croydon Guardian have had years of 'don't ask, don't tell' thrown at them too.

I for one, however, salute the Croydon Guardian's intentions, if not the technique, and am unimpressed by others in this industry basically standing their ground over what we all know in our souls is a load of bollocks, no matter how often we're told to believe it.

UPDATE 2: Alas, another development, this time, quite frankly, of the pathetic nature.

This blog happily takes the piss out of silly mistakes made by newspapers, bloggers, websites, that kind of thing.

However, following the Croydon Guardian's story yesterday, an apparent local blogger had a go at them for posting a picture of sex ads which showed the phone numbers.

Now, I'm all for letting them know about the mistake, but for something as serious as this, and when a paper has actually stuck its head above the parapet, to do what Inside Croydon have done is basically just fuckin' low.

Read their blog here and be ready to cringe at some sad bastard taking a paper's good work to the cleaners in a bid to somehow show that he's a better journalist than the staff at the Croydon Guardian.

Maybe he or she is, but show it by coming up with a better exclusive, don't just take a cheap shot from your laptop.

The blogosphere eh?

However, don't forget, you can call me a wanker anytime you like on Twitter (@haplesshack) and by email at

Let's hope this is the final update on this story... But I doubt it!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Twits, the lot of'em.

Yes, I have to admit it. I have been looking in to Twitter as a result of constant badgering from those of you good enough to read this little blog in passing every now and again.

Just some of the comments I have had:

"It's great, you can just post things straight away and not have to have an entire blog prepared."

"You should tweet*, you'll get loads more followers."


"It's 140 characters so you won't be able to winge on talking shite to stretch out your blogs."

Okay, the last one was made up, but the others are real.

So, as I say, I've been looking in to it. And it has made me laugh a few times, so I am, today, going to announce the official Hapless Hack Twitter account. All I need to do is set it up.

Anyway, in perusing the latest internet phenom (apparently that's an acceptable word nowadays, as is nowadays) I have come across some very amusing things.

Yet I have also come to one very obvious conclusion. Basically, it's a tabloid hack's dream isn't it?

So-called 'celebrities' posting their thoughts, off-the-cuff, pr-free, reaching out to their 'fans' from the information super highway.

Or is it basically yet another tool for the lazy bastards that need something to write about?

Take the News of The World on Sunday. Now, I started following Lord Alan Sugar (let's be honest, it doesn't sound anywhere near as good as "Sir Alan") as apparently it is actually him, as he seems at pains to point out every five minutes.

So I watched his little joust with Conservative housing advisor extraordinaire Kirstie Allsopp as it happened, and chuckled to myself as I imagined the work experience kid at NoTW house tripping over as he ran to the newsdesk to explain the "row", "fight", whatever going on before his very eyes.

And sure enough, there it was on page 12 on Sunday, complete with "row", "bust-up" and amusing headline pun ('Apprentwit').

Oh, the joy of the technological age.

It's just an excuse for even more overblown crap really isn't it?

I'm going to start a new competition, email me ( with your Twitter stories and I'll give away 50% of the highest tabloid fee I get to one lucky winner...

Anyway, you can now follow me on Twitter, I'm @haplesshack apparently, so climb on and let's join the revolution! See you there.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A couple of funnies...

Hello there fellow paper people.

I apologise, again, for leaving you in the wilderness for so long. Again... Things really must improve and thanks for all the emails letting me know!

So, in an attempt at placating your anger, here are a couple of funnies as I don't have long to post anything!

This is from Myleene Klass' Twitter feed. Yes, I have joined Twitter people, so look out for contact details shortly...

Anyway, the response to this picture made me laugh, as someone wittily responds to Myleene's post with the comment: "I know, a free Cliff Richard DVD."

Next up, the return of, God love 'em. A simple spelling mistake submitted by someone who lives in 'Twyning':

Sorry about the size of these images, which basically means you can't see them, but I haven't developed the necessary web skills to make them bigger I'm afraid. I'm sure this will be rectified once my Twitter expertise grow. Probably.

Anyway, I'll be back soon, I promise. So please stop sending me abuse!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Free speech or homophobic abuse?

Interesting times over at south and east London weekly News Shopper (what a strange name for a newspaper that is, I mean, what does it mean?).

The paper printed a somewhat controversial letter recently which, well, judge for yourself:

HAVE YOUR SAY: Marriage helps to make society work

YOUR newspaper dropped in our letterbox and I was shocked by the headline Hospital On Sex Website (News Shopper, August 11).

This is meant to be a family newspaper and not some sleazy sex advertiser for the perverted.

Marriage is the thing which makes society work.

This is why we have the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph — to show us man, woman and child is what God asks us to follow.

God gave homosexuals up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions.

Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.

If we promote anything other than marriage then we shall answer on Judgment Day for it.

Please stop advertising lesbian, gay and bisexual clubs.

You are giving our young teenagers the wrong message and promoting perversity.

Just before you mention equality there is no equality today due to everything being biased towards homosexuality.

Let’s now tell the truth and stop lying to all and sundry.

Letter written by Mrs S Fitzsimons, South Park Crescent, Lewisham

What do you think? Add your comments below.

Now, call me old fashioned - yes, thank you at the back - but to me that letter is simply inappropriate. End of story.

Is the person writing within their rights to say it? Of course. But the paper's editor is also within their rights not to publish it, in fact, in a case such as this I would argue they have a duty NOT to publish it as it is downright offensive and homophobic.

Obviously, the paper has actually done nothing wrong, because the law doesn't quite censure a genuinely-held belief, no matter how horrendous many of us find it, but I would question what the hell the editor was thinking.

Let's face it, we could all run such letters, and our websites would be deluged with comments and reaction.

but in a world where we are all already labelled as scaremongerers and sensationalists, surely something so blatant and well, obvious, should be avoided?

And the worst thing of all; it was awarded letter of the week.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

A* in same-old-same-old at A-level

Yes, A-level results day. You've got to love it, if only because it gives you a dead-cert front page for the next day's edition, no matter how hard that splash-worthy line can be to find some years.

However, despite the story, there's one thing that never, ever changes, and that's the front page image.

As I don't have an inexhaustable supply of money with which to purchase newspaper subscriptions, I rounded up the images from 'digital editions'. Or websites as us technophobes call them.

Here is a selection of the crackers I found... went unorthadox, choosing not to show us a single face, instead opting for the 'shadow shot'. Either that, or someone can't crop a picture properly...

The Brighton Argus went rather more upmarket, with the classic 'posh girls who got 17 As'-style pic. Men across Brighton retired early...

This was a PA pic used by the Daily mail on their site. It's fine, but I think the girl in the centre gives it away that it was a staged picture...

Worcester News up next, and at least they tried to pull off a slight, if tired, variation, in the form of the 'photographer on his knees' shot...

The Manchester Evening News went with a classic 'jumping for joy' number, again, rather spoiled by poor cropping work. We need the feet. The feet... is perhaps the most traditional. Jumping; tick. Feet in shot (take not MEN, tsk); tick. One of the subjects being a tit; tick. Job done.

The Bolton News is a victim of cuts, I think. You can almost hear the editor shouting "for God's sake just send a reporter out with his camera phone, I want an exam picture up there in ten minutes or you are fired!" Okay...

The Birmingham Mail ( for some reason...) is caught between two stalls. The jumping shot (see checklist above as to why they clearly failed on that one) and the smiling as we look at our results sheet shot.

But my favourite of the day has to be the Oxford Mail, not because it's a bad picture, just because they went completely mad with it, therefore exposing the fact that it really isn't that good a picture...

Anyway, I'll be back soon. Emails to the usual address:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pooping on your own doorstep...

Well hello my little Droogies, long time no speak, which of course is entirely my fault so I apologise.

To be honest, not a lot has made my ears prick up recently (although I did receive a very funny email about a certain newspaper which I have chosen not to highlight - thanks though, you know who you are).

However, something always comes along, and an email detailing some fine, fine work by the Croydon Advertiser came up trumps.

An interesting splash last week, exposing a brothel in the borough (unfortunately, I can't provide a link as they haven't - as far as I can see - uploaded the story to their website. Can you believe that?).

Basically, a brothel has been operating in West Croydon under the guise of a massage parlour and one intrepid reporter exposed it as a fully-fledged knocking shop.

Shock horror, obviously, leading to pure admiration at the Sherlock Holmes-like detective work involved in deducing something unsavoury may be going on...

However, here is the catch. Turn to the classifieds and you find the usual assortment of ads for massage parlours and the like and yes, you guessed it, there is an ad for the very parlour exclusively revealed to be a knocking shop just 50-odd pages earlier.

How embarrassing.

Why, for God's sake, didn't someone think to check this?

We all appreciate ad revenues are falling constantly and we are struggling to prop up our rich owners, so why bother with such a story (particularly one as unoriginal as this) when you are adding to the problem yourself by giving them an outlet to advertise their 'services'?

I ask you, a newspaper that runs a story exposing a brothel which is advertising with them should be exposed as a very, very poor publication, which I am more than happy to do here.

You can't take their money then call them scum. Get a moral grip people. We all know this goes on, yet turning a blind eye is one thing, being a damn hypocrite is another entirely.

Someone needs to be hauled over some very, very hot coals for that corker. Holier than thou my arse.

And we can't even read the bloody 'Exclusive' story online anyway. If it wasn't so pathetic it would be hilarious.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Press Release of the Week That WILL Feature in The Daily Mail & Daily Express

I know 'Press Release of the Week That WILL Feature in The Daily Mail & Daily Express' is not a feature of this blog, but I had to create one in honour of this release.

It's pure genius...

Here is the unedited copy (so the PR firm should send me at least a tenner):

Manchester United and the Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey Team face a boycott by Muslim fans because the devil emblems included in their club insignia could be outlawed in Islam.

Already religious leaders in Malaysia have forbidden Muslims to wear Manchester United shirts because the red devil emblem is forbidden in Islam.

The Johor Religious Council adviser and the Mufti of Perak have told fans that images of crosses, liquor brands and devils on football shirts are insulting to Allah.

This could spread to Britain which is home to 2.5 million Muslims.

Secret Millionaire star Paul Ragan and new owner of the Cardiff Devils denies there is any problem.

“We have a predominant ‘devil’ in our logo but the last thing in anyone’s mind was to cause any religious offence. No one has ever complained about our club name or our badge,” he said.

Cardiff has by far the largest Muslim population (4%) in Wales. In the Principality overall Muslims account for less than 1 per cent of the population (22,000 people).

Manchester United have devoted considerable effort in building a fan base for their merchandise in Malaysia. They toured there last summer and have a five-year sponsorship deal with communications group Telekom Malaysia.

“There is no excuse for wearing such garments because it means, as a Muslim, you are idolising the symbol of another religion,“ said Datuk Nooh Gadot, the Mufti of Johor.

The badges on Barcelona, Brazil, Portugal and Northern Ireland strips all feature crosses.

Who wants odds on it being in at least one national and the topic of conversation on EVERY talk-based radio phone-in in the next 24 hours?

bets to the usual address... Cash in advance you understand.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Have you ever heard the term 'hyperlocal'?

If you work in a newsroom and you ever pay any attention to anyone who wears a suit that cost more than your monthly salary, then you probably have.

It's the future, we're told, and involves providing news to communities that they will find relevant and interesting.

Well I never, whatever was it we were doing before?

Anyway, 'hyperlocal' is certainly the buzz term of the minute, so we are all being gently prodded, with a big stick made of redundancy, towards coming up with ways to achieve the ultimate in 'hyperlocal' coverage.

Just as research really, I looked up the term 'hyper' and derivations thereof in a bid to deduce exactly what it is these people may be after.

Needless to say, the results were disappointing:

hype n intensive or exaggerated publicity or sales promotion.

hyper adj Informal overactive or overexcited.

hyper- prefix over, above, excessively, e.g. hyperactive.

Still, first one to come up with exactly what it means wins a media industry...

Friday, 16 July 2010

A big tip of the hat to radio, for a change...

Radio is really not my thing, in terms of journalism.

I love to have a radio on, constantly, don't get me wrong, it's just not the type of broadcast I've really been involved in to any great extent.

However, I felt moved to post this transcript of an excellent, in my opinion it should be award-winning, interview by TalkSPORT presenter Ian Collins.

Collins was the first journalist to get hold of Siobhan O'Dowd, the woman behind the Raoul Moat tribute page on facebook which caused such a stir this week.

It was followed up by every national paper, every TV news bulletin, and the TalkSPORT presenter deserves every bit of praise he receives because, quite frankly, it is an excellent piece of work.

You can listen to it here

But the transcript is below. Enjoy...

IC: We've been talking about the facebook page that has been created. It's 'RIP Raoul Moat, you legend', facebook page.

We were hoping to talk to Siobhan, one of the people that started the page, but we have found Siobhan.

Siobhan, good evening.

SO'D: Hiya

IC: We got you in the end.

SO'D: You did. I must have had no signal as my phone's been on all day.

IC: You weren't hiding from us then?

SO'D: No, I've got nothing to hide for.

IC: Well you did start a pretty unsavoury Facebook page didn't you?

SO'D: Yeah but that's my opinion. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

IC: Raoul Moat you're a legend?

SO'D: Yep.

IC: Why's he a legend?

SO'D: Well I just think he is. Legends usually get talked about don't they and he's getting talked about so in my eyes he's a legend.

IC: Yeah, but what's he done to make him a legend? Usually, people who are a legend have done something that would make people think, 'oh, this guy, he's so good for this reason or that reason that he's a legend'.

You know, Robin Hood, because he robbed from the rich to the poor...

SO'D: No. You lot all think he's a bad person because of what you've read in the papers right... But you, no, every day...

IC: No, I think he's a bad person because he's killed one, nearly killed another and blinded a policeman.

SO'D: Yeah, I don't agree with that. I don't agree with the shootings that he did, that were harsh like, but I can't understand his girlfriend me.

If someone was so scared of someone... Personally, if it were me, if my boyfriend were in jail, or ex boyfriend, and I were that scared of him, I'd pack up me stuff and I'd leave. I would not write a letter and say 'oh and by the way, I'm shaggin' a copper'.

You just don't do it when you know full well what he's like about the police anyway.

IC: Couple of points on that Siobhan. Firstly, we don't know any of that happened, we're just hearing that as speculation so... Secondly, even if she did, maybe, should this woman have to uproot her life because of that? And maybe she thought 'if I tell him I'm now going out with a policeman, he will leave me alone, I'll be protected? Maybe that was the reason.

SO'D: Well maybe it were but it obviously didn't work did it?

IC: Well, you're very casual about the fact that a woman's had her stomach blown out, one man is dead and another fella is blinded.

I mean your interpretation of that is, well, 'she wrote a letter to the prison winding him up'. I mean, that's an incredible reaction for the severity of what's happened Siobhan.

SO'D: Well fair enough but I'm just sayin'. If someone were that scared they would not write a letter to their boyfriend. Even if he were just like a normal person and he didn't have nowt going wrong with him in his head and that...

IC: You're following this like you're following Eastenders. You're filling in the blanks when you don't know. You don't know anything about which letters were written...

SO'D: But you don't know. You you only know what you read int' paper...

IC: No, what I know is that the guy has shot three people; one dead, two very seriously injured, one certainly with life-changing injuries and blinded for life. I mean it doesn't get much worse than that and then you start a facebook page by calling him a legend?

Now, a legend has to have done something to call him a legend.

What, specifically, has this guy done that makes you think he's worthy of hero status?

SO'D: He kept on hide, from police for a week. That were funny. He were right underneath their nose, he were right underneath 'em and they still couldn't find him.

At the end of the day...

IC: If you can't find someone, you can't find someone...

SO'D: All police are bothered about are tiny little petty crimes. They're quick enough to go and follow them out...

IC: They mobilised a police force to try and look for him. If you're hiding, you can't find someone, that's not a fault of the police Siobhan.

SO'D: Yeah, but when it were on't news that, allegedly, he got in the village right, which I can't understand if you know them police there, why didn't one of them spot him?

IC: The fact that one of them didn't is your answer isn't it? They didn't.

SO'D: Well they must not have had their eyes open then...

SO'D: Why is that a good thing? Why is that funny?

They're chasing a multiple murderer. Why is that funny?

What is within your head Siobhan, I'm just interested here, that makes you think, in life, of all the things that are funny, that that is funny? Steve Coogan's funny, that is not...

SO'D: I think he's a legend for keepin' 'em on their toes for a week.

IC: So you think it's good that he did that? That we had a terrified village, kids being kept in a classroom because they were too scared, millions of pounds worth of taxpayer's money being used in mobilising helicopters, and you find that funny?

SO'D: Well I think it's funny how he is, yeah, I do. I do think he's a bit of a legend like that yeah.

IC: And shooting a copper in the face, is that funny?

SO'D: No, clearly not, that's not funny is it? I'm not laughing about that, I'm not saying that were funny.

IC: Have you got a criminal record?

SO'D: No I 'ant.

IC: Never been arrested?

SO'D: Well yeah, I have been arrested, but I haven't got a criminal record.

IC: What did you get arrested for Siobhan?

SO'D: Er, something petty, criminal damage it were.

IC: Oh right, okay.

SO'D: You ever been arrested?

IC: No, not yet.

SO'D: Well you're a good boy then aren't ya?

IC: Not after this phone call. I might be arrested, who knows?

SO'D: Oh well (unintelligible).

IC: Just out of interest then. When you look at the kind of words that have been said on your website: "RIP Raoul, I blame your ex, little whore." Is that acceptable?

SO'D: Well everyone's allowed to their own opinion innit?

IC: Okay, alright, "if my missus ever does to me what she did to Raoul, I hope I'm brave enough to do what he did". Is that alright?

SO'D: Well everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

IC: Yeah, but I mean... You have essentially got a facebook page here where people are discussing potential murder. And then another guy...

SO'D: I didn't think all these people would join it did I?

IC: Well no, I wouldn't imagine you did think that for one second. I can't imagine you thinking that far ahead...

SO'D: It's not just me that thinks the same.

IC: No, there are other stupid people around as well, you're correct.

"Raoul Moat had the guts to stand up to the oppression forced upon us by ego-driven police force. He's a true hero. He has the respect of far more people in this country than any cop ever will do". What do you say to that?

SO'D: I think he's right.

IC: You think he's right. And this man will remain a hero to you?

SO'D: Yep, definitely.

IC: On the basis of..?

SO'D: It's about time someone give police something to do.

IC: Right. And you think that's the best way to look at it; to go round, shoot up a few people and get the police on their toes?

SO'D: Yeah, well, not shoot people obviously but I think it's, well, that's what they get paid for don't they, trying to catch criminals? So at least they got the wage, at least the wage they deserved. And they caught a criminal.

IC: Not sure that's the best way to look at an operation that was that expensive, that frightened the life out of several, several hundreds or thousands of people in that neck of the woods, including small kids who were kept in school for long periods of time...

All of that because this mad man was out on the loose with a gun, telling people 'the cops are gonna get it next, the public might get it next', and you see that man as a hero?

SO'D: Well, anyway, police killed him anyway. So they'll be happy...

IC: No, the police didn't kill him. The police didn't do it.

SO'D: Well this is what they say they did; they tasered him and he shot himself. But it's a bit funny innit, right, they asked all the cameras...

IC: A bit funny that he had a gun next to his head?

SO'D: ...that they asked all the cameras to move, ten foot away from where he were. That's so they couldn't catch nowt on camera, couldn't hear nowt.

They shot him because he shot one of theirs, that's how it is.

IC: No no no no. What are you, Columbo all of a sudden? You've decided this have you, you've worked it all out?

SO'D: Yep.

IC: What are you, CSI or something?

How have you done this then? Did you go down there with forensics?

SO'D: Yep.

IC: Have you got kids Siobhan?

SO'D: Yeah I have thanks.

IC: You have to be joking me?

SO'D: No, I'm not.

IC: So you would bring your kids up, into the world, telling them that this guy was a legend?

SO'D: Er, well, I wouldn't say he were a legend for shooting people but yeah, I'd say he were a legend for keeping police on their toes, like I've told you about five times.

IC: You would tell your children that?

SO'D: Yeah

IC: Okay.

Alright Siobhan, thank you very much for coming on and joining us.

I can only say to the nation; is that the stupidest woman you've ever heard on this radio show?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Some funnies ahead of Friday!

Well, as we all know, a Thursday is basically a Friday in newsrooms up and down the country due to the classic 'final day wind-down'.

So in anticipation of the start of the drinking, here are a couple of funnies. I'll try and get back tomorrow for something for the weekend, as it were...

First up is the delightful Press Gazette (the magazine that is officially not as good as it used to be, like Viz), which must have been having a slow day on this occasion...

Yep, that is the homepage.

And just to round off this quick-fire bulletin, the new BBC News website had something of a glitch on only the second day post-launch.

The new layout shows off images really well, unfortunately...

Needless to say, this was rectified later.
Tally ho!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New BBC News site vs Telegraph Online

Well well, here it is at last.

After countless public information blogs and even some pre-launch screenshots, the new BBC News website confronted users this morning as they browsed for their morning fill of news alongside their Weetabix.

And what do we think? Well, I was surrounded by an array of reactions, from "cack" to many, much warmer-sounding "ooooh"s and even one "why have they done this to me?"...

For me, I don't mind it at all. It seems to be pretty reactionary (and what, in the world of news website design isn't?), which is more of a good thing when it comes to BBC sites in the UK, as they don't have to factor in advertising - the number 1 complaint of any web user when asked.

So it's clean and reasonably appealing, which in fairness, the BBC site has always been.

The first thing that gleans any kind of derision from this viewer is the sheer size of the main headline, in this case 'UK employment declines to 2.47m'*.

And it feels, even though comparing new to old is not the case, like there are fewer stories on the front.

This is because of the top story - two sub-stories - list of others approach being centre-stage.

Previously, the list of other stories was segregated, to the right-hand side of the page.

Now, it is right there in front of me, and a lack of images makes me feel like it is an after-thought. But that is just me. If a list of stories is to be a focal point, give it something to appeal to the reader.

I also don't like 'Also in the news' being so prominent (did you see what I did there, did you?). Again, this, to me, means a section full of stupid stories that no one knew what to do with, and I perceive them to not really belong in the news, but instead in some God-awful 'Funny news' or 'Weird news' section.

I wish the BBC would lose a touch of superiority complex and call it what it is; the 'Stuff that isn't really news but you might laugh at and send to your mates boosting our numbers and justifying why we put this crap up', but I understand that may contain a few too many characters.

Another thing I find slightly patronising, and a classic reaction to reports of clicks and reader response, is the sheer size of the 'Most Popular' panel. Does it really need to be so large?

I realise click reports will show this to be THE panel on the homepage - although again, the Beeb retains an intellectual standpoint by putting the doubtless under-used 'Features & Analysis' panel above it - but honestly, if we are struggling to see it, we'll have our eyes tested.

The mid-page barrier, a customizable insert for weather and news from various regional and local BBC sites, is actually quite nice, also retaining some of the 'elsewhere' links from the old site.
Below here though, is where it starts to lose the plot for me.

The homepage descends into some sort of half-impression of the Daily Mail site - see here for what I mean - with overblown story summaries (yet none on the main headlines? A compromise would have been nice) in a bid to gain Google hits, and just simple over-population of this area.

It smacks of the developer saying "well, this is where you've lost most visitors, as our research shows most readers will scroll for 1.7534 turns of the little wheel thing on their mouse, so we thought we might as well cram as many keywords as possible into this section".

For me, it looks silly and too slap-dash.

And it also looks like the Telegraph, as the entire site does, far too much.

And the Telegraph constantly freezes my browser, so let's hope this isn't the case with the new BBC News site...

Overall though, there isn't a drastic change here, just a few minor alterations in a bid to catch up to other news sites in terms of volume of content and keywords.

BBC News has long been a reliable and technically-sound site - let's hope it stays that way.

* For the record, a font this big, with the SEO headline is just annoying to me. Get over the SEO thing people, or wait three months, then someone will come up a tag that hides the bit Google searches from us poor readers who have to look at it.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

When SEO goes mad - update!

Further to my rant the other day regarding the Daily Mail's homepage becoming comparable to some sort of Google bot site, I noticed these jobs being advertised...

While the salary for an SEO Content Executive (whatever the hell that is) is somewhat disappointing for a business that clearly rates it so highly, the SEO manager is clearly the big wig at the Mail!

I do like the description though and the fact that they have SEO and Analytics teams. Can you imagine their meetings?

"So, what have you done this week?"

"We've managed to get the name Jordan and/or Princess Diana into every headline at least three times boss."

"Excellent, now back to it. Those headlines aren't going to repeat themselves. Hang on, yes they are. Anyway, keep it up."


Monday, 12 July 2010

Raoul Moat reaction...

The case of Raoul Moat is definitely tragic. Sad, even. But for whom?

While we all deliberate on the actions of police, the media, even Gazza during the saga, let's not forget what started the whole sorry episode - Raoul Moat himself.

Just look at the facts, if letters from the man himself are to be believed.

He shot his ex-girlfriend after hearing her slagging him off (do remember that he was squatting under her living room window with a gun when he heard her). He then shot her new boyfriend, before shooting a completely innocent policeman, twice.

Not only that. Again, if his own words are to be believed, he "declared war" on Northumbria Police and as the saga unfolded (as we understand it) also threatened members of the public.

Ironically, details of his threats against the public were only revealed after an agreed media blackout by the very outlets Moat was attempting to use as justification for his actions - just as the media had not reported police beliefs that he held hostages.

I am not a police expert, so will leave any comment on the force's actions to the IPCC, save to say that quite frankly, if these events did not warrant the biggest manhunt ever seen, then what the hell does?

The media however, is a completely different matter.

In her excellent comment piece for the Guardian, Barbara Ellen talks about our fascination with such cases, following events on the rolling news channels, online, and in newspapers.

While not entirely sure about her pseudo-psychiatric ramblings about the male psyche, her points about our own bizarre desire to almost 'live' the events, our fascination by them, are enlightening.

She wrote: "I first realised that something felt different when a message alert came up on the television saying that police had Moat surrounded. When did it become routine to put out trailers for real-life tragedies? It worked, though. Did you, like me, turn over to find that footage was scarce, the time filled by Rothbury locals gathered outside a pub? Certain media people even commented on the bizarre "carnival atmosphere", which was a bit rude.

"This was their patch – the people of Rothbury were entitled to gather for a beer and a chat. Which wasn't true for the rest of us, including me, idly gawping, as if I'd stumbled upon an old Inspector Morse. What was I waiting for – a bit of drama in my feeble little life?"

And we, journalists, do indeed follow these things in a detached way, as if it is not really happening.

Dare I say we even enjoy it, thrive on the drama and long for the most dramatic outcome possible?

I think we do. But does that lead to inaccurate and insensitive reporting and an almost insane desire to see, hear and read anything, no matter how speculative?

Some certainly think so.

Raoul Moat's brother, Angus, declared himself to Sky News as "probably the only person in the UK who has watched their brother die on television, which is obviously horrific".

He added: "It's all hotting up, you've got this constant round-the-clock news, it's like the whipping up to what could be a public execution in modern Britain of my little brother."

Does he have a point? I think he probably does.

But does that mean we (the media) have to change? I am unconvinced.

Yes, Angus Moat was angry, that is only to be expected, and of course he is looking for reasons for what happened and perhaps throwing accusations around in some sort of denial of what his brother did.

Yet the irony remains that he made these points, these accusations, to the very media outlets he is condemning. Perhaps that is the only way. But that rule also applies to police forces tracking someone down. Someone who claims to have already killed and is reported to have pledged to kill more.

We can't have it both ways. Either we have a news media capable of delivering a blanket message or we don't. We can't then attempt to hand-pick that message, or the manner in which it is delivered, within the bounds of the law, due to some sort of over-arching sense of 'bad taste'.
If these news organisations thrive by providing the coverage they do, it is for one reason only; the public absorbs every little bit of it.

And the public, in one way or another, also presents its own view via mass media. As I write there are countless groups set up on facebook paying tribute to Raoul Moat, as if he has assumed some sort of cult-like status as a wronged man, driven by his own heartbreak and low self esteem, which may well have been the case of course.

As Angus Moat told Sky: "You know this is my brother who's not a psycho killer like some of the press have been suggesting."

So, should these types of outpourings also be banned? Surely, if the portrayal of Moat as a "psycho killer" are wrong and produce some sort of negative backlash for the wanted man, then the same could be said of those wishing to portray him as a "...a person, he's a brother, he's a son, he's a father. He's a man who's had a nervous breakdown", as Angus went on to describe his brother?

Again, we can't have it both ways. The very freedom that allows Angus and Raoul's friends to have their say is the very same that allows his mother to claim he would be "better off dead" and the media to show events completely live, as they happen.

There are other families to consider of course, the family of murdered Chris Brown, of injured Sam Stobbart and PC David Rathband.

If we are to consider Moat and his family when presenting information, we should also consider them. And to present him as someone who has simply suffered a breakdown would, to me, appear equally insensitive when that is replayed in front of a family coming to terms with the loss of someone who is also a person and a son, for what they feel is no good reason.

The police, obviously, have made no response. That will come in the form of the IPCC report on the investigation and actions taken.

But perhaps most tragically, responses can also not come from Raoul Moat. Or Chris Brown.

Who is this case sad for? All of us. And none of us should seek to blame anyone else in an attempt to avoid asking ourselves why.