Thursday, 18 February 2010

Newspapers compared to the Premier League...

Newspapers can be directly compared to Premier League football clubs.

There it is, I've said it. And while it may sound ridiculous, please permit me the time to argue my apparently-bullshit point...

Premier League clubs had their day. The first TV deal done with Sky was worth somewhere around £200m, which was unheard of at the time.

The deal then increased, to more than £1 billion.

Obviously, the clubs spent this new money lavishly, be it on ludicrous transfer fees, or the oft-slammed player wages.

Now compare that to newspapers. Many were the unchallenged media outlet of their time. In the early- to mid-eighties, newspapers seemed to have endless amounts of cash (simply listen to the whinging reporter or resident old person in your news room for tales of 'the old days' and how they had money and expenses thrown at them).

Then, the bubble starts to burst.

The financial slowdown has hit both industries hard. Football clubs, not in the Premier League but elsewhere, have gone into administration, with Premier League clubs soon to follow.

Newspapers too have closed, offices have shut, central 'hubs' created and printing presses sold off.

However, while we criticise the football clubs for the way they are run, surely it is only a matter of scale?

Take a look at the stories regarding West Ham recently. Their new owners came out in the press, berating previous incumbents for employing doctors at £200,000 a pop, players on mad money and giving everyone at the club a mobile phone. They didn't even know what some people did, they claimed, while pledging to make sweeping changes.

Now look around your newsroom. I bet there are people there that seem to do nothing. Nothing.

I bet there are part-time reporters, more-often feature writers, who come in for two or three days a week, churn out a couple of press releases and go home.

Alas, perhaps the biggest source of your not-doing-anything-but-being-paid-a-lot ligger, is in middle management.

Cuts have taken their toll on this much-maligned worker, however, we are still deluged with managing editors / content editors / assistant editors / editors-in-chief etc.

Yet where have the biggest losses come? Reporting staff, no question.

So why are we so bemused at the collapse of newspapers?

Football clubs are disappearing nowhere near as quickly as newspapers. Why? Because they aren't making their players redundant, they are losing those not-needed doctors, managers and mind-helpers...

Players are the club's assets, as are reporters. Good ones.

So, a piece of advice for newspaper groups; don't immediately cut reporters, or see them as cannon fodder.

Instead, walk up to everyone in your office and ask a simple question: "What are you doing today? In fact, right now?"

Anyone who gives you a blank look, or says they are catching up on things, should be given a notice immediately.

Also, anyone with a title with the main factor being "special products" or "special projects", yep, get in the dole queue too my son.

Get rid of these people, usually paid double that of a decent trainee, reinvest some of it in staff, some to prop up the profits and you're laughing.

The point is, I believe newspapers DO have the resources to provide really good coverage - just as good as in 'the old days' - only they choose to distribute these resources in completely the wrong ways.

Probably because those who would make this decision would lose their own job...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Headline of the week... Possibly the decade...

From the BBC News website on February 15, 2010.
I don't think it needs any explanation... Genius.

Awards? What the...?!

Awards for reporters and the like have always mystified me, as INXS once said.

The way I see it, it's a bunch of egotistical wannabe Piers Morgans blowing their own trumpets in a bid to distinguish themselves from other, probably more hard-working, reporters.

Look at like this; someone (and I've seen this happen countless times) could enter a very basic story, decently (not brilliantly) written and presented, for scoop of the year.

They win. Walk off with a £500 cheque and a CV that will look great with the Non-Company of the Year-Sponsored Scoop of the Year Award 2009 written on it (usually in 25-point Comic Sans).

But we-nup-schtik-cops-flag, or rewind, and you find the REAL story behind this award-winning yarn...

The reporter in question was at his or her desk, moaning to the news editor about working an extra 20 minutes on their "agreed shift pattern at my last appraisal for God's sake", when the phone rings and the news editor loses his or her patience.

"Answer the bloody phone," comes the yell.

"Humph, moan, piss, whinge, sigh, mutter, whisper," says the ever-so-predictable reporter.

The story, in fact, turns out to be a bit of a corker. The reporter saves it for three weeks, makes the basic calls required, before the news desk and the subs make it into what is eventually crowned 'Scoop of the Year 2009'.

Now, forgive me if I sound like a self-important tosser here, but surely that reporter has, simply, done their job and in a lot of cases, not even done it very well?

The story was handed to them on a plate, they did the very least they could to make it anything special, but because it was a good story, it wins.

I don't think this makes it a scoop, makes the reporter anything special, or deserves any reward whatsoever.

Quite frankly, having compared originals with some of these award winners, I would hang my head in shame when I got the published story when I compared it to my blacks, let alone consider recommending my work for an award.

It's a sham. A travesty. A joke.

And all it does is continue to produce reporters who think they are far better than they really are, while news desks continue to struggle with sub-standard work, because editors are blinded by the awards (they haven't actually seen any of the pre-desked copy) and think these little shits are the best thing since sliced bread.

So the next time you consider entering one of these things (I can't blame anyone, money is tight and all that), just spare a thought for your desk and the subs by checking the black of YOUR story.

And buy them a drink for Christ's sake if you win. Just before you hand in your resignation you self-promoting shitbag.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Newspaper insensitivity of the week - February 12

The extremely sensitive nature of this inquest into a tragic death compelled me to post this, as the insensitivity of the accompanying picture just shows a complete lack of care and attention to an online product, even though I'm sure it is JUST as heart-breaking as any in-paper travesty to the family of those concerned...

The picture is a stock picture of the Gloucestershire Coroner, which is desperate in the first instance. But as the screen grab below shows, it just isn't suitable at best, grossly insensitive at worst.

Someone should hang their head in shame.

Taken from on February 12, 2010.

Multimedia? It doesn't mean you're a reporter...

The advent of the modern-day newsroom, or hub as it is more-often now known, has spawned a whole new generation of wannabe reporters who, quite frankly, aren't and never will be.

Gone are the days where every newsroom would have one person in the corner - probably an editor's secretary or a newsroom manager (editorial assistants who are over 40) - who thought they were the ONLY real reporter in the room despite having absolutely no training and never having written a word for print.

No, now we have a whole host of people who have come to regard themselves as reporters, simply because they work in the same room as many.

Perhaps the most notable progression in this regard is the multimedia coordinator, or web developer.

These people have never, will never and could never write a coherent piece. End of story.

Yet because they have been sitting in a newsroom for a week, possibly less depending on the annoyance factor of the individual concerned, they are full of pearls of wisdom and anecdotes regarding the intricacies of reporting and newspapers in general.

Only today, a web developer who fits all of the above criteria, began regaling me with tales of how frustrating it can be when you are doing a vox pop and the unsuspecting member of the public speaks to you for half-an-hour on the latest hot topic, before refusing to be named or photographed.

Now, the tale is true and in invaluable one when briefing that week's hapless workie, or a trainee on their first vox pop experience, but when asked whether she had ever conducted a vox pop, guess what the response was?

You guessed it, 'no'.

What was even more puzzling was the confused look on her face, as if experience of actually having done it would have given her frustration any more validity.

I have nothing against these people, I'm sure they play a valuable role, doing the job they are there to do. Lord knows, it's not like we would employ far too many techies simply because they can tell us we need eight people to do the job and those in charge wouldn't know whether that was true or not, is it?

But please, non-reporters around the news globe, please don't absorb the tales of those around you and attempt to share in their wisdom.

Because, God knows, until you've stood in the rain trying to secure that final talking head for 25 minutes, an irate tog at your arm moaning about how they've never taken this long over a vox pop before, you really can NEVER share our pain.

So don't even try.