Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The light is brighter from the outside...

It's funny how people suddenly become so critical once they leave a particular branch of the industry isn't it?

Case in point - Marc Reeves, former editor of the Birmingham Post.

In his blog, he speaks about how newspapers (including those under his leadership) have singularly failed to make the most of the internet.

While his thoughts may be exactly right, I do have one question to ask:


It's all well and good moaning after the fact but let's be honest, an editor has at least some sway in his own newsroom, even when it comes to the digital offering?

Anyway, let's have a look at what he actually said, at least that way we can nod along and laugh...

"I spent the last 15 years of my newspaper career regularly attending industry conferences in which the threats and opportunities of the internet were endlessly discussed and analysed.

"Pretty much everything that has come to pass was predicted, but what did the big newspaper groups do? Very little that was right, it turns out."

Again, why didn't you, as the person attending these conferences (at no extra cost to your employer I presume) suggest doing anything differently? Or did you and were ignored?

Anyhoo, it continues...

"Saddled by a shareholder base that had grown used to the cash cow returns of a monopoly, the regional newspaper industry in particular was structurally incapable of adopting the entrepreneurial approach that is the only option available when almost every aspect of your business model is rendered obsolete."

Preach on, brother.

Advertising models, editorial models, everything should have changed. While it can be argued that certain elements of news content was, is, and always will be pretty much standard, something, anything, should have changed at some point.

Instead, we have the desperation of blogs, desperation and copycat websites called thisiswhateversomeoneelsehasalreadydonebetterthanus...

Marc makes some very good points very well, yet singularly fails to address what he would have done differently (it's worth noting he is now working for the thebusinessdesk, yawn).

Yet newspaper groups should listen to someone finally free from the shackles of managing directors who have no clue, advertising directors who continue to see online adverts as a 'bolt-on' for in-paper displays and the likes.

It is not easy to theorise that there are many, many other editors, still in office, who realise that they are effectively stewards of a sinking ship.

However, rather than sitting in another meeting talking about it and doing actually nothing, why doesn't some maverick actually try something different?

Why won't someone look to the future? And I mean actually look, not just babble on talking complete shit about how newspapers will be dead soon and we are all going to die, actually see how this could work?

No, they won't, because they have bonuses, pensions and shitty company cars to consider, as do many of us (not me, but you know, trying not to simply batter middle management here, oh fuck it, go on then...).

It's a shame that while these newspaper groups were enjoying the fruits of a booming market, they never actually utilised much of the talent that existed (and perhaps still does?) in the lower ranks.

No, they promoted a bunch of pricks instead, didn't they?

Sorry this has been a bit worthy-wank, I will be funny as soon as I can. Well, I'll try, you know what I mean...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A few funnies to go with the sunshine...

Well, here we are eh? The sun is streaming through the window, everything (even the office car park) is looking fantastic in the gleam, although the glare through the window is still pissing everyone off...

Anyway, enough of that bollocks, let's laugh at someone less fortunate than us, shall we?

First up, I've got to post this, not because the site, the writing, or anything is bad, it's just ludicrous (as anyone of a certain age who remembers proper festivals will agree, I'm sure)...

Isn't that lovely? In fact, to correct myself, isn't everything that is wrong with the modern music festival, encapsulated in one story? Waitrose? Delia Smith? Are you fuckin sure?

Anyway, enough of that folly, on to something serious. Well, kind of.


Genius from the Newspaper Society, which is apprently fighting for us and our jobs. Gawd 'elp us all.

A fuckwit at the Beeb may steal a local rag's story (try addressing the fuckin' agencies NS, who genuinely rob cash from reporter's pockets)? Who would Adam and Eve it eh?

Still, fear not, I hear our old friends at http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/ (bless 'em) have hatched a plan to catch out these pesky story-stealing twats, and it's cunning...

I'm not sure if you can make that out very well, but the salient points are this; the story is about a Gloucester chap, named as "Ibrahim Musaji", who was caught up in the Gaza/Israel/Palestine incident this week.

"All well and good Hapless, those reporters are doing their job," I hear you cry!

But hold the phone peeps. As we cut to the following morning...

The follow up...

"Hey Hapless, you're out of order now, they've even followed the story up and you're still pissing and moaning?" again, I hear your cries...

But look a bit closer (as I said, you may not be able to see, so up yours), or I will just explain...

The first story, as mentioned above, concerns the plight of "Ibrahim Musaji".

The second? Well, that's something else entirely, despite the picture, as that is about "Ebrahim Musaji".

You see?

"Hang on now Hapless, that's it, I'm going to kick your sorry ass for being so out of order when someone simply makes a mistake," I hear you spit from your vile little mouths (not really, I'm sure you're lovely).

I'm with you, everyone can make a mistake, although I found these two on the same day, so why they wouldn't have changed the incorrect one (whichever that is!) is beyond me.

"So, Hapless, what is the fucking point of any of this?" your final cry rings out...

Well, clearly, one of these names is wrong, and I am going to presume it's the first story (as why would you repeat the error?) because a simple search reveals:

Yes, a BBC story, posted a couple of hours later than that at http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/, featuring the spelling "Ibrahim"...

So, from what do we deduce from this dear Watson?

Could it be that the reporter at http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/ is a fuckwit who spelt the name wrong in the first story?


Is it that the BBC then "lifted" said story, therefore making exactly the same mistake?

Again, possibly.

Or could it be that http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/ spelt a chap's name correctly in their first story, then incorrectly in the second?

I leave it for you, my dear readers, to decide for yourselves (theories, answers on a postcard (or email, to the usual address please)...

If you don't know the usual address, it's thehaplesshack@gmail.com, I thank you.


Now, I'm all for that old trick of taking a national story, finding something or someone similar in a region and using it in a rag. No problem, it's saved many a splash for me and remains an oft under-rated skill in a news room (making it interesting is the key, from that particular area).

However, rather predictably, as with so many other things in the regional newspaper world, the revelation that is the 'online sphere' (I'm convinced it is called something like that is senior meetings, that or 'internet realm', 'digital hemisphere' or 'that computer thing').

The FIFA World Cup TM (seriously, have you read the guidelines for using that title? Fuckin ridiculous) is once again upon us.

But this time, it is not only a shelf full of St George's flag-emblazoned inflatable chairs in Tesco we have to put up with, but blanket coverage, well, everywhere.

Including 'our' regional news sites.

Don't get me wrong, as mentioned above, if there is the slightest opportunity to use the FIFA World Cup TM in a rag, by all means do it, capitalise on the interest, and the knock-on effect online.

However, the prime target for simply exploiting it for no reason this week is, once again, our faithful friend Northcliffe.

Each and every one of their 'thisis network' (that's what they call it, another hangover from a management meeting I dare say) now has a 'World Cup 2010' (how do those bastards avoid putting the TM and FIFA prefix in?!) link in the main navigation.


http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/ complete with link...

I could understand if these channels featured reams on a player from your side who is going, even a former player who is now in the international setup.

Filling it up with hundreds of localised stories; residents sharing the name Wayne Rooney, a pub refusing to show the football, or a woman cycling to South Africa to charity, would also be absolutely fine and a legitimate use of such a channel and perhaps even generating some interest from readers.

But, sigh, this is not what's happened.

The channels are full of PA copy, fed straight in from the dark dungeons of Victoria (or possibly even South Africa, I'm not sure what the PA budget is these days), with headlines mirroring every single national and major regional newspaper IN THE WORLD.

So what, I ask, is the fuckin' point of this? Please, I long for someone to let me know that there is some major, and I mean major, sponsorship deal that is allowing regional papers taking this shit to employ a handful of new reporters, or subs (I'm not asking too much am I?), but I fear this is not the case.

And besides, I'm not even sure those overseeing the sites would know how to drop the localised, possibly interesting stories, into this channel even if they had the instructions tattooed on their foreheads, but that's another issue.

Still, so long as they avoid having to write FIFA World Cup TM every five pissing seconds, it's money well spent.

Nevertheless, despite total FIFA World Cup TM wipeout, I will return to post some interesting things which you may chuckle at, shortly...