Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Someone speak to the speaker... Please!

You've got to grudgingly admire Michael Martin don't you? Don't you? Okay, maybe not.

As far as stories go though, the former Commons Speaker is an absolute goldmine, even though - and indeed largely down to - his desire to be exactly the opposite.

Remember, this is the man who provoked outrage when fighting, to the absolute nth degree, to prevent the release of details of Parliamentary expenses under the Freedom of Information Act.

Now, in an altogether more amusing, yet in the minds of some equally outrageous statement, he has claimed journalists can be accused of helping burglars when covering stories.

Mr Martin, now Lord Martin of Springburn, has told the House of Lords that journalists door-stepping him - and let's be honest, there were a few occasions when that happened, through no fault of the journalists it should be said - could have threatened the security of his home by alerting burglars to the fact he wasn't in.

I mean for Heaven's sake, you really couldn't buy this stuff, could you?

Speaking during a debate in the Lords on the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill, he said: "I had a situation when a clown was outside my door - I describe him as a clown, although he called himself a journalist from Sky TV, using big satellite television equipment.

"There he was, outside the house while I was in London. He said 'We cannot get him; the house is empty'.

"Anyone who is involved in security will tell you not to advertise that you are away from home, but here was somebody broadcasting live television, saying that my house was empty. That is the type of pressure I am talking about."

Really? That's the pressure you were under?

By God, I'm sure that if Lord Martin of Springburn were to visit any housing estate in the UK - or beyond for that matter - and offer the services of every 24-hours news broadcaster to sit outside their homes constantly vigilant for movement of any kind, they would eagerly accept.

Because quite frankly, a vast array of cameras and people outside your house is the greatest fucking deterrent to a burglar you could ever have!

Just imagine Jonny Burglar now, sitting at home, watching Sky News (as I'm sure most of those inclined to commit such offences are avid viewers).

He thinks: 'Hmmmm, Martin isn't home eh? Only 25 members of the press, covering every angle of the house with highly-sophisticated equipment which could beam me around the world instantly as someone attempting to burgle the Speaker of the House of Commons, to get past.

'How stupid they will feel, mwa ha ha ha ha ha.'*

It's pathetic, it really is.

* That was intended to quote the laugh of an Bond-style evil genius. Apologies.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Falling off the North Cliffe?

Mr Auckland, who is now an industry God through his work making the Metro everyone's favourite news-for-nothing publication, was strangely forthright in his opinions, if not a little contradictory.

Take this quote for example:

"If you have stacks of titles and lots of loss-makers and lots publishing six days a week and not making money you have to look at the portfolio.

"I want a step change. It might be harsh but it gives a platform for the future. The key thing is a product portfolio review. We have to look at the number of titles and frequency of publishing."

I don't think anyone could argue with the first par. No business, run by the giant arses of Northcliffe, Newquest or otherwise, wants to keep running a title that continues to lose money year after year.

So fair enough.

However, the contradiction for me comes when the piece explains Auckland was "keen to stress he is not a hatchet man".

Well, I would suggest that's exactly what he is, judging by his own words. Threatening to look at all titles and the frequency of publishing is clearly an indication that the hatchet is about to be wielded.

There may be nothing wrong with that, but at least be honest.

Anyway, I'm merely nit-picking there.

There real interest comes with other remarks, particularly:

"Less is more is my motto: I want a clear vision at each operating centre. I'm trying to do away with the corporate stuff and getting the editors and the managing directors free to do what they want to do in their centres," he added.

"Originally regional newspapers were run by entrepreneurial-type people back in the halcyon days. I want to get back to that flexibility. If they want to change the cover price or business cards or say that publishing on one day, or two, or staying at six is most profitable then I want them to have that flexibility."

'Less is more', to idiots like me, can simply be truncated to 'less'. Again, Mr Auckland, please just be honest. Less will NEVER be more, it is a complete misnomer on every conceivable level.

We all understand the "halcyon days" went as soon as Gannett darkened UK doors, so please don't patronise us with the usual bullshit, we've had enough of 'aim higher' initiatives and the likes which always seem to make us more efficient and still manage to do away with hard-working people.

However, it cannot be disputed that Northcliffe does indeed now have less, or more, if you are Mr Auckland. 50% more, or less, in fact, as Peter Kirwan points out in his excellent blog.

"Overall, the numbers for the six years between 2005 and 2010 are remarkable:

Headcount: Down by over 50% from 8,013 to 3,817
Quoted cumulative cost savings: £125m
Quoted restructuring costs (incl. redundancy): £71m
Quoted write-downs in asset values: £200m"

So Mr Auckland, you have inherited a group which indeed has a lot 'more' than previously, so good luck with that.

But basically, what all of this ponderingly bad writing is attempting to convey is that, as Mr Kirwan also points out, "plans for industry consolidation have gone badly awry".

Indeed they have. Lord Rothermere couldn't flog Northcliffe a few years ago, so what hope now?

My bet is that we will see more and more dailies become weeklies - watch your backs any newspaper showing figures down 10%+ - and some under-performing weeklies either sold or merely closed down.

I am also intrigued by the idea that editors will suddenly be enjoying a new-found freedom under Mr Auckland to basically edit their papers.

I am eagerly awaiting the day this is put to the test by an editor who wishes to reward his staff with a pay rise, or an extra reporter...

I do love the term "consolidation" though, as it would suggest joining something together for an all-round gain, a positive, for growth.

And don't we all know that is absolute shite? Consolidation has brought nothing but evil to journalism.

Look at it like this: a sub hub is a group of sub editors consolidated to one location.

A good thing?

Fuck it, let's all have a drink.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Next 18-20 Months for Newsquest

You have to wonder how the fuck these people sleep at night.

Yesterday's announcement that Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson has been rewarded for his 'efforts' at the 'struggling' group with a lump of shares which will see him avoid the breadline for the foreseeable future.

Well, after breathing a huge sigh of relief for the miserable git, the usual explosion of rage at the mere mention of his name returned.

Let's remember...

Only last week, we learned that Newsquest London, apparently one of the more profitable groups in the Newsquest stable, had asked staff to consider voluntary redundancy just weeks after asking the same staff to take unpaid, furlough leave.

I will refrain from commenting on how those working at the London offices were told of this decision, one which could change their lives forever, as I am informed it was via a three-line email, but I can't believe that to be true? If it is, someone please email that to me and I will happily take a look.

Anyway, Mr Davidson is ultimately responsible for these staff - and let's be honest, Newsquest London is not the only branch which will be royally fucked over in the coming months - facing the end of their careers, or a decision which could see them abandon what they love.

But for what? Exactly how badly is a company doing when the likes of Davidson are receiving these stock options, potentially worth millions?

Again, I'll ask the question; how the fuck does he sleep at night?

I hate to keep on moaning about the seemingly-systematic destruction of newspapers by profit-hungry morons in ill-fitting suits in rather modern-looking and faceless ivory towers, but fuck it, they are killing everything we work for.

And here's my prediction Davidson, to save you and your money-grabbing cronies the bother of pretending to know what lies ahead for hundreds of newspapers and thousands of staff sweating every day to eek out a living so that you can line your fucking pockets with cash:

First of all, at the end of the year, Newsquest will scrape their ridiculously-high profit margin.

It will then - and only then - dawn on fools like you that this is simply not a sustainable position.

So, you will go to Gannett and tell them you would love to provide them with a 25% profit margin again in 2012 but that, unfortunately, you have nobody left to cut but that you will try.

At the end of the first quarter, despite only having a trainee reporter and a sub in every Newsquest centre across the land - many of which will be covering patches previously covered by at least three Newsquest groups - you still won't have hit the target.

Then, you will be sacked, or you will 'retire' as nob ends in the higher ranks of business call it, with a fucking enormous golden handshake for destroying something which meant so much to us, the journalists, the other Newsquest staff, and millions of readers.

And therein lies my theory on how foolish, greedy morons such as Paul Davidson sleep at night:

He knows all of this really, and is simply lining his pockets before the inevitable retirement comes.

And I for one, will be lovingly sending him a watch - £2.99 from Argos - engraved with the words: "Thanks Paul".

As usual feel free to follow me on Twitter - @haplesshack - or send me an email with your abuse. Thanks.