Monday, 18 April 2011

The failure of hyperlocal - and journalism training

As if tailor-made to add fuel to the fire over the Kelvin Mackenzie debate I touched on last week, a chat with a friend over the weekend revealed some very interesting things.

My friend is the editor of a series of weekly papers and recently oversaw the launch of a handful of hyperlocal sites, you know the kind of thing, the 'up your street' stuff, full of community fodder and police press releases.

Anyway, said friend had a brainwave while putting these sites together; to get student journalists in the area involved.

So, he diligently got his walking boots on and trundled around colleges across the area, preaching the values of the sites and the exposure they could give all of the talented, ambitious young hacks learning their trade.

Free exposure to thousands, an unending resource with which to boost your portfolio and your CV, which the students and tutors gleefully lapped up, as would anyone keen to gain the edge over thousands struggling to progress in a failing industry.

However, six months down the line, the number of stories he had received from these eager beavers?

His estimate? Three or four. Maybe five.

Still, no doubt they're happily producing a self-congratulatory magazine or something and getting free CDs.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

In defence of Kelvin Mackenzie

I feel I have to show some sort of support for Kelvin Mackenzie.

Yes, it's true, the man dubbed a "dinosaur" for his opinion that journalism courses at universities etc should be culled.

Kelvin, you have my support. It isn't worth shit, but you have it.

Having worked alongside, been in charge of and worked under people coming in to a newsroom straight from a university course, I can honestly say that all of them, 100 per cent of them, would have been better had they spent those three years working.

I'm sure not all journalism students are lazy, or do it because they want to be on the telly "like that one off've BBC Breakfast", or because they want to "write about football", but let's be honest here, those are the aspirations of many, many of these graduates.

Taking my own experience as a snapshot, less than 20 per cent of journalism graduates I have encountered had anywhere near 100wpm shorthand.

In three fucking years?

Yet I know trainees, in fact I was one, who worked full time on a newspaper and achieved that golden target in less than four months.

It's a fucking shambles to expect anyone who actually works in newspapers to buy the fact that it takes three years, in fact, that it takes three months, to do some basic training and get out there.

Yes, there has been a lot of loud-mouthed blabbering from some quarters, but don't take them all at their word, because you'll find those shouting loudest at Mr Mackenzie have a vested interest in journalism courses.

The other day I noticed a story which summed up my instant distaste for journalism as a 'course', a 'subject' to be studied.

"Half the journalism courses on offer at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham are to be axed as part of a cost cutting measure.

"The university’s BA undergraduate degrees in Motoring Journalism, which claims to be the only one of its kind in the UK, and Leisure Journalism, launched in September 2009, have both been closed to new entrants in the face of financial pressures and low market demand."


"The university runs four journalism courses, the other two in Sports Journalism and just Journalism alone."

Now what the fuck is all that about?

Okay, you could just about get away with a one-year course entitled 'Journalism', so long as those taking it actually passed any fucking exams and got their shorthand, and that included at least two days a week working in a newsroom.

But Motoring Journalism? Really? And Leisure Journalism? Fuck me.

These courses are actually costing money, tax payers' money, to fund and support.

So before you fall in to line and join those slating Mr Mackenzie - who, remember, was not long ago someone who had the power to hire and fire a lot of fucking journalists on a daily basis (go figure that the next time some 'journalist' who has done fuck all comes to your college and tells you how well you're doing) - ask yourself what, exactly, the people taking Leisure Journalism are learning that a Journalism student isn't, and vice versa.

And quite what the fuck a Motoring Journalism course entails is completely beyond me.

However, feel free to follow me on Twitter, @haplesshack, and tell me why I'm wrong. Go on, I dare you...

Soon, I'm hoping to be on Facebook. Why? I have no idea, but apparently it's the thing to do.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Reporter wars on Twitter: Only a matter of time...

We all know reporters are an egotistical bunch.

Correct terrible grammar in their story, they won't give a shit, but spell their name wrong in a byeline and all hell breaks loose.

So it was no surprise this morning when I noticed the first indication of such egomania in the realm of social media (I'm getting good at this Twitter lark, Facebook is next!).

Two reporters in Gloucestershire had a little, light-hearted spat over one oft hem tweeting the other's story.

Obviously, with such a cracking local rag yarn up for grabs, the reporter who I presume wrote it was quick to claim back his turf!

This is where it starts kids, and it'll all end in tears...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Less is more, so will we lose managers?

When I read this morning that new Northcliffe group managing director Steve Auckland had announced he was to appoint three regional publishers to replace the roles of regional editors and MDs I was actually quite pleased.

I'm not a completely heartless bastard, however if there are cuts to be made - and I'm not completely averse to that looking around some newsrooms at the complete losers drawing a wage - I would prefer to start the cull at the top and work down, rather than do away with roles which are needed in a bid to avoid paying off the regional director of useless shit and management speak.

Imagine my disappointment then when we discover that while the roles will "replace" those of regional editors and MDs, in the next breath "Northcliffe says no one is likely to lose their job".

So, in fact what I thought was a decent start to lowering costs for struggling newspapers across the UK, is actually just bringing in another manager on big money.


However, perhaps all hope is not lost.

Part of my initial thinking on the move - back when I thought it was perhaps the most sensible thing I'd heard for a while - was that maybe, just maybe, Auckland was backing up his promise "to do away with the corporate stuff and get the editors and the managing directors free to do what they want to do".

And it still could be - with an ever-more-distant 'regional publisher' (let's face it, there will be three of the feckers covering the entire country), I don't see how they can be hands-on in their approach.

Fingers crossed more power returns to editors up and down the land, tasked merely with delivering certain things, and how they do it is up to them.

Then they can begin the middle-management cull.

Directors of public sector loss making advertising based in the office having pointless meetings everywhere, brace yourselves!