Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Why we are fucked......................

Some of you may have already seen this, others should pay close attention.
The seven biggest media companies with most to lose set up an organisation called the Local Media Alliance.
It represents the worst of this business in the form of Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press Newsquest/Gannett, Northcliffe, Guardian Media Group, Archant, and DC Thomson (do they do the Beano?).
I imagine you either work or have worked for one of these newspaper companies. They represent all that is greedy and evil in this world.
They hired a chump called Roger Parry to head their bullshit cabal.
He wrote this: "Journalists are often busy doing things the audience no longer want. The traditional professional output is no longer valued by readers. Much, but not all, of local news gathering, feature production and photography are better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing.
"Want a critique of local rubbish collection policies? Ask a local resident for 500 words. It matters to them and they are more connected than a journalist sent over in a taxi. Want passionate reporting of local sports? Ask the fans. There will remain a vital role for trained journalists in investigations, analysis and quality control.
"But it will need fewer of them. They will need new skills of assembling user-generated content including video, digital pictures and audio."

So the head of a consortium of the companies that publish 72 per cent of all local newspapers in this country thinks -
a) journalists are out of touch, not valued and too busy
b) amateurs can do it better and cheaper
c) People actually watch the shitty videos we knock out
d) we travel around in taxis

Read his sentences again.
Then read the utter shit your online community correspondents spew out (if you haven't got 'em yet you will, I guarantee it)

This man represents seven of the largest organisations in this business.

This is why we are fucked.

ps We wouldn't need taxis (read public transport) if the arseholes hadn't decided that having offices outside the area was a fucking master stroke. I used to walk to jobs from my High Street offices Parry, you absolute cunt.


What is about reporters and asking questions?
When I edit copy and notice there is no age/job/address for a person I naturally ask the reporter - why not?
Quick as a flash they come back with 'they didn't tell me'.
I respond 'But did you actually ask them?' and generally a bashful junior (sometimes senior) hacklet comes back with the answer ''.
Our job is to ask questions. If you don't know something ask. If you struggle to hear an answer, ask again. Ask, ask, ask. The more you ask questions, the better you get at writing stories and thinking about what your tale needs.
Some questions seem too personal or too intrusive. Ask them anyway. The more natural your questions sound, the more likely the interviewee is to answer them.
I have asked some hideously insensitive questions. I remember live on Sky TV asking a senior politician's spin doctor whether the minister was going to make it through the night after an accident. The weeping PR was forced to admit it was unlikely thus giving the whole pack that night's headlines.
Did I feel bad? Of course not. It was the question everyone wanted to know the answer to.
But someone has to ask it.
Many times I have heard journalists interview over the phone and had to scribble furious notes to push under their nose when they pussy foot around the issues.
Most of it is experience, but you need to start asking those awkward questions now.
Start with checking the spelling of every name, age, address and occupation and work your way up from there....................

What it's like to be a real local reporter

This man is a legend....and you know what, I have never met him. But this short piece says it all.....


We gag for comments on our own newspaper web sites. We love it when you get a hot one. I am also a media whore and so if you agree, disagree or simply hate my guts and want to tell me to get fucked. Please leave a comment on any of the topics.
I'd love to hear your experiences in this golden age of media. Let it out. Let it all out. It's actually quite cathartic. (Look it up you simpletons)
I am also quite happy to tear you a new one if you fancy a ruck.

How journalism actually works

It's a fairly simple concept our job really. We find out about shit, we prove said shit, we simplify it and write about it. We ain't psychics. We rely wholly on others telling us things or us literally falling over stories in the streets where we work.
I mentioned contacts in a previous post and there is no greater asset to a hack than a good contact.
It helps to live on the patch you report on. It really helps to have been born there and gone to school there and to have married and had kids there and ultimately to still live there 30 years on. But not everyone is perfect.
Newspaper companies however have a different idea. They think stories come packaged via email. That the general public will inform you when something major happens on the high street. That grieving parents are only too happy to drive 40 miles to give you a collect. That the courts cover themselves. Council meetings are all webcast. And basically who needs to be in the local area to call themselves a local paper.
A large number of newspaper companies have withdrawn their local offices to industrial estates to churn out dozens of papers. I am in one of them and it sucks hairy balls.
Every day I have to weigh up whether it is worth sending a reporter out to cover a job properly - and risk a one hour minimum journey time - or get them to do it over the phone in a third of the time.
I know what I would prefer, but this is news gathering in the noughties. Pardon me for thinking young journalists might be able to actually meet people face to face.
One of the worst examples of the news hub is Trinity Mirror and its disgraceful Fort Dunlop set up. It's like a vacuum sucking up every newspaper office in a hundred mile radius.
They actually think that they can fool the readers into producing umpteen local papers from a central 'warehouse' of news. I saw an ad recently for some sort of hybrid news ed/web mong/ page planner. This creature was expected to edit and place stories into one of the multitude titles they produce at this concentration camp of news without being in charge of one of them.
How can that work? I edit three papers. It took me two months to learn which area was covered by which paper. More than a year on I am still discovering what makes my readers really tick in each edition.
Each patch is totally different. And within each of my three patches there are a myriad of different wards all with separate identities. I struggle to get it right each week, and I actually visit all of my areas on a regular basis, in my own time, and live in one. It is important to understand how your readers live and what their towns are like.
So how can a TM Fort Dunlop news beast focus and get it right on a weekly basis?
I say they can't. I say the products they bring out will be starved of all the things their readers want.
A local knowledge. An idea of what is important. A sense of community within the pages. Some stories that reflect their area.
And once again the money grubbing whores that run the majority of newspapers in this country fuck it all again for cash.

ps if you are a Fort Dunlopite and you disagree get in touch. I welcome your take on it.

pps Your bosses call you a 'combined editorial content-gathering team'. They are basically calling you cunts.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Why do I do this?

I often ask this question myself.
Why the long hours, crap relationships, flirtation with alcoholism and massive stress? Why put up with the fatigue, the sleepless nights dreaming of blank page and total lack of a meaningful social life? Why the hatred and loathing that poisons my life? Why, damn you, why??
Because I believe it is the most important thing to do with my life.
Scrape away the bull shit, the egos, the arrogance and lies, the cheap shots, the made up shit and the nonsense and we come to some kind of reality. A bizarre simple truth to it all.
Think about all the times you have written a story that you get thanks for. Not awards or plaudits from fellow journalists, not praise from PRs or officials for running their shit. But genuine heartfelt thanks.
From a pensioner for sorting out her meals on wheels problem; from a community group for saving their meeting room; from the parents of a ill child who needed help finding a donor.
These people are why I still do this job and it's not from some sort of bloated self importance. The public rely on us to use our newspaper's power, its respect, its influence and its anger to fight their corner. This is important at whatever level we do it. Whatever little we can do to help.
I am not trying to be pious about this. I am a stone cold, horrible selfish cunt most of the time. People who know me, know I love hard stories. The grittier the better. Mayhem and mutilation. I don't get excited by the thought of helping people nor do I crave it. I often underestimate the 'weak' leads and downplay their importance in the news list.
But regardless of how much I scoff at the 'community news' I recognise the massive impact it has on our local areas. A good local paper is its champion. Often it is the last port of call.
This is why I do this. And this is why what we do is worth more than the fuckers in charge will ever know.

Why I love Ray Tindle

I've never worked for Ray Tindle, nor on any of his titles. I have never met the man or even read one of his papers.
So why do I love him (apart from his Werthers Originals grandad-like looks)?
I love his attitude.
He clearly has a massive love of print newspapers and believes in local papers. He set up the whole thing after the war and has worked and, more importantly, survived and thrived.
He doesn't strike me - and I could be utterly wrong, so apologies - as someone driven solely by profit.
His most recent statement about the recession made me want to cuddle him. He basically said that when this recession is over he will still be standing albeit in a different market. He has seen recessions before and he, and newspapers in general, have come out of them.
Just read this statement from the Tindle chief exec -
“I am sure we could have saved money across the group by having centralised subbing, editorial or whatever, but we’ve kept each title very local with local editors and subs and reporters as much as possible. They know most about the community they serve.”
Now compare this attitude to our, and other, much bigger players in this industry who are so convinced we are doomed they currently are hacking and slashing their way out of business. They are so blinkered they STILL - after all these years of cuts - can't see what is going wrong.
Well let them reap the whirlwind. Let them fall flat on their arses. Many have warned them of the long term effect of their systematic genocide of journalism, but the short term arse-holes who are in control of our livelihoods think they know best. After all who needs news in a newspaper?
Let us hope it is someone with the vision and drive, love and passion of this 82-yearold that ends up buying my title when the twunterated cuntoids who own us inevitably go bust.

I would be apathetic but I can't be arsed

It's easy to be not bothered.
I have tried to write on this topic twice and both times I have stopped because I couldn't be arsed. There was something else to do. A new email popped into my basket. Someone texted me. Eastenders came on. I tried to contract that piggy cold by licking bacon. Whatever.
Procrastination is one of a journalists worst habits. I recognise it as being mine.
In order to combat the art of time wasting you need to force two traits into your working day.
Enthusiasm and motivation are the greatest weapons in your arsenal. When I worked for a national paper the motto was 'walk the extra mile and make the extra call'. And it works.
(Their other motto was 'work the fuckers to death and see which ones survive' but that is for another day.)
Motivating yourself is massively important. I had to motivate myself every day when I was freelance and some days it was fucking hard. (Usually the days after a post commission session.)
But motivation doesn't just have to be about slogging your guts out.
It might be getting in and cracking on with your days work at your allotted start time not gazing at Facebook. (Didn't you already look at that before you went to bed, loser?).
Or actually spending the first couple of hours at work actually writing that lead or making those cals you you promised youself yesterday that you would do. Knock out the nibs early doors and you don't have to do them later. Same with pic caps, nibs, fillers, shorts, down pages or whatever you name the shit we have to write before we get to do real journalism.
Ring the boring councillor, he may have a tale this time.
Try getting to work half an hour before you should start. It will make a massive difference to your day.
Procrastination causes stress. You create an inflated sense of work load when you put stuff off in the morning. You stil have to do it all in the afternoon plus your news list is only likely to get longer - especially in this new internet weeklies-becoming-dailies age. Remember your boss wants the tales in your notebook and, once he/she knows about them, he/she will come after them with a vengeance.
Don't forget he/she has a job to do as well and time and deadlines wait for no man.
Give him what he wants and you will have plenty of time in the afternoon to Twitter your Facebook buddies while Beboing the fuck out of nonces.
Likewise having enthusiasm doesn't mean walking into the office with a fake grin stapled to your chops or going up to the boss every ten minutes asking for something to do. It can be as simple as not sighing when you get your fifth dull picture caption of the day to write around. It might be offering to help out when a big story is breaking without being asked. It certainly is avoiding curling your lip or muttering under your breath when you get asked to cover a council meeting at the last minute because the duty reporter is not ill. Get the fuck over yourself.
All a boss wants to do is give jobs to reporters and move on. He doesn't want a debate about its merits, he doesn't want to hear about why you don't want to do it and he definitely doesn't want to hear you bitch on about how you get all the crap jobs.
Pick up the baton and get on with it. Do a good job and he will give you more to do. Eventually that more will become the decent tales and not just fillers and down pages.
If you sit in the corner of the room muttering about shit jobs, I guarantee your boss will pile more shit upon you just to see the whining look on your face. I do. It makes me laugh.
Enthusiasm is infectious. If you are upbeat and game for it. You will find your colleagues attitude starts to change. Its morale boosting effects are evident. Who wants to hang around a news room full of moaning bitches crapping on about low pay, long hours and charity picture captions?
Save that for the pub.

Poachers turned gamekeepers

It's easy to see why journalists turned press officers are so smug.
They earn a shit load more than us, they work less hours than us, they control the flow of information to the press, and they get a chance to get one over on us on a daily basis.
I would feel smug.
The one tiny piece of information that allows me to tolerate these useless, lying, toss merchants is that I know they couldn't hack it when it came to doing our jobs.
The majority became PRs because they were so feeble at being journalists they had no choice.
What other job can a useless hack do? (Except working for a politician).
However, when they enter the profession they suddenly become super hacks (especially when they move to a new area) lording it over the local press pack, telling tales of their days as a jobbing journo. And then proceeding to tell you how to do your job.
Make sure you google them. Or phone the paper they came from. Any information about past indiscretions pays dividends in the end.
Watch for them dropping anonymous comments on anti-establishment stories on your websites. We have caught a couple and that works wonders in the old blackmail department.
Why do I loathe press officers so much? Could it be their attitude? Their refusal to provide us with the basic details? Their failure to let us know when there are major events breaking until a day later? Could it be the idea they try and give that if we upset them they can punish us?
Or their inability to understand why we are reluctant to tell them all the details of the story in the fear they tell everyone else?
Just because they are the newsroom equivalent of the school kids who get their head flushed down the toilet, is that any reason to be so petty and bureaucratic?
Or maybe this is the reason they are perfect for the job in the first place.