Posts Tagged ‘newspaper’

The scale of the furore surrounding Johnston Press’ implementation of a new content management system is understandable given the impact on jobs and working practices. Continue Reading »


There are generally two types of work ex people who come into newspaper offices…

Shrinking violets who sit dutifully and silently while they are ignored, and those who feel they deserve better treatment and aren’t afraid to say so.

The latter group will indignantly shuffle up to a senior staff member and demand, “Have you got something for me to do?”

On the face of it, a fair question. But it’s another entry into the ‘what not to say’ hall of shame, for me.

The work ex folk who excel are the rare breed who come up with their own suggestions of how to fill their time (and we don’t mean mumbling ‘I might as well go to lunch because no-one has spoken to me for three hours’).

Why not try one of the following stock phrases? Fill in the blanks yourself.

  • My aunty/friend/ex-partner is <doing something interesting> and I thought it was worth a story, so I’m going to give them a ring.
  • Is it worth me going to to check the <church hall, library etc> noticeboards to see if anything has come up?
  • I read in <a national newspaper> that <something happened>. Is it worth me coming up with a local angle on this? Maybe I could speak to <a local expert>, or do a vox pop?

Since you know long in advance that you are coming in for work ex, prepare something – even if it is just an idea for a small filler.

Oh, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Why not steal other peoples’ ideas from repositories such as the Hold The Front Page story ideas list?

An actual conversation from a real-life newsroom…

Staffer: What year are you in at Uni?

Work ex: Third year, well I should have graduated last month but I didn’t arrange work placements so I can’t graduate until November… at least I’m doing it now.

Staffer: You’re studying magazine journalism – did you work on the student magazine?

Work ex: I didn’t bother… there were other people better than me.

… forget the credit crunch – you’re hired!

I’m carrying out what is hopefully an interesting experiment, inspired by The Telegraph via George Hopkin, Johnston Press’ SEO evangelist.

We have a big screen in the newsroom which is meant to display our website in an echo of 1984’s nightmarish propaganda walls.

But we’re now using Twitter aggregation site to filter in tweets where Sunderland or SAFC are mentioned. The results after a few days are pleasing, with several leads coming via the feed.

The screen also gives the newsroom a bit more of a live feel, which is handy when trying to convey the message that there are people out there serving our audience between print deadlines.

01072009871It’s on days like today that I’m glad I work online.

A choice error appeared in our print edition (though it was changed on the presses to avoid disaster). A headline about a lucky dog’s stage debut alongside a cute kid shouted: ‘It’s not such a hard-kock life for Lennie’. Oh, dear – we said ‘kock’.

It’s sometimes a curse to know that we can always go back to web content and revise, improve and correct it. There are, after all, few things more cathartic than sending your work to print before starting your next edition ready to do better (and make fewer errors) than last time around…

Had this howler appeared online, we’d have been able  to fix it instantly. Not that I ever make mistakes, of course…

PS. Relief all round that we were spot on with our 120-point page 6 feature headline on a tale about a local chef: ‘Born to Cook’

In the mid- to late-19th century there were over 1,000 daily newspapers in England. Information was scarce and people were as hungry then as they are now for grisly tales of murder and titillating stories from behind the doors of respectable Victorian villas. (Murders in The Times archive 1850-1899 – requires subscription to see full articles)

At the same time Madame Toussauds was doing a roaring trade, and for much the same reason papers were selling like hot-cakes. Information – be that the likeness of great figures such as 18th century naval hero Horatio Nelson reproduced in waxwork, or news of the British Army’s escapades thousands of miles from home – was scarce. Continue Reading »

As part of a much longer Q&A, Sunderland Uni student Josh Halliday (editor of asked for my thoughts on the newsroom of the future. Here are my note-form musings on changing roles and job titles. 

You’ve said before you want to move to a fully-integrated newsroom. How will job roles change here then? (Content curator) And how might this affect the requirements of new recruits? Might they need to have knowledge of publishing and consuming in all media, for example?

In terms of roles there are two things going on, and those companies yet to shake up their job titles/roles  will almost all do so soon… Continue Reading »

“So, do you read our newspaper?”

It’s a simple enough question, and a predictable one if you’ve been drafted in for work experience at your local daily. Yet it seems to bamboozle almost every student, as if it’s the precursor to some Stasi-style interrogation.

In fact there’s no wrong answer, provided you respond like a rational human. ‘No’, for instance, is fine – you may be away from home, or you may be surviving on a pittance and therefore unable to afford loo roll let alone the local rag…

But here’s the big ‘no-no’ – once you’ve stumbled through your first ‘conundrum’, don’t be foxed by the follow-up question:  ‘Which newspapers do you read?’

It’s astounding how many people respond with ‘To tell the truth, I don’t read newspapers.’ Are they mad?

Surely any right-minded person would at least take a glance at the product pumped out by the company who are sparing time and effort to introduce them to the world of work? If I was handed work ex at Greggs, I’d try one of their pasties before I turned up (at least one, in fact…)

Oh, and don’t be fooled by kind-hearted pros who respond with a variant of ‘That’s interesting – it says a lot about our audience and the way people are consuming media these days.’ What they really mean is ‘So you couldn’t even be bothered to pretend. You could have said you read it online, you muppet…’

I’m not suggesting any newsdesks I’ve worked with are vindinctive (well, not in this post), but showing zero interest in the product they’ve slaved over from 6am until 6pm every day isn’t exactly going to inspire them to send you out to interview David Beckham, is it?

Work experience folk: do a bit of research, or at least master the art of the white lie next time you’re in a newspaper office. And if you have never read a newspaper – try one, you might like it.

I’ve not seen a live blog of a Premier League clash on a local newspaper site. Most of the live football coverage centres on lower league sides and the occasional FA Cup game.

To officially blog from a game you have to be mindful of the Dataco agreement which covers fixtures, results and reporting on England’s topflight.

But in the era of Twitter and Qik feeds to CoverItLive blogs, there must be a way to start a conversation with the readership of the Sunderland Echo around a specific game – even if it doesn’t mean presenting a traditional match report.

We could pay for a service such as the PA Match Centre to do it for us, or make infrequent updates throughout the game which would hardly constitute the kind of comprehensive coverage I’m looking for. Neither option is acceptable as a mechanism for engaging the audience (either due to prohibitive cost or our desire to maintain standards).

Scanning  the fixture list, Sunderland’s televised game at home to Portsmouth on May 18 and the ‘Survival Sunday’ on May 24 are musts for interactive coverage. The challenge is coming up with a solution that respects the licencing agreements without lurching into patchy reporting.

At the very least we should open a channel to fans who are watching the game anyway and want to discuss what they are seeing. Surely the Premier League haven’t signed a gagging order on pub-style banter yet…