Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Christina Lamb at war: watch and be inspired


Ever wondered what it is really like to be a war correspondent? This short film, Bringing the World to Britain, leaves you in no doubt. Sunday Times foreign correspondent Christina Lamb talks vividly of her experiences in the war zones of the Middle East - why she does it, what she takes with her and her most harrowing moments. I love the quote 'There is nowhere I haven't got into. No is a starting point for me'. She also tells of the most frightening experience of her life, trapped in a ditch in Afghanistan with the Taliban throwing mortars at her and bullets flying over her head alongside soldiers who all thought they were going to be killed. "I really, really didn't want to die in a muddy field in Helmand," she says.  Watch it ... and be inspired. 


The film is part of the excellent Sunday Times Unquiet Film Series. All of them are worth watching, especially those on Times New Roman and on Photojournalism

Weird Al's Word Crimes - flawed but very funny


Eleven years ago Lynne Truss's book Eats Shoots and Leaves encouraged people to talk about grammar again. It even became a popular Christmas stocking filler. I remember being asked to arbitrate in a tipsy Boxing Day dispute between two women, both having received the book, who had opposing views on the possessive apostrophe when used with names ending in s. You must be joking I said, sneaking off to watch the football.
Now the video Word Crimes by Weird Al Yankovic has pushed grammar back to the fore - this time with the kids and the online community. The parody of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines has clocked up almost 13 million YouTube views and been requested in clubs instead of the politically incorrect original. It has also had linguists taking to their blogs, some in support and some pointing out that Weird Al hasn't got all his grammar rules in order.
My only view is everyone should watch it. It isn't the definitive guide on grammar. It's just a good song, a clever video ... and it's very funny. And if it gets people talking about contractions, pronouns, homophones, dangling participles, syntax and less v fewer, that can only be a bonus.



Herald video puts the fun back in newspapers



Hats off to the Pembrokeshire Herald for this video to celebrate its first anniversary. Local newspapers can sometimes be too po-faced ... so nice to see the editor and staff raising a smile. Really nicely done too.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Scottish Daily Mail looking for trainees

The Scottish Daily Mail in Glasgow is looking for a trainee reporter and a trainee sub-editor.  The successful applicants will probably already be on a post-grad journalism course and have a fair amount of newsroom experience. They will join other trainees on the Mail's graduate training programmes which start in September. The training will be followed by placements on regional newspapers and agencies. If you are interested send CVs and six examples of your work to Sue Ryan at sue.ryan@dailymail.co.uk by July 16. The subbing scheme has been running for 12 years and many of the senior subs on the paper - in both news and sport - are graduates of the course. The reporting course has been running for seven years. Its graduates include Matt Sandy, who won young journalist of the year in the British Press Awards in 2011, Simon Murphy who was nominated in the same award this year and Fay Schlesinger, joint winner of the investigation of the year award at the British Journalism Awards in 2012. If you are applying you might want to take a look at my advice on how to prepare for an interview. Good luck. More details on Hold The Front Page. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Back pages show England's despair

It was the biggest of nights on the sport desks. The win, draw or lose pages were set up in advance and tweaks were made as the night twisted and turned. With 15 minutes to go the zeroes became heroes and then back to zeroes when Luis Suarez, inevitably, put England to the sword. And within minutes of the final whistle, with the adrenaline still pumping and passions running high, the papers were on deadline and the button had to be pressed. So in the heat of the moment, how did they fare? Perhaps surprisingly, the knives weren’t out for Roy Hodgson … not yet anyway. Instead the focus was on Suarez and the faintest glimmer of hope.


The Sun is at its creative best. The paper has urged support for ‘our boys’ throughout … and even now it has contrived an optimistic view. Tying it into the picture of Kai and Coleen is neat (although I have a slight concern about putting the focus on a tearful four-year-old boy) but the insets of Rooney, Hodgson and Suarez less so. The page came in for some stick on Twitter. Not sure why ... The Sun's trademark is to add humour, even in adversity.


The back page brings up the old bite theme. Clever headline.


The Daily Mail also uses a picture of a grim Kai on Page 1, supposedly telling an inset picture of his dad that it's too late for prayers. I'm afraid, despite The Sun's tongue-in-cheek stance, it almost certainly is.


The back page though, tells it as it is. Just two good is exactly right. The contrast of a triumphant Suarez and a dejected Rooney says it all. 



The Daily Mirror's first edition leads on Rik Mayall's funeral, which may change in later editions. Suarez bites back is a good headline, although the picture is of the Uruguayan striker kissing the back of his hand rather than baring his teeth.


The back page is very much more like it ... Kicked in the teeth screams the headline over a cutout of Suarez's gnashers in full glory. Very strong.



The Daily Express also sums the evening up pretty well. Savaged by Suarez is a powerful headline under the picture of the striker beating Joe Hart for his second goal.



The Daily Star has an unlikely tie-in of despairing England fans in a bar and the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The headline says We need miracle now. The supporters appear to be drinking water ... so, who knows, maybe miracles are possible.


 
The back page uses the picture of Suarez kissing his hand ... with the right headline. 




The Daily Telegraph uses a tame picture of three tamed lions on the front. Its sports section is good though - a subtle two word headline that captures the plight of English football and a powerful picture well used. 


The Independent uses a picture of two Liverpool team-mates at different extremes of emotion. The bite theme, once again, makes its way into the headline.


Independent sport looks like a magazine cover ... no fear of white space here. Straight headline and picture.


Suarez makes it on to Page 1 of The Guardian under the rather tabloid headline All bite on the night. 




The Times has despairing fans on the front - with just a caption - while the back page uses Suarez consoling his club captain. Abyss is a powerful word.

I watched the game in a bar in Dublin where the RTE pundits reckoned England's demise was all down to the fact that 'they wouldn't kill their grannies' ... whereas the Uruguayans clearly would. It made a pleasant change from the monotonous ITV line-up. Small mercies. 


Anyway, as I am working with the Irish Independent ... here is its back page. 

I had hoped to be reading papers that were triumphant, with bold pictures of Rooney and Sturridge punching the air. Instead I give you a gloomy set of pages showing a mix of frustration and grudging respect for a first rate performance by Luis Suarez. Well done to the sport desks - once again good pages turned around at break-neck speed. 

To see all of the pages and those I have missed out visit the excellent  and @hendopolis
   

Friday, 6 June 2014

Salute today's front pages

It isn’t every day elderly men, who are neither famous nor criminals, grace almost all of our national front pages. But today the papers, with the exception of the FT and the Star, are unanimous. They have gone with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Hardly surprising when you look at the powerful photographs and pertinent stories.





For me, The Daily Telegraph wins it on display. The strength of a broadsheet is to be able to wipe out the area above the fold with a single picture. The clear blue sky has allowed the understated headline to nestle up in the top left hand corner in white (and rare Telegraph caps). The cleanness of the page is helped by the blurb which uses minimal colour and is separated from the picture by the titlepiece. It all allows the picture to stand alone, uncluttered. Nice job.


Hats off to the Western Mail too which uses a similar picture to wipe out Page 1. This time Fred Holborn, from the Fleet Air Arm, is saluting the flags … which gives the paper a strong headline. I’m not sure why the Telegraph didn’t use the salute. It certainly adds poignancy.



Metro also goes for the salute picture - with the simplest and most effective of headlines. Thank you. Well said. The picture is cropped tighter and Mr Holborn is off centre to accommodate the titlepiece. It is a bold front. I am not sure, though, whether a free commuter paper, should wipe out its front page. When I travel on the Tube I want an i-type briefing rather than big display pictures. Perhaps Metro needs its own style, one that does not compete directly with its paid-for sister title. Incoming editor Ted Young will no doubt have a view.



The i skies the picture - at the page’s entry point at the top left - and used the same headline as the Western Mail. There’s a lot of white space around that main headline though - could have got a flight of nibs in there.  


The Scotsman uses the salute picture too. It is a strong page but in the quest for a high story count resists taking the picture across the full width. The headline is just about as straight as it is possible to be. If in doubt, tell it as it is.


I am surprised that the Daily Express doesn't just wipe out Page 1 with D-Day. It’s the perfect topic for its readership and it’s not as if Migrant sick pay benefit scandal is an earth-shattering exclusive. I’m sure I’ve seen it before somewhere. The picture lends itself to a vertical crop but in doing so the number of flags and the scale of the event is diminished a little. It is overshadowed by a big yellow caps headline too. Free Inside? Where else could it possibly be?



As it is prone to do, the Daily Mail goes its own way. It will have known that the flags picture was the obvious choice and would be on most fronts today - so it chooses to do something different. The paper focuses on an individual - former sapper Gordon Smith, now 90 and on crutches, gazing out to sea from a Normandy beach. A small inset shows him overcome with tears. The headline, in lower case, is very strong. For once there is no blurb and few words … just a nicely crafted caption. It works.


Another obvious picture option is the flypast. The Guardian chooses to use veterans waving as the planes go by - and uses it the full width of the Berliner size.  I like the ex-soldier on the right who has dropped his stick to wave. Maybe more could have been made of that. It’s a bit different and has a lighter tone - but, for me, lacks the poignancy of the flags.



The Times moves away from the beaches and focuses on the paratroopers. In particular it tells the story of Jock Hutton. “Standing by is not really Jock Hutton’s way; so yesterday with a swagger that belies his 89 years Mr Hutton jumped out of an aircraft and parachuted on to the fields of Normandy, just as he did 70 years ago."  This is one of the best stories of the day. Great words. The picture, though, is not Jock Hutton. The Times has a related splash too - The new battle for Europe. Subtle. 



The Daily Mirror went for the Jock Hutton story too  - and it uses a picture of Jock in the air. It’s a lovely photograph and story. I would have been tempted to have lost the picture of Prince Charles (and Nigel Farage) though.


The Sun uses D-Day only as a blurb. It has a far more shocking tale of modern life to tell us. 

The Independent opts not to use the flags, the flypast or Jock Hutton - just seven veterans reunited on the beach. Very strange. I quite like Once more unto the beach though.



There are certainly some memorable pages that will evoke a lot of emotions for a lot of people. I really enjoyed going through them today - papers to make you proud.

To see all of the pages and those I have missed out visit the excellent  and @suttonnick

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Times New Roman: The movie


Times New Roman wouldn't be my first choice of typeface for a newspaper design. There are many more readable serifs for body copy as my chart below shows (you can read about the chart's origins here). That said, I appreciate the elegance of Times and Times New Roman and their historical importance. These are nicely reflected in this short film dedicated to the font by The Times and Sunday Times. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in typography. The film is part of the Forever Unquiet series of shorts on journalistic issues which include photojournalism, the power of words and why journalists should question everything. When you get a minute take a look at them all. You won't be disappointed.



Footnote: The settings for this blog mean this is a lo-res jpg of the type chart. If you would like a hi-res PDF drop me an email on petersandssms@gmail.com and I will send you a copy. There is also a chart comparing the characteristics of sans headline faces used by newspapers 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Guernsey editor Richard bows out after 15 years


Guernsey Press editor Richard Digard ran his last news conference today. Richard, who has edited the Press for almost 15 years, is taking early retirement at the tender age of 60. His has been a colourful career. He has never been one to shy away from controversy and, as a result, has had death threats, cat poo through the letterbox of his home and a legal action which tried to relieve him of his house. Once, after he had written a typically sparky column about boy racers, a procession of 50 cars drove slowly past his house, the young drivers all looking resolutely ahead. He has, though, taken all of this in his stride and certainly makes no apology for rocking the boat. And he was still at it, even to the last. In his valedictory column last Friday, headlined Pain in the proverbial? Someone had to be, he took yet another swipe at the island's government. He wrote: “I’ll let you into a secret. Guernsey's system of government is very poor. Actually, mind-numbingly bad. It doesn't mean to be and there are some pockets of goodness and occasional flashes of excellence or even brilliance. But taken as a whole it consistently lets down the island.” No mellowing with age I see.
Richard’s paper was always a campaigning one - ranging from a Shop a Yob feature, which resulted in several arrests, to raising cash for an Alzheimer’s care home. But it is as a thorn in the side of inefficient politicians and officials that he will be best remembered. The Press has also kept its sale really well under his editorship. In 1996 it was selling 15,847 - today it sells around 14,000. Given what has happened to daily newspapers elsewhere, it is a remarkable performance. There are many reasons for this ... but one of them is that the Press has remained relevant, newsy, top quality and has been prepared to reinvent itself.

Richard's last conference
Despite his prickly professional persona, Richard is one of the good guys of newspapers. I first met him 17 years ago when he was deputy editor. Since then I have helped redesign the paper twice (taking it from broadsheet to compact  in 1999), run the journalists' training scheme and assisted with the restructuring of the newsroom. It has been a joy - one of my favourite places to visit. Richard and his team have always been massively hospitable and I have enjoyed many a pint (and the odd glass of Sancerre) with him in the Ship and Crown in St Peter Port. The new editor will be announced in the Press on Monday. Richard and his wife Di, the paper's features editor, will be having a few farewell drinks next week. My flight is already booked.