Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Ten thoughts about the Press Awards

I have just about recovered from last night’s Press Awards. It was, as usual, a cracking night that, for me and my wife Pam, went on until the early hours. The Guardian took the big one - Newspaper of the Year - with Scoop of the Year going to the Mail on Sunday for its expose of the Rev Paul Flowers. The full list of winners and some pictures and videos can be found here. Well done to all of them. The night was a real celebration of the best newspapers in the world - and a reminder of why politicians and those with other vested interests need to keep their murky meddlings to themselves. It was also a night to catch up with (increasingly) old faces ... great fun. Here are my musings on the night.

Young Journalist of the Year Patrick Kingsley
Pic: Nick Carter,MagStar Ltd/Press Awards UK
i) I judged the Young Journalist category and was blown away by the submitted work. There could easily have been 20 worthy winners. There was a good range too. Patrick Kingsley, from The Guardian, won it for frontline and risky reporting from Cairo. By contrast The Sun’s Lee Price was highly commended for some fun tabloid ideas - including successfully inviting celebrities to his birthday party at his flat. I should also give a special mention to Simon Murphy, who I had the pleasure to train. His portfolio for the Mail on Sunday included a world exclusive splash, filed from Peru, on the drug mules and a story about how he downloaded a gun on a 3D printer and took it on the Eurostar. The future of journalism looks like it is in safe hands.

ii) Seeing ex-trainees - including David Rose, Charlotte Griffiths, Claire Ellicott, Amy Iggulden, Helen Lewis and Emine Sinmaz - holding down senior roles is very rewarding ... even if it does bring it home just how old I have become.

The Guardian - Newspaper of the Year
iii) The red tops should really get a better deal. The full breakdown of last night's award winners is Guardian 4, Mail 4, Times 4, FT 3, Mail on Sunday 2, Sunday Times 2, Daily Telegraph 1, Daily Mirror 1, Observer 1, Sun 1, Sunday People 1, Standard 1, Reuters 1. An overwhelming victory for the quality end. In the last 15 years the only red tops to win Newspaper of the Year were the News of the World (2005) and the Mirror (2002). The judges, mainly journalists, clearly gravitate towards the heavier papers. There are, understandably, difficulties in comparing red-top story-getters with the writers, analysts and database researchers of the qualities. Well done to the Society of Editors for recognising this. It was a step in the right direction to separate the interviewer, columnist and feature writer categories for broadsheet and popular papers. It was also a good move to change the secret ballot by all judges to a panel of independent and respected figures. 

iv) The industry is still clearly dominated by mainly white males. Thirteen of the winners were men and only six were women. There were 18 men nominated in the cartoonists and photography categories - not a woman in sight. Surprisingly there were also no women shortlisted as critics of the year or popular newspaper feature writers. This is a big improvement on last year though ... when there were only three women winners. I know that the Society is ensuring  there is more of a balance in the judging panels. But it is a broader issue. There are certainly more women than men coming into the industry - so why the imbalance? Discuss.

Front Page of the Year - but not Scoop of the Year
v) The noisiest and most passionate tables were those of the Mirror and People. The People’s team couldn’t believe that the Nigella Lawson story, which won Front Page of the Year, didn’t also win Scoop of the Year. The story wasn’t commended either, so came behind the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and The Guardian. You can understand why editor James Scott was reportedly ready to headbutt the bar. Another dispute about the page - and whether it was the idea of departed Trinity Mirror executive Sue Douglas - spilled over on to Roy Greenslade’s Guardian column and was well aired on Twitter. Follow the trail of Fleet Street Fox from earlier today and you’ll get the picture.

vi) A whipround on each table raised more than £3,000 for the Journalists’ Charity. This is something all journalists need to support. The details are here

Party animals - David Seymour (former political editor of the Mirror), John Stapleton, me, Pam Sands and Lynn Faulds Wood
vii) When you are not part of a paper’s table, the kind of night you have often depends on who you get landed with. We had great table mates. They included TV icons Lynn Faulds Wood and John Stapleton, Sue and John Ryan and young journalist Kate Taylor who all turned out to be good craic.

Absent friends: Colin Myler and Ted Young sent this picture of themselves 'working' in New York
viii) Last time I was at the awards I enjoyed a mini Northern Echo reunion with the then Mail online editor Ted Young and Times' head of news David Taylor. Ted is now editor of the New York Daily News Online so wasn't there this year. Instead, he sent a picture of himself and former News of the World editor Colin Myler with the message 'some of us are at work.' John Stapleton, a friend of Ted's, offered the considered response: 'Tough shit'

In control - Julie Etchingham
Pic: Nick Carter,MagStar Ltd/Press Awards UK
ix) Host Julie Etchingham had her hands full trying to keep the room under control. She’s a great pro, of course, and took it all in her stride. She did say though, as she left, that she felt more like a school-teacher. Amazingly, she is 44. I can only guess she has an ageing portrait of herself in the attic. 

x) Finally congratulations to Bob Satchwell, the Society of Editors' executive director, and his team. It was a great event. As a judge of many years, I know all too well the effort that goes into making the whole thing as fair as possible, organising the event, printing and proof-reading and general firefighting. Keeping almost everyone happy in a room bouncing with rivalry and egos is no mean feat. As always, all of his diplomatic skills were required. Well done Bob.

Now I have six weeks to recover before we do it all again at the regional awards. Looking forward to it. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Scotland is butt of the April Fool frenzy

It's after midday so all of the April Fool gags should now be taken down and we can get on with the serious business of the day. I offered my view of the jokes this time last year. Basically, when I was an editor I never understood why we would spend the whole year persuading people of our integrity and credibility and then one day just tell blatant lies - and take the mick out of the readers. And apart from anything else most of them weren't at all funny. 

If you came up with a Panorama spaghetti farm idea or if The Guardian discovered the islands of San Serriffe, including the small islet Ova Mata, then it would definitely be worthwhile. But crude photoshopped images of giant bunnies invading football pitches? I think not. This year everyone seems to have been at it. So, taking my po face off for a while, here is my pick.

Scottish independence seemed to be the main butt of the jokes with five national papers taking a bit of a poke. 

The Daily Telegraph used Page 10 to unveil the new Scottish pound coin with Alex Salmond replacing the Queen. The Guardian gave Page 5 prominence to its story that if Scotland wins independence it will change driving to the right. I liked the proposal to change the traffic lights to red, amber and blue which was rejected after fears the Southern Tories would adopt it as their own. Scottish Independence was the theme in the Mail too - with an idea to get rid of the Scottish Saltire from the Union Flag so that it will look like this:

Avril Mactickle was the campaigner in this one. 

The Times had a story about a German duke who would have claims to rule Scotland and The Independent said the UN will be drafted in to monitor 'cross border tensions'. The peacekeepers will be changing their helmets from blue to purple so that they aren't seen to be Scottish supporters. 

The Sun opted for Page 9 to run its headline Frackingham Palace above a story on the Queen drilling for gas at Buck House. I quite liked ER Ewing. Predictably, campaigner Avril Fuel also makes an appearance. The Sun also had a story on the sports pages about Plymouth Argyle changing their pitch colour to orange so that it doesn't clash with their green strip. 

The Express also carried a spoof football story - that Arsenal and Spurs were to share a ground.

The Express ran two more April Fool stories - one online and one in the paper. Online was a story about a mummified teddy bear being discovered and on Page 3 there was a tale about a farmer hatching a plan to sell square eggs. It will end the need for eggcups. The farm was, predictably, in Flair Loop in Suffolk and campaigner Flora Pilo was the campaigner.

 Coincidentally, ITV's Daybreak also ran a story about square eggs.

The Mirror went with an economical farming story too - the farmer breeding six-legged lambs. 

In the regions the Brentwood Gazette reported that Brentwood is planning to pay tribute to TOWIE star Joey Essex with a huge bronze statue. Meanwhile both the Nottingham Post and Hartlepool Mail went for the discovery of historic bones. In Nottingham it was Robin Hood's remains that were found and in Hartlepool, inevitably, it was those of the famous hanged monkey.

Sinkholes were a bit of a theme too - there was one in Somerset and one in Coronation Street. The Western Daily Press's report - with a far more authentic looking picture than the Corrie one - had me wondering for a second but Freshford resident April O'Lof was a bit of a clue. 

The PR companies were at it too. Andrew Bloch listed scores of them on twitter this morning including the aquatic taxi by Addison Lee that can get you across the Thames quicker. If you want to indulge yourself, follow Andrew here

The readers were also being inventive, as this bicycle prank covered on Kent Online shows.

Perhaps my favourite though was Penguin Books announcing it was to replace full stops with exclamation marks. "For the first time, iconic books such as Albert Camus's The Stranger, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment will remove all the instances of full stops in the original text, and replace them with exclamation marks." 
Brilliant ... although I fear I have worked in some places where they have already done that!!!!!!

If you are not rigidly bored with all of this by now you can follow Felicity Morse who has been prolific in collecting today's jokes. There are also good compilations by The Independent, the Mirror, The Guardian and The Telegraph.   

The only one that got me going, though, was from my 17-year-old son. He is taking his photography AS level today and set off early for college in his car. At 9.30am I got a text that read: "Traffic was really bad. Was late for my exam and the examiner wouldn't let me in. My teachers flipped out for no reason. Think I've been kicked off the course." Ten minutes later I managed to get down from the ceiling. Gotcha!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Looking for a new look? Look no further

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is working on the redesign of newspaper and magazine titles. Over the years Mike Brough and I have redesigned more than 90 titles. They have included new launches, taking broadsheets to the Berliner and tabloid formats, turning dailies to weeklies and even providing live camera-ready publications for customers. Demand for design work has risen this year - possibly because publishers know that if they continue to offer readers more of the same, then their sales performance will also be more of the same. So with that in mind we have put together a PDF brochure  showing some of our work and drawn up some different approaches to a redesign. If you would like to see what we can do for you or receive the PDF take a look here.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Catching up with cartoonist Cluff, a rare talent

I have finally caught up with one of my Christmas presents, Private Eye: A Cartoon History. It is a must-read book with real laugh-out-loud moments. There are almost 300 pages crammed with the works of the Eye’s greatest cartoonists including Ken Pyne, Ed McLachlan, Bill Tidy, Willie Rushton, Michael Heath, Tony Husband and, of course, the book’s editor Nick Newman. I was particularly pleased, though, to see the contributions from the excellent Cluff.  
In 1990, when I was at The Northern Echo, a mild-mannered council officer called John Longstaff came into the office to ask if the paper was interested in running a daily pocket cartoon. 

Cluff: John Longstaff
We gave him a go - and were blown away. Every night he would send over two or three cartoons, usually by fax. They were topical, waspish (occasionally too brutal for our sensitive readers) and always brilliant. John had that sideways look at life that separates the great cartoonists from the rest of us. He quickly became a daily feature on Page 1 and he has been in the paper each day ever since. Cluff, who took his name from a 60s' television series called Sergeant Cluff which starred Leslie Sands as Yorkshire Dales policeman, has his own section in the Eye book and there are 19 of his cartoons scattered around the pages. Here are a couple:

Reading the book prompted me to get in touch and discover, among other things, that John is an artist far beyond his cartoons. You can catch up with some of his other work here

This one in particular caught my eye - not least because the Britannia was the Echo journalists' pub back in the 80s. It was a joy to catch up with the man and his work. He also told me he is holding an exhibition in Darlington’s Crown Street Gallery in September. I might have to contrive to be up there. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Journalists - what makes us special

My mad February schedule meant that I missed the Thanksgiving Service at St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Journalists' Charity. Those who were there, though, have never stopped telling me what I missed and what an inspirational morning it was. So this week, I finally caught up with the readings that were delivered on the day. If you are a journalist, and even if you aren’t, you should read them all. It is stirring stuff. 

Alex Crawford give her address at the service. Paul Cutcliffe

The address was given by Sky’s Alex Crawford who nicely summed up the essence of a journalist:
"We journalists are all different, a very different community of individuals, with different DNA to much of humankind. We’re designed to challenge, to push, to dig, to question, to irritate, to run TOWARDS danger and confrontation rather than away from it – and, when we’re not tearing each other apart limb from limb, we do have fun together."
I would encourage you, particularly if you're a young journalist starting out, to read her full address here.

Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre gave a reading from Vincent Mulchrone’s What makes us special.
"If, in the panic, you can find the words to convey the blood and sweat of the revolt in Oojiboo, and (which is frequently more difficult) get them back to a sub-editor worried about his train home, then you are a reporter, and the happiest animal on earth."  
It is in this piece that Mulchrone was the first to recognise that: "The news story must be the only human activity which demands that the orgasm comes at the beginning.” 

Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox read from Keith Waterhouse’s Streets Ahead memoir on joining Fleet Street for the first time.
… the smell of printers’ ink and metal was at this hour as stale on the air as last night’s beer, there was nevertheless a stirring, a frisson, the first buzz of that excitement that always mounted throughout the day until it came to a climax with a fleet of predominately yellow vans pulling out of Shoe Lane and Bouverie Street and Carmelite Street and Tudor Street and Fetter Lane and heading like a wagon train for the mainline stations.

The editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, read the Greatest Company in the World by the late Mirror columnist Cassandra.
"You can get used to the noise but I’ve never got used to the people. The lovely nuts. The gorgeous crackpots. And all those wonderful, generous, self-derisive folk who spend their lives making dirty great black marks on miles and miles of white paper. Newspaper people are the greatest company in the world."

Telegraph Media Group chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, read 70 years as a journalist by W.F. Deedes, in which he recalls his first day at the Morning Post.
“Go and watch the crowds in Downing Street,” they told me. “Don’t write anything, old boy, just useful experience.” So it was. I had never reported anything in my life. Why was I there? The Morning Post, feeling its age, had decided to recruit a few young reporters. I was among them."

The actor Simon Callow also read a speech by Charles Dickens, proposing a toast to the Newspaper Press Fund, the forerunner of the Journalists' Charity, back in 1865.

It is clear that I should have made time to attend. But reading the extracts has been the next best thing. I recommend you do the same - and remind yourselves why you do what you do. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Front Page of the Year: A tough call

Only three weeks to go to the Press Awards ... a guaranteed great night out. One of my favourite awards has always been Front Page of the Year. That's not just because it is easier to judge than the written categories, but because it is such a critical and creative part of what newspapers do. Persuading people to pick up a newspaper by using a mix of words, images, type and colour on a piece of paper is a great art. It needs design, journalism and marketing skills. Having the best front page on the news-stands is what it's all about. The shortlisted six in this year's awards are all top notch - and are all radically different. The only slight surprise is that the deaths of Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher didn't make the last six. There is a good mix though. Two qualities, two middle-market, two red-tops, two Sundays, four dailies - and six cracking stories. The judges clearly had an almost impossible task to choose just one. Which would you go for?
NB: I wasn't a judge in this category and have no idea who has won.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Final Newsquiz: Ollie wins the Champagne

The trainees outside the Manor at Howden. From left: Alex Finnis, Jack Crone, Tom Burrows, Jennny Awford, Kieran Gill, Charlie Scott, Ollie Gillman, Olly Todd, Jen Smith, Melanie Sisson, Chris Waugh, Khaleda Rahman and Aby Dunsby 

The Daily Mail trainees have now completed their training and are heading off to their regional newspaper placements. This week they had three days in Howden with me and a visit on Tuesday by Andy Gregory, deputy editor of Mail Plus. At the end of the week they had a fascinating two days in the Mail offices in Kensington. On Thursday there were sessions with the legal team Lindsay Warwick, Hilary Kingsley (the former Mirror columnist now turned lawyer) and Tim Ross. Chief reporter David Williams and senior reporter Christian Gysin told them inspirational stories and former trainees Kieran Corcoran, Lizzie Edmonds and Adam Shergold gave them a heads-up on what the next year will bring. Night editor Elizabeth Hammond finished off the day with a real insight into life on MailOnline. Yesterday there were high-grade sessions with publisher Martin Clarke, assistant editor Hugh Dougherty, deputy news-editor Mariana Partasides, reporter Harriet Arkell and a practical briefing by editorial manager Lucy Jones

Ollie celebrates winning the quiz ... and the Champagne 
We finished as always with the news quiz. This week’s top scorers were Jenny Awford and Tom Burrows with 15 points each. Well done to both. The big prize, a bottle of Champagne, went to Ollie Gillman for being the top scorer over the four weeks with 62.5 points, overtaking his closest rival Chris Waugh at the final hurdle. Well done to both. Good luck to the trainees on the next stage of their training. Stay enthusiastic, committed, accurate and, of course, charming …
Here’s the final quiz for you to test your current affairs knowledge. There are 20 questions, with five bonuses so a possible 25 points. Jenny and Tom’s 15 to beat.

An Oscars-style selfie: See question 5      
1. How much will it cost to send a first class letter when prices go up at the end of this month?
2. A Paddy Power advert was withdrawn after it became the most complained about advert of all time. What was it offering?
3. David Beckham’s aftershave, Intense Instinct, has been the top selling male celebrity fragrance since 2006 … but which celeb's fragrance has now knocked him off the top spot? 
4. The director general of the BBC has announced plans to take BBC Three to online only, who is he?
Bonuspresenter Mark Lawson is leaving Radio Four. Which programme did he host?
5. Cate Blanchett won best actress in a leading role at the Oscars. For which film?
Bonus, Ellen DeGeneres orchestrated the selfie that was the talk of the Oscars, but who took the picture?
6. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all played friendly internationals on Wednesday - and only one of them lost. Which one?
Bonus, England have recruited Steve Peters to their World Cup squad in Brazil. What will his role be?
7. Why was 13-year-old Jamie Edwards in the headlines?
8. The Ukranian flag was briefly replaced by the Russian flag over the Donetsk regional headquarters this week. What two colours are on the Ukranian flag?
Bonus, which prominent American figure compared Vladmir Putin’s actions in Ukraine to those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s?
9. Who did MP Robert Halfon say were ‘akin to Nazis’?
10. Whose wife has deleted her Twitter account after her family received online abuse from sci-fi fans? 
11. Why did judge Thokozile Masipa not address the jury in the Oscar Pistorious trial?
12. Which newspaper ran a correction to a story published in 1853?
13. Name two of the three finalists in the last ever Dancing on Ice (half point for one correct name).
14. Unknown singer songwriter Mollie Smitten-Downes will represent the UK in this year’s Eurovision song contest. What is the name of the song she will sing? 
15. According to research, British women spend 339 minutes a day on leisure - the second most of any Western country. But in which European country do the women relax the most?
16. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he did not have the power to bring back what ‘fundamental right’?
17. Rebekah Brooks denied in court that she was like which Dickensian character?
18. The owner of which British football club has been jailed for six years for money laundering.
19. The Metropolitan Police’s undercover unit SDS has come under fire over allegations that it routinely lied to the courts. What does SDS stand for?
Bonus, the review of the SDS by Mark Ellison, QC, may now be referred to the Attorney General. Who is the Attorney General? 
20. What did Maj General James Cowan, who has led British forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, ban from the officers' mess? 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Type is my life: Fonts legend Mike Parker dies

Mike Parker, the man who gave the world Helvetica, died on Sunday. He was 84. He was also responsible for around 1,000 other fonts. He also featured in the movie Helvetica which, if you haven't seen it already, is a must-watch. Parker's amazing typographical journey started with the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in 1959 and ended with the Font Bureau. There are many tributes to him around this week including this one on Time's website and this fascinating interview, which opens with 'My name is Mike Parker and type is my life'. Please watch it.