Friday, 29 April 2011

The Times gets the wedding bouquet

Here we go. The Times wins it hands down, a great decision and fabulous wraparound. It was the surprise and most natural image of the wedding. The kiss is a great picture too. It may be a bit safer, predictable and we've seen it before but, hey, it's an iconic image and this is all about thinking souvenir. The Northern Echo, Daily Mail, FT, The Sun, the Evening Gazette in Teesside, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph took that option. The Star's crop is on the tight side with the headline obliterating the dress. I like the Mirror's decision to leave in the bridesmaid too. I know she detracts a little from the main image but she does raise a smile. The Guardian left in two bridesmaids ... they balance the picture but the girl on the right adds nothing. And the FT cropped the wrong bridesmaid off. The Echo had a dilemma between the kiss and the car and went front and back. Good solution. As for the Independent, what can I say? Different, brave, original, not pandering to the mass hysteria, intelligent ... but really, what were they thinking? Pleased they scrawled The Kiss on it though, otherwise we might have struggled to know what we were looking at.

Did you get an invite ... or an invitation?

Lots of smiley pictures on today's front pages  ... mainly of Kate Middleton, although bit-player Prince William does appear in half of them. Even the Independent, which could traditionally be relied on to take a cynical view of such extravaganzas, has taken the royal shilling. It's easy to see why the pictures made their way on to every front page ... but what a dull set of headlines. Celebrate our happiest day, A couple smiles for the world, Happiest day of our lives ... they all sound like lines from a boring bridegroom's speech (perhaps they are). Of course it is always hardest to write headlines on stories where nothing has happened. At least The Guardian had a stab at a news angle while  the Independent, quite sensibly, chose not to bother with a headline at all. While we are on about wedding headlines, here's my greying sub gripe of the day. When did the word 'invite' become a noun? I know the tabloids can justify a bit of colloquialism to make it fit but even the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, Independent and the Daily Mail have decided you receive an invite rather than an invitation. I much prefer Ian Hislop's reference to a wedding 'ticket' than the ubiquitous 'invite'. At least The Guardian appears to be fighting a grammatical rearguard action. Anyway, enough of that. I am off to lunch today ... to the Plough with Harveys' Olympia ale, local wild boar on the menu and no TV. Anyone care to join me? No invite, invitation or ticket required.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Life after editing

Derek Holmes, right, receives the NS's Newspaper
 of the Year award from Joanna Lumley in 2006

I was saddened to see that Derek Holmes has left as editor of Newsquest's Oxford weeklies after 20 years with the division. Despite carrying the burden of being a Manchester United fan, he always struck me as an excellent journalist and editor. I helped him with the redesign of the Oxford Times in 2006. The OT went on to win the NS's Newspaper of the Year that year and, ever gracious, Derek took the time to drop me a note which said: "One of the key things the judges pointed to was the redesign that you did for us. Thanks once again for what you did. The paper is looking great, and I know that played a very important part in us winning this award." In our busy and pressurised industry, it is understandably rare for editors to make such an effort. If there is consolation for Derek, his departure is clearly nothing to do with his ability or performance. As the business changes radically over the next year, there will be other good people who will leave too. And although it seems like the sky has fallen in at the time, there really is life after editing. It is 18 years since I left the editor's chair at The Northern Echo. Since then my career has been every bit as stimulating and rewarding - and I am certainly not alone in this. Below is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for the Press Gazette. It is, perhaps, as relevant now as it was then. 

Life after editing
When I took my advanced driving test the instructor kept asking me: “If that bus or lorry came at you now, what would your escape route be?” It is a question that may be relevant to many of today’s editors. Editing is probably the pinnacle of your career. If you are doing it right, your time and energy will be devoted to setting and communicating a vision. So it is hardly surprising that few new editors give any thought to what happens next. But what if it doesn’t work out? What if you burn out? Even if you love every minute, can you really expect to be still there in 15 years? Some editors – Peter Barron at The Northern Echo, Chris Bright at Jersey - have been in situ for more than a decade. But nowadays editors more often leave with the same regularity as football managers. And being talented and hard-working is no guarantee. Dozens of editors have been fired for financial reasons, because their faces no longer fitted or because they were “too difficult”. So here are some tips to help you be prepared for the ten-ton truck that comes out of nowhere:
i) The next job should be one you really want. Keep a constant eye on the market – not just media jobs. Your skills in communication, technology, strategy, leadership and man-management are transferable to most industries.
ii) Keep your skills up to date. How good are you (honestly) at web-building, video, PR, strategy, public speaking and page planning?
iii) If the axe falls don’t be tempted to take the first bolthole that comes along. Don’t undersell yourself. Would you have applied for this job if you were still editor? If not, it is probably the wrong move. Buy time through freelancing and short-term contracts.
iv) Call in your contacts. You will have met people in publishing, business, education and politics who could benefit from your know-how. Tell them how.
v) Look abroad. English publications, particularly in the Middle East and India, are often on the look-out for UK executives.
vi) Set up your own business. Many ex-editors run successful PR, training and consultancy companies. Gareth Weekes, whose editorship at the Daily Echo in Bournemouth, came to an abrupt end 13 years ago, now runs Deep South Media with seven other journalists. He describes them as hacks who have become entrepreneurs. Weekes says: “Apart from missing my newsroom colleagues and the adrenalin rush of running a newspaper, losing my editorship was an entirely positive experience.
“The skills journalists take for granted are highly marketable. Organisations are willing to pay for good communicators. They have a respect for our direct style of writing, and our knack of asking the right questions.
“I still smart when I remember how I was wrenched out of the editor's chair. But nobody should do that job for too long and these days I get another kind of buzz. Building a business is every bit as creative as being an editor.”
Of course in these troubled times, all of this is much harder. Perhaps your best bet is to catch up with the things you have been putting off – travelling, learning new skills, decorating the spare bedroom – until it blows over. To do this you need a financial cushion. So one last tip: When you sign the editor’s contract make it as difficult as possible for them to get rid of you. I know one editor who moved his family from London, bought a house - and then got the bullet. When he checked his contract he was entitled to just three months’ money.  It might seem like an odd thing to do when taking over a high-powered and exciting job … but it’s never too early to start thinking about your exit.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Farewell to Priestgate, Fleet Street of the North

I spent 14 years working in newspaper offices in Priestgate in Darlington town centre. I first crossed the threshold as a newly qualified trainee and left as the editor of The Northern Echo. I worked the night shift on the Echo and the day shift on the late Evening Despatch. In many ways the office defines a huge slice of my life. With people who were to become lifelong friends, we covered four general elections, the disasters at Lockerbie, Zeebruge, Heysel, Bradford and Hillsbrough as well as the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher's resignation and the Ripper's arrest. We watched Priestgate change from a hot metal rabbit warren with its own Press to a computerised open-plan office. But it was always our Fleet Street, the hub around which our lives revolved. We strolled out from time to time to go to the Red Lion, the Britannia, the Flamingo and even home, but we were never very far away. Some great newspaper characters have stalked the corridors of Priestgate. W.T. Stead, Harold Evans and David Yelland are among the most famous but you would be hard pushed to go into any newspaper or broadcasting office in the land and not find someone who had cut their teeth in that Victorian building on the corner of Priestgate and Crown Street. My 14 years pales into insignificance, though, compared with the tenure of award-winning writer Mike Amos, MBE.  He was the news-editor when I arrived in 1979 and is still there today, having racked up 45 years. This weekend it was announced that The Northern Echo and Darlington and Stockton Times are to leave the building after 150 years. It will be consumed by the shopping centre and probably become Debenhams. Who can blame Newsquest from selling it? It is no longer necessary to have such a huge town centre building to produce a newspaper. And if I was sitting on a multi-million pound asset that was surplus to requirements, I would cash it in too. But that doesn't mean it isn't a sad day and that a big chunk of North-East history will disappear with it. On hearing the news one of my old colleagues, Red Williams, summed it up in an email: "A sad day not just for the likes of us but also for the people of Darlington, a genuine North-East powerhouse of news and sport moves on...brings a tear to the eye mate." 
Read more here and on Peter Barron's blog.
Picture courtesy of

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Ten things to take away from the Press Awards

Matt and Matt ... winners Cardy and Sandy 
I'm just back from a long but cracking night/early morning at the Press Awards. I was particularly pleased to see two former trainees collecting awards. Matt Cardy, from Getty Images, was a photographer with the Bath Chronicle who was sent to the Editorial Centre in Hastings in 1999 to learn journalism. He did well too, even passed his shorthand! How many photographers do you know with 100wpm? It clearly put him in good stead as he collected Photographer of the Year. Then there was the Mail on Sunday's Matt Sandy who was voted Young Journalist of the Year. Matt won his place on the Press Association course in Newcastle in 2006 after being named best student reporter in the National Student Journalism Awards. I also came across Matt when he was on the Daily Mail trainee scheme. A couple of our other ex-trainees, the Telegraph's Heidi Blake and Rowena Mason, were also shortlisted. Well done to all of them. It's always nice to catch up with (increasingly) old faces and at one point, with Mail online editor Ted Young and Times' head of news David Taylor, we had a mini Northern Echo reunion at the pre-awards reception. Anyway, here are my musings on the night. 

i) Bob Satchwell, the Society of Editors executive director, really ought to be executive director of the UN. With The Guardian and News of the World both nominated for newspaper and scoop of the year (the Guardian for its phone hacking revelations) on the day that two NOTW journalists were arrested, all of his diplomatic nous was required. To have both papers leaving more sweet than bitter was a triumph. It was down to the judging of course ... but either the sun shines on the righteous or the devil looks after his own. Take your pick.
Caitlin Moran ... adding colour to the proceedings
ii) The Times' Caitlin Moran, who was celebrating her 36th birthday as well as her awards for critic and interviewer, was the turn of the night. In a room full of black suits and dresses she brought some colour and a smile. She also made the best acceptance speech. "I am quite  aware that if you win an award for going to a sex club with Lady Gaga and ending up in the toilet with her and her doing a wee-wee in front of you, without even taking off her pants and doing it through her tights, that you may well have peaked in terms of your interview. Unless I  interview Madonna and she does a poo in a crisp bag round the back of HMV Megastore on Oxford Street I am not going to top it, so I'll happily take this now and retire." Watch it here.

iii) It's all about the story. The Daily Telegraph, which swept the board last year and deservedly won Newspaper of the Year for its expenses revelations, only took home a couple of Highly Commendeds this year. It's not been a bad year for the Telegraph at all - the David Laws and Vince Cable stories were very powerful - but they didn't have WikiLeaks or an international cricket scandal. The newspaper industry, probably rightly, clearly still focuses on big exclusive stories.

iv) I feel a bit sorry for The Sun. The biggest selling daily paper in Britain didn't collect a single award. How can that be? The difficulties of comparing red-top story-getters with the writers, analysts and database researchers of the heavies perhaps? Anyway, it might have thought it had a decent shout in Front Page of the Year for its World Cup front page, a lesson in how to make something out of nothing, but even that went to its red top rival the Mirror. The Sun hasn't won Newspaper of the Year in more than a decade.

v) Although all eyes were on the polarised positions of the News of the World and The Guardian, it was actually The Times who collected the most awards. The full league table was:

Times 5
The Guardian 4
News of the World   4
Evening Standard   2
Mail on Sunday 2
Daily Mirror 1
Financial Times 1
Getty Images 1
Mailonline 1
Sunday Times 1

It has been suggested that the method of voting for newspaper of the year - 120 judges in a secret ballot - might need a review. Journalists clearly tend to gravitate to the heavier papers - the last seven winners are The Guardian (2011), The Telegraph (2010), The Times (2009), The FT (2008), The Observer (2007) and The Guardian in 2006. When the Observer won in 2007 it didn't win any other award. Maybe the answer is that the paper which wins the most awards should collect the Newspaper of the Year crown. Just a thought. 

vi) That isn't to say The Guardian wasn't a worthy winner. It was WikiLeaks what won it ... but what was the most memorable headline from the story? A straw poll round the table suggested that the claim that the Saudis had asked America to bomb Iran edged it. Although the most commonly-held view was that WikiLeaks itself had become the story. The real global effect of WikiLeaks though, as Alan Rusbridger said in his speech, might not yet be felt. No argument with that, or the award.

vii) In case you hadn't guessed it Sky TV's Anna Botting, just back from reporting on the Japanese tsunami, has many formidable and professional qualities ... not least stamina. She was still there at the end of play when the Savoy shuttered up its bars. I can also reveal that she declined a fee for presenting the awards ... instead it will go to the Journalists' Charity. Anna, amazingly, is 43. I can only guess she has an ageing portrait of herself in the attic. 

viii) The days of drunken and raucous nights with the odd stand-up spat are long over. It's far more sober (which at Savoy prices, is perfectly understandable) with just a smatter of simmering resentment these days. All credit to News of the World managing editor Bill Akass though. He strode up to the bar afterwards and ordered several bottles of Champagne ... 'to start with'.

ix) The emailed invitation to the awards advised that 'the reception starts at 7pm with dinner at 8pm and carriages at 1am'. An executive of one the more serious-minded papers rang the organisers to ask if any of the "carriages" would be prepared to go as far as Surrey?  Not sure what he was expecting? Hansom cab to Dorking, perhaps?

x) While the night was about celebration, there are journalists worldwide who have weightier things to occupy themselves - such as oppression, imprisonment and death. The Foreign Press Association's president Hosny Emam and its charming vice president Nazenin Ansari were on my table and offered a fascinating insight into the FPA's work. A reminder that we should count our blessings that we were there at all ... let alone able to celebrate a vibrant, robust and free Press. 

And finally ... a collection around the tables raised £3,000 for the Journalists' Charity. Well done all round. It was the first time the Society of Editors had organised the awards, and it made a great fist of it. You can see it all in glorious video and photographs here. Now on to the regionals ...


Regional Press Awards: The shortlist

Here you go - the Regional Press Awards shortlists that I know many of you have been waiting for:

Business and Finance Journalist of the Year
Simon Bain, The Herald, Glasgow
Jon Griffin, Birmingham Mail
Robin Johnson, Derby Telegraph
Catherine Lea, Hull Daily Mail                       
Owen McAteer, The Northern Echo                       
Michael Ribbeck, Bristol Evening Post           

Digital Innovation of the Year                 
Birmingham Mail Communities, Birmingham Mail
Greater Manchester Police 24, Manchester Evening News
How YOU will bear the brunt of the cuts, Manchester Evening News                       
Hunt for Raoul Moat, NCJ Media, Newcastle                        
The Pinkun, Norwich            
Virtual Reality Museum of Norfolk, Eastern Daily Press
Daily/Sunday Photographer of the Year
Christopher Booth, The Northern Echo                       
Anthony Chappel-Ross, The Press, York                       
Matthew Horwood, Media Wales                       
Gareth Jones, Liverpool Daily Post and Echo                        
Mark McCormick, Sunday Life                       
Liz Pearce, Media Wales  

Weekly Photographer of the Year
Ian Cooper, Chester Chronicle
Stephen Garnett, Craven Herald                       
Chris Gleave, Manchester Evening News Weekly group                       
Sean Hansford, Rochdale Observer                       
Stuart Vance, West Lothian Courier                       
Stuart Walker, The Cumberland News                       

Scoop of the Year
Mary Griffin, Woman caught dumping cat in wheelie bin, Coventry Telegraph
Shaun Jepson, We find the runaway sex fiend, Derby Telegraph
Keeley Knowles, Teen banned from US over Obama hate mail, Bedfordshire on Sunday
Jeanette Oldham, Asylum missing millions, Sunday Mercury           
Martin Shipton, Long List of S4C TV shows with zero viewers, Media Wales                       
Lui Stracci, Pakistan Murder trial accused living on benefits, Luton and Dunstable Express                       

Young Journalist of the Year
Ryan Crighton, The Press and Journal           
Claire Duffin, Derby Telegraph                       
Matthew Holehouse, The Herald, Glasgow                       
Joe Shute, Yorkshire Post                       
Dan Warburton, NCJ Media, Newcastle                       
Chris Watt, Herald and Times, Glasgow           

Feature Writer of the Year
Laura Davis, Liverpool Daily Post                                   
Lee Marlow, Leicester Mercury                                   
Rod McPhee,  Yorkshire Evening Post                                   
David O’Dornan, Sunday Life                                   
Dave Owens, Media Wales                                   
Adam Wakelin, Leicester Mercury                                   
Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph                 
Daily/Sunday Sports Journalist of the Year
Paul Abbandonato, Media Wales
Jon Colman, News and Star, Carlisle                       
Andy Cryer, Lancashire Telegraph                       
John Gibson, Evening Chronicle, Newcastle                       
James Robson, Manchester Evening News                       
Martin Smith, The Star, Sheffield                       
Anthony Vickers, Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough

Daily/Sunday Reporter of the Year
Bimpe Archer, The Irish News                       
Adam Aspinall, Sunday Mercury                       
Ben Kendall, Eastern Daily Press
Allison Morris, The Irish News           
Jeanette Oldham, Sunday Mercury                       
Martin Shipton, Media Wales
Dan Thompson, Manchester Evening News           

Front Page of the Year
Temper Graffiti, Birmingham Post
Help Us Grow, Bristol Evening Post        
A Day When Derry Changed, Derry News        
Get In,  Evening Chronicle, Newcastle                    
Our City Divided, Manchester Evening News        
Hurricane’s Epitaph, Sunday Life                                            
The Gull Menace, The Bath Chronicle           

Specialist Writer of the Year 
Ciaran Barnes, Crime Reporter, Sunday Life
Alison Dayani, Health Correspondent, Birmingham Mail
Tom Dowling, Disability, All Together NOW!                       
Nicky Harley, Court Reporter, Hull Daily Mail                       
Shaun Lintern, Health Correspondent, Express & Star, Wolverhampton           
Vicki Mathias, Health Reporter, Bristol Evening Post                       
Becky Sheaves,  Food and Drink Editor, Western Morning News                       
Charles Walker, Local Government  Correspondent, Nottingham Post                             

Columnist of the Year
Gavin Aitchison, The Press, York           
Simon Carr,  Southern Daily Echo                       
John Connery, News Letter,  Ulster                       
Colin Drury, The Star, Sheffield                       
Ian Midgley, Hull Daily Mail                       
Erik Petersen, Nottingham Post                                   

Weekly Sports Journalist of the Year
Jon Colman, The Cumberland News                       
Chris Harby, Melton Times           
Amanda Little, The Cumberland News
Eric Mackinnon, West Lothian Courier           
Colin Paterson, Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser                       
David Powell,  North Devon Journal                       

Designer of the Year                                                                       
Ian Bond, Hull Daily Mail           
Neil Cammies, Media Wales                       
Peter Devine,  Manchester Evening News                        
Alan Formby-Jackson, Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough
Angela Swann,  Oxford Mail                       
Doug Young, NCJ Media, Newcastle                        

Weekly Reporter of the Year
Anthony Bonnici, West Briton                       
Paul Francis, The Kent Messenger                       
Charlotte Richardson, Weston, Worle & Somerset Mercury 
John Siddle, Trinity Mirror Merseyside Weeklies                       
Lui Straccia,  Luton & Dunstable Express                       
Janine Yaqoob, Trinity Mirror Merseyside Weeklies                             

Campaign of the Year                                   
Give Water, Give Life, Derby Telegraph
Make it Marham,  Eastern Daily Press                       
End the Indignity,  Evening News, Norwich                       
You Saved Tea Bar,  Greenock Telegraph
Air Angels,  Sunday Sun
Jet Set NHS, The Irish News
Safety Net, The Northern Echo
Communities in Need, Yorkshire Post    

Regular Supplement of the Year 
Banter Magazine,  Bristol Evening Post
Crime Files,  Birmingham Mail                       
City Life,  Manchester Evening News                       
The Pink Un, Eastern Daily Press                       
Weekend,  Gloucestershire Echo                       
Weekend Magazine, Belfast Telegraph                       
Western Mail Magazine, Western Mail           

Special Supplement of the Year
250 Anniversary, Bath Chronicle 
140 Anniversary, Eastern Daily Press                       
Election Saturday Special,  Ham & High
Sportsdesk, Oxford Mail           
All Ireland Football Final, The Irish News           
Farewell to the Ark, The News, Portsmouth                       

Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year (above 25,000) 
East Anglian Daily Times                                   
Press & Journal                                   
The Irish News                                   
The Journal                                    
Sunday Life                                   
Yorkshire Post                                   
Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year (below 25,000)
Cambridge News                                   
Evening Star, Ipswich                                   
Lincolnshire Echo                                   
News & Star, Carlisle                                   
Oxford Mail                                   
The Gazette, Blackpool                                   

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (above 20,000) 
Chester Chronicle
Cumberland News 
Essex Chronicle
North Devon Journal
Somerset County Gazette
South London Press                  

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (below 20,000)
Bath Chronicle
Derry News
Ham & High
Northumberland Gazette 
Oxford Times 
The Cornishman 

The overall winners have not been chosen yet. That happens in the next stage when all the judges get together. 
The judges have so far studied more than 750 entries in the first stage (and each entry is made up of three copies, so that's a lot of reading). The winners will be announced at a lunchtime awards ceremony at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank on May 11 hosted by Nick Ferrari.
Tickets are £70 (plus vat) per person or £700 (plus vat) per table to include a pre-lunch drinks reception and wine with lunch. Special rates for overnight stays may be available. To book your place please contact 
Don't forget this is a non-profit event, all proceeds going to the Journalists' Charity. So let's have your support and I'll see you on May 11. Good luck.
For details go to