Friday, 21 October 2011

The Gaddafi front pages: Brutal but justified

The death of Muammar Gaddafi is one of those rare stories that makes me wish I was still drawing up pages for a morning paper. It has all the fascinating ingredients - shocking if poor quality pictures, worldwide reaction, masses of political soundbites, headline opportunities galore, huge international ramifications, more analysis and comment than you could ever print and questions of taste to be considered. The key question though is how comfortable will your readers be with pictures of a bloodied dead body on their breakfast table, even if it is that of man with masses of blood on his hands? Well, if you'd had pictures of Hitler's death would you have used them? Of course you would.  Today's front pages certainly don't shy away from the task. Thanks as always to @suttonnick.

The Daily Telegraph has no qualms about using a graphic picture of a dead body. The paper may be one of the last remaining broadsheets but this is classic tabloid treatment. A shocking eight-column picture with a big banner headline using a play on 'mercy' and 'merciless' and with blobbed subdecks. The Sun and Mirror were coming in for some Twitter stick last night on grounds of taste but this is as bold and in your face as it gets.  

And those worried about the tabloids, should take a look at the straight-laced Guardian. The picture is a bit grainier, the headline straighter and there are plenty of serious words ... but it's just as graphic and powerful.
The Times uses an unusual crop. At first glance you miss Gaddafi and see a picture of the rebel. Is it on grounds of taste perhaps? The picture certainly has a news context ... showing what happened. But I would have made the main player centre stage. 

The Daily Mail is arguably the most harrowing. It's a moment in time ... and far more newsy than the corpse pictures. The obvious choice of photograph might have been the dead body but the final seconds of Gaddafi's life, the panic in his eyes with a headline that is almost a speech bubble is gruesomely powerful. Pleased to see there is no glitzy blurb ... although I would certainly have dropped Free Duvet on this occasion.  
The Mirror is also pretty disturbing ... and some say the most outrageous. I do wonder whether a bloodied corpse across the front will do much for casual sales - but there's no denying its impact. It was pulled from the Sky News paper reviews last night for being too graphic - but having watched the video Sky showed I find that hard to believe. It's a dead body - supposedly too gratuitous - but what is the difference between that and the Telegraph? A pretty thin line. I recall plenty of dead body pictures - remember that of Che Guevara? The headline, the same line as the Mail's, captures Gaddafi's desperation and panic. For once, the exclamation marks are justified. It would, of course, have had more impact without the column off and the blurb.    
The Sun brings it all back to home ground with a splash headline aimed at getting its readers cheering - a modern day variation of Gotcha. The subdeck and strapline are very powerful too. Unusually the Sun didn't take the picture across six columns - perhaps concluding it would have broken up. Given the Telegraph and Guardian treatment it could have gone bigger, but it is still a classic Sun lesson in how to make an international incident relevant to your readers. 
The Independent and its sister title i can't resist the sequence which is usually a good call when the best pictures are grainy and low-resolution from a mobile phone. The i goes for six, the Indie for four and both adhere to the basic rule, using all the pictures the same size. But the readers could do with a bit of help - captions telling what is happening step by step. The Indie makes an attempt but the i leaves us wondering what is going on. The pictures are in different order, so are they really sequences? The other papers had the confidence to go bigger with the pictures. Maybe it wasn't the right call after all. 

They all contrasts with the American view. The International Herald Tribune goes for a celebratory picture - and relegates the dead Gaddafi picture to a two-column down page position.

A remarkable set of front pages ... a moment in history captured with confidence and impact.           

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Final newsquiz - Lottie's amazing 18.5 to beat

The Mail and Telegraph trainees left Howden this week and now embark on their regional placements. Good luck to them all. They are among the liveliest bunch of young journalists you are likely to meet. Congratulations to the Mail's Lottie Young and the Telegraph's Jess Winch who won the overall newsquiz for each paper. Jess won this week's Telegraph quiz with 12 points out of 22 to finish with 80.5 points over seven weeks, 7.5 ahead of second place Tom Rowley. Lottie scored an astonishing 18.5 out of 22 to win the Mail quiz and finish with 72.5 points over five weeks, 12 ahead of second place Kirsty McEwen. The top averages were Lottie with 14.5, Kirsty with 12.1, Jess with 11.5 and Raj Rai with 11.2.
Quiz queens: Jess and Lottie with their prizes
Jess and Lottie collected a scratchcard and a bottle of toffee vodka for their efforts. That's it for the newsquiz for another year (although I might drop in the occasional one just to keep you on your toes). Try your hand at this week's. You have Lottie's amazing 18.5 to beat.

1. Who was under fire for detaining five children a day?
2. Why was Alan Billis in the headlines?
3. Who is wrestler Stacy Keibler's lover?
4. The Hillsborough disaster has been back in the news. It was a tragedy for Liverpool and Sheffield but what was the third city involved?
5. Round the world sailor Stefan Ramin was allegedly eaten by a cannibal on which remote Pacific island?
6. Dan Wheldon died during which motor race? Full name please, four words.
7. Which children's YouTube channel was hit by hackers?
8. What position does Justine Greening hold in the Cabinet?
9. What will Blackberry users get as compensation for the loss of service last week?
10. Which letter went 'missing' during the World Scrabble Championship?
11. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released after being held for five years by Hamas. What was his rank?
12. Former Commons researcher Katia Zatuliveter is facing deportation after being accused of spying. She was an aide for which Liberal Democrat MP? 
13. Wootton Bassett has been given the Royal prefix. How many servicemen/women has the town paid its respects to in the last four years?
14. Betty Driver passed away last weekend. She was well known for her part as Betty Williams (Turpin) in Coronation Street but which character did she originally audition for?
15. Fauja Singh started running marathons 11 years ago, at what age?
16. The Governor of the Bank of England said this week that time is running out to solve the world economy crisis. Who is the Governor of the Bank of England?
17. Who left Brown for Oxford?
18. Who received an apology from the BBC for "being written out of history"?
19. Robbie Savage and Orla Jordan performed the tango at half-time during which football match?
20. Which author won the 2011 Booker Prize this week? And, for a bonus point, name the book.
21.  The Daily Mail this week had to pay out undisclosed libel damages to which Lady?
How did you do? The answers are here.
Telegraph trainees Jess Winch, Jenny O'Mahony, Ben Bryant,
Lucy Kindle, Tom Rowley, Thomas Pascoe and Alice Philipson
Mail trainee subs Lyle Brennan, Libby Galvin, PA Finance Director Steven Brown,
Alys Denby, Tom Clarke, Raj Rai, Talal Musa, Kirsty McEwen,
my refined pate, trainer Mike Watson and Lottie Young

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Telegraph now recruiting trainee journalists

I am with the seven Telegraph trainee journalists this week, the final stage in their training at Howden before they go off to regional newspapers or the Press Association to cut their teeth. They will then begin work at the Telegraph next spring. Recent graduates of the the scheme, run by Press Association Training, include:
Jon Swaine now the paper's New York Correspondent and previously a member of the MP expenses's team.  
Heidi Blake investigative reporter who was nominated for Young Journalist of the Year and Scoop of the Year in the 2010 Press Awards.
Rowena Mason who writes on energy issues and was also nominated in last year's awards.
Graham Ruddick who is on the City desk covering healthcare, property and sports industries.
Rachel Cooper who is also on the City desk covering pharmaceutical and service companies. 
Harriet Alexander who is on the foreign desk at the Sunday Telegraph.
Jonathan Liew who is on the sportdesk covering football, cricket and golf.
There are many others, including the six trainees who began the scheme last year who are now all back at the Telegraph after their regional secondments.
The Telegraph is now looking for next year's intake. If you are interested you can apply here. If you are graduating next summer or you are on a journalism post-grad course, you will be perfectly placed. The scheme will start in September/October next year. The closing date is November 26. It is, trust me, too good an opportunity to miss. And, if you lucky enough to land an interview, here are some things to think about that might just help.

Contender for headline of the week

Here's an early contender for headline of the week from the Medway Messenger - Hearse joyrider had meat cleaver down trousers. It certainly fulfils the criteria of building a picture in the readers' minds and encouraging people to read on. Haven't most newspapers banned 'joyriders/joyriding' though? And given the short last line why not 'jogging bottoms' instead of trousers? Still, a cracking headline. 
Hat-tip to @danbloom1

Monday, 17 October 2011

Kylie: Not a "diminutive Antipodean chanteuse"

We were discussing elegant variations here last week, so it was timely to see an excellent addition to the list from Giles Coren in an article in the Independent on Sunday yesterday. Coren is quoted as saying:
When I started as editor of the Times diary (diaries are always the worst for cliché, as they're staffed by over-educated public schoolboys desperately trying to be noticed), I wrote up a list of words and sentences I would not stand for. At the top was, "diminutive Antipodean chanteuse", which used to feature practically weekly in the diary of my predecessor. What Kylie Minogue is, I told my dribbling, pink-faced underlings, is a short Australian singer. If you think people need to be told that, tell them. That is not a cliché. That is just language. "Diminutive Antipodean chanteuse", however, is just bollocks. Indeed, it is bollocks on stilts (to use a cliché I have always rather liked). 
The longer version of Coren's quote is blogged by John Rentoul who has written a book called The Banned List: A manifesto against jargon and cliche. I have already added it to my Christmas list  - and suggested to the trainees they do the same. And if you have regular 'transactional behaviour' with any politicians, you now have the flawless Yuletide donation notion (or, for all you simple souls, the  perfect Christmas gift idea). 

Hat-tip to @Petercampbell1

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The newsquiz - it's a toughie. 13.5 to beat.

The penultimate week for the Mail and Telegraph trainees this week, so the penultimate newsquiz.  It was clearly a bit harder as last week's high scores of around 16-17 slipped back to around 12-13. This week's scratchcards went to the Mail's Lottie Young with 13.5, narrowly beating Kirsty McEwen with 12.5, and the Telegraph's Ben Bryant with 12. Next week, the overall winners will be presented with something more interesting than a scratchcard. At the moment Jess Winch leads the Telegraph pack, 2.5 points ahead of Tom Rowley. The Mail's Lottie will take some catching, 5.5 points ahead of second place Kirsty.
See how you do. There are a possible 22 points as there is a bonus on question 21. 
Summing it up: Shevell and Fox (Q1). Pictures by the Press Association. 

1. Nancy Shevell and Liam Fox were the headline grabbers this week. What is their combined age?
2. Where did Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell get married?
3. One of the bridesmaids was McCartney's daughter from his marriage with Heather Mills, what is her name?
4. An investigation is taking place at a school after teachers allegedly had Facebook  conversation in which they described their pupils as 'inbred' and 'thick'. Name the school and the city (half point for each).
5. Grandmother Sally Hodkin was stabbed to death in a busy high street in which London district?
6. Whitehall's chief mandarin, the Cabinet Secretary, announced he is to retire at the end of the year. What is his name?
7. Where did Vincent Tabak go shopping after he allegedly murdered Jo Yeates?
8. The former Prime Minister of which country was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of exceeding her authority?
9. According to Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli, contestant Nancy Dell'Olio looked as though she had inhaled what? I am looking for the exact five-word answer for 1pt - if you get three words correct you get a half a point.
10. The European Championship qualifiers were completed this week with two teams going through with a 100% record. Name the two teams (half point for each).
11. Blackberry has suffered major network problems this week.  Blackberry is owned by RIM, what do the initials stand for?
12. Sir Bruce Forsyth collected his knighthood from the Queen. How old is he?
13. Downing Street breaks with tradition this weekend by doing what?
14. According to all the bookmakers who is the favourite act to be eliminated from the X-Factor this coming weekend?
15. Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre and columnist Kelvin Mackenzie both appeared at a seminar  arranged by which judge?
16. Geoffrey Boycott is involved in a legal wrangle over a property in which millionaires' resort?
17. BP and its partners have been given permission for a £4.5 billion oil project to the west of which islands?
18. Who, in the headlines this week, shared the same surname as her partner, even though they weren't married.
19. The Telford Junior Football League announced it was going to record all wins in its league by which score?
20. Another of Rupert Murdoch's papers is in the headlines ... this time for apparently buying thousands of its own copies, misleading readers and advertisers about the title's circulation. Name the paper.
21. Liam Fox's friends described Adam Werritty as being similar to a fictional character. Name the character - and, for a bonus point, the writer who created him.
The answers are here 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Don't point that fireman at me ...

This story from the Roscommon Herald, about a DJ dressed as Osama Bin Laden pointing a gun at two men tending sheep in a field, raised a smile. It certainly succeeds in building a vivid picture in the readers' minds. But it gets even funnier in column 2. The policeman who made the arrest told the court. "He said he hadn't a licence for the gun. It looks extremely real and, in terms of weight, it felt like a fireman." A fireman? Blimey. How, I wonder, does the garda know what a fireman feels like. I think we should be told.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The strange case of the cutting-edge valise

The Mail trainee subs had a good afternoon with executive night editor Andy Gregory. Andy, once a Northern Echo colleague, gave a real insight into the way the Mail subs desk operates. He also touched on elegant variations. The phrase was coined by Fowler in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage, to refer to unnecessary synonyms. Fowler said: "It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly and still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation. The fatal influence is the advice given to young writers never to use the same word twice in a sentence or within 20 lines or other limit."
Newspaper subs regularly encounter writers who don't like to use the same word twice, so seek elegant (or as the Americans call them, inelegant) variations. Some subs desks refer to them as povs, which stands for popular orange vegetable, a phrase supposedly edited out of an article about carrots. I have a story about a cow causing chaos on a motorway which I often give to trainee subs as an exercise. It is fascinating to watch the cow change into an animal, a beast and finally into a farmyard creature. In Andy's 30 years of subbing he has been collecting the examples that have crossed his desk at both the Express and the Mail. 
He shared some with the trainees today. See if you can work out what they are:
The popular fish-eating mammal
The tin-legged flying ace
Single-lens accessory
Love-it or loathe-it condiment
One of the world's best-loved insects
Red leather orb
Tasty bread-based snacks
The cutting-edge valise
Fantastic. They would make a great stocking-filler book. The answers are below. If you have any more examples, I would be delighted to receive them.
Answers: Otter; Douglas Bader; monocle; Marmite; bee; cricket ball; sandwiches; suitcase on wheels.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Amos made 'bigger impact' than Sir Harry Evans

I have just about recovered from Mike Amos's retirement party at the weekend. Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, said Amos had made a bigger impact on the Echo than any other journalist - including former editors WT Stead and Harold Evans. High praise indeed. My musings on the weekend are here

Friday, 7 October 2011

Steve Jobs: Tributes and memories

Inevitably there are hundreds of tributes to Steve Jobs kicking around  this week. Here are some that caught my eye.
The Sydney Morning Herald uses an iPad frame

There have been lots of adaptations of the logo. This is one of the best.

Sums up one of the issues nicely

Here is PA's interactive timeline on Apple's history from its inception in 1984 to this week - with a close look at what happened to its share prices.
I can't claim to be a Mac User since 1984. I first dabbled in 1988 when I used to stand in for Mike Brough, the graphic artist at The Northern Echo, on his day off to change the weather map and football chalk boards. This video on how it all started brings it all back. And if you never tire of hearing the Jobs' philosophy this is worth a watch (and not just because it's a CEO delivering a keynote lecture in shorts). The advert on the crazy ones is particularly pertinent. 
And finally, here's the cover of Time, simple but effective.

Hat tips to @K1989B @charlesapple and @parkgraeme
Selection of quotes and tributes also on @TomDavenport website  

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Have a crack at the newsquiz - 17.5 to beat

In Howden again this week and, apart from doing headlines, layout and design with the Telegraph trainees, I found myself refereeing a game of football in the park and in the dark. It was a competitive match with tackles flying in. The Daily Mail, with two sports trainees, were determined not to lose to the 'broadsheet lot'. And so it proved ... the Mail (plus international guest) beat the Telegraph (plus international guests) 5-3. Despite some robust challenges there were no major injuries, just a ball in the face for one of the girls and lots of aches and bruises the next day. As the Telegraph trainees are off to the law courts in Newcastle tomorrow, we had to do the quiz earlier this week. It was the highest scoring week so far with the Telegraph's Jess Winch edging it with 17.5 and three others (Jenny O'Mahony from the Telegraph and Lottie Young and Tom Clarke from the Mail) all on 17. Is it easier this week or is it, as I prefer to believe, that everyone is paying closer attention to the detail in the news stories?  
There are a possible 21 points. See how you get on:

1. Who said: "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."?
2 Why was Maya in the news?
3.  Which country has introduced a 'fat tax'?
4. Jessie J won four categories at the MOBO awards. What does MOBO stand for?
5.  How much is a dog licence?
6. The London based Irish Post will be back on the streets after being bought by Elgin Loane. Loane owns which other publication - which he bought from the Daily Mail and General Trust last year?
7. Soham killer Ian Huntley was attacked in prison. Give the name of the prison and the city in which it is based (half a point for each).
8. Portsmouth Pub landlady Karen Murphy won a European Court of Justice ruling that allows her to air Premier League football without subscribing to Sky. What is the name of her pub?
9. Amanda Knox is now back at home in which American city?
10. The Daily Mail and Sun online were among those who wrongly published that Knox had been found guilty of murder. The confusion apparently arose as Knox was found guilty of another charge. What was that charge?
11. Charlie Gilmour says he didn't realise he was swinging from what?
12. Which singer has been forced to cancel a US tour due to illness
13. Why was Jessica Palmer in the headlines?
14. The Defence Secretary has been accused of putting national security as risk by allowing a former flatmate access to the MoD. Who is the Defence Secretary?
15. The Great British Bake Off - the TV series which has become a big hit for BBC 2 - caused a stir by showing an explicit picture of what?
16. If England beat France in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter final they will meet the winners of Quarter Final One in the next round. Name the two teams (that they might meet in the semi-final). Half a point for each team.
17. Who, according to the Palestinian leadership, has 'become of no use at all'?
18. What do Israeli Professor Daniel Shechtman, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer and US physicist Saul Perlmutter have in common?
19. Michael Le Vell has been arrested on suspicion of a sexual offence involving a young girl. What is the name of the character he plays in Coronation Street?
20. Boris Johnson impressed many journalists with his performance at the Conservative Party conference and on Newsnight this week. Johnson is, of course, a journalist himself but which magazine did he edit from 1999-2005?
And for a bonus point, which magazine does his younger sister, Rachel Johnson, edit?
Answers are here.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Valedictory columns mark Mike's final week

I am really looking forward to Mike Amos's retirement bash at Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield on Friday. We have been promised lots of old faces, real beer and Taylor's pies and then it's off to Shildon versus Bishop Auckland on Saturday. As he counts down his final days as a staffer, after 46 years, the Echo is running a series of valedictory columns. Lovely stuff ... an enjoyable read for anyone who worked the North-East patch or, indeed, anyone with fond memories of the way newspapers used to be.

A rule would have helped ... but not much

I was talking to the Daily Telegraph trainees about the perils of placing headlines next to unrelated photographs yesterday. Libel by juxtaposition is rare - it is more likely your page will be pinged around on Twitter and widely ridiculed. So I am grateful to @subedited for drawing my attention to this front page from Canada's Sudbury Star. Very timely. A rule might not mean much in law, but it would have helped a little ... and don't get me started on the headline shape. Today the trainees are looking at pictures and captions - any contributions gratefully received.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Tom wins this week's newsquiz - 15 to beat

Another good week for the Mail and Telegraph trainee journalists in Howden. Trainers this week included Mike Brough, Brian Page, Andrew Glover, Chris Gregory and Lindsay Hodgkinson from the Mail legal department. As usual we finished with the newsquiz. Congratulations to Telegraph trainee Tom Rowley who is this week's winner with a very impressive 16 points out of 21. Question 21 was a local one that only the trainees would know, so I have only included 20 here. If you get 15, it would be impressive. 

Ed Balls and Andy Burnham line up a free kick against the lobby journalists - but what was the final score (Q4). Pic from
1. Which city hosted the last bullfight in the Catalan area of Spain?
2. Yvette Cooper's conference speech impressed many (including the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts).  What is her position in the Shadow Cabinet?
3. Yvette Cooper's husband Ed Balls led his Labour Party team at the annual Labour Conference game versus the lobby journalists at Liverpool Soccer Centre. What was the score?
4. It's the turn of the Conservatives to hold their party conference next week. In which city?
5. What is the name of Michael Jackson' personal physician who is on trial accused of killing the star with an overdose?
6. England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand lost his High Court privacy action against which newspaper?
7. The Communities Secretary has announced a £250m fund to ensure local councils restore weekly bin collections. Who is the Communities Secretary?
8.  A miner died at Kellingley colliery near which North Yorkshire village?
9. Who did Alan Graham tell to cover-up?
10. Which Premiership footballer has been suspended by his club while allegations of sexual assault and drugs possession are investigated?
11.Which TV programme is celebrating its 50th birthday?
12. The Government is proposing to to increase the speed limit from 70mph to 80mph. When did it increase from 60 to 70mph (1pt if you get it spot on and half a point if you are one year out)
13. An inquest was told that 17-year-old schoolgirl Grace Ford fell to her death from a window after trying to climb into a hotel room in which resort?
14. Which country was denounced by the UN Security Council for "the continued grave and systematic human rights violations" by its authorities?
15. Why was Michael Cohen in the headlines?
16. Who is the outgoing chair of the Press Complaints Commission?
17. Mark Bradford allegedly throttled a 13-year-old boy after being beaten by him in an online PlayStation game. What was the game?
18. Christine Hemming, on trial for burglary, claimed in court this week that her MP husband had been unfaithful at least how many times?  
19. The creator of the television comedy Dad's Army died this week. What was his name?
20. According to researchers from the University of California, doing what means you are trustworthy?

How did you do? Check the answers here.