Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympic shock. Eye uses P**** on its cover

Private Eye doesn't seem to have bought into this wave of goodwill that the rest of the media is projecting on to the Olympics. Very funny though.

The Times gets off to cracking Olympic start

So, Britain is on the eve of its biggest sporting occasion ever. Not even the World Cup in 1966 or the Olympics in 1948 can match this one. For newspapers that means the chance to go for it ... to create a memorable, historic front page. It's not as easy as it sounds though. The front pages that create themselves are those that record something that has happened. You have photographs, quotes, victims, perpetrators and a record of events. The hardest are those that preview an event and try to report on something that hasn't happened yet. That's when creativity, planning, headline writers, photographers, writers and layout artists all have to come together to build something special. So how do today's papers fare?
For me, The Times wins it by an Olympic mile. A stunning photograph of only two colours used as a classy wrapround. If you'd told me ten years ago the Times would lead on a magenta splash headline, I wouldn't have believed it. But it works. The back page quote by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, is a nice counter to all the corporate nonsense that has surrounded the Games so far. The picture is by the Press Association's Dominic Lipinski @domlipinski. Really deserved a byline.

The Daily Star and Daily Telegraph aren't natural bedfellows but both use the same photograph and, more or less, the same headline. Great photo, although I'm not sure that too much effort has gone into the Let's party/Get the party started approach. 
Despite the universal outburst of positivity, the brilliant Matt still manages to add his waspish view.
The Mirror uses the same picture as the Telegraph and Star and adds a trademark pun to the splash headline. It also tries hard to wipe the slate clean ... by reminding us of all the awful things that have gone before.

The Daily Mail also has a lively picture across the full width. This time it's 81-year-old Torch bearer Florence Rowe dancing outside 10 Downing Street, with Dave and Sam Cameron in the background. It certainly reflects the joy of the Olympics. The headline is on the predictable side - although stronger than Let's Party. But is the ! really necessary?

Instead of gravitas, The Guardian goes for circus. It's main picture is not really an iconic image ... Ab Fab stars Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders partying with the Olympic Torch in London. In contrast the headline has a certain poignancy. One way to deal with something that hasn't happened yet is to get the best writers on the job ... and typically The Guardian does that brilliantly with a think piece from author and columnist Jonathan Freedland.

The Independent wipes out the front page with a classic London symbol - a double decker red bus in Oxford Street.

The Sun has also comes up with iconic British symbols ... all expected to appear in tonight's opening ceremony. Perhaps inspired by Linford Christie's famous claim that he started races on the B of the Bang, they all begin with B. They are an interesting choice ... Bond, Becks, Beatles, The Baked Bean (why the definite article?). What else could they have thrown into the mix ... Beef, Beer, Buses, Big Brother, Breakfasts, Bovril, Brass Rubbing, Blackpool Tower, Buckingham Palace, The Beano, Bingo, Bubble and Squeak, Binge drinking, Bad Weather?  The list is endless. Could have filled the whole paper. 

The Express manages to get the royal family, including the ubiquitous Kate, into its Olympic picture but decides that pensioners being ripped off by the taxman is far more important.
 The FT chooses an arty shot but also decides there are weightier issues to lead on. With the Nomura axe falling on top staff, who could argue?
All very positive though ... fingers crossed for more spectacular and good news pages in the weeks ahead.
Thanks to @hendopolis #tomorrowspaperstoday


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Apps v newsprint ... which wins?

So how many of you have cast aside your daily newspaper and opted for the app version only? Is it like quitting smoking? Reaching for the paper when your coffee arrives only to realise you have to download today's edition on to your iPad? Well, I recently quit reading national newspapers ... a habit I have had for almost 50 years. More specifically, I stopped reading newsprint. Instead I spent a month gaining my daily news fix from a range of apps. I have to say it was less painful than I expected and some of the apps, particularly The Times, had worthwhile extras. My briefcase was a lot lighter too. But now I am back with the old inky stuff, at least for the time being. Find out why in this article, in the latest InPublishing magazine.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Batman massacre front pages

The most harrowing picture to come out of the Batman massacre was that of Tom Sullivan embracing his family as he searches for his son Alex, who had celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see The Dark Knight Rises. It was taken by AP Photojournalist Barry Gutierrez. He told Wired magazine: “He was screaming at the top his lungs, ‘Have you seen my son?’ It was so gut-wrenching, it rocked me right to my bones. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through.” Tragically Alex was one of the 12 victims. The picture that captured the raw grief of the story was the most used front page picture across America. None used it better than The Bakersfield Californian.
Other newspapers chose to use different pictures of people shocked and grieving which, while powerful, don't quite have the impact of the Sullivan photograph.
The safe choice of image is killer James Holmes which many, including the UK papers that led on the story, used as the main photograph. It has to be used of course ... but is it really the main picture?

The New York Post managed to find a picture of Holmes with red hair, which he is said to have been sporting when he carried out the massacre.
Other papers, possibly not wanting to intrude on the very personal grief, chose a more symbolic image or a general shot. The spilled popcorn on the front of Puerto Rico paper El Nuevo Dia is certainly poignant, as is today's Sunday Herald.

All very strong images and pages. It is always a critical decision for editors on these occasions - which photograph to use as the main image. What I wouldn't have done though is used, as the main image, a picture of President Obama, even if he is close to tears.
I also wouldn't have fallen into the trap, which too many papers often do, of being indecisive - and using eight pictures too small. Choose the best and use it big has usually, although not always, been my preferred approach.

And I certainly wouldn't have used a publicity shot from the film as the main image, as the New Zealand Weekend Herald bizarrely decided to do.
There isn't a right and wrong of course. Telling stories visually is all about the judgment of the editors and designers. That is what gives newspapers their diversity and character. I believe some of these pages are stronger than others. I would have used the Sullivan picture because it encapsulates the human consequences of this terrible story. But that is just an opinion. What is important is that newspapers take a different approach, that they are shaped by the editorial values of the journalists. When all our papers look the same, templated to the point of blandness, will be the day I pack it all in to run a beach bar on the Med.  

Thanks to: The Poynter Institute, Newseum, Hendopolis and Front Pages Today

Friday, 20 July 2012

How do you spell grammar? With an F

Here's a somewhat blunt grammar guide, from, for my journalism training colleagues to use as a last resort. They must remember not to use it when visiting schools though. Incidentally, it isn't recommended that you visit unless you are retired, unemployed or on a three-week holiday with nowhere to go.

No Surrender by HSE over Springsteen gig

Two of the easiest targets for journalists are often Press Releases and the Health and Safety Executive. But both combined brilliantly this week to counter claims that the HSE were somehow to blame for the plug being pulled on Bruce Springsteen's Hard Rock Calling concert on Saturday. This is what Kevin Myers, Deputy Chief Executive of the HSE, sent out:
As a longstanding Bruce Springsteen fan and one of the crowd at Hard Rock Calling, I was doubly disappointed to hear Live Nation give 'health and safety' as the reason for cutting short Saturday's gig.
The fans deserve the truth: there are no health and safety issues involved here. While public events may have licensing conditions dictating when they should end, this is not health and safety and it is disingenuous of Live Nation to say so.
It's ironic that this excuse has been used in relation to Bruce Springsteen, who certainly knows what real health and safety is all about - look at the words of 'Factory' from Darkness on the Edge of Town referring to the toll that factory work can take on the health of blue collar workers.
People will now only be able to speculate what the final number should have been. Given that he'd already played Wrecking Ball and that Paul McCartney was on stage, how about Don't let me down?
Mr Myers certainly is looking after his own. Glory Days.

Headlines to make you cry and smile

A couple of headlines that caught the eye this week. The first is the sorry tale of the missing 'm' from the front of the Slough Observer's Midweek edition. I have seen plenty of mistakes where subs get their numbers muddled ... but not many in the splash headline. Whereas most people might feel for the poor sub in question, Bath Chronicle deputy editor Paul Wiltshire Tweeted. "Mind you, perhaps £100 goes a long way in some towns. Betjeman might agree." Come friendly bombs and all that ...
Thanks to @jizlobber

The second comes from my old stomping ground, the Ferryhill and Chilton Chapter in County Durham and is four years old ... but I had never come across it before. It was posted by Neil Graham of the Journal who says it remains his favourite front page headline of all time. It certainly builds up a vivid picture - and how could you not want to read on?

Big hit for big hitter ...

Here's another one for the headlines inspired by song titles. The unlikely mix of cricket, T-Rex and the Daily Express. I quite like it ... especially as it works even if you don't know the song. Others in the collection are here and here.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The many hats of a #@!%^&$ editor ...

I am delivering an editor's chair course in London tomorrow where we will discuss the many hats a modern editor has to wear. They include:
  • Journalist
  • Sales executive
  • Business person
  • Ambassador
  • Strategist
  • Recruitment specialist
  • Lawyer and ethical guide
  • Accountant
  • Communications expert
  • Teacher
  • Technology expert
  • Manager/administrator
  • Leader
I'm always on the look out for good stories that illustrate each one so was delighted to receive this exchange from Mike Sassi, editor of The Sentinel, today. Mike (picture above) has been out and about doing his thing around the schools of Stoke in the last few days. In one Q&A at the end of a session he reports this memorable exchange:
Girl with spikey bleached blonde hair: If I worked at The Sentinel and I swore, would I get thrown out?
Sassi (thumping fist on desk): If you worked at The Sentinel and you DIDN'T swear, you'd be thrown out!
Girl with spikey hair (genuinely excited): F'ckin' brilliant! When can I start?
Teacher (stumbling over desk in desperation to intervene): OK class, I think we'll leave it there for today...
Brilliant. I now have to decide which job title I use this to illustrate - ambassador, ethical guide, communications expert or teacher. At the moment I'm leaning towards recruitment specialist. Or perhaps Social Media guru, as I understand half the secondary school kids in the Potteries are now following him on Twitter.


Editor's dilemma ... over where to put the pic

Here's an interesting juxtaposition on Hold The Front page. Essex Chronicle editor Alan Geere's dilemma on how to approach the story about a teacher having a sex change ... alongside a picture of two London journalists running for charity - in drag. Deliberate? surely not. 
Thanks to Lincolnshire Echo editor Steve Fletcher for flagging this one up.

Aye, Aye ... haven't we seen this before?

Here's my favourite headline from last week. Bye, Bye Captain graces the front of the Hull Daily Mail's story about a businessman who falsely claimed to be a Navy Captain. It is a sequel to last November's headline, when suspicions first arose, Aye, Aye Captain. One of those headlines that the paper has been sitting on for months, just waiting for the right outcome.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The clipart axeman cometh

It can be difficult to illustrate court stories these days. Once upon a time we would have two snappers waiting for a snatch pic or eager reporters getting pick-up pictures from friends and family. Nowadays raiding Facebook is a common approach. And TV, which never really likes doing court stories, persists in having reporters standing outside of dull court buildings? But now the Nationalist in Ireland has the answer: Clipart. I wonder why we hadn't thought of this before. The opportunities could be endless.
Thanks to Broadsheet and @NoelRock.