Monthly Archives: March 2009

Big ideas

Very quickly:

This is what the NUJ has to say in response to Tory newspaper plans.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “This looks like a policy that has been rushed out in response to calls by media owners who are simply looking to make even more cuts to our already limping local press.

“These plans fail to deal with the problems facing local journalists. Consolidation of media ownership has meant office and title closures; it has meant journalists taken out of their communities, fundamentally undermining their ability to do their jobs well. The Conservative response to these problems seems to be more of the same, which will do nothing to help quality journalism.

“Where are the big ideas? We need our politicians to come up with proposals for how local journalism can be saved – not surrendered to big business interests who have taken multi-million pound profits whilst cutting back on quality journalism.

“The Conservatives might see media regulation as burdensome red tape – but it is what ensures people have access to varied media and different voices. To throw that protection away in response to business demands without any plans to secure improvement in journalism is foolhardy and an insult to our local communities.”

Now I happen to agree that letting the big companies buy up more papers so they can centralise all the subbing and make them soulless press release factories is a terrible idea.

But this?

“Where are the big ideas? We need our politicians to come up with proposals for how local journalism can be saved – not surrendered to big business interests who have taken multi-million pound profits whilst cutting back on quality journalism.”

Why on earth would we leave the saving of local journalism, that thing we love and care about, to politicians? Why would  we, the people who talk to our readers, who work with and see the applications of new technology, who have strong opinions about what makes good local news and how we’d do things differently if we were in charge – leave the future of our industry to people who know nothing about how it works?

Here’s an idea, Jeremy. Why don’t we, the journalists, try and come up with some ‘big ideas’ of our own? Why on earth would any body want to ‘save us’ if all we do is bleat about how the owners have taken our toys away without making any suggestions about what we’d do if they gave them back?

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Running a newspaper’s Twitter account: the cons.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. I’m written before about the pros of Twitter for newspapers, and the more followers we have, the better the pros get.

But because I made the decision not to run the account as  a straight RSS feed I’ve run into a few frustrations.

1. The account’s not monitored when I’m not here.

That means responses  get missed, questions are asked and not answered and news goes unspotted.

2. I don’t always agree with the angle/headline/tone/existence of a story

It’s only to be expected. I’ve been a news editor. I’ve been a sub. I’m bossy and opinonated and I like to do things my way. Sometimes people on Twitter complain about our choice or treatment of a story – and I agree with them. What to do? I don’t feel comfortable defending it. I can’t apologise for it, because on that account I represent the paper as a brand, and apologising would require the say so of the editor. If I ignore it, don’t I just seem rude?

3. Tips don’t get followed up.

People send me press releases, or links to press releases. I pass them on. They get followed up or not. I’m fine about that, it’s no different to any other form of submitting a release.

But what about when someone asks me, as the paper, to do a story? What about when the newsdesk ask me to get phone numbers for people but then the reporter doesn’t call? What about when I’ve been supporting, retweeting, telling people about charity efforts via Twitter and those people , not unreasonably, ask for a story?

Short of writing all those stories myself and then publishing them online myself, there’s not a lot I can do.

But it puts me in a difficult position with the Twitterers. Most people accept that @Bournemouthecho is the voice of the paper. That’s what we wanted, to build a brand, show people that we’re interested and engaged with them on their own turf.

If I have to tell people that ‘the brand’ is just me, and the interest and engagement stretches only as far as I can hold the newsdesk’s interest, then the whole edifice collapses. Doesn’t it?  I’d be grateful for any sage words!

Ada Lovelace Day 2009

IT should go without saying that there are dozens of women I could have written about for Ada Lovelace Day. I may still add some more (it’s not the end of the day yet!)

But I’ve chosen one who’s had a particular impact on me and what I do every day.

Alison Gow, now executive editor (digital) at the Liverpool Post and Echo has been a constant source of new ideas, tools, training advice and insights since I moved to the web full time.

In the year or so I have been reading her blog, she’s alerted me to Cover it Live, the reasons why the N95 is the best phone for journalists, been the catalyst for my joining Twitter.

Her blog, Headlines and Deadlines, is where I first spotted Dipity, Tumblr, TimeTube, Yahoo pipes and Bambuser among a million other applications.

She’s made me think about the way newspapers work online, about audience interaction, building communities and lots about the new news in general.

But it’s her links to new tools and willingness to share her experiments with them that make her blog one of the few in my google reader that never gets the “mark all as read” treatment.

She’s @alisongow on Twitter. If you’re not following her, you should be.

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