Monday, September 12, 2011

Your new job is here, tweet me now

Dear Sir or Madam,
Please find attached my letter and CV for your attention.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Yours Sincerely

Wake me up before you go go, indeed! This landed on my desk today along with approaches from several other would-be journalists who were obviously asleep during the class on intro writing.
I’m fed up wading through turgid ‘letters of application’ and monstrous CVs outlining an early career in retail handling and a flirtation with the upper slopes of the Andes.
I want reporters who can find stories that no-one else has got and write them quickly and accurately.
That’s why in my latest recruitment ad potential recruits have to respond via Twitter. They’ve got 140 characters* to tell me what they can do and why I should consider them.
I keep getting told there is an over-supply of qualified people wanting to do journalism. Well, maybe there is but there’s definitely not an over-supply of people who are any good.
Tweet me now, please @alangeere
*If you’re not sure what 140 characters looks like it’s the Dear Sir or Madam effort at the top of this page

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Roll up, roll up for Newspaper Roulette

I SOMETIMES think we make this editing lark a bit too complicated.
Ok, so guilty as charged with the three-day training course I have devised, modestly called ‘How to be a Great Editor’ (£895 + VAT, discount for early booking) and apologies to the surprised reader who emailed me this week in cantankerous tones about why we use ages of people in stories only to get a pompous “in all my years as an editor...” phone call.
Today we’re sat in the newsroom in the middle of the first of three long, short weeks (© Blaylock, D. M.) trying to decide what to do with a half-decent tale about a popular town centre restaurant that we learn is closing down. It has succumbed to the pressures of cheaper competition and the site will be sold off for housing, or more likely ‘Delightful Waterfront Residences’.
I don’t like holding anything (insert own joke here) but the only decent space, without tearing up too many finished pages, is back in the twenty-somethings. Next week – a three-day week in the weekly newspaper world – it will get a decent show and maybe even make the front if we dress it up a bit.
So, what to do?
Easy. Toss a coin.
Deputy editor Paul tossed, I called heads and the story lives on to have greatness thrust upon it. It is the result we wanted, but validated by the transparency of the simple flip of a coin.
So, here’s a plan for next week: Newspaper Roulette. Every story is taken in turn, we spin the wheel and the stories are placed from pages 1-36 depending on where the ball falls. Any that fall in 0 are spiked.
As that reader, who called me “The Worst Editor Ever”, will probably agree it seems as good a way as any...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Women in Journalism? I love ’em all

Where are all the women? asks Jane Martinson in today’s MediaGuardian.
The author – “I left news for a part-time role in features” – argues that newspapers are dominated by (white) men and women don’t get a look-in.
“How can we offer a window on society when a big chunk of the population can't see themselves reflected?” writes Ms Martinson.
Well, come to the south-east of England, and I’ll show you windows and reflections galore.
Across our 10 newsrooms we have three women editors, three women news editors, a woman sports editor plus the head of our features team and the deputy of one of the biggest (and, of course, best) subbing units in the country are women.
They are all in their jobs because they are good at what they do, care passionately about the communities they serve and successfully juggle career, home, family and bringing in the coal (sorry, just a joke...).
I don’t know about the “inflexibility and long hours” of a career at Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail that Ms Martinson writes about, but we do our best to fit in with everybody’s life, not just women.
Perhaps that’s why people stick around on our wonderful weekly papers. We don’t do anything particularly special for women employees, but we try to treat everyone with respect and understanding.
In turn, they give us hard work, dedication and the benefit of their many valuable years in journalism.
Long may we all – ‘blokes’ and women – reign...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

‘Stop the presses’: I want to get on

QUITE a few of us regional editors had a round-robin invite to appear on last night’s Newsnight, billed as a ‘special segment on the future of print media’.
Judging by the content of the half-hour piece entitled ‘Stop the presses’ and the high-flying studio guests (Lords Rusbridger, Barber, Thompson and Barron) I wasn’t the only editor to give this a swerve.
There was, in fact, no mention whatsoever of the provincial press. Just a yawning trundle through what the Guardian and BBC do and don’t do and how the Digital Age spells the end of the civilised world as we know it.
Perhaps as an industry we don’t do ourselves any favours by not standing up to be counted in a discussion forum such as this. But I prefer to let my papers do the talking. Here’s a sneak peak at tomorrow’s Essex Chronicle (sorry, not quite finished!). Nearly 30,000 people will queue up with their 75p to buy our quality journalism, a paper put together by our dedicated, hard-working, innovative and creative team of mainly young journalists. And who wouldn’t buy this?
But I did learn a new word from Mr Paxman – ‘Disintermediated’. Answers on a postcard, please.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Editor flogs papers to readers shock

TIRED of the newsroom? Feeling jaded after all those late nights at the coalface of journalism?
Then take yourself off on a life-affirming trip to meet the people that really matter – yes, the dear readers.
Editor of the Brentwood Gazette, Nev Wilson, newly-crowned EDF newcomer of the year, Iain Johnson, and I set up shop today in Sainsbury’s to ‘undertake community engagement’ as the consultants would have it.
And boy did we find some community to engage with. We sold papers, we picked up a couple of stories and we made some new friends.
But, as ever with this life we call journalism, it was a most humbling experience. People generally loved the paper, many didn’t want it because they’d already bought it or had it delivered and one lady even told me she’d read it every week for 59 years and it was her ‘life’.
It is a good paper, witness the newspaper of the year award also picked up at the EDFs, and we try hard every week to keep as many people in the picture with as much as is going on. And in a small town that’s not always easy.
And awards are fine - bring 'em on - but the real rewards are where it matters, in the hearts and minds of readers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Coming soon: My 140-character PhD

I’ve been threatening to do a PhD for years.
Like a lot of people who come to formal education later in life – I put myself through a do-it-at-home MA when I was 50 – I’ve rather caught the academic bug.
Having spent 35 years honing the 20 word brief and the five-word headline the freedom of an 80,000 word thesis is both a frightening and liberating prospect.
But I’ve always struggled to find the right topic. Some ideas like ‘The Rise of the Popular Press in the Caribbean’ were too, er, unacademic and others such as ‘The Decline of Union Power and Influence in the Newsroom’ too big and unwieldy to pull off.
I’ve been lucky to have a number of serious academic friends who have pointed me in the right direction, told me where I’m going wrong and even advised to not even attempting the doctorate but concentrate on producing the book (part textbook/travelogue/memoir) that I’ve been teasing them with for years.
But now I have a new bounce in my PhD step, thanks to Twitter.
I’m on, you’re probably on, our friends are on. Politicians, stars from sport and showbiz, captains of industry (and a few sergeants @lordsugar) and of course those pesky media types are all part of the enigmatic, egalitarian 140 character world that is Twitter.
This is the biggest revolution I’ve seen in my time in journalism since I swapped the emergency piece-of-metal filler pic in my pocket for an emergency piece of waxed paper.
I’m a Twitter novice of just a couple of months. But every day I see something that I didn’t know, something that I hadn’t thought of and some people who I never dreamed would be sharing their loves, hates, hopes and fears with me.
I confidently predict – drum roll, please – that Twitter will have the biggest impact on journalism as we know it over the next two years. Just about the same time it will take me to finish that PhD...
Follow me on Twitter @alangeere