What the papers – or should I say, screens, say.

The second of the two articles featured here appeared in the online edition of the Guardian today, but it was actually about the Telegraph. Journalists of my acquaintance have complained bitterly about the bloodletting and culling done at the Telegraph, which used to be one of the bastions of good journalism in this country. The jolly tone of the Guardian article does not match the dark mood of the journalists. So I have done what papers (screens?) sometimes do and balanced this by preceding it with an article from a journalist from another source. It’s almost like seeing a government-sponsored article against one from a more radical perspective. And in a savagely ironic twist the incredibly well written feature on journo life by the Grey Cardigan, from the press gazette website, is now only available in print.

The Grey Cardigan: 2007.10.5

5 October 2007

A FEW weeks in and here at the Evening Beast we’re finally getting to grips with Crystal Tits and Alistair – our new editor and her fey, handbag-carrying deputy. (That’s her handbag, by the way.)

Conference still takes an age. You can actually watch the bowl of flowers on the table wilt as we stagger from indecision to impasse. (The exotic flowers are replaced daily and the fridge is restocked with expensive varieties of mineral water every night, a matter of little amusement to our van drivers, who’ve just had their hours cut as another tranche of our print run is handed over to wholesalers.)

Nervous Nigel, the current news editor, reckons he’s got it sorted, slipping in a supermarket story at number four on the list. We discuss the first three contenders – ongoing murder, council cock-up and overcrowded trains – for what seems hours before she takes the bait. “Ah, this story about Tesco selling clothes online. That’s interesting.”

A features department functionary points out that it’s hardly a local story. Yes, we’ve got four different varieties of Tesco on the patch, but this is all about the internet. And yes, it’s worth a run, but not on the front … His shins are viciously hacked beneath the desk until he subsides. So, bang, in it goes and we can all crack on with the job in hand.

Later that day, Crystal Tits takes delivery of her company car. She climbs into the back while Alistair gets behind the wheel as they set off on a test drive. One of the aforementioned van drivers swears that, when they went past him on the bypass, Alistair was wearing a chauffeur’s cap.

AS EXCLUSIVELY revealed here a couple of weeks ago, our old friend Liz-f*****g-Jones has been given Peter Dobbie’s prime slot at The Mail on Sunday – and I’m not sure it’s working.

(my asterisks)

Apart from the eyebrow-lifting admission that she’d had a breast reduction at the age of 20 for “fashion reasons”, it’s been run-of-the-mill stuff. (Do we need hyphens there? If the publishers of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary feel they can dispense with 16,000 of the buggers willy-nilly, so changing our written language without as much as a by-your-leave, then I’m going to stick them back in wherever I fancy.)

Of course, it’s difficult to maintain standards when you’re still eking out the pitiful detritus of your miserable marriage in You magazine – and presumably still entertaining the mad and abandoned 40-year-old divorcees who live their lives vicariously through your jousts with the toy boy – but I do fear that the Derry Street bigwigs might have overestimated Liz’s appeal to mainstream readers.

This week, Liz was upset that people were constantly being rude to her. I obviously wouldn’t stoop that far, but has it occurred to her that anyone who admits to feeding her “fur babies” human food, stalking other women and wearing gloves and socks to bed might be regarded as a sandwich short of a picnic by the rest of the population?

MEANWHILE, mother-of-three Lowri Turner admits that if she’d known how much fun dogs were, she’d have thought twice about having children.

“Having a dog is fun in a way that having children is simply not. When I return from work, my four-year-old is apt to wail ‘Where have you been?’ in a pathetic yet accusatory tone. Vanilla just runs round in circles, barking excitedly – always pleased to see me.

“There are no nappies or bottles to sterilise with puppies. No teething granules or measuring out Calpol while a mewling infant struggles in your arms… puppies do have a habit of disgracing themselves on your carpet, but when you’ve dealt with dirty nappies for seven years you are battle-hardened.”

Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks that if only dear Lowri had been introduced to the delights of canine ownership a decade ago, she would have been spared the anguish of childbirth.

NOT A great day for The Guardian last Monday. Hence the following day’s Corrections and Clarifications column, which had to: apologise over a picture of a completely innocent man being used in a story about a fake drugs gang; wring its hands over the mysterious re-use of a story that was actually first published in the paper last November about a council selling off a Lowry painting; and shuffle shamefaced towards the dunce’s corner after over-estimating by almost 90 per cent the number of boys who leave school each year without a GCSE to their name.

(Do they have subs any more? Do they care? Don’t they read their own paper? Don’t they check difficult sums?)

But worse, much worse than this, was the fact that the Inkies on the press also stuffed them by leaving out the page carrying the Media Monkey Diary from that week’s supplement. Again, why did no-one notice? It is, after all, the only thing worth reading in that section.

Things weren’t exactly looking up by Friday: “We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and Clarifications column on September 26, page 30.”

Roll the acid tones of that around your tongue then spit it onto your screen while you read this more restrained piece from the guardian page –

Much has been written about the hub-and-spoke editorial floor of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph — but I have to say that it is a terrific working environment, not least because of the wall of giant ever-changing screens and the lofty space. From the inside it has the vitality of an old-fashioned newspaper but with the benefits of a 21st-century building. Down on the floor, with 4pm conference approaching, there is a familiar hubbub as a newspaper nears deadline. Although, of course, the paper now has many deadlines following editor Will Lewis’s famous “big bang” integration.

The group that is credited with having been the first to introduce a national paper website — and subsequently fell way behind in the online stakes — decided it needed to take a giant and swift stride into the future. In a breathless couple of weeks it moved offices, dispensed with scores of staff, and announced itself as a multi-platform, all-singing-all-dancing integrated paper. Now it is engaged in another form of integration by gradually merging the staffs of the Daily and Sunday titles.

My visit came in the wake of the decision to create a seven-day business division under the leadership of Damian Reece. He gave me a detailed hypothetical example of how a writer is expected to treat a running story. Stage one: a quick text story on the website to break the news. Stage two: updates as and when necessary on the site. Stage three: if a video or audio clip seems appropriate then he/she will go into the studio, located on the same floor. Stage four: as the day progresses the writer gets both extra background and reaction, some of it from contributions to the site. This will help in the writing of a more analytical and contextual piece for the paper.

That is a rather mechanical description of what tends to happen. As Reece says, it’s fluid in practice. He was also at pains to stress that the seven-day coverage by what amounts to a pool of business journalists will not rob the Sunday title of its distinctive quality. It does retain a dedicated City editor.

Lewis, for internal political reasons, avoids the “seven-day” phrase. For him, the quest for integration between screen and newsprint has built what he calls “brand reciprocity”. He says: “The biggest issue we face is serving a growing market across the globe. Integration helps us pursue this aim, providing us with a structure that makes best use of our resources.”

Both he and Reece stress that writers are discovering a new rhythm to their working day as they adjust to new rotas and the continual deadlines. Many journalists work on two screens. Chris Lloyd, the assistant managing editor, explains that staff find it helpful to move between the two, having one permanently logged on to the content management system, the other for email or a TV channel. Evidently, the Sydney Morning Herald is considering a two-screen approach too.

Meanwhile, all the staff know which are the most popular stories online from a projected wall screen which provides instantaneous feedback.

There was no discernible panic. But I did get the feeling, enhanced by some private comments from staff, that the Telegraph had tried to accomplish too much too quickly. I’m also unconvinced by the double-screen approach. But Lewis, backed by the owners, has bounced the papers into a new multi-platform era from which there can be no turning back. “There is a virtuous circle between print and web,” he says.

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