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September 14 2010

13:07

Headline mishaps at Johnston Press and Newsquest titles

There’s been headline embarrassment in the past week both for Johnston Press and Newsquest. This headline filler was spotted by Jon Slattery in the Glasgow Evening Times on Friday.

Commenting on Slattery’s post Ol Peculier offers a link to another similar headline mess-up over at JP’s the Scarborough Evening News, posted on Facebook.

The use of the Atex production system at JP has been blamed for similar problems which have occured at titles since integration of the new system, such as cropped, misaligned or even missing pictures and other headline gaffs.

Earlier this year the NUJ wrote to the Press Complaints Commission claiming that a memo from Johnston Press management showed the new Atex rules “removed a number of checks for accuracy and seriously undermined the role of the editor, removing their final responsibility for the content of the paper”.

Update: We originally incorrectly linked the Glasgow Evening Times to Johnston Press, it has now been corrected as a Newsquest title.Similar Posts:



September 01 2010

12:54

June 17 2010

09:27

E&P: Media companies in three countries now using controversial Atex system

Editor & Publisher this morning reports that a total of six media organisations, across three countries, have transferred to the controversial Atex content management system in recent weeks.

The CMS is now being used by the Calgary Herald, part of Canwest in Canada; military news source Stars and Stripes in Washington; Erdee Media Groep in The Netherlands; The Sun in Arizona; The Providence in Rhode Island and The Star-Ledger in New Jersey.

Just this week Journalism.co.uk reported that the NUJ had raised strong concerns over Johnston Press’s move to Atex, which it claimed “undermines the editorial independence of editors”.

Full story at this link…

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June 16 2010

11:50

Johnston Press Atex system is bad news, but the death of the sub-editor is inevitable

It’s not just journalists that threaten to go on strike to maintain the standards of their work – but surely no other occupation’s products can be judged so subjectively. One managing director’s “quality journalism” is a reporter’s incitement to take up arms and storm the parent company’s HQ.

According to the National Union of Journalists, it’s this urge that saw Johnston Press journalists vote for group-wide industrial action last month (they were thwarted by a High Court challenge; a re-ballot is underway). JP journalists are enraged that a new publishing strategy, based on an online/print content management system (CMS) called Atex, will make reporters responsible for subbing and editing their own newspaper stories using pre-made templates. Several companies including Archant are either using or considering using the same system.

The NUJ has a point: with fewer staff and less checks and balances, more errors will get through – this aberration of a front page in the JP-owned Bedfordshire Times & Citizen recently is a classic example.

Yesterday I questioned exactly why the union was opposing Atex; included in the union’s greviances were baffling and unexplained “health and safety” concerns. The union later told Journalism.co.uk that they meant that it adds to staff stress levels.

But, I went on in conversations both online and privately, isn’t this part of a wider problem? The NUJ has a fundamental belief that sub-editors should sub stories and reporters write them. Like the pre-Wapping ihousen-printers that jealously guarded their very specific, outdated roles, the ideal outcome for the union is to maintain the status quo and protect jobs.

The reality isn’t quite that simple. Atex, as more than one person said, is far from the innovative answer that newspapers need. One person with knowledge of how Atex works, who works for a company that is planing to implement it and asked not to be named, put it to me like this:

We’re still in transition in my newsroom at the moment – we haven’t switched to using it for the web yet. However, if the system goes ahead as planned we will not be able to insert in-line links into stories, nor will we be able to embed content from anywhere else online. It’s possible to build link boxes that sit next to web stories, but it’s time consuming compared to in-line links – and if our current CMS is anything to go by, in the press of a busy newsroom, it won’t get done.

That sounds like a retrograde step. Far from holding back innovation, it sounds like JP journalists are right to oppose the move. This is from a company whose former chairman of nine years, Roger Parry, last week criticised the very board that he chaired for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette). Exactly who else is there to blame?

But it gets worse:

For those of us who possess data skills and want to make mashups, visualisations and so on, this is a massive inhibition – even if we find the time to innovate or create something really special for our papers, we’ll have no outlet for it. It also means we can’t source video or images for our stories in innovative ways – no YouTube embeds or Flickr slideshows – cutting us off from huge resources that could save time, energy and money while enhancing our web offering.

It’s astonishing that we’re even considering such a backwards step to a presumably costly proprietory system when so many cheaper, more flexible, open source solutions exist for the web.

Regional reporters, web editors and even overall editors will read that and find this frustration of digital ideas by technical, budgetary limitations very familiar. The last point rings loudest of all: cheap, dynamic blogging solutions like Wordpress and Typepad provide all newsrooms need to create a respectable news site. Publishing executives seem to find it hard to believe that something free to use can be any good, but just look at what’s coming in the in-beta Wordpress 3.0 (via @CasJam on Mashable).

So the union’s misgivings in this case appear to be well placed. The drop in quality from Johnston’s cost-cutting is there for all to see in horrendous subbing errors, thinner editions and entire towns going without proper coverage.

Unfortunately, journalists have to accept that no amount of striking is going to bring back the staff that have gone and that times have changed. Carolyn McCall’s parting shot as CEO of Guardian Media Group was to repeat her prediction (via FT.com) that advertising revenues will never return to pre-recession levels – and don’t forget Claire Enders’ laugh-a-minute performance at the House of Commons media select committee, in which she predicted the death of half the country’s 1,300 local and regional titles in the next five years.

Regional publishers may not all have a solution that combines online editorial innovation with a digital business model right now. But to get to that point, reporters will have to cooperate and accept that their roles have changed forever – “sub-editor” may be a term journalists joining the industry in five years will never hear.

this is from a company whose former chairman of nine years criticised the very the board that he ran for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette).

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May 05 2010

08:45

Comment: Tension mounts in Johnston Press newsrooms

Unless Johnston Press executives do something quickly, internal pressure could rival Eyjafjallajokull’s. Week after week the internal resentment bubbles up. A summary of recent events, according to the National Union of Journalists and previous reports:

  • JP staff stuck abroad due to the ash cloud were asked to take it out of their holiday allowance, or as unpaid leave.
  • On the same day NUJ members attended the Edinburgh shareholders’ meeting, asking the board “questions about executive pay, staff morale and the pressures on journalists to continue to produce quality newspapers in the face of 12 per cent staff cuts, a pay freeze and inadequate training on the Atex editorial production system.” (NUJ May 2010)

Across the group, there was a 70 per cent vote by NUJ members for industrial action “to combat job losses and  increased levels of stress and workload caused by the introduction of the Atex content magagement system,” according to the NUJ.

New content management system, Atex, is causing embarrassment for its journalists, resulting in misaligned pictures, or even missing pictures. They have difficulties with formatting the content properly.

Jon Slattery hosts a candid and sensibly anonymous account from a Leeds-based Johnston Press journalist today:

Here in Leeds, on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, we have been waiting for months now to be told we are going Atex – i.e. replacing subs with templates for reporters to fill. We have heard from smaller centres all over the group what is likely to happen. It started to get close when we heard Scarborough subs had been “offered” redeployment to Sheffield – a two-hour drive on a good day.

Much of a recent NUJ meeting agenda was taken up by Northern divisional manager, Chris Green, says the anonymous correspondent. He adds:

We have seen a lot of nice suits pass through this place and walk away with pockets bulging, leaving the papers thinner and crappier.

JP’s recent strategy would suggest that the ’suits’ aren’t really prioritising the web, after its failed pay wall trial – with reports of very (very) few subscribers. Journalists aren’t even asking for that much. Slattery’s man on the ground says:

…I do not want to make a stand for standards in journalism. I want to make the best of a bad job. I am not even sure I want to make a stand for strict demarcation between subs and reporters. But however you carve it up, somebody has to do the bloody work…

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