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September 15 2011


October 27 2010


Games Designers and Journalists exploring new narratives.

Presenting Ideas

Presenting Ideas

Meld ‘upped sticks’  to London for its latest foray into new forms of cross platform narrative.  Coinciding with the London launch of Sandbox, UCLan’s creative and digital industries centre at the British Film Institute, journalists invited from the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, SKY News, Johnston Press, Haymarket Media were joined by Skillset and the Broadcast Journalism Training Council to work with professional games designers and students from UCLan’s MA Games Design programme.

The aim of the day – to collaborate and develop a new game on the theme of ‘democracy’. The cross disciplinary teams were given a basic structure to work within. As well as making sure the end result was compelling, simple and innovative the games needed to:

  • demonstrate cause and effect (results from actions)
  • build/create a user community,
  • grow and develop with that community,
  • respond to users not direct them,
  • be social, inclusive and free.

The Sandbox team were on hand leading the newly formed groups through a series of exercises designed to foster creative collaboration. Four teams each produced a game concept and pitched it to their peers before assessing its viability and desirability.

One of the teams at work

One of the teams at work

Paul Egglestone, who set the project up, said: “What’s really interesting about a process like this is the very different approaches both Journalists and games creators take to narrative. Journalists think of themselves as ‘storytellers’ – as do games creators – but their priorities are very different. Gamers want to build a great game. A decent story provides the vehicle for the game whilst the focus is firmly on the gaming experience. Journalists don’t generally focus on the user experience – they concentrate on telling the story.”

This is the latest chapter in an ongoing project that draws together senior editorial personnel from the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Haymarket Media, Nokia research as well as freelancers, Indies and sector skills representatives. They’re all committed to working out where the future of journalism lies and to explore new ways of telling stories on digital platforms.

Developing ideas

Developing ideas

Andy Dickinson is leading the project for the School of Journalism, Media and Communication. He recognises the value of this contribution from working journalists taking time away from the cut and thrust of the day-to-day news cycle to collaborate across print, broadcast and online to determine the skills future journalists will need. He says: “The project is at a really exciting stage. We’ve already used the Sandbox method to develop three new MA level modules aimed directly at working journalists. The new digital journalism masters will survey the digital landscape and offer a range of intellectual, creative and digital or technical skills that our ever growing industry panel tell us they’ll be looking for in future.”

This part of the process isn’t due to finish until January 2011 but the first of the new digital modules are ready for delivery online and the School of Journalism, Media and Communication will be recruiting from September this year.

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October 15 2010


Johnston Press chief: BBC should be limited to three stories per city per day

A curious strategy by Johnston Press’ chief executive John Fry, who has reportedly written to the BBC Trust asking the body to limit the number of news stories the BBC’s website publishes online to three per city or region.

The BBC’s coverage could thwart JP’s plans to launch more paid-for digital services. No mention of its failed paywall pilots though…

Full story on Telegraph.co.uk at this link…Similar Posts:

October 01 2010


Mail Online: Johnston Press chief rules out more paywalls

John Fry, head of Johnston Press, has ruled out future paywalls for JP’s newspaper websites, following the unsuccessful trial on selected sites late last year.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Fry says:

While a respectable number of users were prepared to pay, it wasn’t enough to offset the slump in ad revenues.

As Fry says: “With the internet it’s free and has been from the beginning. After 15 years of free it’s hard to change people’s habits.”

Apps and media mergers are more likely to help the regional press, he says.

Full interview on Mail Online at this link…Similar Posts:

September 14 2010


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:

June 16 2010


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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June 07 2010


June 04 2010


Headline headghgh-ache

Front page of yesterday’s Johnston Press Bedfordshire title, the Times & Citizen, courtesy of @citizenbb on Twitpic:

This is honestly the front page of the Times and Citizen. I c... on Twitpic

@Deathknocking also posted it, with this comment: “Dear John Fry, this is what happens when you get rid of all the sub editors. Yours faithfully, the journalists of Great Britain”.

As we have previously reported, new content management system, Atex, has been causing embarrassment for JP journalists, resulting in misaligned pictures, or even missing pictures. They have difficulties with formatting the content properly.

But was Atex to blame here? If you know what happened, do let us know…

Similar Posts:

May 05 2010


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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January 13 2010


#DEN2010 Winter Meeting: Benchmarking Your Website

As we grapple with how to create revenues with our online brands it's obvious that we must understand more about our audiences than just whether the number of unique users is increasing month on month.

How much of our audience are regular visitors or eager participants in our online comemnt forums? How many are based abroad and how many are just dipping in to follow a link to one page?

Our Winter 2010 meeting will allow you to compare notes other digital editors and see how your site measures up to industry trends.

Editors from four of the UK's leading news organisations will "lift the bonnet" on their strategies to engage audiences – and the metrics they use to measure the success of their efforts – in a Chatham House Rule-discussion in Preston.

The programme will run from 1:30-5pm on February 25th, with registration & lunch from 1pm in the Adelphi Conference Room at the University of Central Lancashire.

The session aims to assist you in addressing some linked challenges:

(1) advertisers who seek not just large audiences, but engaged prospective customers; and

(2) executives who are seeking to plug budget shortfalls by introducing paywalls around all or some of their online content and activities.

Participating in the panel discussion will be:

  • Dave Higgerson, head of multimedia of Trinity Mirror regionals
  • Ian Brogden, digital editor at Cumbrian Newspapers
  • Jane McFarlane, assistant news editor Northcliffe Media's Derby Evening Telegraph
  • Martin Hamer, digital editor at Johnston Press' Lancashire Evening Post.

There is no charge for the event, but seating is limited and registration is required. All those attending the event are also asked to contribute to the discussion by completing this survey. Responses will remain anonymous.

The discussion will be chaired by François Nel, director of the Journalism Leaders Programme, who will also present the results of the survey and related findings from a two-year study into the online activities of newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities.

The programme will end with a discussion about ideas to cover the election online led by Nick Turner, Head of Digital Content Development for the CN Group.

The Digital Editors Network is sponsored by Northwest Vision & Media and the School of Journalism, Media & Communication at the University of Central Lancashire, home to England's oldest university journalism programme.

For addtional programme details and updates, contact or follow Nick Turner at @nickincumbria / Nick.Turner@Cumbrian-Newspapers.co.uk , or François Nel @francoisnel / FPNel@uclan.ac.uk .

Follow - and contribute to - our Twitter updates #den2010

December 23 2009


HTFP: Johnston Press to axe sub-editing hub plans

HoldtheFrontPage reports that massive opposition from staff has forced Johnston Press to scrap plans for a new sub-editing hub in the Midlands.

Sources within Johnston Press have claimed the decision is the result of a new content management system being introduced, while others suggest the move has been postponed and not scrapped.

No jobs were threatened by the proposed hub, but the plans would affect operations at the Mansfield Chad series, Hucknall Despatch, Buxton Advertiser and Ilkeston Advertiser.

Full story at this link…

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November 30 2009


Ed Walker: Council coverage in Lancashire Evening Post 

Some quantitative evidence on local newspapers and council reporting from Ed Walker (former Uclan student and hyperlocal blogger), as part of a Help Me Investigate project. He looked at a Johnston Press title, the Lancashire Evening Post, which covers Preston and other parts of Lancashire.

“I found that there were 35 pages devoted to news on 23/11, 25/11 and 27/11 and of these 6.25 pages were given over to ‘council reporting’.

“Like others I’ve been finding there is little reporting of council meetings, more stories are created from council press releases and then a few quotes from councillors. It’s also not clear when these councillors were saying these quotes, although the councillors title and ward are always attached.”

Full story at this link…

(via Thoughts of Nigel)

Related: Headlines and Deadlines: Public service reporting, court coverage and charging online

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BBC Radio 4 Today: Pay walls discussed with @ruskin147 and @emilybell

This morning’s Today Programme discusses pay walls with BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones; Emily Bell, director of digital content at the Guardian; and Roger Parry, former chair of Johnston Press.

Johnston Press is – from this morning – to start charging for web access to some of its regional newspapers.

Cellan-Jones says it will be a ‘real test of the appetite of readers to actually pay for what’s online’.

Emily Bell makes the distinction between ‘paid content’ and ‘pay walls’; while she is sceptical about the future success of pay walls, people might be willing to pay for an iPhone app, for example, she says.

Full post at this link…

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November 25 2009


Holdthefrontpage: Johnston Press to charge for online regional news

HoldTheFrontPage reports it has seen an internal memo indicating that Johnston Press is to introduce a paid-for news model, beginning on some sites from Monday:

“Managers have told staff that JP intends to roll-out the paid-for model across the company in line with what they are calling ‘industry moves in this area to find a sustainable business model going forward.’”

Johnston Press ‘has declined to comment publicly on the plan’ HTFP reports.

Full post at this link…

Know more? Drop judith or laura [at] journalism.co.uk a line.

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