Category Archives: Student Reporters

May 2017 target for BBC Local Journalism Partnership

A scheme by which the BBC is to fund 150 ‘local democracy’ reporters could be up and running by May 2017 it has been announced.

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Matthew Barraclough, Editor of the BBC Local Journalism Working Group said that he was that the provisions contained in the BBC White Paper could be trialled in time for the May 2017 Council elections.

The Local Journalism Working Group was set up in 2014 by James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, to look at ways in which the BBC could work with local and regional media organisations for mutual benefit.

The proposals, published in the White Paper, would see the BBC fund 150 reporters that would be based in regional newsrooms and cover councils and local democracy. The aim of the scheme is to fill what is considered to be a ‘democratic deficit’ in the regions with a lack of resources impacting on the coverage of local authorities.

Barraclough, who is leading the project from the BBC side, said that he hoped the plans will benefit audiences with a growth of content.

He said: “We’re signing up to a joint content audit – an undertaking to find out where the journalism in the BBC is going.

“We’re trying to create a benchmark to see just where the journalism crosses over and what else we can offer.

“The aspiration is that the BBC will see outcomes as soon as possible and even possibly launch some reporters for the Council Elections in May 2017.”

The native opportunity

Speakers at the Society of Editors conference disproved the myth that digital advertising is merely “click bait”, and described how native advertising and editorial content can co-exist.

Native advertising is a form of advertising that blends in with the editorial style of its surroundings.

However, the growing fear among publishers is readers’ potential inability to differentiate between commercial and editorial content, which weakens their trust in the brand.

Christian Broughton, Digital Editor, The Independent and i, who helped pioneer the launch of i100, asserted: “If the readers are confused, you’re letting them down.”

Tiffanie Darke, Commercial Content Director at Method, the native advertising team at News UK, stressed that to avoid confusion among readers, advertorial content must be clearly labelled as ‘Sponsored’ or #Spon, over all mediums, to differentiate between independent editorial content and commercial advertisements.

Stephanie Himoff, Director Brands, Agencies and Head of PR Partnerships at Outbrain, supports Tiffanie’s belief. She said: “Native advertising is a phenomenal opportunity,” both for publishers and advertisers.

“The dream is for the brand to come together with the advertiser to produce engaging editorial content for the readers.”

Stephanie upholds the view that native advertising is the future of content marketing. She said: “I don’t believe advertising is dead. I think that the way we were advertising has to come to an end.”

Tiffanie agreed with Stephanie: “I don’t think it dictates the editorial agenda, I think it adds value to it when it is done properly.”

“The editorial/commercial cross-over must be absolutely straight forward and fundamental about the independence of the editorial teams from the commercial teams, if you are to be a credible organisation.”

Although Tiffanie believes native advertising can “add value” to the editorial content, she also implies that these two media pillars can indeed rival one another. She said: “There is no reason why content that is being paid for by a brand can’t be as good, if not better, than editorial content that is being produced independently.”

Maisie Bovingdon


Traditional Journalism Key to Future of News

Traditional principles of journalism are essential to the future of news in the digital age, according to leading industry figures.

Speaking at the Society of Editors annual conference, Ian MacGregor, Editor of The Sunday Telegraph, said that it was important for the industry to invest in quality content and strong branding.

While the digital revolution had presented challenges to traditional media’s business models he said, there were causes for the industry to feel optimistic about the future.

He added “We have to constantly analyse the challenges we are facing [but] we have to invest in quality journalism.

“The important thing is we have quality writers who readers will pay for in papers and online.”

National daily newspapers in the UK lost half a million in average daily sales over the past year and revenues raised by traditional news platforms have been in decline but Mr MacGregor said print was still healthy and there was a “fantastic interest in news”.

He added: “People look to quality brands for news. We need to find new ways of raising revenue.”

MacGregor was joined on the ‘Future of News’ panel by Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard, Sarah Pinch, President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Jonathan Levy, Director of Newsgathering and Operations for Sky News. The session was chaired by ITV Presenter Alastair Stewart.

Sands, whose previous roles include being appointed the first female editor of The Sunday Telegraph, said that digital platforms had forced journalists to “raise their games” and had given them more ways to connect with readers. Despite this, she suggested that traditional news-gathering methods were as important as ever.

She added: “Good journalists who get a good social media following raise their values. It is a good time to be a journalist.

“The internet is a wonderful thing but it is not limitlessly brilliant.

“The best news is when we have people on the doorstep.”

by Darren Fuery

Keeping editorial integrity: is it right for advertising to pay for news?

Who or what will pay for newspapers and broadcasters to continue producing news was the question asked during a panel session on ‘The Future of News’ at the Society of Editors annual conference this week.

Chairing a panel at the Society of Editors this morning, ITV News presenter, Alastair Stewart raised the question with senior figures from the industry about such topics as ensuring editorial independence from advertising and the growth of digital platforms to disseminate stories.

Ian MacGregor, Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, said that while concerns had been raised earlier in the year by former political columnist Peter Oborne about the Telegraph group’s editorial integrity, he assured delegates that the newspaper’s integrity remained essential to what they do. He stressed once that while the Telegraph’s advertising department does not interfere with its news reporting, advertising remained essential to pay for the content that newspaper’s produce.

Sarah Sands, Editor of the London Evening Standard, said that advertising was the reason her paper remained free to those in the capital.

She argued that the newspaper keeps its editorial integrity because their advertising is deemed transparent and pointed to the fact that while wrap-around advertising covers on the LES brought in more money, readers were under no illusion that these covers were not editorial but an advert paid for by a company.

She added: “The distinction between an advertisement and news is very clear.”

By Claire Corkery


SoE Conference 2015 – David Dinsmore: The enduring relevance of newspapers

David Dinsmore sought to bolster what he perceived as an undeserved lack of confidence in print journalism today, stressing that “the heart of everything is the story”, in his first speech as Chief Operating Officer of News UK.

Closing the annual conference of the Society of Editors, the former editor of The Sun expressed dismay at the lack of optimism amongst editors, journalists, and advertisers alike and pointed to the inspiring content being produced across his company’s newsrooms.

Alongside pointing out that newspapers were more influential during the General Election than social media, he said that he was “sick to death of our industry being done down”.

He added: “Our content has never been more popular.”

Dunsmore went on to say that newspapers continued to be viewed as a more trusted source of news than social media platforms, and that they were still more widely used by the public.

He remarked upon the dangers of using Twitter and social media sites to indicate trends in news consumption, by reminding the audience of Twitter’s ineptitude in predicting the outcome of this year’s general election.

Speaking about the extensive social media coverage of most news events, he said: “It takes newspapers to pull all these elements together, and present them the what, the how and the why, in a succinct and engaging fashion.”

The idea that newspapers have an enduring relevance could be seen as a direct challenge to Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of advertising group WPP’s comments the previous day.

Sorrel said that while newspapers would continue to exist and be read, they would have to concentrate their efforts on publishing via alternative platforms.

“You can’t think about them (news outlets) as newspapers any more.”

However, he added that, in his opinion, Rupert and James Murdoch were among the few to grasp this concept fully.

Dinsmore too was unconcerned by the debate over multimedia, stressing instead the importance of focusing on quality of journalism over editorial business models, which he said would have to constantly adapt to be successful.

He added: “I don’t think it really matters now what platform you’re publishing on, because the heart of everything is the story.”

by Angus Peters

Freedom of Information

The Society of Editors has launched a campaign to protect the Freedom of Information Act, ‘Hands Off FoI’, at its annual conference.

Speaking during the Monday day of sessions in a panel focusing on freedom of information, incoming President Nick Turner, Digital Strategy Manager at the Cumbria-based CN Group, said that any plans to water down the Act were misguided and any attempt to restrict its scope should be vehemently opposed.

The ‘Hands off FoI’ campaign, in conjunction with Press Gazette and HoldtheFrontPage, aims to encourage editors to lobby MPs to fight proposals to water down the act, which includes the proposal to introduce charges for FoI requests. A consultation on the Act was launched this summer and a review committee comprising of former minister Jack Straw aims to look at whether changes are required.

The conference session on Freedom of Information highlighted the importance of the Act, which came into force 10 years ago, to both the public and journalists.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information since 1987, criticised the new commission saying that the composition of those sitting on the panel was a grave concern in itself. The panel consists of those that were, and are, likely to be on the receiving end of requests and therefore have a common interest in restricting its scope.

The ‘Hands off FoI’ campaign hopes to safeguard the Act with Nick Turner calling on “all those who believe the public have a right to know what is done in their name and with their money, to join this vital battle.”

Bekki Bemrose

BBC Trust chairman grilled over Kids Club claims

Chairman of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, was under fire today at the Society of Editors Conference following allegations that Alan Yentob had abused his position at the BBC by intervening with a string of interviews involving Camila Batmanghelidjh during the Kids Club closure.

Radio 4’s The Media Show presenter, Steve Hewlett, interrogated Ms Fairhead about the incidents which he said could have comprised editorial integrity, and left the Trust looking ‘unfit for purpose’.

Ms Fairhead said she did not feel that editorial independence was undermined and refused to comment further on the matter saying it was a decision to be dealt with by management and investigations were ongoing.

With barriers falling and broadcasters and newspapers ‘all after the same eyeballs’ new tensions were arising, she said, which could be blamed on the changes in the competitive landscape. However, Ms Fairhead defended the BBC saying  social media and specialist websites are a threat to online papers, not just the BBC. “The BBC’s share is steadily reducing for online news websites despite claims the BBC is crowding out newspaper websites.”

Ms Fairhead also reiterated the BBC Trust’s support of the industry as a whole. She claimed the Trust opposed expansion of Radio 5 Live Sports because of the negative impact it would have had on commercial rivals.

Fairhead, who has held her position for a year, concentrated her speech on the demographic deficit that has started to emerge in broadcasting, saying she wants to see the BBC and the wider public doing more to address this and find a sustainable solution.

“We’ve seen a range of ideas from the BBC, including the possibility of paying for 100 journalists to report on councils, courts and public services.” said Fairhead.

“But there does not seem to be a huge appetite for all these ideas from all local newspapers.”

She also assured the audience that in developing these ideas, local newspapers would not be jeopardised, with the BBC’s definition of ‘local’ acting on a much more regional basis.

Following on from this morning’s speech by the secretary of state for the department of culture, media and sport, John Whittingdale, who touched upon the BBC’s poor attribution of story sources, Rona Fairhead said there was a possibility to impose a quota on the BBC local news reporting commissioned from non-BBC providers.

The issue of attribution is still a wide problem which the Trust has specifically targeted following last year’s review. The broadcaster now aims to credit external sources on BBC News stories.

Fairhead said: “The industry needs to give feedback on proposals so it works for both sides.”

The newspaper industry hasn’t got this “diversity thing cracked”

The journalism industry should admit it has a “stale, pale, male upper echelon problem” according to Eleanor Mills, chair of Women in Journalism.

The editorial director of The Sunday Times spoke amongst a panel on the topic of diversity at the Society of Editors conference.

“Women are half the population, and if the only lens that is put on the current events which is the perspective of old, white, posh men in the newsroom and on the back bench, then you are seeing the world through a lens which is absolutely not typical or representative of most of the population,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone should feel complacent that the newspaper industry has got this diversity thing cracked, that’s only from the women perspective.”

The mum-of-two added her two young daughters had asked her during the last election, if women could lead a political party.

“What you end up with is a very toxic view of what women are for in public life, that they are arm candy, they are people who have been murdered or raped.

“I want to see women in the news with agency, doing things in their own right. There are a lot of women doing that but we don’t see enough of this in the papers.”

Alongside Mrs Mills, Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust, spoke about it’s journalism training schemes which are run all over the UK for charities and community groups.

She said: “Trust is a theme that comes out again and again from the communities that we work with and I’m quite surprised at that actually, and how that key issue of trust between hard to reach communities and diverse communities is an issue.”

The trust has worked with over 30 Somali groups in the country to mentor and train them and build a trusting partnership with the media.

Sue Ryan, manager of the Mail Trainee Programme was also a member of the panel and shared her views on ethnic diversity in the workplace.

She said: “It’s not a level playing field, and one of the things we found was that actually we do a shortlist  and when it came to it there would be a lot of women there, but there would be very little ethnic diversity.”

Layth Yousif, a journalist at The Comet, took the opportunity to thank the Journalism Diversity Fund.

Mr Yousif, who grew up on a council estate, said it was difficult to achieve his dream of a journalist after failed job applications, even with plenty of work experience.

The fund aims to encourage people with ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds to train as journalists, and ensure that diversity is at the top of the agenda throughout the industry.

“It helps a lot of working class kids, black and ethnic minority people as well. I wouldn’t have been able to break into journalism the way I have without them.”

By Josie Hannett

Incoming President – Nick Turner

The new President of the Society of Editors, Nick Turner, closed the Society’s conference this morning with a speech that acknowledged the changing landscape of the media, and was also a rallying cry for the industry to back the newly launched ‘Hands of FoI’ campaign.

Addressing the conference as, “friends, editors and fellow geeks”, he thanked David Dinsmore for his preceding speech, which he said: “Put fire in our belly”.

He stressed the how important it was for the Society to keep pace with changing technologies that dominate the industry, insisting, “Yes, we need to be more digital as a Society.”

The future of the Society of Editors looks set to grow as Turner plans to widen its appeal by extending the membership throughout the industry.

He said they would be: “Ensuring it’s an affordable option for deputies, section-heads, senior journalists and students who share our values”.

Turner, who is Digital Strategy Manager for the CN Group, said he wanted the Society to get to the point where, “journalists who are members of the Society are better journalists, editors who are members of the Society are better editors”.

The idea of a strong brand echoed what many at the conference believed was the best approach to the complex issues involved in how to make news pay.

Sarah Sands, Editor, London Evening Standard put it most succinctly, when she said: “The simplest thing about survival is just to be good”.

Turner also responded to the ever pressing issue of the freedom of the press.

He said they had made a good start with the launch of the Freedom of Information campaign to stop the watering down of the Act via the Independent Commission set up earlier in the year.

According to Twitter Analytics ‘Hands off FoI’, which he launched yesterday, already reached 178,000 people with handsoffFoI hashtag.

Referencing John Wittingdale’s statement that the commission was merely looking at the Act, Turner warned, “You can look, but don’t touch. Get your hands off FoI.”

Bekki Bemrose.

Whittingdale fails to reassure editors over FOI review

John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport attempted to reassure senior journalists in response to questions about the new independent cross-party Commission set up by the government to review the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The Act, passed in 2000 by the Blair government, gives anyone the right to access  information held by public sector organisations free of charge, provided it is not sensitive and the cost of retrieving it is not deemed too high.

Addressing the annual Society of Editors conference, Mr Whittingdale said the principle of FOI is something the government supports.

He said: “This doesn’t mean we are going to repeal the FOI Act.  We are simply having a look.”

This failed to allay the fears of senior journalists at the conference. Nick Turner, incoming President of the Society of Editors, accused the government of “rigging the Commission.”

Many senior journalists have expressed grave concern over the independence of members of the five-member Commission appointed to review the FOI Act.

It includes former Home Secretary Jack Straw, who has publicly stated FOI has gone too far, and former Conservative Party leader, Lord Howard, who has had FOI requests used to disclose decisions made when he was Home Secretary.

Labour Party sources told The Independent in August that Mr Straw had been asked not to participate in the Commission as his views did not represent the rest of the Party, raising further questions over how “cross-party” the Commission is.

The other three panel members are Lord Burns, Chairman of Channel 4, Dame Patricia Hodgson, Chairman of Ofcom, and Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat Peer.

The Commission is reviewing the cost involved in making FOI requests as well as the burden placed on authorities required to provide information.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information said takes a dim view of the Commission: “There is nobody there with a reputation for openness,” he said.

He added he fears the Commission’s findings will lead to the Act being “seriously restricted.”

By Claire Corkery