Sep 10

Fast Food News

Kept forgetting to post a link to this presentation I did at a WAN-IFRA conference in London this month (same one as Arthur Sulzberger spoke at). I was asked to speak about “fast food news” and had been invited before the iPad appeared on the scene and entirely changed the how people think about wireless, tablets and the mobile internet. So, despite the title, I ended up as I usually do talking about the journalism, the world, the universe and everything. If the slides don’t make sense, there’s a editorsweblog summary here.

The one-sentence takeaway? The more information people have available the more often, the more they will eventually rely on filters, meta-information and (whisper it) editors.


Dec 09

Red, black and angry

Mood music and signs of the times from Andrew Jaspan, ex-editor of the Melbourne Age, who worked as a consultant on the recent relaunch of the French daily, Libération. The paper, founded in the heady days of student insurrection in the 1960s, had grown old and jaded along with the generation of soixanthuitards (“68ers”) and its once cool red and black design now looks soooo twentieth century.

Jaspan’s first suggestion was simply that the paper should stop being “red, black and angry”. His second, he told a session of the WAN-IFRA congress, was to suggest that the journalism looked for ways “forward” for its society and didn’t just whinge about problems. And in line with the gradual magazinification of newspapers, he suggested that they banish completely the word “yesterday”.  That last one really is a sign of the times.


Dec 09

You think you have problems

Unreflective editors in Europe and the US sometimes speak as if the newspaper crisis gave them the worst problems in the world. As a corrective, two snatches from two South Asian editors this morning to the World Editors Forum and WAN-IFRA congress.

I met Najaam Sethi, the editor of the Daily Times in Pakistan, briefly on the evening before he accepted the conference’s annual press freedom award. He seemed an avuncular, smiling and modest man. This has been his life as an editor. He has been imprisoned by three different Pakistani prime ministers: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (father of the late Benazir), General Zia and Nawaz Sharif. Sethi regularly gets letters from Islamist organisations threatening him with dire consequences if he does not stop promoting secular, democratic values and return to the guidance of the true faith. These letters are often accompanied by photos of beheaded American “spies”. He is one of four editors listed as special enemies by a Taleban-inspired magazine; the other three have left Pakistan. Sethi lives guarded by eight policemen.

At an editor’s breakfast, the editor-in-chief of India Today Aroon Purie was analysing the decline in the standards of journalism in India. “You can buy editorial,” he said baldly. There is almost a published rate card for buying political coverage. One (presumably satisfied) politician declared what he had spent on “editorial” coverage in his election expenses return.