Saturday, 28 May 2011

Two excellent anniversary ideas

What a great idea to celebrate The Guardian's 190th anniversary. The news stripped bare and all on one page, just like my Tweetdeck. Have we come full circle in news presentation? Could catch on. I see a rich vein of design consultancies ahead. Meanwhile there's another great anniversary idea over at the Independent. Ninety Prince Philip gaffes to celebrate his 90th birthday. Laugh out loud stuff.  
A couple of examples: "It looks as though it was put in by an Indian." The Prince's verdict of a fuse box during a tour of a Scottish factory in August 1999. He later clarified his comment: "I meant to say cowboys. "I just got my cowboys and Indians mixed up."
"If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." Said to a World Wildlife Fund meeting in 1986.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Stop press - cat hops into delivery van

Thanks to David Bailey @surferdwb for sending me this bill from Norwich and for asking "I wonder how many extra copies of the paper this sold?" If the non-story theory works on print as well as on the web, it probably sold thousands. For more weird and wonderful bills and my tips on how to write good ones have a scroll through the training tips here. 

Footballing weekend pays off

It's been a real footballing weekend for me ... working with Allan Prosser, Mike Brough and Paul Wick to produce a 56-page Champions Full Time supplement for the Irish Examiner. It is published today, free with the paper. Great fun to do but I could have done without the relegation issues on Sunday. I had taken a gamble that Wigan would go down and Birmingham would stay up, so apart from updating every Premier League club's page I had to set about on two major rewrites. Then Carlo Ancelotti was sacked. We made the deadline though. It marks another fantastic commitment by the Examiner to sports coverage. The supplement  includes a club by club analysis, the best quotes, the top 20 goals, the worst fouls and howlers and a 12-page Champions League preview. It's a great read. Above are a few pages, including the cover and my review Newcastle's season. If you are a footballer fan, try to get hold of a copy. I can guarantee it will be worth it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Book to 'celebrate' quirky local paper stories

Local newspaper editors have been receiving letters from Viking Books in the last few weeks asking for permission to use their 'quirkiest, oddest and most locally-specific headlines and articles'. The idea, says Viking, is to celebrate the most 'local' side of local journalism in all its glory. 'The tone will be warm and even reverential rather than mocking.' Of course it will. The title is Whitstable Mum in Custard Shortage - after the excellent non-story highlighted here last year. Also included is Mattress falls off truck into Kidderminster Road. I hope they have tracked down the Harrogate Advertiser's Straight banana drama. Another contender emerged this week concerning the owners of a parrot called Seve Ballesteros paying tribute to the golfer following his death. It looks like the publishers have found some crackers we haven't seen before - such as 'Man found nailed to bench,' 'Tributes as popular Lichfield cat dies' and 'Mass poisoning in donkey soup war'. The book is out on October 13 and costs £9.99 in hardback ... although you can pre-order from Amazon for £8.99. One for the Christmas list. 

Can you read the bottom line?

Thanks to Andy Cooper, editor in deepest Devon and Cornwall, for this addition to our bill collection. Clever. A slab serif too, close to the original Snellen chart.

If fonts were dogs ...

Ha! Comic Sans getting more stick (previous post). Thought this was quite clever though ... made me smile. Originals here and here.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Ten thoughts about the Regional Press Awards

I have returned, slightly bleary-eyed, from the Regional Press Awards. It was, as always, a very enjoyable event, the one chance a year where most of my colleagues are in the same room. Well done to Bob Satchwell and his team at the Society of Editors for resurrecting the awards and making sure they were run for the industry by the industry. I saw first-hand the work he put in and it really was phenomenal. As I said yesterday, if we don't celebrate the excellence that runs through our newspapers, applaud the journalists who go that extra yard, recognise the editors who invest in off-diary work and innovation … then who will? Anyway, well done to all the winners and indeed to anyone who was shortlisted The full results and pictures can be found on the Regional Newspaper Awards website and there are reports on HoldTheFrontPage, and the Press Gazette.

In the meantime, here are my ten thoughts on yesterday's awards: 
Ready to celebrate ... The Irish News arrive mob handed to collect their award from Nick Ferrari
i) There is certainly life in Irish regional newspapers - they won six of the 23 awards and collected some highly commendeds too. It was nice to see The Irish News picking up the Newspaper of the Year award. As an independent newspaper, owned by the Fitzpatrick family, it has long been a purveyor of quality and often courageous journalism. The judges were also impressed by its sales performance which is better now than it was 20 years ago. It is also a paper which has steadfastly refused to give away its content online. There are no doubt lessons to be learned from our friends across the water.

ii) Well done to Nick Ferrari, hosting the awards for the third time. The LBC radio breakfast presenter strikes a neat balance between the seriousness of the event and the fact that 350 hacks need to be kept in check and entertained. He gave his services for free, supporting the industry where it all started. He has edited the Sun's Bizarre, the News of the World's Sunday magazine and Sky News. He was also the man who gave the world topless darts, the news bunny and the weather read by a dwarf on a trampoline. But his roots are very similar to ours ... covering cake sales and funerals for the Kentish Independent. Best line - "We have to rattle through these awards as the room is booked by the hour. Which is how Bob Satchwell usually does it."  
A congratulatory hug for Alan Geere from Nick Ferrari
iii) The liveliest recipient was the Essex Chronicle's formidable editor-in-chief Alan Geere, who sprinted on to the stage impersonating a jet plane and threw his arms around Ferrari. His animated Magnus Pyke impressions continued afterwards in the splendid Rose pub, resulting in a pint of beer being poured over my suit. The cleaning bill is on its way.

iv) The collection boxes on the tables raised a healthy £1,400 for the Journalists' Charity. 

v) It was nice to catch up with the Evening Chronicle's John Gibson, the man who inspired me to be a journalist. When I was a paperboy in Whitley Bay I used to stop on my round every day to read his reports on Newcastle United. It was then that I decided if I was never going to wear the No 9 shirt, the next best thing was to write about it. Years later, while editor of The Northern Echo, I gave a speech at the retirement of the paper's esteemed Middlesbrough FC reporter, saying "When I was a boy I always wanted to be a football reporter like (pause for effect) ... John Gibson." As I was at Ayresome Park surrounded by 'Smoggies' it went down like a lead balloon. I'll have that on my epitaph, Gibson said yesterday.

vi) The debate about whether there should be multi-media journalist and website categories rumbled on at my table. The argument against is that we are fully integrated. Journalist of the year covers all their work, print and digital. Most websites are also templated. But as someone said yesterday if you have a supplement of the year, shouldn't you also have a website of the year? Good point. The other main discussion is whether there should be a free newspaper category. This was dropped when newspapers began dabbling with the free model. The Manchester Evening News was part-free as were other newspapers. In the national Press Awards there isn't a separate category for free newspapers ... if there were the Evening Standard and Metro would have a field day. The argument is that it's about the standard of journalism, not the business model ... but we are open to all suggestions and thoughts. You can send any feedback on any aspect of the awards to me at

vii) Many of those who collected awards had been there before. Jon Colman, described as the best sports journalist Fleet Street never had, is a regular recipient of sports awards. Hull Daily Mail Designer of the Year Ian Bond collected the same award two years ago and the Sheffield Star's Colin Drury, although only 28, has twice been named Columnist of the Year. As there were many new judges this year, I guess it can only mean that these winners really are exceptionally good.

viii) Nice to see the independents so well represented but inevitably the most awards still went to the big groups. Top were Northcliffe who picked up six awards and second were Trinity Mirror who collected four, along with four others who were highly commended.

ix) I have never heard a crowd of sceptical journalists cheer a sponsor before but that's exactly what happened when the man from Asda took the mic. Mind you, he did say they were about to spent £2.5m on local newspaper advertising .. and that he would be picking up the tab for all the wine on the tables. Now that's the sort of sponsorship journalists can relate to.

x) The prize for the person on stage who looked least like their brochure or screen picture initially went to the Sunday Mercury's Jeanette Oldham. However the bearded recipient, who turned out to be editor David Brookes, was quick to point out that he was 'not Jeanette'. 'That's the sort of perceptive qualities that make the regional Press, so special,' observed Ferrari. The person who collected the daily and Sunday sports journalist award, however, really was the News and Star's Jon Colman and not his hippy brother.
The brochure Jon Colman
The on stage Jon Colman

Thanks again to everyone who supported the awards: The sponsors, Camelot, Asda, HoldTheFrontPage, UK Power Networks and the Press Association. Nick Ferrari and photographer Glyn Genin both gave their services for free as, of course, did all the judges. Lyn and Paul at Magstar did the AV presentations and the brochures and Kate McMillan organised everyone with superb efficiency. It wouldn't have been possible without the Newspaper Society (particular thanks to Lynn Anderson and president Georgina Harvey) and the Society of Editors team, Bob Satchwell, Sue Ryan, Angela Varley, Sharon Nall, Samina Khan and Elena Tulenkova. And of course without all those who took the time to enter, there would be no awards. A great job ... I'm already looking forward to next year.   


Monday, 9 May 2011

Graphics - the good, the bad and ugly

Here is a great collection of infographics from Graphic Gibbon and Visual Journalism showing how the world's Press illustrated the shooting of Bin Laden. They range from the excellent to the appalling, the almost-accurate to pure flights of fantasy.  
This is the Daily Telegraph's offering.

And here's a different approach by The South China Morning Post.
This one from Clarin in Argentina attempts to tell the story based on facts rather than an over-vivid imagination.
At the other end of the scale is this from UOL in Brazil.
And also from Brazil, this utterly absurd and inaccurate, drawing from O Dia.

This detail from El Mundo in Spain (where the Seals look in grave danger of shooting themselves) also looks short of style and accuracy. 
Some of these reminded me of the days I used to run courses with colleague Mike Brough on how to create infographics for newspapers. The programme was devised in the early 90s when Westminster Press believed the future was telling the story visually. Alan Gilliland, head of graphics at The Daily Telegraph, was one of the guest lecturers. We taught Illustrator, FreeHand, typography, colour, research and how to spot the stories that lent themselves to a graphic format. We showed delegates the best and the worst graphics from around the world. And there were certainly some bad ones.
This one, for example, from the front page of the Bucks Free Press, has aliens and cutout cars to illustrate a fatal crash.

This looks like a good idea from the books page of the late Today. Which book would last you the distance of a long-haul flight? The only problem is  the key does not match the graphic. Book No 2, Moon by James Herbert, would take you 5 hours 35 minutes to read, so you could settle down with it if you were off to Dubai. But on the illustration, route No 2 is close to Tokyo. No 5 is Hold The Dream by Barbara Taylor Bradford which would take 12 hours and 50 minutes to read and get you to Rio. According to the graph Rio is located on the East coast of Africa. Every single one of them is wrong.

Back to the Bucks Free Press and its explanation of where the £400 poll tax would be spent. Not only are the segments of the pie chart out of scale ... they add up to £471.
We haven't run the course for a few years now. I thought that was because regional newspapers had decided graphics were no longer part of its armoury and the nationals were on top of their game. 
But maybe there are opportunities emerging again. Must dust down my Barbara Taylor Bradford collection ... Rio here we come. 
Footnote:  I'm not alone in thinking some of these shoddy pieces damage the name of newspapers. A checklist for graphic artists has been created by Juan Antonio Giner and Alberto Cairo as a result of the Bin Laden illustrations. Read it here.  

Friday, 6 May 2011

70 years on ... the paper that never was

Here is a powerful front page from today's Hull Daily Mail ... the names of the 1,241 men women and children who died in the bombing raids on the city 70 years ago. The Luftwaffe razed the city to the ground on the nights of May 7th and 8th but wartime censorship prevented any of this being reported. Hull was referred to only as a 'north-east  coast town' - even though it was the most bombed city outside of London. 
More impressive than the front page is the eight-page broadsheet. This isn't a replica from the archives ... it has been written and designed by the journalists as though the raids took place last night. Acting assistant news-editor Allison Coggan trawled the city archives, tracked down personal diaries and interviewed survivors (who were children at the time).  Head of photographic Jim Mitchell sourced the names and previously unpublished photographs. Then designer Ian Bond put it all into an eight-page broadsheet in the same style of the paper in 1941. John Meehan, the editor, is justifiably proud. “It is a potent statement – if one is needed – of the enduring power and impact of newspapers. No other form of media could rival what we have been able to achieve today". Can't argue with that ... cracking stuff.