How the ‘Biggest Mistake’ in Newspaper History Helped Fuel the World’s Largest Photo Competition
Once upon a time, news editors in Manchester and Glasgow were the equal of those in Fleet Street. Now a regional political breakthrough like Ukip’s takes the capital by surprise
There was a sudden remembrance of times past the other day when Harry Whewell died. Harry, in his pomp, was the great northern news editor of the (ex-Manchester) Guardian while the Guardian’s greatness still dwelt in the north. He cherished and developed many young Oxbridge hopefuls: Michael Frayn, Jonathan Steele, Benedict Nightingale, Simon Hoggart. He loved his Manchester, knew every nook and cranny of it, strove tirelessly to bring it to life. And the question he left behind remains hauntingly difficult for journalism to answer in a week where local elections stole the headlines. Whatever, in day-to-day newspaper terms, became of the Britain beyond Watford Gap?
Helen Pidd, Harry’s many-stages-on young successor as northern editor of the paper, was brooding in precisely these terms recently. Forty years ago, she wrote, there were 95 journalists working in the Manchester office. Now “I will be the only staff reporter in the north … Whenever the Guardian runs a trend piece about how ‘we’ are all watching The Wire/eating baba ghanoush/wearing harem pants, I always think to myself: in north London maybe. No wonder the media, particularly the so-called ‘quality’ press, misses important shifts among the majority of people in the UK who do not live inside the M25.”
It’s a theme that can’t be brushed aside too easily. Once upon a time – Harry Whewell’s time – Fleet Street and its northern outposts of Glasgow and Manchester marched in step, well-resourced regional editions of the nationals digging and noting. Birmingham and Liverpool had their own substantial morning papers. The Yorkshire Post often seemed a quasi-national itself. Darlington’s Northern Echo basked in the glory of Harry Evans’s editorship.
Not all of that has evaporated. The Post and the Echo soldier on. But there is no critical mass, nor any balancing act. Northern newsrooms – like Midlands correspondents and the rest – have all but vanished. Local news agencies feeding the nationals are similarly diminished. London, reaching for its newspaper or clicking online each morning, gets no consistent sense of what non-metropolitan life is like.
Pidd remembers the plaudits she won for correctly predicting that George Galloway might win the Bradford West byelection. “‘How did you know?’ I was asked at the Guardian’s morning conference after the Respect MP won a 10,000 majority. It wasn’t rocket science, I said. ‘I was there’. Or, perhaps more accurately, I had bothered to go.”
Perhaps you can replay that selfsame record today in the wake of Ukip advance from South Shields to deepest Surrey. Some shifts can’t be spotted sitting at terminals in Canary Wharf or WC1. Some mood swings begin on the ground far from Westminster. But devolution actually seems to mean less news from Scotland, and vice versa. And the web-based march of British journalism across the world can leave home bases scantily covered, as though
UK Coal has denied a newspaper report that it is looking to put itself into voluntary liquidation, after a fire at a colliery in February.
See the rest here: UK Coal denies fire sale report
Tough times for Richard Desmond mean £150m is slashed off his wealth, according to Sunday Times Rich List
Sir David and Frederick Barclay have been named the richest people in media in Britain with a £2.3bn fortune, while tough times at Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell business has seen his wealth slashed by almost £150m.
The 78-year-old Barclay twins, owners of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, have been named at the top of the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List of people in publishing, PR and advertising in Britain.
The brothers, who also own assets including the Ritz Hotel, where Lady Thatcher was staying at the time of her death, increased their wealth by £100m compared with last year’s rich list.
But it was a bad year for Northern & Shell owner Richard Desmond who dropped from second to third place as his £1bn fortune dipped by £140m, according to the Sunday Times’s calculations.
The view of the compilers of the list was that Desmond’s media assets – which include Channel 5, OK! magazine and the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday – are “generally underperforming”.
Viscount Rothermere and family, controlling shareholder of Daily Mail and Metro publisher Daily Mail & General Trust, slipped back £40m to £720m – fourth on the media rich list.
Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud made their first appearance in the media list – although not the overall rich list where they rank 315th – as they derive some of their wealth from PR.
The power couple ranked 12th in the UK media list with a £255m combined fortune.
Lord Heseltine and family, owners of Haymarket Publishing, the company behind titles including Campaign, re-entered the list for the first time since 2010 with a ranking of 11th and a fortune of £264m.
Questions over the state of Heseltine’s finances – which included putting up assets including his 18th century mansion and 55-acre estate in Thenford, Northamptonshire, as security in debt restructuring negotations with RBS – meant he has been kept out of the list for two years.
The 25-strong media rich list also includes Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of advertising group WPP, at 14th with a £36m boost taking his estimated personal wealth to £210m.
Lord (Maurice) and Charles Saatchi, co-founders of M&C Saatchi, increased their fortune slightly to £135m.
Despite the shaky state of regional press Sir Ray Tindle, owner of newspaper publisher Tindle Press Holdings, slightly increased his fortune to £130m.
Alan Parker, the founder and chairman of City PR firm Brunswick, boosted his fortune by £9m to hit £104m and secure 23rd on the media list.
Sunday Times Rich List – top 25 in publishing, advertising and PR
Wealth in 2013 (2012 figure in brackets):
1. Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay: £2.35bn (£2.25bn)
2. The Thomson family: £1.1bn (£700m)
3. Richard Desmond: £860m (£1,000)
4. Viscount Rothermere and family: £720m (£760m)
5. Mark Getty and family: £650m (£330m)
6. Felix Dennis: £500m (£500m)
7. Paddy McNally £440m: (£515m)
8. Cristina Stenbeck: £405m (£369m)
9. Viscount Cowdray and the Pearson family: £400m (£500m)
10. Mike Danson: £376m (£310m)
11. Lord Heseltine and family: £264m (-)
12. Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud: £255m (£251m)
13. Lord Iliffe and family: £245m (£266m)
14. Sir Martin Sorrell: £210m (£174m)
15. Jonathan Klein: £200m (-)
16. Neil Hutchinson: £178m (£123m)
17= Mike Luckwell: £135m (£135m)
17= Lord and Charles Saatchi: £135m (£135m)
19. Philip and Patricia Brown: £132m (£132m)
20. Sir Ray Tindle: £130m (£125m)
21. Gregory Nasmyth and family: £115m (£85m)
22. Nick Forman Hardy and family: £105m (£102m)
23. Alan Parker: £104m (£95m)
24. Sir John Madejski: £100m (£150m)
25. Martyn Rose: £75m (£72m)
It means that TMG will gain full ownership of BDFM, which publishes the Business Day newspaper and the Financial Mail weekly magazine and also owns the African Broadcasting Channel.
Pearson has held its 50% stake in BDFM since 1997. TMG already owns some of South Africa’s largest newspapers, including the Sunday Times and The Sowetan, as well as other media assets.
Both Business Day and the Financial Mail have been struggling for some time and BDFM’s editor-in-chief,Peter Bruce, is quoted as saying the two publications are either loss-making or operating on “paper-thin margins”.
Luxembourg would consider greater transparency of its banking sector to help curb tax evasion, the finance minister tells a German newspaper.
Read more here: Luxembourg ‘considers’ open banking
The Daily Telegraph is to extend its paywall to UK readers, the latest newspaper to turn to the measure as readerships become increasingly digital.
More here: Telegraph extends paywall to UK
Your editorial (No cause for hyperventilating, 18 March) doubts that “John Milton will be spinning in his grave” over current rows about press freedom. Of course he isn’t: he was Cromwell’s censor. In the Areopagitica, the great phrase is “as good almost kill a man as kill a good book”. The crucial adjective is “good”, and he was quite happy to determine what could be so described and burn the rest.
The turning corpse we should be worrying about is Sir Roger L’Estrange, the last statutory censor of the press – “Surveyor of the Imprimie”. He must be cheering. A fervent royalist, L’Estrange believed “it is the Press that has made ‘um Mad, and the Press must set ‘um Right again” and was therefore also licensed to be a monopolistic news publisher. So, if we are turning back the clock, how long before we do it properly and appoint Rupert Murdoch (or his front-person) by royal charter “Surveyor of the Media”?
University of Lincoln
• Implementing the Leveson proposals is not an issue of whether we have a “free” or a “shackled” press. The papers that are complaining are privately owned, and the notion that they are edited without any influence from the companies that own them is for the birds. Nor is there any proposal to shackle them: it is simply to do what self-regulation has repeatedly failed to do and set out a framework that will require them to behave responsibly.
Claims that the terms proposed would have prevented the Daily Mail’s challenge to those it accused of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, or the Daily Telegraph’s exposé of the expenses scandal are disingenuous: neither would have been realistically threatened. On the other hand, the Sun might well have taken the trouble to investigate its assertions about the victims of the Hillsborough disaster more carefully.
Baildon, West Yorkshire
• Those of us who watched the Leveson inquiry day after day were satisfied when the politicians admitted that they had been too close to the owners and editors of newspapers. It was agreed there would have to be changes. Then, after the publication of the inquiry report, one of the most open examinations of public life, politicians and the newspapers went private. Both having been found guilty, they were left to decide away from the public gaze what part of the sentence suited them.
• Why all this talk about newspapers opting into regulation or failing to opt in (Newspaper groups threaten boycott if Tories back down over press regulator, 18 March)? We can’t opt out of regulations about how we drive our motor cars just because we think we ought to be able to drive faster or reckon it costs too much to insure them.
• May I thank the Lib Dems for standing firm and sticking to principle to help force David Cameron to do what is right for once, rather than what is politically expedient for the Conservatives and their puppet masters?
Since Simon Fox joined, the company’s share price has soared, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with its rivals
Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox’s honeymoon period came to an abrupt end on Thursday with the arrest of four current and former senior journalists for alleged phone hacking, while a 75% slump in profits stripped £60m from the Daily Mirror publisher’s market capitalisation.
News of the arrests – the four, including former Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver and Sunday People editor James Scott were bailed later in the day – broke on Thursday morning as Fox was making his maiden financial results presentation and detailing his “One Trinity Mirror” master plan to a packed room of investors and analysts in the plush 16th floor City offices of merchant bank Rothschild.
Fox’s 85-page strategy document took a backseat to investor fright at the potential financial implications of a major widening of the phone hacking scandal, including potential compensation payments, with Trinity Mirror’s share price slumping almost 20% at one point in trading on Thursday, before closing more than 13% down. The share price had already taken an 8% nosedive that morning after Trinity Mirror’s 2012 full year results were released.
However, the City consensus is that Fox’s turn around plan for Trinity Mirror will not be derailed by one bad day at the office. “The company’s market capitalisation has now fallen by almost £60m but do we honestly believe the unfolding arrest scenario will have a financial impact of that or more?,” says Alex deGroote, analyst at Panmure. “No. It is an over-reaction, I do not believe [the Trinity Mirror phone-hacking arrests] is the next News International.”
Trinity Mirror’s share price has soared since Fox joined on 10 September from HMV, where he was also chief executive. Last week it hit an almost three year high of 123p before Thursday’s double dose of bad news, giving a market cap of £300m, as investors bought into the belief he can drive the publisher’s stagnant digital development.
“The share price was 36p when I joined but I am not going to attribute it to the ‘Fox effect’,” Fox said on Thursday. “The markets have been up in general, the tide is rising although not by that much [to account for Trinity's performance], the company has not been waiting until today to get started.”
However, Fox admitted that the company has a long way to go to catch up with rivals, with digital revenues from its newspaper business flat year on year.
Digital advertising revenues actually slumped by 7.3% year-on-year in 2012, although within this online display grew by 11%. It was digital classified advertising that slumped by 18% and led Fox to take the realistic step of a £60m non-cash writedown on the future potential earnings of websites such as SecsintheCity, Fish4jobs and SmartNewHome.
Fox’s digital strategy for reviving Trinity Mirror’s fortunes includes free iPad tablet editions for the Daily Mirror and Daily Record, with Android versions by the end of the month. He says he has not ruled out introducing charges for the tablet editions, as most Fleet Street rivals do, but not in the short term.
“We considered [charging] very carefully and keep it under review,” he says. “It is important to go for reach and get scale with an ad-funded model.”
With total digital revenues of £40.8m, less than 6% of the sales, Fox – like other newspaper publishers – is facing a major challenge if he is to fill the widening gap in Trinity Mirror’s balance sheet left by declining print income.
To help maintain profitability cost cutting led to the loss of 500 more jobs across the company last year, and a further 200 were targeted for redundancy at the beginning of this year, mostly in Trinity’s regional papers, as a more digitally-focused and content sharing strategy across titles was unveiled.
This forms part of a further £10m in cuts planned in 2013. However, 52 new editorial jobs are also being created – half in the national titles, half in regionals – to help provide more digital and tablet content. Fox has also grasped the nettle in the difficult issue of dealing with the steep declines of regional newspaper operations. Investors were cheered by the strategic initiative to take a 20% stake in David Montgomery’s Local World regional newspaper business in late 2012.
While competition issues surrounding Local World remain unresolved, the deal opens the door for a possible future disposal of Trinity’s embattled local titles, as rival Daily Mail & General Trust has managed by putting its Northcliffe regional division into the Montgomery joint venture alongside Iliffe News & Media’s papers.
Continuing talks over the potential sale of a stake in the Sunday People to a consortium led by former Sunday Express editor Sue Douglas would further reduce costs. Many investors view the People as non-core to the main Trinity Mirror national newspaper operation.
DeGroote says that the publisher’s balance sheet is in the best shape it has been for perhaps a decade, stripping out the non-cash charge profits were about £100m last year, and to watch this space for a buyer in the next few years.
His view is that the company’s net debt of £157m will be wiped out in the next two to three years, shareholders can look forward to their first dividend payout since 2008 next year, and it will produce £50m surplus free cashflow this year and next.
“If they can get the pension sorted they may end up being owned by some Russian oligarch or quasi-private equity house in the next two or three years in my view,” says DeGroote.
“In spite of revenue declines they have mastered profit protection. They remain trophy assets and a potential vanity project, buyers could be drawn in by the high profits of the core Mirror business and strong cash flows it generates. It is an attractive investment.”
Pre-tax profits in 2012: £18.9m (-75% year-on-year)
Adjusted pre-tax profits: £98.7m (+7.4%)
Revenue: £706.5m (-7%)
Advertising revenue: £292.8m (-10.4%)
Circulation revenue: £297.2m (-7.9%)
Digital revenue: £40.8m (+8.5%)
Earnings per share: 29.9p (+10.7%)
Net debt: £157m (-29%)
The whole sorry saga of press regulation has been undermined by hidden agendas
There has been too much hate, and it has undermined the whole point of the exercise whichever way Monday’s votes go. Tabloid journalists hate upmarket journalists, and both are variously hated in turn by struggling editors in our regional press. Broadcasters hate print journalists; and vice versa. Ed and Nick hate David, and vice versa. Hacks hate lawyers, grubbing for fees. The campaigners of Hacked Off – many of them much richer, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s £100m compensation fund – want their pound of flesh come what may. Increasingly, ministers and shadow ministers hate taking their hectoring calls. And – remind me again – what was the point of the whole Leveson parade? To restore trust, public trust, in the press. Forget it.
Our politicians – the ones Lord Justice Leveson wanted removed from the action – can’t find common ground. It’s far easier to slag off opponents and play wrecking games. The press – never a cohesive industry anyway – hasn’t been allowed to get its own act together and so has inevitably fractured into its component parts of mutual resentment. And there is no realistic way forward here.
If Cameron and his Conservatives win through, they’ll be broad-brush denounced by Labour, Lib Dems, the serried victims and their lawyers. Since “statutory underpinning”, in its shorthand, barely understood way, has become the litmus test of proper regulation in the public mind, any body that fails to include it upfront – even this commodiously detailed charter – will automatically be scorned as a press barons’ pleaser, a fudge, a catalogue of supposed betrayal. The corrosion of hate.
But if Ed and Nick carry the day for their charter version, then what? Goodbye to relatively speedy answers. Hello to what’s called “full” Leveson implementation – except that Sir Brian never delivered a full bundle of answers himself. The most vexatious issues – intrinsically asking what “independence” means in a quangoid Britain where the same cast of great and good characters, retired judges, retired permanent secretaries, Oxbridge dignitaries, shift sweetly from one padded committee seat to the next – weren’t addressed. To underpin real press support for a new self-regulator, you have first to decide what exactly that body is, who appoints it, how it can be vetted and kept up to the mark. But consensus there (as built by Lord Hunt at the residual Press Complaints Commission) will fracture as hate poisons civilised discussion.
Hunt’s timetable (a new organisation up and running by 1 July) won’t endure if Miliband and Clegg have their way, because much of his plan can’t realistically survive Cameron defeat. Why should the local press saddle itself with the cost of arbitration tribunals when it has done nothing wrong? Why should the press as a whole pay for regulation by a commission it has no real say in appointing, administering a code it has no clear say in drawing up?
Miliband victory opens the door to two wholly unwelcome things: many more months of threat and disillusion – or a simple refusal to go any further, leaving parliament to devise and install its own statutory press regulation regime if it so wishes: an Ofpress to match Ofcom. There have always been voices on newspaper backbenches saying leave regulation to the law itself, to articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, just as the US relies on its first amendment. They may be heard again as this miserable row snarls on.
The problem, from beginning to end of this sad, sliding saga, has lain with the poison of hidden agendas. It began intrinsically when the politicians of 65 years ago, used to the deference of wartime censorship, sought to put a newly unruly press back in its box. It has gathered a whole sub-industry of specialist lawyers serving their own needs along the way. The press sees exposing political crookery as one of its jobs. The politicians – read the new Bribery Act that would surely have stopped the Daily Telegraph’s investigation of MPs expenses – have a different job in mind. Was Leveson’s array of victimhood presented as current, transparent and fair? The latest round of arrests, covering alleged events in 2003-4, come coated with dust yet again.
There could, without Leveson, have been a substantial remaking of press self-regulation long since. There could, with a little statesmanship from the politicians, have been an agreement that had some chance of short-term success (until sabotaged by the galloping internet). But it’s precious hard to see even modestly durable hope now. You can’t restore trust if you don’t trust anyone around you.