SubScribe: November 2013 Google+

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Glasgow helicopter crash and the night of the citizen journalist

What a charming tweet. Wesley Shearer, a 21-year-old man hoping to make his way in the music business, was enjoying an ordinary Friday night out with his mother watching Esperanza performing a live gig.

A couple of hours later, he was the most sought-after man in Scotland.

This is how the world first heard about the helicopter crash in Glasgow. But it was the tweet below that set him apart.

Dramatic words and a sharp photograph - with the helicopter blade clearly visible sticking out of the roof in the centre of the picture. An editor's dream.

 Micah Grimes in America was the first to pick up on it:
Shearer told him to go ahead and continued tweeting with a healthy dose of modesty as friends bombarded him with questions, mostly asking if he was all right.

He was soon trending in Glasgow, then Scotland, then Manchester, Ireland and even Canada.

A young man who had first helped with the rescue and then told the world what had happened. Just the sort of level-headed hero we all love, so it's hardly surprising that his Twitter following grew as more and more people pointed to him as the best source for the story.

In fact, he related what he saw in very few tweets:

The Labour MP Jim Murphy, who was spotted in Shearer's picture, had also helped with the rescue and tweeted about the crash.  Both gave television interviews and, once he got home, Shearer was full of praise for the MP.

But while Murphy already had a public profile and might have been seen as the obvious choice as the key news source, it was Shearer who found himself at the heart of a virtual media scrum.

Imagine those television images of reporters and photographers chasing celebrities down the street crying out for a quote or a picture. This was the Twitter equivalent. Grimes had been first off the blocks at 10.34, but the pack was only moments behind:

The Twitter crew proved a moralistic crowd and those who tweeted the original picture without reference to Shearer - even if in error - were in trouble.

And there were many who advised Shearer to make sure he was paid for his photograph. Matthew Keys alerted him twice

This agency had clearly been burnt in the past

Meanwhile this early exchange irritated our great Olympian Sir Chris Hoy:

The whole idea seems to have bemused Shearer

Even so, let's hope he does get proper recompense. And also let's recognise the organisations that bothered to ask permission to use the picture - while noting that others went ahead anyway, with or without crediting the hero of the hour.

David Jack, late night editor at The Times acknowledged Shearer in this tweet - but the paper was not among those to tweet him to seek permission to run the picture on its website.

SubScribe is meanwhile indebted to Jack for pointing out that one of the firemen on duty at the Clutha last night was on the football field this afternoon, captaining Stranraer in a cup match against Clyde. Frank McKeown tweeted briefly last night

He was right: he worked through the night until 8am and three hours after the shift ended he was in more sombre mood as he took to Twitter again:

McKeown  played the full 90 minutes and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Shearer was also reflecting on the events today and this evening he returned to Twitter after a few hours' break:

A common feature of the tweets from McKeown and Shearer was their obvious concern for others. Both at the crash scene and back at home, Shearer tweeted to reassure friends that he and those with him were safe and to thank people for their concern.

He clearly got little sleep. And this morning, the news hounds were still barking at his feet:

So is this citizen journalism in action? Does it prove we don't need the mainstream media?

Yes and no. Yes, it's great to have instant live coverage of a dramatic event from someone who can tell a story clearly and without letting his ego get in the way. It's a fantastic first port of call and the clamour shows how the big boys still need to get hold of those eyewitnesses.

But there are so many more facets of this story that will need to be told over the next few days; the casualty toll, the safety questions, the financial and political implications.

Wesley Shearer went home to bed, a good job well done. He will still be in demand all weekend. But he won't be expected to write the follow-ups, to interview officials. Those tasks will be undertaken by trained journalists working for mainstream organisations.

Many of those tweeting to and about Shearer described the Press and broadcasters as vultures. But those tweeters were eager enough for the news to follow someone they didn't know and had never heard of before last night. Would they describe themselves as vultures too?

Shearer proved a trusty source, and his citizen journalism proved invaluable. But neither proved that citizen journalists are ready to replace the professionals.

From what we have seen of Shearer, I doubt he would want to. And tonight he has said that there will be no interviews.

Well said - and very good luck to him.

Finally, let's take a quick look at the 'old media'. Well done to the Sun for splashing on the story in all editions - no doubt thanks at least in part to the fact that its Scottish editor Gordon Smart saw the helicopter land on the pub. Smart told the BBC that he had been getting into his car 250m away when he heard a 'misfiring engine' above him. He looked up to see the helicopter fall on the Clutha.

The Glasgow Herald and Scotsman pulled out all the stops as you'd expect,  the Mail had it as the Scottish splash and the Times  had a picture on its Scotland front page. The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent had nothing, the price of centralisaton down south.

But what was going on at the Aberdeen Press & Journal? A huge jolly puff, an iffy Black Friday splash and a single line of white on red pointing to the story on page 11. SubScribe was aghast to find there a full story and picture. If you can do it on page 11, you can do it on page 1. All it required was to clear the splash space for the crash and run the whole shopping nonsense on 5. Same number of pages to jig at last minute, but a better paper.

And here are a couple of the nationals' websites from this morning. As you see, the most in-demand photograph of 12 hours ago has passed  its sell-by date.

 Happy Saturday.



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The full Monty: the Local World vision and how it is already working

All images from
The theory

Good bosses have vision and drive. They recruit the right people and let them get on with their jobs. When planning changes they make sure that they involve colleagues and staff, first to enthuse them with their vision and then to encourage them to drive it forward.

Newspaper companies are not renowned for their inspirational leadership and man management. Most of us have complained of mushroom syndrome, but in the past we'd laugh and say 'journalists are lousy administrators'. When the corporate types with their Harvard degrees and bonding weekends and seminars moved in, the least we expected was efficiency. Some hope.

David Montgomery appears to combine the worst of the journalist manager and the corporate type with no idea of what producing a newspaper involves but plenty of ideas about how to cut costs.

His mission statement for the future of the Local World group of 100+ newspapers and websites was leaked to Press Gazette last week. It has alarmed and disappointed staff (who have been neither consulted nor informed), the industry in general, and those of us who still love or care about the Press from afar.

Alarmed because of its dismissiveness, not only of the efforts of his 2,800 staff, but also of the entire culture of newspapers. Disappointed because everyone recognises that radical change is needed to keep local media alive and the creation of Local World at the turn of the year brought hope of fresh minds and new beginnings.

Local World was formed by the purchase of the Northcliffe and Iliffe papers, bringing together a stable that served some 10 million people and putting it in the same league as Johnston Press, Newsquest and Trinity Mirror.

Montgomery was the man every media analyst and commentator wanted to interview this spring. How was he going to save us? Bit by bit, in appearances before MPs and assorted interviews, his ideas emerged. The first signs were not good, with talk of getting rid of subs, 'harvesting content', reducing the 'human interface' in news gathering. He was impressed by Norway, less by so one of his own evening papers, which he criticised for failing to the character and feel of the city it served. Community was to be paramount.

Back then Montgomery was working in partnership with Steve Auckland, who came from Northcliffe as chief executive.  But Auckland left the company suddenly last month - anything to do with The Vision? - and Montgomery took over the executive reins and a figurehead chairman is being drafted in.

The first tangible move after the change of ownership last year  was to homogenise the websites so that they all had identical templates, whether they were in Plymouth, Uttoxeter or Hull. Was that such a terrible thing? Maybe not. Most groups have done the same; templating makes it easier to build the site. Also, apart from the terrible ads on the home pages, the 'inside' pages are generally clean and attractive.

(One extraordinarily annoying feature of the sites - and those of rivals - is the double underlined word that looks like a hyperlink. Indeed, it is a hyperlink, but  to an unrelated advert rather than to useful background. Why would I want to know about a special offer on disposable nappies when I'm reading about a hospital's record for treating cancer?)

Then came job cuts, but these have been quite modest. Monty hasn't gone in there with his flail flying. However much we may view The Vision with distaste, we'd be jumping to unjournalistic conclusions to say that it necessarily means wholesale redundancies. It might, of course. But it might also mean the redistribution of staff so that they can work more effectively and produce better newspapers and websites. The document makes no mention of cuts, nor even of 'rationalisation'.

It would also be wrong to assume that the abolition of the roles of subs and news editors necessarily means that the people doing those jobs now will be out of the door. If Montgomery is serious about getting the best out of  people, he won't allow himself or his 'content directors' to typecast existing staff. People do not always take all their talents with them to the office and even those who do are often denied the chance to show them off. That grumpy sub could be the world's expert on pop music; those currently deskbound may - indeed should - be every bit as capable as the reporters of taking responsibility for a 'segment' or two.

The Vision does seem absurdly over-optimistic about what one person should reasonably be expected to do in running his or her 'segment'. The one that Montgomery  chooses to outline in some detail - the crime brief - looks unwieldy even before he adds responsibility for taste, legals and style to the burden. Well yes, reporters should be required to write in style, but the only editor I have ever known to have managed to enforce such a rule was Andrew Neil. They should also be able to recognise what is in good taste and to know their law.

But does Montgomery realise how time-consuming it is to deal with different officials and contacts, to chase down that final fact, how stories get held up waiting for that call back*? Now the reporter must also monitor - and take responsibility for - what complete strangers have posted on the site. Strangers who may not recognise the most interesting point in their story. Strangers who probably do not know, understand or respect the law, boundaries of taste or the newspaper's style. This seems to be a charter for the workaholic to drive him or herself into an early grave.

(*SubScribe contacted several Local World journalists for their views on the Montgomery document early on Monday morning. Thirty-six hours later, three had come back with their promised responses - after being nudged - and two are still pondering. The others, including an editor, deputy editor and news editor, have not replied at all. By the way, I'm still happy to hear from any of them!)

The emphasis on remote working and the abolition of newsdesks also risks destroying the camaraderie that comes through working for a common cause. Montgomery clearly cares nothing for the support network that is at the heart of a vibrant newsroom, dismissing it as the 'hydra-headed nanny'. Surely even today most youngsters who aspire to be journalists still have in their imaginations the buzz of the office, the cacophony of telephones?

OK, the adrenalin rush and comedown generated by an edition deadline has been diluted by the internet baby in need of constant nursing.
Yes, Fleet Street has been deserted.
It's true that regional newspapers are decamping to industrial sites as town centre offices are sold for development.
And yes, we've heard the doomsayers telling us to face reality;  that the newspaper industry is going the same way as coal, steel and manufacturing. But they are wrong.

This isn't just sentimentality or a hankering for 'typewriters, fixed-line phones and pencil-wielding subs shrouded in cigarette smoke'.  Print may be in terminal decline, but publishing isn't. And if we want to publish great stories, investigations, features, interviews that people will want to pay for, we must cling to some of the magic that brings a particular type of person into the profession.

Montgomery is right to want to cast his net wide in recruiting the next generation of journalists. Pity he says it should be 'graduate only'. Some of the most entrepreneurial and imaginative teenagers find that university doesn't suit them. As SubScribe wrote earlier this year, the shift to employing only those young people with high academic qualifications has shut the door on too many potential stars. I'm surprised that Monty, with his rejection of a standardised training procedure, has fallen into this trap.

It's a shame, too, that he denigrates his existing staff by declaring
'The objective is to professionalise the Content Department of all our franchise centres.'

Remember, this group includes top-notch titles whose reporters are already 'highly productive', as demanded by Monty. Look, for example, at the work done by Neil White's team at the Derby Telegraph on the Mick Philpott case.

Concerns have already been raised about this notion, which really sticks in the craw:
'a single individual, Content Manager, will skim largely online published content to create (a highly templated) newspaper in a single session'.
The language and principle are seriously worrying. They insult the editor, the paper and its readers, who would be offered nothing new for their 40 or 60p.

The description of how the senior journalist will work is also offensive in that it is largely an egg-sucking lesson in contact-building.
'As trust is developed ... a rich source of more traditional stories. The journalist will  maintain and develop this relationship'
 Montgomery writes as though no reporter had ever thought of building up a relationship with contacts or of becoming actively involved with schools, businesses or societies on their patch. Membership of key clubs and associations will now be mandatory for managing directors and editors and encouraged for all journalists. But the conclusion that  this
 'will give the publisher an unchallengable local knowledge and create a one-stop shop for content' 
and the earlier assertion
 'underpinning our model is the need to comprehensively serve every one of the communities with content that is rich and comprehensive so there is no place other than the local publisher that our audience and readers need to find'
are extraordinary in that they are grand restatements of the aspiration of every editor since time began.

The document is also naive in its hope that giving an organisation access to the Local World computer system will prevent it from telling anyone else its news. The crime reporter, for example, is supposed to ask the chief constable to use the paper as the main conduit for police information of every type. It may well be convenient for the editorial team not to have to input this material, but the police won't then tell the rival Bugle reporter to go away just because he comes calling with a notebook and pencil in hand.

And as to the workload...It is difficult to see how - even with a press officer typing in details of stolen bikes -  the crime reporter will be able to cover the police and the courts adequately, let alone take on 'immigration and other areas of life overseen by legislation'. That is asking one person to act as crime editor, home affairs correspondent and courts reporter. And not only that, there will be no second eye on his or her work, no sub to question inconsistencies, no one else to write the headlines, captions, standfirsts.

It would have been less frightening if The Vision had spoken not of one person taking on more than one segment, but of journalists working in small teams.

Montgomery is right that an environment reporter shouldn't need to be told that there's a storm coming - but news editors do more than tell reporters what they already know. They co-ordinate the whole operation. Readers can't be expected to  look up the contact details for every journalist on the paper; they want to be able to ring a central hub to share their stories. Under Monty's model, the editor will presumably be director of operations. His or her secretary is going to be very busy answering that fixed-line phone.

And another thing. It its many years since I worked on a local paper, so this may be outdated thinking, but isn't geography as important as subject specialisms in determining what individual reporters cover? A cluster of villages in the west of your territory may have very different priorities from those of the townies in the south.

If you want a sense of community, these differences need to be recognised. Can the political specialist cover every parish council as well as the city, district and county councils, not to mention the activities of the MP and MEP? Wouldn't it be better to keep the district reporters of old alongside the municipal and crime experts?

Montgomery clearly envisages the parish pump correspondents writing directly onto the site, but who would be most likely to file the copy?

The parish clerk.

And how does that square with the principle of disinterested scrutiny?

The language

One of the distressing features of the document is Montgomery's abandonment of any terminology that could be regarded as 'old journalism'. Indeed the only word to survive is 'journalist'. Here is a brief rundown of the new vocabulary:

Editor-in-chief                 Content director
Editor                              Content manager 
Reporter                          Senior journalist        
Editorial                           Content department
Newspaper group           Franchise
Newspaper                      Product
Speciality/patch/beat      Segment
Newsgathering                Sourcing/Harvesting content
Story                                 Content
Printed paper/website     Platform
Readers' copy                  UGC (user-generated-content)
PR/stringers/contacts      Providers of content

Putting it into practice

The Grimsby Telegraph was in the vanguard of the brave new Local World when it started to merge reporting and subbing roles in the summer. Its website seems to have adopted principles mooted in The Vision - demonstrating both interesting innovations and pitfalls.

A page has been set up for blogs, and writers from anywhere have the freedom to tackle any subject, not necessarily relating to the local area. A young reporter writes a post about not looking back with regret (and is rebuked in the comments for patronising older readers), a second writer pays homage to Sachin Tendulkar and David Suchet, while the Canon of Grimsby Minster writes about the royal baptism. The MP Austin Mitchell is not averse to using this virtual soap-box.

Newspapers have always pumped their wares out into the open, never to discover how most of them have been received. The splash or a misspelling might elicit comment or complaint, the funnies and the tragic spark debate in the pub, but most stories are just there.

The internet age has changed that. There are analytics for everything. We can therefore see that very few of the Telegraph's blogs are shared, tweeted or 'liked' and many comment threads are empty. Does anyone read them? Does anybody care?

The one that brought the most response - 17 comments - was a  post from deputy editor Michelle Hurst about the three-week closure of a local swimming pool. It reads rather like a leading article and raises an interesting and important point. Just as local newspapers are supposed to do.

But does it sit happily between a junior reporter writing about her Diana award and another writer commenting on Louth being designated a 'crap town'? (No likes, shares, tweets, comments for either).

Another of Monty's ideas is to give people outside his organisation access to Local World websites. This can be seen at work under the Telegraph's Local Projects tab. Click on this and you bring up a page that looks unlike anything else on the site - and very  like the site. 

This is a cute move. There is space for the school, scouts, dance group or whatever, to explain what they want to do, to update readers on progress and to thank backers. Six of the 25 projects featured on the page since March last year have been fully funded, ten have yet to win any support. Many of the schemes carry a 'crowdfund fruitshare' rosette, indicating that they are part of a national campaign started by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to get children to grow fruit trees at school.

Here you can see where Monty's world might have something going for it: instead of reporters spending hours writing up 20 stories on school fundraising efforts, the schools can update their own space here.
But reporters still need to keep an eye on these pages, just as they always have on the village pars, for good live stories that the children or their teachers may not recognise.

Someone should also be watching the 'community' and 'have your say' tabs. Last year, the 'community' page seemed to be working just as it should. People were agitated about the sale of the Salvation Army hostel and the fate of the plants in the closed Floral Hall. But the page has now been taken over by spammers. There are barely a handful of local issues raised in 46 pages dominated by people advertising kitchens for sale from all corners of the country.

There are only three pages of 'have your say' but they, too, have fallen victim to the spammers. Here we have a picture of the sunrise over Grimsby and a man saying 'thank you' to a woman who stopped to help when he was knocked over by a pavement cyclist - but the other notices are for another kitchen designer and from companies urging readers to unlock their pensions.

These pages desperately need moderating and reclaiming from the invaders, but are there enough staff around to fulfill the function? The pages also show how dangerous it is to allow outside interests free access to your site. These are comparatively harmless people selling kitchens and finance schemes. It is easy to imagine ambulance-chasing personal injury specialists, cash-for-gold pawnbrokers and the like jumping in too. But so might the dodgy dating sites, weightloss scammers and porn peddlers.

What the hacks say

Sadly, Michelle Lalor has not responded to requests for comments, but SubScribe would be delighted to hear from her. In the meantime, we have the views of three journalists from Local World titles across the country:  a writer who has been with her paper for 20 years, a sub and a recent recruit. Needless to say, they were all promised anonymity. This is what they had to say:

'The mood remains buoyant despite editorial cynicisms.
Monty's ideas sound bizarre. I can't see how they can stop regional papers plummeting into abyss. No matter who the boss is, there's no avoiding the fact that people don't buy. None of my non-journo pals read any now.
Old timers like me are hanging on, but i feel my days are numbered - with or without Monty.'

 'The reaction has been one of disbelief. Most feel frustrated at both the vision itself and the way it has been communicated, or rather withheld from most of the staff. 
In a recent survey of editorial staff, there was by no means an overwhelming confidence or trust in the senior management and this will only make matters worse.
Morale generally isn't great, despite talented, experienced and passionate members of a team that are trying to make the best of the situation.
Ever-increasing online targets set from above, more pressure on the print product as a result and the increasing number of hours needed to produce both products to the standard desired, is putting a huge strain on all departments and is stifling passion and creativity.
An investment in staff is needed to cope with increasing demand to maintain the product and expand digitally, with one eye on the future. The vision outlined is the polar opposite and makes for very worrying reading indeed.'

'I’m very happy in the new job here – we’ve a very good and engaged group of reporters, a newsdesk that helps us through everything and an editorial group prepared to fight our corner as much as their own.
I’ve just been hired at the same time as someone else, and that both of us are on a damn sight more than counterparts at Trinity or Newsquest papers should be seen as a positive thing I think. I’ve always had people to help me out when I’ve needed it, which not all fledgling hacks have. 
From my lowdown view things haven’t really changed dramatically. It seems to be business as usual more or less, with a few additional changes coming through. We’ve been implementing a few more digital things lately. I think it’s fair enough to expect reporters to use Twitter and have a smartphone for vox-pops, while saving the bigger jobs for the expert photographers.
In terms of the grander scale I think it’s a re-titling of subs, news editors etc. rather than a replacement, which is a major relief, as I think they’re absolutely essential to the smooth running of the place. If they went and we were sent out remotely, I would find it a lot harder to do my job.
Like many people the management-speak spooked me a bit, but my feeling is we’re already evolving well enough to inform as much as conform to senior ideas. So I’m confident we’ll carry on much as we are.
I don’t think we’re at panic stations yet.'



Friday, 22 November 2013

Montgomery's vision for his local papers - translated into plain English

David Montgomery: photograph from The Guardian

It's a tough job, but someone had to do it. David Montgomery has finally spelt out his vision for the Local World group of newspapers.

Strangely, for someone who has been a tabloid chief sub and editor of the News of the World, he seems to have difficulty with plain English. He chose instead to communicate with his staff in a mixture of jargon, cliche and soundbite. Maybe it was an initiative test. Maybe it was to mask the horror of what he plans to do.

He has deliberately thrown out all editorial terminology. The only word to survive is 'journalist' and this all-journalists-are-equal jack of all trades is for some reason designated a 'senior journalist'.

Editorial becomes the content department. Editors become content managers, news editors are swept away, as is anyone with sub in their title. No one will write stories or handle copy. Everything will be content. Newspaper titles become 'franchises' and they are, of course, published across many platforms. The newsroom becomes the office and it will be shorn of the experienced staff who help to train up cub reporters - the network dismissed by Montgomery as a 'hydra-headed nanny' must be decapitated. How jaundiced can you get?

Any reporter working for Local World will have to metamorphose into Superman or Wonderwoman when the new regime comes into effect. They will each have to be a multi-tasking a specialist, taking responsibility for covering every area of their subject from grass roots to international level. That includes writing, subbing and publishing in every format.

They won't have a desk in an office, but will have to work from home - which means subsidising the company by using their own heat, light, paper, printer cartridges etc.

There are many concerns about this 'vision', apart from the obvious worries about the workload and difficulty in maintaining quality, let alone lifting it.

If everyone is working solo, the papers will immediately lose the benefits of team thinking, idea sharing, camaraderie. Anyone who has worked remotely for any length of time will say that while it's nice to set your own hours and not have to commute, they miss the feeling of being part of the team that comes with going to the office.

More seriously, perhaps, is it wise to give so many outsiders access to your computer system?

And if they are posting material before it has gone through any editorial hands, what about legal worries?

But I'm sure that once you've read SubScribe's 'plain English' translation below, these and other pitfalls will soon become even more apparent.

The full text of the original can be seen on the Press Gazette website, along with some robust reaction.
If it's too much to take in one go, click on the subheads below and that should give you that section of Montgomery's 'essay'.

Role of the journalist

Apart from grand columnists writing for posh folk, journalism is a craft on a par with bricklaying. It’s stuck in a mould of everyone doing a specific job and newcomers have been indoctrinated.

This way of working has festered for so long that we need  a swift wholesale revolution. Technology will rule.
Local World journalists will have to do everything, often with no guidance from above.

We want to offer such rich and comprehensive coverage that no one needs to look anywhere else.
We can’t do that with the existing structure and just getting the readers to contribute won’t give us enough of the right stories. So we’re going to change the journalist’s job description, approach to news gathering and the way we publish stories. We will also change the way we recruit and train journalists.

Skills and tasks

Every journalist will be put in charge of a ‘segment’ and will have to deal with other people’s offerings as well as finding their own stories.  They must then assess them, write them, sub them and publish them on mobile, web, tablet, newspaper, Twitter, Google and anything else we can think of.

Most stories will come from unpaid stringers and various local vested interests who will put their copy directly into the system. The journalist will then have to make it look pretty, turn it into English and placate the contributors if they don’t like the result. Once the story is up online, the journalist can see whether it’s any good and turn it into a page lead or spike it.

Rotas and shifts will be abolished. Each journalist will work from home and be responsible for their ‘segment’ 24/7, 7 days a week.

We won’t accept anyone who isn’t tech-savvy – any 12-year-old can do it – every journalist must be a reporter, sub, editor, designer and be able to post stuff online and tweet about it. They must also have foot-in-the-door determination and be able to juggle a thousand tasks at once.

For example, the poor sap covering the police, crime and the courts will also have to take on traffic, underage drinking, immigration and other anything else that is covered by any law. They must be  highly productive and use their initiative to get stories. The crime hack should start out by offering the chief constable free access to the paper/website for all police propaganda, from photofits to stolen bikes and crime prevention campaigns, promising to make it look good and handing control of most of it to the police press office. Once the cops trust us, they’ll start giving us proper stories that people might like to read.  Don’t worry,  that won’t stop us criticising the police, but the journalist will be so pally with the cops that they won’t mind.

The same system will apply to other ‘segments’ such as health, education, business, sport and culture.  The stuff they put up on our system won’t be at all the sort of thing that people usually think of as stringer copy because it will come from professionals on the inside.

All journalists will be equal and they will all have a speciality. But if a jet crashes in the High St, then everyone will have to muck in.

The content manager/director

There will be only one executive layer above the journalist. The titles editor, news editor, chief sub will all disappear to replaced by content managers, who will have equal ranking. In small operations there may be only one – and they may not have an editorial background.

Well, actually there may be another layer. Instead of having an editor-in-chief, we will have a director of content, who won’t do any journalism but sit and have grand thoughts about strategy and how to give papers and websites built by template a distinctive feel. The man in the glass office won’t have time to worry about things like style, taste, legalities. That should all be the responsibility of the rank-and-file journalists.

The content director and managers should, however, be able to put a printed newspaper together single-handedly.  On smaller weeklies, the content manager should be able to regurgitate stuff that’s up online in a couple of hours.

On dailies, a handful of content managers will work in the office overseeing  the paper, website etc. There will be no news conferences, although journalists may pop into the office from time to time to brief the content manager or discuss stories. The newsdesk and news editors will be abolished. Specialists shouldn’t need them to tell them what’s going on in their patch locally, nationally or internationally.

Content managers will have to work closely with the publisher to make sure we make the most money possible from the stories we publish.

The content department

Everyone will have to keep thinking up new ways to make our papers and websites better. The boss class will have to come up with ideas that appeal to advertisers as well as readers and everyone will be given a digital measuring stick showing what people like, so they know what to publish in future.

Everyone will be required to join local organisations so they can persuade more people to put their guff up on our sites.

A local managing director will be in charge of the content and commercial directors, but the content chappie (editor) will carry the can if circulation falls or we don’t make money.
Journalists will be told as much so they up their game. They must be able to publish their stories directly and there will be no one to help if the system crashes.

Recruitment and training

We will recruit only highly literate graduates of exceptional creativity.  They must be inquisitive and have strong personalities and presentational skills. They will need management ability and a deep and broad general knowledge so that they can be sent off to work on their own without any backup as soon as possible. The newsroom of experienced hacks who traditionally guide a rookie through their early months - the 'hydra-headed nanny' - won't be there.

They won’t be taught how to write news stories; if they can text their friends all the time and be understood, they should be able to communicate.

Trainees will shadow senior journalists covering different ‘segments’, but they must start blogging on their first day.

Finally, all of this is on top of all the traditional journalistic practices. Everyone must be able to deal with anything we throw at them.

Oh dear, shame on me. It took three hours to read Monty's magnum opus, translate and post it here, complete with researching a picture and setting up hyperlinks. He expects his staff to be able to put together an entire weekly paper in that time. Best I don't apply for a job.
But I do wonder how long it took him to write the original.