Monthly Archives: November 2008

Video check for eagle-eyed copy editors

Bit of fun for subs and copy editors who are always asked to do things like ‘spot a literal at 50 paces’. Well, how good are you? I hold my hands up to say I failed at this ‘test your awareness’ video on YouTube. How will you do?

PS You’ll need the sound on to check your answer!

Is there a future for West Midlands media?

The quick answer is yes – but with 3 provisos (based on what was said tonight at the Birmingham Press Club’s Does The Regional Media Have a Future? in Birmingham):

  • that journalists don’t expect the same levels of payment

  • media organisations don’t expect the same level of revenue

  • the audience doesn’t expect the same level of quality 

Rather than take the traditional news inverted pyramid style, here’s my curated, bitesize, online-friendly 3x3x3 approach:


3 things that say West Midlands media is stuck in the past:

  • The first 45 minutes were devoted to free wine, beer and food (nice ‘n’ all but…)

  • The first 10 minutes were given over to a DVD compilation of Birmingham’s glorious print and TV past – featuring, bizarrely, images of New Faces, Pot Black and Basil Brush!

  • The panel was made up of seven white males over the age of 30 (I’m being kind)

3 things that show how West Midlands media is struggling with the present:

  • Ownership issues – both panellists (details of whom below) and PRs in the audience seemed stuck on news being filtered through traditional media outlets, whereas these are no longer the only option but among the many now bringing news to the marketplace.

  • The poor freshly qualified, tech-trained journalism student, whose skills are theoretically in demand as newspapers go multimedia, only to find there is no job for her in cost-cutting organisations.

  • Recent redundancies – the statistics across all media given out by the panel were appalling but the consensus is that the money isn’t there and is moving online.

And finally (in honour of Trevor McDonald, whose last night it is on ITV news – he’s obviously getting out just in time), 3 things to remind us of the future:

  • Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail, taking pics on his Nokia 96 for his blog/paper (I’d like to think he was live tweeting but didn’t see him text).

  • There were no pure bloggers represented in the audience – in the straw poll of around 70 attendees, most were from print media with only 2-3 online journalists (both with just ‘a foot in’) – showing perhaps that the conversation is taking place elsewhere.

  • Mike Owen, ex of BRMB Radio, talking for a Jamaican minute on how Marconi came to the market in the 1920s with the radio and said, ‘Come on you lot, give us something to put on it’. Media organistations obliged. Now the internet is here, there’s a new tool in town. What are they going to do?

For those ‘lucky’ journos still in a job, more pressure is falling on the dwindling number who are left doing all the work several times over in multiple formats. Like poor Tony Collins, education correspondent of the Mail, who was tasked with taking pix of the event on his staff Nokia.


As for me, judging by the questions, I might have to set up as a Twitter consultant! (@katchooo, if you’re ahem hip to the Twit!).


And for next year, let’s hope the debate concentrates more on the future and less on the past. I also hope that regional journalists get sussed by reading the likes of Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, Dan Gillmor or any number of other respected commentators on the digital revolution. Because after the printing press arrived there was 100 years of turmoil – so it’s going to be a rocky ride.


Notes to those who’ve read this far:

Transparency declaration: I’ve worked as a casual sub at Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Sunday Mercury, and also still write travel pieces for them. 


The debate was open and hosted by the Birmingham Press Club, which wants to make the discussion an annual event. It was attended by 70-80 people: several from TV and radio, most from print journalism and PR, some from local or regional government, 4 media students and 2 freelance online journalists.


The panel was made up of host Peter Tomlinson, ex of Tiswas and who now heads up communications for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – ohmigod Wikipedia says:

He is the son of actor David Tomlinson, star of Bedknobs & Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.[2]

I so hope that is true – he was charming! 


Panellists were Marc Reeves, editor of the Birmingham Post; Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail; Laurie Upshon, news and operations director of Central TV (1990-2005); Mike Owen, former programme controller at BRMB; and Chris Morley, NUJ regional organiser. Also, Chas Watkins, head of local/regional programming for the BBC.


ends (old skool but I likes it) 

Quick unthought-out thought

Would online subbing or copy-editing stand as a separate operation or service? One that produces story-specific facts checked by a team of online sub-editors who check back to the source, cite them, note the current level of verification and update online in real time. One that also offers a paid-for, story-by-story service to news organisations who’ve sacked their subs or need top-up help?

Not sure but ended up blurbing on about it anyway in my response to Chris Cramer of Reuters on editorial integrity in the new world.

My first live tweet session…

…can be found at Irrationally I feel like a proud parent – despite all the spilling arrors.

My Oscars-style task was to announce the nominees and the winners of Birmingham Council’s Chamberlain Awards in real time, running around the hall to grab a few winners’ quotes and adding in a wraparound of what it all looked/sounded/smelled/etc like – well as much as 140 characters of Twitter would allow. Twitpics (no defamation – that’s the app!) allowed winners’ photos to be posted instantly.

The pluses: friends and family at home were able to get the news first hand, the press got real-time quotes and news, I had great fun.

The cons: has there yet been a live-blogged event in B’ham (or anywhere else for that matter) where wifi hasn’t gone down? There were 80+ tweets in the end but could have been a lot more if it wasn’t taking 5 mins a time to upload a single update. At one point I was three awards behind and trying to take notes while tweeting. I thank the Buddha no one asked any questions but used it as a newswire only – I had to skip the dessert course as it was.

Links [15 Sept-18 Nov 2008]

Getting into full swing on delicious these days:

How removing links can land you in court

Step 1: The New Statesman removes links to Wikileaks after the threat of a libel action by the subject of the post – an Iraqi-born businessman.

Step 2: Wikileaks (who weren’t threatened with the same court action) accuses The New Statesman’s link removal as defamation because they say it suggests their content was inaccurate.

Step 3: Watch your poor sub-editing back at every turn!

Full story on The Register

So you think you’re a good sub?

Would you have checked the Sarah ‘Africa is a country’ Palin story? Turns out this top tale is a hoax anecdote by a fake advisor to McCain, name of Martin Eisenstadt – allegedly checkable with a bit of surfing around the online joint. The wind-up perps, real names Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish, blame sloppy work by traditional news media and by bloggers:

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish.

Maybe just mention this story if any web types tell you that checks and edits are a ‘nice to have’.

It actually got me feeling sorry for the hockey mom. More on the story at the NY Times

PS I can see a potential future of disclaimers – ‘Status for this story: unverified’. For copy editors, perhaps the line is: if the story sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

PPS Status of this post: unverified and slung up as soon as I heard the news from BhamPostJoanna on Twitter. Cheers Jo G ;)

Obama: 10 funny headlines…

…and captions, story links, blog posts, videos and animations on the man with the initials B.O.

  1. Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress (The Onion)
  2. Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job (The Onion)
  3. “All right, now what do I do?” (Uncyclopedia)
  4. Obama a Maria Carey fan (The Hindu)
  5. Bark Obama the speaking dog (who’s actually called Herpe, watch him woof Obama here!)
  6. Time To Take The White People’s Guns! (Wonkette; see the animation at Get Your War On)
  7. Obama Prays To Baby Jesus All The Time (Wonkette)
  8. Australia to invade US if Obama elected (Dead Brain)
  9. Black/Brown Prime Minister? (from the lovely Speak You’re Branes)
  10. Obama – f**kin legend (ok this so was my niece’s Facebook status, sue me.)

Google wants more copy editors – not less!

Why? Because its Googlebots aren’t able to do the job of traditional editors and are, in fact, at the mercy of misinformation published direct to Web by news companies in the rush to inform.

Incorrect tagging and unchecked facts have led to major problems, as reported on the editorsweblog following the World Editors Forum.

Despite the ongoing deletion of subs/copy editors from newsrooms, it turns out that Google’s reps at the WEF reckon editors and fact-checking are more important than ever.

It’s a thought backed up by Pete Clifton, senior BBC News exec, who supports journalist gate-keepers (aka editors?) for processing its UGC:

It’s gone through all the filters that our journalism would have gone through. It’s quite labour intensive. We’ve another arm of our newsgathering operation – it can ultimately add to the richness of what we do, but we shouldn’t take it lightly.

Because taking it lightly would compromise the brand’s trustworthiness as well as making it potentially legal liable.

Can’t help thinking that although subs are seen as an editable expense at the moment, those who find money in the budget for them will win in the long run, because, y’know, you like to know where to go to get the facts. Or am I deluding myself?

Would you sub the Welsh?

boingboing1With more redundancies announced today at the Evening Standard and the Independent, perhaps there’s a burgeoning career for someone copy checking road signs?

The Welsh apparently reads, “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” It all went wrong following an automated email response – full story here.