Course calendar

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ex-trainee watch

It's always nice to see what our ex-trainees are up to. Here's Mark Hudson of The Sun becoming the new Jeremy Beadle/Harry Hill.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The reader in control on iPad

The clock is ticking on the launch of the iPad which goes on sale officially next Friday May 28.

I say officially as I saw one shop on Edgeware Road in London selling both 32gb and 64gb versions yesterday, presumably imported from the States.

The general consensus is that tablet devices are a huge opportunity for the publishing sector.

There is a good analysis of its potential impact by Kristine Lowe who encourages publishers to see what they are producing as apps, not as a magazines or newspapers.

The key is the reader is really in control, she argues.

That will require fresh thinking by those who have spent their working lives ordering content and presenting information in static form.

But journalists are used to adapting and given the right training, it's going to be fascinating to see which publishers make the most of the exciting opportunities the next generation of tablet PCs offer. (TJ)

Here's a look at the FT's planned iPad app.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New skills for tomorrow's reporters

Hopefully you were able to follow a very interesting debate at the latest Westminster Media Forum on the future of news media.

The gist of what I said during the panel on training, standards and citizen journalism is covered by Press Gazette.

But what was interesting from the overall theme of the discussion was that journalism and editorial standards are as crucial in the new world as ever they were in the pre-digital age.

Journalists will require more skills and underpinning knowledge going forward according to nearly every speaker.

My list of requirements was:
  • Numeracy to allow better use of freely available data
  • Technology to allow journalists to control the means of digital production
  • Enterprise skills to help find ways of making journalism pay
As I am currently planning the syllabus for courses for next year, it would be great to hear views about the relative importance of each of these; what there should be less of, perhaps, and what else might be included in the list. (TJ)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Applying for a job in journalism? Read this

Just finished interviewing for the Daily Mail reporters' training scheme at Northcliffe House. More than 900 applicants whittled down to 40, then 14 and finally 7. My colleagues have also finished recruiting for the sub-editing scheme and have selected five would-be Mail PJs. Congratulations to all. We will see them all again in August and September when the training schemes begin at Press Association Training's Manor House in Howden.
One thing that struck me through the recruitment though, was how many people fall short in their CVs and even in their interviewing techniques. So, I thought it might be useful to share some do's and don'ts when putting together your application. Take a look here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trainees take poll position

TRAINEE reporters on the Newcastle Press Association course have been wearing out their shoe leather on the election beat.

Eight intrepid volunteers blitzed the marginal seat of Tynemouth which the Tories are hoping to win back from Labour.

In a mammoth effort the group carried out a straw poll of 900 people in a day.

It looked like the vox pop from hell but they were determined not to be beaten. Each trainee had a target of 100 people to stop and ask two questions of. Every one of them hit their target and two or three went well beyond it.

Pollster supreme Tom Bristow brought back 180 responses.

The survey was carried our on behalf of The Journal which published the responses on Saturday.

One of the trainees on the course missed out on the chance to meet everyone in Tynemouth. Morgan Sheridan was excused boots because she managed to get an interview with Eddie Izzard.

Morgan was doing a video of Eddie in a coffee house while the rest of the team were putting in the hard miles. But that’s showbiz. (PJ)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Parky feels sorry for young journalists

Sir Michael Parkinson, who started on a local newspaper when he was 16, has said he feels sorry for young people entering journalism today.
Sir Michael, presenting the
National Association of Press Agencies awards in London last night, said: "I look back on 60 years now as a hack with great pleasure and great fondness because it was a very rich and different time for journalists.
"Today I feel sorry for the younger generation, not in a patronising way, but because we all know about how this industry has changed for the worst, with fewer papers and fewer opportunities." Nice piece by
Jon Slattery on Parkinson's views.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trainee lands first splash

Trainee Jack Maidment has scooped his fellow delegates on our Newcastle foundation course by landing the first splash story of the 17-week programme.

He managed to pull in an interesting story about pensioners fixing their own retirement dates which was made the lead in The Journal newspaper.

One of the things that sets our training course apart from many others is the chance the trainees get to work on real stories during their time with us.

We normally get dozens published in the three newspapers and associated NCJ Media websites during the life of each course.

Getting a story strong enough to lead one of the titles though is always an achievement.

Jack said: "It's a really big deal for me. The Journal is a leading paper and to have my byline on the splash is fantastic."

We are continuing to work towards the August 30 launch date for our sister course in the London offices of the Press Association which will mirror the Newcastle course. (TJ)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here is a great example of both the power of Twitter as a communication tool and why reporters and newsdesks not using it are missing out.

As raiders tried to relieve a local jewellery shop of its goods, citizen journalists sprang into action taking pics and tweeting from their mobile phones.

The Uckfield News records how reports of the raid started appearing in the Twittersphere within minutes, while traditional media lagged behind in reporting what was an important story for the area.

Key learning point for pro journalists? When stories break, updates and first hand accounts will probably be on Twitter first and knowing how to use hash tags to find the info and following the right people is now a key piece of underpinning knowledge.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Times for old Times sake

All credit to the Paid Content website for getting a sneak preview of the new-look Times websites. All industry eyes will be following the fortunes of The Times and other News International titles who are scuttling off behind a paywall in June.
The initial design would appear to be more like a newspaper than previous web incarnations. Presumably with no need to chase passing visitors to boost unique user and 'time spent on site' numbers the imperatives of web design (plenty of teasers, links, two-tiered navigation, related stories etc) it would appear to allow a more printed newspaper-like approach. It's simple. And clean. But will readers be prepared to pay £1 a day or £2 a week?
Compare and contrast - in no more than 100 words please.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Essential Walter Greenwood

Walter (centre) receives his award from Olympic gold medalist Amy Williams and BBC presenter John Humphrys.

Congratulations to Walter Greenwood who received the Journalists' Charity Special Award at the British Press Award last night. Walter has saved the skins of countless hacks as co-author of Essential Law For Journalist and as a media law advisor. He was also co-founder of the Thomson Regional Newspapers training centre in Newcastle (which is now one of our training centres) and until last year was head of the NCTJ law board. He still marks our law exam papers. Press Association Training's media law trainer, and current co-author of Essential Law, David Banks said of Walter: "He has done more than anyone to keep the courts open to the press and to stop the erroneous placing of restrictive orders by misguided judges and magistrates. And to top it all he's a true gentleman and a fantastic mentor to generations of journalists."
It was also great to see one of our former trainees Jon Swaine on stage as part of the victorious Telegraph team. Jon trained in Howden on the first multimedia course that we ran for the Daily Telegraph and was a nominee for Young Journalist of the Year. Other former trainees who were nominated for awards were Guy Basnett, Andrew Gregory, Fiona Cummins and Sarah Tetteh. Finally, a special mention to Press Association photographer Stefan Rousseau who won Photographer of the Year. Well done to them all. Full list of winners. Boris Johnson's speech

Anyone fancy a kebab?

I'm sure when newspaper circulation departments gather up their papers and collect their bills for display outside newsagents, the last thing on their minds is whether the headline might be appropriate for the location. This bill from The Argus in Brighton made me smile. What's not obvious from the picture is that it's right outside a kebab shop.
It has to be said it's one of Brighton's better purveyors of the nations favourite after pub grub. I don't think the owners would have been too chuffed about the location of this particular bill.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fingers crossed for award hopefuls

The Daily Telegraph trainees, 2007, with Press Association Training's Mike Watson (left): Jon Swaine - in the blue shirt - is in line to win the Young Journalist of the Year award in the British Press Awards on Tuesday.

Good luck to all the nominees in the annual British Press Awards on Tuesday evening.We have three entrants in the Young Journalist of the Year Category and two nominated for the Showbiz Reporter of the Year award.

Potential young journalist recipients are:

Ex Newcastle foundation course delegates Guy Basnett, now with the News of The World who was a trainee with the Chester Chronicle when he was with us, before he moved to The Journal, Newcastle.

Andrew Gregory, The Daily Mirror, is also nominated. He was a Mirror graduate trainee who took our 16-week course.

And Jon Swaine, Daily Telegraph, was in the first intake of Telegraph trainees who took the training course we ran for the Telegraph three years ago in Howden, East Yorkshire.

The entrants in the Showbiz Reporter of the Year award are Fiona Cummins, Daily Mirror, who was also a Mirror graduate trainee and Sarah Tetteh, Daily Mirror, who was sponsored through the Newcastle course by Trinity Mirror South. The awards ceremony takes place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London. Walter Greenwood, former co-editor of Essential Law for Journalists, is to receive a lifetime achievement award at the same event. Despite being in his 80s, Walter still marks law papers for us in Newcastle. We are delighted his huge efforts in guiding journalists through the legal pitfalls are being honoured in this way.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCTJ backs London course

Great news for us that the NCTJ has decided to accredit our new London foundation course.
The awarding body’s board granted the award after an industry panel undertook a full assessment of the proposal for the new programme.
Securing accreditation was crucial before we could launch on August 30.
It means delegates will study for the full NCTJ syllabus and sit NCTJ preliminary exams as part of the course.
Our trainers have worked with them on our Newcastle course for a number of years and we are very pleased that the board recognised the strength of our proposal. It is quite unusual for them to accredit courses before they launch so this is a a clear indicator of the faith they have in us to deliver.
The panel remarked on the highly practical learning environment, its close link to the real world of journalism and most importantly, the fantastic track record of trainees securing jobs in the sector.
So we are now able to go full steam ahead for the launch. There is plenty still to do but this is a big hurdle out of the way.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Subbing down the subjunctive

Curveball question on a subbing course his week - can you define 'the subjunctive' clearly in one (or maximum two) sentence? All contributions gratefully received.

Friday, March 12, 2010

No escaping the iPad's Wow factor

Apple has now said the iPad should be over here by the end of April. The rumoured price is £499. Exciting times ... but what will it really mean for journalists? A lot more work? Another platform that they will need to learn? It will be particularly interesting to see how the regionals respond. As Peter Preston said in The Observer: "This isn't a revolution, let alone salvation. And it will surely be more diffused – and costly – as competition ploughs along the same road." Nevertheless, it is a huge step on the way to the genuinely portable newspaper. Take a look at these collated by The Guardian. We were particularly impressed by Sports Illustrated. Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fact checking takes story off the radar

A nice win for good old-fashioned journalism is nicely told on Advancing the Story an American broadcast journalism blog.
The nub of the story was a rumour that US Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts was about to resign for 'personal reasons'. The story was published on the gossip site Radar Online. Respected news blogs including the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report even linked to it. But news organisations got their journalists to do what journalists are supposed to do. They checked their facts.
And guess what? It wasn't true. Here's an interesting anecdote from the blog:
That night, NBC’s Brian Williams told a black tie dinner in Washington, DC, that his network’s Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had knocked the entire story down in about seven minutes. “Let’s just call it ‘primary sourcing,’” Williams said.
Turns out it was a hoax, set up by a law professor to illustrate to his students something about the credibility of informants. You can read the whole post here.
As the good professor said himself: “Information is easy. Facts are very tough."
The antics of The Yes Men, who managed to dupe the BBC over Bhopal, and more recently the Starsuckers who duped tabloids into believing various made-up stories, show that it's not just online gossip sites that can be caught with their metaphorical trousers down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What now for Regional Press Awards?

The Regional Press Awards have been 'rested' this year. Press Association Training's Peter Sands, who is also chairman of the judges in the awards, explains why he is disappointed in the decision - and is soliciting your views on how they can be resurrected next year.

Book now for free live design seminar online

We are offering a series of free training masterclasses live on the web. The first of the 20-minute seminars will be How To Redesign A Newspaper. Peter Sands will talk through the redesign process, identify pitfalls, show examples and take questions. It will be live on the web, using Livestream Technology, at 1pm on Friday March 19. You can watch the seminar from your office or even from home but places are restricted to 50. If you would like to book a place contact Head of Press Association Training, Tony Johnston, on for details.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're on Facebook

I was presenting to a group of International MA students recently and did an impromptu survey of social media habits.
Surprisingly, only two of the 14 used Twitter, one still used My Space and two, from China were active on a Chinese social networking site.
When I asked who used Facebook, all 14 hands shot up.
On that basis, it's about time that we had our own presence on there so today we have gone live with a Facebook page for our Foundation courses in London and Newcastle.
Hopefully it will become a network for past trainees to keep in touch. We love to hear about their various successes.!/profile.php?v=wall&ref=search&id=100000773756382

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's an apostrophe catastrophe

Some academics think it should be abolished, all greengrocers should be made to take compulsory training on its use, and most young journalists don't understand why we get so up tight about it. The apostrophe causes more confusion and cock-ups than almost any other punctuation in the English language. So here at the Pencil Sharpener we were heartened to see that there is a website dedicated to it's (sorry) its misuse.
Great fun for all those like me who feel like grabbing sign writers by the throat when they put apple's and pear's, off license and (one spotted in Brighton, I kid you not) 'two Italian bottels of wine'.
For those looking for a fun way to learn how to use the little blighter, there's a great flow chart from a one-man entertainment machine The Oatmeal (pictured) who does great humorous cartoons and illustrations about all aspects of modern living.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The web/print divide still going strong

One of the biggest opportunities denied to most working newspaper journalists, is to develop new ways to display material on the web.
In our web training courses, we spend time drawing things to imagine how they might display on a web page.
We do it for a number of reasons; it stimulates creative thinking, sparks debate and highlights some of the gaps in expertise that will have to be filled if newspapers are to survive.
A simple example of this different way of thinking comes from
The Times map display of their hotel reviews. It's not big or clever, but it works. How many newspaper journalists do you know who could take the original content from the archives, design, build and then publish them in this form? And what does it say about the skills we have in the newsroom?
I had a conversation recently with a news editor about a great bit of web content. I complimented him and his team for a great bit of work. "Nothing to do with me mate," he replied. "Our web editor got it from a local blogger." Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Tweet is a long time in politics

We are at the broadsheet Sunday Tribune in Dublin this week where the dominant story is a fascinating mix of old and new media - spiced up with a bit of sex and politics. It goes like this. Weekly newspaper the Limerick Leader interviews defence minister Willie O'Dea who falsely accuses a rival of running a brothel. He then denies saying such a thing in court. The Leader releases the transcript of the interview - and O'Dea is done up like a kipper. Remarkably he survives a vote of no confidence. But then the Government's coalition partners change their mind. How do we know? Their leader, Dan Boyle, sends out a Tweet, after the vote, which says: "As regards to Minister O'Dea I don't have confidence in him. His situation is compromised. Probably be a few chapters in this story yet." O'Dea resigns 24 hours later.
The story wouldn't have broken at all if it wasn't for traditional reporting by Limerick journalist Mike Dwane. And if it wasn't for the spontaneous reaction on Twitter, O'Dea may still be in office. It all serves as a reminder of why journalists need to use social media - there is a lot being said out there. But more importantly, it is a reminder why newspapers need to continue to invest in good reporting backed up by full transcripts (be they shorthand or digital).
Social media footnote: There is now a campaign on Facebook - mainly supported by women - to have the dashing O'Dea appointed the next President of Ireland. So far there are 424 followers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Photoshop's 20th birthday

Happy birthday Photoshop ... 20 years old yesterday. Where would we be without it? Lots to enjoy on the web including Streakr and adobe tv. If you really have time to kill you can watch a full film of Thursday's 20th anniversary party in San Francisco (all two hours of it) on Photoshop 20th party. Even if you're not a geek the Russell Brown presentation is very clever.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Radio training pays off

Our radio skills training progamme, which is helping establish a community radio station in east Hull, is starting to produce some great results.
One of our trainers, Andrew Glover, has now completed two workshops with volunteers intersted in working on the Radio Musiker project.
The scheme is being funded by the Targeted Support Fund and the Transformation Fund.
Andrew has so far completed two training days with volunteers and for people with no prior experience of radio, the results are impressive. Click on the file below to hear an example of the content being produced.

There is still space on the training programme. For further information contact them on 07739 864430 or through their website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Buy a new font and help Haiti

A new font has been created for Font Aid IV to benefit the people of Haiti. The font is made up only of ampersands - to represent people coming together to help each other. It only costs $20, less than £13. If every newspaper and magazine bought the font it would make a real difference. Details are at Typesociety. ALL proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders

Former Press Association trainee shows how to challenge court rulings

Claudia Tanner, not long out of our Newcastle training scheme, has shown the way for young reporters everywhere after she persuaded magistrates to overturn a court order to name a teenager convicted of grievous bodily harm.
The identity of 15-year-old Kyle Farrell, who pushed another youngster off a 20ft high sea wall leaving him with life-threatening injuries, would have remained anonymous but for the intervention of Hull Daily Mail reporter Claudia.
Claudia handed a note to the legal clerk at Bridlington Magistrates Court after Farrell was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a 14-year-old boy by pushing him off the sea wall in Bridlington.
At the time of the incident, the teenagers were with a group of around 20 youngsters who were tombstoning – a controversial pastime which involves jumping from large heights into the sea.
Claudia's note highlighted the fact that the victim, who landed on concrete steps after being pushed, could have died from his injuries which included a broken neck, fractured skull, a bleed on the brain and a punctured lung,
She argued that the order under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act banning Farrell from being identified should be lifted as the case was a matter of public interest. She also cited the general principle of open justice with appropriate case law to back it up.
Claudia said: "I was ready to argue that Farrell had committed a serious offence and I had also been told by the detective in charge of the case that the boy's mother was very upset and wanted justice to be done, which could be argued involves naming and shaming the offender.
"But the judge asked no further questions and quite quickly decided that it was a serious enough case to warrant the naming of Farrell."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

World's best designed papers?

The world's best designed newspapers were named this week. Two of the top three are German, all are big read newspapers with traditional titlepieces, serif display and have swathes of space to play with. There isn't a tabloid or compact to be seen. Equally scarce are any advertisements. The winners, chosen, from 240 entries, are der Freitag (Berlin), Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, and The New York Times. It's a real accolade for der Freitag which is a weekly with a circulation of 12,400. Take a look at the pages in detail on Flickr on Society for News Design and let us know what you think.

London course launch

After months of planning, we are finally going public on our proposal to launch a new foundation course in multi media journalism in London.

Our Newcastle course has been in existence for 41 years and will continue to run twice per year.

The London course will be a mirror image and provide a route into journalism for those who prefer to train in the south east.

It will be based in the Press Association training centre which is just one floor below the main PA newsroom offering those attending the course a unique opportunity to learn new skills at the heart of a major international media business.

This new course is a great addition to our portfolio and we look forward to welcoming the first cohort on August 30th this year.

We hope to be able to annouce the course's accrediation by the NCTJ shortly,

For more information see TJ

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mail trainee advert

Advert for Daily Mail/MoS trainee reporters is in The Guardian today You will need a CV, six cuttings and a 200-word article on why you want to be a Mail journalist. You can send applications in writing or via email to

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shocking statistic ...

... from Peter Preston in the Observer. Number of working journalists killed on duty through the noughties: 725.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daily Echo captures cup violence

Good piece of on-the-spot video from the Daily Echo in Southampton

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mail looking for trainee reporters

The Mail's reporters' training scheme will begin at the end of August. An advert is going in Media Guardian on Monday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mail subbing training scheme runs again

For the last seven years the Daily Mail has recruited trainee subs, sent them to Press Association Training for five weeks intensive subbing training, followed by a secondment to a big regional newspaper. If they make the grade, which the vast majority do, they land a sub's job at Northcliffe House. The scheme is running again this year and the Mail is recruiting now. The advert was in The Guardian on Monday Mail training scheme.
The closing date is March 5. The reporters training scheme, which began two years ago, is also running again.
Details soon.

Wrongly-named pop golfer needs a friend to get him out of this Premiership mess

It's hard to disagree with the excellent Fleet Street Blues blog that this from Liverpool Confidential is possibly one of the worst pieces of journalism seen so far this year. They defy anyone to understand what this story is about.
A TERRIBLE mix-up has left a city Premiership football club “red faced” and a newspaper denying all knowledge after the wrong pop star didn't play at a school in Liverpool. Following the success of American folk legend James Taylor's circus workshop at St Sebastian's primary school, Edge Lane, last month, and womanising champion golfer Sam Taylor Wood's appearance at a film premiere here last November, education bosses were “keen” to celebrate being the most improved council in the county with a series of low key cultural concerts in city schools.
If you need some help you can read the full post here:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Same difference?

A friend has just asked me what's the difference between a blog and a website. Until today I never had a problem answering. A new Blogger feature has thrown a spanner in the works. But more of that later.
There are probably three things that distinguish a blog from a website:
1. Personality - blogs are personal. They can be instructive, educational, entertaining, useful, annoying or (often) pointless, they belong to somebody and are a reflection of who they are. Perez Hilton's celebrity blog is a case in point.
2. Interactivity - some blogs are conversational. Some are controversial. Some are funny or sad, and some, like The Pencil Sharpener are a source of information, expertise, entertainment and discussion. Even The Drudge report which at first glance looks like a random collection of links, relies heavily on involvement from visitors who suggest relevant articles for posting on the site.
3. Navigation - Blog posts are displayed chronologically, with the newest item first. Until recently this, the use of tags or labels, and an archive feature were usually all the tools you were offered to find your way around.
Peter Sands, fellow Pencil Sharpener blogger, has brought to my attention the new 'pages' gadget on Blogger. We can (and will) now add some extra navigation to specific pages or themes. Is this the beginning of the end of the static, stand alone website as we know it?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Good luck to the editors ...

... from the Daily Trust who have spent two weeks at our offices in London. They have learned everything from the subbing masterclass and the editor's chair courses with Peter Sands, Jonathan Grun, Tony Johnston and Andy Drinkwater and we have learned a huge amount about Nigerian newspapers and culture. They fly back tomorrow to 35 degrees and a group that believes first and foremost that good journalism sells newspapers. Good luck to them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ex-trainee watch

Good to see Sathnam Sanghera from the Times in the Press Gazette's poll on the UK's Top 50 comment journalists. Sathnam was at the Editorial Centre in Hastings (now part of Press Association Training) in the 90s.
The PG had drawn up a strong list of commentators
Matthew Parris, Simon Jenkins, Quentin Letts, and Polly Toynbee are joined in the top 5 by Jeremy Clarkson,who was voted for by the public but not by any journalist on the panel. Journalists out of step with the readers, who would believe it?
On our list, but not on the PG's are:
The Grey Cardigan (Press Gazette) - compulsory reading for all journalists. Sums up the industry in a way that others fear to tread.
Charles Sale (Daily Mail Sport) - continually breaks stories that would make the back page. Needs a bigger show.
Lucy Kellaway (FT) - does a first class job lampooning the excesses of management-speak.
If there are any other notables missing from the list let us know and we will give them a mention.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Canon 7D could be a video star

We’ve been training non-broadcast journalists on video cameras for more than four years now and were the first UK training company to see the importance of print journalists being able to shoot video.

Most of our early courses focused on equipping writers with the ability to use a video camera. The thinking was that photographers were too busy capturing stills to think video and carrying more kit just wasn’t practical.

Slowly, over time, though, more and more photographers came on our courses. What they lacked in video know-how they made up for in the ability to spot was works visually and what doesn’t.

I’ve just had a chance to see first hand a camera that will probably have all stills photographers now being asked to shoot video drooling with delight.

The Canon EOS 7D looks like a digital SLR, feels like a digital SLR, takes the highest quality still photos like the best digital SLRs and just happens to shoot broadcast quality video too.

Some of the results being achieved are quite stunning and to switch from shooting still to video all you do is flick one switch.

Skywalker Ranch from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

It does have some downsides which those used to more traditional video cameras won’t like.

The audio options are limited and the viewing screen you have to use when using the video option is embedded in the back of the camera and will be hard to see in bright sunlight. It’s heavy too and you’ll probably need to use a tripod all the time.

But photographers used to the look and feel of a traditional camera body will love it, and it will mean them carrying just one piece of kit not two if they are asked to shoot both still and moving pics.

Our video trainer, Christina Fox, a broadcast cameraman never more than a few feet from a Sony Z5 or V1 was so impressed she bought one. Praise indeed. Read her full review here.


The journalist of the future

At Press Association Training we are constantly reviewing our course offering to meet the demands of the changing market. One of the biggest challenges is understanding how needs are changing - particularly with the communications industry in a state of almost constant change.
There is still strong demand for traditional skills, news writing, story-gathering and subbing for journalists; while the PR and communications industry is still keen to learn about the basics of sending a press release or planning a campaign.
New research would seem to indicate that the media is in a similar quandary in terms of what skills they want from their recruits. An American publication that goes by the splendid name of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator has just completed a study into what 'traditional' and 'non-traditional' media employers want. These two excerpts would seem to suggest that a much broader range of skills is now required to carve out a successful media career. In between the Americanese there are some useful insights:
Traditional news media were still most interested in hiring new employees with nontechnical routine expertise,” such as solid writing skills, working under deadline, editing, teamwork and communication skills, and Associated Press Style. About equally, however, they also were seeking employees with “technical routine expertise,” such as content posting and management, image editing, blogging, video editing, and social media knowledge.
...and in 'non-traditional' news media?
Nontraditional online news media were as interested in nontechnical routine expertise as traditional news media, but less interested in routine technical expertise (perhaps because they assumed new employees already had such skills or that they could be easily taught). Instead, nontraditional online news media were significantly more interested in hiring employees with adaptive expertise, such as knowledge outside journalism/mass communication, creativity, independent and critical thinking, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.

This would all suggest what we've been saying at Press Association Training for some time now, that the journalist of the future will need to have a much broader range of skills and more importantly a much better grasp of how the world is changing around them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Regional Press Awards looking positive

Pleased to report that the Regional Press Awards look likely to go-ahead. Last year some newspapers felt going to London to celebrate was inappropriate against a background of cost cutting and job losses. Clearly, without the support of the big regional players, the awards couldn't survive. This year though there has been a positive response - a sign that things are getting better. The awards date is likely to be in June. We will let you know here when anything is decided.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back to the paywall drawing board

The 'paid-for content' debate is on the agenda again with the iPad launch. The New York Times has announced that next year it will resurrect its paywall. Its last one came down in 2007. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launched its 'members only' website for $36 (£22.50) a year last August. So, 1,000 subscribers just about pays for a trainee reporter. It is made up entirely of content not to be found in the newspaper ... meaning someone has to gather it. Meanwhile Tindle Newspapers, Johnston Press and, of course, Rupert Murdoch are plotting their own paid-content strategies. And adding fuel to the debate this month is a Harris Poll that says 77% of adults wouldn't pay anything to read newspaper stories on the web. And those who would pay, wouldn't pay much.

No surprise. We recently went through a newspaper and marked up every item that the management team thought people would be prepared to pay for online. The paper remained unsullied. The conclusion was that for anyone to pay online for content it would have to be unique, interesting and genuinely valuable - and that would require big investment and innovation in editorial. Then there was the discussion about how long the content would stay unique once up there. This particular paper has gone back to the drawing board. We suspect they won't be alone.


Headline watch 1

Made for?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Paper bites back

The next generation of print ...

... based on an idea by The Sun


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harry cuts to the chase

Harold Evans's autobiography Paper Chase is a real walk down memory lane, a compelling piece of social history and a timely reminder of newspapers and journalism at their most colourful. But what is striking is how much is still relevant. It should be compulsory reading for all regional paper journalists.

On headlines: My first edict as editor (on The Northern Echo); place names are to be dropped from headlines. The editor's memo explained the main effect of place names was to deter the circle of readers who didn't live there, ie, the vast majority.

On photographs: I had developed a toothache looking at the pictures in the paper. There were innumerable small 'grip and grin' photographs of retirement ceremonies, flower shows, well-equipped bulls, empty buildings, councillors on rostrums. I couldn't believe they represented the changing dramas and personalities in the region ...

On typography: I am addicted to print. An addiction to print means you get your fix by looking at the shapes of letters in type even when the words don't make any sense. I savour the design of letters, the ascenders piercing the skyline, the fugues created by the descenders. Today I waste emotional energy nursing grievances about the migraine-inducing type on medicine bottles and the ridiculously emaciated compressed capital letters of credits on DVD boxes. What are they trying to hide?

The book is a reminder of why so many journalists were inspired by the man ... and why editors voted him the best UK editor of all time. The cover price is £25 but Amazon have it for sale for £13.78. My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times. An autobiography by Harold Evans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The right type

Here are some of our favourite typography quotes to remind us that choosing the right font and using it properly is as important today as it ever was.

"There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kinds of fools." Eric Gill.

"People who love ideas must have a love of words, and that means, given a chance, they take a vivid interest in the clothes which words wear." Beatrice Warde.

No matter how great the author's wisdom or how vital the message, unread print is merely a lot of

paper and a little ink. Herbert Spencer.

Last year we ran a typography workshop for Sony and in the process were delighted to discover these iPod apps.

Kern (59p) - you have to position a falling letter into the right place in a word.

WhatTheFont (free) - use the iPhone camera to take a picture of a font and this app will identify it.

The Font Game (59p) - how many of the fonts can you identify? Pretty difficult stuff.

The latter is provided by an excellent typography website A must visit.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Give us an 's

Those of you who get irritated by apostrophe abuse might enjoy this. It's St James's of course ... why penalise James just because his name ends in an s? If they reinstated the 's we might win something.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sex! Sensation! Pets! Heroism!

I'm indebted to the British Journalism Review for an interview with the legendary Donald Zec (left). One of the trailblazers of popular journalism he was a Daily Mirror writer for forty years.
Zec talked of the first story he wrote for the Mirror after moving south from the regional press in Manchester. It's an anecdote that has served me well. I've used it often to explain to both journalists and non-journalists the importance of using specific words rather than vague generalised vocabulary.
When asked to cystalise the elements of a perfect tabloid story Zec replied: "Sex, sensation, pets and heroism."
He went on to explain that he was sent out to cover a fire and returned to write a fairly standard intro:
Firemen were called to extinguish a blaze in Old Compton Street last night...
The news editor called him over and explained that this was the Mirror where things are done slightly differently.
He was told to unload the contents of his notebook into the ear of one of the wise old subs who would re-write it in Mirror -style. The new intro came back:
Clad only in her scanties, a blonde, 22-years-old night-club hostess climbed along a 30ft parapet in a Soho fire last night to rescue her pet cat Timothy.
And there you have it: Sex, sensation, pets and heroism.
There is a valuable lesson to be learnt here though. The second version is clearly more readable and engaging than the first - not only because it involves a scantily-clad blonde. The real skill is in using very specific words to build images. Firemen extinguishing a blaze is boring, because it doesn't paint a picture or conjure an image. A blonde, 22-year-old night-club hostess risking life and limb on a parapet to rescue her cat is full of specific detail which brings the story to life. Even the use of Soho rather than Old Compton Street adds colour to the piece.
The very best writers understand the value of small detail and know when to use it. Those who are new to the craft tend to use 'big and clever' words because they believe that's what's required. I once asked an American delegate on one of our writing courses why she insisted on using words like 'commenced' instead of 'started' and 'dispatched' rather than 'sent'. And she replied that she didn't want people to think she was stupid. Her words were clearly a reflection of her own self-image. And that's why it's harder than people think to write well.
Writing is a highly personal experience which is why we find it so difficult to edit our own work. As I often say on writing courses - the principle of simple English is easy to understand but very diffcult to execute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A real gem from the Framley Examiner

We used to give the Framley Examiner book away on our foundation courses to the winners of our media quiz - Who Wants To Be The Owner Of The Framley Examiner. Nice to see the publication has posted some new pages . Not for the faint-hearted though - it regularly gets very close to home. Don't you just love the typography...


Haiti: the power of Twitter

Watching the terrible events in Haiti unfold as a breaking news story on Tuesday night was another powerful indicator of the power of Twitter as a tool for news and picture coverage.
Getting live coverage from the scene was a real problem for the broadcasters as power lines and phone links were cut.
The very first pictures started to appear on Twitter though around 11pm and I immediately started looking for anything from Haiti on which is a great aggregator of real time images.
It took about 30 minutes then for these same pictures to be picked up and broadcast by the rolling news programmes. The first photographer to post was @CarelPedre
Sky News was the first UK broadcaster I saw to make a direct appeal to Tweeters to send them any updates directly.


Monday, January 18, 2010

David Cameron posters backfire on him

Here's a nice piece written by a former trainee - Carol Driver who works for the Mail. PA Training has been responsible for training Mail journalists for some time now. It's good to see them flourish.
Nothing is sacred on the web - as David Cameron is finding out. Check this out

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's all out there

For journalists wanting to find out more about social networks, it may seem obvious, but the best place to start is, predictably, on social networks. Here are a couple of really interesting things we've found. We dug them up a few months ago just by following people on Twitter who know their stuff.
Over the coming months we'll collect all we find and post it here so you can keep dipping in and find out the latest developments. We'll do all the work and let you know on Twitter what's new on the blog. How easy is that?
Here are two good places to start. The first is from 'Mashable' a blog/website that monitors social media trends. Some of it is a bit too whacky for the working hack, but other stuff is really useful such as 10 ways newspapers are using social media to save the industry.
There are plenty of cool videos illustrating just how powerful social media has become - most of them made by smart Americans - this is one of the most viewed and the stats it contains are impressive.
We'll be back with more on social media soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quality matters

Here's a great piece of newspaper content that we often use in our web training sessions to illustrate just what newspapers can do with multimedia. It won a Pulitzer Prize. It's very beautifully crafted and very moving. It was created using a very simple piece of software called soundslides. You can get it here:

There isn't enough of this quality of content around. Maybe because it's time-consuming and laborious and in this age of instant news perhaps we've forgotten that quality, in-depth journalism is what sets newspapers apart from almost all other media.