Monday, 23 June 2014

Scottish Daily Mail looking for trainees

The Scottish Daily Mail in Glasgow is looking for a trainee reporter and a trainee sub-editor.  The successful applicants will probably already be on a post-grad journalism course and have a fair amount of newsroom experience. They will join other trainees on the Mail's graduate training programmes which start in September. The training will be followed by placements on regional newspapers and agencies. If you are interested send CVs and six examples of your work to Sue Ryan at by July 16. The subbing scheme has been running for 12 years and many of the senior subs on the paper - in both news and sport - are graduates of the course. The reporting course has been running for seven years. Its graduates include Matt Sandy, who won young journalist of the year in the British Press Awards in 2011, Simon Murphy who was nominated in the same award this year and Fay Schlesinger, joint winner of the investigation of the year award at the British Journalism Awards in 2012. If you are applying you might want to take a look at my advice on how to prepare for an interview. Good luck. More details on Hold The Front Page. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Back pages show England's despair

It was the biggest of nights on the sport desks. The win, draw or lose pages were set up in advance and tweaks were made as the night twisted and turned. With 15 minutes to go the zeroes became heroes and then back to zeroes when Luis Suarez, inevitably, put England to the sword. And within minutes of the final whistle, with the adrenaline still pumping and passions running high, the papers were on deadline and the button had to be pressed. So in the heat of the moment, how did they fare? Perhaps surprisingly, the knives weren’t out for Roy Hodgson … not yet anyway. Instead the focus was on Suarez and the faintest glimmer of hope.

The Sun is at its creative best. The paper has urged support for ‘our boys’ throughout … and even now it has contrived an optimistic view. Tying it into the picture of Kai and Coleen is neat (although I have a slight concern about putting the focus on a tearful four-year-old boy) but the insets of Rooney, Hodgson and Suarez less so. The page came in for some stick on Twitter. Not sure why ... The Sun's trademark is to add humour, even in adversity.

The back page brings up the old bite theme. Clever headline.

The Daily Mail also uses a picture of a grim Kai on Page 1, supposedly telling an inset picture of his dad that it's too late for prayers. I'm afraid, despite The Sun's tongue-in-cheek stance, it almost certainly is.

The back page though, tells it as it is. Just two good is exactly right. The contrast of a triumphant Suarez and a dejected Rooney says it all. 

The Daily Mirror's first edition leads on Rik Mayall's funeral, which may change in later editions. Suarez bites back is a good headline, although the picture is of the Uruguayan striker kissing the back of his hand rather than baring his teeth.

The back page is very much more like it ... Kicked in the teeth screams the headline over a cutout of Suarez's gnashers in full glory. Very strong.

The Daily Express also sums the evening up pretty well. Savaged by Suarez is a powerful headline under the picture of the striker beating Joe Hart for his second goal.

The Daily Star has an unlikely tie-in of despairing England fans in a bar and the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The headline says We need miracle now. The supporters appear to be drinking water ... so, who knows, maybe miracles are possible.

The back page uses the picture of Suarez kissing his hand ... with the right headline. 

The Daily Telegraph uses a tame picture of three tamed lions on the front. Its sports section is good though - a subtle two word headline that captures the plight of English football and a powerful picture well used. 

The Independent uses a picture of two Liverpool team-mates at different extremes of emotion. The bite theme, once again, makes its way into the headline.

Independent sport looks like a magazine cover ... no fear of white space here. Straight headline and picture.

Suarez makes it on to Page 1 of The Guardian under the rather tabloid headline All bite on the night. 

The Times has despairing fans on the front - with just a caption - while the back page uses Suarez consoling his club captain. Abyss is a powerful word.

I watched the game in a bar in Dublin where the RTE pundits reckoned England's demise was all down to the fact that 'they wouldn't kill their grannies' ... whereas the Uruguayans clearly would. It made a pleasant change from the monotonous ITV line-up. Small mercies. 

Anyway, as I am working with the Irish Independent ... here is its back page. 

I had hoped to be reading papers that were triumphant, with bold pictures of Rooney and Sturridge punching the air. Instead I give you a gloomy set of pages showing a mix of frustration and grudging respect for a first rate performance by Luis Suarez. Well done to the sport desks - once again good pages turned around at break-neck speed. 

To see all of the pages and those I have missed out visit the excellent  and @hendopolis

Friday, 6 June 2014

Salute today's front pages

It isn’t every day elderly men, who are neither famous nor criminals, grace almost all of our national front pages. But today the papers, with the exception of the FT and the Star, are unanimous. They have gone with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Hardly surprising when you look at the powerful photographs and pertinent stories.

For me, The Daily Telegraph wins it on display. The strength of a broadsheet is to be able to wipe out the area above the fold with a single picture. The clear blue sky has allowed the understated headline to nestle up in the top left hand corner in white (and rare Telegraph caps). The cleanness of the page is helped by the blurb which uses minimal colour and is separated from the picture by the titlepiece. It all allows the picture to stand alone, uncluttered. Nice job.

Hats off to the Western Mail too which uses a similar picture to wipe out Page 1. This time Fred Holborn, from the Fleet Air Arm, is saluting the flags … which gives the paper a strong headline. I’m not sure why the Telegraph didn’t use the salute. It certainly adds poignancy.

Metro also goes for the salute picture - with the simplest and most effective of headlines. Thank you. Well said. The picture is cropped tighter and Mr Holborn is off centre to accommodate the titlepiece. It is a bold front. I am not sure, though, whether a free commuter paper, should wipe out its front page. When I travel on the Tube I want an i-type briefing rather than big display pictures. Perhaps Metro needs its own style, one that does not compete directly with its paid-for sister title. Incoming editor Ted Young will no doubt have a view.

The i skies the picture - at the page’s entry point at the top left - and used the same headline as the Western Mail. There’s a lot of white space around that main headline though - could have got a flight of nibs in there.  

The Scotsman uses the salute picture too. It is a strong page but in the quest for a high story count resists taking the picture across the full width. The headline is just about as straight as it is possible to be. If in doubt, tell it as it is.

I am surprised that the Daily Express doesn't just wipe out Page 1 with D-Day. It’s the perfect topic for its readership and it’s not as if Migrant sick pay benefit scandal is an earth-shattering exclusive. I’m sure I’ve seen it before somewhere. The picture lends itself to a vertical crop but in doing so the number of flags and the scale of the event is diminished a little. It is overshadowed by a big yellow caps headline too. Free Inside? Where else could it possibly be?

As it is prone to do, the Daily Mail goes its own way. It will have known that the flags picture was the obvious choice and would be on most fronts today - so it chooses to do something different. The paper focuses on an individual - former sapper Gordon Smith, now 90 and on crutches, gazing out to sea from a Normandy beach. A small inset shows him overcome with tears. The headline, in lower case, is very strong. For once there is no blurb and few words … just a nicely crafted caption. It works.

Another obvious picture option is the flypast. The Guardian chooses to use veterans waving as the planes go by - and uses it the full width of the Berliner size.  I like the ex-soldier on the right who has dropped his stick to wave. Maybe more could have been made of that. It’s a bit different and has a lighter tone - but, for me, lacks the poignancy of the flags.

The Times moves away from the beaches and focuses on the paratroopers. In particular it tells the story of Jock Hutton. “Standing by is not really Jock Hutton’s way; so yesterday with a swagger that belies his 89 years Mr Hutton jumped out of an aircraft and parachuted on to the fields of Normandy, just as he did 70 years ago."  This is one of the best stories of the day. Great words. The picture, though, is not Jock Hutton. The Times has a related splash too - The new battle for Europe. Subtle. 

The Daily Mirror went for the Jock Hutton story too  - and it uses a picture of Jock in the air. It’s a lovely photograph and story. I would have been tempted to have lost the picture of Prince Charles (and Nigel Farage) though.

The Sun uses D-Day only as a blurb. It has a far more shocking tale of modern life to tell us. 

The Independent opts not to use the flags, the flypast or Jock Hutton - just seven veterans reunited on the beach. Very strange. I quite like Once more unto the beach though.

There are certainly some memorable pages that will evoke a lot of emotions for a lot of people. I really enjoyed going through them today - papers to make you proud.

To see all of the pages and those I have missed out visit the excellent  and @suttonnick

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Times New Roman: The movie

Times New Roman wouldn't be my first choice of typeface for a newspaper design. There are many more readable serifs for body copy as my chart below shows (you can read about the chart's origins here). That said, I appreciate the elegance of Times and Times New Roman and their historical importance. These are nicely reflected in this short film dedicated to the font by The Times and Sunday Times. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in typography. The film is part of the Forever Unquiet series of shorts on journalistic issues which include photojournalism, the power of words and why journalists should question everything. When you get a minute take a look at them all. You won't be disappointed.

Footnote: The settings for this blog mean this is a lo-res jpg of the type chart. If you would like a hi-res PDF drop me an email on and I will send you a copy. There is also a chart comparing the characteristics of sans headline faces used by newspapers 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Guernsey editor Richard bows out after 15 years

Guernsey Press editor Richard Digard ran his last news conference today. Richard, who has edited the Press for almost 15 years, is taking early retirement at the tender age of 60. His has been a colourful career. He has never been one to shy away from controversy and, as a result, has had death threats, cat poo through the letterbox of his home and a legal action which tried to relieve him of his house. Once, after he had written a typically sparky column about boy racers, a procession of 50 cars drove slowly past his house, the young drivers all looking resolutely ahead. He has, though, taken all of this in his stride and certainly makes no apology for rocking the boat. And he was still at it, even to the last. In his valedictory column last Friday, headlined Pain in the proverbial? Someone had to be, he took yet another swipe at the island's government. He wrote: “I’ll let you into a secret. Guernsey's system of government is very poor. Actually, mind-numbingly bad. It doesn't mean to be and there are some pockets of goodness and occasional flashes of excellence or even brilliance. But taken as a whole it consistently lets down the island.” No mellowing with age I see.
Richard’s paper was always a campaigning one - ranging from a Shop a Yob feature, which resulted in several arrests, to raising cash for an Alzheimer’s care home. But it is as a thorn in the side of inefficient politicians and officials that he will be best remembered. The Press has also kept its sale really well under his editorship. In 1996 it was selling 15,847 - today it sells around 14,000. Given what has happened to daily newspapers elsewhere, it is a remarkable performance. There are many reasons for this ... but one of them is that the Press has remained relevant, newsy, top quality and has been prepared to reinvent itself.

Richard's last conference
Despite his prickly professional persona, Richard is one of the good guys of newspapers. I first met him 17 years ago when he was deputy editor. Since then I have helped redesign the paper twice (taking it from broadsheet to compact  in 1999), run the journalists' training scheme and assisted with the restructuring of the newsroom. It has been a joy - one of my favourite places to visit. Richard and his team have always been massively hospitable and I have enjoyed many a pint (and the odd glass of Sancerre) with him in the Ship and Crown in St Peter Port. The new editor will be announced in the Press on Monday. Richard and his wife Di, the paper's features editor, will be having a few farewell drinks next week. My flight is already booked. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Does your newspaper look as dull as ditchwater?

With editorial budgets being squeezed ever tighter and managements increasingly focused on digital first, does it still matter what a newspaper looks like? You bet it does. I spend half my working life in newspaper offices and, unfortunately, still find:
• Flights of dull fillers, plundered from the ‘what’s on’ column? 
• Headlines with blands words such as ‘boosts’, ‘plans’ and ‘residents’. 
• Pictures of buildings as the main image.
• Citizen journalism that has led to pages of landscape pictures. I like contributed stories and photographs - but am often not keen on the execution. Newspapers are about people, not sunsets and trees. If the readers want flowers, they can pick up a bulb catalogue.
• Templating that has been misunderstood and has led to two-deck headline syndrome. It has made some journalists lazy and stifled their creative juices.
• Body copy set in 8pt Times, which is just about unreadable.

If longevity is the aim, these nasty habits need to be changed. Quickly. Good design can keep the sale stable but, more importantly, poor design is guaranteed to cause premature haemorrhaging. 
Some regional newspapers are excellent of course. I was massively impressed with the front pages and the design shortlists at last week’s Regional Press Awards. But there are still too many that look boring - and in today’s newspaper world, boring is the biggest sin.
If you recognise any of these traits, you may want to take a look at my tips on how to make your paper look better, which is in this month’s InPublishing magazine. Take a look here.  

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ten thoughts about the Regional Press Awards

I have now recovered from a cracking day at the Regional Press Awards yesterday. It is the first time I have attended the awards since I stood down as Chairman of the Judges in 2011. I am delighted to say they are in good hands with the Society of Editors. Well done to Bob Satchwell, Paul Horrocks, Sue Ryan and all. From a personal point of view it was a real pleasure to catch up with (increasingly) old faces and enjoy a glass or two in the sunshine afterwards. It was particularly nice to have a pint with Shamus Donald, MD at the Oxford Mail, who was instrumental in bringing about my deal to buy the Westminster Press Training business 19 years ago. I guess I owe him more than just a drink.
The breakdown of winners was reasonably spread across the industry. If we include the Journalists’ Charity Award, the Chairman’s Award and the Making a Difference Award, there were 26 ‘Oscars’ in all, with Local World taking pole position.

Local World 6
Cumbrian Newspapers 4
Newsquest 4
Trinity Mirror 4
Johnston Press 3
Midland News Association 2
Archant 1
New Journal Enterprises 1
Press Association 1

Well done to all the winners, the highly commended and everyone who was nominated. It is a great achievement, just to be shortlisted There was probably no better way to spend a sunny spring Friday afternoon - especially as it was my birthday. Here are my musings on the day.

i) Presenter Nick Ferrari is a gem. He understands the business, he goes off script, he is irreverent but respectful and very funny. He just gets the tone spot on. I was going to say he is real value for money ... but he actually donates his services for free.

ii) As Ferrari observed, the Regional Press Awards have a very different atmosphere to the national awards. At the national bash you have tabloid v tabloid, tabloid v broadsheet, papers as polarised as the Daily Mail and The Guardian and some personal rivalries too. Who can forget the fisticuffs between Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson? And I well remember the diplomacy required at the 2011 event when The Guardian was shortlisted for Scoop of the Year for exposing the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World. At the regional awards there are no such rivalries and few geographical head to heads. Instead the room is full of passionate and talented people facing the same challenges. It really is an event where people from different newspapers genuinely respect and like each other. 

iii) Three individuals were singled out for special attention. They were:

The Venerable David Meara, who is retiring in July as Rector of St Bride's after 14 years. St Bride’s has long been the spiritual home of journalism and under David’s tenure the links have been strengthened. It was good to see that recognised yesterday. 

Deric Henderson, PA’s Northern Ireland editor who is retiring after 45 years as a journalist. Deric has covered every major terrorist-related incident and political development since the troubles began in 1968. There is an excellent BBC interview with him here.

Peter Barron, who has been editor of The Northern Echo for 15 years. He was presented with the Journalists' Charity Award for an outstanding contribution to journalism. Peter has achieved many things - Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Durham, an MBE, successful author, fundraiser and ambassador of a children’s hospice. But it was for the Echo's remarkable campaigning track record that this award was presented.

Great recognition for three very different, but richly deserving, people. 

iv) Peter was, though, responsible for the worst joke of the day. Receiving his award he said: "It’s been a privilege for me to edit The Northern Echo, a great paper with great traditions and some great editors. Harold Evans, of course; William Stead who died on the Titanic; William Stead’s predecessor, Peter Sands." Ha bloody ha! I ask you, is that any way for a Deputy Lord Lieutenant to behave? You can watch him here

Anna Draper's photo of Ryan Smith
v) A far more gracious acceptance speech came from the Lincolnshire Echo’s excellent photographer Anna Draper. While others prudently thanked their editors and news-editors, and even their MDs, she thanked the families of people who allowed her take deeply personal pictures. She said: “I'd really like to say thank you to the families who let us in. I took a photograph of this boy (Ryan Smith) who was in a coma and they didn’t know what was going to happen to him and that family was brave enough to let people like us to go and take photographs and tell their stories." You can watch her here and check on Ryan’s progress here.  

vi) There seems to be no escaping him in my life these days - but even Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley got a mention. The Evening Chronicle has produced some excellent front pages on the mess that is Newcastle United and they led to Gary Beckwith winning designer of the year.  Gary publicly thanked Ashley for providing his paper with some amazing stories. I have been struggling to think of Ashley qualities I admire but at last I have found one ... being the inspiration for great newspaper design. You can watch Gary's wine-fuelled acceptance speech here

vii) The table collections raised £1,727,68 for the Journalists’ Charity. Table 4 - a Trinity Mirror table - raised the most. Well done. The charity is something all journalists need to support. The details are here

Nev Wilson
vii) The awards were a fitting swansong for outgoing Brentwood Gazette editor Neville Wilson. His paper won Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Under 20,000) for the second year in a row. I can’t say I’m surprised. I had the privilege to work with Nev during my Northcliffe stint and his paper bristled with ideas, always brilliantly executed. He is off to join the Local World corporate team in London. Kensington’s gain will be Brentwood’s loss.

Jon Colman receives his award from Nick Ferrari

viii) There are the same names that come round year after year, proving that the judging process works and that real talent is recognised, whoever the judges might be. This year’s shortlists included many familiar names and previous winners including the Basildon Echo's Jon Austin, Sunday Life’s Ciaran Barnes, the Derby Telegraph’s Robin Johnston, the North Devon Journal’s David Powell, the Craven Herald’s Stephen Garnett, The Northern Echo’s Stuart Boulton, the Croydon Advertiser’s Gareth Davies and the Leicester Mercury’s Lee Marlow. Few, though, can boast the record held by Jon Colman of the News & Star and Cumberland News. He has been on the shortlist for either weekly or daily/Sunday sports reporter every year since 2006. He was weekly winner in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 he won both the weekly and daily award. In 2010 he won the daily award, as he did yesterday. Cumbrian Newspapers non-exec director Charlie Burgess tweeted later that 'Jon Colman says he'd give the award back in return for the three points that would have saved Carlisle from relegation.’  That is undoubtedly true.

ix) Jon Colman’s award was just one of four for Cumbrian Newspapers. They included Weekly Newspaper of the year (above 20,000) and Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the year (below 25,000). They also won a highly competitive Front Page of the Year award for an excellent montage by the North West Mail. The group is no stranger to these awards. The Cumberland News retained its title from last year and the News & Star also won the award in 2010. CN, headed up by Robin Burgess, is a relatively small independent newspaper group based in the far North which consistently punches above its weight. Independent and locally-owned newspapers … now there’s an idea.

x) The Lancaster London Hotel was an ideal venue - the food was first rate and the wine flowed. The Victoria pub around the corner was also just the spot to catch up with old friends with beer and sunshine. 

The day was a celebration of everything that is still great about the regional Press and its people. Congratulations to everyone involved - and long may they continue.   

The full list of winners, highly commended and videos of the event can be found on the Regional Press Awards website. 

All pictures taken at the awards are by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Six powerful regional newspaper front pages

I am looking forward to the Regional Press Awards next Friday ... a very rare chance to find so many colleagues and friends in the same place at the same time. One of my favourite awards is always the Front Page of the Year. Here are the pages on this year's shortlist.

The Belfast Telegraph uses a cracking picture taken during the loyalist protests last summer.

The Courier in Dundee goes for a wraparound with a really tight crop to celebrate Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.

The Manchester Evening News wipes out Page 1 with the last text that Lee Rigby sent home before he was butchered on the streets of London.

The North West Mail uses a mosaic of 1,200 local faces to create the picture of a baby to illustrate its campaign to keep a maternity hospital open.

The Northern Echo offers readers alternative front pages for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. One shows tributes in London, the other former North-East miners condemning the woman they blame for blighting their communities. Both were on display and readers could choose.
The South Wales Echo runs a strong illustration expressing its view of the plans to change Cardiff City's name to the Cardiff Dragons.

Six very powerful pages that illustrate the creativity and passion that is prevalent in the regional Press. I certainly wouldn't like to pick one over the others. Who will win? All will be revealed next Friday. Hopefully, I will see some of you there.