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Hackademic? I'd Rather Chew My Arm Off

I love journalism academics. Journalism educators. "Hackademics" (I know ...). I love them in the same way I love the National G...

21 January 2018

Heart and Soul

I'm just back from a lovely weekend in England's lake district, doing the winter warming hygge thing of good food, wine, board games and hot chocolate with some close friends lucky enough to have made their home there.

The Lakes are a rare bit of "the North" Londoners are likely to have experienced, even if they think of it as "sort of Scotland" as they drive around in their company SUVs just off the M6, getting the wheel arches all dashingly mudspattered in a way the weekly shop at Waitrose can't match.

They're also home to two traditionally-programmed local commercial radio stations, The Bay and Lakeland Radio, although not for long as they're about to be assimilated by the Borg-like Global as they roll out mega brands Heart and Smooth into Cumbria.

I have mixed feelings about that.

13 January 2018

The Horsman Test

As a news editor in commercial radio, I had a simple rule when it came to budgeting.

I would throw resources at a big story. No-one remembers the news on an "ordinary" day, just as no-one forgets the news on the day a city is torn by riots, as Bradford was in 1995 and 2001.

I engaged a freelance in Florida to deliver harrowing and compelling courtroom audio of a West Yorkshire woman whose boyfriend was killed next to her in a car in a botched robbery. That cost a year's freelance budget, but the content was worth every cent.

I met a former BBC senior exec in the region who admitted the little station on Forster Square "gave the Beeb a run for our money" and "kept us on our toes". No mean compliment when you compare the resources of the respective newsrooms.

These reflections matter when considering the future of commercial radio news.

As everyone will be aware by now, regulation is being swept away as the last Ofcom rules on what UK commercial radio can play, and where they can play it from, are removed. I highlighted the contrasts with old style ILR in a lighthearted post for New Year.

This post, originally published as a Radio Today UK eRADIO blog of the week, looks to the future.

04 January 2018

Talking Titles

It was all going so well for BBC Local Radio, with the announcement that £10 million of proposed cuts to the network are to be shelved, and a promise that local stations would in future be loved by DG Tony Hall, with a renewed purpose serving "everyone", not just the older demographics ignored by everyone else.

As I wrote at the time, a new hope for the Cinderella service.

Then the Corporation announced today that Managing Editors (known as Station Editors in some places) are to be demoted. Ouch.

OK, that's not what they really said. As such. The Beeb actually said that they're aiming to reduce the number of job titles across the organisation, and bring the pecking order within local radio into line with that existing in other departments.

This means that current "Station Editors" or "Managing Editors", who have the overall responsibility for running a BBC local station, will in future be known as "Senior News Editors". Now, does that sound a more important or less important job to the listener in the street?

To make it crystal clear, Assistant Editors (who report to the soon-to-be Senior News Editors) will in future be known as .. Assistant Editors. And News Editors, running the station's newsroom, will remain News Editors. Editing news.

No possibility of confusion there, then.

But what's in a name? Does it actually matter? I think so, and here's why it does.

30 December 2017

A Dish Best Eaten Cold


Imagine the scene. You're in Brompton Road, London, above a branch of Boots in the late 70s.

12 December 2017

How Long is a Piece of String?

There's been a lot of discussion this week about UK government support for "short" degree courses, which would allow students to take a degree over two years rather than three.

The argument has centred around cost - the two-year degrees would be priced at around £11,100 a year instead of the almost universal £9,250 currently charged for each year of study on a three-year course.

My concern, however, is less about the fees and more to do with the breathtaking arrogance with which the academic establishment has turned against the proposals, alleging that any shortening of a three-year delivery cycle automatically diminishes the experience for students.

I profoundly disagree.

05 December 2017

Looking Back

It's always nice to be recognised, and I was delighted to be honoured by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council with a Special Recognition Award for being ..well .. towards the end of a longish career.

I spent 23 years in all training broadcast journalists, the first decade or so of that whilst still working long hours in a broadcast newsroom at The Pulse in Bradford, latterly as News Editor through some turbulent times.

I've been extremely privileged throughout my professional career. I didn't have a day of unemployment between 1 October 1980, when I was taken on as a copywriter at Pennine Radio, and 31 August this year. That's remarkable given the volatile nature of the radio industry.

More importantly, at a human level, I've been extremely privileged to work with over four hundred trainees who passed through my courses.