Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Media Training - The Media Landscape; The Press - Who Owns Your Message?

If you're interviewed by the press, why does it matter who owns the organisation?

Media ownership is a thesis all on its own, but the main things to remember about the press, are the political standpoints of the owners and the readers.

People buy a newspaper because it reinforces their world view, it feels like a friend that's on their side, that stands for the things that they think they stand for. If your political leaning is to the right then The Daily Mail, The Express, The Star, The Sun are all for you. If your political leaning is to the left then The Guardian, The Mirror, The Independent should be of interest. If you're vaguely undecided then have a look at the ever wavering Times.

The voice of the outlet is as important as your message. If you take an example of the 31st of January 2014, then there wasn't much that the front pages of the papers agreed on, but it's worth looking at how 2 papers covered 1 story.

The i (a slimmed down version of the Independent paper) appeals to the left leaning, possibly younger audience. It's an easy digest of the news. On the front page a report into University demographics is hailed as a win for women. Women race ahead... a positive spin on the story.

Then look at the way that The Daily Telegraph (often referred to as The Daily Tory-graph) a right leaning paper covers the same story. This time Boys are being left behind... not celebratory, but warning of a disturbing 'gender gap'.

This is the same story, with the same figures, with the same information, presented in 2 different and opposed ways.

Where does that leave the interview that you're about to do?

Before agreeing to be interviewed ask yourself...
"Does this newspaper represent me or my organisation?"
"Does this newspaper have the same message we are buying into?"
"Is this the newspaper of choice for my clients, consumer base, customers, stakeholders?"

If not, then you may find that the interview will be more confrontational than you expect, it may even go down roads you don't want it to, especially if you're defending a politically left leaning action in a right wing newspaper.

What about journalistic impartiality?

When you're dealing with newspapers don't expect impartiality. They are there to serve a self selecting community of readers that have been drawn to that publication because they have their world view reinforced. Whether that world view is that women need more opportunity and university numbers signal a change for the better, or that masculinity is in crisis and boys need to be helped in the struggle to succeed because they are being let down by the left.

That said, news is news.

If you're asked to defend bankers bonuses, industrial accidents, killings, and embezzlement, no one will be on your side.

That's 'ownership' from the point of view of the intellectual ownership by the audience. Physical ownership will also have its effect on editorial, even if the papers protest that it won't.

If you are in competition with the owner of a newspaper, you won't get coverage, if you are in competition with the owner of a newspapers other companies, you'll get lots and lots of unwelcome coverage...

 Take the Wowcher / Groupon situation. Both are companies that offer deals and vouchers over the internet for various services.

Wowcher is owned (at the time of writing) by DMG Media, who own The Daily Mail. 

Groupon is not.

A quick search on The Daily Mail website brings up 1 page of results for Wowcher; generally favorable stories from the money saving pages.

There are 11 pages of stories featuring or mentioning Groupon. Mainly very bad news about the website putting people out of business.

I wonder if there's a connection there?

Both physical and intellectual ownership will affect your message. It will affect how your message is spun, used, and in some cases abused. You always need to know what's going on behind the scenes before you become involved in sending your message out.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Media Training - The Media Landscape; The Press In Numbers.

When I was growing up I had a paper-round and all of my friends had paper-rounds, because everyone had papers delivered.

My parents read The Daily Mail, and it appeared that everyone else read The Sun. I can still remember the early morning calm, the smell of the dew-damp air, and the yapping of the 9 or so Yorkshire Terriers that lived at the corner of Crookdole Lane and Broom Road.

I haven't seen a paperboy or girl for years.

It may be because I'm not awake at that time, it may be that I live in the Forest Of Dean and no one wants to cycle up and down the hills, it may be that Newspapers are dying.

In 1987, when I was delivering papers, The Sun had a circulation of nearly 4 million copies, The Daily Mail had 1.7 million copies, The Mirror had just over 3 million and the Guardian had half a million. Now you look at the circulation 26 years later, and in the last sample The Sun dropped 1.6 million to 2.4 million, The Daily Mail stayed steady with 1.8 million, The Mirror dropped by 2 million to 1 million and the Guardian more than halved it's circulation and dropped to 2 hundred thousand copies.

What do all those numbers really mean?

In 1987 the population was on its way to 57,439,000 (1991 Census) and the total copies of daily national papers sold was 14,867,000 about a quarter of the total population (and a much greater proportion of the adult population) was reading a daily national paper.

In 2013 we have a population of around 63,182,000 (2011 Census) and the total number of daily national papers sold was 8,151,000 about an eighth of the population (and a much greater proportion of the adult population) is reading a daily national paper.

Newspaper Circulation has halved in the last 26 years.


So what does that mean for the companies that run these newspapers? They aren't making as much money as they used to so they've had to cut costs. Cutting costs means employing fewer people and asking them to do more.

Don't forget, much of a newspapers output is now available online, the Mail gets around 8 million unique users a day (worldwide) and the Guardian gets around 4 million (worldwide)... none of those users pay for it, but it has to be serviced somehow.

News organisations have to do more with less, journalists are over-worked, there isn't time to do 'journalism' which is why this happens
NOAH’S Ark Zoo Farm has achieved recognition for the education programme it runs at its Wraxall site. The zoo hosts more than 15,000 school children each year, ranging from infant school pupils to teenagers studying A-levels, and has now been awarded the Quality Badge from the Learning Outside of the Classroom scheme (LOTC).
The badge is a nationally-recognised benchmark that demonstrates that those places awarded it have met several stringent indicators for education.
Assessments are conducted by the Government-appointed Council for Learning Outside of the Classroom.
Noah’s Ark education coordinator Catherine Tisdall said: “We are very proud of our unique hands-on approach to learning at Noah’s Ark.
“Achieving the Quality Badge is the result of an awful lot of hard work from a team dedicated to providing an exceptional educational day out for visitors.”
This is a local news story taken from The Weston & Somerset Mercury. A zoo has got an award.

Well done them.

With a little bit of digging you can quickly discover that this is a Creationist Zoo that denies Evolution... which is why, after a number of comments from the website and from the page getting shared shared on social media the following was added to the story a day after the first publication...

The award comes after Alice Roberts, professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, published an article in the Guardian in December raising concerns about how the creationist zoo promotes religious views to its visitors through posters.
Professor Roberts wrote how she fears such posters, which she said ‘distorted scientific fact’, could interfere with a child’s education.
* * *
* We have acknowledged there are contrasting views on this issue, and have added a line to make that fact clear – however, the award presented to Noah’s Ark is a reputable one, and we have reported on that fact without taking sides or passing judgment on the merits of the facility itself.
 The original piece looks like a "copy & paste" press release from the zoo, the addition looks like the stable door being closed by a journalist who has seen that people are angry about the celebratory tone.

This is what some press journalism has become, the recycling of press releases.

It's because there's a tiny number of journalists rattling around news rooms that used to be filled with people.

The individual journalist has to do more and more and more, and a press release with pictures of nice people from a zoo about how the zoo has won an award is easy to cut and paste.

The journalist can now get on with their real job.

I have a friend who was an editor at a local paper, she left because the owners had decided that her journalists were going to be managed by the commercial manager not the editor, because they were there to find stories to support the advertisers. I know people who have seen their jobs in national publications get harder and harder... you can almost understand why phone hacking started being used; it was an easy way to get good stories that sold papers and kept journalists employed.

When the press come to you for an interview, remember the background of a changing world, remember that the journalist may have 10 other stories to get done, and you're just another one, remember that the person you're talking to may just want sensationalism to keep in with the boss, or even rarer than that, they may have actually had the time to find some real news about you.

On the next blog we'll look at how owners, influencers, and audience can affect your press coverage.

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