Try to make an early start today. Since coming back from maternity
leave in January my endeavours to walk to the office by 8.30am – the
internet day is much earlier than the paper day – have mostly failed.
By 9am our floor is pretty full, stories are being posted and calls are
being made. The paper is largely deserted at this time but by 7pm the
roles are reversed.
We have the Guardian Unlimited main news meeting at 9.45 followed by
Guardian main conference at 10.30. This morning I am meant to be
trekking over to Channel 4 to see its chief executive Andy Duncan. But
while I am still trudging in, my PA Julie rings to say that Duncan has
“He’s snowed in.” I look around at the very unsnowy
streets “Really? Where is he – the Outer Hebrides?” “No. Croydon,
At our conference this morning the “battle for
Margaret’s Shoulder” is the main talking point with the ominous
prospect of a pre-campaign election campaign spluttering in to life.
The prospect of Michael Howard and John Reid turning up at my house
would make me fairly poorly too. The BBC green paper was out yesterday
and I have to think of something to write about for Monday’s media
section in the paper. Re-entering the world of broadcasting policy for
the fourth time in four weeks makes me feel bored, so heaven knows how
the readers will react. Curtail an afternoon of meetings by running off
to a Cambridge seminar on the future of online news. Plans to write my
piece on the train are torpedoed by the overcrowding of the carriage –
I calculate that I can’t even open my laptop without asking four people
to get off the train first.
Arrive in snowy Cambridge (which
clearly shares a cold front with Croydon). Listen to a fascinating
speech by Walter Bender from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of
Technology)n who paints a picture for newspapers which can only be
described as apocalyptic. As an audience we warm to this theme – online
editors always take a perverse pleasure in hearing just how dire the
market is, but how they may be the bearers of the flickering torch of
hope. Go back to hotel to write piece (finally).
Have written about the green paper’s potential impact on Sky, but am
struggling with hotel technology – their “highspeed internet
connection” is about as effective as tying a note to a pigeon. I end up
typing out the whole thing on my Crackberry (which is how people in GU
describe the annoyingly addictive Blackberry technology). If you want
to know, it takes 30 minutes to copy 800 words onto a Blackberry. I
looked for a pigeon but only mallards were available.
I am not a huge fan of conferences but one of the drawbacks about
web editing (or any desk editing) is that, unlike reporting you rarely
see your peer group gathered together in one place. So it is actually
very helpful to be able to compare notes, particularly when online is
going through a revival and profound sequence of quick change. I note
we are still stealing each others newspapers though. According to the
FT Alan Milburn has been plagiarising his speeches. Who’d have thought
I ring in to talk to the newsdesk, which reassures me and
annoys them – particularly as things sound frantic. We have a web story
about the Catholic church condemning the Conservative party for
A galvanising day rather ruined by the fact that the
hotel has lost my bag and laptop. It turns out that teachers from
Haringey have stolen it ‘by accident’. They return it later – which
shows the greatness of our public services – if it had been TV
executives they would have flogged it on eBay.
There has been a gloom over the Guardian’s offices for the past
week, which is keenly felt in Unlimited. A week ago Noll Scott, one of
the paper’s longest serving journalists and that rare creature – a
hack-turned-techie – was killed in a car crash with his 20-year old
designed wonderful things such as our Digital Editions and our lovely
interactive crosswords, as well as being one of the key brains in
getting Unlimited off the ground, and continued to be an absolutely
vital part of the way we think about using electronic content. My
deputy and our production head Jane Glentworth wrote a few well-chosen
paragraphs about Noll on our Newsblog and linked it to the paper’s
I notice this morning that a wonderful thing has
happened – the ‘comments’ on Jane’s post have grown into a series of
memories, stories and thanks from his family, friends, colleagues and
even our users who never knew him but loved the things he did for them.
Links too to Tania’s website which has become another place for
condolences. I sometimes wonder whether we always make the most of the
opportunities of the web, but here is proof that when you get it right
it can be such a powerful and human communicator.
We hope Noll would approve.
I always check emails early – this morning Mina Ashraf, our managing
editor, has sent me three early notes with ‘legal’ in the subject
field: this is potentially bad news. It seems that overnight the
lawyers fielded a complaint about a front page headline in the paper
which was not changed before first edition.
Should we leave it in the archive as it is, or do we alter it? This
is an increasing problem for papers on the web – when do you go back
and tweak archive articles? We opt for changing the head as the
‘constant publication’ of the internet leaves us open to trouble.
meeting this morning throws up a great story; a study paper by a Dutch
academic on ‘homosexual necrophilia amongst mallard ducks’. I am beside
myself with excitement – forget Tony Blah and Michael Howard, terror
bills and personnel changes at the UN, this will send our Google
traffic through the roof.
At GU we all sit a couple of floors
above the editorial floors of The Guardian, with a separate staff, with
a view to experimenting with integration models. All ‘old media’
whether paper or television, have grappled with this and I’m not sure
any have absolutely cracked it yet. We have just started a ‘blog’ for
The Observer, which experiments with writing about how the paper is put
together through the week. Rafael Behr is running it and looks
shattered at the end of his first week live, but it is ‘really cool’,
as we say on the internet.
Duck necrophilia has been blogged everywhere and accounted for a third of all traffic on the education site yesterday.
More please. Jimmy, the education editor, tells me there are two
more pieces of ‘improbable research’ ready to go, one on flatulence in
herrings and one on ‘testicular asymmetry in classical statuary’. Can’t