EVEN IN these turbulent times, I thought I’d seen everything when it comes to the crass stupidity of management, but the latest Johnston Press edict, issued by a suit called Paul Bentham, is simply beyond belief.
In a memo sent to journalists on the group’s South Yorkshire newspapers, Mr Bentham insists that: ‘The best practice is now for all editorial pages to be templated, rather than designed around particular stories,’and that editors should not ‘continue with the old practice of reading every story’but instead ‘evaluate the risk for each story based on content and the seniority of the journalist and act accordingly”.
As a parting shot, he also suggests that page proofs be viewed as PDFs by the editor and that they should not be printed out as ‘this creates a further strain on the network speed”.
Where to begin? As editorial guru Peter Sands pointed out in his blog last month, templated pages have resulted in the imposition of ‘two-deck syndrome’ where any remaining creativity left in the newsroom is completely stifled by a formatted design. He rightly says – pay attention, Mr Bentham – that you should read the story first, come up with the best headline you can, and then build the page around it. It’s called ‘layout’. It used to be a highly-rated skill.
As for not printing out proofs, I don’t know about you but I can spot a literal a mile off on a print-out. It’s an instinctive knack developed down the years. But make me read the same piece on screen and the potential for error increases ten-fold. (Hence the occasional literal in my Press Gazette blog.) It’s just not the same.
But then, does Mr Bentham really care about mistakes littering his newspapers? Surely not, if he’s content for reporters to shovel words willy-nilly into boxes and then send them to print without anyone even checking them. Even the best, most experienced, hacks make mistakes. Suggesting that an editor need not glance over every story in his or her newspaper is utter madness. The lawyers must be rubbing their hands with glee.
Does this silly man know nothing about newspapers? Perhaps in Mr Bentham’s barmy new world, not only are subs expendable but editors too.
He’s not really thought this through, has he? Because if there’s no editor patrolling the proofs, who’s going to end up before the beak for contempt when a cock-up saunters through? Yes, you, Mr Bentham.
This is an extract from the July issue of Press Gazette. For the full version, see the subscription offers elsewhere on this site.