Maybe the 'Scrooges' aren't so bad after all

NOT
HAVING a staff Christmas party to go to is hardly the end of the world
for most journalists – it was one of the advantages I found going
freelance three years ago. So I can’t imagine Trinity Mirror staff are
adding to the Samaritans’ festive workload over the topic.

In
fact, around the group there were always big differences over who did
what (and more importantly who spent what) on entertaining staff in
December.

But clearly the days of individual centres, or even titles, having control over that “discretionary spend” are over.

And
of course, even if journalists never even went to the do – or only went
for the free drink and then huddled in a corner over the twiglets,
slagging off the management – they will feel aggrieved that this choice
has been taken away from them.

Being able to throw a good party
for staff, and actually get them to come and enjoy themselves, has
always been a good marker of wellbeing in any company. Archant has got
this down to a fine art with its hugely expensive and wellattended
annual bash.

It may be difficult to analyse whether it actually
makes a hack produce more column inches, or a rep sell more
advertising, but endless research shows companies benefit from having a
happy and appreciated workforce.

But Trinity Mirror is not alone
in cancelling Christmas parties. A recent survey (the mainstay of
journalism, so why should my column be any different) has shown that
four out of five bosses in any sector are not organising festive bashes.

This
is not actually down to cost, but because parties often caused
arguments among staff and led to official complaints about harassment.
Two-thirds of employers said they had actually sacked a member of staff
because of their antics at the Christmas party.

An employment law
specialist was quoted as saying that the combination of booze and staff
feeling able to let their hair down can turn sour, with bosses having
to mop up on the Monday morning.

I have some sympathy for this
argument. At most Christmas dos I would stay for the first hour to show
willing and then exit stage left so the staff could have fun without
having to worry about me standing there beady-eyed and stone cold sober.

But
even during that short space of time I have had to intervene when a sub
threatened to deck the MD as he thought he was dancing too closely with
his girlfriend.

Another occasion resulted with a hospitalisation
after a features writer danced so enthusiastically to an Abba number
that he managed to fall on top of a glass and sever an artery in his
wrist.

Luckily the fierce-looking barmaid knew first aid, as we
were all useless, and stemmed the copious amounts of blood before the
paramedics arrived.

Not long after, one of his colleagues managed
to get herself run over by a bus on the way home. The features
department was halved for weeks in the aftermath.

So maybe this
year’s partyless Christmas will be a blessing is disguise for all
concerned. You can stay out of casualty and not get sacked – at least
until the next round of job cuts.

THE FEW women who make it to the top of our profession are often accused of having to adopt male traits to get there.

There
may be a grain of understandable truth in this, but it has always
seemed like a convenient stereotype to me and doesn’t stand up to much
scrutiny with the present crop.

But I knew, as soon as Sunday
Telegraph editor Sarah Sands was quoted describing her new relaunch,
that she was destined to have the piss taken.

If you hadn’t
actually read any of the pieces you would have been forgiven for
thinking that Sands’ description of the new package was akin to the
impression created by those seminal Flake ads.

Here was a woman not afraid to be coquettish, flirty and giggly in breathlessly describing how gorgeous and girly it all was.

This
was backed up by an admittedly funny piece in Private Eye in which
Sarah ‘Strobes’ expounded her theories on how a newspaper is like
bubble bath, floating in the air, smelling of perfume… etc.

In
fact, Sands described her new newspaper in the following terms: “very,
very good”, “arresting”, “intelligent comment”, “news is the dynamic
for everything”.

It is only when she describes the new magazine
Stella (or Nutella according to the Eye) that she uses terminology like
“lovely” and “bathtime reading”.

And why not? I accept most male
editors might be loath to sound like that – but Sands is not afraid to
be a woman describing a supplement.

The fact that these throwaway
comments were chosen to be used in nearly all the headlines and puffs
about the relaunch shows how very male the industry still is.

THE SOCIETY of Editors’ annual conference at Lake Windermere was a triumph, with the best content for years.

Highlights
included the BBC’s director of nations and regions, Pat Loughrey,
entering the lions’ den regarding its controversial plans for local TV
services.

This was also the conference that launched the new
journalism diversity fund and the new protocol, agreed by the Crown
Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers, which
emphasises disclosure to the media.

All these issues are hugely
important to the regional press, so what a shame that there were so few
from that part of the industry present to listen and learn.

I counted a small handful in total, including those speaking.

Times
may be tough, but this conference was in no way a jolly. It was an
opportunity to hear about and reflect on the industry at a pivotal time
its history.

Alison Hastings, a former editor of the Evening Chronicle, is now a consultant

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