Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

Committed to journalism – the Reuters Institute’s 30th anniversary

September 11, 2013

by Monique Villa

Reproduced by kind permission of The Baron http://www.thebaron.info/

Spending a week-end in Oxford is always a treat, but spending it with the likes of Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times, Nathalie Nougayrede, Director of Le Monde, John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail, and more than 100 fellows from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, was a real uplifting experience. Uplifting because a large degree of optimism in the future of journalism emerged from the two days’ celebrations and discussions.

The fellowship programme was the first launched by the then Reuters Foundation 30 years ago, and its anniversary was celebrated in style with almost 200 participants, mostly still journalists, coming from all around the world, with their suitcases full of memories and ideas. Seven years ago, the fellowship became the Reuters Institute, a partnership with the University of Oxford.

Mark Thompson kicked off the two-day event with the Reuters Memorial Lecture. And no, he didn’t talk about the BBC. Instead, he gave a fascinating insight into the complex dynamics of pay-per-read and digital advertising.

It is remarkable to see how the rise of social media is forcing long and well established publications such as The New York Times to re-think the entire business model, making video a key asset of their offering. “It’s one thing” – said Thompson – “when you compete with other newspapers in terms of digital impressions – it’s another when you compete with players such as Google and Facebook with their billions and billions of impressions”. He said the newspaper he manages leaves money on the table with advertisers because they don’t produce enough videos, the holy Grail of advertising online.

Mark Thompson stressed the importance of quality journalism, highlighting how time, accuracy and authority are even more precious at a time when everybody creates and circulates news via twitter. I agree with him, social media is not a substitute for journalism, and newspapers brands are surely not becoming obsolete.

What I found fascinating about this Oxford gathering was the palpable level of optimism shared by the executives of prestigious newspapers.

Both Nathalie Nougayrede and John Stackhouse depicted a future where newspapers will become more and more competitive, both commercially and editorially. It was refreshing to see an outspoken French woman outlining – in flawless English – the challenges and the opportunities ahead of the French media landscape. And it was captivating to find out how the Globe and Mail had shut down its print edition for a day – this past Labor Day – to drive users to a new, and enhanced online edition. The risk is part of a wider and bolder strategy at the Canadian newspaper that gives editors a financial premium if their audience online grows. The move, so far, has paid off, but it has also raised eyebrows among those who fear the red line between editorial and commercial could be blurred.

The role of women in journalism was also on the agenda. I was the moderator of an interesting panel which included: Suzanne Franks, Professor of Journalism at City University, Sue Lloyd Roberts, Special Correspondent at the BBC, and Laura Saarikoski, Sunday Editor at the Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest Finnish newspaper. Despite the recent boom in the number of female students enrolled in journalism courses around the world (in some cases up to 90 per cent of the students are in fact women), only a tiny percentage makes it to the very top. Why? The panelists were unanimous: childcare and family responsibilities. Even in Finland, where the government has a clearly progressive agenda when it comes to equal opportunities, maternity and paternity leave, a good number of women make it to middle management positions, but not to the role of Editor-in-Chief. According to Laura Saarikoski, this is due to the fact that women have an embedded guilt complex, which prevents them from putting career at the very top of their priorities. I don’t fully agree with such view, and the fact that two women are leading the editorial teams at The New York Times or at Le Monde is there to prove that things are changing fast.

I agree more with Suzanne Franks when she says that the career of most female TV presenters ends at 45. Sue Lloyd Roberts puts it in a very powerful way: successful female journalists are seen as a “third sex”. “They simply don’t know what to make of you”, says Sue – admitting that while reporting from tribal Afghanistan she was allowed to drink tea in the company of local men, while their wives remained segregated to the kitchen.

Seeing over 100 fellows from more than 40 countries in Oxford this weekend is direct evidence of the great success of the Reuters Institute that the Foundation partly funds. Great credit goes to David Levy, its Director, who has in four years succeeded to transform the Institute into a global player, with its trusted publications massively downloaded around the world. The Institute is today at the forefront of providing trusted information and data for media and policymakers adapting to the new challenges of the profession.

As Mark Thompson puts it: “Why did Jeff Bezos buy the Washington Post? Has he seen anything that the rest of us haven’t?” We don’t have the answer. And that’s why we need the Reuters Institute to pursue its mission of shedding light and provide analysis in the fast evolving media landscape.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is fully committed to journalism and to supporting the RISJ. Our Chairman, David Binet, came all the way from Toronto just for the event, as a testimony of this lasting bond. ■

Monique Villa is a French journalist, business leader and women’s rights advocate who joined Reuters in 2001 as managing director of media after a career as an Agence France-Presse correspondent and manager. She became chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation following the acquisition of Reuters by Thomson Corporation in 2008.

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My new book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered

September 8, 2013

The Budapest House cover

 

My third book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered – has been published!

A Hungarian traumatised by the loss of half her family in Auschwitz returns to Budapest to retrace her roots. She discovers a dramatic personal history that enables her eventually to shed the burden of her past and move forward to a new life.

The Budapest House is Europe’s house…. a poignant but unsentimental journey … Marcus Ferrar masterfully recounts moving personal stories against their wider historical backdrop and vividly evokes Budapest’s haunted past.

Adam LeBor, correspondent of The Economist and author of The Budapest Protocol

Available online on

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803580&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

and

http://www.amazon.com/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803944&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

Paperback version comes out in early October.

My other books are:
A Foot in Both Camps: a German Past For Better and For Worse (2012)

Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival After World War II (2005 – co-author John Corsellis)

Will The Economist’s phenomenal success feed through to Reuters?

August 26, 2013

(This article first appeared on 24.8.2013 on The Baron, a web site covering media trends http://thebaron.info/.)

In appointing a senior manager of The Economist as “chief executive, Reuters, running news and media business from London,” Thomson Reuters has picked talent from one of the world’s most successful news businesses.

Instead of turning to another wizard from America, the company is looking towards a UK-based organisation which has built a powerful readership worldwide including the U.S. The Economist boasts playfully that it is the Voice of God: read its content once a week, and you know all you need about the world.

So what are the keys to success that Thomson Reuters must surely be eyeing in choosing Andrew Rashbass? Some of his colleagues recently briefed journalists attending the Reuters Institute in Oxford:

– The Economist has a circulation of 1.5 million, making 70% of its revenue from subscriptions and 30% from advertising. It is profitable on subscriptions alone. In five years, the ratio is expected to move to 80:20 or more. So much for the myth that nobody pays for news in the digital era.

– Digital publishing grows rapidly, but The Economist finds that print is far from dead. In fact, it tends to be more profitable.

– The Economist employs only a handful of staff journalists. But it draws on a powerful array of expert writers who produce dauntingly thorough series on subjects such as the U.S., China, India, international finance, technology and science.

– It surprises readers by writing about topics they had no idea mattered.

– The Economist does not try to be impartial. It believes readers accept an openly expressed point of view. It is liberal, socially and economically, and sees this predictability as a strength.

– Its journalists don’t write just for the weekly edition. They keep the news flowing in between in the form of blogs. They use feedback from the blogs to adapt followups.

– They see apps delivering news to tablets and smartphones as a more promising business model than web sites with paywalls, because consumers feel they are getting the whole news, not bits and pieces.

Some of The Economist’s lessons will not apply, and Reuters brand already carries authority. But Reuters does not quite have The Economist’s intellectual firepower. It has introduced comment, but it is varied and unfocused. Reuters avoids having “a line,” and in The Economist’s experience that is not a plus.

Look at Reuters web pages, and you see a disparate array of stories – some financial, some global, others lightweight and local. While Reuters has more experience of running 24-hour news, it has struggled to make it profitable. Its web sites have no paywalls.

By refocusing on the name “Reuters,” Thomson Reuters is signalling that it wants to make serious money from news. This has been the Holy Grail for Reuters throughout the ages.

Rashbass, who has been guiding a highly profitable global news brand, has been brought in to deliver.

I Skype .. and my PC suffers serious damage

July 30, 2013

Half-way through a Skype video call with my daughter, the video froze. At the end of our talk, neither of us could exit Skype. My whole PC froze too, and I could not restart.

The IT guy who took it into care says the PC and its systems were seriously damaged.

Skype, he says, it a relatively open system and it is not difficult for a malevolent person to penetrate into your PC during a conversation. I must say, I did not know that.

After 48 hours of cleaning and repairs, he got it back up again to where it was.

My daughter says her Mac froze too, but she could restart it after turning the power off and nothing was amiss.

Macs, says my IT guy, are more resistant to such attacks. My creative arts daughter kindly rubbed it home with another lecture about my Neanderthal computing choices.

Government decides on media controls in the UK – but they won’t work

March 23, 2013

In blogs I posted on 23.11.2011and 4.12.1012, I forecast that nothing much would change in the UK media as a result of the Leveson inquiry into journalistic malpractices, triggered by a scandal over popular newspapers hacking mobile telephones.

Leveson has since reported, and the government, backed by the two other major political parties, has decided to set up a supervisory body acting according to criteria set by the politicians. However in practice, much will still continue as before.

The Economist, The Spectator and Private Eye have declared they will not submit themselves to the new body, even though refusal is supposed to expose them to extra-harsh legal penalties if they step out of line. The newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, as well as the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have reserved their positions but all likewise indicated opposition.

The new arrangement will be enacted not by legislation, but by Royal Charter. Not having lived in the UK for some time, I’m not sure what a Royal Charter is. However it’s seems obvious that it is weaker than a law, even if the parties insist it will have “statutory underpinning,” another phrase I don’t really understand.

If The Economist will remain outside, that means nothing essential changes for me, since I only actually read The Economist. It earns most of its income outside the UK, so should have no trouble staying out of range of UK controls.

I once lived as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe, where the Communist hold over the local media was absolute. People nevertheless found out what was going on through listening to foreign radios. In the UK today, consumers looking for unregulated news can find it on a host of foreign web sites. No need even for a radio set.

In Portugal, during the 1970s revolution, the radical left nationalised nearly all the media, with the result that they all reported the same versions of partial truth. However one newspaper, Espresso, remained independent. So anything that was not favourable to the regime got published there, and we all knew about it. Espresso became the newspaper to read. Controls which are not absolute have no effect.

So does that mean no joy for the victims of mobile phone hackers? Under existing legislation, hacking phones is illegal anyway, so the police could and should do a better job of enforcement.

Some of the media will doubtless remain rascally, but we have got on with that ever since newspapers first appeared. Even if much journalism is rotten, the world can still roll along.

Coming soon … The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

March 1, 2013

DSC01949

Authors from different countries and writing backgrounds are taking part in an internet project called The Next Big Thing. We’re answering the same 10 questions about a work in progress.

My friend from the Geneva Writers Group, Katie Hayoz, asked me to take part. See her blog http://www.katiehayoz.blogspot.ch featuring Untethered, her YA novel about astral projection.

Here’s what I’m up to:

1) The title?
The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

2) Where did the idea come from?
I met the main character of this book through her husband, and her story fascinated and moved me.

3) Genre?
Historical memoir

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a film?
Meryl Streep

5) In one sentence: what is the book about?
A Hungarian Jew traumatised by Auschwitz struggles to find her identity on returning to Budapest, where she finds the property she inherited is inhabited by a sinister individual.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is Lorella Belli.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Nine months – but I am not on the first draft!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Hare With Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal)
Burying the Typewriter (Carmen Bugan)

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I share the main character’s concern over confused identity – it nags at me.

10) What else might pique a reader’s interest?
It’s a poignant story of a person who works through a difficult past and finally leaves her “bad home” to realise herself.

For other authors preparing their Next Big Thing see:

http://www.susantiberghien.com/ – Celebrating Love: Memories from a Long Marriage

http://www.danielanorris.com – On Dragonfly Wings: a Journey to Mediumship

Working hard for A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS

February 28, 2013

Final

Attending a weekly lecture on European statesmen, I tell some of the audience I’ve just published a new book A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE. As it happens, I have a few copies in my briefcase.

One woman wants to buy it, “but I just don’t have money with me.” Surprising how many people go out only with change for the bus. When she hears it’s just £7.99, it turns out she can pay, and does! Thank you.

Another woman buys one, and pays on the dot. Her friend says she wants one too, “but I don’t have the money with me.”

“You can share mine when I’ve finished,” says her friend.

“No need!” I cry, sensing the trap. “Here, take one now, I’ll sign it. Give me the money next week.”

Finally, a man sidles up and asks me to sign another copy. Before I can ask, he says: “Second-hand, I’m afraid. Got it from Oxfam.”

I think: it’s only just come out, so that was a quick read, or even worse, perhaps not a read at all. Perish the thought. I sign up cheerfully, glad that Oxfam can make a turn from my writings to care for the downtrodden masses.

Next week, back into the fray with another briefcase of books. It’ll be Helmut Kohl. I’m loving this.

SPECIAL OFFER – A Foot In Both Camps – ebook at only 99p, $1.99, €1.99

December 15, 2012

A Foot In Both Camps

A Foot In Both Camps: A German Past For Better And For Worse, by Marcus Ferrar, is available as an ebook for only               99p, $1.99 and €1.99 in a year-end special offer. Valid until 15 January 2013.

Since launch this summer, the book has enjoyed excellent reviews and feedback. This is what readers have said:

not just good but brilliant
… made tears sting the backs of my eyes – a wonderful and moving book
… eloquent, thought-provoking and remarkably reflective
… a passionate, fluent and deeply insightful book
… quite exceptionally good – and very moving
… an absorbing and uplifting story told in fine style
… one of the best books about Germany
… the perfect introduction for anyone visiting the country for the first time
… unputdownable
… very satisfying both intellectually and emotionally
… this book is unique … easy-to-read

Also available in paperback. Publisher LBLA digital. ISBN: 978-10908879-08-0

Sign the petition to re-open Friern Barnet Library

December 8, 2012

I am chairman of the Friends of Summertown Library in Oxford.

In 2011, we campaigned and won our battle to save our Library, which the local council announced it would shut down.

Meanwhile, other councils across the country continue to slash away at Public Libraries in order to balance their budgets, making learning, knowledge and culture pay the price.

Friends in the Friern and Barnet area have asked me to sign a petition to re-open their Library, closed last April by their local council and and due to be sold off.

I signed the petition myself, and invite you to do so too. Let’s show solidarity to others defending the same values as ours.

Thank you.

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/re-open-friern-barnet-library

Leveson media inquiry: the offenders are against legislation. How surprising!

December 4, 2012

The Leveson inquiry into UK media malpractices has recommended legislation to curb excesses. One of the objections raised was that government and media cosy up too much together. So it is hardly surprising that neither of these accused now want a new law.

But surreptitious connivance between government and media does no good to anyone. In particular, it is cold comfort to the many victims of media malpractice who testified at the inquiry.

I used to be a journalist myself, so I ought to be against laws restricting the press. But the perpetrators now sound insincere in pleading the age-old principle of freedom of press (which is in any case rightly confined by all sorts of other laws).

The UK press should take this on the chin and pay a price. Having reported as a foreign correspondent in countries with repressive regimes, I doubt whether the mild restrictions called for by Leveson would suppress inconvenient news. Truth will out.

Most likely, however, nothing much will change. That’s what I predicted in my blog of 23rd November 2011 and I stand by it. Not great, but journalism has never been a totally clean business. If journalists would at least obey existing laws, that would be a start – and perhaps all we can hope for.


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