Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Grant’

A Brave New World for the British press

In Opinion on November 23, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Next Thursday (November 29), Lord Justice Leveson will release his report press ethics in British ethics, which commentators are heralding as a step change in the industry. But this largely misses the point; the change is well underway.

The London Evening Standard reported this week, obviously with more than a little smugness, a 3% increase from last year in its readership from April to September, a 32% increase in The i’s (its sister paper), and that it posted a trading profit of over £1 million. Therefore bucking a general trend – The Times and The Daily Telegraph saw equivalent readerships drop 10% and 7% respectively.

But this tale of the decline and transformation of the print media is well-worn, and largely accepted as inevitable due to including increased competition (not only for news but leisure time), damaged reputations, ease of online publishing, falling readerships, decreasing advertising revenue and consumers’ tightened belts.

The picture painted, albeit with some self-interest and self-preservation, is often an ominous one – a worrying step into the unknown where the traditional bastions are no more, or at least no longer what they were. But could their demise pave the way for more creative, versatile replacements? A look at the way City University teaches journalism now, as reported in The Independent, might suggest so. The institution has just appointed Britain’s first Professor of Entrepreneurial Journalism, has students pitch a magazine brand to a Dragons’ Den-type panel, and extols the benefits of freelancing and ‘portfolio journalism’.

This trend can be seen in the recent rise to prominence of ‘freemium’ papers and magazines, such as ShortList and Sport in addition to the continued standing of The Metro and London Evening Standard – not to mention the vast array of new sites/blogs (often just different names for the same thing). So, superficially at least, it seems the changes will be positive for the consumer in terms of greater choice, and indeed, in many cases, the consumer becoming the creator.

But I’m not so sure it’s so great, at least from my position as a journalist/aspiring journalist (I have a kind of journalistic job and do other bits and pieces). Many others who did the NCTJ I completed nearly a year ago have struggled to find work, been in and out of work (due to job insecurity rather than inability), and taken on – somewhat against their will – jobs in the media revolving more around marketing, PR and sales.

Or gone ‘freelance’. The word often conjures up images of the networking high-flier, but is often just a nice byword for unemployment, essentially. In truth, the reality usually lies somewhere in between, though it’s typically a more fruitful situation for seasoned journos doing it out of choice, due to existing connections, rather than up-and-coming hacks doing it out of the necessity of no other options.

And the journalistic culture of extreme competition, low pay and job uncertainty is often criticised for implicitly excluding prospective journalists; notably ethnic minorities, due to finance and access issues – something new charity Creative Access aims to address by securing paid one-year internships for ethnic minorities.

I don’t wish to complain overly, particularly as I count myself lucky to have a stable job (kind of) in the industry, but it is worth considering whether positive changes to the consumer equal positive changes to the writer (or creator).

That’s even if this ‘New Media Era’ heralds a better outlook for your everyday reader, which I’m not sure it does. There’s a risk of forgetting the scope and quality of established papers – indeed, despite having one of the lowest circulations of UK nationals, the Guardian website is one of the most trafficked in the world. All the national papers have experienced and versatile journalists, and even the oft-decried tabloids target their respective readerships very well.

And then there’s the issue of editorial integrity. Journalism is in the strange position of being regarded, at its heart at least, as for the public good – informing the public, holding those in power accountable, exposing corruption and so forth – yet almost inherently needs avoid state control. So papers face an awkward balance between satisfying shareholders and readers. So, on the one hand, you’ve got ‘honest’ papers like the Guardian losing around £33m a year; and on the other, criticism of the scale and type of advertising and the increasing prevalence of advertorials and sponsored supplements. With traditional sales increasingly dropping, papers will, indeed do, face ever more tricky decisions on where the acceptable line between journalism and commerce lies.

Whatever happens, it seems the days of buying a paper for the daily commute, or buying a Sunday paper in the morning to read leisurely in the garden, are dying. And I think that’s a shame. But then I’m usually asleep on Sunday morning due to my odd, semi-journalistic, nights job, from which I get free papers. And you’re reading this online. You can fight the system, but you usually lose.

Joel Durston


Thousands Loot Britain’s Prestigious and Profitable Public Image

In Satire on August 15, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Last week, thousands up and down the country were seen looting, attacking or burning down Britain’s businesses, buildings, police force and its image of quaint, traditional, stiff-upper lip civility.

People broke into shops and came out with not only goods such as trainers and plasma TVs, but also physical fragments of this important British image. The TAY reporter, who bravely ventured into the chaos, reported seeing a yob coming out of a Clinton store, holding a framed picture of ‘Wills and Kate’, excitedly shouting, “YO, BRE’RIN, I straigh’ up teethed a paw’tion of da’ great British stereotype!”

And this man was by no means alone, as this British image was significantly stolen and damaged throughout. Indeed, many commentators are claiming that it will take a very long time to recover this image and some even doubt that it ever can be. This is despite the Prime Minister, David Cameron, unveiling a £20m British Image Support Scheme for the long term recovery of the image and a £10m recovery scheme to be set up in order for local councils to propagate necessary illustrations of civility and prosperity, however illusory, in the short term.

The tourist industry is the one most directly affected by the theft itself. The obvious reason for this is the reasonable prediction that tourist numbers will fall as prospective tourists stay away, fearing they will get caught up in the violence. There are more intangible reasons too, though, such as many tourists feeling the fair, aristocratic, upstanding appearance of Britain and its citizens they have been sold being one big fat lie. TAY learns, however, that some rather unscrupulous travel agents are trying to cash in on this ostensibly new Britain by organising ‘riot tours’ and ‘riot activity centres’, whereby people can smash up windows and start fires in controlled, rural locations.

The film industry is also feeling the effects of the loss. Whether satirically or sincerely, this noble if stuffy image is regularly expounded on by the small and the silver screen, by production companies from good ol’ Blightly and from abroad, especially the U.S. of A. With the rioters having stole so much of the promoted image, seemingly irreversibly, many production companies are in disarray. These companies are going to find it considerably harder to so shamelessly exploit the refined, restrained, twee British image, as it has been broadcasted to the world, essentially, how many uneducated, violent twerps the UK has like everywhere else. No longer will those who haven’t lived in Britain so easily buy the conceit that we all have dearly held connections to Royals and all live happily in comfortable upper-middle class civility, reading The Financial Times, watching that ‘strange game’ cricket and eating cream teas . No longer will the worst relationship issues be seen as (ultimately minor)romantic problems stemming from affably bumbling Englishmen. No longer will the worst civil unrest appear to be drive by arguments . And, most importantly, probably no longer will the quaintly self-absorbed bubbles of ‘Notting Hill’s and ‘Wimbledon’s (or Jane Austen period dramas) seem to matter when there is far ‘realer’ problems happening.

‘Bumbler’-in-chief, Hugh Grant, was quick to come out bemoaning the effect it will have on his career: “with so many Britons proving themselves to be…well, downright cruel fools, who is really going to buy into my carefully cultivated image of amiable yet maladroit, loverlorn English gentleman?!”  This image is, of course, a huge con. As attested by Grant’s regular appearances on talk shows in light of the News International hacking scandal, he is actually a very self-aware, even self-deprecating, politically astute and articulate man. He thus accounts for the image by  claiming “…well, our friends across the pond love this image don’t they. You may call it shallow, but unfortunately money rules in this world, and I don’t think what I’m doing is in any way as deceitful as some of the financial elite. Yes, I may somewhat cheat some people out of a strictly accurate worldview, but I’d like to think in doing so, I provide some laughs. Many bankers have humourlessly cheated people out of livelihoods.” Grant, though, sees little future in the promotion of this image: “alas, in light of recent events, I don’t think this image is really tenable. At least it’s happened now, rather than in the nineties, now that I’m rich and have enjoyed the adoration of millions (including some rather beautiful women *cheeky smile*), having rode the feel-good wave of New Labour and Brit pop…”

Grant’s partner-in-crime, Richard Curtis, purveyor of such whimsical fluff as Notting HillThe Vicar of Dibley, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, is also acutely aware of the probable impact of the riots on his career: “yeh, the attacks must have been heartbreaking for the families and businesses directly affected, but what about good ol’ Richard over here?! My films have always been kinda escapist, but it’s going to be very hard for me to recover my brand of feel-good, romantic schmaltz in such a relentlessly real world. Even Americans in the Mid-West probably won’t emotionally buy into my typical film now *sighing*…..” Curtis does, however, have a few possible solutions: “I dunno…maybe I could do some kind of modern-day Romeo and Juliet featuring a bird and a bloke from two rival… ‘ghettoes’ I think they’re called, ending in not being able to get to a wedding cos of the riots or summin like that. Or, I could take advantage of the very ‘British’ goodwill of the people offering cups of tea and sweeping the sweets by adding some cheesy, contrived romance and making a film out of it. The yanks would love that shit, to be fair. I could call it ‘Broomance’….”

We await to see if the UK is swept off its feet…..

Joel Durston