So, clearly for the third HyperWM unconference we thought we’d have a crack at producing our own.
What a jolly wheeze we thought. We’d collaborate to turn some blog posts into a newspaper using the Newspaper Club website. What larks. You use their website to produce a newspaper and they use spare capacity on presses to send you the printed thing.
A newspaper. We’d get people not used to the blogs reading blogs. After all, isn’t it a good idea to give information in the format that people would like?
A quick disclaimer. I spent 12 years on newspapers starting in the early days of the internet and ending the year after Facebook was invented. For others it was their first experience of a newspaper.
Myself, Si Whitehouse and Liz O’Nions worked to produce the finished edition.
Here’s some things that struck me.
Bloggers were a bit phased by it all. People seem mildly tickled to see their name in print. But they got a bit irked when their work was edited to fit the space available. They also hated he idea of deadlines and in some cases had to be pushed and threatened to come up with the goods. In some cases no goods were come up with at all. There’s something about aiming for a deadline that some people not used to deadlines struggle with.
Editing I’m reminded that having to write for a specific space is irritating. I’m also struck by how clunky and basic the basic Newspaper Club editing tools are. You can only add your content in sequential order. Oh, and edit something on page two and you push everything on pages three to eight off kilter. Thankfully, you can upload your own work via a pdf which may well be the best way to tackle things. Phew.
Newspapers make me swear. I’m reminded – how could I forget? – that newspapers are only produced by lots of swearing with an undertow of threats. On his first day on a daily newspaper a former colleague had his first proudly written story returned with the words ‘SHIT’ written on the top by his news editor. He re-wrote and re-sent. It was sent back with the morale-boosting message ‘STILL SHIT’ on it followed by a phone call in which the news editor treated his new charge to a lecture with a wider array of swear words. That in a nutshell is the approach to management on many newspapers. Besides, a newsroom without swearing I just don’t feel is a newsroom. Looking back on my career there was a lot of swearing. Not all threatening ranging from the soft curse to the humorous aside punctuated by Anglo-Saxon to the red faced abuse. During the process of the HyperWM newspaper I swore a lot and I’m struck by how I’m actually incapable of producing one without it.
Reporters’ war stories can only be understood by other reporters. You can have a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a whinge of newspaper photographers and an anecdote of reporters. After Hyper WM we went to an Indian restaurant. I regaled the story of how I was on calls duty when I got a tip-off that it had collapsed killing three people and had 30 minutes to write the frontpage. It turned out it was only one person killed. People seemed aghast that reporters then track down where the deceased lived with the aim of securing a picture and an interview with the grieving family. Actually, it is quite shocking. But people need to know how their family newspaper is produced.
Newspapers give an illusion of permanence. Holding something in your hand is real. You’ve made something. Not just a line of code. Reading some print is something that millions of people still like to do and I’m one of them. But as the saying goes they’re also fish and chip wrappers. You can’t Google print. Now the dust has settled I’m thinking of how to put the text online too.
Newspapers are great. When was a reporter and I had a few minutes spare I’d walk down to the Press Hall past the towering presses humming with noise just to pick up one of the first copies after it came off the line. The spectacle of this impressed me on my last day just as much as it had on my first. Those presses have close now and production has been moved. This is life.
It takes time and money to produce a piece of print. In hard stats it took two days of work to put the newspaper together and we waited for days for it to arrive. We produced 200 copies. The contributors could have reached ten times that at no cost on Twitter. But – and this is the main point – they may not have reached the 200 who picked up the newspaper. Sometimes you can spend too much time focussing on the one channel and forget about the others. But you need to work out the cost in reaching them.
You can read the newspaper here:
Big thank you to the Interreg-funded Cross Innovation EU project from Birmingham City University for helping to sponsor and to fellow contributors Andy Mabbett, Si Whitehouse, Liz O’Nions, Jan Britton, Alexa Torlo, Ben Procter, Caroline Beavon and Geoff Coleman.
Creative commons credits