Who knew my weekly column was such a mouthful?

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Just as well I’m thick-skinned, eh?

Those over-exuberant young scallywags at Shavers Weekly have speared me with satire in their latest, laugh-a-minute edition.

It would seem they find the weekly column I write for the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement as something of an unwelcome mouthful.

Everyone likes to be recognised for their work, so clearly this mud slinging comes as a bit of a job blow.

Despite the naughty allegations, I suppose it could have been worse.

After all, the schoolboy humour fuelled magazine labelled my fellow Edinburgh Now columnists as “boring” or “drunk”.

However, it does leave me wondering: just how could they have known about my, ah, special skill?

And with that spoiler out there, how am I possibly going to find an alternative party trick in time for the Christmas season?



Listen Up! This Podcasting Malarkey is Harder Than it Sounds.

Quiet News Day podcast logo

QND Podcast

I’ve recently made a foray into podcasting, along with Shaun Milne, who may also be familiar to blog readers through his Milne Media musings. The pair of us do everything we can to keep on top of social media.

However, bear in mind that Shaun’s real work is running Deadline Press & Picture Agency, a busy multi-media agency turning out top quality news , photography and video. Meanwhile I find plenty to occupy my time running Scottish PR agency, Holyrood Partnership.

There’s loads of innovative and exciting stuff out there on t’interweb, much of it reported by genuinely well-informed social media experts.

However, there’s also a lot of hot air- recycled and regurgitated by so-called “new media experts” whose raison d’etre seems to be to get themselves on the lucrative talking circuit.

What strikes me most is that they don’t seem to hold down anything I’d recognise as a job. So Shaun and I thought people in the Scottish media – whether in journalism or public relations – might have the same problems we do: wondering how to manage busy jobs, family and social lives and still find time for keeping up with the latest developments online, where change is the only constant.

From that small acorn grew the Quiet News Day podcast. Not quite an oak tree, but the first green shoots of … well, something we hope. Anyway, I’ve just finished the edit on QND #3 and it will be uploaded and live on November 18 for anyone who cares to check it out.

At this point, I should say that it runs to more than 50 minutes – and that each episode has been longer than the previous. The only defence I can offer is that each episode also features less of me and Shuan – and more from guests, including regular contributor, Craig McGill.

This week’s guest chat is with Stewart Argo, media manager at the City of Edinburgh Council. Our thanks to him for joining us at the Cask and Barrel in Broughton Street Edinburgh durigng a busy lunch break. I hope the 18 minute edit does justice to our wide-ranging and enjoyable chat.

I also hope it will reassure the hundreds of other people in publice service or in-house PR teams who are also nervously wondering what exactly they should be doing about this new social networking thingummy. Stewart certainly shares our experience that it is a hard graft getting to grips with all these new forms of communication – while still doing all the traditional media relations and other gubbins we take for granted.

Dunno about you, but in the past two years I’ve had to learn video editing on several software formats, the intricacies of numerous blogging platforms, various content management systems while also getting to grips with some fairly advanced SEO techniques. And that’s before I even get to Facebook, Twitter et al.

Crikey – until all that landed, I was still trying to master basic Photoshop and how to work the remote control for the DVD player – or trying to remember to use that mystical tool that is spellcheck for Word documents.

The point is this: now I’m also having to learn about audio recording levels, digital editing, balance levels, sound compression, music licensing rights and converting files from format-to-format. And it’s much (much!) harder than I thought.

So if you do tune in and listen to the latest episode of QND (its on iTunes or more easily found at http://web.me.com/quietnewsday/Quiet_News_Day/Podcast/Podcast.html),then cut us some slack if it sounds a bit rough and ready.

We appreciate it’s not quite as slick as it might be – but that aside, we’d love to hear your feedback, your suggestions for future topics and ideas for polls, interviewees or any other constructive criticism. Then switch on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive and get ready for something rock-a-tock-a-tabulous, mate.

You can get us on Twitter @quietnewsday or by email through quietnewsday@me.com

Say hello to Craig McGill – probably the politest man in the Blogosphere.

They call it “social” media. But the truth about blogging is that it’s a lonely pursuit.

Added to that, there’s no real way to know who is reading what you write. In fairness most of the time you’d probably rather not know – what if it turned out to be only your mum, a handful of pals and a couple of people you rubbed up the wrong way through the years and who only tune in to remind themselve what a tosspot you are?

So I was delighted this week to get an unsolicited email from Craig McGill. I recognise Craig’s byline, most probably from his Mirror days. But he’s written for just about everybody at some stage, published a number of books and has recently been plying his trade as a PR man with the original Scottish PR and communications giant, Beattie Communications.

His message said he was about to launch his own blog – and he wondered if it would be ok to link to this site. Now, I’m still a bit of a novice myself, but as I understand it, getting people to link to your blog is the be all and end all.

So Craig’s email not only meant I had a reader – it also meant I had a reader who was polite enough to ask before doing me a massive favour. Magic! We exchanged a couple of emails, established that we have a mutual mate in Shaun Milne (which is all the recommendation I need to know Craig is sound) and agreed to meet up for a pint or three as soon as Shaun can arrange it.

Today Craig let me know his site is live – and I have to say it looks superb. Since Shaun Milne is a veteran blogger I also read his rave review of Craig’s new offering. I’d have to say the tech specs were beyond me, but I know I want a blog that looks like this.

I’d like to return the favour to Craig, for doing such a thoroughly decent thing by contacting me to polietly request that link – so I’d advise anyone who may read this to take a look at his new blog, cleverly entitled the Cluttered Desk. I know I will be a regular reader.

The problem with media multi-tasking is as plain as the nose on your face

Over the past week I’ve digested all sorts of stories about the changes being wrought on newspapers.

There is definitely a wee sense of foreboding (bordering on mild hysteria) among those in newspaperland who are paying attention. Though I suspect there are many journalists simply looking away in the hope that if they can’t see what’s going on then maybe it won’t actually happen after all.

In the space of 24 hours, three stories were relayed to me by two separate sources – all concerning well-known regional newspapers in both Scotland and England. In each case the narrative was broadly similar:

1 – These papers will only employ new staff who can demonstrate multi-media skills (ie, it doesn’t matter if they can’t source, bottom out or write a story – as long as they can upload a reasonable facsimilie thereof onto the web);

2 – They are issuing state-of-the-art mobile phones-cameras to all staff who will be expected to be writers, photographers and to come back from assignments with video and audio – as well as the story and pictures – all for uploading to the website;

3 – They are all finally realising that web hits massively outnumber traditional readers, while reluctantly accepting that, thanks to some unthinkable paradox, the internet yields virtually nixy in advertising revenue.

As with so much else it comes down to money. Papers have never been so desperate for content. And thanks to their websites have now achieved the holy grail of instant reach and geographically unrestrained coverage. What was once the sole preserve of radio and TV is now available to newspaper websites – real time audio and moving pictures.

But the poor old papers are equally cursed and blessed. Since revenues are falling where is the money coming from to pay for all this additional content? Oh. It’s not.

In fact, staff numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate (I’m reliably informed The Scotsman regularly has no-one – not a single reporter – covering the evening shift). As a result those who are left are being asked to do more. It seems the internet is intent on welding together the jobs of writers, photographers and broadcasters (whether TV or radio) into one unwieldy, ugly, media Frankenstein.

Over lunch with Euan McGrory, assistant editor of the Evening News, I gloomily suggested the demise of newspapers would only be hastened by the inevitable in-fighting as reporters are asked to take on duties traditionally performed by photographers – and vice-versa.

Euan’s take was both cheerful and reassuringly practical: “The problem with all this is as plain as the nose on your face.”

I can only assume the Evening News have already piloted this, becauase Euan was emphatic. “When you sent out a photographer they come back with some really nice images. When you sent out a reporter with a camera, they come back with a pile of crap.”

The simplicity of the argument stopped me in my tracks. During all the handwringing and woe-is-me soul searching over the future of journalism, I missed one vital point. Most reporters can’t compose, light or capture much more than a basic happy snap. And I’m afraid to say that most photographers I’ve worked with find the standard 50-word picture caption tests them to the limit.

Neither of those factors has every been a problem because, until now, the two very distinct disciplines of words and pictures have been just that – distinct. Now the panic measure in a media struggling to come to terms with the web mean we are seeing news people being asked to multi-task to ludicrous levels. And it’s only just beginning.

I’m fond of my job swap analogies, so let me put it another way. If you were about to go under for heart surgery, you wouldn’t suddenly want to learn that the surgeon was also the radiographer who earlier conducted your ultrasound scan. And was also doubling up as the anaesthetist. Then planned a half shift as a specialist intensive care nurse on the recovery ward, before rounding off his/or her day by popping over to the admin block to crunch some numbers with the hospital management team.

I’m living in a half-demolished house just now and I know categorically that the tradesmen rebuilding it are almost tribal in there professional factionalism. Brickies build walls; joiners work wood; sparkies deal with the electrics; and plumbers handle the water works (and maybe a bit of heating/ventilation if you’re really lucky). If I asked any of them to mix and match they’d pack up their tools and leave me to do it myself.

Scott Adam, the creator of the hilarious Dilbert cartoon strip, is a sharp student of the so-called New Media and has, for instance, been blogging for yonks. But even he is feeling the pinch and now plans to rein it in his online activities. He announced the news to his army of readers with this shrewdly worded aside: “It’s hard to tell the family I can’t spend time with them because I need to create free content on the Internet that will lower our income.”

Being optimistic I hope that, as skilled and trained news operators find themselves being squeezed out of the market then, just like Scott Adam, they are going to stop contributing to the free content which makes the web so great while simultaneously cutting the throats of many of the best contributors.

I’m now closing my eyes and hoping really, really hard that people will only knowingly accept total crap for so long, before reluctantly acknowledging they’ll have to pay for the good stuff in some way or another. Then again maybe not.

In the meantime I’ll watch reporters desperately brushing up on how to use camera phones and photographers wrestling with the vagaries of grammar and spelling – and I’ll be ignoring what I’m actually quite good at (a wee spot of media relations) to try reinventing myself as a multi-media guru instead.

Maybe the future’s not so bright after all.