The Job Of The Week

September 6, 2010

One of the best places for a comms professional to find news about jobs is on the Job Of The Week email. This is mainly, but not exclusively, US, and includes most forms of comms – PR, internal comms, social media.   

It comes in the form of a long email, and can be found at www.nedsjotw.com. It is put together co-operatively by members who send jobs.  If you find out about a job opportunity in communications, send it to Ned Lundquist (lundquist989@cs.com), and he’ll share it. Sign up by sending a blank e-mail to JOTW-subscribe@topica.com. There are over 11,000 subscribers.

Some examples: 

  1. Communication for Development Specialist (Polio Eradication),  UNICEF, New Delhi, India
  2. The Phoenix Art Museum is seeking a Director of Marketing & Public Relations
  3. Fall Intern, Marketing Strategy & Operations (unpaid internship), Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Atlanta, GA
  4. Senior Manager; Corporate Communications (PT), AstraZeneca, Wilmington, Delaware
  5. Lecturer: Social and Behaviour Change Communication, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  6. Marketing/Communications Manager, Oregon Zoo, Portland, OR
  7. Associate Director of Alumni Relations Communications, The American University, Washington, DC
  8. Art Director, Photography, Victoria’s Secret Direct, New York, NY
  9. Internal Communications Manager, Tesco-VMA Group, Hertfordshire, UK
  10. Communication Specialist, Outreach to Development Professionals,  L-3, United Nations Children’s Fund, USA

I’ll be posting a few more items about jobs in the next week.


About getting shot

May 20, 2010

From time to time, a Western journalist on assignment gets shot. It gets into the news and it upsets their family and friends. If they survive, they write about it, and the paper puts it on the front page, if they write for a paper.
This week, that was Andrew Buncombe from The Independent. He was apparently hit in the thigh by shotgun pellets while reporting from Bangkok. He seems OK at time of writing, which one judges by the fact that he has a piece on the front page of the paper.
It is an admirable piece, evocative and immediate first person reporting though with less use of the vertical pronoun than he might have indulged in given the circumstances. His injury is mentioned some way through the article, is not its main feature. and in my edition, anyway, is not featured on the front page. It made the BBC news this morning, though, so they will have sold papers, his wounds.
And that is his job: selling papers. He is very good at it. As a talented young home reporter Andy made a name for himself in London, went to Washington to cover America, which he did with great credit, and then got a job in India covering Asia from New Delhi. He is an unassuming guy with a great sense of humour and a nice turn of phrase.
Selling papers means the Independent will make a little more money today than yesterday (or lose a little less) which is good. That the paper still has correspondents of the calibre of Andy is a minor miracle, given their resources, and the fact that he was in place in Bangkok is testament to the paper’s continuing commitment to international news. But it is spread thin. Andy covers Asia, which extends from the Kamchatka peninsula to Afghanistan, including China and India. “Being there” is a critical part of Andy’s job, the bit he enjoys most and which is probably most important. “Being there” means seeing things and speaking with people and, sometimes, getting shot.
Lots of other people got shot, of course. Non-journalists get shot and it doesn’t make the front page or Radio 4. Lots of Thai civilians got shot and their faceless, nameless bodies lie on the street in the photographs we see in the papers. When a journalist gets shot his or her name and face get in the paper, and make us take notice of the fact that someone is loosing off shotguns in places where civilians get hurt. Which is the job of a foreign correspondent.
The “foreign” part matters. Foreigners bring a degree of detachment and distance (sometimes helpfully, sometimes not) to reporting. And the fact that Andy has reported conflict elsewhere gives him an advantage in reporting. Injuries to foreigners also get taken more seriously than injuries to locals. That is wrong, but given that it is a fact, it is good that an injury to a foreigner brings attention to what has happened to many others in silence.
Andy probably has insurance and a flak jacket (not on his arse, though) and an evacuation service and hostile environment training, and a foreign editor who (mostly) loves him, and a salary and expenses. These are the benefits of being a foreign correspondent and not a local or a stringer or a tourist or a citizen journalist. Citizen journalism has done terrific things, but if you ask people to put themselves in harm’s way to sell newspapers then you need to do more than just thank them. And we should ask people to put themselves in harm’s way to sell newspapers, because that ensures things get reported quickly, effectively, plurally, openly, that people with skill and insight and experience bring us the first draft of history. Selling newspapers means getting timely, authoritative information to large groups of people, at its best.
It costs. It costs lives, of course, but it is also expensive. My interest in its continuation is partly emotional but partly professional concern for seeing international affairs reported by professionals with appropriate support through multiple channels. This means money. I remember a foreign editor, years ago, being told by a colleague that a correspondent had been caught in a helicopter gunship attack. “He is OK,” the colleague said, “but the hire car is a write-off.”
“Hire car?” Said the foreign editor. “Who told him he could hire a car?”
The correspondent was fine. I hope Andy is also fine and wish him and Nisha well.


The Independent: Onwards and upwards!

March 28, 2010

I worked for the Independent for ten years and loved it; and I love it still. It is all very well for detractors to talk about the good old days, or lament the change of ownership, or decry the fact that the new owner used to work for the KGB,  but the fact is: still it moves, and it now has a future.

The newspaper has continued to break stories, and to attract talent. The foreign correspondents in particular remain remarkably unchanged (though age has withered them, like the rest of us). Robert Fisk, John Lichfield, David Usborne, Rupert Cornwell, Andrew Buncombe, Donald McIntyre – these are amongst the best correspondents of their time, anywhere.  (If I left anyone off that list, don’t read anything into it. It’s Sunday). It has a global audience and it should play more to it.

What matters is: is it still independent, meaningfully? Is there a place in the market for it? Can it survive commercially? And are these questions intertwined?

My view is that it can survive commercially, but it will need to reduce and focus still further. That means losing some paid circulation, not doing everything a full service paper does, getting more webby so it can deliver to the global audience that values it most highly, and focusing on what it does best rather than OK (or badly). What it does best is global news and comment, in my view. It isn’t resourced to do domestic or business news, which require more investment than it can make. And it is better at making an argument than many papers: it is scrappy and it likes the underdog.

Is it really independent in anything but name? Yes. It is not politically parti pris (which the other papers in general are). Better to make a virtue of this than suffer because it doesn’t have the reflexive, loyal audience that the others have.  This asset has been less valuable for the past fifteen years than it might because there has been little in the way of two party competition to be independent of; it should now be more valuable. And equally, it needs redefining as the paper hopefully recognizes that its audience is global.

As for the ownership: that ceased to be meaningfully independent years ago, when the Mirror Group got its paws on the thing, and then O’Reilly. Forget it; that bit was over a long time ago. But it is still worth making the point that the new owner is an important part of the action.

So this guy is a Russian: so what? There are some great Russians and some not so great Russians, and this one seems pretty good. And he worked for the intelligence services: so did some senior executives on one or two other large British and American media companies over the last fifty years (you know who you are). Some of them were rather less ready to acknowledge it; and some of them were less bright, entrepreneurial and imaginative. The fact of having worked for an intelligence service is not a negative, any more than having worked for a foreign diplomatic service. His record doesn’t seem to indicate that he ever tortured anyone (unlike at least one short-tempered Scottish editor of my association).  No guilt by association, and no xenophobia please. Better a bright Russian ex-spook than some dim Englishman who can’t find his ass with both hands, a map and a copy of the Rough Guide to Asses.

Lebedev is an asset to the degree he is a voice for tolerance, pluralism, and rights in the world – and that certainly seems to be his intention. The fact that it is a useful calling card for him is worth recognizing, but that was also the case for Tony O’Reilly. That is how papers work, especially those that don’t make money. He will need watching (all owners do). But his ownership is a net positive for the paper. He has money and he knows what he’s getting into.

Is there a place in the market for Mr Lebedev and his Independent? Yes, since it sells; but not at the level of expenditure it commands now. It will have to shrink and jobs will have to go. That is an upsetting fact, but a fact. It cannot keep losing (this much)  money. It will have to find new models for production and sales, and make those work. The Independent spirit is to make do and mend and that will have to go even further. It spends much more than it earns. Funding that isn’t “investing,” it is throwing away money that could fund better journalism.

Is it worth it? Yes. The space in the market for a paper that is critical, readable, incisive, has character and insight, looks where others won’t and speaks its mind is still there. It just has to cost less and make more money. Easy.


Facebook beating Google

March 17, 2010

Facebook got more hits than Google search last week. There are some big lessons in there for news: increasingly this is how people encounter it – not via a “web site” (get hip, daddio), let alone a “home page” (where’s your STEREO, grandad), or even via search (That is so 2009).

They find it via social media. It is the first place they go in the morning (maybe after the bathroom, maybe not) and the last thing at night. facebook users prefer broadcast media (video and audio), says Hitwise in a separate piece of research. “A colleague pointed me to an article in the New York Times suggesting that social networks are creating a water cooler effect,” writes Hitwise’s Heather Hopkins, “and actually boosting viewership of broadcast media. Is Facebook the new water cooler and if so, how can print media capitalize on this trend?”

“Does this mean that social sites are going to overtake search sites on the internet? Not so fast … we might be seeing a see-sawing back and forth. In 2007 it was MySpace that was ahead of Google,” says one blogger. And these things do go up and down; social media has its moments and may be absorbed into different trends. Nonetheless – broadcast has cleaerly done a better job than print of responding to this. Oh, and Twitter is far less significant on this scale, by the way, despite the fond hopes of old media.


Hacks, flaks and spooks in Afghan venture

March 15, 2010

The media, government intelligence services and private security firms are getting closer as old media winds down and private security firms seek more information for themselves or government contracts. The New York Times describes some of these ventures in an article today.

The central allegation is that a Pentagon official, “Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.”

The piece is a bit confusing, in part because of the mixture of actors and subjects. They include AfPax, a website run by Eason Jordan, a former CNN boss, International Media Ventures, a “strategic communications firm” (more strategic than communications: the management is mainly ex-military), Robert Young Pelton, author of a book on the pprivate security industry, and Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, a veteran intelligence officer.

It is not clear if the venture is just about intelligence collection, which often uses open sources, but seems to have mixed up motives, finances, methods and structures in this case. It also appears to involve the use of strategic communications firms to distribute information, or psyops. And it crosses over into the world of security firms since some of the actors were involved in the (very messy and muddled) efforts to free David Rohde, the NY Times guy kidnapped (and freed) last year.

This piece in Wired by Nathan Hodge makes some good points about this issue. “Afghanistan, in fact, has been a longtime laboratory for strategic communications,” it notes. “And then there’s the military’s interest in newsgathering-type intelligence on Afghanistan’s social and cultural scene.”

This is a useful reminder that it would be too easy to dismiss this as either a piece of failed experimentation, or a conspiracy, or a bunch of wannabes. Structurally, there are reasons why the private and public sector are increasingly working together in this area; and why the security and intelligence worlds and media are converging in some areas. They always have to some degree crossed over, and now the barriers that used to (in theory) divide these separate worlds are crumbling.


Ten tips for a young journalist

March 12, 2010

A friend’s daughter got a new job at a university newspaper (clever thing). I sent some tips, mostly drawn from things others told me, or established industry lore, or stuff I copied off the web. All additions and comments welcome; no cynical “don’t do it” kind of stufff though please. Encourage.

My ten:

1.       Write to be read. There is no point writing for yourself. Write for one, ten, a thousand, but write for someone else.
2.       Read to write. Others have done this before and knowing that does not prejudice originality. Nor does borrowing.
3.       Get out some. There is nothing to be found at home. Go listen to music (or whatever) and soak it all up. [She is writing about music]
4.       Suspend disbelief. Listen to things you don’t like, and sometime imagine you might be wrong.
5.       Kill your little darlings. Most of the time, the bits you come to love most in what you write need to be removed; they are getting in the way of what you want to say.
6.       On time, on sale. Hit the deadline, every time. It is a state of mind.
7.       Don’t make it up. Ever.
8.       Don’t write down; write up.
9.       Never resign.
10.   Don’t bury the lead.


The tyranny of non-words

March 8, 2010

I loathe and revile vague words. I am also not that keen on press releases (too often a substitute, not a vehicle, for a message). So this piece by Tim Phillips brought me much pleasure.

“Vague non-words like significant and substantial look like they’re telling us something, but they aren’t. They’re useful for people who have a deadline but no clear idea what they’re writing about; or people who know the numbers, don’t want to tell us what they are, but want to waste our time anyway because that’s what they’re paid to do. Often they are paid by the word, so chucking in a “substantial” here and there is basically free money.”