Showing posts with label newspapers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newspapers. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Moving On, my second novel - out as an ebook TODAY

Moving On, my second novel, is published as an ebook today – and I’m over the moon. It’s the novel I’m most proud of so I’m hoping that new readers will enjoy it.

When the book was first published it had a lurid pink jacket with daisies scattered across the front but now publishers Piatkus Entice have given it a gorgeous mauve cover (I must say I rather covet the heroine’s green and black spotty shirt) and it looks far more stylish.

Like my first novel, Moving On is set in the world of newspapers. But this time round the main characters are two sisters, Kate and Laura Hollingberry. Their father, HH, is a mega-successful newspaper tycoon, but they know next to nothing about their mother, Clare, who walked out in mysterious circumstances when they were little.

The two girls are close but they’re poles apart in character. Laura is happy to get an undemanding job until she finds Mr Right, while Kate is fiercely ambitious and wants more out of life. Determined not to rely on her father's money or influence, Kate takes a job on the Bowland Bugle, a struggling weekly newspaper in the wilds of Lancashire. It's her first job and her first bid for independence. Anything can happen – and it certainly does.

Kate arrives in the north of England as a naive, inexperienced reporter (hmmm, shades of autobiography there), but is forced to grow up fast. Especially when she’s faced with a distraught couple whose teenage daughter has gone missing, a boss who seems hell-bent on tripping her up at every opportunity and a love affair that doesn't go according to plan. Meanwhile, back in London, Laura is facing her own heartbreak and the future of the family business is looking uncertain...

Moving On by Emma Lee-Potter (Piatkus, £3.99)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

From intrepid reporter to chronic worrier

What on earth has happened to me? I’ve trekked across the Masai Mara to discover who murdered a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life, stood on the doorsteps of drugs barons and murderers and covered court cases that gave me nightmares. Yet, here I am having sleepless nights over the slightest things.

The bottom line is that I need to give myself a firm talking to – and stop all this worrying nonsense. I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago when Yummy Mummy? Really? asked me to write a Mother’s Day meme. As I said at the time, I didn’t have a clue what a meme actually was but once I’d worked it all out I jumped at the chance. Anyway, one of the questions was “what's the hardest thing about being a mum?”

Without even thinking I wrote the following. “Worrying. I always reckoned being a mum would get easier as my children got older, but now they’re almost grown up I worry about them even more.”

I didn’t bat an eyelid as I typed the words but reflecting in the cold light of day I realised I was on to something. The carefree girl I once was has turned into a worrier of the first order. For goodness sake, I worry about everything – from my teenage son’s scary bike antics to his dreaded exams to the fact that my daughter’s currently living it up in Berlin with friends. It all sounds wonderful, except she’s staying in a youth hostel dormitory with people she doesn’t know.

I’ve met lots of fantastic bloggers online recently, most of them years younger than me and many with babies and toddlers to look after. As I read about their chronic lack of sleep and how on earth you ever find time for yourself and looking chic on the school run I’m torn in two. I feel half relieved that my 24/7 parenting days are over and half nostalgic for those far-flung times. I made a right meal of them but the truth is that I don’t think I worried quite as much then as I do now.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

My dream office - and jackets on the backs of chairs

Tyler Brûlé is a publishing phenomenon. A war reporter turned fashion editor, he launched the ultra-hip style magazine Wallpaper* in 1996 and the following year Times Inc bought it for a cool $1.7 million. He writes the Fast Lane column in the Financial Times and has also founded an upmarket monthly magazine called Monocle. His latest venture is based at chic headquarters in Marylebone, where everything is so stylish that if you ask for a coffee it comes in “a minimalist white cup on its own limed-oak board, with a single brown sugar cube and modernist zinc teaspoon.” Wow. I want an office like that.

Brûlé featured in a Guardian interview at the weekend and the thing that really stuck in my mind was his insistence on an immaculate office. “People need to attend to details,” he said. “I believe in a tidy ship. No jackets on the backs of chairs.”

Jackets on the backs of chairs. The offices I’ve worked have been full of them. If you walked through a news room in the 80s and 90s you’d see rows and rows of chairs with jackets slung over the back. Mainly because their owners wanted it to look like they’d just popped to the canteen to grab a quick coffee and would be back toiling away at their desks within a couple of minutes. The truth was that they’d actually slunk down the back stairs for a pint or two at the pub.

Newspapers are very different places now. The rambling Fleet Street rabbit warrens have given way to sleek modern towers, with airy, plant-filled atriums and state-of-the-art technology. I’m pretty sure, though, that there are still quite a few jackets tossed over the backs of chairs… 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tribute to a fine reporter - Patrick McGowan

Sitting on the Oxford Tube on the way home from London last night, I flicked idly through the Evening Standard. There, on page five, was a single column paying tribute to one of the most outstanding reporters on the paper – Patrick McGowan, who died last week at the age of 60. 

Pat was a straight-talking Yorkshireman, who joined the Standard in 1978 and for nearly 30 years covered all the major stories of the day. He was a brilliant newsman, able to turn his hand to anything the news desk threw at him without any fuss.

During my first months at the paper I was a bit nervous of him. He was so calm and unruffled about reporting, even five minutes before the edition deadline, when the atmosphere was tense and everyone’s nerves were on edge. But he was kind and funny, with a dry wit that got right to the heart of things.

I didn’t realise until I read the Standard tribute (written by friend and longstanding colleague Paul Cheston) that it was Pat who coined the famous phrase “the wrong kind of snow.” The saying caught the imagination of thousands of fed-up commuters when London train services were completely disrupted in the winter of 1991 and went down in history. Every time I hear it now I’ll think of Pat, one of Fleet Street’s finest. RIP Pat.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The PR who made me feel like a museum exhibit

The PR glanced at my scribble-filled notebook and did an astonished double take. “You write shorthand?” she gasped. “Wow. You’re the first journalist in ten years I’ve seen do that.”

Her words made me feel like a museum exhibit from a bygone age. But then again, shorthand is one of the most useful skills I’ve ever learned. Before I started as a trainee reporter on a small weekly paper on the edge of Dartmoor I spent eight weeks in a shabby Plymouth Portakabin mastering the rudiments of a shorthand called Teeline. Our teacher was the delightful Ella, who must have been in her sixties and thought Teeline was the bees-knees. Only when I’d got up to a decent speed did my editor send me out to cover the local magistrate’s court, industrial tribunals and the thing I dreaded more than anything, the district council’s planning committee meeting.

Even now I use my 100 words per minute shorthand every day. It's a bit scrappy these days, with the odd word written in longhand, but when it comes to tight deadlines and interviewing people on the phone, a notebook and pen are still the best tools for the job. Far easier and far speedier than laboriously transcribing from a tape recorder. And there are still places where you can’t use a recorder, like courts for a start.

Shorthand seems to be a dying art so I was delighted to see it in the headlines this week. Why? Because a diary kept by First World War veteran Edward Sigrist has just been discovered in his family’s attic. It’s written in an obsolete form of shorthand and gives a vivid account of the dangers and discomforts of life on the front line.

Like most journalists I’ve hung on to most of my old notebooks. They’re stacked up all over the place in my office – but somehow I don’t think historians of the future will be poring over them.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Why aren't there more women reporters in Fleet Street?

I’ve never met a journalist who isn’t obsessed with their byline – for the uninitiated, that's the line between the headline and the story giving the name of the person who wrote the article. Maybe it’s because hacks are an insecure bunch, or maybe it’s because we’re preoccupied with seeing our names emblazoned in lights.

It’s certainly why an article by Kira Cochrane in today’s Guardian caught my eye. Back in June, Cochrane had the gnawing feeling that she hadn’t seen a female byline on newspaper front pages for weeks. So along with a colleague and two researchers, she decided to put her hunch to the test and started counting them.

The results were alarming – well, women journalists will think so, anyway. As Cochrane writes: “There wasn’t a single day, on a single newspaper, when the number of female bylines outstripped or equalled the number of male bylines.”

When the team averaged out its figures after a month, the results were as follows: Daily Mail - 68% male bylines, 32% female; The Guardian - 72% male, 28% female; The Times - 74% male, 26% female; Daily Telegraph - 78% male, 22% female; Daily Mirror - 79% male, 21% female; The Sun - 80% male, 20% female; The Independent, 84% male, 16% female.

It's pretty damning stuff, but the trouble is that Fleet Street doesn’t make life easy for women journalists. When I started out as a reporter on the Evening Standard, I was one of six women reporters in a news team of around 24. Twenty years later, only one of us works in Fleet Street, the Guardian’s brilliant Caroline Davies, while loads of the men are still there. And of the men who aren’t, the vast majority continued to work as reporters till they retired.

There’s no doubt that working as a news reporter isn’t compatible with having young children. When I worked for the Standard, I was rung in the middle of the night once or twice a week and told to get to Manchester or Calais or a crime scene round the corner from my Clapham flat – like, er, NOW. So if you’re the mother of young children but haven’t got a live-in nanny or a saintly husband, it’s just not workable. I’m sure it's why so many women leave Fleet Street in their thirties. That’s certainly what happened to me.

Once women reporters take career breaks to look after their children, very few ever return to their old staff jobs. A few turn to feature writing, columns or reviewing but most work as freelances, with no job security whatsoever.

It’s ironic really, because I reckon that I’m a better journalist now than when I was young and green. I know a hell of a lot more about life, not to mention interviewing and writing. So could my generation of women reporters make a difference in news rooms these days? You bet we could.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Page One: Inside the New York Times - A movie every journalist should see

“Journalism is alive and well and feisty, especially at the New York Times.” Those were the upbeat words of journalist John Lloyd after a special screening of Page One: Inside the New York Times at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse last week.

With the hacking scandal still unfolding and journalists universally unpopular, many critics would take issue with his view. But there’s no doubt that Page One shows journalism at its very best. Some have compared it to The September Issue, the brilliant film-documentary about Vogue – and I loved it just as much.

Film-maker Andrew Rossi followed journalists on the NYT’s media desk for a year and the hacks emerge as a sparky and determined crew, dedicated to getting their stories right. Two writers who stick in my mind are Brian Stelter, a go-getting young reporter who juggles phone, two computers and Twitter-feed at lightning speed, while the maverick David Carr, a gravelly-voiced ex-drug addict who’s been writing about the media for 25 years, comes across as a larger-than-life character devoted to his craft.

Several things were puzzling though. As Lloyd, a contributing editor at the Financial Times as well as director of journalism at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, pointed out at the lively debate after the Phoenix screening, hacks in the UK would be astonished at the amount of time Carr gets to produce his reports. At one point he tells his boss that he’s got two more weeks of interviewing and research on a story he’s covering, followed by a week of writing it all up. That’s a luxury that doesn’t happen on this side of the Atlantic any more.

I was surprised, too, that none of the reporters seemed to use shorthand and that when they conducted phone interviews they typed their material straight on to their computers. Not a notebook in sight.

Set against a backdrop of the Wikileaks revelations, charging for news online and the demise of many fine newspapers, this is a movie that every journalist should see. But even if you aren’t a hack and you don’t even buy newspapers any more (shame) it’s definitely worth a look. You never know, it might even make you see journalists in a different light.

PS: Today is Day Six of NaBloPoMo - a fifth of the way there!
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