Scottish Parliament launches competition for future journos

by Junio Valerio Songa

The Chamber of the Scottish Parliament

 

Any aspiring journalist who would be interested in work experience at the Scottish Parliament can apply for a competition launched by Holyrood in collaboration with the Fife Free Press newspaper.

The week long placement will be accessible to Scottish final year and postgraduate journalism students, who will work alongside accomplished journalists in the Parliament’s Media Tower, filing copies on parliamentary business and covering the week’s hot topics.

Candidates can access the competition, which started the 28th of October, by submitting a 500 words essay on the topic “what do you see as the main achievements of the Scottish parliament to date?” The essays will be judged by a panel which includes Allan Crow, Editor at Fife Free Press, Katrine Bussey, Political Editor of the Scottish Press Association; Raymond Buchanan, BBC Reporter; and Annette McCann, Head of Media Affairs at The Scottish Parliament.

Presiding Officer Alex Ferguson MSP said about the competition:

“The Scottish Parliament is delighted to be launching this student placement competition for up and coming journalists. We are at the hub of political news in Scotland, therefore I can think of no better place for a student to learn their trade.”

All entries will have to be submitted to Media Relations Office, Q3.03, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP, the deadline for the admission is 3rd of December 2010.

Some things never change….some things

By Myles Edwards

http://mylesedwards.wordpress.com

Cast your mind back to 1967.  Labour were in power in the United Kingdom.  War in the Middle East was causing conflict in the western world.  Casino Royale was a box office hit.  Mini skirts were the craze.  Ken Barlow was strutting his stuff in one of the nation’s favourite soap operas.  Some things never change……some things.
Mel Edwards is a former British marathon international runner with a personal best time of 2hours 18minutes 24seconds (set in 1967), and is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring, modest and popular coaches in the running fraternity.
Born in December 1942, he graduated in Civil Engineering from Cambridge University in 1966 and has since enjoyed a great deal of success in the world of distance running.  In a career which has spanned over 40 years, Mel has endured a roller coaster of ‘injuries’ and success at every level from club competitions to international level.  Detailed and accurate training diaries have been kept, which show he has racked up a total of over 100,000 miles of running!

Mel Edwards at Font Romeu high altitude training camp. Following receiving his second Cambridge ‘blue’ for his exploits on the track he went on to bigger and better things in 1967.  It was quite literally a record breaking year for Mel.  He impressively broke the Scottish 6 mile record – whist finishing 2nd to Lachie Stewart, but went one step higher on the podium in the English universities 3 mile race by cracking the previous record.  1967 saw him really flourish as an athlete, most notably in the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  In his first attempt at the event, Mel ran away from his rivals early on to win the Harlow marathon and climb to 4th in the British rankings.  To cap it all off, he narrowly missed out on the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, by 2 places.
What contributed to this large amount of success in a sport, which, at the time was highly competitive in the UK?  In an answer that was oozing with Mel’s typical, determined attitude, he said: “It was down to single minded focus on getting the best out of myself, by doing the work and when injured leaving no stone unturned to find the solution.”

Renowned for his training regimes of around 100miles per week, what makes Mel stand out is his positive attitude and dogged determination to get the best possible outcome from everything he does.

In November 2006, aged almost 64, Mel underwent a MRI scan for lower back pain.  45 minutes later he was diagnosed with Myeloma, an incurable but very treatable form of bone marrow cancer.  After numerous treatments and minor disruptions to work, 8 months later he was back to full-time work as a chartered road safety engineer and running over 20 miles per week.  His reaction following the diagnosis typified his personality traits.

“Those are malignancies, cancer”, said Dr. Frank Smith.  Much to the doctor’s amazement, Mel’s immediate reaction was not to be shocked but “I’ve got a big cross country race coming up soon.”

When asked if he felt his attitude and fitness achieved from competitive sport had helped him face cancer head on, Mel’s response was definitive:

“There is no question these elements made fighting myeloma much easier. I would hate to have had to deal with it if I had never had to show determination in my life due to things coming too easily. Certainly fitness means that you have a built-in reserve which can be used to deal with additional stresses.”

It is this attitude which has served Mel so well throughout his life and during the treatment.  An inspiration to many, but what makes this inspirational character tick?

“I am inspired by the opportunities available to do constructive things, such as helping people with their athletics aims and trying to make roads safer in my working capacity. These aims, when carried through, give people a feel-good factor.”

British marathon running was booming in the late 1960s and continued to do so for the best part of the following two decades.  In 1968 there were only 2 countries to have more than 3 runners faster than Mel – Japan and UK, which, looking at today’s standards makes him look rather unlucky at missing out on competing at an Olympic Games.  But it is evident that excuses, simply, aren’t in his nature.

In 1968, 46 UK men broke the 2hours 30 minutes barrier.  In 2007, only 31 men managed to achieve this feat.  With all the advances in footwear, nutrition and training tools, as well as even faster role models, albeit from other countries – why is there such a decline in British marathon running standards?

Mel’s opinion on the decline is, again, filled with absolute clarity:

“It is down to distance runners not putting in the work they did 40 years ago.  You have to be totally dedicated to getting the mileage in and choosing the right races.  Between 1966 and 1984, in Aberdeen alone, there were ten guys faster than 2 hours 20 minutes for the marathon.”

For many people, it is intriguing to find out what gets an athlete through long runs without boredom setting in.  For Mel, it is simple:

“I really enjoy the challenge of distance and time.  The fact that others with an aim to be in the top echelons of marathon or cross country running in the UK, were doing similar training also gave me a desire to be the best.”A common site in elite marathons. (World record holder Haile Gebrselassie 3rd from right)

The lack of top marathon runners in the UK today is in stark contrast to the likes of Kenya, Ethiopia and America.  For Mel, in the late 60s and 70s you only had to turn up for a local race to compete with or witness elite athletes in action.  Therefore can the lack of male distance running role models in the UK be a factor in the decline of standards?  Perhaps so, but with Mel’s philosophy, it is very likely thatall smaller factors would subsequently fall into place.

“More role models would emerge as a result of increased hard work from individual athletes.  To be the best, you must learn from, and work harder than those faster than you.”

His fair, no nonsense attitude spans far wider than himself or anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him.  For those who are not familiar with the name, Oscar Pistorious, he is a South African Paralympic runner, known as the “Blade Runner”.  He is the double amputee world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres and runs with the aid of carbon-fibre limbs, attached from the knee down.  In 2007 Pistorious took part in his first international able-bodied competitions.  However, the International Association of Athletics Federations (with their typical Rubix Cube-like mindset) ruled that his lower leg, artificial limbs gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes and subsequently banned him from competing under their rules.  That decision has since been reversed and Pistorius is eligible to compete in able-bodied Olympic competition.

Mel’s opinion on Oscar Pistorious’ situation not only demonstrates his love of a challenge but also seems to apply common sense to some harsh obstacles which had previously been placed in the path of the young South African’s destiny.

“I believe he should be allowed to compete at the highest level possible.  He is not far off the top able bodied 400m runners and relishes the challenge of competing against them.  It would have been crazy to deny him the chance.  He deserves the opportunity to enjoy himself as he wishes and I see this taking precedence over views of others on his actions.”

The British male marathon running scene offers little sign of competing at the front of world class racing.  At 67, Mel Edwards shows less chance of slowing down than Formula 1 cars and even less likelihood of quitting than Ken Barlow:  “I have no reason to stop.  I feel good and it is exciting.”

Some things never change.

Fountain Park celebrate anniversary

By Kenny Simpson

 

Fountain Park is ‘thriving’ after opening ten years ago due to offering credit crunch suffering Edinburgers’ an alternate to costly nights out, according to a business guru.

The leisure park has become one of Edinburgh’s most popular hotspots with an average daily attendance figure of 10,000 people.

Fountain Park being constructed in 1998

Napier business guru Robert Wilkinson said, “While it is always great to see businesses doing well during the recession, we are talking about large organisations here. There are still many small companies going out of business every day in Britain. Fountain Park has the luxury of providing people with a cheap alternate to going on a big night out and that is why it continues to thrive in these hard times.”

 

While the majority of the businesses are now settled and successfully beating the recession, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing as long-serving cinema employee Alan Stevens, 28, remembers.

Fountain Park as it looks today (Picture courtesy of http://www.fountainparkcentre.co.uk)

He said, “I have been here since the cinema was owned by Virgin and have seen many businesses come and go in that time. There used to be a huge nightclub on the corner we’d all go to and an Italian restaurant that closed after a few months. As much as I miss that club, it’s cool that Circus opened a casino and Nandos have a restaurant now.”

The retail complex currently boasts a 13 screen cinema, bowling, casino, gym, bingo, pubs and restaurants.

Cineworld Cinemas Operations Manager, Mark Smith said, “The cinema has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years and we have achieved an excellent financial profit in our review of this year. In fact this is Cineworld Edinburgh’s first year ever that we have managed over a million admits.”

The popularity of Fountain Park and in particular the Cineworld cinema has led to hosting the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival which attracts people from all over the world into the capital. The crowning glory of Fountain Park’s history came two years ago when film stars Keira Knightly and Sienna Miller walked down the red carpet for the world premier of ‘The Edge of Love’


Sport media pulling off the saves

Sports journalism - the saviour (Photo courtesy of http://www.getreligion.org)

By Myles Edwards and Suhayl Afzal

 

Newspapers are relying heavily on sports journalism to survive, according to leading journalists and academics.

The latest circulation figures from ABC (an independent auditor on media performance) show that sales of each quality daily and Sunday newspaper have fallen again in the year leading up to October. 

Newspapers such as the The Guardian and The Observer have already ceased distribution of bulks (copies that readers can pick up free of charge from hotels and airlines), with the Times and the Sunday Times set to follow suit in January 2010.

The Sunday Times recorded a relatively low fall in circulation compared to that of other national newspapers, with a 3.37 percent drop in the past 12 months.  This is partly down to the popularity of its comprehensive sports section.

Jonathan Northcroft, Football Correspondent with the Sunday Times, believes that sport is integral to the future of newspapers.

He said: “There has never been a greater interest in top end sport than there is right now.  The Premier League is the most popular in the world, Test Cricket grosses more money than ever before and it’s the same for all the blue riband events such as the Olympics and Wimbledon.”

English Premier League - Global Audience

Mr Northcroft emphasised the importance of newspapers maintaining their high quality so that readership does not drop any further.

He added: “Sports journalism is delivering in a sector where people really want to consume content and will pay for exclusive news or to read a brilliantly written opinion piece.”

It could be argued that newspapers should not be overly dependant on sport in this difficult time for the media due to advertising downturns.  The high profile demise of Setanta in the UK is evidence of this view.

However, Mark Ogden, Northern Football Correspondent with the Telegraph said: “Newspapers still have the greatest impact and set the agenda. 

“If you watch Sky Sports News or listen to Five Live in the morning, their sports bulletins are often led by the big stories in that day’s newspapers.”

Academics also recognise the importance of the sport to the success of print media.

Michael Oriard, Professor of Literature and Culture at Oregon State University said sport both benefits from and contributes to success of newspapers.

He added: “Sport coverage attracts the reader, who in turn looks to daily newspapers to satisfy their growing desire for more and more sport.”

Superstitious minds

By Kenny Simpson

For the third and final time this year, the superstitious among us have to survive the unluckiest day of the year. Today is… Friday the 13th!

friday13

Death's hand (picture credit: Margon Swifty@flickr.com)

The number 13 is widely accepted as a very unlucky number and Friday as an unlucky day, so it is little wonder why so many of us fear leaving the house on this date.

Ranging from tiny unexplainable happenings to being killed in all sorts of horrific ways, minds seem to run wild with speculation of what could happen on any Friday that lands on the 13th of a month.

But is there really any reason to fear for your life or is it just a case of superstitious minds? That, it seems, depends on who you speak to.

Kirsty Anderson, 22, Edinburgh, is one person who has had an unlucky morning; “I think Friday the 13th definitely brings bad luck. I woke up this morning and found my computer wasn’t working and wouldn’t even switch on. It’s a bad start to a day that’s only going to get worse.”

Some would say unexplainable; others that it was just a computer malfunction that was always going to happen. The majority of people shrug off  Friday the 13th as just another day and feel that what happens is down to them and not superstitions. 

Tom, an employee of Starbucks Edinburgh, said: “I’ve not burnt myself making coffees this morning and that’s down to me being careful and not silly superstitions. If I end up hurting myself today then it will be from a stupid mistake rather than the fact it’s Friday the 13th. I don’t believe in any of this superstition or destiny stuff.”

Black-Cat-Superstition--23777

Photoshopped for Friday 13th but could it happen to you? (picture credit: freakingnews.com)

Ironically any Friday that falls on the 13th is often a lot safer than other Fridays because people are generally more wary of being cautious and some refuse to even leave their homes.

Insurance companies have even found that on average Friday the 13th has around 150 less claims than other Fridays during the year.

However all this cautiousness must have an affect somewhere and it is usually the world of retail who lose millions of pounds of sales because of peoples’ insecurities.

Janet Grainger who works for Dobbies Garden World said: “For the last few years we have noticed a considerable drop in transactions on Friday the 13ths. We have put this down to members of the public being less willing to travel out to the site because of worries about accidents.”

So on this Friday the 13th will you give in to superstitions or chance your luck that you’ll survive to deal with the next one?

Strike action at Trinity Mirror set to go ahead

By Jodi Mullen

Industrial action at the Sunday Mail and Daily Record is set to go ahead later this week after staff voted overwhelmingly to strike in protest at plans to cut 70 jobs.

Journalists at the Trinity Mirror group voted 95% in favour of industrial action short of a strike, including work-to-rule, in an National Union of Journalists chapel poll on Friday. Of these ballots, 85% also supported action including strikes.

The proposed industrial action comes after Trinity Mirror announced a “single integrated editorial production operation”, which would see production resources for both of the Glasgow-based newspapers merged.

The publisher hopes to reduce costs amidst falling advertising revenue and a more competitive newspaper market.

Weekly freesheet titles The Glaswegian and Business7 will also be produced by the same team.

Staff are threatening a 24-hour walkout from midnight on Friday which will disrupt the production on this week’s Sunday Mail and may also affect football coverage in next Monday’s Daily Record.

The strike will be preceded by several days of work-to-rule.

However, Trinity Media remains committed to the proposed reorganisation of the company. Mark Hollinshead, Managing Director of the Sunday Mail and Daily Record, told Edinburgh Napier News that there has been “absolutely no change in our position”.

Angela Austin, Assistant Organiser of the NUJ’s Scottish Office, explained the NUJ’s involvement in the dispute.

“Staff at the Sunday Mail and Daily Record voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a chapel ballot on Friday. The NUJ informed Trinity Mirror of the results immediately. We have made sure the publisher is fully aware of the implications of the vote.”

The ballot at the Trinity Mirror titles follows a similar vote in NUJ chapels at Manchester Evening News and Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers over plans to cut 78 jobs and close weekly newspaper offices in Northern England.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, has spoken out strongly against the threatened job losses and has expressed solidarity with the union’s members.

“Media owners have made hundreds of millions of pounds for after year. Now they are ripping the heart out of papers that are much appreciated by their communities. It’s all about maintaining unrealistically high profit margins.

“From Stockport to Stirling NUJ members, readers and community leaders are banding together to stand up for journalism.

“The NUJ is totally behind these campaigns and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our members in Greater Manchester and Scotland as they fight for their jobs and the souls of their newspapers.”

The NUJ’s position is at odds with the views of media finance expert Richard Wachman. Mr Wachman claimed in his column in this Sunday’s Observer that merging was perhaps to only way to ensure the survival of regional newspapers.

Competition law has traditionally prevented large scale mergers and acquisitions in the newspaper industry. However, experts claim that multiple titles using the same editorial and production resources would allow publishers to reduce overheads and produce more cost-effective and profitable newspapers.

Trinity Mirror has been one of the hardest hit companies in the recent slump in the newspaper market. The publisher has laid off more than 1,400 employees since the beginning of 2008 and has seen ad revenue plunge by over 30% in less than two months.

This week the group also announced that four regional weekly freesheets would cease publication. No job losses are expected, with staff being redeployed to other areas within the organisation.

It’s Journalism Jim, but not as we know it

By Margaret Kearns

Breaking News: Journalism is evolving.

Did you know the Oxford English Dictionary, that stalwart of the English language, turns eighty this year? Like many an eighty year-old, hair dryer in hand to assist in candle blowing activities, it would seem it is no longer ‘with it’, no longer keeping up with the times. Why so? Well, for no reason other than this, our wordy friend defines the ‘journalist’ as:

 “a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news or features to be broadcast on radio or television

 And those of us engaged in the learning of journalistic skill know nothing, if not that journalism, as we know it, is in the middle of a revamp. A journalist must now be the definitive jack-of-all-trades. Get the story, photograph the subject, snatch a bit of exclusive video on your phone, print, post and email it, blog about it, create a text poll of readers opinions, provide a forum, an RSS feed, analyse trends, post the YouTube video, link it, tag it, send it into space. Multimedia is king.

However, this evolution cannot be attributed solely to the advent of the worldwide web. Mobile Internet, broadband and mobile technology have forever revolutionized how the media gets it’s news but even more importantly, how news is assimilated by the world. The media has been in an evolutionary metamorphosis for a few years now but it’s only now, in the midst of an economic crisis that it has it come full cycle and do we get to see just how the face of global media has changed. Gone are the days when you digested the goings on of the world over your cornflakes and once more at dinnertime. Welcome to the days of news on the go. Gone are the days when commuter heads were obscured behind the headlines, now it’s eyes down on the Blackberry, iPhone, mini laptop, N95 and more. 

 As newspapers decline and the Internet powers on, more and more editors are screaming for their online content. Tellingly, Guardian.co.uk will be hosting a summit in March entitled “Survive or thrive, change your digital strategies” the salient motto of which is ‘do not get left behind’. What has become blindingly evident in recent years is that those who don’t embrace the changes do get left behind. Back in November Scotsman.com lost half their online traffic as a result of a controversial redesign of the site and it’s no surprise that whilst the Express’ online resource is regarded by some as, “one of the worst in the UK” (step forward Roy Greenslade, Guardian media commentator), 2008 saw a steady decline in their circulation and a contentious mass redundancy. The same year saw drastically different fortunes for the likes of The New York times who opted not to boost sales of the paper and went with it’s website to break the story of Senator Eliot Spitzer’s resignation after a prostitute scandal. Which meant, that for almost an entire news cycle, they had exclusivity on one of the biggest U.S. stories of the year and scooped the Online News Association award as a result. The presence of these online awards is in itself an indicator of the importance magazines and newspapers now have to place on an online ‘presence’.

It has to be said then that the reporter on the ground is no longer the biggest cog in the media machine. Papers and magazines now have to consider the psychologies of the surfer, amass the hits that will get the advertising revenue rolling in. Black and white print on tomorrows chip paper will no longer suffice as a market strategy. Search engines and their ‘hit lists’ become the as relevant as as the “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” cries of the 20th century.  Online traffic has become more and more important as has web design and ‘the online presence’, along with video feeds and juxtaposed links. The reader now has a viable input with text polls now a popular feature of Sky News broadcasts. Radio stations are also following suit, making shows more interactive than ever, utilising email and web facilities to create content. Heck, even the traffic reports now come from the poor souls trapped in jams around the UK frantically texting and emailing to save others from their frustrated fate. Never before has an industry been so dramatically forced to change it’s fortunes by embracing the technologies threatening to make it defunct.

 But let’s not forget that whilst the next generation of journalist may have to perform more of a balancing act than their predecessors, their jobs are made significantly easier when the world and all of its knowledge is just the touch of a button away. I fear the World Encyclopedia may just be the next casualty in the technological revolution. 

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