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Claims of poor standards in regional press highlighted in new media report

Worrying claims of poor standards of new media editing and training have been cited in the National Union of Journalists’ new report, ‘Shaping the Future’.

The report looked at a wide range of developments in the integrated digital newsroom.

Unsubbed copy being posted to websites was reported by members at national, regional and magazine titles.

The union sees this as the most serious threat to standards, compounded by the pressure of time and volume of material.

The report states that journalists on a daily group in eastern England told researchers: “There are no clear guidelines about what should go up when, whose job it is to put it up, who is checking it legally etc.

“In some cases reporters are effectively having to act as subs for their own material before posting it to website.”

At a Newsquest evening title in the north west journalists claimed: “News stories are going up unsubbed. Reporters file to the newsdesk who edit the copy then upload it.

“Reporters have even been trained to upload copy directly to the internet themselves. There is a strong feeling that Newsquest nationally would be happy for reporters to upload their stories entirely untouched.”

The report explained how union members in some offices said there are no experienced journalists working on the websites and that copy was handled by web technicians.

The report’s authors said: “The quality and legal standard of work must be checked by journalists with a good grounding in media law before being posted online.”

Amid claims of extra work being taken on for no extra pay, the union is monitoring progress at chapels across the country.

The NUJ chapel at the Oxford Mail is monitoring workloads as the move to online publishing gathers pace. The South Wales Evening Post chapel in Swansea is also planning to begin this process of monitoring. If the results show that online working creates extra work the union may challenge the workloads on health and safety grounds.

The biggest area of training currently being undertaken by NUJ members appears to be video reporting among staff journalists on newspapers.

It describes a huge variation in the quality, quantity and content of the training being provided.

Some Newsquest employees reported being sent on five-day long courses with broadcast professionals – and felt that the standard of training was good. But those who attended the courses were then apparently expected to “cascade” their knowledge down to other staff – something the union feels is a poor substitute for proper training.

The report also reveals how at some Northcliffe titles, e-mails had been sent to reporters asking them to think about doing video reports, in advance of any training. One e-mail leaked to the NUJ says: “It’s simply a case of pressing the red button and pointing it at what is going on.”

Responses to the survey revealed that at one Archant title, only two out of 12 reporters have been trained in online working. Training consisted of an 18-hour course at a local college. Staff claimed the lack of training and experience shows up in the quality of video, derided as “shit”, and “embarrassing”.

Archant and Northcliffe Media have declined to comment on the findings.