This was the pic on our front page today. Clearly the boys were busy discussing the upcoming US vs Russia Nuclear War Semi-Final. I think the paper is getting better. It is getting some personality, a sense of humour and a better mix of hard news, human interest and entertainment. Our headlines are improving, but still need work. I believe that headlines, captions, strapheads and the like define a paper’s personality and need to be absolutely nailed if you are going to become more than a fish and chip wrapper …
Perhaps, most significantly, we are living up to – perhaps even exceeding – our promise to produce great multimedia to accompany our stories. Stuff on the weather, the Lion King, a grieving mum as well as podcasts, like the one by Simnikiwe Xabanisa, the Sunday Times’ great rugby writer, are hitting the spot.
Much excitement at The Times this morning as copies of our newspaper were distributed to all. It was our first of four dummy run editions to be printed and it was great to hold something real in our hands. The splash was another exclusive, though I thought some of the dailies did well on their front pages. What a stunning picture from Cannes. Did she turn away as he moved in for the kiss? Why? Love it.
Our budget has grown from R100 million (Maverick last week) to R250 million (Anton Harber writing in Business Day this week). I knew it was insensitive of me to cash in my share options at this delicate time, but I had no idea they had matured so nicely . Well, the “insiders” who are giving out these astronomical numbers are obviously better informed than my insiders who tell me that everything is running rather smoothly within the original budget which is WAY less than both the above figures. But then again, what would my insiders know? They are merely managing the budget, making all the staffing and equipment decisions and signing the print contracts …
This was our shot at this morning’s paper. It made deadline and was quite a corker! We didn’t lead with the weather like everyone else, although we had a p1 pick and a xref to two pages inside. The bottom line: We had an exclusive splash. Yay!!
Today is the first day that we follow our daily production routine, which includes two news conferences a day, story and multimedia production, the taking of pictures, allocation of copy and the production of pages. Basically, everything but printing the paper. Once we enter this daily cycle, our focus will shift permanently from thinking to acting. The challenge is a stark one: We must beat the the months of expectation about what The Times will be. We will have just over two weeks to iron out all the last wrinkles. We have been joined for this phase by the phenomenal Peter Atkinson who consults for the Daily Mirror*. He will be with us right through the launch and it is very reassuring to have the presence of one of Fleet Street’s greatest on our floor. Today we will meet not as the band of bright-eyed idealists that started out on this journey months ago, but as a group of mission-focused journalists doing what we do best – writing stories, taking pictures and making movies.
As Marcello Rios of Zero Hora put it: “The first duty of a story is to be read”. There you have it.
*No, that does not mean that The Times is going to be a red-top like the Mirror or the Sun.
We have a 52% women readership. Do we provide the kind of content that they would want to consume. Enough of it? Presented in the right way? Do they need special content?
A major content demand was for educational material for the kids – ranked 3 after Breaking News and Business as a priority. Do we have any? What can we do?
3. OPERATIONAL PRODUCTION FLOW
Do we know how/when we will be getting external content eg the jobs supplement and Stuff supplement into the paper? How will it be sent? To us or directly to print site? When will it be sent so as not to delay printing?
4. PICTURE SPACES
Have we developed the kinds of picture spaces so that we can take advantage of our photographic team’s talents? Are we visual enough?
Do we have a sufficient base of skills to execute. How are we going to use the last few weeks to plug the gaps and bring those who have fallen behind up to speed?
6. GRAPHICS and PUFFERY
Are we geared up to do justice to our front page puffery, to the graphics, cut outs, results snapshots and web crossrefs? Are they exciting enough?
7. ROLES and RESPONSIBILITES
Are managers geared up to deal with their responsibilities for regular features? Is everyone familiar with baskets and naming conventions?
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper has started offering blogging. On the first day, 500 bloggers took up the offer … Take a look at the registration gateway page and the terms and conditions, which include:
5.1.5. you warrant that the material you submit is not: obscene, threatening, menacing, offensive, defamatory, abusive, likely to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety, in breach of confidence, in breach of any intellectual property right (including, without limitation, copyright) or otherwise in breach of or violates any applicable law or regulation or code; and
5.1.6. you acknowledge that any breach of the warranties set out in sections 5.1.4 or 5.1.5 above may cause us damage or loss and you agree to indemnify us in full and permanently on demand against any third party liabilities, claims, costs, loss or damage we incur as a result of publishing material you submit to us, including consequential losses.
5.1.7. you waive any moral rights in all material you submit
5.2. Whilst you acknowledge that we do not necessarily pre-screen any material that you have submitted to the Site, we reserve the right to remove, at any time and without reason or prior notice or any liability to you, any material that you have submitted. (My bold)
Why the waiver of moral rights, I wonder …
I can finally introduce to you our editorial team:
Me = Editor
Moses Mudzwiti = Deputy Editor
Marvin Meintjies = News Editor
Carly Ritz = Multimedia Editor
Robin Comley = Pictures Editor
Archie Henderson = Sports Editor
Aspasia Karras = Features Editor
Xolani Xundu = Politics Editor
Colin Daniels = Internet Strategy Manager
Tidi Benbenisti = Diary Manager
Jackie May = Foreign/Syndication Editor
John Tsatsi = Design Editor
Bridget Pringle = AM Chief Sub
Guy Jepson = Acting Chief Sub
Gregor Rohrig = Dep Multimedia Editor
Shelley Christians = Dep Pics Editor
Liesl Venter = Dep News Editor
Robert Laing = Group Business Editor will help out with the Business Pages
The vibe in the advertising sales department is incredible. Sales people are wearing The Times T-shirts and there are red and white balloons everywhere. More importantly, the first advertising clients are being signed up. We are going to start looking at some dummy pages tommorrow and working out how our great plans will fit into an actual newspaper.