Archive for the ‘media’ Category

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This time last year, part of The Royal Gazette‘s history died with its former editor, David White. Twelve months on, we are mourning the loss of another Gazette legend, the cartoonist Peter Woolcock.

His weekly cartoons in the Gazette were as much a part of the political landscape as the politicians themselves. He poked fun at the pomposity and small-town absurdity of it all, not with the cruel barbs of a Gerald Scarfe or Ralph Steadman, but a gentle mocking humour and a knowing wink that more often than not even brought a smile to those being drawn, many of whom paid him for the originals. Woolcock himself admitted (in the video interview below) that he couldn’t do what political cartoonists did in the UK or the US. “They really are sometimes pretty vicious,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any room or need for that here.”

They very much reflected his personality – gentlemanly, modest, compassionate with a deprecating sense of humour and, as Andrew Trimingham, reviewing Woolcock’s annual Woppened collection of Gazette cartoons, once put it, “an unerring instinct for silliness”.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to British parents, and a Second World War veteran, he came to Bermuda in 1981 and began drawing his political cartoons in 1983, first in the Bermuda Sun and then the Gazette.

A consummate draughtsman who worked in pen, ink and watercolour wash, he had cut his illustrative teeth in what he later called “the golden era of cartoons” in the 1950s, spending more than 30 years drawing for children’s books and comic strips, including The Adventures of Mr. Toad (his favourite), Tiger Tim, and several Disney books – 101 Dalmatians, Robin Hood, Jungle Book, Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh – although he found conforming to Disney’s strict character formats stifling compared to creating his own.

When I was editor of RG Magazine in the 1990s, Peter was a frequent visitor to our offices – either to chat and share a spot of gossip that usually started with a conspiratorial “Of course, what I heard was …” or deliver one of his splendid works.

We commissioned him to do several Vanity Fair-style illustrations for the magazine, among them two of my favourite covers – a smug Premier David Saul in 1996 and Colonel David Burch in 2000. Burch was Premier Jennifer Smith’s Chief of Staff at the time but was much mocked as being little more than the Premier’s bag carrier. The famous bag, of course, was in the picture too.

Peter Woolcock was truly a national treasure and was tragically killed yesterday after being hit by a car on his way to deliver what would be his last hand-drawn cartoon for the Gazette. Ever the old-school traditionalist (there were never scanned or digitally-produced images e-mailed to the editor, of course), at 88 he still believed in the personal touch.

That touch will be sadly missed. His passing really is the end of an era.

 


 

Listen to Peter talk about his art and career in this 2009 interview by Milton Raposo.

David L. White (1933-2013)

I was saddened to hear of the death of David L. White, former editor of The Royal Gazette, who passed away last night after a long illness.

While he and I did not always see eye to eye professionally during our time at Par-La-Ville Road, we enjoyed a far more cordial relationship after he retired and I came to respect his talents and generosity of spirit that weren’t always appreciated or valued in the chaotic and dysfunctional nature of a daily newsroom.

In fact, had it not been for David I would not have ended up in Bermuda at all, let alone call it my home for more than 30 years as it was he who interviewed me at the Berkeley Hotel in London in 1982 for a job on the sports desk of the Gazette.

It was the longest and most entertaining interview I’ve ever had, largely because by the time we’d finished, it was early evening and he insisted on buying dinner. As we sat down, he asked me what I would like to drink. Not knowing the protocol one should take with a prospective (and foreign) employer, I asked what he was having. “I’m having a f******g double vodka and tonic!” he declared loudly. “The single measures you Limeys serve are a joke!”

And so we proceeded to consume an absurd quantity of vodka and good wine. I have no idea what we talked about from then on but as I stood swaying on the Tube platform later that night waiting for the train home, I remember feeling confident that I would be leaving England for a tiny island in the Atlantic later that year.

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Gazette editor dismissed

Posted: July 8, 2013 in Bermuda, media

The situation at The Royal Gazette gets curiouser and curiouser. Following my recent post about the increasing board interference in editorial matters, the paper today dismissed Acting Editor Jeremy Deacon and appointed former Mid-Ocean News editor Tim Hodgson as Consulting Editor. The Gazette said Mr. Hodgson’s consultancy period will last until the directors appoint a new full-time editor. Mr Hodgson was made redundant by the company when the Mid-Ocean News was closed in 2009.

The news, which came as a shock to Gazette staffers, was announced to employees in a letter from CEO Jonathan Howes that angered many as it made no mention of Mr. Deacon. A subsequent release and story on the Gazette website made a brief reference to Mr. Deacon thanking him “for his commitment and support in recent months”.

One staffer’s reaction was typical: “He (Mr. Deacon) was treated appallingly, in a thoroughly ruthless manner. They sacked him, cut him off completely.”

Mr. Deacon took over as Acting Editor under a six-month contract following the resignation of Bill Zuill last year. Whether the Gazette did not offer Mr. Deacon a new contract or – as some sources speculate – Mr. Deacon refused to sign it because of what he felt were unacceptable terms and conditions, is not clear.

In an email response to questions by Breezeblog about why Mr. Deacon was dismissed, Mr. Howes said: “We found a qualified Bermudian to fulfill the role. Mr. Deacon’s employment with the Royal Gazette did not end as a result of disagreements over editorial control.”

He also said: “We treat all employment matters as confidential. I have no further comment.”

He did not respond to further questions about why Mr. Hodgson’s role is a temporary appointment if he is considered a Bermudian qualified for the position (Mr. Deacon has Bermudian status).

Mr. Deacon and Mr. Hodgson declined to comment at this time.

It remains to be seen how all this will pan out but the perception in the industry is that having replaced an Acting Editor with a Consulting Editor and still, according to the masthead, employing an Acting Deputy Editor and Acting Business Editor, the company resembles a rudderless ship in desperate need of leadership and direction.

Essential reading

Posted: July 4, 2013 in Bermuda, bermuda politics, media
Tags: , ,

The Media Council of Bermuda, of which Breezeblog is a member, has just published guidelines for journalists reporting on race. You can read the full guide here:
Reporting On Race – A Guide for Media Professionals

The main thrust of the guide reinforces the Council’s code of practice which states that journalists should not refer to a person’s colour, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age unless it is relevant to the story.

These are important and basic points, especially in Bermuda where so much of society is still racially charged, but are frequently ignored on radio talk shows, letters to the editor and online comments.

The guideline also includes a useful summary of Bermuda’s racial history which provides perspective and context to the island’s social and political issues. It is essential reading for Bermudians or all ages and backgrounds, new arrivals and visitors to the island. I urge you to read it and help dispel some of the ignorance that still exists about Bermuda’s history.

Judging from the many comments, phone calls, emails and texts I’ve had about my recent post on editorial independence, a lot of people share my concerns. Today’s Royal Gazette is another reason to be concerned.

RG-wrap

Here’s the news … but first a really annoying word from our sponsor.

It features what the industry calls a “wrap” – advertising that masks part or all of the front page. The Gazette certainly isn’t the first paper to do this and it won’t, sadly, be the last. Wraps, which are lucrative revenue earners for cash-strapped newspapers, are controversially creeping across many of the world’s newspapers.

The Daily Express in the UK took a lot of flak in 2009 when it obscured coverage of Barack Obama’s historic inauguration with a four-page wrap marking the first birthday of the Fiat 500. Ditto The Guardian, when it carried its first wrap last year for a phone company. In 2010, an appalling wrap for the Johnny Depp film Alice In Wonderland mimicked the front page of the LA Times.

Newspapers seem to be returning to the 18th and 19th century, when the front pages of many leading publications were completely full of ads. As journalism and professional reporting became more established, news content grew and became the main driver of circulation. The front page became sacrosanct and defended by editors and owners alike against front-page ads of any kind.

LA Times: re-defining the front page "mock up".

LA Times: re-defining the term “front page mock up”.

A few years ago, Gene Roberts, a former managing editor of the New York Times and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, told the American Journalism Review that front-page ads were another in a series of industry mistakes triggered by short-term thinking. “It’s one more in this kind of death by a thousand cuts that the newspaper business seems to be administering to itself. In the long run, the big necessity is to get and maintain readers, and I think without question that front-page ads work against readership.”

Every advertiser naturally wants to be on the front page because it’s the most-read page in a newspaper. Although my company plans and produces advertising, I never recommend wraparounds and dissuade clients from doing so. Why? Because I believe they are counter-productive and not worth the premium rates that media organisations charge. Journalists and editors naturally hate them and readers generally resent them in the same way they resent ads that often pop-up when you load a web page. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who immediately rips off the wrap and chucks it in the nearest trash bin.

I’m not sure if today’s half-page wrap is a first for the Gazette but we’ll be seeing more and you just know that a full page wrap won’t be far behind.

I hope that the Gazette resists this trend and is able to find an alternative revenue stream for many of the same reasons that I stated the other day. When advertising becomes the front page, it tells readers that the news is not important. It devalues the very reason that newspapers exist for in the first place and further blurs the line between news and business interests.

Wraps are part of a slippery slope that turns a newspaper into an advertising free-sheet. And if newspaper owners and advertisers risk alienating the very people they are trying to attract, then what’s the point?

RGLtdWhat on earth is going on at The Royal Gazette these days?

Over the past weeks there has been a rash of unusually soft front page lead stories that would have normally run on feature pages at best while more important news articles were carried – some would say buried – on inside pages. Last week this reached a nadir when the front-page lead stories included:

These stories certainly have a place in the paper. They are worthwhile community stories but they have no place being the lead story itself.

So what’s going on here? Have acting editor Jeremy Deacon’s news senses deserted him or, as PLP leader Marc Bean claimed recently, have Gazette journalists “been told by their editors, and their board of directors, that nothing negative about the OBA Government, or Bermuda in general, can be on the front page, let alone reported on”?

Jonathan Howes, the Gazette CEO, angrily denied this and threatened to sue Mr. Bean, prompting one reader to write this week: “We expect [the Gazette] to hold every organ of this Government accountable. As uncomfortable as it may make Mr. Howes and the board, the evidence of bias is clear; deliberate or not.”

Mr. Bean and the letter writer may be a little wide of the mark politically – ‘Jetgate’ has had plenty of coverage in the Gazette, for example – but it is my understanding that the board of the Bermuda Press (owners of The Royal Gazette), through its publishing committee, has indeed been putting increasing pressure on the editorial department to run more “positive” stories on the front page, and wants closer control over editorial content and direction. I understand that none of the publishing committee have any journalistic experience.

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BermyArtist.com

BermyArtist.com is a relatively new Bermuda website well worth checking out. Sponsored by The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and developed by Maven Concepts, BermyArtist is basically a Pinterest-style portfolio for Bermudian or Bermuda-based artists and creative commercial talent, ranging from painting and illustration to poetry, graphic design and jewelry. Artists can post samples of their work for viewing or for sale and you can browse by genre, artist or skill.

As it develops it should be a great place to discover Bermudian art and new talent as well as a useful collaboration network. If you’re looking to commission anything from a sculpture or music to a logo or an annual report, this would be a good place to start.