Showing posts with label REbekah Brooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label REbekah Brooks. Show all posts

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Texting etiquette

My English teacher at secondary school was a stickler for doing things by the book. She was called Miss Milner and she spent hours drumming letter-writing etiquette into my class. In fact she was so thorough that all these years later I’m certain none of us ever use “yours sincerely” when it should be “yours faithfully” – and vice versa.

But after reading in today’s Mail on Sunday that texts and emails sent between David Cameron and former News International boss Rebekah Brooks will be revealed at the Leveson Inquiry this week, I’ve been wondering about text and email etiquette.

“Hi” is the universal form of address these days – and that’s fine. But what do you say when you sign off? It’s easy if you’re emailing family and friends but I’m less sure about work contacts, editors, my children’s teachers… “Yours sincerely” is ridiculously pompous, “kindest regards” doesn’t sound quite right to me and “love” is way too forward. In the end I usually settle for “best wishes” - slightly feeble, but I can’t think of anything better.

And that’s not the only conundrum. What about xs? I sign off text messages and emails to virtually everyone I know with an x or two. And when it’s my family I just hit the x button so they get a random number of xxxxxxxxxxxs.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but it doesn’t feel right in a work context (I’m terrified, incidentally, that one day I’ll forget who I’m emailing and send an editor a long stream of xxxxxs by mistake!)

PS. How impressive is Samantha Shannon? The 20 year old Oxford undergraduate (above) has combined studying for her English degree with writing a series of futuristic adventure novels. Now she’s landed a six-figure book deal with Bloomsbury, the publisher of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, with the first novel due out in September 2013.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Why journalists need proper training

We’re living through extraordinary times. After the dramatic events of last week I assumed last week’s media storm would die down for a while over the weekend. Hopping on the Eurostar on Friday night I decided to abandon Twitter and enjoy spending time with my teenage daughter in Paris (see above).

But the minute I arrived back on Sunday night I sneaked a quick look at the latest tweets and discovered the story hadn’t let up for a second. Not only had Rebekah Brooks been arrested and questioned for nine hours but Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson had just resigned. By Monday the story looked set to run and run, with Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Brooks all set to appear before the Parliamentary select committee for Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday and MPs meeting in emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments.

One point that’s struck me forcibly in recent days though is the importance of journalism training. When I started out as a reporter 25 years ago virtually everyone cut their journalistic teeth on local newspapers. I trained with Mirror Group Newspapers alongside spin-doctor-to-be Alastair Campbell, his partner Fiona Millar and a host of other ambitious young trainees. We spent eight weeks in a tatty-looking Portakabin on a Plymouth industrial estate getting up to speed with shorthand (Alastair cracked 100 wpm way before anyone else), law, local government and how to report fairly and accurately, before being dispatched off to weekly newspapers across the West Country for two years.

During my days on the Mid-Devon Advertiser, a newspaper based in Newton Abbot and edited with great panache by former Morning Star journalist Lance Samson, I learned how to write a news story, how to cover a court case and how to interview and quote people correctly. It wasn’t glamorous or ultra-exciting but it taught me the journalistic skills I needed - and still use a quarter of a century later. It also meant that by the time we made it to Fleet Street we were professional reporters who knew what we were doing.

Lance (father of novelist Polly Samson) could easily have thrown up his hands in horror at the inexperienced trainees thrust into his news room. But he was generous with his time, encouragement and support. He was a stickler for doing things by the book too. One day my fellow trainee Keith was sent home from the office for wearing a polo-neck instead of a shirt and tie. “What would happen if I had to send you out to interview the Archbishop of Canterbury?” demanded Lance (slightly unlikely considering we were based in a sleepy mid-Devon town where the most exciting thing to happen most weeks was the planning committee meeting, but still.)

In the second year of our training we progressed from our weekly papers to the heady heights of the Sunday Independent, which covered the whole of the South West. It was the era of the Falklands War and while we spent much of our time writing stories about golden weddings and village fetes, Alastair showed his star quality by scooping Fleet Street's finest on a story about Prince Andrew. It was obvious he was going places even then.
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