Tagged: emily bell

A very short history of female national newspaper editors in the UK

Yesterday saw the announcement of Jill Abramson as the New York Times’ first female editor. You might say so what?

But more to the point, why not till now? Former Guardian.co.uk editor Emily Bell could list previous UK national newspaper editors in a tweet, also noting that there used to be a lot of female online editors in the early days.

Actually, there are two in the editor’s chair right now: Tina Weaver at the Sunday Mirror and Dawn Neesom at the Daily Star. And men head the 19 other national daily and Sunday newspaper titles.

I was always amazed when attending media conferences how many male-dominated panels there were – in the top digital, as well as print, jobs.

But let us not forget the first lady of Fleet Street (HT: Adrian Monck), Rachel Beer, who edited the Observer and the Sunday Times in the 1890s.

Anyway, if like me, you’re curious about just how many there have been, see above for a list of UK national newspaper female editors – feel free to edit and add more if I’ve missed any.

My source for the table was Wikipedia and this rather good – and later updated – article in the Guardian by Hadley Freeman.

PS. I don’t blog very regularly on this site anymore – check out Meeja Law for media law and ethics related news and commentary.

Data, perspective… and Comment is Hidden? #BBCExpenses

Today I wasn’t sure what to do with the arrival of the BBC executives’ expenses data. I didn’t find it quite bang on 11.30am – new releases were tucked into various corners of the BBC Freedom of Information site. I reproduced all the PDF links here on the Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog@PaulMcNally, outgoing Press Gazette news editor tweeted his finds before publishing a story, while the Guardian live-blogged the results. What could I add? The files came in inaccessible, cumbersome PDFs. We started using Adobe Acrobat to export them to an Excel spreadsheet, before I realised the Guardian’s DataBlog would do it quicker and better. They did. So I got on with some other work. What then? Well, the other story of the day, as documented on Twitter by Steve Jackson (@ourman) on Twitter. I haven’t taken screen-grabs, as the Guardian has a good reputation for transparency; let’s hope these links stay true. Here’s how it went:

“Interesting comments, I was surprised to see so many people defending the BBC here – until I realised the story doesn’t make it clear that he flew his whole family home on our licence fee. We’re redoing the story to explain this, I hope that helps.”

“@Judithsoal By the way ‘flew the whole family back on our licence fee’. That way of reporting is so unpleasantly tabloid. Sad day for standards at the Guardian.”

“Oh dear – got rid of the last story because reader comments were embarrassing? Had to make a new one to try and manufacture new outrage?

“Listen, the expenses were mostly ok. Nothing worth getting into a fury about. Certainly does not compare in any way to MPs. Most people who have commented on the last stories have made that quite clear. And yet you don’t listen.

“Stop acting like tabloid journos and report some real news.

“Like, say, Iran?”

It’s an absolute nothing story. [The] original article is there but no links to it means it’s effectively deleted. They failed to outrage so rewrote. They actually admitted it. Interesting question for online news – is it acceptable behaviour?  Will it become norm? Second piece is so obviously ramped up to try and get extra outrage – not new material just increased hype. Not unfolding story. They got it wrong… thought they could just replace piece… get new comments etc. Not seen it done before.”


“‘Bet you a very small amount… comment piece tomorrow… with thinly veiled attacked at commenters – it’s Guardian style.”

Before I’ve even replied, he gleefully sends me the link to Emily Bell’s piece, ‘BBC expenses are hard to swallow,‘ with this comment: “Almost won the bet already…comment piece already telling us it *IS* shocking (so there).”

Whether it’s fair to see Bell’s piece as a reactive defence or not, I’ll leave to you (see update at end). But for anyone working as a media reporter, I think this was a very interesting tale, and one I’ll follow up tomorrow for Journalism.co.uk. If anything, a lesson in fast data journalism and maintaining that all-important perspective. Lord Carter has criticised journalists for reacting to Digital Britain before they’d read it. If he’s right (again, I’ll leave it to you), does that mean we do journalism too fast? And how should we respond to large data-sets released all at once? And how should we respond to criticism from commenters about editorial judgement?

With that in mind, please treat this post as the beginning of a story. Please let me know if I’ve misrepresented anything  (I wasn’t in front of the screen the whole time) and whether you’ve got an alternative view from those pasted here to offer. I’ll leave you with Martin Cloake’s comment underneath the original Guardian story:

“Agree it’s a non-story – although the vast majority of these comments have now turned it into a story about the Guardian’s – is snidey too strong? – dig at the BBC. The expenses outrage hysteria is reaching ridiculous levels, and some perspective is desperately needed. And if ever there was a definitive illustration of the phrase “throwing petrol on the fire” it’s in Judthsoal’s posts. Oh dear. Still, it’s all getting the website plenty of traffic, and that – rather than the worth or otherwise of the actual story itself – is why the story is so prominent.”

Update 2: Emily Bell refuted some of @ourman’s suggestions here, as part of this lively comment thread in which she responded (nobly?) to a series of criticisms underneath her article. She says her comment piece was certainly not a rescue-job:

“@ourman – you have a vivid imagination. I would be AMAZED given our very short staffing today if any of the above happened – I was asked if I could write something at c. 12 o’clock today…..which I said I would – by 5 – but was of course, late. We do rewrite and reversion many many stories and if the media slant rather than general news prevails it is likely to be more featured on media front…..75 per cent of our users never see the homepage so don’t put too much emphasis on slots.”

[@ourman’s first comment appears to have been deleted; his second is here]

Sunday Paper Strawman: web scepticism+flashy headline

  • Healthy measure of web scepticism [‘If web 2.0 flattens everything to the level of whim and self-actualisation, then it will have done more harm than good’]: check
  • Emotive comparison example from expert [the lone blogger v professional journalistic teams]: check
  • Flashy attention-grabbing headline [‘Break free of this world wide delusion’]: check

All the ingredients for the Sunday paper web rant articles that have been doing the rounds lately (think Henry Porter, for example) and used in generous quantities again today by Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times:



No, Bryan Appleyard, I don’t think you’re a luddite.  I can disagree with you on some points without falling into a generalised category of people ‘who cannot think for themselves’ defined by you. Although someone I follow on Twitter, the Guardian’s director of digital content, Emily Bell, directed me to your column, I imagine that most of us who followed the link took time to read before expressing views. You’re right, there is is a fair amount of band-wagoning in the web 2.0 world. Like you say: the web is diverse and hosts both good and bad. We’re not, therefore, all members of some blindly-following ‘cult’: many of us are critical readers who like to share ideas via the web. 


Appleyard’s column, as Mark Ng pointed out,  is far more nuanced than the normal Sunday columnist strawman web rant. Two things I particularly agree  with Appleyard on:


  • His use of Edgerton’s quote: “”The internet”, says David Edgerton, professor of the history of technology at Imperial College London and author of The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900, “is rather passé . . . It’s just a means of communication, like television, radio or newspapers.””
  • And this, the last part of the final par: “…the web is just one more product of the biology, culture and history that make us what we are. In the real world, it is wonderful, certainly, but it is also porn, online brothels, privacy invasions, hucksterism, mindless babble and the vacant gaze that always accompanies the mindless pursuit of the new. The web is human and fallen; it is bestial as much as it is angelic. There are no new worlds. There is only this one.”


BUT. It strikes me that Appleyard has generalised – the very crime of which he accuses the ’cult’. 


  • Who is calling the web revolution a universally wonderful thing? Since this is the very thing he’s arguing against, it’s odd he doesn’t name the main proponents of this argument. Instead he quotes this:  “”Why not?” say the Californians. “This is paradise, the individual set free.”” Now, I’m not disputing that  there are those who do believe in widespread democratic benefits of the web, but it would be helpful to have some names rather than a vague reference to a Californian cult. [NB: Clay Shirky often gets held up on this charge (he’s not mentioned in Appleyard’s article), but Shirky does admit  that his views have shifted and the web is as subject to manipulation by special interest groups as the offline world.]
  • Appleyard says it’s a ‘means of communication’ but then lumps in all the aspects of the web in one article. How possibly can you deal with Wikipedia, journalism models, aggregators, social networking, ‘bloggery’, search, flash mobbing, shopping and classified ad. sites all in one relatively short article?  I don’t know, but it would surprise me if he attempted such an exercise for  printed material, which theorised about various types of books, newspapers, magazines, political pamphlets, advertising flyers, encyclopedias etc… all in one article.  

So if Appleyard is trying to get away from the over-generalised web utopia model, why present the article in the way he has done? I like how Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC Technology correspondent has put it: 


“[Appleyard’s article] is a corrective to “web changes all” utopianism but then wails about huge impact of web”


PS: I’m trying to gather some more thoughts on UK regulation and convergence. Please drop me an email or leave your comments on my post over at BeatBlogging… “Why UK regulation stands in the way of newsroom convergence”.