Monday, 10 August 2009


Comment is free but newspapers aren’t. Strong rumours are now beginning to circulate that the Scott Trust is looking at closing The Observer. It seems that there is some distance in what is being said, as the oldest Sunday newspaper in Britain is proving to be a financial strain on Guardian Media Group and they could well do without it during a recession. There are plans to maybe produce a weekly supplement in Thursday’s Guardian called ‘The Observer’ to maintain its legacy, but this is a far cry from a Sunday newspaper. I’m a big fan of The Observer (mainly because it’s the only Sunday paper which does a student discount!) and would be sad to see it go. Two weeks ago I wrote about the potential closure of another national title, The Independent, but the first title to go from that stable would be The Independent on Sunday. So we could be looking at a situation where by the end of the year we will have lost two Sunday quality broadsheets.

Whilst Rupert Murdoch might be pleased by the closure of competitors, his paper The Sunday Times is doing very well and is likely to be the first national title after the Financial Times to charge for online content when it’s website is re-launched soon. I’m working for the paper next spring, and it’s going to be very interesting indeed. It also cannot be forgotten that some of the Sunday tabloids - such as The People, where I worked in 2005 - are still making money. So it’s not all bad news, but the loss of two Sunday broadsheets would not only be terrible for the journalists working on them, but also for plurality in our nation. The Observer has been around for hundreds of years and been a benchmark of quality journalism over this time, but it could well be the end soon. I’ll be disappointed for sure if it goes, but we may well see the launch of a Guardian on Sunday in the future, which does seem pointless if you close The Observer, but it could happen. One thing’s for sure - only the fittest will survive.

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Five News has always been a benchmark in alternative news, and has done this very successfully over the years. Now I hear from Digital Spy that the much-hyped ‘Five and Friends’ news show concept is going to be launched as ‘Live From Studio Show’. This idea for a magazine show was first cited by Channel Five controller Dawn Airey in a Media Guardian interview a fair few months ago, so I’m pleased it is finally coming to fruition. But the line-up for the early-evening show, billed as a competitor to The One Show on BBC1, is what has raised eyebrows the most - Kate Walsh from The Apprentice, football pundit Ian Wright and the wonderful Melinda Messenger. It’s going to be produced by Sky News - who currently produce the output of Five News - and could well be a great success.

All three presenters are much-loved figures on television for different reasons, but Five themselves have been very good at connecting with a younger audience and bringing news to people who never watch news on any other channel. It’s bright and fresh, and has featured such great presenters as Natasha Kaplinsky and Kirsty Young over the years. I’ve had the good fortune to work for Five News, and they are an absolutely fantastic team who are genuinely succeeding in trying to do something different. The alternative graphics and presentation of their bulletins is exceptionally thoughtful and is something to be proud of. I’ve loved spending time with a superb team. But I think I should leave the last word to Ian Wright. He said: "Melinda and Kate are great girls and I love the banter we already have. I struggle to get a word in when those two get going!" Can’t wait...

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It was certainly an interesting opening weekend across all three divisions. Starting in League Two, Notts County opened with a 5-0 win over Bradford City, suggesting the influence of Sven-Goran Eriksson could well be more than just for good publicity. His ambition to get them into the Premier League may well eventually happen, although it’s important they don’t get carried away just yet. Elsewhere, in League One, Norwich City suffered an absolute shocker at the hands of Colchester United - losing 7-1 - and it was 5-0 by half-time. When we heard the score come in at Roots Hall during the Southend game, nobody could believe it and everyone was checking their phones for verification! Gillingham also had a good start, beating Swindon 5-0 in the early kick-off, so they would have been disappointed not to finish the day top of the league.

The Championship is shaping up to be a fascinating season this year, with almost every team able to get promoted if they put a good run together. Even newly-promoted Peterborough’s manager Darren Ferguson said he’s not there to stay up but get his side into the Premier League. I remember when Southend said that after back-to-back promotions and we ended up going straight back down. Newcastle started better than most people were expecting, with a solid 1-1 draw, but there’s a long way to go yet. However, I was certainly convinced by Sheffield United’s performance on Friday night, and reckon they should make it up this year. There is a lot to play for in the Championship this season at both ends of the league, but after the first 10 games we should have a better idea of how it’s going to work out...