Sunday, December 23, 2007

A newspaper launch

I'm back in the States with the family now for 10 days. I've been in England for the better part of five months now to help with the launch of Crain's Manchester Business, a weekly business newspaper, based in England's second-most important economic center.

My job has been to interview, hire and train the editorial staff as well as produce a prototype and then help launch the first edition. In that last role, I've been the deputy editor to the editor we hired. My work will be done at the end of January.

The first edition came out Dec. 17 with 15,000 mailed to a select list of business people and 5,000 sent to newsstands. The sample list will be converted to paid, 74 pounds, over a long period. Many of the newsstands had sold out by Dec. 21.

The effort has attracted a lot of attention, since news media are consolidating in Great Britain, just as in the US, and few are launching new print vehicles. The Financial Times weighed in with a piece on regional business media. It has been quite well received so far by local communications professionals.

The UK version of Editor and Publisher published an extensive piece as well.

The Crain's Manchester Business website also went live on December 17, and for the moment, all of the first edition's print content is available, save the lists and record copy, on the site. We've been posting 15-20 web stories a day to keep the pressure on the Manchester Evening News, the principal daily in the region.

After Crain's Manchester Business's editorial crew sent the paper to the printer Friday December 14, there was a small celebration at a pub called the Seven Oaks. This was followed by a visit to an Italian restaurant and then a rock concert. The latter, I decided, was not my cup of tea. When my rib cage and internal organs began vibrating in time with the bass of the legendary band, Happy Mondays, I decided it was time to leave. I prefer to listen to music in a different way.

What's next

I don't have much lined up, and honestly I haven't spent any time doing business development. What I do have is interesting. The US Embassy in Chile has invited me to do a week of seminars in Santiago and other cities in the spring. And I have another newsroom leadership training session for Latin American journalists later in the year. There are two other possibilities for newsroom coaching that could develop into something bigger.
Bolivia appears to be on the brink of civil war (it's closer to the brink than usual), so I don't see going back there any time soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wordsworth's lakes

This is Dove Cottage, in Grasmere in the Lakes region of England, where Wordsworth wrote some of his most important poetry. Wordsworth and his wife, sister and children lived here on the edge of Lake Grasmere for eight years. It's a small place, 400 years old, originally a pub. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and other literary lights visited Wordsworth here.

If you read any of Wordsworth's work in school, it was likely to have been some of his nature poetry. But he was far more than simply a nature poet. He wrote a kind of epic work in which the poet is the hero on a quest through nature. Not a lot of people read "The Prelude" today, but it is a great work and I did want to see the landscape that inspired it, just as one day I would like to go to the site of Troy in Turkey (the Iliad) and Ithaca in Greece (the Odyssey).

The Lakes region does have a dramatic beauty. Surely Wordsworth would be appalled to visit there today, 200 years after he wrote about the region, and see that his songs of praise of natural beauty have attracted mobs of tourists and vacation-home builders. Relatively speaking, the tourism is controlled and restricted, but there is still a lot of traffic, even in December, and you can never escape the traffic noise, even high up in the hills. Below is an example of some of the commercial construction, tastefully done, that serves the tourism industry.

This is Mount Rydal, a half-hour climb up behind Wordsworth's other home in the area. The two homes are about a half-hour apart on foot.
He designed the four-acre garden behind the house, which is a substantial two-story structure and his home for 37 years.

This is the so-called summer house located in the garden where he would spend time.

I was completely immersed in Wordsworth's poetry years ago, especially The Prelude. Attempting to write about the beauty of the landscape described by one of England's great poets is a bit intimidating.

Several slate quarries in the area for centuries supplied building materials for the homes and shops.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More words

There are so many everyday expressions that are different here.

We say, "I want a round-trip ticket to London." Brits say, "I want a return to London."

We all know what shove off means, but the Brits use it regularly to say they're leaving. "We decided to shove off." But if you tell someone to shove off, it means "get lost."

Words I've heard in the newsroom from colleagues:
I'm chuffed with my apartment. (really pleased)
I feel like I've been faffing about all day. (working in a scattered, ineffectual way)
That's kind of naff. (old fashioned, out of date)
He's a dosser. (a layabout, do-nothing person)

"Cracking" is an all-purpose positive modifier that has a connotation of sharp positivity. It was a cracking goal. They were a cracking good group. That company had a cracking year.

If you slag someone off you are basically trashing them. "He's always slagging off his competitors."
Last week, one of the young women in our office actually used the word "blimey" to express surprise. A Londoner on the staff uses what I thought was an Australian expression of surprise -- crikey.

"Rubbish" is a great all-purpose negative. That's rubbish. He's rubbish. It's a rubbish newspaper. They have a rubbish football team. Rubbish. And with a northern accent, it sounds even better -- the U has a nice long sound.

An oddity of speech here is how they use auxiliary verbs. We leave off part of the verb in the States, but Brits don't. Will you go to the game? We say "I will." They say, "I will do."
Have you called him yet? "I have," we say. They say, "I have done."