Support isn’t getting any stronger for Johnston Press’s new content management system, ATEX.
Implemented across the country over the last year it has never been far from controversy.
Proposed strike action, a serious of high profile gaffes – most notably the Bedfordshire Times and Citizen’s now infamous ‘headline headghgh’ front page – and widespread criticism from staff have all dogged ATEX.
Now three high profile bloggers have piled into the unpopular system.
Vitriolic Press Gazette columnist Grey Cardigan, former Sun journalist turned media professor Roy Greenslade and ex-Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson all had harsh words to say about it.
Greenslade and Grey were responding to a memo from Paul Bentham, the managing director of JP’s South Yorkshire titles, which set out workflow methods for ATEX.
It included advice to editors suggesting they need not read every story.
Grey Cardigan wrote: “Suggesting that an editor need not glance over every story in their newspaper is utter madness. The lawyers must be rubbing their hands with glee.
“Does this silly man know nothing about newspapers? Perhaps in Mr Bentham’s barmy new world, not only are subs expendable but editors too.
“He’s not really thought this through, has he? Because if there’s no editor patrolling the proofs, who’s going to end up before the beak for contempt when a cock-up saunters through? Yes, you, Mr. Bentham.”
Greenslade was equally savage, comparing the document to something produced by ‘those wonderful John Bull printing outfits of youthful memory, a doing-it-by-numbers rigidity leaving very little room for initiative’.
He wrote: “But a couple of sentences were truly alarming:
‘Editors need to ensure that the policy of “right first time” is embedded in the newsroom culture. They should not however continue with the old practise of reading every story.
‘Editors should evaluate the risk for each story based on content and the seniority of the journalist and act accordingly.’
“Editors should not read stories! What, even when their boss confuses the verb practise with the noun practice?”
Greenslade continues: “What also emerges with some clarity from the memo is the death of journalistic creativity. We have always had to get pages off fast and in some kind of order.
“Every paper – local weekly, regional evening and national daily – has always been composed against the clock. But that fact of newspaper life has never stifled the creative process.
“How many times must we say, and mean, that content is king. The very notion that editors should stop doing their job by not reading every story is a disgrace.
“By this memo Johnston Press has reversed several centuries of journalistic good practice. The technology should be our servant, not our master.”
And it was the turn of Dyson, writing in his HoldtheFrontPage blog, to turn his guns on ATEX last week.
Reviewing JP’s Burnley Express, he wrote: ” What struck me about all inside editorial pages was poor design. Content, of course, is king, but the dominance of its crown can be hindered by what to me seemed slapdash, template-driven lay-outs.
“Whether this is down to stressed subbing hubs in Preston, the early days of Atex or both, it would be wrong not to tick Express owners Johnston Press off for allowing cost-savings to result in sub-standard looking pages.
“I just hope that Johnston’s East Lancashire Newspapers bosses resist the temptation to follow their sister company in South Yorkshire, where a recent memo from managing director Paul Bentham suggested that editors ‘should not continue with the old practise of reading every story’.”
State of Play: ATEX remains a blood clot that needs to be removed