Paying the price: cost of Johnston Press’s debt September 8, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : Journalism, Newspapers , add a comment
Sobering stuff as Peter Kirwan spells out the numbers underlying Johnston Press’s refinancing of £485m debt. As he puts it, “the maths are grim”, concluding that:
the running total for bank payments comes to £75.2m during the next year. Remarkably, this equates to an annualised interest rate of neither 5% nor 10%, but 15.5%.
This, remember, is before Johnston Press repays any of its outstanding loans. Here, too, the terms of the deal are draconian. In addition to everything else, the company has promised to repay £85m of debt by next May.
Now clearly, this is a lot of money for a rapidly-shrinking regional newspaper publisher that turned in £27.5m in pre-tax profits during the first six months of this year.
Kirwan then raises the prospect — if Johnston is unable to repay that £85m by May 2010 — of payment in kind (PIK) penalties, which could take the effective interest rate to 20% or more. Gulp.
Martin Moore Blog: Newspaper closures October 20, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Martin Moore offers some historical context to Emily Bell's scenario of potential newspaper closures:
"The last major period of contraction occurred between the two World Wars when, as the first Royal Commission on the Press found, just under 25% of daily and Sunday papers closed:
‘Between 31st December 1921, and 31st December 1948, the number of general daily and Sunday newspapers published in England, Wales, and Scotland fell from 169 to 128’ (1st Royal Commission on the Press, p.73).
The Commission decided this was not a serious cause for concern, nor was the 25% reduction in the national daily press. Only if it was part of a long term trend did they feel we should be worried:
‘We do not therefore see cause for alarm in the decrease of the number of national morning newspapers from 12 in 1921 to 9 in 1948 – [although any further decrease could be worrying]' (Royal Commission, p.88)."
Universities' millions in Iceland — BBC NEWS | Education October 17, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Demise of Icelandic banks hits some UK universities. Any more to follow? Best not to think about their pension funds at the moment…
"Universities' secretary John Denham said a total of 12 English universities had £77m at stake though none of the institutions was in jeopardy.
Oxford University and its colleges have £30m – or 5% of their overall cash deposits – invested in three of the troubled banks or subsidiaries. Cambridge faces losses of £11m…
On Wednesday it emerged that three Welsh universities had £8.1m at risk…
Manchester Metropolitan University said it was hopeful it would get back the £10m it had invested…
The University of Manchester said it had £5m of its general investments in the banks…
The Open University said it had invested £6.5m in UK subsidiaries with the Icelandic banks."
Applying Benford's Law to CAR — car-chase.net October 17, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
A technique to check figures, particularly to aid computer assisted reporting (CAR), summarised by Chase Davis:
"One of the techniques [Phil] Meyer mentioned is known as Benford's Law — a decades-old mathematical rule that forensic accountants have recently used to spot fraud by examining the distribution of individual digits in large datasets. I've been meaning to test it out for a long time, ever since I came across this old New York Times article earlier this year, but I never took the time until a couple weeks ago. […]
Most people assume that individual digits in something like a budget are randomly distributed […] when in fact that isn't the case. […] The important thing is that checking to see whether individual digits occur at the expected rates can reveal indications of fraud — particularly when you're looking at data that people can fudge. […]
You can't support a story on it, but Benford's Law can tip you off when something is amiss."
Top ten blogs to read during the banking crisis October 12, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Suggested reads by Daniel FInkelstein of The Times (Comment Central blog), with only two plugs for Times bloggers (plus one at WSJ).
“Perplexed by plummeting indexes? Worried about your bank’s future? Comment Central’s rounded up ten of the best blogs to guide you through the banking crisis.”
The news about Robert Peston: meta-reporting? October 9, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : blogging, Journalism, News, reporting , add a comment
Update: Michael Howard has asked the FSA to investigate the alleged leaking to Peston/the BBC of sensitive information about the bank rescue package, reports Guido Fawkes.
The BBC’s business editor is becoming the news, and not just as in the spoof article I bookmarked previously.
The House of Lords communications committee asks whether he’s setting the agenda:
“Well, I think there is an argument for that. One can’t deny that Robert Peston has been playing an instrumental role in the story and anyone in the news business has to pay close attention to what Robert Peston reports,” the Daily Mail political editor, Ben Brogan, told the committee.
“He is well informed, well connected and he has on a number of occasions broken the news it would be foolish in the extreme to ignore him. That, in some ways, gives him an enormous degree of power. But more power to his elbow, if he’s the journalist that is leading the charge on this, then good for him.”
More people want to find him online, says Robin Goad of Hitwise…
while he reports on falling markets, his own stock is looking like a good bet. As the chart below illustrates, UK Internet searches for ‘robert peston’ have shot up over the last month.
Journalists and media-watchers have also had the chance to read interview profiles of Peston in The Independent and The Guardian. Both allude to his contacts and brilliant scoops, of course — but don’t address directly how far he’s managing to steer the narrow course between reporter of scoops and cypher.
Footnote: Yesterday I read Peston’s blog post and not much later listened to his analysis piece on the 6pm Radio 4 news, and realised they were the same thing. So posting scripts is one way to do it, to answer Robin Goad’s query of how Peston was broadcasting frequently and
somehow also finding time update his blog daily with analysis of the latest episode in the ongoing saga of the financial crisis
I doubt I’m the first to realise this.