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Press v politicians: can tabloids still take on the over-mighty?

January 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Politics, Press freedom and ethics

Image by DanBrady on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Imagine a top tabloid newspaper supported a leading ‘non-Westminster’ politician through his difficult divorce. Instead of printing hard-hitting stories about the moral duplicity of this very Christian politician, it publishes soft-focus, upbeat articles about his lovely new wife and their joyous life together. The politician goes on to become a leading national figure, but then the tabloid discovers a story of his corruption when he was back in the regions. The politician rings up the tabloid editor to threaten ‘unpleasant and public consequences’ if they publish. What happens next?

The Leveson inquiry has not really got to grips with this aspect of media practice. Never mind the law or the codes, feel the power. In the past, commentators like John Lloyd felt the press had become too mighty and could make or break politicians and even determine elections. Then during the Blair/Campbell years it was felt the pendulum had swung the opposite way. Perhaps some people could imagine Peter Mandelson making a similar threat to a journalist at the height of his career?

In fact the scenario outlined above is playing out in the real world. In Germany, the President, Christian Wulff, was silly enough to try to intimidate his old chums on Bild. The tabloid ignored the threats and published the story of how Wulff had taken a very large secret loan from the wife of a local businessman. He then lied about it. The scandal now threatens to end the career of the man who is, in effect, Germany’s head of state. In the midst of the Eurozone crisis, this is not good news for Angela Merkel.

But the point is that – without subterfuge or phone-hacking – this German tabloid has turned on its former political ally. As the chief executive of Bild’s publisher, the Springer group, Mathias Döpfner said “whoever takes the elevator up with Bild will also take the elevator down with it”.

It is always difficult to make international comparisons. Is Axel Springer comparable to Rupert Murdoch? As I have written elsewhere, British tabloids are pretty unusual. But the question does spring to mind – could it, or perhaps rather, how would it happen here?

This is a cross-post from the Polis blog.

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News of the World: Reaction to closure of 168-year-old title

July 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Newspapers

The News of the World has announced it is to close, with the final edition to be published this Sunday, and already the blogs have begun posting reaction.

Paul Bradshaw writes:

It took almost exactly 3 days – 72 hours – to kill off a 168-year-old brand. Yes, there were other allegations and two years in the lead up to The Guardian’s revelation that Milly Dowler was targeted by the newspaper. But Milly Dowler and the various other ordinary people who happened to be caught up in newsworthy events (kidnappings, victims of terrorist attacks, families of dead soldiers), were what turned the whole affair.

So while the Sun may be moving to seven-day production, that doesn’t make this a rebranding or a relaunch. As of Monday, The News of the World brand is dead, 168 years of journalistic history offered up as a sacrifice.

Charlie Beckett comments:

From the Newscorp point of view this is a sensible way to try to put this scandal into the past and to separate it from the BSkyB deal. It does not get to the bottom of the phone-hacking issue, however, leaving big questions against Rebekah Brooks. It does seem that Rupert Murdoch would rather shut a newspaper than sack his loyal lieutenant.

While the Huffington Post is now leading with “End Of The World” as its liveblog of the closure.

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Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

July 22nd, 2010 | 14 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Updated 05/08/2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below or with the hashtag #jlist who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Tomáš Bella

Tomáš Bella was editor-in-chief and deputy director of Sme.sk, the Slovak republic’s most popular news site. He was author of the first European newspaper-owned blogportal (blog.sme.sk, 2004) and the first digg-like service (vybrali.sme.sk, 2006). In April 2010 he co-founded Prague-based new media consultancy NextBig.cz and is working on a payment system to allow the access to all the premium content of major newspapers and TV stations with one payment.

Paul Steiger

While ProPublica’s not-for-profit, foundation-funded model may be something commercial news organisations can never share, its investment in and triumphing of investigative and data journalism cannot be overlooked. The way in which it involves a network of readers in its research and actively encourages other sites to “steal” its stories shows a new way of thinking about journalism’s watchdog role. Image courtesy of the Knight Foundation on Flickr.

Chris Taggart

Paul Bradshaw’s description of his fellow j-lister: “Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.”

Ian Hislop/Private Eye

Not much to look at on the web perhaps, but the Eye’s successful mixture of satire, humour and heavyweight investigations has seen its circulation rise. It blaized a trail during the Carter-Ruck and Trafigura gagging ordeal and has even lent it’s support to j-list fellow the Hackney Citizen to protect press freedom from international to hyperlocal levels. Image courtesy of Nikki Montefiore on Flickr.

Brian Boyer

Amidst the talk of what journalists can learn from programmers and what coding skills, if any, journalists need, Brian Boyer was making the move the other way from programming to a programmer-journalist. His university and personal projects in this field have been innovative and have got him noticed by many a news organisation – not least the Chicago Tribune, where he now works as a news applications editor. He blogs at Hacker Journalist.

Ushahidi

Originally built to map reports from citizens of post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi’s development of interactive, collaborative and open source mapping technology has been adopted by aid agencies and news organisations alike. It’s a new means of storytelling and a project that’s likely to develop more tools for journalists in the future.

More »

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#VOJ10: Polis director to publish report on value of ‘networked journalism’

June 8th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Events

As part of Friday’s Value of Journalism conference to be held in London by the BBC College of Journalism and media thinktank Polis, former broadcast journalist and now Polis director Charlie Beckett will release a new report looking at ‘networked journalism’.

In the report Beckett describes ‘networked journalism’ as a “synthesis of traditional news journalism and the emerging forms of participatory media enabled by web 2.0 technologies such as mobile phones, email, websites, blogs, microblogging and social networks”. It looks at:

The current running order for the event is available at this link. Tickets can be reserved online for the conference, which will be held at the London School of Economics. Journalism.co.uk will be reporting on the day’s events – to follow on Twitter follow @journalism_live and the hashtag #VOJ10.

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Charlie Beckett: ‘How do you report a hung parliament?’

May 10th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

POLIS director Charlie Beckett looks at the challenges a hung parliament poses for journalists:

The likelihood of a hung parliament raises all sorts of interesting procedural issues for journalists – especially the BBC and other Public Service Broadcasters. How do you report impartially and proportionately and how do you avoid getting bogged down in procedural detail? And how will our partisan press respond?

Generally, governments are given the dominant position in news coverage and allowed to dictate terms and set agendas because they have the popular mandate. New governments also tend to get a honeymoon period where the media allow them to set out their stall and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Full post at this link…

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#askthechancellors: How important was the digital audience in the UK Chancellor debate?

Last night I enjoyed lurking on the Twitter backchannel while watching Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellor debate – trivia mixed with observational insight.

I liked Evening Standard journalist Paul Waugh’s tweet about George Osborne’s ‘invisible pedal’ left-foot habit, as much as the economic 140-character analysis and Channel 4’s live poll via tweets, as the Chancellor hopefuls and incumbent fought it out (Vince Cable was the eventual winner, with 36 per cent; leaving Osborne and Darling with 32 per cent each).

Twitter also gave us an insight into the Channel 4/BBC political debate rivalry – spotted in tweets between Channel 4’s Faisal Islam and Radio 4’s Evan Davis. This, from Islam, for example:

amused by @r4today s licence-fee funded sniffiness about #askthechancellors Obviously nowt to do with this: http://bit.ly/aoc4MH

Probably worth noting this too, spotted via @the_mediablog:

RT @DominicFarrell: Those who will decide the #election were watching Coronation Street #askthechancellors

That was a sentiment supported by this morning’s TV stats: Brand Republic reports that Ask the Chancellors peaked at 2.1 million, while 9 million watched Eastenders.

So how important was this backchannel and the digital audience? That was the question Jim Naughtie posed to POLIS director Charlie Beckett on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme (audio at this link). Beckett said:

I think the real winner (…) despite some of the media cynicism, was in a sense ‘democracy’. I detected a lot of people who were quite pleased to hear a lengthy debate in detail, in public, by these people.

Beckett elaborates here, on his blog:

It all makes for much richer, multi-layered reportage. The TV debate alone would have been worth it. But the fact that tens of thousands of people were taking part reminds us that citizens do care about politics. And they want to be part of reporting the debate as it happens.

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Charlie Beckett: Do we have an information overload?

Charlie Beckett, director of think tank Polis, reports on last week’s Media CSR Forum and Polis event, In Media We Trust?

The debate questioned information overload, and how to manage media literacy – raising issues on which audience and panellists were divided. Beckett concludes:

[I] am more concerned about whether we have the curators to help shape these information flows and whether those people or organisations that do the filtering and connecting are informed by some kind of ethical value system. Data is not neutral. Information is beautiful but it is also political. Networks are powerful and so they also need to be transparent and acountable. Step forward the networked journalist, your digital public sphere needs you.

Full post at this link…

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#FollowJourn: Charlie Beckett/journalist and director

February 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Charlie Beckett

Who? Journalist and director of Polis

What? An experienced broadcast journalist, Beckett has worked for LWT, BBC and ITN’s Channel 4 News. He is author of the book, Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World, and director of Polis, joint journalism initiative from LSE and the London College of Communication.

Where? Read his archive of articles at Polis here.

Contact? Follow @charliebeckett

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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Top five UK journalism blogs and Tweeters in 2009 (and who to watch in 2010)

With the proviso that journalism blogs and bloggers come and go, we have selected our own personal favourite journalism bloggers and tweeters. These are our absolute must-reads. We realise this is a somewhat subjective exercise, so please add your own in the comments below, or via Twitter to @journalismnews.

Top five UK journalism blogs and Tweeters of 2009

As chosen by John Thompson, founder, Journalism.co.uk:

Best to follow on Twitter:
@GordonMacmillan, @malcolmcoles, @adamwestbrook, @paulbradshaw, @mikebutcher, @marcreeves

Best blogs:
Malcolm ColesJon Slattery, Adam Tinworth, OJB, Adam Westbrook (pictured below, left to right)

As chosen by Laura Oliver, editor, Journalism.co.uk:

Best to follow on Twitter:
@georgehopkin, @nigelbarlow, @MrRickWaghorn, @gordonmacmillan, @psmith

Best blogs:
Sarah Hartley, Alison Gow, Adam Tinworth, Martin Belam, Jon Slattery (pictured below, left to right)

As chosen by Judith Townend, senior reporter, Journalism.co.uk:

Best to follow on Twitter:
@gingerelvis, @samshepherd, @badjournalism, @jowadsworth, @digidickinson

Best blogs:
Jon Slattery, Martin Moore, Charlie Beckett, The Media Blog, Sarah Hartley (pictured below, left to right)

As chosen by the Journalism.co.uk team:

Five blogs to watch in 2010

  • Marc Reeves: former Birmingham Post editor, with new projects on the go.

Five Tweeters to watch in 2010

  • @timesjoanna, for her excellent social media and online journalism links.
  • @michaelhaddon, former City student with an interest in political online media; now working at Dow Jones.
  • @joshhalliday, at the centre of the UK student journalist blogging conversation; lots to look at on his own blog.
  • @coneee, the NUJ’s first full-time blogger member, currently completing an MA at City University.
  • @marcreeves, for the latest on what the former regional editor is up to.
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Charlie Beckett: PoliticsHome resignations – the story so far

Numerous contributors to PoliticsHome, including editor-in-chief, Andrew Rawnsley, have resigned from the news aggregator and polling website in a row over its new owner – Michael Ashcroft, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

Charlie Beckett’s post on the POLIS blog tells the story so far, with some comment thrown in:

“It’s interesting because of what it says about political journalism ethics. It is also interesting because of what it implies about the profitability of quality ‘balanced’ online political media.”

Full post at this link…

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