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Journalism Daily: AutoTrader tips, Technorati’s ‘original content’ and the online anonymity debate

September 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily

A daily round-up of all the content published on the Journalism.co.uk site. You can also sign up to our e-newsletter and subscribe to the feed for the Journalism Daily here.

News and features:

Ed’s picks:

Tip of the day:

#FollowJourn:

On the Editor’s Blog:

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‘Access Denied’: Frontline Club discussion on global media coverage (video)

September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Journalism

On Tuesday a panel at the Frontline Club (in association with the BBC College of Journalism) discussed the issue of international media access.

“Fighting in Gaza and Sri Lanka and the recent unrest in Iran all raised questions about how journalists can do their job when governments deny access (…) With the Israeli government relying more and more on public relations management and an increasingly sophisticated use of new media to get its message across, what is the role of the journalist in 21st century conflicts?”

The panel included Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC’s Global News division: Adrian Wells, head of foreign news, Sky News; and Jean Seaton Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute

If you missed it, catch up with the video here. And it was live-blogged by Brian Condon here.

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Frontline Club: Links for Iran election protest media coverage

Daniel Bennett has provided two useful link round-ups on media coverage of Iran election protests:

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MediaGuardian: Stephen Grey on the MoD’s restriction of war reporting

An interesting read from investigative journalist Stephen Grey on the UK’s Ministry of Defence affecting media coverage of soldier’s deaths in Afghanistan by restricting access to conflict zones in Afghanistan.

“As in so many wars, truth seems to be the first casualty of this conflict. There has been a devastating breakdown of relations between many defence correspondents and officialdom, journalists say,” writes Grey.

“Almost all journalists travelling with British forces are ordered to email their copy to the military’s press officers in Helmand before publication. Many fear that negative coverage could mean trips back to the frontline are cancelled or delayed,” he cites as one issue.

Full story at this link…

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Currybet.net: Regulation, news media and election coverage

June 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Martin Belam highlights an interesting comparison in yesterday’s UK media coverage of polling day: while the BBC suspended news blog comments entirely; the Sun touted its radio station as one of the only places that would be talking about politics on the day of the elections.

The BBC must adhere to its editorial guidelines on balance/political debate (see section 4.1), while SunTalk is self-regulated by the PCC.

“[W]hat does this tell us about our regulatory framework in a converged digital media landscape?” writes Belam.

“Can it be right that ‘a newspaper with a website broadcasting radio’ can behave differently on election day from ” radio station with a website publishing text’? And come the next General Election, will we be talking about how ‘It’s SunTalk Wot Won It’?

Full post at this link…

More from Journalism.co.uk on UK media regulation in the digital age:

UK media regulation – what’s the future?

Ofcom: Where does it stand on internet regulation?

BeatBlogging.Org: ‘UK news regulation stands in the way of newsroom convergence’

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Going it alone: Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondents live interview FRIDAY 2pm (GMT+1)

  • What happens when you find yourself as the only English-language television broadcaster at a breaking news scene?
  • What happens when that breaking news scene is a major war in the middle east?

That’s exactly what happened for Al Jazeera journalists Sherine Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin earlier this year when Al Jazeera English found itself the only major English television broadcaster allowed inside Gaza.

A 12-day ban prevented other Western media networks entering the area – although the BBC used two producers already on the ground. Read this post by the POLIS researcher Nina Bigalke, on Charlie Beckett’s blog, for a fuller context. “If 12 hours are a very long time in the world of journalism, 12 days seem like an eternity,” Bigalke writes.

Journalism.co.uk first met Tadros and Mohyeldin, who reported from Gaza throughout the conflict, in February:

“To be the only English channel on the ground could be a ‘one-off experience’ during her career, [Tadros] said. While she thrived on being part of the only English-language media team on the ground – ‘everything we did was exclusive’ – Tadros was aware of the responsibility to cover as much as possible for an English speaking audience.”

Now it’s your chance to join in and put your questions to the pair. Visit this site at 2pm (GMT +1). Journalism.co.uk will be putting a series of questions, via CoverItLive, to Tadros and Mohyeldin about their experience. Was it liberating to find themselves without the BBC working alongside? Was it a daunting responsibility?

Leave your own questions in the comments below this post and they will be included in the interview. See you at 2pm (4pm Doha time). You can also submit questions to @journalism_live on Twitter.

UPDATE 15.00 BST: THIS EVENT HAS NOW FINISHED. Thank you for your questions and thoughts. Please leave additional comments on the subject of media coverage in Gaza below this post. If you participated and wish to comment on the use of CoverItLive in this format please send your feedback to judith at journalism.co.uk. Did it seem a good way to present an interview? Was the balance of questions between Journalism.co.uk and users about right? Many thanks in advance for your help.

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American Prospect: Are reporters reporting or making the news?

March 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Should journalists report, explain, but also ‘make news’, asks American Prospect’s Ezra Klein.

Klein refers to assertions made by CNN’s Ed Henry about a recent Obama press conference, in which Henry said his strategy was to ‘make news on something unexpected’ – a tactic that lead to the story on overturning the policy at Dover Air Force Base preventing media coverage of coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Full article at this link…

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MST response to Press Complaints Commission letter: “Suggestion of bad faith is entirely unjustified,” says Salz

Anthony Salz, who is chair of the Independent Press Review Group and also on the Board of the Media Standards Trust, has replied to a letter from the chair of the Press Complaints Commission, Sir Christopher Meyer, (February 19, 2009), which made criticisms of the MST review calling for reform of UK press regulation, published on February 9, 2009.

Wednesday 11th March

Dear Sir Christopher,

Thank you for your letter of 19 February.

We will, of course, take it into account in the second stage of the review. In the meantime I feel I should reply to some particular assertions you make about the report.

1 Bad Faith

You suggest that the review is not being undertaken in good faith because we did not ask you to contribute to what you describe as a strident report. This suggestion of bad faith is entirely unjustified. I also strongly object to your personalised attack on the Director of the Media Standards Trust (MST).

The MST is an independent registered charity. It operates much like any other think tank and receives funding by donations from Foundations and individuals. This has included grants from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. It was set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public.

We state clearly in the report that it represents Part 1 of a two-stage review. The first part is an analysis of the current system of self-regulation (including, apart from the PCC, the legal cases, issues concerning user-generated content, the Motorman investigation, the challenge to achieve consistency of regulation and governance of regulators). This is based on publicly available information and on the findings of a recent YouGov poll that the MST commissioned.

No-one was formally consulted in the first stage. The analysis in Part 1 was always intended to start a debate and provide a basis from which we could consult widely. Consultation with the PCC alone in advance would have been inappropriate. We felt it important that Part 1 should not be influenced by a key body with a particular interest. The PCC has shown that it is, of course, well placed to obtain media coverage for its reply.

All members of the Review Group feel that there is a need for change and that the report facilitates a debate. We are keen that the PCC, those who have been involved with it and its stakeholders are part of that debate.

2 PCC Statistics

You claim that the report “fundamentally misinterpret[s] the PCC’s statistics”. Your letter cites one statistic in support of this claim – that less than 1 in 250 complaints is upheld in adjudication. This statistic is not in fact in the report, though it was mentioned by Sir David Bell on air. It derived from your 2007 Annual Report. Page 25 states that the PCC adjudicated in 32 cases of which 16 were upheld against newspapers, from a total of 4,340 complaints (equating to 1 upheld adjudication for every 271 complaints).

As your letter illustrates, the PCC’s figures and terminology are somewhat difficult to follow. The explanation in your letter is helpful, as is the recent addition to your website “the Facts behind the Figures”. Both show why readers of your published materials have had a hard time understanding what is going on. However you explain your terminology, 32 adjudications from 4,340 complaints is to me a small number of adjudications.

Our report acknowledges that you dispute the value of using adjudications as a measure (on page 28). We feel, nevertheless, that the number of adjudications is important – since it is the only public sanction the PCC has. Others have also argued for their importance. Professor Greenslade last year, for example, told the House of Lords Select Committee that “The failing of the PCC is the failing to adjudicate often enough”. Without adjudication, he went on to say, “newspapers escape censure and punishment too often when they actually at the final hour do some kind of deal to get themselves out of a mess, when they breach the rules as it were”.

3 Inaccuracy

You stated on air, and repeat in your letter, that the report has many inaccuracies. In addition to the 1:250 point above, you cite only the statement that the ASA was modelled on the PCC. You are right: it was in fact modelled on the Press Council, the predecessor to the PCC (Richard Shannon, A Press Free and Responsible, p.13). The substance of the point still stands but we will, of course, correct the reference.

4 2007 Select Committee

In your letter you criticise the report for failing to mention the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, 2007. You suggest that this Select Committee makes the PCC accountable. The CMS Select Committee has led important examinations of aspects of self-regulation although it is not constituted to hold the PCC to account. Select Committees are held at irregular intervals and the Committee ‘chooses its own subjects of inquiry’ (from its website). The 2007 Select Committee, for example, focused closely on the issues raised by the harassment of Kate Middleton, Clive Goodman’s conviction, and Operation Motorman.

Reference to the 2007 Select Committee report might have been useful. It expressed concern about the ‘complacency of the industry’s reaction to evidence presented by the Information Commissioner showing that large numbers of journalists had had dealings with a private investigator known to have obtained personal data by illegal means’ (p.3). It went on to say ‘we are severely critical of the journalists’ employers for making little or no real effort to investigate the detail of their employees’ transactions. If the industry is not prepared to act unless a breach of the law is already shown to have occurred, then the whole justification for self-regulation is seriously undermined’ (p.3).

It said that the current form of press self-regulation offered more protection than relying exclusively on the law. This is important and should indeed be a purpose of self-regulation. It noted (as we do in our report) that the Press Complaints Commission ‘has evolved’, and said that it had ‘become a more open body which provides a better service to complainants’. However, it also made clear that ‘This Report is not a broad look at whether the system of self-regulation as currently operated by the industry is the best way to curb unjustified practices and punish those who publish material obtained in such ways. To reach a properly informed view on such a complex subject would require more time and more evidence’ (p.5).

The same Select Committee concluded its Summary by saying that ‘The system for regulation of the press raises serious and complex issues which may merit a broader investigation than we have been able to undertake here. We believe that this is a subject which… deserves careful examination in the future’ (p.4).

These statements, taken together, both acknowledge positive changes in the PCC and support the case for a broader review of press self-regulation.

5 Some Substantive Questions

You say the PCC must give priority to the forthcoming hearing of the Select Committee. After this, I would be interested to meet with you and your colleagues to hear the PCC’s views on some of the substantive questions that are raised about future press regulation. For example:
•    Is it sufficient that the PCC’s constitution essentially sets it up only as a complaints-handling body?
•    Would it not be preferable to avoid having working editors on the Press Complaints Commission (as distinct from those who have worked in journalism)?
•    Would the position of the PCC as a regulator be assisted if it could be given greater powers to ‘enforce’ its decisions for the benefit of a complainant, making it more ‘competitive’ with the legal route?
•    Would you consider that there should ideally be some structure for independent appeal against a decision made by the PCC?
•    How might the PCC change in order to meet growing expectations of public accountability (expectations that are fed by the press)?
•    Why should the PCC not be covered by the Freedom of Information Act (assuming that it would be possible to protect the privacy of complainants who wanted it)?
•    Is there any reason why the PCC should not make its sources of revenue transparent?

We have been clear that our first report is a starting point for debate. Though I welcome your response, I do not accept your characterisation of our report.

I look forward to a discussion in the coming months of the issues raised about the future shape of press regulation.

Yours sincerely,
Anthony Salz

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Comment: Treasury committee shoots the media messenger over UK banking crisis

February 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

Yesterday saw representatives from the UK’s financial journalism industry give evidence to a House of Commons Treasury Committee inquiry into the banking crisis.

So what conclusions were drawn about the media’s ‘role’ in the crisis?

A fairly resounding ‘it wasn’t our fault’ from the journalists gathered (Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, BBC business editor Robert Peston, Daily Mail city editor Alex Brummer, Sky News’ Jeff Randall and the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins):

  • The UK’s banks and economy, in particular Northern Rock, were headed for a crash anyhow and no amount of warning/doomsaying from the media would have changed this. No one – neither the media nor those in charge of the financial institutions were expecting the force of what was going to happen to the economy

While Simon Jenkins said in retrospect he ‘wouldn’t have done it or had it done differently’, some of yesterday’s session echoed Robert Peston’s comments to UCLAN’s Journalism Leaders Forum, when the BBC journalist said there were some lessons to learn from the media’s handling of the situation:

  • Alex Brummer said a lot of the reporting of the financial breakdown was handled by young, inexperienced journalists staffing finance desks, most of whom weren’t around in the last crisis. If you’ve only seen boom times it was even easier to take the press releases/briefings from businesses and financial orgs at face value and not question them, he said.
  • Business journalists are in competition with the richest organisations in the world, added Brummer, and city editors did not push hard enough to get negative stories about the economy higher up the news agenda during the boom period.
  • Jeff Randall agreed with Peston’s UCLAN comments, saying that it could be argued the public had been allowed to live in economic optimism for too long, fuelled by the media.
  • According to Lionel Barber, there’s no point hiding stories of the recession behind ‘happy talk’.
  • On the BBC’s coverage, Robert Peston said each of the stories about the banking crisis were published in the public interest; though Brummer said the public had been very ill-served by the media’s coverage of the economy and more must be done to deepen economic understanding.

An informative discussion with some of the leading journalists in the UK field, yet why had they been summoned in the first place?

Prompted via a Twitter chat with NYU professor Jay Rosen, shouldn’t we be asking who is saying the media is to blame for the banking crisis in the first place?

One question from the committee to Peston struck me as particularly misplaced in this respect, as he was asked what he thought about being a market force in his own right. In his own words, Peston is just a journalist reporting on the facts and information he receives.

Yes – there are lessons to be learned from looking at whether media coverage of the banking crisis indirectly added to public anxiety about the situation or contributed indirectly to already falling share prices.

But as Lionel Barber pointed out yesterday, it was never the media’s intention to break the banks, but simply to report on the situation. Peston’s stories, the man himself said, were verified reports from close contacts and sources and built on as much information as he could gather.

At the UCLAN event, Peston said the ‘primary responsibility for the global economic and banking crisis does not lie with the media’ – but why is the media having to defend itself. In a feisty exchange, Barber posed a similar question to the committee: why didn’t the government bail out Lehman Bros – this failure could be seen as escalating the crisis just as much as any media role.

It was joked that the only five journalists to have spotted the crisis ahead of time were sitting in the committee room – evidence that there were dissenting voices in a sea of stories about never-ending house price rises.

Evidence that this was an exercise in shooting the messenger

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A week of innovation from Al Jazeera ends with launch of mobile sites

January 16th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism, Multimedia

Media coverage on Al Jazeera English hasn’t always been positive, but since its launch it’s done some interesting things multimedia-wise: launching all its content on YouTube, in April 2007, for example (its English content page can be found here).

More broadly the Al Jazeera network, which includes the Arabic channels, has also not been afraid to try out new technology, with the launch of a ‘citizen-journalism upload portal’ for example.

This week we’ve reported on its video content partnership with the Independent newspaper site. While they’ve tightened up the PR act (no longer in-house, it’s managed by Brown Lloyd James, the same agency that handles press for the Telegraph group) these are newsworthy developments.

Events in Gaza have been a chance for Al Jazeera to experiment and show off its multimedia – through projects showcased at Al Jazeera Labs. Follow Al Jazeera’s head of new media, Mohamed Nanabhay, @Mohamed, on Twitter to find out more.

Particularly exciting is its release of material under a Creative Commons licence, in its 3.0 form – allowing other sites reproduce the broadcaster’s video content as long as they attribute the source.

Today comes further news from the broadcaster: the beta launch of its Arabic and English mobile websites, which will work on any mobile handset with web browsing ability.

“Users only need to bookmark the following web addresses on their mobile, for English news http://m.aljazeera.net/, and for Arabic news http://ma.aljazeera.net/,” a release from the company said.

“The mobile web initiative is one of the key services that is being launched as part of our New Media strategy”, Saeed Othman Bawazir, Al Jazeera’s director of technology, said in the release.

“The aim is to make our content more accessible to new audiences across various new platforms. With the launch of this mobile service, we hope to provide our audience with a customized news browsing experience on the mobile device of their choice,” he said.

This initiative includes ‘delivering video and other content over interactive platforms,’ such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes, the release said.


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