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#aopsummit catch-up: Journalism ethics and the BBC’s Olympics coverage

October 25th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

We were not able to make it along to the AOP’s digital publishing summit earlier this month, but the Association has helpfully uploaded some coverage from the event.

This includes a video published today from a session that looked at a range of topical issues at the moment: “hack gate, public interest, privacy vs openness, the PCC and press regulation”. Speakers from Heat, Digital Spy, Lewis Silkin and Mumsnet joined the panel which was chaired by BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

Particularly interesting parts of the discussion include a need to address the issue of press regulation across different platforms by news publishers and the issue of online anonymity, especially topical given the Joint Committee’s recent report on the Draft Defamation Bill.

Last week AOP also posted an article by Cait O’Riordan, Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012, in a follow up to her keynote presentation on how the BBC Online is preparing to cover the Olympics next year.

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Media Standards Trust: watching the PCC

September 7th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

A relatively new blog has been set up by the Media Standards Trust to provide regular scrutiny of the work of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and press self-regulation in the UK.

As the allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World rumble on, PCC Watch could become a regular read. The Media Standards Trust has been critical of the PCC’s investigation into the practice in the past and has already blogged its views on calls for the body to launch a fresh inquiry.


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Your guide to the CMS report on press standards, privacy and libel

February 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

It’s been going on for a year, but the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has finally published its report into press standards, privacy and libel in the UK.

You can read the 169-page report in full below, but we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting points in the report in this post.

Background:

The committee’s hearings and subsequent report cover a lot of ground: self-regulation of the press; libel law in the UK; privacy and the press – in particular the News of the World and Max Mosley; standards of journalism – in particular in relation to the reporting of suicides in Bridgend and the Madeleine McCann case; and allegations of phone hacking at News of the World.

In the committee’s own words:

This report is the product of the longest, most complex and wide-ranging inquiry this committee has undertaken. Our aim has been to arrive at recommendations that, if implemented, would help to restore the delicate balances associated with the freedom of the press. Individual proposals we make will have their critics – that is inevitable – but we are convinced that, taken together, our recommendations represent a constructive way forward for a free and healthy UK press in the years to come.

Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report into press standards, privacy and libel

Page guide and key quotes:

  • p10: the questions/issues that provoked the inquiry by the committee are set out.
  • p18: recommendation for “a fast-track appeal system where interim injunctions are concerned, in order to minimise the impact of delay on the media and the costs of a case, while at the same time taking account of the entitlement of the individual claimant seeking the protection of the courts”.
  • p18: report says Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and the courts should collect data on number of injunctions refused or granted and the impact of Section 12 of the Human Rights Act on interim injunctions.
  • p23: On Max Mosley and the News of the World: “We found the News of the World editor’s attempts to justify the Max Mosley story on ‘public interest’ grounds wholly unpersuasive, although we have no doubt the public was interested in it.”
  • p27: Focus on Justice Eady “shaping” UK privacy law is “misplaced”.
  • p31: Recommendations for the PCC to include guidance to newspapers on pre-notification.
  • p33: On Trafigura/Carter-Ruck and reporting parliamentary proceedings.
  • p40: Defendants in libel cases should still be required to prove the truth of their allegations, says the report.
  • p45: On the cost and difficulties of mounting a Reynolds Defence and whether this should be put on a statutory footing.
  • p54-55: The committee asks for better data collection on cases of ‘libel tourism’.
  • p59: On the single-publication rule and newspaper archives: “In order to balance these competing concerns, we recommend that the government should introduce a one year limitation period on actions brought in respect of publications on the internet.”
  • p72-76: On Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs) and After The Event Insurance (ATE) in defamation cases.
  • p82: Recommendations for better headline writing to improve press standards.
  • p91: Criticism of the press and the PCC for the handling of the Madeleine McCann case: “The newspaper industry’s assertion that the McCann case is a one-off event shows that it is in denial about the scale and gravity of what went wrong, and about the need to learn from those mistakes. In any other industry suffering such a collective breakdown – as for example in the
    banking sector now – any regulator worth its salt would have instigated an enquiry. The
    press, indeed, would have been clamouring for it to do so. It is an indictment on the
    PCC’s record, that it signally failed to do so.”
  • p95-6: On moderating comments on websites and user-generated material: “The Codebook [upheld by the Press Complaints Commission] should be amended to include a specific responsibility to moderate websites and take down offensive comments, without the need for a prior complaint. We also believe the PCC should be proactive in monitoring adherence, which could easily be done by periodic sampling of newspaper websites, to maintain standards.”
  • p101-3: On NOTW and phone hacking: “It is likely that the number of victims of illegal phone-hacking by Glenn Mulcaire will never be known.”
  • p114: Guardian articles on phone hacking did contain new evidence, but committee has heard now evidence that such practices are still ongoing.
  • p121: On the PCC: “The powers of the PCC must be enhanced, as it is toothless compared to other regulators.”
  • p123-5: Recommendations for a more independent PCC.
  • p126: Peter Hill’s resignation from the PCC.
  • p128: Criticism for how the PCC reports statistics of complaints it receives: “In particular, contacts from members of the public which are not followed up with the appropriate documentation should not be considered as true complaints.”
  • p129: A new system for “due prominence” of corrections and apologies by newspapers?
  • p130: Proposals for the PCC to have the power of financial sanctions.

In-depth coverage on Journalism.co.uk:

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PCC should not regulate Council-run newspapers, says finance board

December 15th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

As part of its industry consultation,  the Press Standards Board of Finance Ltd (PressBoF) has decided that local authority publications should not be brought within the remit of the Press the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

“It has decided against doing so on the basis that such publications tend to be marketing material,” the board announced today.

PressBoF, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission. Its industry consultation also decided that online-only publications – mainly magazine sites – should come under the PCC’s remit.

“It’s one of those things, we’re conscious there are a reasonable number of local authority publications out there,” PressBoF secretary, Jim Raeburn told Journalism.co.uk. “Should they be under umbrella of PCC or not?” The board’s decision, he said, was no.

PressBoF, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission.

In late November, Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, told the House of Commons culture media and sport select committee that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has no remit on authority publications:

“This is a lacuna. If this is a serious issue from the perspective of (a) the use of taxpayers’ money and (b) the consequences for independent journalism in any given locality, I think it is something that Parliament has to decide what it wants to do about.

“Either the government needs to give some guidance, or give somebody else the responsibility to look at it, but at the moment, we [Ofcom] certainly do not, and nor do the OFT.”

Stewart Purvis, content regulation partner for Ofcom, who was also giving evidence, said: “I just feel there is a missing area, which is the regulation, if that is the right word, of what local authorities do and do not do.

“I am reminded of the case of the former Mayor of London who, if I remember, got into trouble with some supervisory body over what he should or should not have said to an Evening Standard reporter.”

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Media release: PCC remit to include online-only publications

After an industry-wide consultation, the Press Standards Board of Finance Ltd (PressBoF) has announced it will extend the remit of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to include online-only publications. This will mainly apply to online magazines, it said in its release.

Pressbof, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission.

The extension has been agreed on these terms:

1. Such publications must be recognisable as UK based newspapers or magazines which, if in printed form, would come within the jurisdiction of the PCC.

2. The publisher and editor must subscribe to the Editors’ Code of Practice.

3. The publisher must agree to pay registration fees to PressBoF.

“The internet is an increasingly important platform for publishers to reach consumers. While online versions of newspapers and magazines available in printed form come within the remit of the PCC, there is a gap to the extent that online-only publications do not,” said Guy Black, chairman of PressBoF.

“This decision is a logical development in self-regulation, recognising the moves in the magazine sector towards online-only titles, and underlines the effectiveness of our system.”

Baroness Buscombe, chairman of the PCC, said she welcomed the decision by the industry:

“The PCC needs this freedom to develop rapidly to meet the challenges and the opportunities presented by media convergence. One clear strength of the self-regulatory system is its flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, while still providing a service that is free, fast, discreet and which involves the public in its decision-making.”

Full release at this link…

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Why the PCC didn’t appear at Frontline event and Steve Hewlett’s take on UK press regulation

April 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Journalism, Newspapers

The increasingly heated UK press regulation debate continued this week. Yesterday saw former PCC chair, Sir Christopher Meyer, appear on BBC Two’s Daily Politics Show, to defend the body, with criticisms offered by Roy Greenslade.

And here’s an update from an event a few weeks ago during which the Independent’s editor, Roger Alton – a former PCC member – defended the body at a debate hosted at the Frontline Club (reported at this link by Press Gazette). The event is still well worth a watch if you have the time, with a mixed line-up led by Radio Four Media Show’s Steve Hewlett.

Alton, along with Steven Barnett, special advisor for the Media Standards Trust report  ‘A More Accountable Press, Part One’, and Albert Scardino, the broadcaster and commentator, hotly debated the current state of affairs.

Alton: “I don’t want to be the only person live on the web speaking up for the PCC.”

Debate host Steve Hewlett said that the PCC had been invited to participate but had chosen not to. Following the claim up, Journalism.co.uk asked PCC director Tim Toulmin why not. He said it was for a couple of reasons:

“First, we are focusing on the select committee inquiry at the moment, and think that the time to debate these big issues is within the context of their report, which of course is a more serious enterprise than the Media Standards Trust’s effort. Secondly, our dealings so far with the MST have shown them to be rude and not particularly well informed – which may sound harsh, but is a reason for not wanting to spend a precious evening being further exposed to their nonsense.”

That’s straight from the press regulation horse’s mouth.

Alton had also been particularly candid and, erm, descriptive in his language during the event – especially before he realised it was going out live. For example:

Alton: “The McCanns was a thing of such astonishing ghastliness by the press, you do indeed feel like viscerating your own bladder with it. I mean, it’s absolutely awful. But you can’t say the whole industry is fucked (…) What’s the basis for this conversation? It’s fairly confidential?”

Hewlett: “It’s being confidentially live broadcast…”

Alton’s face as he looks up to the camera, shown below:

rogeralton

Broadcaster and writer Steve Hewlett offered his take on the debate to Journalism.co.uk at the end of the Frontline event. For Hewlett, the issue is maintaining freedom of expression. “I think the press has always been disliked and it’s always been held in low regard (…) journalists may just be bottom feeders, but democracy is needed. You wouldn’t expect the press to be popular and well-thought of and I’m not surprised by that.”

“Multiplicity of regulation is one of the things that guarantees freedom of expression in a country that is prone to regulating everything out of existence if it can,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

“The last thing you’d want is everyone regulated in the same way,” he added.

Robert Peston is able to have freedom in his BBC blog, but he also has quite a lot of restrictions on what he can say, Hewlett added. “For example, the level of proof the BBC will insist is at a higher level than many of their City [correspondent] counterparts [in newspapers].

“Traditional media that don’t deliver value are going to go out of business,” Hewlett said, adding that there are ‘probably one too many papers’ in the UK.

Hewlett said that the Media Standards Trust had ‘opened the door’ to criticism by the PCC in its review of UK press regulation, for which it consulted an independent peer review group for part one of the ‘A More Accountable Press’ report.

“If you look at the statistics [cited in the report] it’s so easy to question,” Hewlett said, referring to specific examples in the report – for example, that ‘only 0.7 per cent of complaints are adjudicated on’. But, Hewlett said, that omits complaints dealt with by mediation rather than adjudication and complaints that are on the same issue.

While saying that he ‘held no candle’ for the PCC at all, Hewlett said the fact the MST’s authors had been ‘partial’ in the way they presented their data, and that they didn’t raise issues with the PCC prior to publication led to an ‘open goal’ for Sir Christopher Meyer and the PCC, who were able to say the report was partial, misleading and that the PCC hadn’t been appropriately consulted.

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BBC Two Daily Politics – Greenslade and Meyer on regulation

April 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism, Legal

In the latest public debate surrounding regulation of the UK press, Sir Christopher Meyer, former chairman of the UK Press Complaints Commission (PCC), today argued that the current self-regulatory system was ‘robust, quick and satisfying.’

Meyer, who has now been replaced as PCC chair by Peta Buscombe, was a guest on today’s Daily Politics show on BBC Two, and said that the process worked for many reasons – the body’s discreet handling of complaints was just one, he said.

Meyer defended the PCC’s role, using the fact that they received a record number of complaints from newspaper readers last year as evidence that the principle of self-regulation was firmly established in the industry.

He added that the number of complaints to the PCC had doubled during his tenure.

During the debate, however, Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University in London, said that the body was not advertised widely enough. He said: “Most of the public aren’t aware of the PCC, and the newspapers certainly don’t publicise it.”

The show’s presenter, Andrew Neil, asked Meyer where the PCC was during the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Neil also asked why the body didn’t do more to protect Kate and Gerry McCann from the accusations made by newspapers.

Meyer said that Gerry McCann felt that the publicity and coverage of his daughter’s disappearance would aid the search for his daughter. “We told them we were there for them if they wanted help, but they were too busy,” Meyer said.

He added that the McCanns were focused on finding Madeleine at the time.

Greenslade argued that a PCC statement should have been issued at the time, warning the newspapers to adhere to the PCC code of practice.

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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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Q&A with an information architect (aka @currybet aka Martin Belam)

March 11th, 2009 | 6 Comments | Posted by in Jobs, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Martin Belam, of the CurryBet blog, has recently been appointed as ‘information architect’ for Guardian.co.uk. Journalism.co.uk asked him what he’ll be doing for the site…

For those who don’t know what you do, fill us in your background and the new gig…
[MB] I was at the Hack Day that the Guardian’s technology department ran back in November 2008, and the talent and enthusiasm that day really shone. I’ve really enjoyed the freedom of working as a consultant over the last three years, much of the time based either in Crete or in Austria, but the opportunity of coming to work more permanently for an organisation as forward-thinking as the Guardian is being with initiatives like the Open Platform was too much to resist.

So, an ‘information architect’ what does that mean and what are you doing?
Information Architecture has been defined as ‘the emerging art and science of organising large-scale websites’.

All websites have an inherent information structure – the navigation, the contextual links on a page, whether there are tags describing content and so forth. It is about how people navigate and way-find their way through the information presented on a site.

What I’ll be doing at the Guardian is influencing that structure and functionality as new digital products are developed. It involves working closely with design and editorial teams to produce ‘wireframes’, the blueprints of web design, and also involves being an advocate for the end user – carrying out lots of usability and prototype testing as ideas are developed.

Is it a full-time role?
I’m working four days a week at The Guardian, as I still have some other commitments – for example as contributing editor for FUMSI magazine – although already it feels a bit like cramming a full-time job into just 80 per cent of the time!

It’s not happy times for mainstream media brands: where are they going wrong?
I don’t think it is only mainstream media brands that are suffering from the disruption caused by digital transition, but we do see a lot of focus on this issue for print businesses at the moment. I think one of the things that strikes me, having worked at several big media companies now, including the BBC and Sony, is that you would never set these organisations up in this way in the digital era if you were doing it from scratch.

One of the things that appealed most about joining the Guardian was that the move to Kings Place has brought together the print, online and technical operations in a way that wasn’t physically possible before in the old offices. I’m still very optimistic that there are real opportunities out there for the big media brands that can get their business structures right for the 21st century.

What kind of things do you think could re-enthuse UK readers for their newspapers?
I think our core and loyal readers are still enthusiastic about their papers, but that as an industry we have to face the fact that there is an over-supply of news in the UK, and a lot of it – whether it is on the radio, TV, web or thrust into your hand as a freebie – is effectively free at the point of delivery. I think the future will see media companies who concentrate on playing to their strengths benefit from better serving a narrower target audience.

Do you see print becoming the by rather than primary product for the Guardian – or has that already happened?
I think there might very well be a ‘sweet spot’ in the future where the display quality on network-enabled mobile devices and the ubiquity of data through-the-air means that the newspaper can be delivered primarily in that way, but I don’t see the Guardian’s presses stopping anytime soon. Paper is still a very portable format, and it never loses connection or runs out of batteries.

Your background is in computer programming rather than journalism, will the two increasingly overlap?
I grew up in the generation that had BBC Micros and ZX Spectrums at home, so I used to program a lot as a child, but my degree was actually in History, which in itself is a very journalistic calling. I specialised in the Crusades and the Byzantine Empire, which is all about piecing together evidence from a range of sources of varying degrees of reliability, and synthesizing a coherent narrative and story from there. And, of course, I’ve spent most of this decade blogging, which utilises ‘some’ of the journalist’s skill-set ‘some’ of the time.

Whilst I’d never suggest that journalists need to learn computer programming much beyond a smattering of HTML, I think there is something to be gained from understanding the software engineering mindset. There are a lot of tools and techniques that can really help journalists plough through data to get at the heart of a story, or to use visualisation tools to help tell that story to their audience.

One of the most interesting things about working at the Guardian is the opportunity to work alongside people like Kevin Anderson, Charles Arthur and Simon Willison, who I think really represent that blending of the technical and journalistic cultures.

You’ve spoken out about press regulation before; why do you feel strongly about it?
In a converged media landscape, it seems odd that Robert Peston’s blog is regulated by the BBC Trust, Jon Snow’s blog is regulated by Ofcom, and Roy Greenslade’s blog is regulated by the PCC.

At the moment, I believe that the system works very well for editors, and very well for the ‘great and the good’ who can afford lawyers, but does absolutely nothing for newspaper consumers. If I see something that offends me on TV, I can complain to Ofcom. If I see an advert that offends me in the street, I can complain to ASA. If I see an article in a newspaper that I think is wrong, inaccurate, in bad taste or offensive, unless I am directly involved in the story myself, the PCC dismisses my complaint out of hand without investigating it.

I don’t think that position is sustainable.

The last thing I want to see is some kind of state-sponsored Ofpress quango, which is why I think it is so important that our industry gets self-regulation right – and why I believe that a review of how the PCC works in the digital era is long overdue.

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