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Seminar to discuss Carnegie UK Trust’s ‘plan for better journalism’

March 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

A joint seminar will be held at City University London today with the Carnegie UK Trust to discuss the recommendations made in its report ‘Better Journalism in the Digital Age’.

The report, which was published in February to be submitted to the Leveson inquiry, included the charity’s ‘plan for better journalism’, a series of seven recommendations including a call for all journalists and news organisations to adhere to an “industry-wide code of conduct”.

Author Blair Jenkins, a Carnegie Fellow who was previously head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland and STV, said in the report that a “credible and realistic” code of conduct adhered to throughout the industry “would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made”.

Many different news organisations in the UK and elsewhere have editorial guidelines or declared standards to which they expect journalists to adhere.

There seems little doubt that this is important. However, getting all journalists to observe a clear and consistent ethical code of conduct would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made in UK news media.

And it is possible to create a credible and realistic code of conduct which would embody very high standards and values.

In the report he cites the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics in the US as “one persuasively well-written set of editorial guidelines”, and “a model from which we can learn”.

There is a definite sense in the SPJ code of journalists themselves actively trying to encourage and advocate high standards of personal professional conduct. It may be precisely because any form of mandatory regulation is constitutionally impossible that journalists have striven to adopt and uphold higher levels of editorial and ethical behaviour.

An adaptation of this kind of code and these priorities could pave the way for a more consistently ethical approach by journalists in the UK. However, in order to have authenticity, such a code would have to embody and express the highest aspirations of journalists in the UK.

Other recommendations by the charity include calls for “a regulatory solution that is independent of both government and the newspaper industry, to avoid real or perceived interference and conflicts of interest”.

In reference to compliance, Jenkins said he believes “it should be possible to devise incentives which secure unanimous support and participation”, such as through the system of press accreditation and “access to important venues”.

He also refers to “registered news organisations” being able to show a “recognised standards mark on their various outlets”. During the Leveson inquiry the idea that online news outlets in the UK could be kitemarked to illustrate their regulation was also discussed.

A kitemarking system also formed part of the recently proposed new Media Standards Authority (MSA), to regulate non-broadcast media, by a number of industry figures led by barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC.

Other recommendations include “the maintenance or strengthening of public service broadcasting”, calling on “civil society organisations” to provide financial backing to new journalism projects, “a renewed emphasis in journalism education and training” and a focus on completing the installation of high-speed broadband “to enable universal access to a wide range of digital news services and participatory media”.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – media law academic papers

February 3rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Top tips for journalists

There’s some useful reading list on media law on the International Forum for Responsible Media blog (Inforrm), where Judith Townend has collected together a number of academic papers on the subject.

The papers cover topical issues such as defamation, privacy and regulation of the press. She has also indicated those which are free to access, and others which require subscriptions.

See the full post here.

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Mail Online publisher: ‘If you don’t listen to your users then you’re dead’

January 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Appearing before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions yesterday, Martin Clarke, the publisher of Daily Mail website Mail Online, shared some interesting comments on digital media, in reference to privacy, regulation and general approaches to journalism in a digital world.

The latest results from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (published in December) showed the Mail Online continued its lead ahead of other audited UK news sites with almost 85 million unique browsers in November.

So here is a collection of thoughts shared by Clarke before the committee on issues relating to the impact of the internet on the news industry:

Privacy:

If we were publishing really unpleasant, intrusive stuff our readers wouldn’t like it. One of the beauties of the internet is the feedback you get from your readers is pretty much instant in two ways.

First of all, you can see in real time who’s reading what stories on your homepage … that immediately tells me which ones they’re interested in.

Secondly, we have the comments facility and readers aren’t slow to let us know when they think we’ve been unfair or unpleasant. Quite often I’ve changed tack on a story, or the headline on a story or dropped a picture because of things readers have left in comments. That’s the beauty of the internet, the interaction between you and your readers is that much more immediate. If there were no privacy law no I don’t think it would make that much difference.

Regulation

You are dealing with an industry that faces big commercial challenges going forward. Digital is how newspapers are going to have to make their living, the economics of the internet are such you probably have to make big chunk of that living abroad. Any further regulation might compromise that, and then quite frankly we won’t really have an industry left to regulate.

… You think of the internet in chunks, press, bloggers, tweeters, but from the consumers point of view that’s not how they consider it. It’s an endless continuous spectrum that starts with what their friends are saying on their Facebook pages, what some tweeter might be saying, to a story they link to in a tweet, then go back on to Facebook page and comment … Pretty soon all those commenting systems are going to be bolted together. Where do you draw the line, where do you say right this bit of the internet is going to be regulated and this bit isn’t?

… We’ve had to wake up and deal, embrace a new reality … The internet is a great way to distribute news, it means newspapers are now back in the business of breaking news … alongside TV and radio and the people who had taken that privilege away from us. It’s gratifying as a journalist to be part of that. Equally it’s brought some negatives …. You can’t turn back the tide, we can’t say stop the internet world we want to get off.

On content:

The reason it’s different from the Daily Mail is because it’s a different market … I’m operating in a digital market where we do get feedback from the readers, I can see in real time what they’re really reading rather than what I might think as journalist they should be reading. In the digital world if you don’t listen to your users, if you don’t involve them, if you don’t listen to their tastes, than you’re dead. We don’t follow that data slavishly, that’s where I come in, it’s my job to mediate the light and the shade. So that’s why it’s different from the Mail.

Equally we do more showbiz…we do vastly more science, we do more political commentary, we do more foreign news because we’re not limited by physical space … It goes back to the point I made right at the beginning, if you’re going for scale you can’t just fit in a niche. You can’t say “we’ll be in the red-top end, or the middle-market or the broadsheet end”. Niches aren’t big enough on the internet to survive, so you have to be a much broader church.

You can watch the session in full on Parliament TV and hear from others who appeared before the committee, including Edward Roussel, digital editor of the Telegraph Media Group and Phillip Webster, editor of Times Online.

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BBC News: The editors’ views from the Leveson inquiry

January 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

BBC News has compiled a table of views as shared by newspaper editors at the Leveson inquiry, giving readers the opportunity to closely compare the standpoints of each editor on key points.

The table sets out “how the editors’ evidence compares” and includes key points on given by the editors “on researching stories”, “media regulation” and a “key quote”.

See the table here.

See Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the Leveson inquiry here.

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#jpod in depth: Discussing the press self-regulation question after #soe11

November 18th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Podcast

The debate around the need for reform of the UK’s self-regulation of the press returned to the spotlight this week, as industry representatives joined to discuss the issue at the Society of Editors conference on Monday and Tuesday. Following the event we spoke to a number of leading journalism figures, to hear their views and find out where the industry may go from here.

In this week’s #jpod news editor Rachel McAthy speaks to editor of the Independent Chris Blackhurst, group managing director of Northcliffe Media Steve Auckland, director of the Press Complaints Commission Stephen Abell and director of the Media Standards Trust Martin Moore.

You can hear future podcasts by signing up to the Journalism.co.uk iTunes podcast feed.

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Martin Moore: seven models for reform of self-regulation

Revelations about the extent of the phone-hacking scandal have fuelled discussion about the state of self-regulation and possible reform. Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, has created a thought-provoking list of seven possible ways in which the system might be reformed, from scrapping regulation altogether to full statutory regulation. Moore has weighed up some of the pros and cons of each idea and intends for them to serve as a framework for discussion of the issue.

The list:

1. Abolish the PCC, without setting up a replacement
2. Reform the existing PCC
3. Create an independent regulator
4. Extend a watered down Ofcom to cover all major media organisations
5. Create a professional body for journalists
6. Withdraw all media regulation, but reform, extend, reduce and clarify existing media law
7. Create a new statutory regulator for all media

See Moore’s post on the MST website for his introduction and the full reasoning behind each idea.

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PCC director speaks out over Lord Puttnam’s criticisms of regulatory body

The director of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) Stephen Abell has come out fighting in an article on Index on Censorship after Labour peer Lord Puttnam said earlier this week that the regulatory body should be shut down.

Speaking in a speech on parliament and young people on Tuesday, Puttnam said the PCC should be scrapped if newspapers failed to improve their behaviour within a year. In comments made to MediaGuardian, he said the PCC should work to prevent “the slow reduction of politics to a form of gruesome spectator sport” and “ensure the general representation of young people is more representative of reality”.

Abell says Puttnam’s remarks were not based on “well-informed and considered comment” about the PCC’s role and work, but says they are a starting point for debate:

Lord Puttnam is keen to assert that the PCC “cannot” instruct newspapers to be nicer to politicians and young people (two items on his wish list) without pausing to ask the question: should it? There must be the argument that if any body – even a self-regulatory body like the PCC – were to dictate the tone of political coverage, or suggest that there should be more positive stories on youth issues, the result would be a very significant restriction on freedom of expression.

(…)

However, and this is very important, he is right that the PCC must be active agents in maintaining newspaper standards. The coverage of politics, or of issues affecting the young, are two important areas. The PCC must ensure that we hold editors to account for what they report and how they report it. We must ensure that inaccuracies are corrected, intrusions and distortions prevented.

Related reading on Journalism.co.uk: Stephen Abell’s first interview as the new director of the PCC.

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Argus apologises to BBC producer – a note on media transparency

December 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

UK local newspaper title the Brighton Argus has published an apology on its website to Martyn Smith, the Bafta-nominated TV director, producer and writer, after wrongly identifying him its story Brighton TV producer escapes jail for “repulsive” child porn collection.

 The Argus has offered an unreserved apology and to its credit published it online at 7:15pm on 22 December – just over 24 hours after the story was published. The original story also appears to have been taken down from the site, though a cached version remains in Google News.

Interestingly the story is (at time of writing) the third most popular story on the paper’s website – good news for the wrongly identified subject?

This, and an excellent post from Andy Dickinson, made me consider how online tools on newspaper websites (such as traffic counts and commenting systems) can be used for transparency in such cases.

Dickinson’s post refers to a recent apology by the Northumberland Gazette – a Johnston Press title that has a pay wall in place on its website. The apology in this case was published behind the pay wall.

Whether this was purposeful or an oversight, it suggests that pay walls will throw up problems for newspapers, transparency and the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) with regards to its recommendations for publishing apologies and corrections, says Dickinson.

If I am going to pay someone for this stuff then one of the things I should want to know is just how accurate their content is and how transparent they are.

I for one would like to see all corrections and clarifications made free and visible on all parts of media orgs websites before the paywall. That way I can make an informed choice.

What other simple tools or processes should online newspapers be using to encourage transparency?

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Press Review Blog: Complaints, the PCC and accountability online

July 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Matthew Cain uses a recent complaint made to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) against the Sheffield Star – and how it was dealt with by the paper – as an in interesting case study on the pros of self-regulation and the difficulties of dealing with apologies online.

“The online reaction to the story is interesting, with a number of people recognising a problem with the article both on the newspaper’s own comment section and on sheffieldforum.co.uk. With the data that the newspaper captures in the comments section, it wouldn’t be too difficult for the paper to contact all of the people who commented and to draw attention to the correction,” writes Cain.

“This case shows some of the strengths of self-regulation: a successfully resolved complaint, a complaint submitted by a third party, a prominent correction offline and a free service for the complainants. However, it also shows the unresolved difficulties of correcting articles sufficiently quickly, making corrections to stories online, and the problems associated with making sure the right people are held to account.”

Full post at this link…

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Editor&Publisher: Newspaper editors still not sure how to police social media

“Many editors are still not sure how to police the growing Twitter trend and Facebook ‘friending’ phenomenon. Since much of it relies on casual and candid conversation, standard newsroom regulations may not apply,” comments Editor&Publisher’s Joe Strupp. He rounds up recent discussion and regulation at news organisation in the US.

Full story at this link…

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