Browse > Home /

Reporting from ‘the EU in the sunshine’ where hacks are hunting in packs

John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. He was born in Guyana and regularly returns there to help build local media, print and TV.

Summits bring out the worst in hacks. Lazy journalism by design. You arrive, get spoon-fed information, report it and then leave. You get fed and watered too. No need for digging, no need for investigation.

The Caricom (Caribbean Community – think EU in the sunshine) Summit, which opened last week here in Georgetown, Guyana, is no exception. Fifteen regional leaders and distinguished others from all round the world propelled at speed by police outriders all over the Capital City to a brand new Conference Centre. They ‘meet’ for three days to discuss the pressing issues of crime, security, economy and more in the region. But, like all summits it is a sham. The team have long been at work preparing the final communiqué. One person told me minutes after the end of the Opening Ceremony last night that the final communiqué was done and dusted – just crossing the ‘T’s’ and dotting the ‘I’s’ left to do. Where is the journalism in reporting that charade?

But the 60 or so journos from all over the Caribbean who are here go through the motions. The Guyana Government has set up a press centre in an anteroom of the summit to feed regular morsels to the hungry hacks. They run on the spot, faithfully file and come back for more. The herd instinct in action.

There is one real story at this talkfest. The Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson, is it. He is a pariah in the Community as it heads towards integration. He wants to clear his Little England island of illegal Guyanese immigrants. His police round them up early morning, interrogate then and so far 53 have been dispatched South in two months. Caricom is supposed to be about the free movement of labour. Thompson held a bizarre press conference on arrival in Georgetown. Local journos failed to ask the right questions. But the ‘Bajan bans Guyanese’ story will run and run.

The local media hunt firmly in packs – whatever their race or the politics of their paper/TV station. At the ceremonial opening last night, the usual suspects were present. All corralled in the lobby or in one small room. All using the feed from the State broadcaster as their only source. Some of them will not file for a day or so. ‘Soon come’ journalism is common here. But how many of the Guyana Press Corps will have the courage to announce the opening as a non-story? Nothing really happened. Fifteen men in suits sat on a stage and listened to six of their number drone on for two hours. Sound bites aplenty there were not.

More to follow on the conference, which ran July 2-5. Over the weekend, the Premiers and the Pack headed off to the Chinese built Conference Centre to go through the elegant quadrille that’s called ‘reporting’ major summits. Me – I got hold of a copy of the final communiqué and sat beside a hotel pool reading it and reporting it. If you are going to be lazy, do it right.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

JEEcamp: Follow the journalism enterprise ‘unconference’

May 8th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Journalism.co.uk is attending JEEcamp today – an ‘unconference’ (e.g. any attendees can suggest the topics for discussion) about future models for journalism, focusing on enterprise and experimentation.

“JEEcamp is an opportunity for a range of people to get together to talk about how on earth journalists and publishers can make a living from journalism in the era of free information, what the challenges are, and what we’ve learned so far.”

Organsied by Birmingham City University lecturer and Online Journalism Blog blogger Paul Bradshaw, the event is a sell out – but there are plenty of ways to follow what’s going on.

There’s a liveblog of the event here.

There will be lots of twittering (see the attendees list for a rough guide of who to follow and @journalism_live) under the #jeecamp hashtag. If you tag your tweets in this way they’ll be fed through to the CoverItLive bloggers too.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Nieman Journalism Lab: How NPR maximised its news archive

Nieman Journalism Lab reports on NPR’s ‘backstory’ project – a Twitter account, automatically fed, that updates with relevant archive content around current trends.

The code that powers it detects if lots of people suddenly start searching for a certain term and searches NPR’s archives for related stories, before posting a link to Twitter.

Full story at this link…

Tags: , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Dan Mason: The ‘pathetic tirade’ over council newspapers

April 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Comment, Editors' pick, Newspapers

An alternative perspective on the council publication debate from Dan Mason, a former managing editor for 12 London weeklies. He is fed up with the ‘pathetic tirade’ over local council publications, and argues that time should be spent talking, rather than warring.

(…) “[T]he fact is, if we’d [regional newspapers] done our job right and maintained a constructive, consistent, high-level relationship with council chiefs in years gone by, Cllr LGA chairman Margaret Eaton wouldn’t have been in a position to make this astonishing remark to the OFT: ‘The local media cannot provide the same amount of information about how to access services as a dedicated council publication can.'”

Full post at this link…

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Audioboo: Can it be used for news reporting? Some case studies

Yesterday Journalism.co.uk spoke with Audioboo founder Mark Rock about the potential for the iPhone audio app to be used for local news reporting:

“[E]veryone knows what’s happening to traditional media and local newspapers are dying by the moment. But is there a very simple and easy way [for others] to start collecting audio data and using it?”

As the tool is developed – both by Audioboo’s team and third-parties once the API is released – there’s even more scope for using geotagged audio news reports.

You can see the possibilities from how it’s already being used by some Audioboo-ers:

Pie & Bovril
The Scottish Premier League site ran a trial of the app last weekend. The aim? To get ‘sound byte updates’ from fans in and around stadia, the site’s David MacDonald told Journalism.co.uk.

“Although the big clubs are well catered for of an afternoon with live commentary we felt that the smaller clubs weren’t really in a position to service the information requirements of their fans who can’t make it along for whatever reason or those ex-pats who are keen to find out what’s happening from afar on a Saturday afternoon,” explains MacDonald.

“We pick up the information via feeds from Boo which automatically populate the appropriate section of our site.”

P&B has tried updating web pages using email to text gateways and experimented with SMS updates, but these were time consuming and failed to convey the mood of fans at the game, he adds.

“It’s early days but we feel this could be a really neat, low cost way, of getting information back from around the grounds to those unable to attend. We’ll continue to grow the trial and get a few users on it and see how it goes from there,” says MacDonald.

London SE1 Community Website
James Hatts, editor of community website London SE1, published by Banksidepress said the site is also experimenting with Audioboo and has uploaded newsworthy clips, such as updates on a local fire.

“I think AudioBoo has great potential for local reporting – it’s just so easy. No waiting to get back to the office, no transcribing endless recordings, no editing, no waiting for YouTube (for example) to process your video,” says Hatts.

According to Hatts, the ‘idiot-proof brilliance’ of the app is comparable to using a Flip camera and could make it an important part of a modern reporter’s kit.

However, using it in a way that makes economic sense is a key consideration for Bankside:

“It’s early days for Audioboo but at the moment there’s no way to drive traffic to our own site from a boo page, for instance,” explains Hatts.

“There are interesting future possibilities for using voice recognition software to display contextual adverts around the audio player (or even to insert relevant audio adverts).

“At the moment it’s great for novelty value and building an audience and building a brand, but even an operation like ours which is run on a shoestring needs to be able to derive some revenue from our content.”

Our Man Inside
Rock said Audioboo should be used to augment other reporting and that audio was an emotive medium – both ideas that seem to have been taken on board by ‘social media mongrel’ Christian Payne in his use of the app.

“[W]hile i experiment, I have fallen back in love with audio. It makes you think more about how you describe your surroundings. It makes me want my surroundings to explain themselves. Either by getting close to a person and their opinion or close to environmental sounds,” he writes in a blog post.

“Combined with a photo attached to act as a catalyst for the imagination, the listener is not being force fed the story. They have to take a moment to let their imagination get involved in the media.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Telegraph.co.uk: ‘Are Twitter and blogging lazy journalism?’

The Telegraph’s Kate Day asks whether Twitter and blogging lead to a different kind of ‘lazy’ journalism, or a different kind of ‘more open media’.

She was at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) conference and comments:

“I was struck by the subdued atmosphere amongst the experts and financial journalists in the room. There was a lot of shaking of heads and very few leapt to their feet when the floor was opened up for questions.

“But outside the room, the debate seemed much more lively. Bloggers such as Documentally and Sizemore covered the event live online and a number of questions from people on Twitter were fed into the discussion via Reuters journalist Mark Jones.”

Day asks: “So is this lazy journalism? It is certainly different journalism. It loosens the grip traditional media organisations have on covering events such as this and brings in people who would never have had the chance to ask questions to those in positions of authority before.”

Full post at this link…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Thomson Reuters gets social with Gordon Brown

October 13th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Multimedia

Thomson Reuters went all out this morning in its coverage of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s speech at the company’s London office.

First off the organisation’s own coverage: the Newsmaker event was twittered by Reuters journalist Mark Jones, whose updates were fed into a special microsite.

There was also video of the PM’s announcement originally livestreamed on Reuters’ website – including a handy dropdown menu that lets you skip through the clip to different key moments.

A full transcript and text article of the speech have also been published on the site.

But in addition to Reuters’ own reporting on the event was live footage streamed using mobile phones and hosting service Qik by social media bloggers Documentally and Sizemore.

“With Gordon Brown due to start talking on the present economic crisis what can two beardy blokes with a few laptops and small cameras possible hope to add?

“Well nothing directly on what is about to be said. I have as much interest in current politics as I did in marketing movies. I’m here with Christian [Documentally] to start conversations around the NewsMaker event that are currently not part of Reuter’s remit,” wrote Mike Atherton aka Sizemore in a blog post.

Below is Documentally’s mobile video of the Newsmaker:

The pair also used social media tools such as online site Phreadz, which builds multimedia forums around content submitted by users, to generate discussion around Brown’s speech.

“I sincerely hope that following today the idea of getting these events discussed on social media platforms such as Twitter, Seesmic and Phreadz becomes a natural part of the news media’s roadmap,” added Atherton.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

The Guardian publishes first ‘geolocated’ article

October 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism

The Guardian has published its first article including geolocation data and is using geographic tagging to track reporters covering the US presidential race. Every time a reporter posts a blog their location will be highlighted on a Google map.

Geotagged content has been around for a while now, but is starting to take effect in the UK media: last week, the Liverpool Echo, published a hyperlocal news map.

On Guardian.co.uk’s Inside Blog, Paul Carvill describes the geolocating process: reporters add their latitude and longitude to their article or blog post, and their location will appear in the RSS feed, which in turn can be fed into a Google map using a java script.

Online users can type in their postcode to find out what is being reported in their area, or alternatively click on an area of the map to source information from another location.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Journalism in Africa: Kenyan news organisations cleared of fuelling post-election violence

September 30th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Uncategorized

A report from Africa’s Independent Review Commission (IREC), which was set up to investigate last year’s disputed presidential elections in Kenya, has cleared the country’s media of professional malpractice in its coverage of the election results, and blamed the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and politicians of delaying results at grassroots level.

The commission, which has trashed claims of rigging and alteration of presidential results at the National Tally Centre – the main complaint of the opposition, also dismissed concerns over the media’s role in the post-election violence raised by international observers, including the European Union, as overly reliant on hearsay.

IREC – headed by retired South African Judge Johann Kriegler – recommended that the media should be fed results electronically to increase speed and that a secure line of transmitting results from village polling stations to the headquarters be developed with an access password for all media houses.

“The media was under pressure to relay results, politicians and the electoral commission of Kenya delayed the numbers, the media had no choice but to report what they had, you cannot blame the beast if you have not fed it,” reads the report.

However, the report did find fault with vernacular media stations for fuelling tension after the announcement of the election results and called for a review of employment policies in media houses. “Only professionals should be employed,” it said.

“How can you blame the media when politicians forced their way into the press centre and took over the role of the ECK at a time when there was[sic] information gaps?” asked the 117-page report.

Within the next 15 days another report on the media’s handling of the elections is expected to be presented to President Mwai Kibaki and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was chief mediator in the post-election crisis.

The report is expected to name, shame and recommend crucial steps that politicians, the media and the ECK should take to avoid a repeat of such violence in future.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

© Mousetrap Media Ltd. Theme: modified version of Statement