Author Archives: Joseph Stashko

Reaction round-up on News of the World closure

The morning after the announcement that News International is to scrap the News of the World has predictably spawned a variety of reaction from the blogosphere.

Despite rumours that folding the newspaper in favour of a seven day Sun had been on the cards for a while (TheSunOnSunday.co.uk, TheSunOnSunday.com and SunOnSunday.co.uk were all registered on July 5, albeit by a private individual), a source at News International confirmed today that a Sunday edition of the paper wouldn’t be on the cards for several weeks to come.

This morning Times today led with a story that the collapse in advertising was due to online protest and the final nail in the coffin for the paper.

The withdrawal of advertising appeared to be in response to a public backlash that had been led primarily on the internet. Thousands of people had used Twitter and Facebook to express their outrage at allegations of phone hacking at the paper.

This was after a list of the News of the World’s advertising clients had been published online, encouraging people to send Twitter messages to the companies to express concern at the activities of the paper’s journalists.

You can read the full article here (behind the paywall).

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism and former director of digital content for Guardian News & Media sees the decision as part of a long line of bold and audacious moves from the Murdochs, from the bid to buy the Times, to the launch of Sky News, and recently the proposed takeover of BSkyB.

James’s Wapping moment sees him making a gesture he hopes will be grand enough to soften the focus of any phone-hacking inquiry, bold enough to allow the company to extricate itself from present trouble and, in the process, allow him to reshape News International around the digital television platforms he feels both more comfortable with and which are undoubtedly more profitable.

But what about the wider implications? Many are agreed that the decision is brutal and the loss of 200 journalists terrible, but Andrew Gilligan, London editor for the Sunday Telegraph, argues that it could also give way to a muzzled British press in the future. As talk turns to how press regulation should be managed, Gilligan says:

For be in no doubt: hateful as the behaviour of some journalists has been, we may now face something even worse. For many in power, or previously in power, the News of the World’s crimes are a God-given opening to diminish one of the greatest checks on that power: the media.

Regulation was also on Alan Rusbridger‘s mind yesterday, when he took part in a live Q & A regarding phone hacking (before NI announced the News of the World’s closure). Rusbridger drew attention to alleged weaknesses of the PCC (the code committee of which Rusbridger quit in November 2009) and the quandary of state v self-regulation. Today the Press Complaints Commission sought to defend its work following calls for it to be scrapped by both Labour leader Ed Miliband and prime minister David Cameron.

This hasn’t been a wonderful advertisement for self-regulation. The short answer is that, no, the PCC can’t go on as it is. Its credibility is hanging by a thread.

We did say this back in November 2009 when the PCC came out with its laughable report into phone-hacking. We said in an editorial that this was a dangerous day for press regulation – and so it’s turned out.

The PCC has this week withdrawn that report and has a team looking at the issues and at the mistakes it’s made in the past.

I don’t know how Ofcom could do the job without falling into the category of statutory regulation. Does anyone else?

On her blog former Channel 4 presenter Samira Ahmed also draws some comparisons with the past, saying that the affair is “only my second major moral outcry against the news media” during her twenty years in journalism, the first being the death of Princess Diana. Hugh Grant has won public approval over the last week or so because of his overt opposition to phonehacking, but Ahmed is wary of putting people like Grant on a pedestal.

Many celebrities understand the privacy trade-off with press coverage, or get their lawyers to settle a payoff. Incidentally we should be wary of deifying celebrities, such as Hugh Grant, who have publicly defended the principle of rich people taking out superinjunctions to cover up their bad behaviour, when there might be a legitimate public interest. But I’ve met ordinary people over the years whose suffering has been deeply compounded by salacious press intrusion.

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

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

Paul Bradshaw writes:

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

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

Charlie Beckett comments:

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

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

Phone hacking: Rusbridger answers questions on the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street

This afternoon Alan Rusbridger has been answering questions from readers in the form of a live Q & A on the Guardian website.

The post quickly gathered a heap of comments – more than pages worth, below are Rusbridger’s replies to questions about whether hacking has been going on at other newspapers, media regulation and politicians’ reactions.

Question: Oborne goes on to allege you also warned Nick Clegg about Coulson’s activities. Is this true? If so, what were Cameron and Clegg told that is now in the public domain? What have they known all along?

Rusbridger: Peter Oborne is right. Before the election it was common knowledge in Fleet Street that an investigator used by the NotW during Andy Coulson’s editorship was on remand for conspiracy to murder. We couldn’t report that due to contempt of court restrictions, but I thought it right that Cameron should know before he took any decisions about taking Andy Coulson into Number 10. So I sent word via an intermediary close to Cameron. And I also told Clegg personally.

Question: Does the Guardian have any evidence of phone hacking happening at other British newspapers? If so, once the dust settles over NotW, will the Guardian widen its continuing investigation to these papers, too?

Rusbridger: I think the bulk of Nick Davies’s evidence relates to the NotW. He did write a more general chapter on the so-called dark arts of Fleet Street in his book, Flat Earth News

To be frank, it’s taken him all this time to land this one, so he’s hardly had time to look elsewhere so far.

Question: The past few days have had me genuinely wondering about what, if any, licensing requirements there are on running a newspaper.

If a broadcaster had been up to what the NotW were doing it would quite rightly have been pulled off the air. So what exactly does a newspaper have to do to lose its right to publish in the UK?

Rusbridger: I’m anxious about the notion of state licensing for the press. We got rid of that more than 150 years ago (date, someone?) and I wouldn’t want to see it back. In an age when anyone can call themselves a journalist I see difficulties of definition. Would Huffington Post have to get a licence? So, I think it’s probably unworkable as well as undesirable. But I’d be interested to hear other views.

Read the full thread of comments and questions here.

‘Perfect timing’ for HuffPo UK, says Alastair Campbell

The Huffington Post is launching in the UK at the perfect time, says Alastair Campbell.

Speaking at Millbank Tower on a panel for the official launch event, Campbell said the British public are facing up to what newspapers have become – positioning Arianna Huffington’s news website in the perfect place to cause disruption.

Newspapers in this country are going further and further down the barrel until they reach the bottom, like the Sun. We’ll still have newspapers in future, there’ll just be fewer of them.

The panel (moderated by Richard Bacon) comprised of HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington, Kelly Osbourne, Jon Gaunt, Celia Walden and Shami Chakrabarti. Key themes that emerged throughout the debate were phone hacking, superinjunctions, the public perception of journalism and the issue of trust.

Huffington responded to claims from Toby Young that the launch was ill-timed by saying the website has “a phenomenal reach”, and its social nature would set it apart from other more well established UK sites.

Huffington Post is a combination of constant updates. It’s not about sitting on the couch and passively consuming, it’s about constantly passing on information, sharing and liking.

We employ 1,300 journalists, editors and reporters, but ulimately Huffington Post is a platform for our 9,000 bloggers. We promote linking, original reporting and making information available, people blog for us because they can use our huge audience and because they have something to say.

Jon Gaunt agreed with this, saying Huffington endeared herself to her bloggers by making her website very open. But he also criticised many newspapers’ forays into digital journalism.

Lots of newspaper websites are useless, because they’re made and look like newspapers. They’re created by people who’ve worked in newspapers their whole lives, and look terrible.

One thing the panel agreed on was the issue of trust and the role it would play in the future development of journalism. Summing up, Campbell said:

The single most important piece of communication regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden was still Barack Obama’s words, despite the thousands of articles written about the event.

Politicians still have ability to set the agenda, but people don’t trust politicians, journalists or economists – we still trust each other.

That’s why social news works – we talk to people we trust.

Huffington Post UK: Writing for free is a ‘grey area’

As the Huffington Post goes live with its UK site today, ahead of the official launch event this evening, many journalists feel the site is wrong to recruit 300 unpaid bloggers.

Dave Lee, freelance journalist at the BBC, thinks that the Huffington Post causes damage to journalism.

 

While Manchester-based freelance journalist Louise Bolotin criticised Arianna Huffington for her policy.

https://twitter.com/#!/louisebolotin/status/88569148866703360

 

However, not all reaction has been negative. Kat Brown has written a piece for Huffington Post’s lifestyle section titled Writing for Free Doesn’t Have to Mean Betrayal.

Writing for free is a grey area. Despite the ubiquity (and importance) of blogs and that many high profile sites trade content for prestige only, it’s often looked down upon if it makes up part of your career. When, as a newly-hatched post-grad, I joined one journalism forum, the stance was: “Don’t write unless you’re paid. It undermines you and it undermines journalism.”

So why write for free?

Free is why people write fanzines, update blogs and tweet. It’s pressure off, it’s the opportunity to practise something you enjoy and share it with people immediately. And particularly online, there’s a limited supply of people who will pay. My pitching skills are sufficiently atrocious that, if I were only to write for money outside my main job, I would probably forget how to hold a pencil within a year. I don’t want that, because I love writing and I need to do it.

Take a look at the full article here.

 

Communication Bill must ‘give freedom’ to media companies, says Guardian chief executive

Moving to a digital first policy is “symptomatic” of what is going on in the UK market place, according to Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller.

Speaking today at the Westminster Media Forum Miller said:

The Guardian is a leading creative business in the UK, and we have a great international voice.

But internationally it isn’t a level playing field. Overseas communications competitors may have more freedom if law in the UK is poorly implemented.

He also echoed thoughts shared earlier in the day by Sarah Hunter, Google’s UK head of public policy, saying companies needed to develop a “coding mentality” by employing strong and innovative developers to work alongside creative and editorial employees.

The Communications Bill needs to give enterprises like the Guardian freedom. Freedom to innovate and freedom to carry on what we do best.

It must not compromise enterprises that act in the public interest. Regulators also must have more contact with the public – it’s they who should help decide the future of rights rather than exclusively those in the media industry.

 

‘Global view’ needed for Communications Bill

The main theme emerging from today’s discussion at the Westminster Media Forum is the government should embrace the idea of a globally connected internet when considering the Communications Bill.

Sarah Hunter, Google’s head of UK Public Policy, said the green paper should encompass wider policy in the UK, rather than just the Bill itself.

The government cannot make policy for the media industries without considering the wider impact on other industries that need the internet to survive.

It would be very dangerous if they went down that road.

Hunter said the most important thing to bear in mind for the future was to “bring back computer science” – building on the UK’s historical strength of bringing together creative and scientific talent and employing engineers to advise on future policy.

John Tate, director of policy and strategy at the BBC, spoke of a “competition for quality”, and how broadcasters should meet audience expectations in a converged world.

Tate also referred to Rupert Murdoch’s bid to takeover all of BSkyB, quipping: “BSkyB’s recent announcement is very welcome.”

“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – we’re very flattered.”

BSkyB’s director of policy David Wheeldon was also on the panel, he responded to Tate by saying “it’s nice to hear the BBC being complimentary about us for once”, to polite laughter from attendees.

Wheeldon oultined his four major concerns for the Bill as being a flexible copyright regime, online piracy, finding the correct balance between infrastructure and content incentives, and finally recognising emerging platforms.

In particular he earmarked piracy as a significant threat for the broadcast industry to monetise content.

This afternoon the forum will hear from Ivan Lewis MP, who earlier this year wrote to Jeremy Hunt regarding News Corporation’s acquisition of BSkyB.

Google links to HuffPo UK go to US before launch

Huffington Post’s UK pages are being indexed in Google – despite the official launch not being until tomorrow.

A search on Google for ‘site:huffingtonpost.co.uk‘ reveals future content for the site, although users are currently redirected to the original US site after clicking through.

Bloggers have been publishing their first posts and although entire categories aren’t yet accessible, individual authors’ posts are directly linkable.

The masthead has also appeared in the form of the “All The Blog Posts” page – giving a clue as to what areas will be covered by the site when it launches tomorrow.

Thanks to Jonathan Frost for spotting it.

Google launches What Do You Love search

Google certainly has no shortage of services around the web, and its latest stab at social networking in the form of Google+ has been creating a greater buzz than the lukewarm reception of Google Buzz when it launched in February 2010.

Also released with rather less fanfare is What Do You Love, a simple search tool that returns results from more than 20 Google services.

The site offers search in images, alerts, YouTube, books and maps among others, and renders the results on one page.

For example, a search for “journalism” gives you an option to find books about journalism, translate “journalism” into 57 different languages, call someone about journalism with Google Voice or search through related Blogger articles.

You can share the results via Gmail, Buzz or +1, but no third party sharing tools such as Facebook or Twitter are available.

The site is currently very unpolished – at the moment many of the results aren’t particularly accurate or helpful, but this may well improve with time.

For the moment it offers a nice idea that may return better results based on more specific keywords. In future it could also help with collecting a variety of content from different services about a single topic, rather than having to go through each site’s native search engine.

Alastair Campbell and Kelvin MacKenzie to speak at HuffPo UK launch

The Huffington Post has announced full details of tomorrow’s UK launch event, which will consist of a panel discussion moderated by Richard Bacon.

Speakers on the night include Alastair Campbell, Kelly Osbourne, Celia Walden, Kelvin MacKenzie, Shami Chakrabarti and Arianna Huffington.

The panel will debate the media’s impact on the Self-Expression Revolution.

Today Huffington Post UK told journalism.co.uk it has more than 300 bloggers signed up for the site, with more expected to sign up after launch.

UK editor-in-chief Carla Buzasi said today: “It’s a really interesting mix of people. Alastair Campbell is blogging for us on day one, and hopefully the others on the panel will be following suit shortly afterwards.”

The event is taking place at the Curzon Millbank, with the panel debate beginning at 7pm. An open invitation has been sent to the site’s bloggers-to-be to attend the launch.

Currently the url huffingtonpost.co.uk is password protected, but will be unveiled and made public this week.