Tag Archives: BBC College of Journalism

BBC CoJo: In defence of Mark Thompson’s visit to Downing Street

Last week several news outlets, including the BBC, reported on a visit to Downing Street by the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson, who was allegedly there to discuss BBC news coverage of the government’s spending review.

It was suggested that such a visit may risk damaging the impartiality of the broadcaster, with Thompson reportedly trying to ensure a good relationship with the government in light of a licence fee review on the horizon. Others indicated that the meeting was on the order of senior government figures who wanted to “quiz” Thompson on content.

Commenting on the press coverage, Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism criticizes what he regards as a promotion of appearance and impression over the facts in a post on the College of Journalism discussion blog.

Is it really a surprise for example, to learn that David Cameron’s press chief, Andy Coulson, had lunch with the BBC head of news, Helen Boaden, and that the subject of spending review coverage came up? Or that Mr Coulson would press for more ‘context’?

(…) Now, I have no special knowledge or insight here – but certainly when I was running Today or World at One it wasn’t that unusual to recruit senior executives to put in a good word when you were trying to fix big interviews.

And it’s easy to see that with a huge, high-profile season on the horizon – and the spending review season will run across all of the BBC’s national and regional programming as well as the news website – a bit of shoulder work from the chaps at the top is no bad thing.

See his full post here…

Robots to replace sports journalists?

The BBC College of Journalism reflects on the news that researchers in America have created a computer which can “autonomously” write sports articles based on a set of statistics.

According to an article on the RobotShop blog, the machine, called ‘Stats Monkey”, relies on commonly-used phrases in sports journalism to form its own reports.

It can produce a headline of a particular game in only 2 seconds without spelling or grammar mistakes. Stats Monkey independently looks for websites specialised in match statistics, scores, goals, major events and even photographs. To write its article, the journalist robot uses pre-recorded forms of expressions that often come up.

But – BBC CoJo asks James Porter, the broadcaster’s former head of sports news – does this mean the end for sports journalism? It’s certainly a wake-up call, he says.

In America the way sports is covered and consumed is very statistics driven. Anything a player does is presented to the audiences in the form of statistics. I’m not so sure it’s applicable in the UK (…) It’s a wake up call to us to make sure our journalism concentrates on the stories and the excitement around sport and lifts itself out of the mundanity that otherwise we do sometimes descend into.

See the full post here…

Sun criticised for descriptions of Raoul Moat as a young boy

Writing on the BBC College of Journalism site, Simon Ford flags up the very questionable descriptions of Raoul Moat used by the Sun to caption images of him as a baby and young boy:

“Ginger top,” mused one underneath what looked like a school photograph, “but at five his eyes already have intense look.”

“Awkward,” concludes another under a photo of, “Moat aged 13 at mum Josephine’s wedding.”

And the most absurd of all: “Cute baby … but two-month-old Moat clenches his fists.”

Adding to the debate about the media’s influence in such events, Ford quotes some of the language used by the newspaper to describe Moat during the time he evaded the police:

On 8 July – day-six of the hunt – the Sun decided to throw everything it had at “THE PSYCHO COMMANDO”.

In five pages devoted to the story, the Sun portrayed Moat as a “self-pitying monster”, a “6ft 3in brute”, a “gun spree hulk” capable of living “wild for weeks”. His campsite, discovered by police on farmland, was described as a “lair”.

The newspaper was criticised in May for using the expression ‘tar baby’ – a term widely considered offensive to African-Americans – to caption an image of a very young boy smoking.

Full BBC post at this link…

BBC College of Journalism: YouTube and the flaws of ‘unstructured’ network news

The BBC College of Journalism’s Kevin Marsh reacts to YouTube’s launch of a breaking news feed, suggesting that “the proposition is as simple as it’s flawed”.

Marsh raises concerns about verification and the skewed news agenda that might surface through this feed:

Citizen Tube doesn’t tackle these questions or anxieties – to be fair, it doesn’t claim to. But that’s part of the problem.

Yes, both citizens and their journalists need some way of bringing this particular kind of personal news into the news continuum. And Citizen Tube isn’t too bad a first stab.

But, at the moment, it falls way short and demonstrates at the same time the essential weaknesses in unstructured networks that aim to provide ‘news’. And it adds to that regret some of us have that Big Journalism just never got the web when it was really important that it did.

And that the world of ‘personal journalism’ is – for the time being at least – failing to deliver what can reasonably be called journalism as assuredly as Big Journalism is failing to understand or adapt to the personal.

Full post at this link…

#VOJ10: Video from Value of Journalism conference

We’ve already reported fairly extensively from last week’s Polis/BBC College of Journalism Value of Journalism conference, but here’s some more video now uploaded by the BBC College of Journalism to Ustream.

It includes the final keynote, by Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News:

#VOJ10: Local news at the grassroots

The final stream 2 session of the BBC CoJo / Polis Value of Journalism conference; Journalism.co.uk’s session on local media at the grassroots. We’ve got a rather fine panel, if we do say so ourselves: Will Perrin, founder of Talk About Local; David Higgerson, head of multimedia for Trinity Mirror Regionals; Mike Rawlins from Pits ‘n’ Pots; Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust; and Robin Hamman, founder of the St Albans blog and digital director for Edelman.

Will Perrin kicks off, with a whizz through the best of local websites: VentnorBlog, the Sheffieldforum.co.uk, SE1 and SR2 blogs, Perrin’s own King Cross Envonrment and Harringay online. You can find links to these and others on Perrin’s blog roll at this link. Then a look at some new hyperlocal players on the scene, all of which I’ll be investigating later.

Now for a more in-depth look at one in particular; Mike Rawlins’ Pits’n’Pots site based in Stoke-on-Trent.

Why ‘pit’? Because your career was down one, or making ‘pots’… Thus, pits’n’pots was born – with a little red wine and time to help things get going.

In 2008 the founders started to tidy it up and moved platforms: by December 2009, it was up to 1,900 unique users a day. Now it’s getting 2,500 unique users a day.

Why do they do PnP? An interest in local politics; freedom of discussion; a desire to see the city improve; local media were/are not interested in local politics.

The parliamentary maiden speech by new MP Tristam Hunt got a few lines on the local news site, The Sentinel.  PnP meanwhile published it in full, with a link to Hansard.

Rawlins talks about a story they published: the BNP had been using images of a Polish spitfire on one of its anti-immigration posters. Shortly after it was picked up by the Mail and the Telegraph – but not attributed or linked to.

Robin Hamman keeps his introduction to his blog in St Albans pretty short. He does however show us how two hyperlocal blogs have bumped the local newspaper down the Google rankings and another rival off page one entirely. Take a look at what he does here: http://stalbansblog.co.uk.

Now the Media Standards Trust’s Martin Moore talks about two areas which need development. Research into local news and how its democratic role has changed over time. He talks about other developments – he is surprised by Jeremy Hunt’s call for local TV, for example.

Secondly, there’s a need for local open data platforms. He say it doesn’t matter who is doing journalism – blogger or mainstream – but they should have the same access to the public data, rather than spending time, money and effort coaxing money out of local authorities.

David Higgerson from Trinity Mirror is talking about how his titles could work more closely with hyperlocal sites. Journalists often see a hyperlocal site as competition, or as a devaluing of journalism – because it they are often run by volunteers. But, he says,the two sides can work together and get over the divide.

There are “some signs” of that working now, he adds. In the north-east there’s a hyperlocal platform with hundreds of bloggers contributing to it, for example. Higgerson outlines some of the opportunities he sees: a greater degree of collaboration: eg. through content swapping.

Local newspapers could give something back to bloggers, perhaps. Could ‘professional’ hyperlocals (e.g ones that are trying to run for profit) sell or syndicate copy to mainstream media? Support-in-kind is another area for development, he says. Can we as journalists offer help and support to bloggers?

But, he says, there’s a basic need for supporting each other: linking to each other. If material has come from a hyperlocal site, there’s no point in masking it as the newspaper’s own content, he adds.

Now onto questions. Will Perrin says media should engage better with local communities and he says the initiatives such as David Higgerson described are very welcomed.

So, are these hyperlocal bloggers journalists? Mike Rawlins and Will Perrin answer with a definite ‘no’. Perrin says journalists are often ranked as the least “trusted” profession, so why on earth would he classify himself as one…?

Higgerson says that journalists are now able to go more out on the patch, enabled by technology. There’s a lot more equipment to allow non-desk based work now.

We talk a bit about the nastier side of blogging, but the panel agrees the successful hyperlocal sites tend to have high standards, and good commenter accountability.

Perrin says Hackney Citizen is a great example of what you can do with print. Their distribution method was to take a pile of magazines to a coffee shop.  It’s now due to go monthly, from three monthly editions. “That’s grassroots, bottom-up,” says Perrin.

BBC College of Journalism blog: The problems with reporting a coalition government

The BBC College of Journalism’s Jon Jacob raises some interesting points about journalists’ coverage of the UK’s new coalition government:

  • “The coalition is still in its early days. It’s easy to forget how the business of reporting the coalition agreement has overshadowed the true schedule of government business;”
  • “[S]hould journalists actually continue referencing the government ministers they talk about in their reports – including in vision graphics and on-air announcements – to illustrate how ideologies differ within a coalition government?”

When can the media stop referring to it as a coalition government or is there a danger in doing so?

Full post at this link…

Layscience.net: Bloggers vs journalists – a response

Martin Robbins, editor of Layscience.net responds to Fiona Fox’s recent piece for the BBC College of Journalism, in which she argued ‘blogs are not real journalism’.

The immediate comments under the BBC CoJo article are worth a read, but also this lengthy response from Robbins, who demonstrates that boundaries between the mediums aren’t clear cut. An extract:

I defy Fiona Fox – or any readers here – to come up with any meaningful way of partitioning bloggers from journalists. I don’t think you can, for two reasons:

  1. Increasingly the distinction between the blogosphere and the mainstream media is becoming fainter and fainter, such that it has already reached the point of irrelevance.
  2. Blogging is simply a writing platform, just like the printing press, and arguments about blogging vs. journalism are as daft as talk of journalism vs. paper.

So when Fiona Fox talks about the distinction between bloggers and journalists, her argument is already obsolete (…)


#afghancov event – Afghanistan: are we embedding the truth?

Follow coverage of Coventry University’s event ‘Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth’ in the liveblog below from 1pm – 4pm or view the livestream:



The discussion will examine coverage of Afghanistan in the news and wider media with correspondents in Kabul. There’s more details at this link of the line-up, which includes Channel 4’s Alex Thomson and Kevin Marsh from the BBC College of Journalism.

Channel 4 News: Embedded journalist in Helmand province

Channel 4 News correspondent Alex Thomson was embedded with the Coldstream guards in Afghanistan, while they came under heavy fire from insurgents.

His film from last night’s news programme:

Yesterday Channel 4 news wrote in its evening email, Snowmail:

[The film] reveals the state of relations between the Brits and the rather hapless Afghan army – who spend much of their time shooting in the wrong direction – or arresting, then releasing a local man who may, or may not have done anything wrong.

Suddenly the troops come under heavy fire as the insurgents start shooting straight at them. Our team are pinned down with the soldiers as bullets fly overhead – even into one soldier’s head, whose helmet luckily saves him. Not much ground is won at the end of it all – but it’s a remarkable watch.

Alex Thomson was tweeting throughout his visit, via http://twitter.com/alextomo. Tweets from the battlefield had a time delay because of operations security. An example from 12 March:

(Not live) RMP shot in helmet wakes up realising he has woken up . Alive. A shd let hm keep smashed up helmet. He’s back on roof sentry.

Thomson is due to participate in this week’s video conference in Coventry: Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth? The event is due to be livestreamed on this site and the BBC College of Journalism. The Twitter tag will be #afghancov.