Tag Archives: Bill Thompson

Journalism often hamstrung by petty obstacles, says Sky News’ Mike Mcarthy

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week is running from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry will be at Leeds Trinity to talk about the latest trends in the news media, including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; BBC news director Helen Boaden, Sky News reporter Mike McCarthy and ITN political correspondent Chris Ship.

Journalists face a never-ending series of obstacles – and the most disturbing of all is secrecy, according to Sky News journalist Mike McCarthy.

McCarthy, who is Northern Bureau chief for Sky, told students at Leeds Trinity University College: “It is not necessarily the cloak and dagger secrecy of big government, it is often petty obstruction.”

He was speaking at the launch of the university’s Journalism Week, along with digital media expert Bill Thompson and YTV presenter Duncan Wood.

McCarthy spoke about how the media had challenged attempts by magistrates in Bradford to impose a Section 39 order preventing journalists naming nine-year-old stabbing victim Jack Taylor.

A challenge from a reporter covering the case led to the order being lifted and McCarthy said: “It is not easy to get on your feet and challenge the authority of the court . . . but if this had gone through, then what is to stop those magistrates and that solicitor in the future thinking that they can rubber-stamp other banning orders which they do not have the power to impose?”

He also talked about the severe restrictions imposed on reporters covering the inquest into the death of Greater Manchester police officer Ian Terry, with journalists unable to name officers giving evidence and forced to sit behind a huge screen, unable to see any of the proceedings.

Obstacles of a different kind were discussed by digital media expert Bill Thompson, who outlined the massive challenges facing journalists at a time of social and cultural revolution.

He said journalism was perhaps no longer about getting information – because so much was freely available over the internet.

“Perhaps what we do now is to put information in context and make sense of it. The future role of journalism is up for grabs. We are living through a revolution but we are causing it because we are doing the things that are bringing change about,” he told students.

The final speaker on Journalism Week’s opening day was YTV presenter Duncan Wood, who talked about his career working in news and sport and the challenges of working as a GMTV reporter, getting up at 3.30am and traveling all over the North of England. He also spoke about the challenges of interviewing people who really did not want to talk, confessing that his most difficult experience was interviewing Sylvester Stallone’s mother, Jackie, sat on her bed.

#FollowJourn: @billt / technology journalist

FollowJourn: Bill Thompson

Who? Head of partnership development for the BBC Archive Project; technology critic and commentator on digital culture.

What? One of digital journalism’s early pioneers: he has been writing about the internet since 1984.

Where? @billt and also @bbcbillt / http://www.thebillblog.com/billblog.

Contact? Send him a tweet or via bill at andfinally dot com.

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

Bill Thompson (@billt) on two cultures: those literate in code and everyone else

Bill Thompson, well-known for the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet, and his pieces for the BBC (e.g) gave a  version of his ‘Two Cultures’ speech [which he first made in Cambridge on May 27] at OpenTech in London last Saturday. It was billed like this:

“It’s fifty years since CP Snow’s famous lecture on the Two Cultures – science and literature. We seem to have a different divide these days, between ‘people like us’ and the rest. What might be done about this?”

Thompson (@billt on Twitter) believes that computer literacy should mean more than word processing, a sentiment that seemed to go down well in the hall. You can read more about his views in this BBC article: “We don’t need a nation of programmers, but we do need to be confident that everyone knows what programmers do and what programs look like.”

Richard Elen (@Brideswell) filmed it, and has helpfully shared this video on the Bridewell Associates Blog. So if you weren’t there, sit back and enjoy some glorious geekery; even the intro includes a joke about writing in binary (his title for his speech is the ’10 cultures’)…

Bill Thompson on “The Two Cultures Problem”: OpenTech 2009 from Richard Elen on Vimeo.

Round-up: Media Futures conference 2009 – ‘Beyond Broadcast’

“Gradually more power cuts – the future is more certain than you think (…) With 90 per cent certainty I can tell you that tomorrow will be Saturday.”
James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting, De Montford University

“Content is not king, it’s about how people use it. SMS is one of the most expensive mediums but still massively popular.”
Matt Locke, commissioning editor, education new media, Channel 4

The above quotes were just a small sample of the varied and interesting points discussed at Media Futures 2009 in London last Friday.

The conference explored the future of the media as we move ‘beyond broadcast’.

Speakers and guests included the BBC’s Richard Sambrook, POLIS director Charlie Beckett and TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher.

Themes for discussion included desirable, feasible, challenging and viable futures for the industry.

Television
Video on Demand (VOD) was a popular topic, which divided opinions. Avner Ronen, founder of Boxee, a video service that connects your TV to online streaming media, argued that personal video recorders (PVR) were soon to be obsolete.

But as media analysts, including Toby Syfret from Enders, were quick to point out, TV still has a lot of life left in it. According to his analysis, despite the success of services such as the BBC iPlayer, watching streamed content remains a niche market with just 0.5 per cent of total viewing time being spent on computers.

Newspapers
Panellists were agreed on the future for local newspapers. Patrick Barwise, professor of management and marketing at London Business School said: “Local newspapers won’t come back, the classified advertising model that held them together has changed.”

After the conference I ran into Bill Thompson, the BBC’s technology columnist. Listen below to hear his views on the future for journalists:

Alex Wood is a multimedia journalist and social media consultant based in London. You can find him on twitter here.

#Digital Britain: Ten good links

Yesterday it arrived: the final version of the Digital Britain report. Landline users among us will have to sacrifice around three lattes a year to meet the 50p a month levy for the Next Generation Fund.

Director of digital content for Guardian News & Media, Emily Bell, asked, via Twitter, for two words to sum it up other than ‘colossal disappointment’. An advanced Twitter search showed these responses from her followers: ‘as expected,’  ‘damp squib,’ ‘disappointingly colossal,’ ‘wasted chance’ and ‘too cautious’. However, Bell is now worried she might have been ‘too negative’ in her reaction – but that could just be her going soft, she says.

Ten good links*:

  • 2. ThinkBroadband’s summary. It’s clear and rectifies misunderstandings that might arise from second-hand summaries of the report.
  • 5. PageFlakes page with related links for Digital Britain content: including video, Twitter and blog searches.
  • 7. The BBC opposes top-slicing of the licence fee for independent news consortia, stated by the Trust’s chair Michael Lyons in a BBC press release.

*with an extra two, for luck.


Finding the ‘new new journalism’

Last night’s debate at LSE entitled ‘The New New Journalism’ was definitely a head scratcher and rather than try and analyse the back and forth in one post, here are some key points made by the speakers:

Tessa Mayes (campaigning investigative journalist): “We’re in danger within journalism of losing and forgetting what it is that we do and what it is that we need journalism to do in society. Journalists are simply becoming information managers.”

From the audience: “Information must be the master of the technology and not the other way round.”

Bill Thompson (journalist, commentator and contributor to the BBC’s technology section): “There is nothing at all essential, vital or needed about journalism. As technology develops, roles for editor and journalists will still exist, but the relationship will bear no resemblance to what they are now.”

Bill Thompson: said he (optimistically) hopes that the demand for original content will reassert the balance between this type of material and content being ‘shifted’ between media.

Julia Whitney (head of design and user experience for news, sport and weather at the BBC): Design of media sites, news sites, online communities ‘has everything to do with how meaning is generated’.

In my view the two most valid points made during the conversation were:

Bill Thompson’s suggestion that ultimately society doesn’t need journalism and journalists should be wary of the fact that they don’t exist in a protected, god-given role.

Secondly, Suw Charman-Anderson’s view from the audience on management issues, which she eloquently expresses on her blog:

“I made this point at the very end of the evening, that much of the problem in news organisations is down to broken management structures and dysfunctional management techniques. Bad decisions are being made by people unwilling to listen to those with the knowledge, but who are several paygrades down the food chain. Good journalists do not always make good managers and, ironically, are not always the best communicators.”

Your thoughts are welcome.

BBC: Bill Thompson on journalism in the ‘network age’

While the majority of online news continues to be produced or edited by professionals, online journalism teacher Bill Thompson says journalists should not ignore the benefits of closer collaboration with citizens – in particular when reporting outside the western world.

“The idea of the “foreign correspondent”, sent off to a strange land to report on the activities of the “natives” for the benefit of those who require their strange customs to be interpreted and sanitised is a relic of a pre-network age.”