Tag Archives: Helen Boaden

Journalism Week: students urged to develop new skills

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week ran from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry spoke at Leeds Trinity 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.

Two of the most influential figures in the news media spoke together on Friday at the close of Leeds Trinity University College’s Journalism Week.

BBC News director Helen Boaden and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger gave students an insight into how they see the internet and social media shaping the future of journalism.

Helen Boaden used the snow and severe weather in January as an example of how Twitter could provide lots of information, but said it could not replace what traditional news outlets and reliable brands had to offer.

“People want a big, reliable, trusted brand, not just the information on Twitter,” she said.

“Twitter was invaluable in gathering information but people wanted someone to pull it together. Finding out the facts and verifying is still essential. Social networks can be faster but mainstream journalism has the expertise. It can convey something unique.

“Today’s graduates face the dual challenges of the growth in media courses and the economic recession. To get your foot in the door you need to work hard, be flexible, and understand the job you are going for.”

She advised students to acquire all the skills they could to have the best chance of getting into the industry and spoke of the need to for them to become ‘total journalists’.

Her comments about reporters needing new skills were echoed by Alan Rusbridger who said journalists now needed to be able to curate, aggregate and link.

He cited US journalism academic Jeff Jarvis’ mantra: “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”

Rusbridger said a more open relationship with the audience meant a move towards what he termed a ‘mutual newspaper’.

“We are moving from a world where journalists didn’t like contact with their audience, to a period of experimentation with mutualisation.
The balance is changing – we can report on what people are interested in not what we think they should be interested in. This should lead to better journalism as it will enable us to get at the truth more quickly,” he said.

The web lent itself to live reporting, he said, such as Andrew Sparrow’s ‘dazzling’ reporting from the Chilcot Iraq War inquiry, or deep reporting, such as coverage by Ruth Gledhill, the religious affairs correspondent for the Times.

He cited several examples of the Guardian using social networks and the internet to obtain key information for stories, including:

Putting a complex financial document on the internet during the Tax Gap investigation and being able to get it deciphered by experts without having to pay a fee.

The G20 protests, when reporter Paul Lewis used Twitter to ask people to check their ‘digital records, a move which led to The Guardian obtaining footage of the moment Ian Tomlinson died.

Brand Republic: BBC will not launch new local web plans, says Boaden

The BBC is not planning more local expansion online and is not in competition with regional publishers websites, Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, told the Oxford Media Convention yesterday.

According to Brand Republic, the corporation is seeking partnerships online and will not encroach on regional news group’s territory, whether its regional, local or hyperlocal.

In 2008 the corporation had its plans for investment in local video on BBC websites rejected by the BBC Trust.

Full story at this link…

Where does the BBC have bureaux and why?

Journalism.co.uk had been surprised to learn at last month’s Journalism in Crisis event that the BBC used only stringers to cover South America, according to director of news Helen Boaden.

The location of global bureaux ‘is something to do with your colonial past’ she said, adding to comments by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when he was questioned by an irate audience member on the corporation’s lack of coverage in that part of the world (specifically Latin America).

Audio here:

Does the BBC really have no bureaux in Central and South America? Well, the BBC press office later told Journalism.co.uk, it depends how you define stringers and bureaux.

There is a distinction between ‘newsgathering hub’ bureaux and ‘non-hub’ regional bureaux the BBC spokesperson said. While there are no ‘newsgathering hub bureaux’ in South and Central Americas, there are four regional offices, located in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Havana. How many in each, Journalism.co.uk asked.

Two in each of the four cities: one producer and one local fixer, both on sponsored stringer contracts with retainers. Other individual stringers cover the rest of the continent other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with freelancers working from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Jamaica.

It’s an interesting question: where are international news organisations’ bureaux and why? A particularly pertinent one to raise, given the difficulties in accessing material from Iran at the moment. The BBC office in Tehran remains open, but permanent correspondent Jon Leyne has been ordered to leave the country, the corporation reported yesterday.

While the BBC had two producers inside a Gaza office in 2008, it did not have any permanent crew on the ground and this affected its coverage of the crisis at the end of that year, and the early part of 2009.

It was helpful for Al Jazeera to have people already based in Gaza, as its two correspondents told Journalism.co.uk in a live-blog interview in April.

NB: Whether Al Jazeera were the ‘only’ English-language international broadcaster in the area for the 12-day media block is still a bone of contention: a journalist later reminded Journalism.co.uk that his employer, Iranian government-funded Press TV, was also reporting from the region during that period.

The BBC is in ‘a vortex of its own making’ Paxman tells awards audience

BBC Newsnight star presenter Jeremy Paxman is never known to mince his words and he certainly didn’t when receiving the Annual Media Society Award last Thursday evening in London. The ‘Great Inquisitor’ attacked the BBC, saying that it was ‘in a vortex of its own making’.

He criticised cuts on his own programme – “people at the top are no longer interested in what we do or how we do it” –  to the audience that included Helen Boaden, BBC director of news, Stephen Mitchell, her deputy, and no less that six former or present editors of Newsnight.

Paxman was stinging in his criticism of the cuts in the media outside the BBC as well, saying it was ‘now cheaper to print opinion that the truth’; and that some major American papers no longer had a full-time correspondent or even a stringer in London. He described the current situation as ‘depressing’.

Paxman, who has now presented Newsnight for 20 years, was the subject of paeans of public praise from his bosses past – including Robin Walsh, who gave him his first reporter’s job in BBC Northern Ireland 35 years ago – and who had the audience reeling, with his tales of ‘Paxo’ interviewing the Appointments Board – and Peter Barron, the last Newsnight editor who had forced Paxman into the digital 21st century and to do a (short-lived) weather forecast on the programme.

The tributes were all warm, especially from his most high profile victim former Home Secretary, Michael Howard, of whom Paxman famously asked the same question 12 times in 1997. Time had healed the rift.

It was not all downbeat. Paxman said that if he had his time again he would still join ‘our trade,’ and become a journalist, as he had at 23. “I’ve spent my life talking to amusing people. It is an incredible privilege to work with thoughtful, clever, funny people,” he said, saluting the teams who had made it all possible. “There are no solos in television – everything is collaborative. Even the gargantuan egos!”

For this British giant, the basic premises of journalism remain, for what is still the same job. To be good, one needs to be ‘curious’ and have ‘instinct’ and in ‘Paxo’s’ case, plenty of Chutzpah.

Adieu ‘Reporters’ Reporter’: John Mair’s memories of Charles Wheeler

John Mair, television producer and associate senior lecturer in journalism at Coventry University, shares his thoughts on Charles Wheeler, the legendary BBC journalist who died in July 2008. A memorial service was held in London yesterday.

Yesterday the great and the good of British broadcasting and journalism gathered at Westminster Abbey to honour Sir Charles Wheeler ‘the reporters’ reporter’ who died, aged 85, last year.

Wheeler devoted 60 plus years to great journalism; we all have our personal and professional memories of him. Mine date back to 2004, when I was asked to produce the Media Society dinner at the Savoy Hotel to give him its award and honour him. How do you salute a God?

I’d grown up with his work from America and elsewhere, been a producer in the BBC where he was treated with huge respect, and seen and heard his work.

I can especially remember a ‘so-so’ story on Newsnight in the 1980s about cops beating up a black man in Notting Hill, which was everyday stuff then, unfortunately. It was transformed to a different plane by Wheeler reporting on it: all of a sudden it had ‘bottom’. Charles sprinkled journalistic experience and gold dust on all he touched. That ‘so-so’ became a significant story. Charles Wheeler was like that.

Back to the Savoy Dinner: Charles was modesty itself and happy to go along with whoever came along. Everybody but everybody I approached to speak readily agreed to do so: Helen Boaden, then controller of BBC Radio 4, said no problem; Steve Anderson, then controller for news and current affairs at ITV and a former Wheeler producer at Newsnight, was gagging to be on the cast list; so too the great Peter Taylor, who said he would be ‘honoured’ to be part of such an event. Charles and his work had that sort of influence with even the very best of our trade.

But the icing on the Savoy cake proved to be one Boris Johnson, then a barely known Tory MP, Spectator columnist and part-time clown. Boris is also Wheeler’s son-in-law, and his speech on the night was a tour de force. Scribbled on the back of a Savoy napkin, it had scores of hardened hacks in stitches.

Wheeler was much more measured and contrite when it was his turn: apologising to his many producers for giving them a hard time (the sign of a good reporter – one who in involved enough to get angry); radiating modesty and sheer professionalism at one and the same time. Charles Wheeler was like that – he cared about every single word and every single picture to the bitter end of the film that he was working on – and his life.

Never mind Westminster Abbey, Sir Charles Wheeler’s (Charlie Wheeler to all) work on tape and on screen is his epitaph. That will be with us all for a long, long time to come. Adieu ‘Reporters’ Reporter’. You probably have your notebook out, finding the great stories and telling them.

Guardian: BBC News head tipped as director of audio and music

Helen Boaden, BBC’s director of news, and the corporation’s head of sport, Max Mosey, are amongst the front-runners in the race to replace current head of music and audio, Jenny Abramsky, who is to leave her job.

According to the Guardian, sources inside the BBC are tipping former Radio 4 controller Boaden for the job – should she want it.

Abramsky announced last week that she was leaving the corporation after nearly 40 years to chair the board of the National Heritage Memorial Fund.