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Academics threaten Observer boycott: the letters in full

August 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

As reported on the main site, a number of high profile figures in business and academia have already, or are threatening to, cancel their subscriptions to the Observer, after the paper – the threatened closure of which has been widely reported – cut the weekly column by management expert Simon Caulkin. Below:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer protesting the decision from over 60 signatories, never published.

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley on behalf of over 80 signatories, questioning the lack of response, never published.

(3) Email reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland.

Hat-tip: Private Eye Issue 1243, August 21 – September 3, page 7, for a story that alerted us to the protest.

Letters in full:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer

15 June 2009

The Editor
The Observer

Dear Sir

We are astonished and appalled by your decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column just at the point when the ideas he has covered over the years have become more relevant than ever.

We are living through one of the biggest crises of governance in history. September 2008 saw not just the end of Lehman Brothers but the end of 30 years’ dominance of neo-liberalism as the guiding ideology in running major private and public sector institutions. The notion that ‘maximising shareholder value’ can be considered in isolation from society was exposed as a pretence – bad for business as well as for society. The mechanistic strictures of the dominant management orthodoxy, with its dehumanising notion of people as a ‘resource’, its target culture and its opaque lexicon of competences, outputs and so on, have wrought terrible damage in social care, the NHS and education, as well as in the private sector.

Over the past 16 years, one journalist alone has been consistent in exposing the shallowness and limitations of these approaches. Simon Caulkin has set out a coherent alternative, rather than merely channelling protest. The unifying theme of the thinkers that he has championed – W Edwards Deming, Jeffrey Pfeffer, John Seddon, Gary Hamel and others – has been that organisations and economies are best managed by understanding the inter-dependence of different stakeholders.

Your decision, therefore, is ill-judged and ill-timed. A wiser choice would be to elevate Simon’s column to the main section of the paper. There is huge potential in the ideas he has promoted to assist ideological renewal of political parties, as well as to help governance generally.

We hope that you will see this as not just a letter of protest, but as sincere advice to recommend urgently that you reconsider your decision, and retain a vital element of your paper that could continue make a major contribution to policy debate.

Yours sincerely

Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Keith Reader
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Margaret McCartney (Dr) GP and writer
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader – Technology Management Programmes ITT
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Warwick Mansell, freelance journalist and author Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley, on behalf of 80 signatories

29 June 09

Dear Mr Rusbridger, Mr Mulholland

We write to register a double protest over the unjustified decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column, and your refusal to acknowledge the wave of anger that this decision has provoked.

Some 60 distinguished figures, including some of the most influential people in the world of business and management education, jointly signed a letter condemning your decision. You did not publish this, nor even give any of us the courtesy of an acknowledgment. In addition to this jointly signed correspondence, we know that over 200 people have individually registered their protest. The only letter to appear was mildly expressed. In short, you have seriously misled your readers over both the nature and extent of the protest, and of the support that Simon commands.

The Guardian/Observer has a strong tradition of respecting and upholding the principle of freedom of speech and dissent, so we find it shocking to be denied a space for an entirely legitimate argument, made by some of your (previously) most loyal and long-standing subscribers.

Doubtless you have made this move on business grounds; but you appear to have made no calculation of the business consequences of this decision. The supporters of this campaign are not just any readers, but long-standing subscribers who have passed on the habit of reading the Guardian/Observer to friends, colleagues, children and (given the number of professors and authors co-signing) to students and readers also, but who are now reconsidering their loyalty.

Questions of governance and management do not constitute a side issue to those of economics and politics: quite the reverse. It is the culture of management that has led to chronic waste in the public sector and the banking crisis in the private sector. Simon Caulkin possesses a deep understanding of the underlying causal factors of these crises.

Since we began this campaign, the extent of the protest has grown, as can be seen by the extended list of signatories to this letter.

If there is a necessity to drop pages, we urge you to move Simon’s weekly contribution to the main section of the paper.

Yours

Philip Whiteley
On behalf of over 80 signatories (see list below)

Cc
Will Hutton
Polly Toynbee
Dan Roberts
Liz Forgan

Signed by:
Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Professor Christopher Grey, Head of Industrial Relations and Organizational Behaviour Group, Warwick Business School
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Hilary Wainwright, Co-editor Red Pepper magazine, Fellow Centre for Participation Studies, Bradford University
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Charlie Hedges, Chartered Geologist
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Professor Martin Parker, University of Leicester
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
David Davies, Director Didero Ltd
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader, Technology Management Programmes, Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School
Kieran Doyle, General Manager Production at Sulzer Pumps UK Ltd
Dr Luke Mitcheson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Paul Buxton, Policy Officer, Crawley Borough Council
Roger Evans
Martin Meteyard (former Chair, Cafedirect plc)
Christopher Bird Owner, IT U Consulting Group
Laurence Barrett Associate Management Consultant
Paul Hodgkin Chief Executive at Patient Opinion
Bob Birtwell Tutor at University of Surrey
Andrew Campbell Director at Ashridge
Kathy Sheehy Williams Programme Manager at WEA
Rob Worth
Natascha Wolf, self-employed writer
Paul Summers, Corporate Programme Manager, Portsmouth City Council
David Kauders, Partner, Kauders Portfolio Management
Dave Kerr, Business Improvement Manager, Atkins
Paul Barratt, PMBprod
Kate Gott, PhD Student, Brunel Business School
Kevin Cryan, Analyst at DHL
Donal Carroll Associate at Open University Business School & Director at Critical Difference
Tim Casserley, Discovery Alliance & Edge Equilibrium & Author
Emma Langman, Head of Business Improvement at E Squared Thinking Ltd and Visiting Fellow in Systems at University of Bristol

(3) Reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland (by email)

1 July 2009 [by email]

Dear Phil Whiteley

Thank you for your letter and I must apologise for the delay in responding.

Simon Caulkin is a tremendous writer and his column has added enormously to our understanding of British business and management. For these reasons, the decision to lose the column was not taken lightly. It followed much discussion and only after exploring many different options did we reluctantly conclude that we had to take this course of action.

As you will doubtlessly appreciate, this was just one of a host of difficult decisions we have had to make in order to reduce costs across the newspapers at Guardian News and Media.

Newspapers and media groups are experiencing the most difficult trading conditions imaginable. Not only are we suffering, like everyone else, from the catastrophic fallout from the credit crunch in terms of severely reduced advertising revenues but, additionally, our industry is under structural assault from digital media which is causing enormous disruption to our business models.

In these circumstances, we are having to make extremely difficult decisions many of which have caused real anguish as we seek to cut costs. I do hope that Simon can continue to have a relationship with the paper and that we can continue to publish his writing from time to time. Should the economic climate change, then perhaps we can revisit the issue.

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and I completely understand your sense of loss but hope you can appreciate the dilemmas we are facing.

Yours sincerely
John Mulholland
Editor
The Observer

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Journalism: an aspiration solely for the elite?

July 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

The all-party report led by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, has triggered a nationwide debate on issues of social mobility and whether social class divides can be overcome to provide equal career opportunities to all. Journalists found their profession branded ‘one of the most exclusive middle-class professions’. The industry was urged to provide financial support to interns from less wealthy backgrounds and adopt a best practice code.

Media organisations were accused of recruiting trainee journalists for internships for as long as one year, without payment, as a means of filling staffing gaps instead of providing appropriate training. The unpaid placements automatically filtered out students to only those who could afford the experience, usually middle class ones, or those willing to incur massive debts.

  • The National Union of Journalists immediately welcomed the outcomes of the report and heralded the best practice code for internships as ‘a first step in tackling bogus work experience‘. The union has been campaigning for years against exploitation of work experience placements, proposing the payment of a minimum wage to students on training. Speaking in a release issued earlier in the week, the NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said that the report ‘shows how the use of unpaid internships has undermined the diversity of our profession’. “Too many employers see internships as a way of getting work done for free, without any thought towards their responsibilities to provide would-be journalists with a learning opportunity.”
  • In his Guardian blog, Roy Greenslade talked about his humble beginnings as a working-class journalist, alongside others of the same social class at regional newspapers until he was struck by the class divide between the middle-class broadsheets and the working-class tabloids in Fleet Street. Although boundaries are now less obvious between the papers, higher tuition fees at universities meant education was dearer, and less accessible. As journalism became increasingly popular in the 1990s, degree holders were preferred over school-leavers, starting the unfair selection process which favoured the middle class.

A report in 2006 by the Sutton Trust [PDF at this link] showed that more than half of editorial posts at leading national newspapers had been educated at private schools, that is to say, middle class. As middle-class senior editors tend to appoint others like themselves, birds of a different, less privileged feather cannot find a way into the flock.

The Milburn report also pointed out that ‘qualification inflation’ is a barrier towards equal social opportunities. If once an academic degree or an MA were considered desirable for a career in journalism, some people, such as Press Gazette’s Dominic Ponsford, believe it is not the case any more as theoretical courses often do not provide the practical skills needed in a ‘real’ newsroom.

Degrees do not come cheap. Whereas a full-time MA at City University will set back an aspiring journalist by £8,000, a number of institutions offer NCTJ-accredited courses of much shorter length.

The Brighton Journalist Works, for instance, offers a 10-week fast-track course leading to a Certificate in Production Journalism for £3,600. Journalist Works MD Paula O’Shea, who set it up in April 2007 in The Argus’ Brighton offices, says the course is intense as it exposes students to as many hours as they would in an academic year on an MA, but graduates had landed jobs at The Argus, Johnston Press, Time Out, local TV stations and B2B magazines.

There is recourse for students who could not afford the fast-track course: “Our course is accredited by the Learning and Skills Council, so students can apply for a career development loan (www.direct.gov.uk) or the Journalism Diversity Fund (www.journalismdiverstityfund.co.uk),” says O’Shea.

A lack of diversity in news media could pose a problem for journalism, says Charlie Beckett, director of the journalism think-tank Polis. “If the news media is not diverse then it will not reflect the wider population,” he says in his blog.

“At a time of crisis in the industry and the wider economy, that is not a good thing economically, let alone politically.”

Here is Beckett, interviewed on Channel 4 News:

Useful links:

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Goodbye City University: @amonck reflects on four years as journalism head

July 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Training

As reported in May,  Adrian Monck is to leave his position as head of journalism at City University, London after four years, to lead the communications team for the World Economic Forum, which holds the annual meeting for global leaders in Davos, Switzerland. Today, he bids farewell to City in this blog post, originally published here.

Although I’ll be haunting College Building for the next week or so, today is my leaving drinks (or ‘glad you’re gone’ party as we used to call them).

I’ll be keeping up a link with the place as a prof, and I’ll be trying to bash out a PhD. And I’ll also be giving a modest sum for the highest scoring MA project, which will be a prize in memory of Richard Wild. The first £250 will be handed out this autumn, so any City students reading: heads down for the finishing line!

Since I came to City in 2005, we’ve launched an MA in Journalism with new pathways in science and investigation, a Masters in Political Campaigning and Reporting, an MA in Creative Writing Non-Fiction, and a BA in Journalism. We’ve gained some fantastic new staff to go alongside the existing terrific team, including the Guardian’s David Leigh, Channel 4’s David Lloyd, ITN‘s Penny Marshall and visiting fellows like Heather Brooke and tech guru Robin Hamman. We have a distinguished scholar as head of research, Professor Howard Tumber, and we’ve just appointed Britain’s first professor of financial reporting, a chair in honour of Marjorie Deane (expect more on financial journalism soon).

We brought the Centre for Investigative Journalism to City, and its successful summer schools and hopefully there’ll be new initiatives to announce in that area soon.

We’ve established a digital core to our curriculum – there should be a partnership with Nokia coming up in the autumn.

And this year we finally moved into multi-million pound facilities (on Flickr) worthy of the talents of the people who teach and study here. And we have a Graduate School of Journalism to go alongside the best anywhere has to offer.

Best of all, I’ve witnessed the annual progression of an extraordinary group of people who’ve joined us from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and from Lancashire to Lagos – our students. Their qualities are what make so many people want to give up time to teach here. Their enthusiasms and passions are among the rewards.

It’s not all been plain sailing, as anyone who’s brushed up against me will doubtless agree. But I hope it’s been worth it. City is now, more than ever, a global school for journalism, bringing in people from around the world to share experiences and gain new insights. Its future is already being mapped out in areas like political and humanitarian campaigning, and in deepening specialist knowledge amongst those competing to enter what is still an extraordinarily privileged world.

And the privilege of journalism? It’s the privilege of speech. Maybe it’s narcissistic, maybe it’s worth dying for.

But despite our disagreements (and let’s be honest, academics have to be able to start arguments with themselves) it’s what unites me with colleagues in education, in the news business, and with new friends and acquaintances in the ever-widening world beyond.

So, with whatever voice you choose, keep speaking up.

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Student showcase: The London File (City University International Journalism MA)

July 1st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Online Journalism, Training

A little while ago Journalism.co.uk asked for examples of journalism students’ projects. Feel free to send more, whether you’re midway through, or at the end, of a course.

As mentioned in the last post, City University MA International Journalism students (2008-2009) produced the London File, at this link. Now their course is over, the news stories are out-of-date but the sites is still live for a visit.

It’s a news site divided into eight sections (home / EU elections special / social affairs / world affairs / insider life / science & health / arts / sport / money), plus a campaign, which ‘aimed to explore the various forms of public surveillance and investigate issues relating to ways in which the government monitors the private lives of ordinary citizens.’

The team’s overall goal was to ‘to capture and report the realities and issues on the ground in London, as they happen’.

Here’s what their editor-in-chief, Annabel Symington, had to say at the end of the project:

“The London File was the last assessment for our MA, and it was really nice to all be working together on a project. We began planning the
site five weeks before we went live, and planned to keep up loading new content to the site on a rolling deadline for two weeks.

“The two weeks were a really intense time. We were responsible for every aspect of the site, from getting the content to designing the pages, and it was a lot of work balancing all of the different jobs necessary – getting a website to work as well as going out and being journalists.

“Throughout the process we have been supported by our tutors who have been putting in as much time as we have. It’s certainly been a steep
learning curve. I don’t think that anyone had appreciated how much work needs to be put into a site before it actually goes live, and in
many ways we were trying to get a fully formed website running before we could even walk. But we got there in the end. The site looks great, despite the few hiccups we had along the way.”

londonfile

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Online Journalism Blog: What should an MA in Online Journalism teach?

March 26th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Training

Ahead of the launch of a new MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, course leader Paul Bradshaw wants to know what you think it should cover.

Full post at this link…

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Too old to become a journalist: UK journalism courses uncovered

March 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Training

This blog has, so far, concentrated on the Lambeth College, National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) course. There are a multitude of other courses out there, many of which offer online teaching and IT skills, which, in the current climate especially, are essential.

Below are the experiences of three other journalists who recently undertook training courses at Sportsbeat/News Associates, Cardiff University and noSWeat.

Sportsbeat/News Associates
Vivienne Raper, 29, is a freelance writer and journalist and has just finished her
NCTJ course at Sportsbeat/News Associates.

Prior to this she worked full-time as a writer for a healthcare and life science PR agency. Other highlights of her career so far include an internship at a think tank, a PhD in climate change monitoring, serving on the national executive of the Liberal Democrats’ youth wing, and a spell as a receptionist in a prison.

Yet surprisingly, she maintains that journalism is the most interesting thing she’s ever done. She particularly enjoys breaking off-diary news stories.

“The NCTJ accredited Sportsbeat/News Associates course is run by a sports news agency in Wimbledon, London. I did the course part-time over 10 months but they also offer a full-time, fast track option. It cost £3,500.

“Unlike most NCTJ courses, students don’t need to have a degree to be accepted onto the Sportsbeat course. You must sit an entrance examination and interview, conducted by the course director or one of the heads of journalism training and a senior editor.

“Most of the students on my course were career changers in their late 20s or recent school leavers who had jobs and didn’t plan to go to university.

“The part-time course was brilliant for getting through the NCTJ exams without giving up the day job. I have no complaints – it did exactly what it said on the tin. I’d heartily recommend it even though I’m not remotely interested in sports reporting.

“If you are, you can take a module in sports reporting and help out in the newsroom after class on Saturday evenings.

“That being said the course suffers from the inherent problems with taking the NCTJ part-time i.e. everything is geared to passing the exams and leaves little time for anything else. If you have more money and want to learn about feature writing, podcasting or the history of journalism, I’d recommend a one-year diploma.

“The tutors are very professional, extremely supportive, know exactly what the NCTJ requires and will help after the course has finished by checking CVs, offering additional shorthand classes and forwarding on job or story (usually sports) opportunities.

“Time pressure meant we couldn’t do much outside preparing for the NCTJ. However, we did a couple of projects to teach journalism, learn QuarkXPress and collect clips for our NCTJ portfolio. We were split into groups and given an area of London to cover. Each group had to find stories and design a fake front page with headlines.

“Like all NCTJ courses, it’s hard work. It’s a real challenge to combine NCTJ study with a full-time job and it’s particularly difficult to get through shorthand studying part-time. You need to be committed to journalism to get through a part-time NCTJ – amazingly, no one dropped out. Media law and public affairs are tedious and it was hard to stay awake at 9:30pm on a Monday evening or on a Saturday afternoon. This is a problem with the NCTJ exams and not the tuition.”

Cardiff University
Amy Davies, 22, is currently studying for her postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at Cardiff’s Journalism School. She also did a journalism undergraduate degree at Cardiff – she must love it there – but is originally from the Midlands. She sees herself working for a variety of different magazines, even freelancing so as not to feel tied to one style. Eventually she wants to be an editor, but thinks this may be a long way off.

“The course at Cardiff is accredited by the PTC (Periodicals Training Council) and has quite a high reputation. It runs for one academic year, from September to June, and costs around £5,500.

“A degree in any discipline is needed to get onto the course. After applying candidates are called for a day-long interview and will sit a news knowledge and writing test. They will also have a formal interview with one of the tutors and must submit two feature ideas. Previous publishing experience is useful, but not essential.

“The course is fairly well run in most areas and certainly provides many interesting lectures and modules. However, sometimes marking can be slow and so I do feel that progress can be hard to judge.

“The diploma offers a choice of newspaper, broadcast or magazine options. All paths share some modules including media law (taught separately), public administration, reporters and the reported (a series of ethics lectures), online and mobile media and shorthand (although this is optional for the magazine and broadcast path).

“Before we started the course in September, our shorthand teacher sent us worksheets and tapes instructing us to get up to 30WPM.

“Shorthand classes were then Monday-Friday mornings from 9-11am and by December, a number of students (about half the class) were able to take and pass the 100wpm NCTJ paper.

“In addition to the core subjects, students on the magazine course are taught news writing, magazine craft (how to use programmes including InDesign and Photoshop) and feature writing.

“We also have the opportunity to create and publish our own complete magazine and website.

“The course benefits from a high number of guest lecturers, hailing from various newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and online publications, who come and talk on various changes in the media.

“Magazine students must also complete a minimum of two weeks of work experience at a magazine(s) of their choice.”

noSWeat
Tara Kelly, 27, is a freelance journalist and has just finished her
NCTJ-accredited course at noSWeat Journalism Training in Clerkenwell, London.  Originally from New York, Tara has worked in corporate responsibility and the IT industry in Brussels and London. She holds an MA in International Conflict Analysis with a specialty in Conflict Diamonds. The fulfilment that comes with pitching and chasing up a story led Tara to journalism.

“NoSWeat Journalism was founded by a former journalist who noticed there were no part-time, London-based NCTJ courses on offer. The success rate of its graduates and its central London location are what attracted me to apply and enrol in the course. You don’t need a university degree to get in, but you do have to sit a written exam and have an interview with the school director. The tuition is £3,500, but you get a slight discount if you pay early.

“Media Law and shorthand were the most useful classes I took. We had the luxury of being taught by a practicing solicitor who is a renowned media law guru. The tutors held extra study sessions prior to exams, but have little patience for those who don’t attend class and make a sincere effort.

“Journalism classes entailed learning QuarkXPress, practicing sub-editing, attending mock press conferences and going out into town in search of a local story. Much of what they teach you is centred on passing the exams, so the outlook is rather local and regional given the nature of the NCTJ.

“The advantage of being a part-timer is that the course lasts 12 months allowing you more time to plan for work experience and complete your portfolio. On the other hand, part-timers working full-time may find it difficult to take advantage of the guest speaker lectures at lunch or the specially arranged day trips to the Old Bailey or House of Commons.

“Like the field of journalism, don’t expect to be spoonfed at noSWeat. Students must approach editors and secure work experience themselves. NCTJ is definitely the magic word for gaining work experience opportunities though. Some of the national newspapers that our class completed placements on included the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times.

“Studying part-time, freelancing and managing to do a full-time job was extremely challenging in the final few months of the course, especially with exams and the portfolio hanging over your head. But if your devotion to journalism is unquestionable, it is well worth your Saturdays and Wednesday evenings.”

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Obama’s digital guru (aka Thomas Gensemer) at City: “Email is still the killer app”

February 19th, 2009 | 9 Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

Obama digital campaign ‘guru,’ Thomas Gensemer, has attracted a fair bit of attention with his arrival in London – check out the Guardian G2 feature and this article at TimesOnline, for example. A Guardian video can be watched here at this link.

Gensemer, whose company Blue State Digital built the Obama website and managed the online campaign, was also speaking at City University on Tuesday evening: at an event entitled ‘Obama’s (not so) Secret Weapon: the role of the internet in the 2008 US Presidential Election’.

His talk officially launched the journalism school’s new MA in Political Campaigning and Reporting. A video of the event can be watched here.

Etan Smallman was at the event, and shares his report with us here:

Plain old-fashioned email is the key tool for successful political campaigning in the digital age, the mastermind behind the Obama digital campaign, Thomas Gensemer, told an audience at City University this week.

Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, who built the highly acclaimed online operation, dismissed the impact of social networking in favour of ‘the simplicity of email’.

The message is ‘use tools, not gimmicks’, Gensemer said. “For all the talk of social networking, blogs, and mobile applications, email is still the ‘killer app’. Our email list of 13.5 million individual email subscribers was the backbone of the campaign,” he added.

“This is not a story about technology; this is not a story about Facebook or Twitter. This is about dynamic, personalised, two-way relationship via email,” he said. Gensemer said that more than a billion emails were sent out to over 13.5 million email subscribers throughout Obama’s presidential campaign. It resulted in my.barackobama.com raising half a billion dollars in donations.

The mainstream media is ‘still included in the cycle’, Gensemer said. “It is often that you’re bypassing them to get to the audience, and then encouraging the media to tell the story to the audience. You’re inverting the relationship a little bit. They don’t serve as the filter any more – when you have the engaged constituency online, you go directly to them.”

Gensemer, who previously worked in the UK on Ken Livingstone’s unsuccessful London mayoral campaign, is currently expanding his operation to the UK political arena by opening an office in London.

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Some organisations still believe their audience isn’t online, he said. “It’s no longer the case in the ‘first world’. Even people over 70 – the ‘silver surfers’ – they’re out there. They’re willing to do something for you. They just need to be asked. This isn’t just about college kids. This isn’t just about bloggers in Westminster.”

“It is not about magical technology,’ he said, arguing that the key components to successful online campaigning are transparency and authenticity: “You can’t fake it,” he added.

“Do you really believe that the average MP is Twittering?” he asked. “Do you believe that Barack Obama Twitters? I’ll tell you, he doesn’t.”

New social media crazes like Twitter ‘tend to distract,’ Gensemer said.

“It tends to be from shiny object, to shiny object, to shiny object. For organisations that need to invest in deep personal relationships with a variety of people, just doing that sort of scattergun approach is dizzying.

“It burns through political capital pretty quickly because it doesn’t really talk to the people it’s trying to talk to,” he said.

“The lesson of the Obama campaign is to use tools to facilitate a message – don’t use gimmicks. None of this would have happened [just] because somebody was Twittering.”

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Independent: New journalism postgrad course at City University

December 4th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Training

An MA in political campaigning and reporting is the lastest offering from London’s City University, and the course will be headed by Ivor Gaber.

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Tweeted debate: does it have any significance for democracy?

September 17th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

So, the first tweeted presidential debate. This week the AP reported that Current TV will let its audience have their say by publishing their live Twitter comments on screen; now the news is doing the rounds on the blogs.

During the debates, the station will broadcast Twitter messages (or tweets) from viewers as John McCain and Barack Obama go head to head.

It’s all certainly a lot further on than when the first ever debate went out on television: on September 1960 26, when 70 million US viewers watched senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts word-battle vice president Richard Nixon.

Current TV, which is extremely pro viewer interaction, was actually co-founded by Al Gore, though the channel says ‘Hack the Debate’, as it has become known, was not his idea.

An article over at the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) says, of the Nixon-Kennedy debate, “Perhaps as no other single event, the Great Debates forced us to ponder the role of television in democratic life.”

So, does Twittering and instantaneous (as much as it can be) viewer feedback have anything like the same significance? What’s the role of the internet here in democratic life?

Also, comments will be filtered to fit in with broadcast standards: does this change its impact at all?

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YouTomb: where YouTube videos go when they die

May 21st, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia

Ever wondered where the videos that have fallen off YouTube – or been pushed – end up?

Enter YouTomb – the elephant’s graveyard of clips that have been removed from the video sharing site for copyright infringements and other offences.

Speaking to Wired.com, YouTomb’s creators – a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – say the site isn’t about reshowing illegal material, but is for tracking cases where remixed and satirical clips have been removed for alleged copyright infringements.

“MIT Free Culture became especially interested in the issue after YouTube announced that it would begin using filtering technology to scan users’ video and audio for near-matches with copyrighted material. While automating the takedown process may make enforcement easier, it also means that content falling under fair-use exceptions and even totally innocuous videos may receive some of the collateral damage,” a mission statement on the site reads.

As such the videos on YouTomb are represented by stills and are not available to play, but show stats on how many views they attracted before being pulled.

Despite YouTube’s recent efforts to step up copyright policing and create an automate removal process, removed videos live on in some form through YouTomb, which takes on the mantle of a video watchdog.

According to the site, it is currently monitoring 223834 videos and has identified 4428 videos taken down for alleged copyright violation and 13522 videos taken down for other reasons.

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