Tag Archives: Messenger

‘Twitchhiking’ freelancer Paul Smith completes journey

Paul Smith, a freelance journalist who pledged to ‘Twitchhike’ the globe in 30 days, has completed his adventurous journey by reaching New Zealand.

The aim of the trip, during which Smith was only allowed to accept accommodation and travel help offered via Twitter, was to reach the furthest point – Campbell Island off the coast of NZ – from his starting location – Gateshead – to raise money for Charity:Water.

Lack of transport, poor telecommunications in New Zealand and – as a result – a smaller Twitter community thwarted Smith’s plans to reach the remote Campbell Island, he said in a blog post today.

“After two months of living and breathing this project, I’d reached my journey’s end. I wasn’t going to see Campbell Island, but it honestly didn’t matter anymore. The aim was to travel as far as I could from home as possible within 30 days, and by reaching Stewart Island I’d travelled to a place the majority of New Zealanders have never set foot on, never mind the rest of the world,” wrote Smith.

Congratulations to Paul – and a safe journey back to the UK – but perhaps this isn’t the end?

“The big question is: what happens next? I don’t feel like this is the end. I’m already mourning the loss of this project from my life. It now feels entirely natural to live out of a single messenger bag, to throw my belongings into the back seat of a strange car, to bed down wherever I’m offered charity.

“There’s something else there. I just don’t know what it is yet.”

Comment: Treasury committee shoots the media messenger over UK banking crisis

Yesterday saw representatives from the UK’s financial journalism industry give evidence to a House of Commons Treasury Committee inquiry into the banking crisis.

So what conclusions were drawn about the media’s ‘role’ in the crisis?

A fairly resounding ‘it wasn’t our fault’ from the journalists gathered (Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, BBC business editor Robert Peston, Daily Mail city editor Alex Brummer, Sky News’ Jeff Randall and the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins):

  • The UK’s banks and economy, in particular Northern Rock, were headed for a crash anyhow and no amount of warning/doomsaying from the media would have changed this. No one – neither the media nor those in charge of the financial institutions were expecting the force of what was going to happen to the economy

While Simon Jenkins said in retrospect he ‘wouldn’t have done it or had it done differently’, some of yesterday’s session echoed Robert Peston’s comments to UCLAN’s Journalism Leaders Forum, when the BBC journalist said there were some lessons to learn from the media’s handling of the situation:

  • Alex Brummer said a lot of the reporting of the financial breakdown was handled by young, inexperienced journalists staffing finance desks, most of whom weren’t around in the last crisis. If you’ve only seen boom times it was even easier to take the press releases/briefings from businesses and financial orgs at face value and not question them, he said.
  • Business journalists are in competition with the richest organisations in the world, added Brummer, and city editors did not push hard enough to get negative stories about the economy higher up the news agenda during the boom period.
  • Jeff Randall agreed with Peston’s UCLAN comments, saying that it could be argued the public had been allowed to live in economic optimism for too long, fuelled by the media.
  • According to Lionel Barber, there’s no point hiding stories of the recession behind ‘happy talk’.
  • On the BBC’s coverage, Robert Peston said each of the stories about the banking crisis were published in the public interest; though Brummer said the public had been very ill-served by the media’s coverage of the economy and more must be done to deepen economic understanding.

An informative discussion with some of the leading journalists in the UK field, yet why had they been summoned in the first place?

Prompted via a Twitter chat with NYU professor Jay Rosen, shouldn’t we be asking who is saying the media is to blame for the banking crisis in the first place?

One question from the committee to Peston struck me as particularly misplaced in this respect, as he was asked what he thought about being a market force in his own right. In his own words, Peston is just a journalist reporting on the facts and information he receives.

Yes – there are lessons to be learned from looking at whether media coverage of the banking crisis indirectly added to public anxiety about the situation or contributed indirectly to already falling share prices.

But as Lionel Barber pointed out yesterday, it was never the media’s intention to break the banks, but simply to report on the situation. Peston’s stories, the man himself said, were verified reports from close contacts and sources and built on as much information as he could gather.

At the UCLAN event, Peston said the ‘primary responsibility for the global economic and banking crisis does not lie with the media’ – but why is the media having to defend itself. In a feisty exchange, Barber posed a similar question to the committee: why didn’t the government bail out Lehman Bros – this failure could be seen as escalating the crisis just as much as any media role.

It was joked that the only five journalists to have spotted the crisis ahead of time were sitting in the committee room – evidence that there were dissenting voices in a sea of stories about never-ending house price rises.

Evidence that this was an exercise in shooting the messenger

PA celebrates 140 years with museum exhibition

The Press Association (PA) sent us this rather lovely photo to announce a new exhibition celebrating 140 years of the agency, which will open at Bradford’s National Media Museum on October 18.

The picture from New Year’s Day 1930 shows ‘despatch manager’ Walter Cattermole, flanked by PA News messenger boys, outside the organisation’s former home in Fleet Street, London.

Watch Al Jazeera’s Shooting the Messenger on YouTube

Al Jazeera has posted its series on the intimidation and killing of journalists in conflict zones to YouTube.

Shooting the Messenger – a four-part documentary of 11-minute clips – focuses on how international correspondents, both reporters and cameramen, have become targets in the field with the recent death in Gaza of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana’a and the release of Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj bringing the issue into sharp focus.

Watch the first part of the series, which was originally broadcast on June 14, below: