Tag Archives: Politics

William Hague and the power of the political blogger

David Higgerson, head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror, has posed some interesting questions on what the William Hague and Christopher Myers story means for the power, image and responsibilities of the blogging community.

The fact Hague felt the need to release the statement he did, and that Myers felt the need to stand down, shows the influence political bloggers have within the Westminster village. (…) Does Hague’s response suggest that he and his colleague over-weighed the true impact of what is written on blogs for the wider public? It’s certainly the mother of all statements, and there’s a danger it sets a new precedent for denying rumours. Will we now see a glut of rumours around the internet in the knowledge that a denial is likely to follow?

And, he adds, if recent events do show political bloggers are becoming increasingly influential, should we now be addressing the introduction of greater responsibilities for such a powerful online community?

See his full post here…

Poligraft: the transparency tool set to make investigative journalism easier

The Sunlight Foundation has launched a new tool – Poligraft – to encourage greater transparency of public figures and assist journalists in providing the extra details behind stories.

By scanning news articles, press releases or blog posts, which can be submitted to the program by inserting the URL or pasting the entire article, the technology can then pick out people or organisations and identify the financial or political links between them.

Discussing the impact of this technology, Megan Taylor writes on PoynterOnline that it is a simple yet powerful tool for the news industry.

Anyone can use this, but it could be especially powerful in the hands of hands of journalists, bloggers, and others reporting or analyzing the news. It would take hours to look these things up by hand, and many people don’t know how to find or use the information.

Journalists could paste in their copy to do a quick check for connections they might have missed. Bloggers could run Poligraft on a series of political stories to reveal the web of contributions leading to a bill. All this information is public record, but it’s never easy to dig through. What is possible when investigative journalism is made just a little bit easier?

See a video below from the Sunshine Foundation posted on Youtube explaining how the technology works:

Hatip: Editorsweblog

News Corp gives to Republicans, but who’s giving what to Democrats exactly?

Responding to News Corporation’s donation of $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in the US announced earlier this week, the Business Media Institute (BMI) reports on figures released by the OpenSecrets website that show significant political donations to the Democrats from other media organisations.

Delving into the numbers, the BMI looks at who’s donating what and where, including stats on News Corp.’s previous donations to the Democrats – asking if those criticising the corporation for this latest sum are missing out some vital, balancing figures.

Full story on Business and Media Institute website at this link…

Telegraph: Frederick Forsyth on starting out as a journalist

Author Frederick Forsyth discusses how his passion to travel led him to an early career as a journalist, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph this weekend.

His time spent reporting for news organisations including Reuters and the BBC was not only valuable in developing the investigative research skills which would later help him write “meticulously researched” novels, but also for revealing where his true passions lay.

“Journalism seemed like a good idea. It meant I could travel and keep my own timetable.” After a stint in Fleet Street, Forsyth joined Reuters, the foreign news agency. It was there that he honed the journalistic skills that are a hallmark of his novels. “I suppose I created a genre,” he agrees. “I was the first novelist to set fiction in the factual setting. Lumbered myself with it, I suppose.”

It was during a stint with the BBC, covering the war in Biafra, that the restraints of journalism led Forsyth into the altogether more lucrative world of fiction. Though he didn’t think so at the time. The deeply conservative BBC took issue with his political line, and Forsyth left. “I didn’t go into journalism to be a PR for Whitehall,” he says drily. “And it isn’t much different today. The hard-hitting investigative programmes no longer exist. The BBC is an arm of the Government.”

See the full interview here…

Malaysian authorities suspend opposition paper

According to a release by the Canadian Press, the Malaysian government has suspended a newspaper run by their opposition, the People’s Justice Party.

Authorities allege the Suara Keadilan, or Voice of Justice, was printing false news that incited public unrest, adding to concerns that the government is “stifling criticism”.

The paper was due to have its licence renewed last week, but this was declined by the Home Ministry after an article was published claiming the state-run land development agency was in financial trouble.

The paper’s editor reportedly plans to appeal the suspension.

We want people to think. It seems that the government wants everyone to accept everything. They don’t want alternative views … The government is under tremendous pressure right now because people demand to know the truth.

This comes after officials banned three political cartoons criticising the government last week, citing them as a security threat.

Read the full report here…

Journalist confesses to working as spin doctor for local politican

A former political journalist for South African newspaper the Cape Argus was being paid to write articles favouring Ebrahim Rasool, premier of the Western Cape province, according to reports from the paper itself.

The paper has published a report online saying Ashley Smith, who worked at the title up until 2006, admitted working as a spindoctor for the premier in an affidavit submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority.

In return, they claim he has requested indemnity against any possible criminal charges.

Smith also accuses the then political editor Joseph Aranes of assisting Rasool’s campaign, which he allegedly denies.

Read the full story here…

‘The day Gordon Brown resigned’: behind-the-scenes at Sky News

Video from Sky News showing how it put together its coverage of Gordon Brown’s resignation and the post-election coalition talks between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Video also available at this link…

Related reading: Sky News’ Niall Paterson on “bigotgate” and the parliamentary press pack.

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…

Independent.co.uk: John Rentoul on how Twitter transforms political reporting

John Rentoul, or @JohnRentoul, chief political commentator for the Independent on Sunday, sums up how he uses Twitter and the impact he believes it has had on political reporting in the UK (managing to avoid the hyperbole of many other love notes to Twitter from journalists):

Most of the time, however, Twitter is like a news service. It is different from social networks in that links are not necessarily mutual. People can choose to follow each other, but the Korean research found that four-fifths of links were one-way. This means that hub Twitterers with a lot of followers act as diffusers of news. When I started on this newspaper as a political reporter in 1995, the main source of UK “breaking news” was the Press Association wire – short bulletins of news, as it happened. Now Twitter fills that gap, as journalists and citizen-reporters let each other know when someone has left their microphone on, or has ruled out standing for the Labour leadership. When Adam Boulton started to lose his temper with Alastair Campbell on live television during the post-election negotiations, people tweeted to tell others to put Sky News on – to catch the best bits. William Hague announced that the talks with the Liberal Democrats were back on on Twitter. It is a way for politicians to speak to – or beyond – the conventional media. But it also offers journalists other ways of reporting.

Full article at this link…

The campaign to repeal the Digital Economy Act and why journalists should pay attention

More than 20,00 people may have demanded “a proper debate” on the Digital Economy Bill, but it didn’t stop it being whizzed through parliament and passed as legislation at the end of the last government.

We previously reported how the new Act affects journalists.

So what now? The campaign hasn’t stopped here.

Repealthedigitaleconomyact.com has a big stopwatch counting the hours since the new government took office: how long will it take to repeal the act? Seven days so far and nothing yet.

The Open Rights Group has started a petition to repeal the act under the current government:

We, the signatories, call on the new Parliament to repeal sections 11-18 of the Digital Economy Act, dealing with copyright infringement and website blocking powers.

We call on Parliament to refuse to pass any Statutory Instrument that would institute interference with families’ or organisations’ communications as a punishment for actual or alleged civil copyright infringement.

At the time of writing, 5,921 have signed.

One of the protest groups on Facebook, Together Against The Digital Economy Act 2010, lays out why it believes UK citizens – and others – should be worried:

– Websites will be blocked for alleged copyright infringement.
– Families accused of sharing copyrighted files will be disconnected without trial. They will have to pay to appeal.
– Even if you don’t live in the UK, it sets a worrying precedent for other countries to follow suit.

Disconnection or “technical measures” like bandwidth throttling will kick in if file sharing does not drop by an incredible 70 per cent. There are no alternative punishments to disconnection, no matter what the damage it will cause, and there is no statutory limit on the length of these disconnections, called, in the weasel words of the Act, “temporary account suspension”.

Despite thousands of letters of concern and a petition with over 35,000 signatures of protest, the Bill was rushed through in the final days of parliament during the “wash up process” – it was not given the full scrutiny that it deserved.

This is a piece of legislation that gives potentially unlimited power to unelected officials, and assumes guilt on the part of those accused of copyright infringement. We can expect the industry lobbies to be out in force to roll back our human right to freedom of expression in the name of copyright very, very soon.

Why journalists should listen up

Paul Bradshaw, director of the online journalism MA at Birmingham City University and publisher of the Online Journalism Blog tells me that journalists “should pay very close attention to the DE Act indeed, on a number of areas”.

“Firstly is the power the act gives to block websites based on an accusation of breach of copyright – or that the website is likely to in the future.

“The scope for abuse is clear – the potential to block access to Wikileaks is the most prominent example given. An organisation whose confidential documents have been leaked could apply to have it blocked in the UK (regardless of where it is hosted).

“Although revisions to the act mean there would have to be consultation there doesn’t appear to be any explicit public interest test and a look at how countries like Australia have adopted similar blacklists doesn’t bode well for accountability.

“Secondly, and more practically, the act threatens public wifi – a tremendously useful resource for journalists on the move, and for potential sources and leads.

“Providers of public wifi are still seeking clarity on where they stand legally – in the meantime, fewer companies are going to be willing to take the risk of providing it and falling foul of the law if someone uses it to download something ‘illegal’.

“Finally, there’s the broader issue of monitoring people’s use of the web in such a way that, for instance, would make it easier to trace and unmask whistleblowers and other confidential sources. It gives corporations power without accountability, which any journalist should be concerned about.

There’s still time, says Bradshaw

“On a more positive note, there is still scope to address the weaknesses of the act – and journalists and their sources should familiarise themselves with anonymising software such as Tor which will provide more confidentiality for both themselves and their sources.

Bradshaw says he was disillusioned by the political process that saw the bill passed: “Apart from the detail of the bill itself I found the use of the wash-up a depressing spectacle that further undermined our sense of proper democratic procedure.

“In the debates MPs themselves lined up to say how they were having to vote for a bill they or their constituents didn’t actually support. The role of lobbyists and party whips need to be addressed one way or another and I guess this challenge does that.

He has used his crowdsourcing investigations site, Help Me Investigate, to track the MPs’ performance over the bill and how MPs have responded to constituents’ correspondence over the bill.

“[I]dentikit responses make it difficult to see how much of that correspondence has actually been seen or understood by the MPs themselves.”

What do you think about the Digital Economy Act and its effect on journalism? Please get in touch (judith [at] journalism.co.uk) or leave a comment below.