Tag Archives: Prime Minister

FollowtheMedia: Murdoch and Berlusconi in a battle of the media titans

‘One of life’s great joys is watching two media barons battle it out using all the weapons at their command,’ comments Philip Stone in a comprehensive piece on FollowtheMedia. While it’s not a new rivalry, Stone says that Berlusconi understands it was a ‘big business mistake to have allowed Murdoch to step on Italian soil,’ with Sky Italia.

An extract:

“While the international media has been dishing out some really low blows editorially against Berlusconi for the past few days it is Murdoch’s Times of London that called in a professor of classics at Cambridge University to compare the Italian Prime Minister with the Roman Emperor Tiberius – known for his sexual frolics – and then followed that up with a really vicious editorial with verbiage that more properly belongs in his tabloid Sun or News of the World than it does in the august(us) Times of London.”

Full story at this link…

It’s old-fashioned journalism from the bunker and there’s more to come, says Telegraph

So who wants the films rights to MPs’ expenses? It’s on a far less grave subject, but maybe it will be like the 9/11 films; the aftermath still permeating society, when the scripts are sold and production started. The next general election may not even have happened. Gordon Brown could still be Prime Minister. Just.

Or perhaps (Sir? ‘Lord’ is less likely given the target) Will Lewis’ memoirs will have been on sale for a while first, before the 21st century’s equivalent of ‘All the President’s Men’ is released, to allow the dust to settle.

Whichever way, this archetypal British plot is the stuff of a (Working Title, maybe) director’s dream; even if the journalism itself is markedly not Watergate, as most hardened investigative hacks and other journalists at rival titles are quick to point out. The gate of significance in this story is the one at the end of the second home’s garden path. No Deep Throat, just Deep Pockets.

A small group of privileged Telegraph journalists has been embedded from early till late in what’s apparently known as ‘the bunker’ – a room separate from the main newsroom, away from the ‘hub and spokes’, away from the Twitterfall graphic projected on the wall – sifting through the details of thousands upon thousands of supermarket, DIY store and restaurant receipts and other documents.

It’s got all the ingredients for the heroic hack flick: the furtive deal with the middle man and the original whistleblower, for an undisclosed sum (no doubt to be revealed in Lewis’ or possibly Ben Brogan’s memoirs), at one point rumoured to be £300,000.

While this whole expose – the ‘Expenses Files’ as the Telegraph first called it – is most definitely built on a film-like fantasy, it is grounded in career-breaking political change, and last night’s audience at the Frontline Club for a debate on the paper’s handling of the stories, got a little insight into the process; a rare chance, as the paper has mainly been very quiet on just how it’s done it.

The ‘consequences were massively in the public interest,’ argued the Telegraph’s assistant editor, Andrew Pierce, who popped up on BBC Breakfast news this morning as well. “It was brilliant, brilliant old fashioned journalism (…) at its finest.

“It’s so exciting – you were aware you had stuff, it was going to change things, and boy it has…

“Of course it’s been terrific for the circulation – we’re a newspaper and we’re there to make sales.”

According to Pierce, 240 broadsheet pages covering the story have been published so far.

“So far we’ve published one correction: we got a house mixed up. I’d say in terms of journalism that ain’t a bad ratio.”

That was disputed by one member of last night’s panel, Stephen Tall, editor-at-large for the Liberal Democrat Voice website; he’s unlikely to get a cameo as it would rather spoil the plot.

Tall’s complaint was that three stories on Liberal Democrats have been misrepresented in separate stories and received insufficient apology; something Journalism.co.uk will follow up on elsewhere, once we’ve moved on from this romanticised big screen analogy.

Back to the glory: Pierce described how journalists from around the world had been to peek at the unfolding scene of action – they’ve had camera crews from Turkey, Thailand and China, in for visits, he said.

There’s a ‘sense of astonishment’, he added. ‘They thought quaint old Britain’, the mother of all democracies, ‘was squeaky clean.’

The story, Pierce claimed, ‘has reverberated all the way around the world’. “We actually are going to get this sorted out. Were MPs really able to set their own pay levels? Their own expenses levels? And it was all tax free.”

‘Old-fashioned journalism lives on’ has become the war cry of the Telegraph and its champions, in defence of the manner in which it acquired and dealt with the data.

For raw blogging it is not. Any CAR is kept secret in-house. Sharing the process? Pah! This is as far away from a Jarvian vision of journalism built-in-beta as you can imagine. While other news operations – the Telegraph’s own included – increasingly open up the inner workings (former Telegraph editor Martin Newland’s team at The National in Abu Dhabi tweeted live from a significant meeting yesterday morning) not a social media peep comes from the bunker till the paper arrives back from the printers.

There might be little teasers on the site with which to taunt their rivals, but for the full meaty, pictorial evidence it’s paper first, online second. Rivals, Pierce said, have to ‘wait for the second edition before they rip it off’.

Nobody has it confirmed how much they officially coughed up for the story – ‘we don’t use the words bought or paid,’ said Pierce. Though last night’s host, Guardian blogger and journalism professor Roy Greenslade, twice slipped in a speculative reference to £75,000, Pierce refused to be drawn.

“Fleet Street has existed for years on leaks,” said Pierce, as justification. “We will stick to our guns (…) and not discuss whether money changed hands.”

Enter the hard done by heroine of the piece: Heather Brooke. Much lauded and widely respected freedom of information campaigner, she and other journalists – one from the Sunday Telegraph (Ben Leapman); one from the Times (Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas) – did the mind-numbingly boring hours of Freedom of Information requests and tedious legal battles over several years, only to lose the scoop to a chequebook.

Will she get a part in the government-destroyed-by-dodgy-expenses film? If Independent editor, Roger Alton, was casting she certainly would. In fact, she deserves a damehood, he declared last night.

A member of the audience asked whether Alton would have paid for the information himself if he had had the chance. Unlike his last foray to the Frontline, the Independent editor knew he was being filmed this time. A pause for ethical reflection before he answered, then:

“We’ve barely got enough money to cover a football match for Queens Park Rangers. Take a wild guess! Any journalist would cut off their left arm and pickle it in balsamic vinegar!”

That’s a yes then, we presume.

Apparently, Sun editor Rebekah Wade turned it down after being told there wasn’t much chance of a Jacqui Smith style porn revelation or a cabinet resignation. “She asked ‘would this bring down a cabinet minster?’ And she was told it wouldn’t,” claimed Pierce. How wrong the data tout(s) were about their own stuff.

More embarrassing for the Telegraph, though Pierce said he knew nothing of it, was Brooke’s revelation that the Sunday Telegraph had refused to back their man financially, a case which Brooke, Leapman and Ungoed-Thomas finally won in the High Court – the judge ordered disclosure of all receipts and claims of the 14 MPs in original requests, along with the addresses of their second homes.

Update: Ben Leapman responds on Jon Slattery’s blog here: “I never asked my employer to pay for a lawyer because I took the view that journalists ought, in principle, be able to go to FoI tribunals themselves without the barrier of having to pay. I also took the view, probably rather arrogantly, that in this emerging field of law I was perfectly capable of putting the arguments directly without a lawyer.” Leapman was represented by solicitor advocate Simon McKay ‘very ably for no fee’ in the High Court, he writes.

Publication of all MPs’ expense claims are now forthcoming, after redaction (‘a posh word for tippexing out,’ said Pierce.) In July 2008, ‘parliament went against the court by exempting some information – MPs’ addresses – from disclosure,’ the Guardian reported.

Now, for a name for our blockbuster. ‘The Month Before Redaction‘? ‘Bunker on Buckingham Palace Road‘? ‘646 Expense Forms and a Re-shuffle‘? I can predict a more likely tag line at least, the now all too familiar: ‘They said they acted within the rules’.

The ending to this expenses epic is not yet known, but there won’t be many happy endings in Parliament. Pierce promises more stories, with no firm end date, but unsurprisingly, didn’t give any hint of what lies ahead. Could an even bigger scoop be on its way? Who’s left?

Polly Toynbee apologises for ‘crass’ plane crash analogy via Twitter

@PollyToynbee’s first tweet is an apology for a comment piece in which the Guardian journalist made a comparison between Gordon Brown and a crashing plane. This is the first paragraph of her piece for the Guardian on June 4:

“Another engine breaks away from Gordon Brown’s fuselage, and the damage done looks set to bring him crashing out of the sky. Even if he can judder on, the injury done will diminish him further. Which other engines may now break away too? Those who would bring him down say the prime minister is beyond repair. The party faces a terrible choice it can no longer avoid.”

Commenters raised questions about the metaphor used, given this week’s Air France disaster. As Jon Slattery noted on his blog, one Comment is Free user, ‘ShamelessWords’, complained:

“Are there no editors working at the Guardian tonight? This opening line, in light of the Air France tragedy this week, is astounding! It is beyond belief that this was written and then published, without anyone realising that the words are in extremely poor taste. What an insult to all those families grieving for loved ones. I hope they don’t see this article.The offending phrases need to be retracted and a quick apology is needed.”

Matt Seaton, the Guardian.co.uk Comment is Free editor, confirms in the comments that Polly Toynbee has apologised for the analogy via Twitter: “As many users have observed, the plane crash metaphor in the first paragraph has an unfortunate ring. Sorry Polly hasn’t been here herself, but she has twittered an apology.”

@PollyToynbee tweeted this morning:

“My sincere apologies for ‘plane crash’ Gordon Brown analogy in Guardian piece yesterday. Utterly crass and insensitive, mea culpa.”

NYTimes.com: Iraqi PM pledges plots of land to thousands of journalists

“At a recent meeting with the Iraqi journalists’ union, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki made a pledge that would have scandalised the Iraqis’ American counterparts: the government would give plots of land to thousands of journalists, for a nominal price or possibly even free,” the New York Times reports. Full story…

Rebekah Wade’s first public speech in full

If the Wordle and other coverage isn’t enough, here’s the Hugh Cudlipp speech by the editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade, in full [note: may have differed very slightly in actual delivery]:

The challenging future of national and regional newspapers is now the staple diet of media commentators.

If you have been reading the press writing about the press you’d all be forgiven for questioning your choice of career.

I’m not denying we’re in a tough place – we are.

But I don’t want to use this speech to make grand statements on the future of our industry.

I want to talk to you about journalism.

Continue reading

Journalism in Africa: Rwandan journalists protest new law; Kenya’s media voted most trustworthy institution

Rwanda

Rwandan journalists have officially petitioned their upper parliament to shoot down a stringent media law that would force journalists to reveal their sources.

The proposed law would criminalize any story on cabinet proceedings, internal memos and documents in public institutions.

Under the legislation, anyone starting a newspaper would be required to pay $20,000 (£12,500) and 10 times more to begin a radio or TV station.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Gasper Safari, president of the Rwanda Journalists Association, said the new laws were a death sentence to investigative journalism.

“How will investigative journalism survive? It is a rope and we are just being asked to practice journalism and the hangman will pull the rug under your feet,” he said.

Safari explained how his organisation had initially written a protest letter to the lower house of parliament, but it was ignored.

“We will explore other methods in dealing with the upper house. People cannot be allowed to shout they support press freedom while deep down they do not support the existence of the media,” he said.

Kenya

The media is the most trusted institution in Kenya – and the country’s electoral commission (ECK) the least, according to a recent survey by Gallup International affiliates Steadman Research.

The quarterly poll found that 80 per cent of Kenyans trusted the media – exactly the same number that found the ECK the most dishonest.

Fortunes for the media and the ECK have been on a downward trend since the violence surrounding last year’s disputed presidential election, but the media has regained some ground in the last two months after two major commissions backed by both the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) returned a not guilty verdict on most of the media.

“Kenyans are saying that their last hope is with the media, their trust for institutions is at an all time low, but they have their thumbs up for journalists,” Tom Wolf, a lead researcher at Steadman, told a press conference in Nairobi.

The media was placed ahead of Kenya’s President, Prime Minister and parliament by the survey.

“We are not very happy to be ahead of all other institutions. It means we have a duty to assist them in getting to the highest level of trust, but our work is easier since we have the trust of our readers and viewers,” said Martin Gitau, general secretary of the Journalist Association of Kenya (JAK).

Thomson Reuters gets social with Gordon Brown

Thomson Reuters went all out this morning in its coverage of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s speech at the company’s London office.

First off the organisation’s own coverage: the Newsmaker event was twittered by Reuters journalist Mark Jones, whose updates were fed into a special microsite.

There was also video of the PM’s announcement originally livestreamed on Reuters’ website – including a handy dropdown menu that lets you skip through the clip to different key moments.

A full transcript and text article of the speech have also been published on the site.

But in addition to Reuters’ own reporting on the event was live footage streamed using mobile phones and hosting service Qik by social media bloggers Documentally and Sizemore.

“With Gordon Brown due to start talking on the present economic crisis what can two beardy blokes with a few laptops and small cameras possible hope to add?

“Well nothing directly on what is about to be said. I have as much interest in current politics as I did in marketing movies. I’m here with Christian [Documentally] to start conversations around the NewsMaker event that are currently not part of Reuter’s remit,” wrote Mike Atherton aka Sizemore in a blog post.

Below is Documentally’s mobile video of the Newsmaker:

The pair also used social media tools such as online site Phreadz, which builds multimedia forums around content submitted by users, to generate discussion around Brown’s speech.

“I sincerely hope that following today the idea of getting these events discussed on social media platforms such as Twitter, Seesmic and Phreadz becomes a natural part of the news media’s roadmap,” added Atherton.

Channel 4 News to liveblog terror debate

Channel 4 News is set to use liveblogging service CoveritLive to report on today’s House of Commons debate on the proposed 42-day pre-charge detention period for terrorism suspects.

Terror Blog Live! will cover the debate, which will begin after Prime Minister’s questions, and continue the coverage during the show’s 7pm bulletin after the plans have been voted on.

Questions submitted by readers through CoveritLive will then be put to the programme’s studio guests.

Guardian removes suicide bomb video after 550 complaints

The Guardian has removed a video from its website showing a suicide bomb attack in Israel after more than 550 complaints were made about the footage.

The piece, which was selected from a package of footage and text supplied to the paper by Reuters, showed the wounded being taken to hospital, as well as statements from the Palestinian agriculture minister and a Hamas spokesman. It was removed four days after being posted to the site.

Writing about the decision to remove the video from the site, Siobhain Butterworth, readers’ editor, says most traffic to the video came from the site Honest Reporting, which criticised the lack of an Israeli spokesperson in the footage.

In response Butterworth points out that at the time no Israeli sources featured in the Reuters package.

She also directs complainants, readers and Honest Reporting to the paper’s other online coverage of the event:

“Honest Reporting linked only to the video; it ignored the rest of the Guardian’s coverage. It didn’t mention that the story published on the day of the bombing (and which the video accompanied) began with comments from the Israeli prime minister and included statements from an eyewitness, a doctor at the scene and a police spokesman. Stories about the event in the following days also included statements from Israeli sources.”

However, with regards to the video in question, Butterworth admits there was ‘an editing error’, which may have lead to a perceived Palestinian bias. While this was the reason the piece was removed, this was not ‘a deliberate attempt to give a one-sided response to the event’, she adds.

Innovations in Journalism – Hubdub.com

Image of hubdub

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?

My name is Nigel Eccles and I’m Chief News Junkie at Hubdub.

Hubdub is a news forecaster that allows users to compete in predicting how news stories will turn out.

The system takes all the users predictions and generates a forecast of how that story will conclude. Users that are successful in predicting news outcomes gain more influence resulting in the system getting more accurate over time.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?


Hubdub is a great way to follow a news story. Want to know if David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister? (60% no) Or, whether JK Rowling will announce another Harry Potter by the end of 2008? (90% no).

Or even, who will win Best Actor at the Oscars? (Johnny Depp 24%). Hubdub not only forecasts how running news stories will turn out but lets you track them over time. For example, when another government mishandling of data incident comes up, how does that impact David Cameron’s chances?

Additionally, as users can create questions around the news stories they are following Hubdub is a great resource to find out what news people are really interested in at the moment.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?


This is just the very start! We are working on a range of widgets to allow journalists and bloggers to include Hubdub’s forecasts in their stories. This makes the story richer and enables you to more closely engage with your readers.
 Additionally, we are working on a range of features to let users connect with other users who have similar (or opposing) outlooks and opinions on the site.

4) Why are you doing this?

I really designed the product for myself. I’ve always been a very heavy news consumer but often I felt that the news just lacked a degree of excitement. I want to make following the news to be as exciting as betting on sports or playing fantasy leagues.

5) What does it cost to use it?


Nada, nothing, zero, zilch

6) How will you make it pay?


We are currently focused on getting the product out to as many people as possible. Once we have sufficient scale we expect to selectively carry advertising.

 Additionally, we are considering two other revenue streams, a premium offering similar to fantasy sports leagues and partnerships with publishers and media companies. We have already received interest in both these areas.