Tag Archives: Tim Luckhurst

From the frontline: how ‘true’ is the media’s picture of Afghanistan?

Journalists gathered to discuss the British media’s coverage of the war in Afghanistan at last week’s video conference at Coventry University.

The ‘Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth?’ event, chaired by the editor of the BBC College of Journalism, Kevin Marsh, brought journalists such as Vaughan Smith and Stuart Ramsay together with academics Richard Keeble and Tim Luckhurst, and the Ministry of Defence’s head of Operational Communication, Brigadier Mark van der Lande.

Vaughan Smith offered what was perhaps the most troubling thought: “Sports journalist knows more about sports than war correspondents know about war, and that is a cultural problem”.

Vaughan, a news pioneer and independent video journalist who has in the past managed to disguise and bluff his way into an active duty unit to shoot uncontrolled footage of the Gulf war, also held up two photographs as part of his speech; one of Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud, and another of an injured civilian in Nagasaki.

He used these photographs as evidence to explain that you never see enough of the second type, showing the injured and other devastating side effects. Instead, the audience is shown ‘Bang Bang’ images; “a fundamental problem,” he said.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, had a mixed response to the event’s theme: “I think it’s a pointless question, we are embedding some truth, and the truth is very complex. War through a keyhole is what war correspondents are giving you.”

Nonetheless, he doesn’t think that embedding is bad practice, when taken as a whole: “If you put all these keyholes together, you start to form a bigger picture and understand what is going on.”

“However, it is a problem that paradoxically, with advances in technology and globalisation, we can do a lot more. Yet, we are reporting less than we used to,” he said.

Brigadier Mark van der Lande argued that they don’t instantly show casualty because they have a duty to inform next of kin first. “We are not hiding things for the cost of war; we are looking out for individuals,” he said.

It is difficult for the MoD, he said, because the ‘Bang Bang’ is what the audience and the media in general is interested in.  Most of the time the more important things that the military look into aren’t released simply because “it is of less interest to the media and the audience,” he argued.

The media do, to a certain extent, manufacture stories, agreed Tim Luckhurst, a Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent, but it is not because of dishonesty, it’s because “we simply cannot stay away from the impact kinetic stories get; embedded journalism serves the needs of the state.

“We do not see humanitarianism or suffering children because it bears no relevance to the needs of the states.”

“Views of the military and government do not comply with journalists’ views, and today’s conference has revealed the extent of that fact.”

Robert Williams is a student at Coventry University.

Read more here, over at Daniel Bennett’s blog, including detail of the video contribution from Channel 4 News’ Alex Thomson.


Radio 4 Today: ‘Crisis in the economics of media industry’

Radio 4 Today follows up on the New York Times’ plan to charge for online news content. In this segment Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent and a former editor of the Scotsman, shares his view. “The industry has been waiting for it [charging] to happen,” he says. Newspapers made a “spectacular mistake” in making it free in the first place and “they need to find a new way of paying for that expensive journalism.”

Full clip at this link…

Tim Luckhurst: Journalism academics must learn from multimedia reporters

Professor of journalism at the University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, has raised the issue of the gulf between journalism study and practice in a recent review of the ‘The Future of Newspapers,’ a collection of academic essays.

In his Times Higher Education piece, Luckhurst praises the book’s editor Bob Franklin – who led a journalism education conference on the subject in Cardiff in September 2008 – for  making the academic study of journalism relevant to journalists and for dealing with the internet. But, Luckhurst argues, it also reveals “how far the academy must travel before its endeavours can make a significant impact on the industry it toils to describe”.

“[J]ournalism academics must learn from the new generation of multimedia reporters,” he writes.

Relevance in journalism demands speed. Published online by their authors as soon as they were written, complete with links and summaries of no more than 800 words, several of these essays might have been discussed in newsrooms. Instead journalists read Media Guardian and academics are exiled from the debates that will define the future.

To achieve impact in the online era, the study of journalism must embrace new working practices, just as it counsels journalists to change the habits of their lifetimes.

Full review at this link…

Crisis or no crisis? Speakers divided on whether the journalism glass has anything left in it

The speakers were split between the yeas, nays and dunnos at yesterday’s ‘Is World Journalism in Crisis?’ live-streamed video conference at Coventry University (full audio and video to follow soon), chaired by the head of the BBC College of Journalism, Kevin Marsh.

In the optimists’ corner we had CUNY’s Professor Jeff Jarvis (no surprises there) and a buoyant Professor Richard Keeble: despite witnessing the plight of his local, the Lincolnshire Echo, he was confident new opportunities and techniques were emerging for journalism of the future.

More cautiously, Dr Frederick Mudhai, senior lecturer in journalism at Coventry outlined challenges in world markets and emphasised the increasing ‘tabloidisation’ and celebrity content of African news, citing that a Nigerian newspaper had now introduced page 3.

Dr George Nyabuga, managing editor at the Media Convergence Group and speaking from Nairobi, said that media is in very few hands in Kenya, which can lead to a crisis in trust. There’s a disconnect, he said, between journalists and public, with news organisations producing content that interests the market, not the public. State and commercial pressures increasingly put on media organisations to conform to ways of doing things, he said. Nonetheless, he said, he was encouraged by citizen participation online and the opportunities that afforded.

Likewise, Professor Adrian Monck, former head of journalism at City University, saw potential for journalists to work in new fields, but emphasised that there was a crisis of confidence and jobs in the industry of which new students needed to be aware.  Dr Suzanne Franks, director of research at Kent University’s Centre for journalism was err-ing more on the glass half-empty, with little faith in the growth of citizen media (she wouldn’t trust ‘citizen dentistry’ either). But, while cautious about releasing money from the public purse, she could see the potential for some top-slicing of the BBC licence fee.

In-between camps, her colleague Professor Tim Luckhurst deeply regretted ever letting content go free during his time at the Scotsman, criticising the way newspapers had blundered into the online market. But he said, new online agency models were very likely to emerge, and he was ‘also optimistic that others will make more innovative models‚ funded by sales and advertising’.

Meanwhile, renowned BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman, sipping (what looked like) a coffee in a room at BBC TV Centre, was despondent about the level of press-release generated content from ‘the sausage machine’. A saturated news market essentially recycles press releases as an ‘extremely partial version of the truth’ – with too much comment over investigative journalism. His wish for the industry? “I think I would plea for more time, and more originality.” But while he tries to put off people who want to enter (it’s a good test of whether they’ll make it) he still loves the job.

Nick Davies, author and Guardian journalist, was a truer pessimist, stressed the seriousness of the crisis for quality journalism, with theories familiar to readers of Flat Earth News (the various commercial pressures on newsrooms have led to journalists manufacturing a ‘consensus’ version of the news). We need professional journalism (and no, he’s not a citizen journalist of sorts, he told chair Kevin Marsh) ‘Punters’ can’t do it alone, he said, claiming that a lot of citizen journalism content was rubbish. For Davies, it’s all about the truth, and trust-funded journalism (such as the Scott Trust) is our best hope of that.

Lastly, me, an in-betweener. I tackled the UK newspaper industry, deeply in crisis in its current state, I think. But we can be more positive for journalism at large, with truly exciting online projects emerging – not necessarily branding itself as journalism (MySociety, data-mashing projects etc). We can look bravely ahead, whilst accepting that the Sunday Times Insight Team of the future may not be newspaper-based.

Event producer and Coventry University lecturer John Mair didn’t elaborate his view fully, but ended on an upbeat note: They said a world video conference couldn’t be done, he said. “But you’ve had some of the best in journalism beamed into Coventry”.

In an email to participants after the event Mair said that it ‘should not have worked’: “Distinguished speakers from across five continents, an audience of students, academics and real people, three-and-a-half hours of exciting intellectual debate and more, breaking new frontiers with videoconferencing and webcasting and Twitter and more: this has put Coventry and Coventry journalism on the world stage.”

All audio and visual material will be available in due course. Covetnry University’s ‘Is World Journalism in Crisis?’ was supported by Journalism.co.uk and sponsored by Camelot plc.

AJE: BJTC and NCTJ – a necessary, but unlikely, marriage?

“Just don’t mention the m-word – ‘merger’,” whispered my neighbour at Friday’s Association of Journalism Education (AJE) conference before we entered the final session on the role of the accrediting and qualification bodies and the future of journalism training in the UK.

Efforts to bring the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) together under a Joint Journalism Training Council forum are ongoing and having spoken to interested parties before, Journalism.co.uk has been told that while a single accrediting body is desirable, the two groups are very different beasts, with different structures and remits.

According to panellist at the event and BJTC secretary Jim Latham, the next meeting between the two bodies is scheduled for this week.

“We [previously] allowed ourselves to become distracted by some issues that shouldn’t have got in the way (…) There should only be one accrediting body, but the devil is in the detail,” conceded Latham.

Going forward, less focus will be placed on the differences between the groups – in particular the NCTJ’s revenue streams – and what can be done jointly.

Both BJTC and NCTJ representatives on the panel where cautious about giving a merger date.

“I think Jim and I are largely in agreement about a single body. How we’re going to achieve that remains open to debate,” said Joanne Butcher, director of the NCTJ.

Demand for a single accrediting body was challenged by some members of the audience, support by others.

“The world has changed the definition of what a journalist is. Convergence isn’t the future, it’s already happened,” said Tim Luckhurst, professor at the University of Kent’s Centre of Journalism.

“I only wish we could have one gold standard body (…) It cannot happen quickly enough. It needs to have a single set of exams. The NCTJ wants to make its mark – one way it could do this is by setting a single gold standard for journalism.”