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Today: Cameron defends Coulson, refuses to comment on resignation rumour

January 17th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Politics, PR, Press freedom and ethics

David Cameron defended his director of communications, Andy Coulson this morning on Radio 4, refusing to comment on speculation that Coulson had offered his resignation after mounting pressure over the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

I think there is a danger at the moment that he is being punished twice for the same offence … I gave him a second chance, I think in life sometimes its right to give a second chance.

Presenter John Humphrys pressed the prime minister on the rumours of a resignation offer but he refused to comment: “I don’t go into private conversations.”

Here the full programme at this link (skip to 18:40 for Coulson questions).

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The Today programme’s Adam Shaw: tackling the UK’s ‘massive financial illiteracy’

October 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Training

Adam Shaw gets up at 3.30am every morning to present the business news on Radio 4’s Today programme. Last Thursday he extended his day to talk to students in Coventry University’s Coventry Conversations series.

“Being a journalist is an amazing job”, he told students, even if it means bowing to the whims of the man he calls “Today’s Interferer in Chief” – editor Ceri Thomas. A man who can rip up running orders and rip into items as the fancy or editorial judgement takes him, said Shaw. He told the audience that he sees himself as a translator, trying to do something about the “massive financial illiteracy in the UK”.

He defers, though, to the  grey beards of the BBC like Today presenter John Humphrys, whom he said wields a lot of power over how things are done and whether they are done at all. Likewise he praised the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston and his journalistic contacts and nous. According to Shaw, it was “rare for the BBC  to have scoops” BP (Before Preston).

Following an unsuccesful stint as an actor and some work experience with the BBC, Shaw got a job as an after care researcher for Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life. From there he joined Business Breakfast, because “the people who employed me thought my economics degree was useful”. In 1994 he moved on to the launch of the then revolutionary lunchtime business programme Working Lunch, presented by Adrian Chiles. The programme, made on a shoestring, was was the first programme after Newsnight to use big board graphics to explain things: “We messed up all the time but our viewers tolerated it”, Shaw said.

Shaw sat opposite Adrian Chiles on the set of Working Lunch for 14 years, but was replaced by Declan Curry a year before the programme was taken off air in 2009.

As a young actor, Shaw “was a spear-carrier, not Hamlet”, he told the audience. But it seems he will not end up a spear carrier on the TV stage if he can help it. As he gets to late middle age and the stage exit for presenters, he is looking to the future as a producer and making a twenty-part series for BBC World on world leaders and future trends.

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Death knock blogger Chris Wheal speaks on Today programme

Chris Wheal, a journalist who recently blogged about his family’s experience of the press following the death of his nephew, spoke more about the issue on the Today programme this morning.

Wheal spoke about his personal understanding of the journalists’ need to get their own story, but felt that rules need to be stronger to stop families feeling harassed.

As a journalist I understand the need to get a story and I understand from lots of comments on my blog that journalists have sometimes turned up and been welcomed by families in these circumstances who get a chance to grieve and are pleased that the papers are interested. But that’s not the case with my sister. They’re a very private family, they want to grieve in private. It feels like harassment although it’s not because it’s not the same journalist coming back again and again.

Presenter Evan Davies added that no family will ever be prepared for how to deal with the media in such a situation as nobody can forsee such a thing, but that they will face a “highly competitive industry”. Wheal responded that industry codes of conduct need to be strengthened.

The PCC code of conduct doesn’t really tackle it, “in cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively”. I think for someone like my sister who is not a publicity grabbing person and would shy away from the press in normal circumstances, there has to be actually a stronger pressure on the press to not do that.

The NUJ code of conduct is much stronger, stating journalists should “do nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest”. But even thought this story its interesting to the public, I understand that, it is not in the public interest. I think journalists sometimes harden themselves in order to go make those calls and knock on those doors, but sometimes by hardening ourselves we actually forget the impact of our actions on the poor people we are trying to interview.

Hear the full interview here…

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Rusbridger: Major cities in the UK could be ‘without any kind of verifiable source of news’

December 24th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, and the Independent’s first editor Andreas Whittam Smith, expressed their concerns, as well as tentative optimism about the current UK newspaper climate.

“I think we have to face up to the prospect that the first time since the Enlightenment you’re going to have major cities in the UK, in Western democracies, without any kind of verifiable source of news,” said Rusbridger.

“That hasn’t happened for two or three hundred years and I think it is going to have very profound implications,” he said.

Whittam Smith referred to an ‘extremely tough’ environment and said that he was once again being asked on a daily basis whether the Independent will survive.

“The risks to all newspapers are very great,” he said, “[but] the Independent has always been innovative.”

“It has to be innovative again in these circumstances,” he said. Moving into the Daily Mail building ‘is an example of that’ he added. Like other businesses, newspapers will have to ‘share the facilities the customers don’t see’ he said.

He said that people still liked to read print, and that if free newspapers were taken into consideration circulations in the UK are only down by one million: from 14 to 13 million a day.

“People do like the stuff on the printed page – what they don’t like so much any longer is paying for it,” he said.

Rusbridger said that newspaper companies with paternalistic or maternalistic owners would fare better than those ‘with big debt’ and other types of ownership structures.

The Scott Trust [the Guardian’s owner], he said, ‘to some extent protected [the Guardian] from immediate effects of the market’.

Both agreed that there would be newspaper casualties in the near future.

Listen to the clip here.

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