Tag Archives: US Federal Reserve

Grauniad.co.uk v Torygraph.co.uk: Round 374

We’ve been following the various Telegraph/Guardian online interactions this week:

Yesterday, Roy Greenslade published an anonymous email from a Telegraph hack, who wrote that he/she was more than a little bit fed up.  The gist of the email was that all this multimedia-ised hub-it-up lark is to the detriment of a good, healthy working life and quality journalism.

Greenslade cautiously said he was printing the letter but that he didn’t necessarily agree with its sentiment.

Over at CounterValues, Telegraph assistant editor Justin Williams was quick to pooh pooh it. And now Greenslade has put up his response to the letter – a more negative stance this time: ‘the past is another country, think positive,’ he tells his ’emailing friend’.

Meanwhile, in another post, Williams took a swipe at the Guardian’s system of buying sponsored links and keywords. He reckons their buying is well in excess of the Telegraph’s and the Times’.

In the comments below the post, Charles Arthur, the Guardian’s technology editor, asks how many subsidised paper subscriptions the Telegraph has: ‘Is [buying sponsored links and keywords] a worse or better investment than subsidising paper subscriptions, do you think?’, he writes.

Charles Arthur is a keen Twitterer and I’ve just located Justin Williams on Twitter; all that Tweeting in agreement can be a bit boring: how about getting the discussion going in Twitterland? It’s a shame this didn’t get going earlier, with it being (unofficial?) ‘speak like a pirate day’ – that would make it fun.

Can’t wait for next week’s ABCes…

Washington Post and Newsweek prepare websites for convention coverage

WashingtonPost.com and Newsweek.com are to use a combination of live streamed video from mobiles and ‘social media’ correspondents to cover this week’s Democrat convention and September’s Republican convention in the US.

According to a report from Poynter.org, the WaPo site will feature seven hours of live video content from the conventions a day.

Reporters for both sites will stream live coverage of the conventions using mobiles to a special Convention ’08 channel complete with a live discussion forum for readers, whose questions and comments will be fed back to reporters and interviewees.

A raft of ‘non-traditional’ correspondents will also feature on WaPo.com during the conventions including Ariana Huffington from The Huffington Post, Markos Moulitsas from Daily Kos and Steve Grove from YouTube.

PPA Magazines 2008: TimesOnline could reward commenters

Ongoing discussions at TimesOnline could see a reward system for regular contributors to the site’s comments.

Anne Spackman, editor-in-chief of the site, said it was early days but a way to reward or highlight regular and valuable commenters on the site was being considered.

Spackman, who was speaking at the PPA’s annual conference for the magazine industry, said the focus of any such system would be on making the reader feel their involvement with the site was worthwhile.

“We are not likely to have users writing the news. I think what we will start to do is to pull in those people who have wider value and are of our better commenters,” she said.

She added that comments left by users were increasingly being fed back into reporting, which in turn generates a reader response creating ‘a vital circle’.

Lord Falconer’s plan to remove news from online archives during trials is unworkable

Former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, told the BBC yesterday he believed articles relating to high-profile court cases should be removed from online news archives so as to not prejudice the outcome of trials.

In addition to this change to the law he not only suggested that should news publishers refused to comply “it would be very strong evidence they’d committed contempt”, even more bizarrely he told Radio 4’s Law in Action programme that the Attorney General should determine to which few cases this should apply.

With this proclamation Lord Falconer has added a further staggering example of the gulf between what is presumed about the web and how it actually works.

He was talking about The Contempt of Court Act 1981, which prevents the publication of anything that creates a ‘substantial risk of serious prejudice’ to a court case. This comes into action when proceeding become ‘active’, that is to say a person has been arrested and charged for an offence or a warrant has been issued for arrest.

During this time news outlets are only allowed to report certain simple factual elements of the case. If reporting during the trail then what has been said in court, rather than any additional information, can be published.

In the period prior to this and after the conclusion of the trail reporters are at liberty to transgress the rule, in fact, it no longer applies. It’s articles written prior to this ‘active’ period that Lord Falconer wants removed from archives temporarily in the run up and during the trail.

I have to ask whether during the critical thinking that fed his idea it was considered how different it would be for a news aficionado to trawl newspaper web archives for old stories about court cases than to order old editions through the post or hop on the bus to the archive or a library to look the print stories up in person? Has a paper ever been held in contempt for offering an archive service?

A juror wanting to find out more about the case can pretty much do that at the moment if they are keen enough. The problem would seem to be one inside the courtroom rather than outside if a wayward juror actively sought additional information and began casting judgements based on information beyond the facts as they are laid out to them in court.

This active pursuit is the problem. Not the publication. It’s unlikely that someone will incidentally come across extra information. That person would have to engage and search for it. They would have to trawl newspaper achieves or get deep into Google News, as it only throws up results from the previous month in a straightforward search.

It would be impossible to police too. Removing information from news sites would be time consuming enough but what about easily obtainable stories on foreign sites? You’d have to block access to them somehow. Links in email and blogs? What about search engine’s holding mirrored versions of articles? What about précised versions on blogs, on message boards and the wildfire spread of that content once you try to have it removed as the knee-jerk response of the blogosphere to anything that could be misconstrued as censorship kicks in.

Lord Falconer’s assertion that the Attorney General could determine which cases this rule should apply also is baffling. Shouldn’t a suspected stationary thief in Barnstable be afforded the same right to a fair trail as an alleged abductor of children? Shouldn’t it be a law for all, if at all? It seems not.

His idea may be unworkable but it’s something of a moot point anyway, seeing as he’s not the man who makes the decisions anymore on matter like this.

However, he may have inadvertently stumbled on an issue though. What about related news stories thrown up on news sites by some automated process? A link to an older story connected to an online news piece about an ongoing trail? Could these links create a passive access to prejudicial news? Is it that the same process as before: actively seeking out news? Or is an automated link not publishing?

And what about comments? You’d hope that comments on stories like these would be pre-moderated or turned off.

Journalism industry reaction to ‘churnalism’ claims

The publication of journalist Nick Davies’s book, Flat Earth News, in which he makes the accusation that a significant proportion of the news served by UK institutions is simply regurgitated PR or wire copy by time pressured hacks with too much work on their plates, has caused a wave of strong reaction through press watching circles.

Davies claims that journalists are failing at the essential job of telling the truth by ever greater commercial drives in the industry:

“Where once we were active gatherers of news, we have become passive processors of second-hand material generated by the booming PR industry and a handful of wire agencies, most of which flows into our stories without being properly checked. The relentless impact of commercialisation has seen our journalism reduced to mere churnalism,” he wrote in the Press Gazette.

Taking a donation from the Rowntree Foundation, Davies asked the journalism department at Cardiff University to research home news coverage (download report here: quality_independence_british_journalism.pdf ) in the UK’s leading national newspapers over a two week period, he claims that the research found that only 12 per cent of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. For eight per cent of the stories, researchers couldn’t be sure. Yet for the remaining 80 per cent they found were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry.

Media commentator for The Independent, Stephen Glover, claimed the book presents ‘a damning picture of a dysfunctional national press which is spoon fed by government and PR agencies’. Glover added ‘Many journalists will recognise his portrait of editorial resources being stretched ever thinner’.

But he sees the more damning element of the book to be its attack on the relationship between the Observer newspaper and the Blair Government:

“It is amazing stuff. Mr Davies suggests the editor and the political editor of a great liberal newspaper were suborned by Number 10, and so manipulated that The Observer became a government mouthpiece. Not even The Times’s endorsement of Chamberlain’s appeasement policy in the 1930s involved the degree of editorial submission to governmental power that Mr Davies alleges in Flat Earth News.”

Although broadly in agreement with Davies, Peter Wilby wrote in the Guardian that his methodology and conclusions of increased workloads hadn’t quite made allowances for some of the positives changes in the newsroom:

“Davies overstates his case. For example, the internet, email and mobile phones have all made information and contacts more easily accessible. It isn’t, therefore, unreasonable to expect journalists to fill more space. Time spent “cultivating contacts” was, in any case, often time spent on overlong, overliquid lunches. But experience also tells me his argument is fundamentally sound”

There was a little more scepticism about the research from Adrian Monck, he wrote that study ‘links full-time employees to pagination’:

“But what about: freelance employees? Bought-in copy? The amount of agency material used? Changes in technology? The reduction in the number of editions?

“Could any of these things have a bearing on the analysis? And shouldn’t journalists be more productive? What about these innovations: Electronic databases, computers, mobile telephones, the Internet?”

He also takes issue with Davies line about PR being used to fill news pages, suggesting that it’s not a new argument.

Simon Bucks, Sky News associate editor, also draws out the point that new technology can negate some of the issues brought up.

“There’s a wider point in this debate. Web 2.0 allows the public to play a much bigger role in journalism. If we get a fact wrong or miss out something important, it won’t take long before someone lets us know. Big mistakes generate an avalanche of comment.

“So there’s no reason for any news organisation to keep reporting a flat earth story, if it isn’t accurate.”

More predictably, the editor of the Independent on Sunday, John Mullin, and the managing editor of the News of the World, Stuart Kuttner, argued the defence against Davies on Radio 4’s Today programme, choosing the more well-worn line of British journalism being the best in the world.

Roy Greenslade wrote that it was ‘heartening’ that Davies work was being taken seriously. Dismissing the Mullin/Kuttner rejection line as ‘not being good enough’, he added that the Davies work was ‘an indictment of journalistic practices that deserves wider debate’.

Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, sounds a warning on this last point:

“The trouble is, though, the British newspaper journalist has no history of taking criticism well… or working out what it is that needs to be done to turn a dysfunctional, distrusted press into something that performs a useful public purpose.”

Food for thought on feeds (but only a third fed)

Yesterday was a day of thirds for me. Two thirds good, one third not so good. In the first two thirds, I attended a roundtable discussion on RSS hosted by MediaFed, a provider of RSS feed tools and services.

It would have been topped off with an excellent three-course meal had I not had to leave for another meeting after the starter (so only one third of a lunch for me, and those that know me well will appreciate how I grieved for the loss of that sticky ginger pudding).

Ahem, but I digress. The purpose of the first discussion was to get some representatives from the UK publishing industry around a table to discuss their current implementation of RSS feeds and how they expect the platform to develop in the future. Before I summarise the points of the discussion, I think it would be useful to summarise what I think are the key RSS requirements from both readers and publishers.
Continue reading