Tuesday 30 June 2009

Too much Jacko? BBC defends coverage

BBC head of newsroom Mary Hockaday has on The Editors' blog defended the BBC's coverage of the death of Michael Jackson against accusations that there was too much of it.
She says: "By any lights, Michael Jackson was a huge figure internationally, and BBC News went into gear to report a big breaking news story.
"We've had a number of complaints about our coverage, the main charge being that we simply did too much: that his death didn't justify the prominence and scale of our reporting through Friday and into the weekend."
She adds: "It is clear that Michael Jackson meant different things to different generations, both among our audiences and among our own staff. There are some who had followed him as a boy star, but there's also a large number of younger people who never saw him perform at his height but are only too aware of the controversy about his personal life and his increasingly eccentric appearance and behaviour. There was also the expectation around his comeback concerts in London. Looking at media output around the world, it was clear that his death was provoking international shock and big audience consumption."
She argues that the figures show BBC viewers and online users were very interested in the Jackson story. "The audiences to our main television bulletins were a little higher than average for a Friday evening and the statistics for our online content broke records: more than 8.2m global unique users, the second highest since Obama's election. The BBC News mobile site had its biggest-ever figures on Friday.
"This was also a story which for which many users of the site wanted to access our video, particularly the live stream of the BBC News channel. Within the first hour, there were just under a million hits globally on the live streams of the News Channel and BBC World TV. Overall, a quarter of site users on Friday accessed audio or video (26%, compared to the daily average of 15%). There were over two million users of AV on the site on Friday, higher than the site's previous record (for Obama's election in November 2008)."
Hockaday concludes: "This was a big news story - about the death of a big cultural icon - all around the world."

NUJ in protest to Isreal over Gaza aid ship

The NUJ today called on on the Israeli navy to stop threatening an aid ship which has journalists on board – including a documentary film maker from London and a TV crew from Al Jazeera.
The union said the ship – called Spirit of Humanity - set off from Cyprus yesterday with medical supplies, children's toys, and reconstruction kits for Palestinians in Gaza.
NUJ member Fathi Jaouadi, aged 37, from Edgware, North London, is onboard filming the trip.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “This boat received security clearance from the authorities in Cyprus. It is outrageous that the Israeli navy should confront it and put the lives of everyone on board in danger. Fathi and the other journalists on board are just doing their jobs reporting on a story that is of interest to the whole world.”

YouTube launches reporters' centre for CJs

YouTube has launched the Reporters' Center aimed at improving the standards of Citizen Journalists by giving them tips from professional journalists such as the Washington Post's Bob Woodward.
The new site asks: "Ever captured a natural disaster or a crime on your cell-phone camera? Filmed a political rally or protest, and then interviewed the participants afterward? Produced a story about a local issue in your community? If you've done any of these things or aspire to, then you're part of the enormous community of citizen reporters on YouTube, and this channel is for you.
"The YouTube Reporters' Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation's top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.
"If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page."
As you can see by the spelling Reporters' Center is very much US-based.
Story tip via Tim Gopsill

Monday 29 June 2009

Trinity Midlands' journalists ballot on action

The NUJ says around 150 journalists employed by Trinity Mirror in the Midlands are to ballot for industrial action over the company’s failure to rule out job cuts and changes to their papers.
They are members of the NUJ chapels at the Birmingham Post and Mail, Coventry Newspapers and Trinity Mirror Midlands Weeklies.
The NUJ revealed last week what it said were secret management plans to close eight weekly titles, scale back the frequency of the daily Birmingham Post and turn the Mail into an overnight paper.
Members of all three chapels agreed to ballot when the company refused to guarantee that they would rule out the changes or compulsory redundancies as a result, the union said.
Chris Morley, NUJ organiser for the north of England, said: “In the last year these titles have lost more than 70 editorial posts and the journalists who work for them have had their workloads expanded to serve websites as well as papers.
“More cuts will mean an impossible workload and a drastic reduction of the local news and information service.”
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, added: “These journalists are proud of the titles they work for which have a place at the heart of their communities. They want to protect jobs and provide a service-to-be-proud of for readers and advertisers. If such major cuts go through the viability of all the papers will be in doubt. The whole union will support them.”

Amnesty International makes all journalists held in Iran 'prisoners of conscience'

Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to release dozens of journalists arrested since 12 June - who it says are at risk of torture in detention - and has adopted all of them as prisoners of conscience.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said: "It is shocking that journalists - whose job it is to provide information to others - are being detained, on top of all the other draconian measures the authorities have taken to restrict the free flow of information about what is really happening in Iran. Rather than trying to investigate alleged abuses, the only message the authorities are sending is that they are seeking to hide the truth, both from their own citizens and the rest of the world."
AI says dozens of journalists have been detained in the past fortnight with their whereabouts restrictions on freedom of expression. Access to the Internet has been blocked or significantly interrupted. Iranian publications have been banned from publishing information about the unrest. Foreign news journalists have mostly unknown.
Since the announcement on 13 June that President Ahmadinejad had won the election, the Iranian authorities have imposed severe been banned from the streets, and some foreign reporters have been expelled from the country.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: "If nothing else, the authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts of these journalists, ensure that they are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated and allow their families and lawyers access to them."

News and sport website launch for Bristol

A new website called Bristol 24-7 covering news, sport and business in the city launched today. The site is the brainchild of Chris Brown, former deputy chief sub of the Western Daily Press.
Chris says the aims of the site are:
• First, as a local newspaper, to be the city’s most comprehensive source of news, sport and opinion. I intend to bring together the best news sources into this site to give readers the widest possible range of information – and produce as much original journalism as possible to provide a new, distinct perspective on life in this great city. “I’ll do what I do best… and link to the rest”
• Second, to be the best source of information on the city – in effect, to be the Google of Bristol.
• Finally, to provide businesses with a range of online marketing solutions to help them grow. Story via journalism.co.uk which has an interview with Chris here.

Johnston Press refinancing update

Johnston Press made the following announcement today: "As previously announced, Johnston Press has been in discussion with its lenders regarding refinancing the Company's existing facilities.
"As part of these ongoing constructive negotiations, the Company is pleased to announce that it has agreed with its lenders to defer the testing of certain covenants at 30 June 2009, the Company's interim period end, to 31 August 2009 pending the outcome of its discussions with its lenders.
"The Company will provide a further update on its refinancing discussions at the time of the Interim Results announcement."
Via Tom McGowran

Second Stand Up For Journalism event

The NUJ is to hold a second Stand Up For Journalism fundraiser on Sunday following a similar event in London.
This time the venue is Stockport, hard hit by MEN Media's decision to shut the local office, where the Stockport Express, South Manchester Reporter and Trafford Metro News staff were based.
The NUJ says that across the whole of the weekly papers in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire - over 36 editorial jobs have gone, and by October all of the local offices will be closed. Remaining journalists will be based in central Manchester.
BBC Radio Manchester presenter Chris Holliday will compere, the event, there will be a punk/ska DJ set plus three of the best from the North West’s comedy circuit.
Jenny Lennox of the NUJ says: "There has been a massive attack on local journalism in Stockport and Greater Manchester, which has removed journalists from the communities they serve. We are delighted to see that people are prepared to stand up for journalism and show how much it matters."
Event details: Stand Up For Journalism, Sunday July 5th, Baker’s Vault, Market Place, Stockport SK1 1EU Doors open 7.30pm
Tickets £5 - For tickets call the NUJ office on 0161 237 5020.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Ludicrous lies about BBC by media in Iran

BBC head of newsgathering Fran Unsworth has highlighted some unbelievable distortions about the BBC being reported by the media in Iran.
In a posting on the BBC's Editors' blog, Unsworth writes: "Some in Iran have been keen to blame foreign media for fuelling the recent protests. This has led to ludicrous allegations about the BBC which have surfaced in the Iranian media.
One Iranian website reported that the BBC had paid hitmen to kill Neda Agha Soltan, the 27-year-old woman who died from a gunshot in an anti-government protest. A newspaper added the flourish that our Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, had personally hired the killer.
While I don't think that anyone takes this allegation seriously, the charge is nonetheless being reported in the Middle East. We state categorically that this extraordinary accusation is of course utterly without foundation.
Since then, another newspaper has reported that our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has been calling on Iranian people to "go on strike". This is not true either."

Fund boost for investigative journalism

This idea to boost independent journalism was announced earlier this month and looks well worth supporting.
Some of Britain’s best known investigative reporters are launching a new fund to encourage a new generation of reporters, and support independent journalism.
They include Martin Bright, Heather Brooke, Nick Davies, Phillip Knightley, Paul Lashmar and David Leigh.
The aim of The Investigations Fund is to raise finance for "challenging projects that hold the government and powerful interests to account".
They are also experimenting with new ways to pay for independent journalism and seeking ideas on what needs investigating and would welcome support.
You can read more about the Fund and its aims here.

Saturday 27 June 2009

RWB: 'Break silence on prisoners in Iran'

Chilling posting on Reporters Wthout Borders website on Evin jail in Iran.
"Nothing and no-one comes out of Iran’s prisons. Iranians line up at the gates of the prison, looking for a name, searching for relatives of whom they have had no news. The same desperate search is replicated in all the cities of the country. The list of 700 names posted at the entrance to Evin jail is incomplete. Families are systematically refused the right to see their disappeared loves ones. The doors stay closed. Some 150 Iranian lawyers on 22 June appealed to the authorities for the release of those arrested and calling at least for the right of access to the prison for their lawyers.
"The relatives of arrested journalists are pushed from pillar to post by the different administrations. 'No, he is not here. Go there.' And once they get to the place indicated they get sent back to where they started from.
“The families of hundreds of Iranians imprisoned in Evin jail have the right to see their loved ones and to get information about the reasons for their detention. Those held in Section 209 are particularly at risk. We urge the Tehran authorities to allow representatives of the foreign press and of human rights organisations to visit the prison, as was allowed in 2006”, Reporters Without Borders said.
“Several witness accounts makes us fear that torture and ill-treatment are being systematically inflicted on prisoners who have demonstrated against the regime. Several journalists and bloggers were brutally treated by the guards and by men employed by the state prosecutor Saaed Mortazavi..
“Like Chile’s Santiago football stadium in 1973, Evin prison has become a bloody detention centre where arbitrary treatment is meted out. We urge the international community to do its utmost to break the silence surrounding prisoners of opinion in Evin prison."

Michael Jackson: Front Pages

The Guardian has a collection of 25 newspaper front pages from around the world showing how Michael Jackson's death was covered. It brings home the worldwide impact of the story.
The most radical treatment is on the front of Extra, Rio Janeiro, (above) simply showing one of Michael Jackson's gloves.
The Huffington Post website is running 19 Jackson front pages from US newspapers and a poll on which is best.

Friday 26 June 2009

NUJ protests over media arrests in Iran

The NUJ has called for the release of all journalists under arrest in Iran and an end to restrictions placed on foreign media.
In a letter delivered to the Iranian embassy today, NUJ deputy general sectretary Michelle Stanistreet highlighted the arrests of members of the Association of Iranian journalists, a sister organisation of the NUJ.
Her letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the National Union of Journalists, which represents 38,000 journalists in the UK and Ireland, I am writing to express my deep concern about news of the arrest of Karim Arghandepour, a well-known Iranian journalist who is also an elected member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) of which we are an affiliate.
According to the Association of Iranian Journalists, Karim was arrested along with other journalists, including Jason (Lasson) Athanasiadis of Greece who was working for the Washington Times, in the wake of protests and controversy that have followed the recent presidential election.
We are also concerned for the safety of Ali Mazrooei, the Chair of the Association of Iranian journalists, who is currently in hiding for his own personal security. Like other journalists’ leaders he is fearful of being targeted by the authorities for his staunch defence of journalists and their right to work independently.
These colleagues are in our minds during these difficult days when we have witnessed the targeting of media which has included the arbitrary arrest of Iranian journalists, heavy restrictions imposed on national and foreign media, and the unprecedented blocking of internet sites.
All of this is just cause for concern. These acts violate Iran’s commitments to international standards of human rights, press freedom and freedom of expression which are framed in the Iranian constitution.
On behalf of all members of the National Union of Journalists we call on your government to act: to immediately release Karim Arghandepour and all other Iranian journalists; to lift the restrictions currently imposed on local and foreign media; and to restore confidence in Iran’s commitment to protection of the free expression rights as set out in the Constitution.
As a matter of urgency we ask you to guarantee the safety of Ali Mazrooei, Jason (Lasson) Athanasiadis and all Iranian journalists so that they can all return to work free of the threat of arrest and intimidation.
These steps are needed to lift the cloud currently hanging over Iranian journalism.

Yours sincerely,

Michelle Stanistreet
Deputy General Secretary
National Union of Journalists (UK & Ireland)

MPs' expenses: You couldn't make this up

Private Eye reports that Labour MP Adam Ingram ( East Kilbride) claimed for a £99.99 data shredder on his expenses. It was called a "Data Destroyer" and was bought via a reader offer in, of all papers, the Daily Telegraph.

How the Michael Jackson story broke online

Excellent rundown by Judith Townend of journalism.co.uk about how the Michael Jckson is dead story broke on line.
Judith writes:"It was fascinating to watch the Michael Jackson rumours hit Twitter late last night (BST) and the mixed reaction to the initial TMZ.com report. An AOL/Telepictures Productions entertainment news site and renowned for having its finger on the pulse, but not quite big or well-known enough to risk the re-tweet or the MSM endorsement? Should we trust it, should we not?"
She has reproduced the links and first tweets.
Fascinating stuff. Will it be seen as the new media scooping the old?

It's all sprout now despite MoD denials

Hilarious story on HoldtheFrontPage today about how the Ministry of Defence tried to pour cold water on the Plymouth Herald's scoop that a Royal Navy captain had banned Brussels sprouts from his warship.
As the story went national there were MoD denials but the Herald got hold of a transcript of defence reporter Tristan Nichols' interview with Captain Wayne Keble, commander of HMS Bulwark, from a second source and put it on its website.
According to the transcript, Captain Keble clearly says: "The only thing I have banned on board is Brussels sprouts. They are the devil's vegetable and it is the only thing I do not like, and the only thing I hate. . .Brussels sprouts are absolutely banned on board HMS Bulwark. I do not eat them so I do not know what the after effects are."
TheMoD subsequently backed down. The Herald has dubbed the affair "Sproutgate".

Quotes of the Week

Channel 4 News' Jon Snow speaking at a meeting of the Association of Journalism Education:"Now is the most exciting time ever to be a journalist."

NUJ's campaigns organiser, Miles Barter, on the Suzanne Breen and NightJack court cases: "The Breen case has demonstrated that journalists mean what they say when they promise not to reveal their sources. However internet companies - like Yahoo in China - have revealed the names of people posting on the web when pressurised by the state. So whistleblowers are more secure giving information to a professional journalist than writing a blog themselves. A blogger who is a professional journalist would protect a source - just like a journalist in any other medium."

Former Guardian journalist Martin Linton, now MP for Battersea, hits back over the expenses scandal in the Letters Page of the Guardian: "Congratulations on your coverage of MPs' expenses-gate. It made me cringe and squirm to read about the scams that some MPs got up to - though I seem to remember some pretty horrific expenses fiddles that journalists got up to at various newspapers I worked on before joining the Guardian."

Joe Stalin, courtesey of this week's The Word magazine's email:"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

Thursday 25 June 2009

RWB:Foreign media denigrated in Iran

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders today condemned a parade of Iranian demonstrators being shown on a loop on state-run TV confessing to having protested at the behest of foreign media.
RWB says :"All demonstrators make their confessions using the same words that have opened the nightly news bulletin for the past week: 'Bismillah, al-rahman al-rahim. I admit that I demonstrated under the influence of the BBC, the radio Voice of America and other foreign media'.
"The confessions are aired at every hour of the day and night to show Iranians the extent to which those disputing the presidential election were persuaded by western agents to take part in an 'orchestrated plot' against the Islamic Republic of Iran, confirming the words of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“These methods are aimed at denigrating foreign media, who are already facing huge obstacles to their work and whose journalists and contributors are exposed as a result to the threat of violence from supporters of the regime,” RWB said.

Irish NUJ hits out at Euro I.8m libel award

The NUJ in Ireland has expressed grave concern at the €1.8m damages awarded against Independent Newspapers to communications consultant Monica Leech.
NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said the record damages were “disproportionate and bore no relationship with reality.”
A High Court jury in Ireland awarded Leech €1.872 million after it found that a series of articles published in the Dublin-based Evening Herald in 2004 meant that she had been having an affair with a government minister.
Independent Newspapers plans to apply for a stay on the award, to allow an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Emap plans paywalls for B2B titles

Press Gazette is reporting today that B2B publisher Emap Inform will put "significant parts" of its websites behind a paywall this autumn.
Chief executive Simon Middelboe said Emap would be in "the vanguard of the B2B industry" by moving back towards paid-for online content.
PG says the changes are expected to come into effect around September or October, once work has been completed on introducing the subscriptions barrier on the group's websites.
"I think we will be moving away from free content towards having paywalls on all of our print subscription titles over the next few months," Middelboe says. "There will still be free-to-view content but not anything like as much now."
Emap, which publishes 10 weekly B2B titles including Retail Week, Local Government Chronicle and Broadcast, has announced a reorganisation of the B2B publishing division that could lead to 35 jobs being made redundant.

Print Week: Regional newspaper publishers can 'test the water' on mergers says OFT

PrintWeek is claiming that the Office of Fair Trading has said it is up to regional newspaper publishers to test the water for merger proposals, following the publication of the Digital Britain report last week.
It says that the OFT announced only minor changes to the 2003 legislation to give Ofcom a more extensive role in deciding if mergers should go ahead.
PrintWeek's Adam Hooker notes: "It was widely reported that publishers were disappointed with the outcome of the report, having lobbied for more leniency in newspaper mergers due to increased competition from other media, specifically the challenge from the internet.
"However, PrintWeek understands that the publishers' fears were appeased at a clarification meeting following publication of the report.
"OFT said the term ‘merger' could be applied to both small-scale moves, such as the combining of two publications, as well as more significant events, such as the merging of two publishers."
Print Week quotes OFT's director of mergers Alastair Mordaunt saying: "There would be nothing to stop two major publishers merging if it was accepted at a national and regional level.
"There is an element of ‘bring it on' to this. We will have to wait and see if there will be any mergers are proposed now that this situation has been clarified."
Print Week adds:"Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey appeared to endorse the OFT's position, stating that Ofcom's review of proposed mergers 'could be a clever answer to a difficult problem' ".
Story tip via Tom McGowran

NUJ on Brum: Scaremongering or just doing what any journalist would do?

A post on the The Journalism Hub, a blog launched this month by the people behind HoldtheFrontPag, asks "was the NUJ guilty of scaremongering when it claimed yesterday to have seen internal Trinity Mirror documents which could mean the closure of eight weeklies in the Midlands and a change in frequency for the Birmingham Post?
HTFP publisher Paul Linford says: "A number of journalists' jobs will inevitably be lost, and there is an argument for saying that the NUJ should have kept quiet about this until the people affected had been informed in the usual way."
Paul says the story on HTFP, based on the union's claims, "generated an interesting debate in the comments section. While most readers thought the NUJ was simply doing its job, a significant minority thought the union had acted irresponsibly, with one accusing it of having "put the fear of God up people."
It seem so me that journalists should be the last to complain if their newspapers are the subjects of leaks and exclusive stories.
I can't imagine any reporter on the Birmingham Post or Mail sitting on a story about a major manufacturer in the Midlands proposing to shut eight factories in Birmingham because the workers hadn't been told anything.
Also scaremongering suggests the story is untrue. If so, why didn't Trinity just categorically deny it?

MP who questioned FoI journalist's motives in news again over expenses

Journalist Heather Brooke, whose Freedom of Information battle led the courts to rule that MPs' expenses should be public, writes on her Your Right To Know blog today:"Readers of the blog may recall Alan Keen MP questioning my motives at a parliamentary inquiry held several weeks ago.
"With his wife, Ann, the couple are known as ‘Mr and Mrs Expenses’ for using £175,000 of taxpayers’ money to help buy a flat near Parliament – while they already had a constituency home nine miles away. They claimed more than £300,000 between them last year alone.
Now it seems that flat in Brentford – the couple’s ‘main home’ – has been vacant for so long the council want to repossess it."
You can read the full story about the Keens in today's Daily Telegraph here.
At a Select Committe hearing looking at press standards, Alan Keen asked journalist Nick Davies about Brooke's FoI activities "does she earn money from this?"- suggesting she had a vested interest.

NightJack: The debate continues

The debate about The Times' move to out police blogger NightJack continues in the blogosphere.
A thoughtful contribution comes from Martin Cloake on his blog.
He raises some interesting questions, like :"Suppose a serving police officer wrote an anonymous blog which gave his views of the job from his perspective as a member of the British National Party. And suppose an enterprising journalist examined the details in that blog and managed to unmask the identity of the officer concerned. Suppose a little further that the officer tried to prevent publication of his name, but that the court ruled his blog did not give him an automatic right to privacy. What would the shape of the ensuing debate be? "
Also:"Some may see this as evidence of the vendetta against ‘new’ media being waged by the ‘old order’. I’m afraid I see no evidence of any such vendetta or conspiracy, and I think it’s a fairly childish accusation to make."
And: "But I’m still troubled by what The Times thought it would gain – just as I’m troubled by the vitriol that’s being directed at Foster, a journalist who was doing his job properly. What I think is particularly interesting about this case is that many people seem to be taking positions on the basis of their opinion of the NightJack blog, The Times, or the police"
Martin adds:"For the record, the limited extracts I saw of the NightJack blog made stimulating, engaging and occasionally troubling reading. But you can’t base a principle on whether or not you agree with something – a principle has to apply across the board. You can’t agree with one person’s ‘right’ to run an anonymous blog criticising something you are critical of while simultaneously disagreeing with another person’s ‘right’ to hide behind anonymity in order to push views you don’t agree with."
Thought provoking stuff, which doesn't go for the old versus new media angle which has typified much of the comment on the NightJack case.

RWB: These journalists are held in Iran

Reporters Without Borders has listed the names of 26 journalists arrested since the disputed presidential elections in Iran. They are:

14 June 2009:
Cyber-dissident Somaieh Tohidlou (http://smto.ir)
Ahmad Zeydabadi,
Kivan Samimi Behbani,
Abdolreza Tajik,
Mahssa Amrabadi,
Behzad Basho, cartoonist
Khalil Mir Asharafi,
Karim Arghandeh, journalist for reformist newspapers Salam, Vaghieh etafaghieh, and blogger (http://www.futurama.ir/) was arrested at his home in Tehran.
Shiva Nazar Ahari, cyber-dissident and human rights activists (see his blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com), was arrested at his home in the capital.

15 June 2009:
Mohamad Atryanfar, editor of several publications like Hamshary, Shargh, Shahrv and Emrouz, was reportedly transferred to the security section of Evin jail.
Saïd Hajarian, former newspaper editor Sobh-e-Emrouz, was arrested by the security forces overnight on 15-16 June at his Tehran home despite the fact that he is handicapped.
Mojtaba Pormohssen, journalist on several reformist papers, contributor to radio Zamaneh and editor of the newspaper Gilan Emroz, was arrested in Rashat in the north of the country.

16 June:
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, nicknamed “Mullah blogger“, was arrested at his home in Tehran. His blog: http://www.webneveshteha.com/.
Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in Boshehr, south of Iran .
Amanolah Shojai, journalist and blogger arrested in Boshehr.
Hossin Shkohi, journalist on the weekly Paygam Jonob, arrested in Boshehr
Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Boshehr.
Fariborez Srosh, freelance journalist reportedly arrested the same day. Imprisoned in the past because of his work with Radio farda (Radio Free Europe).

17 June:
Saide Lylaz, journalist on newspaper Sarmayeh, arrested at his home in the capital. The financial specialist has been an outspoken critic of the policies of President Ahmadinejad.
Rohollah Shavar, journalist in Mashad, detained the same date.

18 June:
Mohammad Ghochani, editor of the daily Etemad Meli, owner of Mehdi Karoubi, one of the candidates opposing Mahmoud Ahamadinejad in the presidential elections, arrested in Tehran at 2am.

20 June:
Ali Mazroui, president of the Iranian Association of Journalists, arrested in the morning.
Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee and his wife Jila Baniyaghoob arrested at their home at midnight, following a search by plain clothes agents of the intelligence ministry. Winner in 2009 of the Courage in Journalism prize, awarded by the International Women’s Media Foundation, Jila Baniyaghoob is head of a feminist news website Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net). Her husband Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, works for several pro-reformist publications.

21 June:
Correspondent for Newsweek, Maziar Bahari, arrested at 7am by security forces at his home.

22 June:
Mostafa Ghavnlo Ghajar, contributor to several newspapers and specialist in foreign media on Radio Gotogo, arrested at his home. His blog: http://www.ghajar.ir/.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Journalist turned MP bites back

Former Guardian journalist Martin Linton, now MP for Battersea, hits back over the expenses scandal in the Letters Page of the Guardian today.
He writes: "Congratulations on your coverage of MPs' expenses-gate. It made me cringe and squirm to read about the scams that some MPs got up to - though I seem to remember some pretty horrific expenses fiddles that journalists got up to at various newspapers I worked on before joining the Guardian."

Bullivant in Brum buy-out move

Free newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant is interested in saving some of the eight Midlands weekly papers which the NUJ believes are under the threat of closure by owner Trinity Mirror, and would be prepared to join a consortium to buy the Birmingham Post.
The union says Bullivant, who launched the Daily News - Europe's first free daily in Birmingham - would like to take on titles that don't conflict with his in the Midlands and would seek to save the jobs of staff on the weeklies.
Bullivant was one independent publisher who broke ranks with the big regional newspaper companies by arguing against a relaxation of the merger takeover rules. He claimed it would lead to two companies dominating the regional press.
At one time Bullivant was involved in talks to buy the Birmingham Post and Mail company, before it was owned by Trinity Mirror.
Bullivant told the NUJ: "We would undertake to save the jobs of as many staff as possible, given that the newspapers were viable.
“We would even consider allowing Trinity Mirror to keep the contracts for printing and distributing the titles – which would have considerable benefit for their workforce
“I have always admired the Birmingham Post and felt that with better marketing it could be a real success. If anyone wants to join me in a consortium to take over the paper I would jump at the chance.”

NUJ fears more Brum cuts

The NUJ has asked Trinity Mirror to "come clean" about plans for its Birmingham titles. The union claims to have seen internal documents in which it is proposed to axe eight weekly titles in the Midlands and reduce the frequency of the daily Birmingham Post to a weekly or bi-weekly.
It also believes the Birmingham Mail may be switched to overnight printing and the Post and Mail put under one editor.

MPs call for greater sources' protection

MPs have put down an Early Day Motion calling for greater protection of journalists' sources following the Suzanne Breen case. It "regrets that many police forces fail to recognise the importance of the right of journalists to protect his or her sources."
The EDM adds that the importance of protecting journalists' sources is internationally recognised and calls for new guidance to be issued to police forces to remind them of the need to respect freedom of the press.

New £100k council paper planned

Tory controlled Thurrock Council is pressing ahead with plans for a new council-run newspaper costing £100,000, HoldtheFrontPage reports today.
The news comes just a week after the Government asked the Audit Commission to investigate newspaper-style council newspapers as part of the Digital Britain proposals. It follows complaints that the newspaper-style council publications are a commercial threat to the local press by taking away local authority advertising.
HTFP quotes Thurrock Gazette editor Steve Lewis voicing his concern over the move as "quite a large percentage of our advertising is council advertising."

Berlusconi scandal scoop journalist at LSE

Conchita Sannino, the La Repubblica journalist who broke the scoop about the scandal hit Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his relationship with an 18-year-old, is speaking in London.
She will be talking at a media conference on Reporting Italy at the London School of Economics on July 6th at 6.30pm.
Also speaking will be John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship.
For more information e-mail events@lse.ac.uk or call 020 7955 6043

Tuesday 23 June 2009

CPJ: Newspaper raided in Iran

The Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting that Iranian security agents have raided a newspaper in Tehran and arrested 25 employees.
CPJ says the newspaper, the reformist Kalameh Sabz, is owned by presidential candidate Mir-Houssein Mousavi. Kalameh Sabz has been stopped from publishing by theIranian regime since June 14.
According to CPJ, around 40 journalists and media workers are in custody in Iran since thedisputed presidential elections of June 12.

Sun news editor was good operator

George Dearsley has a nice tale on his blog about former Sun Manchester news editor Ken Tucker.
Apparently, Ken used to ring news agencies asking for overnight stories. In his honour Manchester hacks made up a song, to the tune of Giussepe Verde's La Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto, which went:

"Give me an overnight,

Anything will be alright,

We don't care if it's shite,

Our schedule's very light,

Bum tit or whore,

Ring 1-2-3-4"

(which was the old phone number for The Sun, Manchester)

Wapping shocker!

The news today that Sun editor Rebekah Wade is to become News International's chief executive in September and will be in charge of the Sun, News of the World, The Times and the Sunday Times, comes as a shock.
That is because all the experts and insiders claimed she was not going to be moved from editing the Sun until after a General Election.
Maybe Rupert Murdoch knows something we don't.

Telegraph puts MPs' expenses online

The Telegraph from today is publishing an MPs' expenses database online.The paper says its searchable database will include exclusive documentary evidence as well as detailed figures assembled over recent weeks as part of an exhaustive investigation into Parliament's expenses claims system.
In the coming weeks, the database will be extended to include the uncensored documentation for the claims, including receipts and correspondence with the Parlimentary authorities, of all MPs.
Readers will be able to find the files for their own MP, either by name or constituency, and examine the totality of their claims across a series of categories, stretching back to 2001.
The categories include claims for second homes, office costs, communications, computer equipment, staffing, travel, stationary and postage.
A selection of uncensored original documentation is also published today. The Telegraph says it is committed to publishing the full files for every single MP and the process of adding all those forms will continue over the coming weeks.

'School pics don't breach Data Act'

This makes sense. The Daily Telegraph reports today that school photographs taken for official use or local newspapers do not breach the Data Protection Act so long as the subjects are aware of how the images will be used.
This is the conclusion of the deputy information commissioner who said warnings that taking images of children and their friends at school events breach their rights are "wrong" and risk preventing happy keepsakes for families.
It follows a Telegraph story last week about a school in Devon: Parents banned from taking pictures of their own children at sports day
The Telegraph says the Information Commissioner's Office has now issued fresh guidance to education authorities and those working in schools, colleges and universities explaining that the Data Protection Act is unlikely to apply in many situations where photographs are taken in schools.
It stresses that those wishing to "capture the moment their child crosses the finish line at their school sports day" should not be deterred by data protection myths.
David Smith, the deputy Information Commissioner, said: "We recognise that parents want to capture significant moments on camera and we want to reassure them and other family members that whatever they might be told data protection does not prevent them taking photographs of their children and friends at school events.
"Photographs taken for the family photo album are exempt from the Act and citing the Data Protection Act to stop people taking photos or filming their children at school is wrong."
Smith added that even where photographs do fall under the act, a common sense approach is needed.
Photos of pupils for building passes or for a school prospectus would be subject to data protection rights but are permissible if those involved or their guardians are aware of the context.
The same applies for a photo of a school awards ceremony that is to appear in the local newspaper, the guidance adds.

NightJack: Guardian readers' editor says 'Journalists should protect bloggers'

Guardian readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth suggests in her Open Door column this week that journalists should protect the identity of bloggers and other "self publishers" to ensure a free flow of information.
She said the Guardian had decided to protect the identy of Twitterers from Iran to protect their safety and described The Times' outing of policeman blogger NightJack as "questionable."
Butterworth says:"The difficulties in reporting events in Iran show that journalists may sometimes need to treat self-publishers as they would their own confidential sources in relation to both verification and protecting identities.
"The ethical obligation journalists have to protect confidential sources is included in the UK Press Complaints Commission's code of practice. In addition, section 10 of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act provides a legal shield: a court cannot force authors and publishers to disclose confidential sources unless it is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.
"We call the legal protection given to confidential sources "journalistic privilege", but what's really at stake is the free flow of information and to see it only in terms of the reporter's shield is to take too narrow a view. This brings me to last week's court ruling, which allowed the Times to "out" police officer Richard Horton as the author of the NightJack blog. Rejecting Horton's privacy claim, Mr Justice Eady said: "Blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity." Nevertheless, the Times' conduct looks questionable. In the absence of obvious wrongdoing, don't journalists have an interest in protecting, rather than pursuing, anonymous self-publishers? They are, after all, potential sources of information."

MPs ignore Simon Heffer's 'laughing stock' warning by electing Bercow as Speaker

Can't imagine the Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer is over delighted about the election of John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons.
Here's what he wrote in his column on June 12: "With many candidates, most of them quite preposterous, seeking to be Speaker of the Commons, MPs should ask themselves how much more contemptible they wish to become in the eyes of the nation before they cast their votes. The election of John Bercow, whose main qualification for the job is that the Tory party hates him, would simply reinforce the position of the Commons as a laughing stock."

Newsweek: 'Release our reporter in Iran'

Newsweek magazine has issued the following statement following the arrest of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran.
"On Sunday morning in Tehran, Newsweek's Maziar Bahari was detained without charge by Iranian authorities and has not been heard from since. Mr. Bahari is a Canadian citizen and a renowned journalist and filmmaker, who has been living in and covering Iran for the past decade. Newsweek strongly condemns this unwarranted detention, and calls upon the Iranian government to release him immediately.
"Mr. Bahari's coverage of Iran, for Newsweek and other outlets, has always been fair and nuanced, and has given full weight to all sides of the issues. He has worked well with different administrations in Tehran, including the current one. Since the elections over 20 journalists and bloggers have reportedly been detained; the seizure of innocent journalists is a violation of the right to a free press in Iran. Newsweek asks that world governments use whatever influence they have with the government in Tehran to make clear that this detention is unwarranted and unacceptable, and to demand Mr. Bahari's release."

Monday 22 June 2009

NUJ: 'How to report the BNP'

Give the public the facts about the BNP and expose their racist views through robust, independent reporting - that is the NUJ's advice to its members.
It follows a special Reporting the BNP meeting organised by the union.
Officials assured those journalists attending the meeting in London last week that members who uphold the NUJ’s Code of Conduct and "refuse to be used to propagate racist propaganda will be given the full backing of the union".
A new website setting out key questions to ask BNP politicians, exposing myths about asylum and immigration, highlighting good journalistic practice in tackling racist propaganda, and bringing together information on far-right parties will be launched in the coming weeks.
The NUJ’s policy condemns racist and fascist views and states “the best way to combat such views is to oppose and expose them wherever and whenever they are expressed, rather than by seeking to deny their expression”.
The NUJ Code of Conduct states that journalists shall not handle racist material, and in addition the union has a set of guidelines on race reporting that include advice on reporting racist organisations.
The union pledged support to members prepared to take a stand against racism in their workplaces and to provide support for those targeted as a result of their exposés.
Other suggestions included staff taking action against their publications accepting ads from the BNP and pressing for a right of reply by anti-racists to BNP assertions.
Leaflets and posters setting out the NUJ’s guidelines will be distributed to workplaces across the UK and well-known journalists will be approached to back the union’s campaign against the media being used as a platform for racist or fascist propaganda.

More bad news from Iran

A tale of two court rulings: Suzanne Breen's victory and NightJack's defeat

I've done a piece for MediaGuardian today contrasting the victory of Suzanne Breen in upholding the tradition of journalists protecting their sources, and police blogger NightJack losing a court case to stop The Times from identifying him. You can read it here.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Iran joins China as 'biggest prison for journalists'

Iran now ranks alongside China as the world’s biggest prison for journalists, according to press freedom monitoring group Reporters Without Borders
The crackdown has been intensified following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s endorsement of the result of the 12 June presidential election and the opposition’s demonstrations.
RWB says Iran now has a total of 33 journalists and dissident bloggers in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi.
“The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled,” Reporters Without Borders says. “The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target.”
RWB added: “The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election.”
It has written to the leaders of the European Union’s 27 member countries urging them not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection.
The Iranian authorities have told Jon Leyne, the BBC's correspondent in Tehran, to leave the country within 24 hours. The request came a day after protests about the presidential election left at least 10 people dead in the capital.

Peter Preston: 'Digital Britain report shows the way newspapers could be funded'

Peter Preston in the Observer today says the Digital Britain report has shown the way to fund newspapers.
He writes: "Boil down Digital Britain's 236 pages and what have you got? Admission that the licence fee is no longer the BBC's alone; it can fund ITV regional news or local TV consortiums. Lord Carter, like Ofcom, wants competition and more voices. And one form of communication can fund another: £6 a year on the phone bill goes to spread broadband further.
"Enter logic. The biggest blight for newspapers now is the BBC's "free" (ie fee-subsidised) news website. Papers can never charge for online news while the BBC chucks in a £153m service at no charge as a natural part of broadcasting.
"So why not let broadband operators collect £6 a year for newspapers' sites? Why get stuck with old definitions of public service broadcasting when most newsgathering relies on reporters on the ground finding the stories for broadcasters to re-process? Carter sets up the argument. Now follow it through."

Saturday 20 June 2009

Now the Indy says: 'MPs don't pay for dinner'

A story in the Independent backs up BBC business editor Robert Peston's claim that MPs don't pay for meals - if there is a journalist around to pick up the tab.
Michael Savage writes:"From 13p staple removers to £500 mock-antique dressers, there are few items that cannot be found among the thousands of claims made by Britain's MPs over the past five years. But one item remains oddly absent: few ever seem to have paid for dinner.
"More than 30 MPs have been shown to have claimed the maximum £400 allowance for food every month last year. But while many claim for the odd bite of lunch, their bills for dinner are almost always paid for by the journalists wining and dining them."
Savage adds: "One exception is the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, who offers a rare example of an MP picking up the tab, albeit passed on to the taxpayer. A receipt from the Blue Fish restaurant in St Ives shows he and his guests enjoyed Pinot blanc, potted crab, monkfish, calamari, and fruit pudding. And it cost us only £100.45. Cheers!"

Friday 19 June 2009

Blackwash: Heather Brooke on MPs' expenses

Heather Brooke, the journalist who led the Freedom of Information campaign for MPs' expenses to be made public, really knows her stuff. Her view of the MPs' blacked out expenses is essential reading on her Your Right to Know blog.
Here's a sample: "Now we’ve seen the censored version and it’s clear the Commons have not abided by the spirit of the High Court ruling. Instead of a presumption of openness they have opted for a presumption of secrecy in which only six types of information are disclosed. The rest are not for our eyes – even though we paid for it.
"The censorship is random, inconsistent and unprofessional. It follows one guiding principle: the avoidance of embarrassment. And yet by exhibiting their censoriousness so boldly, MPs’ have only heaped more ridicule upon themselves.
"The deletions we know about give the lie to the now-discredited ‘security’ and ‘privacy’ excuses. We see Gordon Brown’s Sky subscription blacked out along with Margaret Beckett’s plants and pergola.
"But the blackness is a victory of sorts. It shows the full extent of the Commons censoring operation."

Brum journalists' blueprint to boost papers

Journalists in Birmingham have put forward plans, which are being kept secret for "commercial resons", aimed at boosting the sales and profile of their papers.
NUJ members at the Trinity Mirror-owned Post and Mail group have handed the blueprint, which covers topics such as branding and moves to attract younger readers, to management.
The union says the journalists "want the company to be ambitious - rather than make even more cuts to achieve financial targets". More than seventy editorial jobs were axed from Trinity Mirror's Midlands titles last year.
Chris Morley, NUJ organiser for the north of England and a former Post and Mail journalist, said: "The journalists at BPM Media are anxious to show that they care about not just their own professionalism, but the well being of their titles as a business."

Robert Peston: 'MPs don't pay for lunch'

BBC business editor Robert Peston was asked last night: "Whose worst - MPs or bankers?"
Peston, sitting on a Question Time-style panel at a House of Commons fund raiser for the Journalists' Charity, slightly dodged the question but made an interesting comparison.
He said:"When I was at the Financial Times, MPs would ring you up looking to have lunch with you, name a restaurant and order the most expensive wine. You would always pay. Bankers would buy you lunch."

Quotes of the Week

BBC report on Suzanne Breen's court victory to defend her sources: "His Honour Judge Burgess, the Recorder of Belfast, said that (to hand over sources material) would be a breach of Ms Breen's right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights. He acknowledged that there was a great public interest in catching the killers but said the journalist's right to life outweighs that. The Recorder said he was satisfied that the concept of confidentiality for journalists protecting their sources is recognised in law, and specifically under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear on Suzanne Breen's victory: “We now hope that the security forces will concentrate on tracking down criminals and those responsible for murder rather than targeting journalists. The use of anti-terror legislation to target journalists is a worrying international trend and this case is a welcome development in halting the erosion of civil liberties.”

Journalist Heather Brooke, whose Freedom of Information fight led to MPs' expenses being published, on their final publication: "The mechanics of this publication have been characterised by the usual chaos, confusion and obfuscation we’ve come to expect from the House of Commons and the Members Estimates Committee. No official statement was given as to the final date, time and format. Just rumour and speculation. There was a complete lack of leadership, no identifiable person responsible for the publication – just the usual phalanx of faceless bureaucrats avoiding accountability."

Daniel Finkelstein of The Times on outing policeman blogger NightJack : "When a public servant decides to reveal the confidences of their colleagues and details of their work, especially on police cases, then their identity becomes a legitimate matter of interest. And other journalists might reasonably investigate the matter.
"What, say, if it turned out that NightJack wasn't actually a detective at all? Or that he was Sir Ian Blair? Are we really saying that his identity isn't a public matter?"

Policeman blogger NightJack: "One morning I heard a rumour that The Times had sent a photographer to my home. Later in the afternoon came the inevitable phone calls from The Times, first to me and then to Lancashire Constabulary asking for confirmation that I was the author of the NightJack blog. That was easily the worst afternoon of my life.
"I knew that it was serious and quite rightly my employers have investigated it as a matter of misconduct. With that under way, I went to court to stop The Times from publishing my name, my photograph or any personal details about my home and my family."

The Guardian on Digital Britain report: "a big, bland policy stew"

BBC News website editor Steve Hermann on Iran: "So why are we also monitoring social media like the microblogging service Twitter and linking to its search results for the Iran elections? Simply put, it's because among the various impediments to reporting, there's a huge ongoing, informed and informative discussion in Iran between people who care deeply about what is happening there and who are themselves monitoring everything they can, then circulating the most useful information and links."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson on Simon Lewis being appointed Gordon Brown's head of communications: "The next time the Telegraph runs a story about the prime minster's expenses could be interesting. Gordon Brown's new official spokesman will call the editor of the paper. They will speak on first name terms. No wonder, the two men are brothers.
"Simon Lewis, who once worked for the Queen, is taking over as director of communications at No 10 at the end of July. His main task: to repair the dreadful damage done to his boss's reputation, in part by the actions of brother Will over at the Telegraph."

Newsquest Sussex to a journalism.co.uk reporter asking about possible job cuts at The Argus, Brighton: “We do not comment on our business.”

Thursday 18 June 2009

Nouvelle connexion for Press Gazette's Paul

Press Gazette news editor Paul McNally is leaving next month to work on a national newspaper in the south of France.
Paul is moving to Nice at the end of July to join The Connexion - a paper for English-speakers in France - as a bilingual reporter and sub-editor.
The 45,000-circulation title, which is sold by subscription and in newsagents around the country, was founded by former Sun journalist Sarah Smith in 2002.
It provides French news tailored for English-speaking residents and practical information on everyday life - such as money, property, education, healthcare and business.
Paul joined Press Gazette in 2006 as a sub-editor, straight from the magazine journalism course at City University in London.
He became news editor last November, after an 18-month stint freelancing for Broadcast, Media Week and Media Guardian.

Suzanne Breen sources fight court victory: Judge rules 'her life was in danger'

A judge at the High Court in Belfast today rejected a police application to make Sunday Tribune Northern Ireland editor Suzanne Breen hand over source material linked to stories she has written about the Real IRA.
He ruled that to hand over the material would endanger her life.
Breen received the Real IRA's claim of responsibility for the murder of two soldiers in Antrim in March.
She told Belfast Recorder Tom Burgess she had been advised by a source her life would be in danger if she co-operated with the PSNI request.
She added: "I am not going to put myself under a death sentence from the Real IRA. I want to continue living in Northern Ireland, working in Northern Ireland. I want to protect the life of my daughter and of my partner."
The police said they needed Breen's source material as part of the murder inquiry.
Among those journalists who gave evidence on Breen's behalf were Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, Liam Clarke from the Sunday Times, media commentator Roy Greenslade and Panorama's John Ware.
All of them stressed how a journalist must honour any guarantee of confidentiality given to those who provide information.
BBC reports: "His Honour Judge Burgess, the Recorder of Belfast, said that (to hand over sources material) would be a breach of Ms Breen's right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
He acknowledged that there was a great public interest in catching the killers but said the journalist's right to life outweighs that.
The Recorder said he was satisfied that the concept of confidentiality for journalists protecting their sources is recognised in law, and specifically under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights."
Breen told Sky News at lunchtime: "I am delighted. We've won on all counts." She said she hoped it would be a victory on behalf of all journalists in the UK to protect their sources.
NUJ reaction: Suzanne Breen had the full backing of the NUJ in her fight not to reveal sources.
NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: “We now hope that the security forces will concentrate on tracking down criminals and those responsible for murder rather than targeting journalists. The use of anti-terror legislation to target journalists is a worrying international trend and this case is a welcome development in halting the erosion of civil liberties.”
NUJ Irish Secretary, Séamus Dooley, added: “The NUJ welcomes this landmark judgment. No journalist should face the prospect of a prison sentence for doing their job in the public interest. Judge Burgess has recognised the central importance of the protection of journalistic sources and also accepted that a journalist who hands over confidential material could put their life at risk.”
The question that now has to be asked is why was Suzanne Breen put through this ordeal?
Why was Sally Murrer?

Why was Martin Bright?

Why was Robin Ackroyd?

Why was Bill Goodwin?

Why was Jeremy Warner?

These sources' cases go back more than 20 years. All the journalists won, eventually, sometimes after years of being dragged through the courts. When will the police and other authorities realise journalists will not give up their sources, even if they are threatened will jail?
Pic: Jon Slattery

Heather Brooke's verdict on the publication (at last) of MPs' expenses

Journalist Heather Brooke, whose Freedom of Information fight led to MPs' expenses being published here today, comments on her website Your Right To Know:
"The mechanics of this publication have been characterised by the usual chaos, confusion and obfuscation we’ve come to expect from the House of Commons and the Members Estimates Committee. No official statement was given as to the final date, time and format. Just rumour and speculation. There was a complete lack of leadership, no identifiable person responsible for the publication – just the usual phalanx of faceless bureaucrats avoiding accountability.
"I’m now wading through the documents but I’m doubtful that the public – who paid for all this – will see anything like the full record given to the Daily Telegraph."

Times' defence of outing police blogger NightJack is swamped by hostile postings

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sports day pic ban press freedom fear

A story in today's Daily Telegraph about a primary school in Devon banning pictures being taken at a sports day is a worrying throwback.
When the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Acts were first introduced it led some authorities to wrongly ban the local press from covering traditional news events, such as school plays and sports days, claiming they were protecting children from sex offenders.
It was only after a strong campaign by the Society of Editors, which memorably argued that there would be a "lost generation" of children whose activities would not be recorded in the local press, that it was made clear that banning the pictures of children was not within the scope of either Act.
In this new ban, Mrs Ethelson's Church of England Primary School in Uplyme, Devon, has told parents the ban on sports day pictures is "due to changes in child protection legislation".
Given past experience, I doubt whether any such legislation exists.

Reshuffle at Archant in London

HoldtheFrontPage is reporting today that Archant is cutting back ten trainee reporters' posts to six across a series of its weekly titles in London , with each of the existing trainees having to compete for their jobs.
Archant London declined to respond to requests for a comment about the trainees' jobs, but in an internal memo seen by HTFP, the company says the reduction in size of the majority of titles and the number of change pages being produced has resulted in a need for fewer personnel within the news team.
In a separate move within Archant London, Tim Cole is stepping down after nine years as editor of the Willesden and Brent Times, which will now come under Ham and High editor Geoff Martin. Cole is to become deputy to Malcolm Starbrook, who has been made group editor of the East London Advertiser, Hackney Gazette and The Docklands.
Update: Archant disputes some of the HTFP story. It says three trainee reporters have decided to leave and one other is transferring to the East London office to fill a vacancy.
The company said it will be recruiting two trainee reporters to fill current vacancies in Archant London.

Digital Britain: Newspaper Society response

The Newspaper Society, whose plea for a relaxation of the merger regime for regional newspapers was rejected, has given its response to the Digital Britain Report and OFT recommendations.
The NS says it "is discussing the recommendations and their implications for regional and local media companies with the Government and relevant bodies including the OFT, Ofcom and the Audit Commission."
It claims: "The importance of strong local and regional news came through in the report and ministerial presentations, with Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw describing it as “essential for the health and vibrancy of our democracy.”
The NS says the main recommendations affecting the regional and local media sector are:

Regional and Local Newspaper Mergers: OFT has concluded that the existing merger regime is suitably flexible to respond to changing market conditions and no legislative change is needed but that OFT will amend its guidance by the end of the summer to ensure that it asks Ofcom to provide a Local Media Assessment in cases raising competition issues.

Local Council Publications: The OFT and Digital Britain reports noted the adverse impact on local newspapers of the increasing role of local authorities in taking paid advertising to support local authority information sheets, saying that such publications will inevitably not be as rigorous in holding local institutions to account as independent local media. The Government has called on the Audit Commission to undertake an inquiry into the practice (to be completed by the end of the summer).

Public Service Content: To help address challenges facing commercially-provided news across all media – TV, radio, newspapers and online - the Government will consult openly on the option of a Contained Contestable Element of the Television Licence Fee carrying forward the current ring-fenced element for Digital Switchover (c.3.5% of the Licence Fee) after 2013, for the clearly defined purpose of funding news.

Pilots of Independently Funded News Consortia to be conducted in Scotland, Wales, and one English region to help secure a regional and local stream of multimedia and broadcast news. Similar arrangements will be discussed by the UK and Channel Islands governments. IFNCs could include existing TV news providers, newspaper groups or other newsgathering agencies.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

After NightJack who will do a workplace blog?

Orwell Prize director Jean Seaton in a comment piece in the Guardian has attacked The Times for outing police blogger and Orwell winner NightJack in a move which has led to the blog being silenced.
She writes: "What is puzzling is The Times attack. The paper has made an intelligent use of blogs, and has been good at fighting the use of the courts to close down expression. NightJack was a source and a reporter. They would not (I hope) reveal their sources in court. Even odder is their main accusation against him: that the blog revealed material about identifiable court cases. The blog did not do this – cases were disguised. However, once the Times had published Horton's name then, of course, it is easy to find the cases he was involved with. The Times has shut down a voice.
"Blogs as a form are no more reliable or "true" than any other kind of journalism. That is why we started a blog prize – to try to help people to find the interesting ones. This decision damages our capacity to understand ourselves just when we need new forms to develop. After Tuesday's ruling, would you blog about your workplace?"

NightJack says good-bye

NightJack, the policeman blogger outed after he lost a legal battle with The Times to protect his anonymity, has written a piece which is on TimesOnline about his award winning bog - and why he isn't blogging any more.
The policeman, Detective Richard Horton, writes: "One morning I heard a rumour that The Times had sent a photographer to my home. Later in the afternoon came the inevitable phone calls from The Times, first to me and then to Lancashire Constabulary asking for confirmation that I was the author of the NightJack blog. That was easily the worst afternoon of my life.
"I knew that it was serious and quite rightly my employers have investigated it as a matter of misconduct. With that under way, I went to court to stop The Times from publishing my name, my photograph or any personal details about my home and my family.
"Over the years, I have dealt with some unpleasant characters. I know that some of them have made determined but unsuccessful efforts to find me and I believe that some of them are still looking. I didn’t want their task made easier. I also wanted to provide some breathing space for my employers so that they could try to limit the damage that my exposure will do to their deserved reputation as one of the best police forces in the country. In the event, I failed at court as it was decided that the public right to know about me outweighed any claim to personal privacy.
"My blog is gone now, deleted, slowly melting away post by post as it drops off the edge of the Google cache. .. I deeply and bitterly regret the damage that will be done to the reputation of Lancashire Constabulary, that is also down to me. Next to that, my own career prospects are trivial."
The blogosphere seems split about the outing of NightJack. Some believe it is his own fault for giving away enough info so that he was identified by a Times' journalist. Others that it is a blow against freedom of expression and whistleblowing.
Story via Judith Townend on Twitter.

Lindsey Hilsum in Iran: 'Special police have beaten up journalists'

Channel 4 international editor Lindsey Hilsum told BBC Radio 4's The Media Show in an interview from Iran today that special police had beaten up journalists.
She told presenter Steve Hewlett: "They think the way to stop demonstrations is stopping any publicity getting out."
She said AP was reporting that 10 Iranian journalists had been arrested and attempts were being made to intimidate local journalists.
Hilsum said journalists had to get round restrictions imposed by the Iranian regime "as best you can".
She added a lot of the information on blogs, Twitter and Facebook from opposition groups may be easier to access in Britain than Iran and was difficult to verify.

The Sun on Twitter in Iran

Big spread in The Sun today on the way Twitter is being used by opponents of the regime in Iran.
Story starts: "TWITTER became a key weapon yesterday in the bitter war of words that could determine Iran's future.
The instant-chat website was used to mobilise protesters as new demonstrations were staged in the capital Tehran.
And a crackdown on media coverage by embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it a valuable tool for opposition activists desperate to communicate with the outside world."
A picture story, also in today's Sun, shows a less serious use of the networking micro blog. "Saucy starlet Lindsay Lohan gives fans a real tweet - a topless snap she posted on Twitter."

Digital Britain: Guardian's damning verdict 'it's a big bland policy stew'

A Guardian leader lays into the Digital Britain report today describing it as a "big, bland policy stew" and says it offers scant help to the struggling local press.
Among the damning comments are: "this was a publication long on consultation and in many places frustratingly short on conclusion."
It says: "With less than a year to go before the next general election, here was Gordon Brown's big chance to mould a communications industry in its greatest flux in living memory; to use extra investment in media to help get Britain out of recession - and even to flesh out his much-fabled policy of industrial activism. Each of those goals was missed."
The leader continues: "Much of the blame for this big, bland policy stew must lie with the tight deadlines the government set itself to deal with so many complicated issues" and adds: "None of this can have been helped by the imminent departure of Lord Carter, nor by a reshuffle which saw a vast and complex subject dumped into the lap of a new minister."
The report is dismissed as "not wildly imaginative. It deals with structure and delivery of content, rather than the content itself."
On the local press it says: "Meanwhile, struggling local newspapers [declaration of interest: the Guardian Media Group includes local titles] are offered scant help. The idea of the licence fee supporting local news remains contentious. But subsidies should fund something better than breathless bulletins from neighbourhood fires; they should fund deeper forms of democratic engagement and information."
The leader concludes: "Framing media policy amid a severe advertising recession and a big shift in the industry would always be aiming at several targets at once. Unsurprisingly, yesterday's attempt missed. It did not so much resolve questions as pose them - and park them for another day."

Tuesday 16 June 2009

BBC: 'Why we are using socal media in Iran'

A BBC editor explains here why it is using social media to help cover the crisis in Iran.
BBC News website editor Steve Hermann says on the editors' blog: "So why are we also monitoring social media like the microblogging service Twitter and linking to its search results for the Iran elections?
"Simply put, it's because among the various impediments to reporting, there's a huge ongoing, informed and informative discussion in Iran between people who care deeply about what is happening there and who are themselves monitoring everything they can, then circulating the most useful information and links."

Digital Britain and OFT: NUJ response

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has criticised proposals in the Digital Britain report for the sharing of the BBC licence fee with other organisations. And he has also said the union will continue to pressure the government for a strengthened public interest test when regional newspaper mergers are being considered.
Dear said: “Top-slicing of the BBC licence fee would undermine the corporation’s independence and put quality broadcasting at risk. We agree that funding needs to be found to support news provision outside the BBC, but there are other options that wouldn’t inflict the same damage to the cornerstone of British public service broadcasting.
“Sharing the licence fee with other organisations is the start of a slippery slope towards the politicisation of the BBC. When politicians start to decide how the licence fee is divvied up, the independence and impartiality of the corporation will be put at risk. The government has said it will consider other options and that is exactly what it must do. We can’t allow the BBC to become a political football.”
The NUJ believes that the government should conduct a detailed investigation into the use of levies to help fund public service broadcasting outside the BBC.
On the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to leave existing media ownership rules in their current form, Dear said: “The NUJ has consistently argued that ownership rules are still hugely important so we’re very pleased pressures from media owners for them to be weakened have been resisted.
“The vital importance of vibrant local media to our democracy has been recognised by people on all sides of the debate over the last few weeks. Media plurality must be at the heart of any ownership decisions that are taken in the future. The NUJ will continue to pressure the government for a strengthened public interest test to ensure that ownership rules work in the interests of citizens and communities.”

Dispute ends at Daily Record and Sunday Mail

NUJ members at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail have voted to call off their industrial action following a lengthy chapel meeting, the union said today.
The dispute had been about compulsory redundancies and changes to staff contracts.
NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said:"Through a mixture of industrial action, political pressure and legal threat we have made progress on the issues and moved to a negotiated position which the chapel are prepared to accept, although it has to be said, are far from happy at what has happened in recent months."

OFT report on regional press mergers says 'no legislative changes are needed'

The OFT has today published its report on the local and regional media merger regime and says no legislative changes are needed.
The Review of the local and regional media merger regime - final report notes advertising revenues are in steady decline as advertisers who would traditionally use the local press increasingly use the internet to place adverts for houses, jobs and cars.
However, the review says that the current merger regime - "which is broadly the same for newspapers as for other industries" - is well placed to take into account developments such as competition from the internet because it is evidence-based and capable of reflecting market realities.
The report says the regime is also flexible in that it can take account of valid 'failing firm' arguments, as well as efficiencies and any other benefits to customers brought about through a merger.
The OFT has therefore recommended that no legislative changes are needed to the media merger regime. The OFT proposes that it will formally seek Ofcom's view in future newspaper merger cases, given its specific sector knowledge in the UK.
The OFT review also notes concerns about the potential impact on local press from local authority publications, and recommends the Government review this area further and consider whether intervention, regulation or guidance would be appropriate.
John Fingleton, OFT chief executive, said: "The current merger regime came into force in 2003, and we are confident that it is fit for the needs of the media sector in the twenty first century. If there are significant transactions that publishers or others are keen to pursue, we will review them on their merits, taking into account the impact on customers and the realities of the marketplace."
The Local Media Alliance and the Newspaper Society have lobbied hard for a relaxation of the merger regime. Some claimed this would lead to even more consolidation of the regional newspaper industry, perhaps leaving just two dominant players.
The OFT report, released to coincide with the Digital Britain Report, still leaves the door open for regional newspaper groups to argue that takeovers should be allowed to ensure the survival of the regional press.