Monday 31 January 2011

All the world's a pap with the Paparazzi phone app

Here's a nightmare for all celebs. A phone app from Mr offers everyone the chance to be "a real life paparazzo, simply by using your iPhone".

It claims: "All you have to do is take a picture of a celebrity on your phone using this app and your image will be instantly submitted from anywhere around the globe to Big Pictures so that you can make LOADS of INSTANT CASH! As well as a gallery for all of your pictures, this must have app also contains some handy hints and tips about how to make the most money from your celebrity snaps. So get papping now - this application can actually make you loads of money!"

Don't imagine it comes with the Editors' Code of Practice which sets out the privacy clauses that underpin the work of the Press Complaints Commission.

IFJ calls on Egypt to end crackdown on media

The International Federation of Journalists has called today on Egypt to end the crackdown which has led to beatings of media staff and censorship of television and communications networks.

Media reports say that the Government last week blocked websites and Al-Jazeera has been taken off the air. Its office in Cairo has been shut down and staff were arrested and their film confiscated. The studios of the French public broadcaster, France 2 have also been shut.

"This targeting of media is desperation on the part of a regime that is in the brink of collapse," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "It makes a mockery of the Government's talk of dialogue to restore calm."

According to a statement from Al-Jazeera, five Cairo-based staff were arrested following the Government's decision over the weekend to withdraw the broadcaster's licence and its journalists' accreditation in the country. They were released today.

Sheffield Star journalists set for industrial action

The NUJ says journalists at the Johnston Press-owned Sheffield Star are preparing to take industrial action over management plans to shut down jobs at the company's editorial subbing hub in the city.

NUJ members have decided this week to act on their strike ballot unless management guarantees there will be no compulsory redundancies under management reorganisation plans at the hub.

They are also demanding that freelance jobs be converted into staff posts where these become available through reorganisation and want a "proper response" from Johnston Press to their claim for a pay increase.

Last week the journalists voted for strike action in their dispute over a management scheme to dismantle the Sheffield hub, a project opposed by the union.

“Not surprisingly, our members at the Sheffield Star have now voted ‘no confidence’ in their management,” said NUJ organiser Chris Morley.“Journalists put up with all the hardships that the company imposed on their lives in order to try to stay with the work and make the hub work. But all that effort has been thrown back in their faces by a company that is thrashing around, adopting buzzwords and trendy business strategies with little thought to shoring up its newspapers core during difficult times.

“NUJ members are now offering the company one last chance to meet our reasonable requirements for the future of editorial operations in Sheffield. I hope the management will take this opportunity, and realise that our members are not willing to be walked over.”
  • It was reported by HoldtheFrontPage last week that Sheffield Star editor John Furbisher has resigned after just seven months in the role.

PCC sets up comittee to review phone hacking

The Press Complaints Commission said today it has "remained concerned" about phone hacking and is establishing a committee to review the issue.

The Phone Hacking Review Committee, with a lay majority, will consider any new information on phone hacking that becomes available, and make recommendations to the Commission, which will be published.

The PCC said: "The purpose of this will be to draw together lessons learned as a result of the outcomes of the relevant police inquiries and ongoing legal actions. It will also consider the outcome of the current internal inquiry of the News of the World. The Committee will review the PCC's own previous actions in regard to this matter."

The Phone Hacking Review Committee will comprise the two most recent lay Commissioners (who joined after December 2009), both of whom are experts in relevant legal fields:

Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law, Queen Mary University of London, and Julie Spence, former Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Police
There will be one editorial Commissioner: John McLellan, the editor of the Scotsman.

The PCC added: "It is important to make clear that phone hacking is a criminal offence, and the Commission has been consistent in its condemnation of it. It has also been consistently clear that it is not the role of the PCC (or within its powers) to duplicate the investigations of the police, or to establish criminality. However, its role is to work to raise standards in the industry, and it is committed to take this opportunity (at the conclusion of the relevant processes) to do so in this area."

Tobias Grubbe faces censorship and fuel rises

Gentleman journalist Tobias Grubbe, the creation of Michael Cross and Matthew Buck, faces censorship and is forced to walk because of rising fuel costs in his latest episode on today.

Sportsman wins appeal against media naming him

A sportsman who obtained an order stopping the media publishing information about his private life today won an appeal against a ruling which would reveal his identity, Press Gazette reports.

The man, referred to in court as JIH, asked a panel of three judges headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, to reverse an earlier ruling by High Court judge Justice Tugendhat.

Lord Neuberger said the sportsman had been in a long-term relationship with another person, referred to as XX. "Since his relationship with XX had started, but before August 2010, a story had been published, without JIH having received any prior notice, suggesting that he had a sexual liaison with another person, who I shall call YY."

"The story whose publication JIH is seeking to prevent concerns an alleged sexual encounter he had with a different person, to whom I shall refer as ZZ, last year."

When JIH discovered that News Group Newspapers intended to publish a story based on information provided by ZZ, he began the present proceedings without revealing his identity.

He also sought an order preventing publication of any information about an alleged sexual relationship with ZZ during his relationship with XX which was served on seven other media companies.

When the matter came before Justice Tugendhat he decided that he was not prepared to make the order, even though NGN had accepted it, without hearing argument.

Lord Neuberger said in the appeal court ruling: "If the media could publish the name of the claimant and the substance of the information which he is seeking to exclude from the public domain, then the whole purpose of the injunction would be undermined, and the claimant's private life many be unlawfully exposed."

He added: "If we permitted JIH's identity to be revealed without permitting the nature of the information of which he is seeking to restrain to be published, then it would nonetheless be relatively easy for the media and members of the public to deduce the nature of that information; it would be a classic, if not very difficult, jigsaw exercise."

Glover 'madness' to cut BBC World Service

The Independent's media commentator Stephen Glover today joins the critics of plans to slash the BBC World Service.

Glover writes: "The BBC World Service is being cut back. A quarter of its staff is being sacked, and five foreign language services will be closed. A 30 million drop in its weekly global audience from 180 million to 150 million is forecast.

"What madness is this? The World Service is the best thing about the BBC. It is a force for good and a force for Britain. And yet it is losing 16 per cent of its £267m government grant over the next five years, during which time the international aid budget will increase by 37 per cent to over £11bn. What is the BBC World Service but a form of aid for the oppressed? A fraction of the aid budget could preserve it."

Sunday 30 January 2011

New reporting restriction on suspects proposed

Senior ministers are backing a change in the law to stop the media identifying crime suspects before they are charged, the Sunday Times reports today.

Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, and Dominic Grieve, the attorney-general, are supporting a backbench MP’s attempt to introduce reporting restrictions.

The Sunday Times says: "If the bill became law it would mean that no newspaper or broadcaster could name someone arrested or questioned by the police until after a decision had been made to charge the person with a crime."

The step, which would be without precedent in English law, is being proposed in a bill tabled by Conservative MP Anna Soubry.

If the measure was in place now the identity of the retired Bristol schoolmaster Chris Jefferies, who was the subject of much media speculation while being questioned over the murder Joanna Yeates, could never have been reported.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, tells the paper: “It sounds like a simple and easy measure but it’s a complex issue. The public are entitled to know when someone is arrested and not naming people who are arrested only leads to speculation and rumour in place of absolute fact."

  • The Sunday Times is behind a paywall.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Evans: 'Phone hacking an obnoxious abomination'

Sir Harold Evans has described phone hacking as an "obnoxious abomination" that has "nothing whatsoever to do with investigative journalism"

Sir Harold, the former editor of the Sunday Times, made his remarks on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

Interviewed by James Naughtie, Sir Harold added: "I just feel very strongly it is an appalling practice and very, very harmful to investigative journalism."

He also said "If the press wants to avoid restrictions, don't behave like a sleazy crook."

You can listen to the interview, which was at 08:43, via the listen again link on the Today homepage here.

Friday 28 January 2011

First book on the rise and impact of WikiLeaks

The first book to chart the rise of WikiLeaks, and its political and media impact from April 2010 to January 2011, has been published.

The Age of WikiLeaks is written by Greg Mitchell, who writes a daily WikiLeaks blog at The Nation and is former editor of the US journalism magazine Editor & Publisher.

It includes chapters on every major WikiLeaks release of the past year, the Bradley Manning case, and what lies ahead in the "brave new world" of leaking.

Glover's shock confession: 'I admire Nick Davies'

The Independent's media commentator Stephen Glover (left) once described Nick Davies as "the sort of journalist who can find a scandal in a jar of tadpoles" but today he admits his admiration for the Guardian journalist's reporting of the News of the World phone hacking story.

Glover writes in the Independent today: "This scandal might never have resurfaced had it not been for the Guardian's Nick Davies, who in July 2009 revealed that News International had paid £700,000 to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballer's Association, because the News of the World had hacked into his phone.

"Mr Davies stuck to his guns and bravely took on News International. I do not share his views about the complete dysfunctionality of the tabloid Press, but it is impossible not to admire him. I once teased him for being 'the sort of journalist who can find a scandal in a jar of tadpoles'. This has turned out to be some jar."

Glover, in the Independent in July 2009 wrote: "Mr Davies is a journalist who dislikes much journalism, especially of the tabloid variety. He recently published a book which suggests that the press is wildly dysfunctional. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him, but he seems to me a misanthropic, apocalyptic sort of fellow – the sort of journalist who can find a scandal in a jar of tadpoles."

The article was headlined: 'The BBC has conspired with the Guardian to heat up an old story and attack Murdoch.'

  • On the wider implications of the phone hacking affair, Glover says today: "Where will this end? Not, I hope, in the demonisation of the entire Press and statutory regulation. If that is to be avoided, the News of the World, and other tabloids, must show that they do not believe they can act outside the law."

NI sees 'external forces' behind hacking headlines

The Financial Times has an analysis Tabloid troubles today on the phone-hacking allegations engulfing Rupert Murdoch's News International.

It quotes one Murdoch insider stating: “I have never in my life felt more like I am in a John Grisham novel. A series of very, very significant errors of judgment have been made over something relatively unthreatening.”

The article also claims: "Inside NI, fingers point at external forces. The company sees an opposition Labour party eager to keep in the headlines a story that led to last week’s resignation of Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor, as director of communications for David Cameron, prime minister. It thinks fee-chasing lawyers are trying to squeeze settlements from the empire. And it believes those rivals that have chased the story have had commercial motives. It includes the Financial Times in this group."

Andrew Neil is quoted saying of Murdoch: "He thinks the whole News of the World thing has been handled appallingly and he has moved in to do it himself, cancelled Davos and all that, but he fears that what they are doing now, being seen to clear out the stable, is too little too late. But he is a fighter and he is still trying to do it.

“You wouldn’t believe what a cultural change this [openness] is for News. Normally when they are up against it, they survive on a code of omerta. The problem for Rupert is that he has to be seen to be doing something, but he just doesn’t know where what he has set in motion will lead or whose job it might cost.”

Protests over police attacks on journalists in Egypt

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders has condemned police violence against journalists covering Egypt’s street protests.

RWB says: "It is hard to establish exactly how many journalists have been arrested or physically attacked by police officers. According to the latest information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, more than a dozen journalists have been arrested.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow journalists to work without fear of being arrested or attacked by those who are supposed to protect them. We also call for the immediate release of all the media workers still being held and an end to the blocking of communications. It is essential for the Egyptian people to have access to reliable information about the events of the past few days."

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also condemned the violence against journalists covering demonstrations in Egypt. It says plainclothes and uniformed security personnel have beaten at least 10 journalists. Egyptian authorities have also shut down the websites of two popular independent newspapers and a number of social media sites.

"We call on Cairo to bring to an immediate end all forms of violence against the media, release all detained journalists, and lift online censorship," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

  • The International Federation of Journalists today accused security forces in Egypt of indiscriminate violence against journalists. Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, said: “Journalists, the world over, are appalled by the thuggery of Egypt’s state security officers and riot police, beating and arresting protesters as well as journalists and photographers in Cairo.”

Quotes of the week: Coulson moves on and why BBC staff should hide the Mail in the Guardian

Andy Coulson: "I stand by what I've said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman it's time to move on."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on Coulson resigning: "This is the result of first class investigative reporting by one Guardian reporter, Nick Davies, sustained over a very long period of time. From the moment he revealed the secret payout to Gordon Taylor in July 2009 it was obvious that Andy Coulson's position was untenable. But this is not the end of the story by any means. There are many outstanding legal actions, and uncomfortable questions for others, including the police."

Robert Peston on his blog: "Not to over-dramatise, this has all the potential for the newspaper industry to turn into its version of the MPs' expenses scandal."

Richard Ingrams in the Independent on Sunday: "In a world where nothing succeeds like failure, Andy Coulson has no reason to fear for his future. He should take heart from the example of his labour predecessor Alastair Campbell, who ended up resigning but who is now riding high, publishing books and even appearing regularly on the BBC, an institution which during his career at Downing Street he did more to damage than anyone else in our time."

Sky News political editor Adam Boulton: "Two important sectors of our society now feel under a great deal of pressure, beset by plunging fortunes and public esteem: newspapers and politicians. As they go down they are turning in on each other with increasing viciousness - politician against journalist, politician against polititian, journalist against journalist."

Andreas Whittam Smith in the Independent: "But as we have an unwritten constitution, so we have writs that are unrecorded. And if it were spelled out, it would simply state: never offend the Murdochs. Nobody will say this in terms to the Department of Culture that is now handling media competition issues. Nobody has written it down for Scotland Yard's benefit. But this odious rule has become part of our unofficial constitution. That is how bad it is."

Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times: "As for our relationship with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange has been heard to boast that he served as a kind of puppet master, recruiting several news organizations, forcing them to work in concert and choreographing their work. This is characteristic braggadocio — or, as my Guardian colleagues would say, bollocks."

Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the proposed code of practice on local authority publicity: "We found that there is little hard evidence to support the view of the commercial newspaper industry that council publications are, to any significant extent, competing unfairly with independent newspapers at present, though there is concern that such competition may escalate in future."

Leader on cuts to BBC World Service in the Independent: "The World Service helps to nourish democracy and political accountability across the world. Moreover, it produces much high-quality, impartial, and authoritative journalism. It exports British "soft power" and remains an island of resistance to the global proliferation of celebrity news. A relatively small nation such as Britain may struggle to be heard in the globalised age. Weakening one of its strongest international assets is a mistake."

Peter Sissons in the Daily Mail: "If you want to read one of the few copies of the Daily Mail that find their way into the BBC newsroom, they are difficult to track down, and you would be advised not to make too much of a show of reading them. Wrap them in brown paper or a copy of the Guardian, would be my advice."

Thursday 27 January 2011

Sun covers hacking: Pass the magnifying glass

Phone hacking. It's leading BBC News, the splash in the Guardian and the Independent ... and a couple of pars on page two of the Sun today, squeezed in next to the weather.

Select committee says 'little evidence' council publications compete unfairly with local press

A select committee has called for plans for a tough new code which would restrict the publication of council newspapers to be delayed, claiming there is little evidence they are unfair competition to the local press.

The report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the proposed code of practice on local authority publicity, published today, calls for an independent inquiry on competition in the local media market.

The committee says: "We found that there is little hard evidence to support the view of the commercial newspaper industry that council publications are, to any significant extent, competing unfairly with independent newspapers at present, though there is concern that such competition may escalate in future.

"We endorse the recommendation of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the last Parliament that the Government commission an independent inquiry to assess competition in the local media market and quantify the impact of council publications on commercial entities operating in their locale.

"The Code contains provisions which are intended to prevent local authorities from publishing newsletters, newssheets or similar communications which seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style or content; restricting them to material that is directly related to the business, service or amenities of the authority concerned or other local service providers; and requiring them to be clearly marked as published by a local authority.

"We believe that, if properly enforced, the provisions in the proposed Code relating to cost effectiveness, content and appearance are sufficient to deal with the excesses of certain council papers, which are in any case confined to only a very few examples.

"We consider that a local authority’s needs to communicate information to residents would usually be satisfied by no more than quarterly publication, in line with the principle of cost effectiveness contained within the Code. We have doubts, however, about the need to specify a maximum frequency of publication within the Code, especially in the context of the Government’s professed commitment to greater ‘localism’."

The Newspaper Society was today quoting Local Government Minister Grant Shapps stating: "We will of course consider the Select Committee's recommendations. However we are clear that few things have done more to undermine local democracy than the explosion in town hall Pravdas bankrolled by hard pressed taxpayers."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ has been outspoken in criticism of some council newspapers. He told the London Councils Summit: "Clearly, if you are funded by the local council you are not the local independent voice . What we need is the voice of independent local newspapers bringing you to account."

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "We welcome the Committee’s report which makes clear that both Council publications and independent local newspapers have an important role to play. In particular we are pleased that the committee accepted the argument we and others put forward that there is ‘scant evidence to support the assertion that council publications are, to any significant extent, competing unfairly with independent papers published in their locale’.

“We believe the Code contains some useful safeguards for both local newspapers and council communications workers and welcome the fact that MPs have rejected the idea that the Code should restrict local authorities to a maximum of four issues of a newssheet per year.

“Eric Pickles should review his proposals and ensure that he acts to provide a fair outcome for both local authorities and independent local newspapers”.

Times and Indy slam cuts to BBC World Service

The Independent and The Times both have leaders today criticising the planned cuts to BBC World Service, which could see up to 650 jobs axed.

The Independent says: "At a time when our foreign policy establishment is struggling to sustain British influence in the world, drastic cuts to the BBC World Service announced this week represent a false economy.

It also claims: "The World Service helps to nourish democracy and political accountability across the world. Moreover, it produces much high-quality, impartial, and authoritative journalism. It exports British "soft power" and remains an island of resistance to the global proliferation of celebrity news. A relatively small nation such as Britain may struggle to be heard in the globalised age. Weakening one of its strongest international assets is a mistake."

The Times asks: "Is this the wisest way for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which remains the World Service’s paymaster until the burden passes to the BBC in 2014, to share its load of the Government’s budget cuts? The World Service carries a unique voice, offering serious reporting and analysis of the world — often where no such broadcasting exists, and generally where it is not being provided by a UK competitor. Its reputation for impartial news, calmly delivered, bothers despots from Burma to Iran and boosts the spirits of those whom they bully."

It concludes: "Budgetary belts are, rightly, being tightened across Whitehall. But in seeking to cut £46 million from the World Service’s budget the Foreign Office is surrendering Britain’s global need for a channel through which nation can continue to speak unto nation because it is shirking the challenge of finding cost savings in its own backyard."

Pic: NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear speaking at a demo outside Bush House against the World Service cuts yesterday. (Jon Slattery)

Keller a killer on dealing with WikiLeaks' Assange

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, doesn't pull his punches in an article for the paper's magazine about dealing with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The New York Times was one of Assange's favoured media partners but Killer's article can't be described as uncritical of the WikiLeaks founder. Here are some extracts.

  • The reporters came to think of Assange as smart and well educated, extremely adept technologically but arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous.
  • The Times’s relationship with our source [Assange] had gone from wary to hostile. I talked to Assange by phone a few times and heard out his complaints. He was angry that we declined to link our online coverage of the War Logs to the WikiLeaks Web site, a decision we made because we feared — rightly, as it turned out — that its trove would contain the names of low-level informants and make them Taliban targets. 'Where’s the respect?' he demanded.
  • The final straw was a front-page profile of Assange by John Burns and Ravi Somaiya, published Oct. 24, that revealed fractures within WikiLeaks, attributed by Assange’s critics to his imperious management style. Assange denounced the article to me, and in various public forums, as “a smear.”
  • Assange was transformed by his outlaw celebrity. The derelict with the backpack and the sagging socks now wore his hair dyed and styled, and he favored fashionably skinny suits and ties. He became a kind of cult figure for the European young and leftish and was evidently a magnet for women.
  • I came to think of Julian Assange as a character from a Stieg Larsson thriller — a man who could figure either as hero or villain in one of the megaselling Swedish novels that mix hacker counterculture, high-level conspiracy and sex as both recreation and violation.
  • As for our relationship with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange has been heard to boast that he served as a kind of puppet master, recruiting several news organizations, forcing them to work in concert and choreographing their work. This is characteristic braggadocio — or, as my Guardian colleagues would say, bollocks.
  • The Guardian seemed to have joined The [New York] Times on Assange’s enemies list, first for sharing the diplomatic cables with us, then for obtaining and reporting on the unredacted record of the Swedish police complaints against Assange. In his fury at this perceived betrayal, Assange granted an interview to The Times of London, in which he vented his displeasure with our little media consortium. If he thought this would ingratiate him with The Guardian rival, he was na├»ve. The paper happily splashed its exclusive interview, then followed it with an editorial calling Assange a fool and a hypocrite.
Keller does say: "But while I do not regard Assange as a partner, and I would hesitate to describe what WikiLeaks does as journalism, it is chilling to contemplate the possible government prosecution of WikiLeaks for making secrets public, let alone the passage of new laws to punish the dissemination of classified information, as some have advocated.

"Taking legal recourse against a government official who violates his trust by divulging secrets he is sworn to protect is one thing. But criminalizing the publication of such secrets by someone who has no official obligation seems to me to run up against the First Amendment and the best traditions of this country."

  • WikiLeaks responded on Twitter: "NYTimes does another self-serving smear. Facts wrong, top to bottom. Dark day for US journalism.”
  • The New York Times has a video on its Assange story here

Via GregMitch on Twitter

Wednesday 26 January 2011

BBC reports NoW head of news has been sacked

BBC News is reporting that the News of the World has sacked former head of news Ian Edmondson following an internal inquiry.

The news comes as police have launched a fresh investigation into phone hacking after receiving "significant new information".

The BBC says the information relates to hacking at the News of the World in 2005, which led to its royal editor being jailed.

On the Edmondson sacking, the BBC says a source said a trawl of his e-mails had found "highly damaging evidence" that had been passed to the police.

Edmondson was suspended in December after he was identified in court documents as having instructed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to access phone messages.

The new inquiry will be moved from the Met Police's counter terrorism command to the specialist crime directorate.

  • BBC business editor Robert Peston says on his blog:

    "At 1000 yesterday investigators from News International found e-mails that allegedly show that Mr Edmondson had knowledge of attempts to hack into the mobile phones of prominent individuals by the private investigator Glen Mulcaire.

    "News International confronted Mr Edmondson with the e-mails and dismissed him at 1600.

    "The UK arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation then sent the new evidence to the police. And it is this information which is the basis of the fresh police enquiry announced today.

    "There can now be no doubt that News International has abandoned its previous position that it had uncovered everything there was to find about possible malpractice in the way the News of the World tried to uncover information about the private lives of celebrities and public figures.

    "It now appears to be aggressively investigating the involvement of its employees in a way it didn't do hitherto"

  • In a remarkable run of media stories the BBC News at five 0'clock lead on phone hacking, sacking of Edmondson, followed by the sexism row at Sky Sports and the 650 job cuts at BBC World Service.

NUJ demo over 650 job cuts at World Service

The NUJ held a demo outside Bush House in London today to protest at plans to cut up to 650 jobs at the World Service.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear (centre) claimed the cuts, which would reduce staff numbers by around 25 per cent, would do irreparable damage to the World Service and hit news services across the BBC.

He said: "The diversity of staff and their presence in so many key locations around the world contributes to making the BBC World Service the leading voice in international broadcasting. At its best the World Service can challenge corruption, expose human rights abuses and promote democratic values."

  • The NUJ says journalists at the BBC World Service have welcomed the decision of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to hold an inquiry into the planned cuts in jobs and services.
Pics: Jon Slattery

Richard Sambrook: BBC World Service cuts are a 'major blow' to serious journalism

Richard Sambrook, former head of sport, news and most recently director of global news at the BBC before leaving the Corporation to join the Edelman PR company, has described the job cuts to be announced at the World Service today as a "major blow to serious journalism."

said on Twitter: "Thinking of former colleagues in BBC World Service - a quarter of organisation to be axed. Major blow to serious journalism."

A Facebook group SOS BBC World Service has been set up by supporters.
  • Members of the NUJ will attend a protest today (Wednesday January 26) at 1.00 pm at the Aldwych entrance to the World Service Bush House building in London.

WikiLeaks seeking up to 60 media partners

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told The Associated Press he hopes to enlist as many as 60 news organisations from around the world in a bid to help speed the publication of the whistleblowing website's massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos.

Assange told AP in a telephone interview he was making an effort to reach beyond the major newspapers — such as The New York Times and the Guardian — that worked with him on earlier releases, saying that he already has about 20 media partners, and could triple that number within the next three months.

"We're striving for maximum impact for the material," Assange said.

WikiLeaks has published 2,658 cables to its website — just over 1 percent of the 251,287 State Department cables it claims to have in reserve. Assange said that The New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel have yet to go through all of the cables, although he didn't say how many of the files remained unread.

Via Greg Mitch on Twitter

Pic: Jon Slattery

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Resignations of Johnson and Coulson lead news

The resignations of Alan Johnson and Andy Coulson grabbed the most press coverage in the week ending Sunday 23 January, according to journalisted.

Johnson's resignation due to 'personal reasons' and his replacement by Ed Balls, generated 179 articles; Coulson quitting Number 10, citing continuing coverage of News of the World phone hacking, 176 articles; Tunisia-style protests spread across North Africa and the Middle East, with cases of self-immolation reported in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania, 142 articles; and Tony Blair facing the Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq war for a second time, 121 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, was Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, surviving a confidence vote, resigning as party leader, and calling an early election as the Green Party pulls out of the coalition, 58 articles; the FBI makes 127 arrests across north-eastern US, reported to be one of its largest mafia crackdowns in history, 15 articles; controversy over a counter-terrorism police officer contacting universities for inside information on future student protests, four articles; a wave of bomb attacks in Iraq, killing up to 130 people, three articles.

NUJ predicts huge jobs cut at BBC World Service

The NUJ is predicting that it will be announced tomorrow that hundreds of jobs will be cut at BBC World Service.

NUJ reps at the service have written to the chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Richard Ottaway and the chair of the Culture Media and Sport Committee John Whittingdale, calling on them to review thoroughly the BBC’s plans for drastic cuts in the service.

The journalists say that BBC director of global news Peter Horrocks is due to announce on Wednesday his plans for the reorganisation of the World Service. “If the details we have obtained are accurate, we believe Mr Horrocks' plan will severely damage the national interest of the UK.” the journalists write.

The World Service journalists say they hope that the Commons committees will review these plans in the light of the recent licence fee and grant-in-aid agreements reached between the BBC and the government.

Their letter says: "We hope that you will take our concerns seriously.They arise from a love of what we do, and our desires to stop the destruction of the World Service and contribute to its future success."

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “These ferocious cuts to a valued national service are ultimately the responsibility of the Coalition government whose policies are destroying quality public services in the UK."

UPDATE: The BBC says the World Service is to close five of its language services. It is thought that about 650 jobs will be lost from a workforce of some 2,400. The Macedonian, Albanian and Serbian services will be axed, as will English for the Caribbean and Portuguese for Africa.

The BBC said: "This is part of its response to a cut to its Grant-in-Aid funding from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The cut is part of a BBC World Service restructure in order to meet a 16% savings target announced in the Government's Spending Review of 20 October last year."

BBC global news director Peter Horrocks added: "These closures are not a reflection on the performance of individual services or programmes. They are all extremely important to their audiences and to the BBC.

"It is simply that there is a need to make savings due to the scale of the cuts to the World Service's Grant-in-Aid funding from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office and we need to focus our efforts in the languages where there is the greatest need and where we have the strongest impact."

  • Members of the NUJ will attend a protest tomorrow (Wednesday January 26) at 1.00 pm at the Aldwych entrance to the World Service Bush House building in London.

Visibility rules for journalists and bloggers

Guest Blog: By David Amerland

In the writing game you used to be only as good as your last article or news report. It was a rule which kept journalists sharp against the attrition of laziness and time and offered an opportunity to newcomers who could say something trite with a strong, fresh voice, to shine. That, however, was last century and we are now in an age where clever writing and powerfully constructed articles hold less sway than a 200-word tirade which attracts 3,000 views and 200 comments moments after it’s put on the net.

The new game for writing is visibility and trained journalists who, by rights, should have a natural advantage here, often suffer precisely because of their training. Let’s backtrack just a little to make full sense of this. If you’re working online (and these days who isn’t) you know that the adage ‘Content is King’ has been the battlecry for every content provider on the web.

In the 21st century content continues to be king but the best content in the world amounts to little if search engines cannot find it, and ends up being seen by few and read by even fewer. The fact that content becomes important only when it can be found leads us, naturally enough, to consider that the means through which it is found are of equal significance to us. If we accept the fact that those who are online today have only a finite amount of time to spend there, during which, they get the chance to read then it becomes imperative that we place that content right under their noses.

Luckily enough there are three simple techniques which make what you write, easier to find:

1. Titles – while wordplay is good and clever titles make us, as writers, feel clever the real smart thing to do is apply the rule of calling a spade a bloody shovel. Search engines index words, not wit and being descriptive in your titles puts you in the running for some much-desired search engine love.

2. Network your content – no one likes listening to a hermit. They tend to be boring. The same is true for the content you write. People will come to your site to read it once they are familiar with you but in the first instance seeing content on Facebook, My Space and Beebo will go a long way towards overcoming any residual threshold barriers to reading your words. So make sure that in addition to your website you also have a presence in Facebook and MySpace which siphon content to the masses.

3. Use the real-time web – Much of the web, these days, is consumed on the move. Make sure your content is published automatically in Twitter and your Facebook profile news stream. Search engines use mentions and presence in the real-time web and social networks (like Facebook) to gauge a site’s worth and decide its ranking in the search engine results pages so just by using these three tips you are, in the process of placing content on your site, also search engine optimising it better.

Author bio

David Amerland is the author of the Amazon best-seller: ‘SEO Help: 20 steps to get your website to Google’s #1 page’ (ISBN: 978-1844819966), £18.99. His latest book, ‘Online Marketing Help: How to Promote Your Online Business Using Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Other Social Networks.’ (ISBN: 978-1844819881), £14.99 details how to use the real-time web and social networking tools in order to increase your online visibility. Both are available from Amazon or any good bookshop.

Other guest blogs:

NUJ urged by executive to recruit non-journalists

A motion urging the National Union of Journalists to recruit non-journalists to counter the impact of mass redundancies on editorial posts and a resulting fall in the union's membership is on the agenda for the NUJ's Delegate Meeting in April.

Significantly, the motion is being put forward by the union's National Executive Council and says the NUJ should be open to everyone working in the media.

Motion 127 on the preliminary agenda says "This Delegate Meeting believes that, in the context of the mass redundancies in the industry and the consequent decline in membership, that the union’s membership restrictions limit potential recruitment and our industrial strength.

"DM notes that the rules can create unnecessary divisions in the workplace whereby, for example, support or technical staff must join another union or remain unrepresented. This DM believes that the NUJ should become the union for mediaworkers and open membership up to all working in the media who wish to join.

"DM therefore instructs the NEC to amend the rules to give effect to the principle that anyone working for a media company or in the media departments of other companies should qualify for membership, regardless of their role.

"DM instructs the NEC to seek meetings with relevant other unions in the media sector to seek to ensure that this does not bring us into dispute with them."

The motion is bound to prove controversial and goes back to the days when it was proposed that the NUJ merged with the print unions to form one powerful media union that could stand up to publishers like Rupert Murdoch.

Hat Tip: Miles Barter's The Workers United blog

Whittam Smith gives PM both barrels over NI

The Independent's founding editor Andreas Whittam Smith in the paper today accuses David Cameron of "moral blindness" over his links to News International and claims there is an unwritten law in Government: "Never offend the Murdochs".

He writes: "Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has succumbed to a dangerous condition, moral blindness. Intelligence and knowledge are no protection. It is brought on by strong emotions, such as anger, or greed, or sexual appetite. In Mr Cameron's case, it can be diagnosed very simply. It is the desire to hold political power for as long as possible, which is a sort of greed. That is what has clouded his judgement. His unspoken thought is that in order to win the next general election he must at all costs have the backing of News International's newspapers, the News of the World, The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. There is the supreme necessity. When necessary, the Murdochs must be appeased. Nothing else matters."

Whittam Simth adds: "But as we have an unwritten constitution, so we have writs that are unrecorded. And if it were spelled out, it would simply state: never offend the Murdochs. Nobody will say this in terms to the Department of Culture that is now handling media competition issues. Nobody has written it down for Scotland Yard's benefit. But this odious rule has become part of our unofficial constitution. That is how bad it is."
  • Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today he intends to refer News Corporation's bid for BSkyB to the Competition Commission. But he has given the company extra time to address concerns he has regarding "potential threats to media plurality".

  • NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear commented: "Jeremy Hunt has not just shifted the goalposts in considering the Murdoch plan to damage media plurality, he has allowed Rupert Murdoch to take the goalposts home, to return when he feels he's more likely to win the game. The government decision is an outrageous example of how the Coalition is working hand in glove with multinational corporations against the public interest."

Monday 24 January 2011

CPS to seek meeting with editors on contempt

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron, who has blogged about whether the contempt laws only apply to the local and not the national press, met with Crown Prosecution Service officials today.

He has described the meeting as "constructive" on his blog and says:"With the nationals seemingly allowed to drive a coach and horses through the law in relation to prejudicing trials, editors need to know where they stand.

"The CPS has agreed to try to set up a meeting of editors and court officials to try to find a clearer way forward. I look forward to it."

Dear condemns BBC cuts of up to 360 online jobs

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear (left) claimed today that BBC plans to cut up to 360 jobs in the online service made no sense at a time when the public's use of the internet is increasing.

Dear said: "The attack on BBC jobs and online services shows the BBC’s contempt for hard working staff. It makes no sense to cut back the BBC website as increasing numbers of people rely on the internet. The NUJ will not stand by idly if members are forced out of their jobs.

“Mark Thompson has turned logic on its head by announcing the cuts with a declaration that ‘BBC Online has been a brilliant success’. The cuts in jobs and online content will seriously damage a service which has won widespread public support and is the envy of commercial competitors.

"The BBC proposals fly in the face of public support for the online service. The BBC’s own public consultation showed that 46 per cent of people supported the Online services and there was strong public opposition to a reduction in service. The BBC Online Review which has resulted in the cuts proposals was not subject to any public consultation and seriously damages the BBC’s reputation for quality.”

Robert Peston on phone hacking: 'The newspaper industry's version of the MPs' expenses scandal'

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston blogs today about News International's strategy over the phone hacking affair.

He writes: "Executives at News are engaged - they tell me - in finding out everything they can about who was hacked by the News of the World, News International's Sunday tabloid, and who at News International knew about the hacking.

"Once they have the details, they will offer settlements to those celebs, politicians and others whose privacy may have been invaded - to cut out the requirement for huge lawyers' fees. Any culpable News International executives will be sacked."

But Peston predicts in won't end there: "Not too subtly, the message will be sent out that if News International's Augean Stables have been cleaned, what about the stench from other media groups? Because, as I've mentioned before on this blog, there was a period at the start of this century when questionable techniques to obtain stories were employed by a number of newspapers.

"In this context, it matters that Mark Lewis - the solicitor who obtained a whopping settlement from the News of the World over the hacking of the phone of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association - is preparing cases for clients alleging unlawful breach of privacy against media groups other than News International."

Peston adds: "Not to over-dramatise, this has all the potential for the newspaper industry to turn into its version of the MPs' expenses scandal."