Thursday 29 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From police snooped on more Sun journalists to 5,000 UK local and national newspaper editorial jobs axed in a decade

Sean O’Neill in The Times [£]: "Scotland Yard deliberately concealed the full extent of its snooping on journalists during the investigation into the so-called Plebgate affair. An official report revealed last year that the Metropolitan police had gathered call and text logs from the mobile phone of Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of The Sun, to discover the source of his story about the infamous clash between Downing Street police officers and Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory chief whip. The police report, The Times can reveal, kept secret the fact that detectives used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to trawl for data from the phones of two other Sun journalists, Anthony France, the crime reporter and Craig Woodhouse, the political correspondent."

The Times [£] in a leader: "The figures for all investigations into suspected journalistic wrongdoing, including inquiries into phone and computer hacking, have reached a giddying £40 million. In 1967, a Times editorial challenged the senseless prosecution of the singer Mick Jagger and posed the question: 'Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?' The present campaign, rightly described as a vendetta by the Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, suggests we should again frame that question."

Telegraph editorial on the jury failing to agree at the end of the trial of Sun journalists: "This should have been the end of the men’s ordeal. But the Crown Prosecution Service is to seek a retrial, despite the already monumental costs of this whole affair – estimated at close to £200 million. Can the CPS really argue that this is either fair or in the public interest? The judge in the case that collapsed yesterday said any new trial had to be held as soon as possible because the defendants had been waiting for the matter to be resolved for some considerable time. In our view they have been in limbo long enough. A trial has been held and there has been no conviction. The CPS should leave it there."

Nick Cohen in The Observer: "Honourable reporters go to prison to protect their sources. Murdoch and his team sent their sources to prison to protect themselves and have tried to do the same to their journalists."

Pic Lewis Bush
Emily Bell, giving the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture at the London College of Communications: "Hugh Cudlipp’s book bore the battle cry title for journalists: Publish And Be Damned! But that came from a time when we knew who the publishers were and what damnation meant. This too is altered by the Internet. When terror organisations, psychopaths, corrupt corporations are the publishers damnation looks rather different to an angry phone call from Number 10. Publish and be damned sounds daring, appealing almost. Publish and be murdered at your desk, publish and be overwhelmed with foul mouthed threatening messages, publish and be imprisoned without due process, publish and be beheaded for a publicity stunt, publish and be blown up in a basement in Homs, publish and have your office smashed up and your family intimidated, publish and put a stranger’s life in danger. These sound less swashbuckling, much more threatening, and yet that is what is happening, not just in Paris, but in Egypt, in Mexico, in Iran, in Syria, in Saudi Arabia, in Britain, in America, everywhere in fact."

Rupert Murdoch @rupertmurdoch on Twitter: "Much fuss and publicity in UK as horrible elites yak on about Page 3. Worry not, The Sun will always have great looking women - and men!"

David Blair in the Daily Telegraph: "It was under the headline 'Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland', that this newspaper reported the 'greatest massacre in the world’s history' on June 25, 1942. The story was remarkably detailed and accurate, yet the credit belongs neither to this newspaper nor the anonymous 'Daily Telegraph reporter' who was the author. All the facts were supplied by Szmul Zygielbojm, a member of the Polish government in exile who made it his mission to inform the world about the Holocaust."

Pic: BBC
Peter Oborne in the Telegraph: "One of the most telling manifestations of the pathetic self-indulgence of modern journalism is the phenomenon of the 'media commentator.' This is a lofty figure who does not write about events in the real world, but prefers to comment on the journalists who do."

BBC report on the Future of News"The internet has ripped a hole in the business model of many great news organisations.  And, as a result, vast swathes of modern life are increasingly unreported or under-reported.  Take the local press. As classified and local advertising has moved online, the regional press has suffered.  From the Rocky Mountain News in the US to the Reading Post in the UK, local newspapers have closed. More than 5,000 editorial jobs were cut across the regional and national press in the UK in a decade."


Thursday 22 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From editors unite to fight RIPA to did media boob over page 3 cover up?

Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford: “It is unprecedented in my experience for every national newspaper editor to agree on anything. So it is highly significant that here [in a joint letter to the PM] they have said with once voice that RIPA needs tougher controls to protect journalists' sources. Giving police the ability to secretly view the phone records of law-abiding journalists is not compatible with an open democratic society.”

Edward Snowden
James Ball in the Guardian: "GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals. Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency....New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed 'investigative journalists' as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers."

Statement by Professionals for Information Privacy Coalition, which includes the NUJ, Law Society, Bar Council and The British Association of Social Workers: "Privacy and trust is crucially important to the British public and our professions. We need to be assured that certain data will always remain confidential in all but exceptional and extreme circumstances. Insufficient regard for professional confidentiality undermines the public’s trust in our individual members, organisations and our public institutions. We are united in our belief that the current system needs to be changed. We have seen a growing number of instances where data and surveillance powers have been seriously and repeatedly overused. This has included police using secret methods to expose journalistic sources and to monitor journalists' activities and it has also been revealed that the intelligence agencies have been spying on conversations between lawyers and their clients."

Guardian readers' editor Chis Elliott on the paper publishing the front cover of Charlie Hebdo:"I am aware that many Muslims, some of them friends and colleagues, will have been offended by the Guardian’s use of that image, and I am sorry for that. However, I believe the countervailing argument is that on this occasion the image of the cover had an important and legitimate news value. Showing the magazine’s response in the wake of the deaths was an important part of telling the story, and the Guardian did so in a measured, restrained fashion. It has to feel free to tell it in its own way."

Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday"Using the excuse of terrorism – whose main victim is considered thought – Theresa May’s Home Office is making a law which attacks free expression in this country as it has never been attacked before. We already have some dangerous laws on the books. The Civil Contingencies Act can be used to turn Britain into a dictatorship overnight, if politicians can find an excuse to activate it. But the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, now slipping quietly and quickly through Parliament, is in a way even worse. It tells us what opinions we should have, or should not have."

George Monbiot in the Guardian: "The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints. Every weekday morning, the Today programme grovels to business leaders for 10 minutes. It might occasionally challenge them on the value or viability of their companies, but hardly ever on their ethics. Corporate critics are shut out of its business coverage – and almost all the rest."

Grey Cardigan on TheSpinAlley: "AT LAST, a confession – and confirmation – of what I have been banging on about for what seems years. A senior suit – in this case Tom Thomson of the Herald & Times group in Glasgow – finally comes clean on the financial reality of the modern media business by admitting that 90% of his company’s revenue still comes from its flagship print title. In that case, I’m bound to ask once again why newspaper managers have butchered their titles by binning editions, closing district offices and massacring staff numbers while pumping out yesterday’s news tomorrow, just to piss millions of pounds up a profitless paywall. I await an answer with interest."

The Times  [£]: "The Sun will no longer feature topless models on page 3 after quietly dropping one of the most controversial traditions in British journalism. The Times understands that Friday’s edition of the paper was the last that will carry an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page, ending a convention that began in 1970, shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper."

The Sun on Thursday: "Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth. We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."

Janice Turner in The Times: "The truth is that The Sun hung on to page 3 long after its sell-by date out of a cussed bunker mentality, a determination not to capitulate to leftie campaigners. Rebekah Brooks told me she didn’t abolish it just to defy those who assumed that, as the paper’s first woman editor, she would."

David Yelland @davidyelland on Twitter: "Alleged 'dropping of P3 at The Sun' must not divert us from fact many fine Sun staff were 'dropped in it' by past leadership at company...."

Thursday 15 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: Charlie Hebdo to FOI

Pic: BBC

Nick Cohen in the Observer: "Most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us."

Charles Moore in the Telegraph: "The media deplored the death threats that followed the (genuinely un-nasty) Danish cartoons, but did not publish them. We say 'Nous sommes Charlie', but fight shy of reprinting the magazine’s Mohammed gags, so readers never quite know what the story is about. Employers worry about their staff’s safety. Some even fear upsetting Muslim newsagents. Terrorism is working."

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian: "It is not only violent jihadists who resent representations of the prophet: such pictures trouble many millions of peaceful Muslims too. To print one now would be to take a stand against the former by offending the latter."

Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times [£]: "The point about the Muhammad cartoons, however, is that almost none of those expressing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo are willing to put their own lives (or those of their colleagues) on the line in the cause of religious satire. Not that I blame them. As an editor I once overruled the decision of a page designer to illustrate a review of a book on Islam with a picture of the prophet. I told my colleague I had no doubt about its appropriateness on journalistic or historical grounds, but 'if we publish that, we’ll have nutters with hooks for hands storming the building'.  The public explanation of such a decision would have been that the paper did not want to cause offence. That is mere cant: newspapers are always offending people — it’s one of the joys of journalism."

David Cameron and Barack Obama writing in The Times [£]: "When the freedoms that we treasure came under a brutal attack in Paris, the world responded with one voice. Along with our French allies, we have made clear to those who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that our voices will only grow louder."

Nick Clegg, at the Journalists' Charity reception at the Irish Embassy: "Among those linking arms in paris were leaders of other less liberal countries where people are still locked up or worse for speaking their mind, or journalists for doing their job."

Matthew Parris in The Times [£]: "This is no high noon and none is coming. Our culture and governments are infinitely superior, more competent and more powerful; if there is a war it is a war in which our own casualties are light and 99 per cent of the dead seem to be unlucky Muslims in the Middle East. On our own soil sporadic atrocities will always be possible and to their victims bring unfathomable grief; but there is not the remotest chance that fundamentalist Islam will sweep the globe or hobble our free media. We should have more confidence in ourselves than that. I understand — I share — the angry defiance of the world of authors and journalists, but I’m finding it a little self-referential and a little shrill."

Jane Martinson in the Guardian: "But whatever lessons were learned, the most striking image from this awful week at the start of 2015 were those of international protest by people holding pens and pencils aloft, a universal show of support for an industry where such things are today so rare."

Max Hastings in the Daily Mail: "Such people as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden (the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor turned treacherous fugitive), who have broadcast American and British secrets wholesale, are celebrated as heroes by some people who should know better, many of them writing for the Guardian or broadcasting for the BBC. In truth, Assange and Snowden have damaged the security of each and every one of us, by alerting the jihadis and Al Qaeda, our mortal enemies, to the scale and reach of electronic eavesdropping."

Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel on 10 years of FOI in the UK, in new book FOI 10 years on: freedom fighting or lazy journalism? : "The media have played an absolutely critical role. They have not only opened up streams of important news stories but demonstrated to the wider public that FOI works and is worth using."


Wednesday 14 January 2015

The ‘nincompoop’ Blair’s greatest mistake? 10 years of Freedom of Information in the UK

Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel assesses a decade of FOI in the UK in a chapter in a new book, FOI 10 years on: freedom fighting or lazy journalism? He says the media has played a critical role by opening up streams of important news stories and showing the public that FOI works, but warns the pressure to clampdown on hard-won freedoms is mounting.


In 1991, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Face the Facts’ programme reported on the closure, at two weeks notice, of a hostel for the homeless. The presenter asked to see the report that led to the decision. The then social security minister Anne Widdecombe replied:

‘You cannot obviously have detailed reports made available to every outside organisation and everybody who wants to come along and look at them. There’s no organisation in the country which could function on that sort of basis... there is no way that I am interested in having umpteen organisations looking into every last detail of all our papers... No, I will not show you the report. I see no reason to show the BBC the report. You know the contents of the report. If you don’t believe me, that is tough luck’ (BBC, 1991).

The following year, the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police replied to a requester who had asked for an explanation of one of his decisions. ‘I have not the slightest intention of giving you any information why I reached the decision I did,’ he observed. ‘To sum up, I would please ask in future you direct your inquiries to me personally but I can assure you, you will certainly not receive any answers’ (The Independent, 1992). Remarkably, that rebuff was not directed towards an ordinary member of the public, but to the chairman of a statutory body, the Police Complaints Authority.

A radical reform

Such outraged outbursts are rarely heard today. Ministers and officials may secretly feel that requesters are invading their privacy – but neither the public nor the law now accept that. The Freedom of Information Act provides, in the words of the High Court, ‘a radical change to our law and the rights of the citizen to be informed’ (Burnton, 2008). The results can be seen every day in the press: FOI stories revealing lapses in public services; policies falling short; regulators that can’t keep up; lobbying by special interests; undeclared conflicts of interest; reckless spending and authorities acknowledging in private what they have publicly denied. 

Tony Blair famously described FOI as his greatest mistake and himself as a ‘nincompoop’ for introducing it. But even if he was, as Lord Falconer - who took the FOI Bill through the Lords - wryly observed, being ‘typically modest about his achievements’, some of what Blair says is spot on. FOI was, as he wrote in his memoirs, ‘a quite extraordinary offer by a government to open scrutiny. Its consequences would be revolutionary’ (Blair, 2010).

No revolution was intended, of course. After an initial, bold White Paper (Cabinet Office, 1997) the Government published a draft FOI bill so weak as to have snuffed out any right to know (Home Office, 1999). Some 10 pages of exemptions were coupled with a purely voluntary public interest test, which the Information Commissioner would have had no power to enforce. In a parody of a public interest test, authorities would have been entitled to ask requesters why they wanted the information, what they intended to do with it and - if satisfied with the reason - reveal it on condition they did not make it public. That this would have constituted disclosure ‘in the public interest’ was a neatly Orwellian touch. 
Faced with a gale of criticism, these elements of the Bill were eventually dropped. The public interest test became legally binding but ministers insisted on the power to veto decisions made under it by the Commissioner and Tribunal. Jack Straw who, as Home Secretary, introduced the FOI bill has since acknowledged that he and the prime minister considered killing the measure off altogether. Only Labour’s manifesto commitment to FOI and Blair’s personal promise to deliver it restrained them (Straw, 2012).

In the public interest

The public interest test has proved to be the heart of the Act. It has turned exemptions from the fierce barriers to access originally intended to a nuanced balancing of the pros and cons of disclosure. The section 35 exemption for government policy formulation was intended to protect internal discussion from disclosure other than in exceptional cases. But the High Court has ruled that there is no presumption against disclosure under the public interest test (Burnton, 2008). If you ask for policy discussions before any decision has been taken, the answer will normally be no. But if the request is made after the decision, a genuine weighing up of competing factors should follow. Will disclosure of information of that sensitivity (or lack of it) after that length of time inhibit the future recording of similar views? Does the public interest in protecting the official stream of consciousness outweigh the benefits of scrutiny, public understanding and accountability?

The section 36 exemption for the frankness of advice or deliberation and the ‘effective conduct of public affairs’ was devised as an easily invoked catch-all. All that’s needed is a ‘reasonable opinion’ from a minister or senior officer that disclosure would be harmful. But the Tribunal’s approach, which the Government cannot have expected, is that while this elevated person’s opinion triggers the exemption it carries no weight under the public interest test (Information Tribunal, 2007). If the evidence of harm is poor or the case for disclosure good, the information must be revealed.

The ministerial veto, which in theory could overturn such public interest decisions, has been invoked on only a handful of occasions in the Act’s 10 years. A commitment that the cabinet must endorse its use on every occasion has erected a procedural obstacle to its casual exercise. So while disclosure of the cabinet minutes on the war with Iraq has been vetoed, the government has complied with Tribunal rulings to disclose ministerial working party papers discussing the benefit rights of Eastern European workers (Information Tribunal, 2009) and information about British officials’ role in soliciting bribes for Saudis involved in the Al Yamamah arms deal (Information Tribunal, 2008).

Unfortunately, the public interest test does not apply to all exemptions. And an obstructive authority has a powerful card to play: delay. Each stage of the process can be spun out over many months. Requesters with lives to live may find other uses for their time but plenty have been prepared to go the distance.

Media requests

The media have played an absolutely critical role. They have not only opened up streams of important news stories but demonstrated to the wider public that FOI works and is worth using. Requests cost nothing and are simple to make – particularly via the informative web site, which allows requesters to first study how related requests have fared in the past.

But there has been a backlash. According to one survey some authorities believe that many requests are made solely ‘for what was seen as illegitimate use i.e. a “good” media story or to irritate organisations’ (Ministry of Justice, 2011). An appeal for information about ‘problems’ caused by the Act, circulated on behalf of the Local Government Association in 2014 sought statistics on requests by the media and others while complaining about ‘the use of the FOI process by researchers and campaigners for their benefit at our expense’ (Lawyers in Local Government, 2014). The depressing implication is that they believe the Act is there to help householders discover why their rubbish collection was late but anyone using it to document or influence policy is hijacking FOI for an improper purpose.

The press’s use of FOI undoubtedly irritates some authorities. Is this just resentment at the scrutiny, exposés and criticism? Complaints about the high volume of journalists’ requests are common. FOI is sometimes used as a survey tool with the same request going to multiple authorities. Some of the results have been spectacular, as with the Guardian’s survey of the mortality rate of
individual cardiac surgeons.

The paper published figures adjusted to take account of the severity of the patients’ conditions, so as not to unfairly penalise surgeons prepared to tackle risky cases (Boseley, 2005). The exercise gave extra impetus to the publication of such data by the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery, which has now occurred. Critics had argued that it would make surgeons less willing to operate on high-risk patients, to avoid jeopardising their statistics. But this has not occurred, at least from the publication of hospital- wide mortality data (Bridgewater, 2007).

Another complaint is that journalists use FOI for ‘fishing expeditions’ – requests fired off with no express target in the hope of a lucky strike on a newsworthy item. FOI officers may resent having to find and process large volumes of material most of which will be judged too mundane to report. The Commissioner who enforces Scotland’s FOI law has ruled that a request for all ‘if asked’ answers to potential press questions, prepared by the Scottish Government during a four month period, would have required such a wide and expensive trawl of files as to make it ‘manifestly unreasonable’ and thus vexatious (Scottish Information Commissioner, 2013). 

A ruling from the UK Upper Tribunal has established that requests that do not exceed the FOI cost limit may be vexatious if answering would cause a disproportionate burden not justified by the value of the information (Upper Tribunal, 2013). The UK Information Commissioner’s guidance expressly cites ‘fishing expeditions’ from journalists as a potentially vexatious category if they are part of a disproportionately burdensome pattern of ‘pot luck’ requests covering large amounts of information of limited value. However, he cautions against its use by authorities where the requester is following a genuine line of enquiry (Information Commissioner’s Office, 2013). At the time of writing, only one such journalism case had been decided, and that in the journalist’s favour (Information Commissioner’s Office, 2014). This development will undoubtedly require some requesters to moderate the volume of requests they make. Under a regime where access is completely free of charge, such self-restraint may be wise if only to avoid further restrictions.

Pressure for restrictions

Within 18 months of the Act coming into force in 2005 the Blair government attempted to make it easier for authorities to refuse requests on cost grounds. The measure was blocked by the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and dropped when he became prime minister in May 2007.

Simultaneously, a private member’s bill to exclude Parliament and thus MPs’ expenses from FOI was approved by the Commons but stalled in the Lords (Campaign for Freedom of Information, 2007).
In 2010 the government came close to excluding all cabinet and cabinet committee papers from the Act (Ministry of Justice, 2010). There has been high- level support for moves to bar access to government policy discussions altogether and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has complained that FOI ‘furs up the whole of government’ (House of Commons, 2012). Information about communications with the Monarch and the next two in line to the throne has already been removed from FOI.

There has been pressure for application fees to be introduced with some authorities calling for them to apply to commercial bodies, which they suggest should include the media. The Local Government Association has twice released lists of the most bizarre FOI requests received by local authorities, highlighting the total cost of FOI to councils and warning about the need to ensure value for money. In fact, requests about preparations for possible zombie attacks (the kind of example that features) cost nothing, because FOI officers do not spend time on them. But the publicity promotes the idea that FOI has gone too far.

At the time of writing the coalition government is still considering options to allow more requests to be refused on cost grounds - and the introduction of charges for appeals to the Tribunal. It says its concern is to focus on those who impose ‘disproportionate burdens’ by making ‘industrial’ use of the Act. But the key proposals would make it easier to refuse all requests including those from occasional applicants raising issues of real public interest (Campaign for Freedom of Information, 2014).

So far attempts to restrict the Act have largely been unsuccessful. But there’s no guarantee of that in future. The introduction of charges under Ireland’s FOI Act in 2003 (which has just been partly reversed) led to an immediate 75 per cent fall in the volume of official information requests. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is being abolished which will require challenges to the merits of decisions to go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal at a cost of AUS$800 (£435).

There is no iron law that says FOI is never rolled back - and pressure for that seems certain to continue.
  • FOI 10 years on: freedom fighting or lazy journalism? Edited by Tom Felle and John Mair, published by Abramis academic publishing

Friday 9 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: Paris terrorism attack "A newspaper is not a weapon of war.”

Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Biard: “I don’t understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.”

Ian Hislop, quoted by Press Gazette: "I am appalled and shocked by this horrific attack - a murderous attack on free speech in the heart of Europe. I offer my condolences to the families and friends of those killed - the cartoonists, journalists and those who were trying to protect them. They paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary: "The assassination of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, cynically targeted on press day to maximise casualties, is an attempt to assassinate the free press. Our hearts go out to the families of the 10 journalists and police officers killed in this despicable raid. The newspaper had already been the subject of attacks by people who want to supress democracy and freedom of speech. These journalists have now paid with their lives; the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. Supporters of free speech and civil liberties must stand together with governments to condemn this act and defend the right of all journalists to do their job without fear of threats, intimidation and brutal murder."

Committee to Protect Journalists deputy director Robert Mahoney: "This is a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe. The scale of the violence is appalling. Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand."

David Aaronovitch in The Times [£]: "A reason why Charlie Hebdo could be singled out for attack is because the rest of us have been cowards. There should, of course, be satires on Islam as on Christianity as on capitalism as on Russell Brand. But there aren’t. Part of this is because of a misplaced decency ("why make people feel uncomfortable?”) but most of it is fear."

The Daily Telegraph in a leader: "It does not follow that because many newspapers, such as this one, do not publish cartoons of Mohammed that somehow we have been intimidated into not speaking out. Any suggestion that a publication failing to follow Charlie Hebdo’s example is caving into terrorism is absurd: we all make editorial decisions to avoid offending people that have nothing to do with appeasing militant Islamists."

The Financial Times: "The response of the free world to this must be unwavering. Charlie Hebdo may be a very different publication to our own, but the courage of its journalists — and their right to publish — cannot be placed in doubt. A free press is worth nothing if its practitioners do not feel free to speak."

Nick Cohen in The Observer"The palace and the politicians expect a smooth succession to the reign of Charles III, even though he is a man who has spent his life demonstrating how woefully unqualified he is to be a constitutional king. A small measure of his failure lies in the BBC’s decision to postpone and possibly ban Reinventing the Royals."

Yasmin Alibhai Brown in the Independent: "Freedom of speech and expression is held up as a shining British value. But the Queen and her brood can and do stop the media and authors from pursuing legitimate investigations and asking tough questions. They can come down so heavy that seasoned journalists shake with terror and give up."

The NUJ Photographers' Council on the Campaign for Children’s Privacy call for legislation to prevent the media from publishing photographs of children without consent from parents or a legal guardian: "This proposal is simplistic, dangerous, wrong in principle, unworkable and not the answer to the problems they raise. Banning photographs of children – all children – without prior parental consent would have a chilling effect on a free press. The campaign does propose exceptions for crowd shots and photographs published in the public interest."

Nick Robinson @bbcnickrobinson on Twitter: "Pre-election memo to all parties : when your members laugh at or jeer unwelcome questions from journalists it says more about you than us"

PressThink: 'When to Quit Your Journalism Job': "If you work in any kind of editorial organization, it is your job to understand the business model. If you feel you can’t do that, you should quit. By 'understand the business model,' I mean you can (confidently) answer this question: What is the plan to bring in enough money to sustain the enterprise and permit it to grow? Can’t answer? You have the wrong job."

Johann Hari, interviewed in the Guardian: “I can talk to you about why what happened in my life happened. But I just think that’s a way of trying to invite sympathy, and that would be weaselly. If you tell a detailed personal story about yourself, you’re inherently asking people to sympathise with you, and actually I don’t think people should be sympathetic to me. I’m ashamed of what I did. I did some things that were really nasty and cruel.”

James Bloodworth in the Independent on Katie Hopkins' Twitter comments being investigated by the police:"Dare to be rude about the wrong person or group and, in a bad parody of Erich Honecker’s East Germany, you could hear the knock on the door in the middle of the night and be dragged off to some dreary police cell for questioning. I exaggerate of course, but not much: around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, with around 20 people a day being looked into by the forces of the law, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

Stephen Fry ‏@stephenfry on Twitter: "Some good suggestions as to what to do with my door-stepping journos. Everything from sandwiches to Rottweilers. Maybe coffee is the answer."

Rolf Dobelli in the Guardian:
"News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation."


Thursday 1 January 2015

Media Quotes of the Year: July to December 2014

The Times [£] reveals police used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to obtain a journalist's phone records: "Police investigating the Chris Huhne speeding points scandal secretly obtained the phone records of a journalist and one of his sources for the story, even though a judge had agreed that the source could remain confidential, The Times can reveal. A Kent police officer was granted authorisation to obtain the billing and call data of a Mail on Sunday journalist, alongside his source, who was later unmasked as a freelance journalist."

The Mail on Sunday: "In our strenuous efforts to protect our sources and resist handing over emails to Huhne’s lawyers, The Mail on Sunday ran up a £150,000 legal bill, none of which can be recovered."

Press Gazette: "Journalists’ telephone records were seized in order to track down the whistleblowers who revealed former Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s altercation with officers outside 10 Downing Street."

The Sun [£]: "THE Sun has made an official complaint about the Met Police using anti-terror laws to snoop on the phone calls of our journalists."

Press Gazette: "The Interception of Communications Commissioner has announced an inquiry into police use of spying powers against journalists. The move comes less than a month after Press Gazette launched the Save Our Sources campaign urging the Commissioner to take action after it emerged that the police had secretly grabbed the phone records of The Sun newspaper."

The Sun [£] in a leader: "The secret snooping on our political editor Tom Newton Dunn’s mobile phone records by the Metropolitan Police after the ‘Plebgate’ scandal is an outrage…We applaud the Government’s interceptions watchdog for deciding to investigate this scandal. The Met must not get away with it.”

The Guardian in a leader: "Journalists are not above the law, but they need its protections to play a legitimate role in our free society. Ripa as it stands fails to provide such protections. It must be changed."

Roy Greenslade on his Media Guardian blog: "Ripa was supposed to protect national security and detect crime while preventing disorder and protecting public health. Its misuse and abuse inhibits journalists from acting on behalf of the public and therefore threatens our civil liberties."

The Telegraph in a leader: "If whistleblowers think the police are going to find out they have been talking to journalists, they will withhold information. It would seem the police are posing a serious threat to the ability of the press to carry out its proper role in a free country."

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: "One of the many services performed by Edward Snowden was to show that nothing beyond constant press vigilance will curb 'big security' from trampling on civil liberty, even in a democracy. In Britain, the coalition’s appeasement of such trampling means that no whistleblower is safe in talking to a friend, a lawyer, a journalist or, for that matter, anyone via a phone or the internet. Anything said may be available to a potential prosecutor or opponent’s law firm. We are back to the Soviet Union, with private conversation confined to public parks."

Mr Justice Mitting finding in favour of the Sun in the 'plebgate' libel case: "For the reasons given I am satisfied at least on the balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same including the politically toxic word pleb."

The Sun [£] in a leader: "We must not forget the whistleblower who was the source of our original story. He also displayed courage by coming forward to expose Mitchell. Shamefully, and despite the clear public interest dimension The Sun's story, he was sacked by the Met for gross misconduct."

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the the Home Affairs Select Committee: "RIPA is not fit for purpose. We were astonished that law enforcement agencies failed to routinely record the professions of individuals who have had their communications data accessed under the legislation. Using RIPA to access telephone records of journalists is wrong and this practice must cease. The inevitable consequence is that this deters whistleblowers from coming forward."

Jack of Kent ‏@JackofKent on Twitter: "Because of #DRIP Act, Met can now get journalists' email records (gmail, etc) as easily as they got journalist's phone record in #Plebgate....A government which can identify sources of journalists holding it to account 'regulates' the media more than anything proposed by Leveson."

Mr Justice Saunders at the end of the hacking trial, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph: "All the defendants that I have to sentence, save for Mr Mulcaire are distinguished journalists who had no need to behave as they did to be successful. They all achieved a great deal without resorting to the unlawful invasion of other people's privacy. Those achievements will now count for nothing. I accept that their reputations and their careers are irreparably damaged."

Nick Cohen in The Spectator: "The Tory press does not stop to consider that their journalists are a despised minority who also need human rights laws to defend them. The left-wing press and the BBC are no better. They stayed silent when the police arrested dozens of Sun journalists — not for hacking the phones of celebrities, but for stories from the police, prisons and armed forces which may turn out to be in the public interest. To left-wing journalists, the Tory tabloids are reviled enemies against whom any use or abuse of police power is justified. They never worry that the state will use the same tactics against them. People go on about the might of the British press. They do not see that, consumed by hatreds and torn by civil war, it can no longer stand up for its own best interests, let alone the best interests of a free society."

The Guardian: "Lawyers for Rolf Harris used a controversial passage in the Leveson report to try to dissuade the media from naming the entertainer after his arrest on suspicion of sexual offences.
The London law firm Harbottle & Lewis cited Lord Justice Leveson's contentious proposal that the public should be prevented from knowing the names of arrest suspects in all but "exceptional" circumstances."

The Daily Mail in a leader: "It was only when Harris was named by journalists – four months after police first interviewed him, in relation to a single victim – that the dam broke and the other women were able to come forward. Disturbingly, post-Leveson, there are many examples of police holding, arresting and even charging suspects in secret. This chilling practice is not only an affront to open justice and the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. It also hands a gift to predators like Harris who depend upon their frightened victims believing they are on their own."

BBC Radio 4 Today @BBCr4today on Twitter: "Liberal MP Cyril Smith wrote to the BBC in 1976 asking it not to investigate the 'private lives of certain MPs'."

Peter Oborne in the Telegraph: "Today’s opposition leader, Ed Miliband, is suffering from exactly the same treatment as Kinnock, Major and Hague. In the wake of the phone hacking trial, the Murdoch newspapers – confronted so bravely by the Labour leader three years ago – are back in full cry. They have long memories at News International – now News UK – and may believe they have Mr Miliband’s measure. But the company is not alone: Mr Miliband is being hunted by nearly all of Fleet Street."

Sunday Sport ‏@thesundaysport on Twitter: "So, @Daily_Star you want to play that game, do you?"

MP Brooks Newmark in the Mail on Sunday: "When a newspaper exposed one of these episodes – involving a male freelance reporter using stolen pictures to impersonate a young female Conservative Party activist – I stood down as a Minister. Now, in response to what seems to be a new text-and-tell story, I am standing down as an MP at the next Election...I do not blame the media for my downfall. It is for others to judge their behaviour and their ethics. The fault is mine alone. If I had sought help earlier, none of this would have happened."

Alan Hansen in his farewell column in the Daily Telegraph: "Twitter has changed everything, to the point whereby you not only have to make sure that what you say is right, but also that you say nothing wrong. There has never been a hiding place in the media, but nowadays, you can find yourself being judged within 10 seconds of publication or broadcast."

Sky News' Colin Brazier in the Guardian: "I stood above a pile of belongings, pointing to items strewn across the ground. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a pink drinking flask. It looked familiar. My six-year-old daughter, Kitty, has one just like it.I bent down and, what my Twitter critics cannot hear - because of the sound quality of internet replays of the broadcast - is that I had lost it. It is a cardinal sin of broadcasting, in my book anyway, to start blubbing on-air. I fought for some self-control, not thinking all that clearly as I did so. Too late, I realised that I was crossing a line. I thought aloud: 'we shouldn't be doing this … this is a mistake', an instant apology that was only selectively quoted by those determined to see what I did as a powerful example of journalistic vulturism."

Ruby Wax in the Observer about Twitter: "At first, I convinced myself that my Twitter account was for PR and highlighting important mental health issues, scientific breakthroughs and anti-discrimination initiatives. Now I’m just talking about shopping and watering my tree. It’s humiliating. A cry for help."

Tulisa, quoted by BBC News, on Sun on Sunday's Mazher Mahmood, after the collapse of her trial on drug charges: "Mahmood has now been exposed by my lawyers openly lying to the judge and jury. These lies were told to stop crucial evidence going before the jury."

Nick Davies in an extract from his new book Hack Attack in the Guardian on News of the World staff: "In the same way, they were ruthless in exposing any target who used illegal drugs, but there was no shortage of journalists using the same drugs. Former reporters tell stories of a Christmas disco where the dancefloor was almost empty while various guests resorted to the toilets to snort cocaine; and of a ripple of panic when the Sun let their anti-drug hound, Charlie the Sniffer Dog, loose in the newsroom."

SubScribe: "It is a long time since I have felt so angry and ashamed of our industry as a whole. From just after midnight on Tuesday until 10pm there was a constant stream of tweets from all sorts of people urging restraint in the reporting of the actor's suicide...Yet the tabloids put a collective two fingers up at everyone and blithely went their own way...We have been on the back foot in the fight to protect press freedom ever since the phone hacking scandal broke. Yet in failing to show any self-control in this, in failing to show the slightest concern about whether our actions might cost people their lives, we have handed Hacked Off and those who say we can't be trusted a gift."

Cliff Richard in a statement, reported by BBC News: "The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen. However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press."

President Obama on the beheading of journalist James Foley, as reported by BBC News: "An act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world."

James Foley's mother Diane in a statement: "We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages."

Andrew Norfolk, who exposed the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, in The Times [£]:  "There have been many days during the past four years when I secretly longed for it all to come to an end. It was just too bleak, the details of the crimes too grotesque, too calculated to make one utterly despair of human nature. In those dark days, it was always the girls and their families who kept me going. Some victims understandably broke and sank without trace. Others, remarkably, survived. They went through months and years of self-hating misery but — sometimes with admirable support from specialist projects — have shown extraordinary resilience to build a future for themselves. They decided to trust The Times with their stories and they are the closest this tale will ever come to having heroes or heroines."

The Times [£] in a leader: "When forced by The Times in 2012 to confront its neglect, Rotherham tried to muzzle this newspaper and launch a witch-hunt for whistleblowers."

Sir Alan Moses, chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, on press victims opposed to the new regulator, quoted in Press Gazette: "Of course they're angry, desperately angry, of course they don't trust IPSO and they regard it as a fake and I'm not at all surprised but I want to show that they're wrong."

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber in the Guardian: “The newspaper is still a very valuable property. We’ve thought very hard about the future of print and we’ve drawn one or two big conclusions. First of all, anybody who said post-dotcom boom that print is dead is wrong. It’s still a valuable advertising proposition.”

Trinity Mirror in a statement, reported by BBC News: "The company today confirms that its subsidiary MGN Ltd has admitted liability to four individuals who had sued MGN for alleged interception of their voicemails many years ago. MGN has apologised to those individuals and agreed to pay compensation. The amount of that compensation will be assessed by the court if it cannot be agreed. The company can also confirm that six other voicemail interception claims have already been settled for agreed sums."

MailOnline quotes spokesman after Northern Echo Parly correspondent Rob Merrick is injured in a clash with shadow chancellor Ed Balls during a charity football match: "Rob felt a boom and then suddenly he was bust."

jane martinson ‏@janemartinson on Twitter: "Is the Telegraph being ironic using huge upskirt shot of Emma W on front under header 'Watson's blueprint for equality'?"

Protest outside BBC Scotland
Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser, warning journalists were being threatened and intimidated during the Scottish independence referendum campaign:"People have the right to protest if they believe strongly about an issue, however protesters outside the BBC offices in Glasgow this weekend have demanded that journalists be sacked, for allegedly being biased in favour of the union. Journalists in Edinburgh and Aberdeen were abused over the weekend when simply turning up to report on events organised by both sides. Others were on the receiving end of a range of abuse and intolerance on social media, some of which has been logged and maybe reported to the police."

Piers Morgan ‏@piersmorgan on Twitter: "Dear People of Scotland, if you vote NO, I promise to go straight back to America. #indyref"

George Monbiot in the Guardian: "Perhaps the most arresting fact about the Scottish referendum is this: that there is no newspaper – local, regional or national, English or Scottish – that supports independence except the Sunday Herald. The Scots who will vote yes have been almost without representation in the media."

Ben Bradlee: Pic Washington Post
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, who died this week aged 93, in a joint statement published by the Guardian: “Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism. He had the courage of an army. Ben had an intuitive understanding of the history of our profession, its formative impact on him and all of us. But he was utterly liberated from that. He was an original who charted his own course. We loved him deeply, and he will never be forgotten or replaced in our lives.”

Charlie Brooks in his Telegraph column about being found not guilty in his Old Bailey trial: "After the winning distance was announced, you have never heard wingeing like it. The prosecutor shook like a tramp on a park bench and wailed to The Guardian that they’d been under resourced. 'Only 180 coppers to help us,’ he bleated. It would be akin to Sheikh Mohammed weeping in the paddock at Ascot if Rod Millman had put one over on Godolphin."

Rupert Murdoch, asked by Business insider why he is still working at 83: "Curiosity."

Simon Edgley, managing director of Trinity Mirror Southern, on the move to close seven local papers in Berkshire, including the Reading Post, and focus on digital publishing around the getreading website: “This is a bold digital-only publishing transformation that will re-establish us as a growing media business that delivers the best quality journalism to our digital-savvy audience. We wholeheartedly believe that the future of our business here in Berkshire is online and this is an important and pioneering step that might, in time, be applicable to other existing markets or indeed new ones.”

The Grey Cardigan on The Spin Alley"I think we all know what’s going to happen here. The 'best quality journalism' will turn out to be a roomful of kids with no journalism qualifications, cutting and pasting complete bollocks while uploading submitted content and mobile phone pictures with nary a glance at its relevance or even legality. 'Go out of the building and research and write a proper story? Sorry, don’t know how to do that.' It’s a sad day for the regional newspaper industry and especially for the journalists involved. It’s an even sadder day for the population of Reading."

Malcolm Starbrook interviewed by InPublishing: "As revenues get slimmer, publishers will continue to try to run stripped down versions of their newspapers with a direct result on content. Increasingly, we seem to be in the business of curation rather than creation and the unique voice of the newspaper is lost in the competing and strident shouts emanating from the world wide web publishing the same stories, same photos and same tokenism approach to breaking news. We need web platforms that break stories and newspapers that explain and put that information into context. For that, we need more journalists not fewer."

Tatler editor Kate Reardon in the Observer: "When people are being cruel about Tatler, they say it’s the only magazine that tries to photograph every single one of its readers. Hell, yes! My God, if I could, I would!"

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid at the Society of Editors' conference: "I have agreed with the Justice Secretary that the British Bill of Rights will include specific protection for journalists and a free press.The Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights have not done enough to protect journalists who play such a unique role in our society. Our British Bill of Rights will change that.”

Liberty in a statement: "Article 10 of our HRA, freedom of expression, and the Strasbourg court have long acted as vital defenders of reporters and their sources. However, the so-called 'British Bill of Rights' would diminish the rights of everyone in Britain, including reporters – leaving the already powerful freer to act with impunity. And it’s only the lax laws and lousy surveillance policies of successive Governments that have allowed the authorities to snoop on such sensitive sources in the first place. That’s precisely why The Sun is currently relying on Article 10 in its complaint over the Metropolitan Police’s obtaining of its journalists’ telephone records."

Jeremy Bowen in the Radio Times: “The threat from Islamic State is so unequivocal that even the most enterprising and daring reporters are hesitating to take the risk of being anywhere near them.”

Sky's Alex Crawford interviewed in the Guardian: "If I was a bloke I’m just reaching my peak now. In America they have a totally different approach to older women working in broadcasting. It’s time Britain woke up.”

Alan Rusbridger announcing his retirement after 20 years as editor of the Guardian: “It’s been quite an extraordinary period in the life of the Guardian. In February 1995 newspaper websites were, if they existed at all, exotic things: we were still four years off launching Guardian Unlimited. Since 1999 we’ve grown to overtake all others to become the most-read serious English language digital newspaper in the world."