Friday 27 November 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From McDonnell says Labour would break up ownership of UK media to the Guardian attacks the Sun over Muslims' poll

Pic: BBC
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell quoted in the Morning Star: “This last seven weeks that we’ve been in administration, the media assault on us has been, I think, a disgrace. I’ve never been comfortable with the way media ownership is in this country, but it does mean, to be frank, we have to commit ourselves now to media reform … break up the ownership of our media.”

Tim Yeo filmed by undercover insight reporters
Martin Ivens, the editor of The Sunday Times, quoted in The Times [£], after the libel action brought by ex-MP Tim Yeo over lobbying allegations was thrown out: “This is a victory for investigative journalism. It vindicates the role of the press in exposing the clandestine advocacy by MPs for undisclosed interests. The Sunday Times’s Insight team has a long history of reporting on the conduct of politicians and is proud to have forced reform of standards in public life.”

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors: "Every time journalists write or say: ‘following a Freedom of Information request’ they should send a tenner to the Campaign for Freedom of Information which desperately needs our support to maintain its vital work."

Jon Snow in the Observer defending BBC reporter Graham Satchell for showing emotion while covering Paris terrorist attacks: "Journalism makes no sense to the citizen without some emotional engagement. That doesn’t mean we have to sensationalise, or struggle to be emotional in our reporting. But we do have to tell it like it is. If we deny the impact an event has upon us, we deny not only ourselves, but those who depend on us for at least some of their information."
The old Manchester Guardian and Evening News building
Guardian editor Katharine Viner on plans for the paper to return to its Manchester roots and expand reporting in the north of England: “I’m delighted to be building on the Guardian’s fine heritage in Manchester by putting more reporters on the ground to get scoops, break news and provide context and analysis about the north of England.” 

John Simpson, quoted by the Huffington Post: "I suppose it's the dawn of the new century, but I'm really very kind of depressed about the way that newspapers and television has developed. The jobs are fewer, the pay is much much less. I'm afraid we're back to where we used to be a century or more ago, in the late Victorian or early Edwardian period, when journalists were pretty much self-financed. So all those courses in media studies which were producing really high qualified and able people have suddenly kind of hatched up in the sands because the money to employ them is not there any more."

John Witherow, editor of The Times, interviewed in Press Gazette“We have not cut back on journalists, if anything we have invested in them. And that’s our firm commitment... people will only pay for subscriptions if you have quality. You shoot yourself in the foot by cutting back on journalism, because they won’t subscribe and then our whole model falls apart.”

Douglas Jehl, the Washington Post’s foreign editor, after the paper's correspondent Jason Rezaian was jailed for an unspecified term in Iran: “Every day that Jason is in prison is an injustice. He has done nothing wrong. Even after keeping Jason in prison 488 days so far, Iran has produced no evidence of wrongdoing. His trial and sentence are a sham, and he should be released immediately.”

liz gerard ‏@gameoldgirl on Twitter: "There comes a point when @dailyexpressuk crosses the line from ludicrous to irresponsible."

The Guardian bashes the Sun in a leader: "Terrorists only win if they force us to abandon our way of life and instead live in terror. What better way to do their work for them than to make up a story that leaves Britons believing that 20% of a particular community wants to blow them up."

Sun managing editor Stig Abell in a letter to the Guardian: "It is perhaps not surprising that the Guardian chose to get angry at the Sun’s poll in your editorial. It is ironic, though, that the Guardian makes play of complaints to the newspaper industry regulator Ipso [Independent Press Standards Organisation], an organisation it has itself declined to join."

IPSO in a statement on the Sun's front page: "IPSO’s policy when dealing with a large number of complaints about a particular issue that requires investigation is to select a lead complaint. In this case, IPSO has selected MEND (Muslim Engagement & Development) as the lead complaint. We have written to The Sun to inform them that we have commenced an investigation into this matter. As of this morning, Thursday 25th November, IPSO has received around 2,600 complaints relating to the article. The majority of these refer to Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice."


Thursday 26 November 2015

Freedom of Information Under Threat

I've written an article for InPublishing magazine on the threat posed to the Freedom of Information Act by the FOI Commission review of the the Act which, critics believe, could lead to it being watered down.

The article gives examples of some of the powerful public interest stories produced by FOI investigations by magazines, local and national newspapers. You can read it here.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From defiant Charlie Hebdo to FoI should be strengthened not diluted

Charlie Hebdo: "They have arms. Fuck them. We have the Champagne!"

Jonathan Calvert in the Sunday Times [£] on IAAF president Lord Coe and the doping scandal engulfing athletics: "Coe had the opportunity to reconsider when The Sunday Times and Seppelt revealed in August that the IAAF had ignored evidence of widespread doping among athletes. Instead he led a public relations campaign to undermine the disclosure. He gave interviews claiming it was his 'seminal moment' and that this newspaper’s article had been a 'declaration of war' on his sport."

Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, on claims Cleveland Police used the RIPA laws to get phone records of his journalists in a bid to identify a police whistleblower: “These allegations are a matter of serious concern – that a police force should apparently go to these lengths to identify the source of a story which was clearly in the public interest. This is surely not what the legislation was intended to do and the fact that Cleveland Police will neither confirm nor deny the allegations adds to our concerns.”

Ken Livingstone, speaking on Russia TV's UK-based Going Underground, on press treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, via the Guardian: “The smearing of Jeremy is exactly what happened to me back in the 1980s and to Tony Benn. The key part of that is not just the smearing by some MPs, it’s the fact that four billionaires own three quarters of the papers that the British people read. I mean Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the Barclay brothers. They will do anything to prevent a Labour prime minister who’s going to make them start paying their fair share of tax, because they’re all tax dodgers.”

Stewart Lee in The Observer: "Last week’s newspaper attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have moved from the dishonest into the deranged."

Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times [£] on Jeremy Corbyn: "I’m getting a bit bored with the endless criticism of Labour’s little beardy man. And embarrassed, actually. Because he seems a nice chap, and endless criticism of every single thing he does will be driving him mad with despair. I don’t like that and think that if we want to bully someone, we should stick with his deputy, Tom Watson, who deserves everything you can throw at him, up to and including the tractor unit of a Scania lorry."

Bauer publisher Gareth Cherriman on the move to end publication of lads' mags FHM and Zoo: “I would like to thank our advertisers and retailers who have supported the brands and I’m sure that everyone who has worked on FHM and ZOO over the years will be sorry to hear this news.”

Peter Preston in the Observer: "Look around the developed world and paywalls are the norm for newspaper websites. Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia, indeed, have gone further still, constructing a total wall around printed-press sites. Only Britain has a different balance: the FT, Telegraph and Times against the rest. Free access around the globe can produce startling figures – Mail Online has topped over 200 million a month - and such huge numbers allow the BBC to argue that its site causes nil problems. Except that huge numbers don’t equal profit, especially at a time when digital ad growth has stalled. Mail Online may rule the world, but it doesn’t make money yet. And, back in Britain, the existence of limits options and constrains development."

Sue Cameron in the Daily Mail: "I believe the real reason some politicians and officials want to curb FoI is simply to cover their backs. They want to stop the public knowing when there are disagreements between ministers, or between ministers and officials. They also want to stop the public knowing about any risks and potential downsides from policy decisions. Their fear is that these might be exploited by opposition politicians and the media."

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in a submission to the Freedom of Information Commission: "The media plays an important role in FOIA as a user. Less than one in a thousand members of the public makes an FOIA request, so the media is the main route via which the public receives information disclosed via FOIA."

The News Media Association in a submission to the Freedom of Information Commission: "Diluting or reversing aspects of the Act would be a quixotic attempt to go against the grain of irreversible cultural and social change. A far better idea would be to look at the ways in which the Act could be extended so that it keeps up with the public’s evermore informed and discerning expectations of those in authority.”

[£] = paywall

Friday 13 November 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From 'too old and expensive' specialist journalists face the sack to the rock star who just loves giving interviews

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet in the Guardian on the decline of specialist journalists: "Newspapers which have shed their specialists – putting them in the line of fire during redundancy rounds because they were probably older and more expensive – have pursued a shortsighted policy. These are the people who come in with the best stories and usually have a feature or two up their sleeves if holes need filling."

From The Independent: "Jeremy Corbyn’s lodger is reportedly working for MailOnline as a freelance journalist, it has emerged. Gian Volpicelli has been writing science stories for the right-wing news website, one of Mr Corbyn’s fiercest critics in the media."

Oxford Mail editor Simon O'Neill launching a campaign against weakening the Freedom of Information Act:
“The Act is, if I am not mistaken, about to be severely curtailed and made subject to hefty charges, all because a few politicians who got caught fiddling their expenses and some well-remunerated Sir Humphreys see it as a pain in the proverbial butt. That must not be allowed to happen for the sake of a government and society that is truly open. This is our information, not theirs.”

The Press Association, in a submission to the Freedom of Information Commission on the possible introduction of charges for FoI: “Requests for internal review, or appeals, would, under a charging system, almost certainly be beyond the reach of the PA, as they would for all but the wealthiest news organisations."

The Sunday Times [£] on the Government's plans for a new Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act: "The bill will grant soldiers and journalists greater protection from people using human rights law to sue for damages. There will be an explicit statement backing 'freedom of expression' for the press."

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: "Any journalist acquainted with professional sport over the past half century has known about drugs. We were told the Ben Johnson scandal at the 1988 Olympics would put a stop to doping. Nothing put a stop to it. The money and prestige is too great. In the case of soccer’s Fifa, it was clear for decades that Sepp Blatter’s operation was rotten to the core. A lone British journalist, Andrew Jennings, struggled to expose the IOC and Fifa’s Blatter, to the silence or ridicule of British representatives on both bodies."

Adele, interviewed in Rolling Stone: "There's a lot of things I don't think I'll ever get 'round to doing. Not because I'm famous, but just because I just don't think I'll ever have the time. Like being a journalist, or like being a teacher."

MP John Mann in the House of Commons, quoted by Press Gazette: "Evidence from the University of Reading shows that if people buy a newspaper, they will live longer. Why will they live longer? Because some of the people who buy newspapers on a daily basis walk to buy them and walk home. By doing that, if people buy The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail or even The Daily Telegraph, they will live longer. I do hope the journalists are listening: that ought to be their banner headlines, because it is true. A bit of activity on a daily basis assists, which is the beauty of the great outdoors."

Kelvin MacKenzie in the Sun after prison officer Amanda Watts was jailed for a year for selling stories to the paper about George Michael : "So what did Amanda Watts, 43, who worked at HMP Highpoint, Suffolk, do that earned her such a long sentence? She revealed who visited Michael and gave The Sun a sketch of the singer’s cell. Big deal. Old Bailey juries repeatedly refused to convict journalists for paying public officials so when a judge gets a chance to make an exemplary sentence he takes it with both hands."

Noel Gallagher asked in an Esquire interview by Alex Blimes if he has any hobbies:“This is my hobby!...
Blimes: “You mean, music?“
Gallagher: "No! This: doing interviews. I fucking love it. I could do this all day long. It’s sick.”
Blimes: “Why do you love it so much?”
Gallagher: “Because I get to be a gobshite, and I get to do that thing: to be the last of a dying breed.”


Thursday 5 November 2015

Media Quotes of the Week: From police must understand journalists are not criminals to why the Daily Mail backed release of Guantanamo prisoner

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill: “This does not appear to be much of an improvement on the interim measures that were put in place after the RIPA scandal. The police need to understand that journalists are not criminals and that they need to think very carefully before they do anything to search their records. Accessing journalists’ call records should be a rare exception for police rather that the rule it seems to have become in recent years. There also needs to be a clear rule that media organisations get fair warning so that they can challenge any requests if required.”

David Davis in the Mail on Sunday on Freedom of Information: "Government already holds all the cards. As it stands they use every trick to avoid disclosing information, even resorting to writing comments on post-it notes, so they can be removed before documentation is made public. They should not be allowed to take away one of the few defences the public has for discovering and preventing incompetence, corruption and misconduct amongst the most powerful people in the land."

The Telegraph in a leader defending Freedom of Information: "Ultimately, easy access to political information will breed a culture change. If councils know that the public are watching their spending then they will spend less, and publish full accounts that show how well they are behaving. If politicians understand that mistakes, disasters and backfiring initiatives are likely to wind up on a front page then they will be quick to correct errors, or be honest about what went wrong. If politicians recognise this change and embrace it, they can make it work for them. Transparency will help re-establish trust in British politics."

Colin Myler, interviewed in the Guardian: “We really do beat the crap out of each other too much as an industry. We’re not very good at talking each other up. How many times can people write about the decline in circulation? It’s been in decline for 50 years! The Buzzfeeds of this world have realised that piggybacking off good journalism is going be their legacy. And yet we are the founders of it, and we’re so negative.”

Paul Hayward in the Telegraph on the way sport helped him as he was treated for cancer: "Sport is my living, and a passion, too. But I understand it better now, nearly 30 years into the job. Much of the best sports writing is about the life stories that underpin the winning and losing. ‘Adversity overcome’ is a default mode for reporting and broadcasting. A corollary is that sport can help people in the most profound ways, on the field and up in the stands. It can help make sense of life and connect people in difficulty to a world they have fallen out of and to which they fear they may never return."

Jurgen Kloop on Jose Mourhino, as reported by the BBC: "I am full of respect for his work. I think if you are not a journalist or a referee he is a nice guy."

The BBC after police used special counter-terrorism powers to seize a laptop computer belonging to Newsnight reporter Secunder Kermani: “The BBC does everything it can to protect its reporters’ communication and materials and sought independent expert legal advice in the case of Secunder Kermani. It did not resist Thames Valley’s application for an order under the Terrorism Act in court because the Act does not afford grounds under which it could be opposed. It is troubling that this legislation does not provide the opportunity for the media to mount a freedom of speech defence.”

Nick Cohen in the Observer"There are many long-established institutions we could live without. If the Times or the Home Office were to vanish tomorrow, we would survive. For all its glaring faults, the majority of people know that a diminished BBC, like a diminished NHS, would diminish them. The majority of people don’t set policy, however. In times of crisis, the activists with simple, sweeping solutions take over. Whether they are English nationalists, who want independence from Brussels, Scottish nationalists, who want independence from London, rightwingers, who hate the public sector or leftwingers who hate liberal freedoms, they all want to see the BBC beaten into submission."

The Times [£] in a leader after the conviction of Mark Dorling was referred to the Court of Appeal following a Times investigation: "The initial verdict will in due course be examined by the appropriate judicial authority. Whatever the appellate court decides, this outcome is as it should be in a functioning democracy. As and when the formal, constitutionally orthodox and — some might argue — more respectable branches of the state fall short, the fourth estate has a duty to step in."

Alan Bennett, interviewed in the Guardian: “The lies on the front page of the Mail are so vulgar and glaring. Occasionally people say they like my work and then I see they have a copy of the Mail, and you think, ‘Well, how can you?’”

The Daily Mail in a leader: "This paper is proud of the leading role we played in securing the return home of the last British resident in Guantanamo Bay after his 14 years’ captivity. For the release of Shaker Aamer begins what we hope will be the end of a truly shameful period in our history, when a Labour Government colluded with the Americans in torturing suspects and incarcerating them without trial, in inhuman conditions, for years on end. Yes, many have asked why a paper that abhors Islamist terrorism has campaigned so tenaciously to free a man suspected of close links with Osama bin Laden. Our answer is simple. Though we hold no brief for Mr Aamer, who may indeed have been an enemy of the West (and could still be), we believe with a burning passion in justice and the rule of law."