Wednesday 31 May 2017

InPublishing: Press regulation the mess we're in

I've written an article for InPublishing magazine about the confusing mess UK press regulation is in.

Newspapers can now chose from two press regulators, IPSO or IMPRESS, or, as in the case of the Financial Times, the Independent and the Guardian, opt for no regulator at all.

In the article I argue that the strong protests over the threat of Section 40 being imposed on the press are based on the experience of publishers and journalists who have suffered frustrating, lengthy and expensive dealings with libel lawyers. If section 40 is enacted, publishers not signed up to a Royal Charter-backed regulator like IMPRESS could end up paying both sides legal costs even if they win a libel case.

Also, many journalists and publishers believe there are more urgent issues facing the press than that of regulation: such as the survival of the local press and the way internet giants like Google and Facebook are hoovering up so much advertising revenue.

You can read the article here:

  • The article went to press before the announcement of a General Election. The Conservatives have pledged to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act and to scrap Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry.  Labour has pledged to implement the recommendations of Part 1 of  Leveson and commence Part 2. It has also said it is concerned about closures of local media outlets and the reductions in number of local journalists. Labour says it will "hold a national review of local media and into the ownership of national media to ensure plurality."
  • Labour and the Liberals have confirmed to Press Gazette that they would fully commence Section 40 even though the pledge is not included in their manifestos.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Media Quotes of he Week: From terror attacks and lazy journalism to defending 'death knocking' and is a vote for the Tory Party a vote for a free press?

Indira A.R. Lakshmanan on Poynter on the Manchester terror attack: "Yes, the attack is news. But does replaying footage of victims for hours or turning over the entire homepage to the story, as CNN, Fox News and Breitbart did, elevate the public understanding of why terrorism is committed or how to stop it? Or is it just lazy and sensationalist tabloid journalism, blowing the murder of 22 people out of proportion to stoke fear?...Does flooding the public with images of terrified innocents further the malevolent agenda of those who seek to foment fear and hate in civilized society, by terrorizing those watching at home?"

Manchester News MEN‏@MENnewsdesk on Twitter: "We are aware of the leaked images circulating of evidence at the Arena after the bomb. We have taken the decision not to publish them."

Rodney Edwards‏@rodneyedwards on Twitter: "So much respect for journalists at @MENnewsdesk as they report amid such personal difficulty with care. Proud to be a regional reporter."

Dominic Ponsford on Press Gazette in defence of 'death knocking': "It was suggested to me yesterday on Twitter that journalists should refrain from contacting the families of those killed in the Manchester terror attack out of respect. I would argue that when you are writing a story about someone’s death or serious injury it would be disrespectful not to contact the family. This gives them a chance to put their comments on the record and gives the reporter an opportunity to make sure they get their facts right. It is a task which no journalist enjoys, but it has to be done. And as a mark of respect it is something which should be done face to face."

Adam Tinworth on One Man & His Blog on "death knocks" in the digital age: "The single local face at your door has been replaced by a digital barrage of national and international journalists and “journalists”, at the time in your life that you’re least well placed to manage that onslaught. You might say “just ignore them” – but they’re coming through the very device you’re using to keep in contact with friends and relatives: your phone. The journalist at your door is no longer a singular chance to tell your loved one’s story – but just another wave in the endless tide. The death knock that [Dominic] Ponsford [above] describes can no longer exist, because the new context is the relative being besieged on social media before the local journo has got to his car, let alone arrived on the doorstep."

Media academics in a letter to the Guardian: "Our concern as media educators, however, is that whole sections of the media are already committed to a narrative that paints Labour as unelectable and Corbyn as a barely credible candidate. This is not a new phenomenon. Academic surveys have shown how newspapers belittled him from the moment he won his first leadership election, while broadcast bulletins systematically gave more coverage to his opponents than to his supporters. Serious discussion of Labour’s proposed policies has been negligible – drowned out by memes focused on Labour’s apparent lack of opposition and Corbyn’s lack of leadership. We are not asking for eulogies of Corbyn, but for reporting that takes seriously the proposals contained in the manifesto and that doesn’t resort to a lazy stereotype of Corbyn as a 'problem' to be solved."

Brian Cathcart on Byline: "If there is a single leading national journalist, in broadcast or in print, who is seriously concerned that modern British journalism might itself be an important problem, and might be contributing to our national troubles, he or she is keeping quiet about it. The Mail, the Sun and the Express lie and distort on their front pages today to a degree that would have astonished Lord Beaverbrook or Lord Northcliffe, the most swaggering and thuggish press barons in British history. The journalists doing this are a disgrace, but they are beyond hope: nobody expects them to change. The people who are really failing the country and failing journalism are the rest of the trade, the journalists with platforms who are not under the yoke of the proprietors – at the BBC and ITV, the Guardian and the Financial Times, the New Statesman and Huffington Post."

Emily bell@emilybell on Twitter: "Wondering if there will be a pause in the 'journalism is broken, let's fix it' talk, while we fix all the things journalism has exposed."

Neuroscientist Dr Tara Stewart announcing the results of her study into the mental resilience of journalists at the London Press Club: “It shows that the highest functions of journalists’ brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, due to dehydration, self-medicating, and fuelling their brains with caffeine and high-sugar foods. However, the pressures of the job are not affecting journalists’ ability to endure and bounce back from adversity in the long term, due to a belief their work has meaning and purpose.”

Index on Censorship in a statement: "Index on Censorship welcomes the Conservative Party’s promise in its manifesto to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This repressive legislation would gravely jeopardise the local and regional press and endanger investigative journalism."

Toby Young on the Spectator Coffee House blog welcomes Tory manifesto pledge to scrap Section 40 and Leveson 2: "So the decision not to activate section 40 is a victory, not just for the press, but for Brian Leveson too. I daresay he’s not too unhappy about the fact that he won’t be holding the ring in another three-ring circus, either. But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and the enemies of the press in the Lords will no doubt already be plotting to insert something similar to section 40 in another bill in the next Parliament. Let’s hope the fact that the manifesto could not be clearer on this issue means they won’t succeed."

Thursday 18 May 2017

Media Quotes of the Week: From Jeremy Corbyn plays the NUJ card to stop booing to Evening Standard editor George Osborne before and after

Jeremy Corbyn after Labour supporters booed reporters asking questions at the party's manifesto launch, as reported by Press Gazette“No, please. Let’s have respect for everyone who wants to ask a question including members of the media. By the way, I’m a member of the NUJ."

Len McCluskey in an interview with Politico claimed working class voters who say they are going to vote Tory for the first time are doing so: “Because their mind is being turned by the constant attack of the media on Jeremy Corbyn and the image that they’ve pinned on Jeremy.”

Tory manifesto media pledges, as reported by Press Gazette: “Given the comprehensive nature of the first stage of the Leveson Inquiry and given the lengthy investigations by the police and Crown Prosecution Service into alleged wrongdoing, we will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. We will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014, which, if enacted, would force media organisations to become members of a flawed regulatory system or risk having to pay the legal costs of both sides in libel and privacy cases, even if they win.”

Donald J. Trump‏@realDonaldTrump on Twitter: "As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!.......Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???"

Trump, reported by the Washington Post“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Donald J. Trump‏@realDonaldTrump on Twitter: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

David Brooks on Trump in the New York Times: "He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies."

Tim Adams in the Observer on Paul Dacre: "Observation suggests that as people age, they tend to become more like themselves. Dacre is 68. If the past year is anything to go by, he and his paper seem to be becoming more Dacre-like with each passing month. He first took the helm of the Mail during the ERM crisis in 1992. At the time, Vere Harmsworth, then proprietor of the paper, told the Financial Times: 'I am quite clearly in favour of a common market but I am not in favour of a federal Europe. Nor is the Daily Mail.' He added that perhaps his new editor did not share that distinction and occasionally went too far. 'Sometimes I think Paul would like to tow England out into the middle of the Atlantic,' he observed. Twenty-five years on, the moorings are being released, and Dacre appears ready to set sail."

Daily Mail in a leader:  "Not a moment too soon, the Tories are to pledge a crackdown on social media giants, with stiff fines to protect minors from pornography and ensure offensive material and bullying tweets are taken down...These tax-dodging, filth-peddling, terror-abetting purveyors of fake news have been a law unto themselves for far too long."

    Gareth Davies‏ @Gareth_Davies09 On Twitter: "So publishers, show your commitment to #trustednewsday by investing in your papers & staff. Give them the time to their jobs properly...As noble as this campaign is, the mantra at many local papers is publish first. Checking is very much a secondary concern in race for hits."

Martin Bell, speaking at a Yorkshire Post literary lunch: "I believe that our newspapers are worth fighting for against the trend of the times. They are the mainstream Press. Their reports are fact-based. They provide real news, not fake news. They offer shared experiences. And at the regional and local level they bind our communities together. My own belief is that the present storm will pass. This newspaper is not only a business but a public service. It has a proud tradition. It has a loyal readership. It belongs to its readers in a way that no fly-by-night website can hope to achieve. The relationship is a special one. We must not only read our newspapers but support them. Nor should we take them for granted: for if we take them for granted we can easily lose them."

Sun spokesman in a statement: “Further to our statement on 15 April that Kelvin MacKenzie’s services as a columnist for The Sun were suspended, we can confirm that Mr MacKenzie’s column will not return to The Sun and his contract with News Group Newspapers has been terminated by mutual consent.”

The Mirror on George Osborne before and after becoming a newspaper editor: "Former Chancellor George Osborne looks like he’s had a rough first week in his new job if his dishevelled appearance is anything to go by. The Evening Standard editor, 45, looked as though he had forgotten to brush his hair as he went tieless on the way to work after grabbing breakfast and a coffee to go. Snapped at 7.05am today, the scruffy look was a far cry from his first morning in the job just eight days earlier."

Thursday 11 May 2017

Media Quotes of the Week: Sold the Front Page! Backlash hits local press over political party ads to Mail bashes Financial Times over Brexit sums

Fraser Nelson on Spectator blogs: "It is tragic that local newspapers have been reduced to selling front pages to politicians, but it’s a grim reflection of the murderous market conditions. This also underlines the risk posed to press freedom. Now and again, politicians pretend take a great interest in the standards of the press (Leveson, etc) and propose a system (like Max Mosley’s ‘Impress’) that creates a regulatory hierarchy, with politicians at the top. They sense, rightly, that the press has never been weaker. Ministers also profess to be very worried about fake news. But this election shows show how their main interest is, and always will be, the manipulation of the news to their own ends. It is the job of a free press to counteract this, but a free press needs money. When the money comes from politicians, the results are hideous."

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian: "The front pages of scores of titles carried large pictures of the prime minister under the headline 'Theresa May for Britain' plus her familiar slogan about the need to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations. Sure, it carried the line about it being an “advertiser’s announcement” and the Electoral Commission argued that did not break electoral law. If so, the law needs amending because it allows money to play a disproportionate role in election campaigning."

Dominic Ponsford in Press Gazette: "Editors are responsible for the advertising which appears in their newspapers and have to ensure that it is not misleading or in breach of the law. They aren’t making a political statement by accepting advertising and it won’t influence the admirably even-handed political coverage most local newspapers provide. While editors would undoubtedly prefer to have news, rather than ads, on the front page. In the current climate they cannot afford to turn down the business."

Readers' petition:"As regular readers of the Westmorland Gazette we are dismayed to see OUR community paper being misused for party political purposes. Whilst we would welcome balanced representation of all LOCAL candidates within the paper, we feel strongly that a front page advert for a single national party is not acceptable (especially when published on a polling day (4/5/17)!). We request that you publish a full front page apology in your next issue. Please note that many of us will be boycotting the paper until this occurs."

Séamus Dooley, acting NUJ general secretary, in a statement: “Journalists on local newspapers are gravely concerned at the blurring of lines between editorial content and advertising. There has been a strong backlash from readers as a result of wraparound advertising purchased by political parties and presented in a news format. The advertising is clearly designed to convey the impression of a news story and incorporates the paper masthead. There is a long, proud tradition of clearly differentiating between news and adverting, even in newspapers which adopt a partisan editorial line, and that principle should not be abandoned."

BuzzFeed reports: "Jeremy Corbyn's team told BuzzFeed News it was 'not invited' to campaign events on Tuesday and that access to the Labour leader would be limited for the rest of the campaign, following the publication of an interview on Monday night in which Corbyn said he intended to remain in the job even if he lost the general election....Political editor Jim Waterson, who carried out the interview, then contacted Corbyn's spokesperson to find out why we had not been invited to the campaign stops. A senior Corbyn aide told him that BuzzFeed News would now find its access limited because the interview had disrupted media coverage of Labour's launch event, that we had not informed Corbyn's team in advance of the headline we intended to run, and that we had press-released the interview to other media organisations who then chose to pick it up."

Michael Crick‏@MichaelLCrick on Twitter: "I was told by May aide I wasn't on list to ask May a question, & there was no point in putting my hand up to ask one....What shocks me is reporters collaborate with May press team by agreeing to reveal their questions to them in advance."

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO at Index on Censorship, which has published a review of press freedom in the US: “Animosity toward the press comes in many forms. Journalists are targeted in several ways: from social media trolling to harassment by law enforcement to over-the-top public criticism by those in the highest office. The negative atmosphere for journalists is damaging for the public and their right to information.”

The Times [£] in a leader: "Rumours are an occupational hazard of the news business, but in the digital age, rumours based on fantasy and fabrication spread without limit. Regardless of the merits of the candidates in western elections, it is a threat to democracy when Mr Putin’s online fabulists run campaigns of defamation. The response of western governments should be uncompromising. In Britain, Russia Today has been found in breach of the regulator’s broadcasting code on multiple occasions. France is experiencing similar shameless subversion. It’s past time to crack down on the propaganda of a hostile foreign power."

Daily Mail in a leader:"As for how much more he [the European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier] hopes to extort, a few weeks ago he suggested we ‘owe’ some £50 billion. But yesterday, the EU’s slavish devotees at the Japanese-owned Financial Times — whose editor has been nominated for France’s Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his services to the European project — went further still. Plucking figures from the air, its Brussels correspondent opined that ‘new demands driven by France and Germany’ would increase our ‘upfront’ Brexit bill to some £85 billion. As any child should be able to see, such figures carry no authority whatever."


Thursday 4 May 2017

Media Quotes of the Week: From Kelvin MacKenzie's reverse ferret on Corbyn headline to editor Osborne must not lobby Government

Kelvin MacKenzie, asked by Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times what headline he would like to see in the Sun were he still in charge: “ 'I think the fake news headline that would give this country the most joy,' he replied cheerfully, would be ‘Jeremy Corbyn Knifed to Death by an Asylum Seeker'.”

Bennhold adds: (The next morning, I got a text message from Mr. MacKenzie: “Hi Katrin, Can you change that perfect headline from ‘Jeremy Corbyn knifed to death by asylum seeker’ to ‘Jeremy Corbyn Defrauded by Asylum Seeker.’ In the light of Jo Cox murder mine is in tol poor taste.”)

Kelvin MacKenzie in the Spectator: "During the height of the Rossgate furore I texted Tony Gallagher, the bloody good editor of the Sun. He replied: ‘In church. Will be free in a few minutes.’ How times have changed. In my more louche period as editor of that fine organ, I would reply: ‘In brothel. Will be free in a few seconds'."

The Times [£] in a leader on MPs condemning social media giants for publishing terrorist propaganda and racist content: "Social media companies have indicted themselves at every stage of this scandal. It is indecent that they should have published any of this content in the first place. That they have profited by hosting it is all the more obscene. It is worse still that they have failed to take down material that is not only immoral but illegal, too. Their consistent refusal to devote more resources to moderating the content they publish betrays a reckless and cynical mindset in which any considerations of social or moral responsibility are subjugated by the profit motive."

Michael Heseltine in The Observer: "I am appalled by people who pretend to regret the decline in standards of public life and only exacerbate them. The bigotry of the editor of the Daily Mail, coupled with that of Nigel Farage, have been among the most potent driving forces of this tragedy."

News Media Association chairman Ashley Highfield announcing the Fight Fake News campaign: “The critical role of local newspapers in providing local communities with highly trusted news and advertising platforms is even more important than ever in the run up to the general election. Through their reporting, local newspapers uphold, promote and support democracy, fighting against the fake news which undermines and subverts it. We must champion the vital democratic function of local newspapers now, more than ever."

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, after being named Print Journalist of the Year by the London Press Club: "Print journalism is not dead. Print journalism is alive and kicking. Journalism is worth doing and it's worth paying for."

Film director Ken Loach claiming BBC's Nick Robinson is biased towards the Tories after he tweeted that about Jeremy Corbyn being “long on passion and short on details”, as reported by The Times [£]: “That’s the partiality of the BBC. That’s the bias we have to complain about. That’s what we have to fight....The important point is that Nick isn’t fit to interview Jeremy.”

Nick Robinson responds to Ken Loach in The Times [£]: “I judge Ken Loach by the quality of the work he produces. He is a great filmmaker. He should judge me in the same way — by the interviews I do, which I endeavour to make both rigorous and impartial.”

From the Financial Times: "The Guardian newspaper is considering a move from London to the historic Granada TV studios in Manchester and has made inquiries about temporary city centre apartments to tempt its staff to move north."

George Osborne‏@George_Osborne on Twitter: "Excited about first day in new job @EveningStandard. Without fear or favour we'll provide the facts & analysis - and entertain along the way."

Peter Barron‏ @PeteBarronMedia on Twitter: "George Osborne's 1st day at the Standard. On my 1st day on a paper they had me checking sales of dehydrated water. Go on - do it to George!"

Letter to George Osborne from chair of the Advisory Business Appointments  Committee: "You should have no contact with Government on matters relating to press regulation; and for two years from your last day in ministerial office you should not become personally involved in lobbying the Government on behalf of the Evening Standard or its parent company ESI Media."