Tuesday 31 March 2020

Never mind the politicians...here's some great campaigning journalism to be proud of

Just after the General Election, I attended the British Journalism Awards organised by Press Gazette. The brilliant campaigning and investigative journalism on show was the perfect antidote to some of the dreadful election coverage and moaning about the press from the politicians who won and lost. I have written an article about the awards for the current issue of InPublishing magazine which you can read here.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Media Quotes of the Week: From Coronavirus crisis could kill papers when they are most needed to an astonishing double byline in The Times

Jane Martinson in the Guardian: "For many of the least secure newspaper titles, especially local papers in the US and UK, the virus could sound the death knell after years of struggle. The question is whether the pandemic will lead to the death of print itself? That this is even being contemplated at a time when the need and demand for news and information is at an all-time high is the great, somewhat heartbreaking, paradox of an industry that should provide a public as well as private good."

HoldTheFrontPage reports: "Newsquest has announced it is placing a “significant number” of employees on leave through the government’s Coronavirus job retention scheme, which will see those affected receive 80pc of their basic salary, while it will also implement a 15pc wage cut for other staff earning more than £18k from 1 April."
  • Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ national coordinator in a statement"Clearly there are massive changes around us brought on by the crisis enveloping the world as a result of Covid-19. But Newsquest’s harsh and knee-jerk response came without warning to staff struggling with their important work in incredibly difficult circumstances."

Press Gazette reports: "JPI Media has suspended 12 local print titles amid a “substantial reduction” in advertising and concerns over home deliveries under extreme measures imposed to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Seven paid-for newspapers, one magazine title and four free newspapers will stop printing from Monday, 30 March. Areas affected include Bedfordshire, Sussex and the North East. "

The Impartial Reporter deputy editor Rodney Edwards on Twitter: "I would respectfully suggest that @niexecutive steps in to help NI newspapers struggling at this time. A drop in advertising revenue and sales means only one thing — newspapers here will die. Once they are gone, they are gone. Never has trusted news been more important than now."

HoldTheFrontPage reports: "The regional press industry has sent a united message of solidarity to the nation with more than 60 titles publishing identical front pages headlined: “When you’re on your own, we are there with you.” Archant, Reach plc, JPIMedia, Newsquest and Iliffe Media have joined forces to launch the #ThereWithYou campaign reassuring readers that their local title is there to support them in challenging times."

Dan Hodges on Twitter: "Journalists get a lot of stick. Justifiably in some cases. But you can't produce an entire paper remotely. And there are a lot of hacks, editors, subs, support staff, etc working away today making sure a free press doesn't become the latest victim of this virus. Spare a thought."

President Trump at a White House briefing on Coronavirus, as reported by CNN: "We were very prepared. The only thing we weren't prepared for was the -- the media. The media has not treated it fairly."

Trump replying to NBC reporter Peter Alexander, who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic"I say that you are a terrible reporter. That's what I say. That's a really nasty question and I think that’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. That's really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism."

The International Federation of Journalists in a statement: “The control over information by the Chinese authorities at this time is highly concerning. The IFJ reaffirms that the access to public information is critical, particularly during the public health crisis we are currently facing. The IFJ urges the Chinese authorities to consider its country’s place in the global community and the need for free flow of vital information at this unprecedented time.”

EU report, leaked to the Guardian: “Pro-Kremlin media outlets have been prominent in spreading disinformation about the Coronavirus, with the aim to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems,”

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on Twitter after sharing a joint byline with Jonathan Aitken: "Miracles do happen. The most unlikely double byline in history? ⁦@ChtyCommission⁩ (from today’s Times)."

Jonathan Aitken's failed libel action against the Guardian in 1997 led to him being jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justiceWhen Aitken launched his libel action he claimed to be fighting "the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth." The case collapsed when the Guardian proved Aitken had lied.

Thursday 19 March 2020

Media Quotes of the Week: Coronavirus crisis prompts readers to flock to mainstream media to newspapers are lasting longer than predicted because they bring in more revenue than digital

Amol Rajan on BBC News: "Perhaps the biggest hoax within the fake news panic, however, is that this shows you can't trust the media. On the contrary this crisis has proved exactly how much you can trust the media. There is a clear dichotomy, between authoritative, very widely trusted sources such as the BBC and CNN, and crackpot conspiracy theory sites like InfoWars. In times of crisis, audiences are in fact flocking to what has been disparagingly called the 'mainstream media'. Traffic to the BBC News website is surging to extraordinary levels. Over the past month, 12 February to 11 March, there have been over 575m page views globally to stories about Coronavirus."

Impartial Reporter deputy editor Rodney Edwards on Twitter: "Stop attacking journalists for reporting #covid19 facts, particularly those of us who live and work in small communities."

Edwards added in a Facebook post: "So far today we have been accused of being 'irresponsible', of 'fear-mongering', of 'trying to cause panic'. This is wrong and frankly offensive to our small team of reporters who are trying their best to do the right thing...Call us names, criticise our profession, do whatever makes you feel good. But remember that behind every headline on coronavirus in Fermanagh is a writer who is deeply concerned about his or her family and community. Thank you to all those who continue to support our journalism. It is time as a community that we all supported each other."

Ian Carter on Twitter: "So...we've made all our newspapers available for free online, we've launched new websites within a day to connect our communities and our reporters are showing amazing dedication. And still we get snarky tweets about minor typos."

Robert Peston on Twitter: "My job, which I have been doing for 35 years, is to try and find out what is going on and tell you about it. Slightly weirdly some of you seem to be attacking me for communicating what I find out...what I write is the product of questioning many relevant sources, NOT being spoon fed (as some of you seem to think). And I speak to as many scientists and doctors, as I do officials and politicians. It is my job. I am not saying this defensively but to explain."

Sarah Knapton on Twitter: "'Is there ever an urgent need to go to the pub?' asks Robert Peston, who has clearly never done a 14 hour shift at at national daily newspaper."

Donald Trump replying to PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor who asked "You said you don’t take responsibility for slow response to Coronavirus but your administration disbanded the White House office on pandemics?": “That’s a nasty question...When you say me, I didn't do it. We have a group of people [in the administration].”

Stephen Jones in The Sunday Times [£] on the joys of covering a low profile rugby match after Wales vs Scotland was called off because of Coronavirus: "A Maidenhead XV versus Clifton was not exactly the first port of call. It was not in the top eight. But it was lovely anyway. It did not require the usual three separate tickets to get in. It actually has a car park — the most recent time a rugby media car was allowed to park in some professional grounds, it was a Ford Capri. You could even talk to the players. My god. There was no media prevention officer to drag you away in case you asked a leading question, such as: 'How are you?'.”

Lord Heseltine interviewed by Tim Walker in The New European: "You look back at people like Conrad Black - who used to own the Telegraph when its readership was substantially greater than it is now - and Rupert Murdoch and you see their papers have been dripping poison on the European project for years and years. I think there's a very powerful argument to say that people who are non-doms - not domiciled here for tax purposes - should not be permitted to own our major media operations and to set our national agenda in the way that they do. Other countries do not allow people to do that and we need to consider this question very carefully."

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian: "For months, there have been a series of high court hearings about the extraordinary behaviour of editors, journalists and managers who once worked for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). Yet the disturbing revelations, which involve allegations about the wholesale interception of voicemail messages by three MGN titles, appear to have passed under the mainstream media radar. It’s as if phone hacking is yesterday’s story and no one cares any longer to know the truth. Neither newspapers nor broadcasters are giving the matter anything like the kind of attention they once devoted to similar intrusions into privacy by the News of the World, which led ultimately to that paper’s closure."

Early Day Motion 285: "That this House recognises the importance of quality local journalism; commends those who dedicate their working lives to serving the public by reporting important, timely and accurate information that is in the public interest; notes the importance of media reporting and how it helps to maintain local transparency and accountability and supports the health of democracy at a local level; celebrates that, from reporting on floods or courts, to covering significant community events and issues, the work done by local journalists is essential in sustaining public life; and therefore resolves to support the National Union of Journalists' Local News Matters campaign, and further consider ways in which additional investment, resources and support for local journalism can be encouraged in order to protect the future viability and sustainability of local quality news."

Martin Shipton on the NUJ website: "The papers are lasting longer than many of us believed a few years ago, for the reason that digital advertising revenue hasn’t taken off in the way expected. More than 80 per cent of Reach's revenue still comes from print. But newspapers can't carry on forever with declining revenues and the worry is that when they go the digital offering we shall be left with will be a stripped-down model based on "breaking news", sport, food reviews and stories tied into the commercial interests of advertisers - with even fewer journalists in employment."


Thursday 12 March 2020

Media Quotes of the Week: Coronavirus stories are bringing in readers but scaring off advertisers to warning over UK surveillance of journalists

Jim Waterson on Twitter: "Enormous traffic for Coronavirus stories but ad market was already weak, is now been pummelled, and advertisers are placing keyword blocks to stop ads on pandemic stories. This is all very bad for already struggling outlets.*
*This is obviously not the main concern for society."

Nadine Dorris on Twitter: "If you want to know how low a journalist can go, @DailyMailUK on my doorstep in the middle of my trying to deal with everything else. He opened the gate, knocked on the door, rang the bell. I hope he washes his hands. #Coronavirus."
  • Mirror politics correspondent Mikey Smith on Twitter: "Absolutely nothing wrong with a journalist knocking on a public servant's door."

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, welcoming the new Whitehall unit set up to counter Coronavirus-related fake news on social media: “The creation of the cross-Whitehall unit to identify disinformation on social media regarding the Covid-19 virus underscores where the dangers are for the public to be misinformed during this crisis. It is the mainstream media where news and information are edited that factual reports are to be found.”

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian on the Coronavirus: "Every medical expert I have heard on the subject is reasonable and calm. Not so politicians and the media. They love playing to the gallery, as they do after every health scare and terrorist incident. Front pages are outrageous. No BBC presenter seems able to avoid the subject. Wash hands to save the nation. The BBC must be sponsored by the soap industry."

Tim Shipman on Twitter: "Given the shortages developing in our great supermarkets, I am tempted to say, Britain, that you should definitely buy a newspaper this weekend. News, enlightenment and potentially dual use in a crisis..."

PPA managing director Owen Meredith welcoming the Budget announcement that from December 1 2020 digital publications, including magazines, journals, books and newspapers will be zero-rated for VAT: “Our tax system has failed to keep up with technology and recognise changing consumers habits in accessing news and information. I’m delighted the Chancellor has listened to our representations and acted to end this tax on reading. This tax cut will be good for consumers and publishers alike, it will promote innovation in paid-content models as well as investment in quality journalism."

Sports commentator Alan Green interviewed in The Times [£] about the BBC not reviewing his contract: “They have shown me very little respect in how that is ending. I feel a mixture of disappointment and anger. I don’t think it’s justified. I was basically told, ‘You don’t fit our profile.’ I got a fair idea of what they meant by just listening to the output over the last year or so. There isn’t an ageist, sexist, racist bone in my body. I only care about ‘Can somebody do the job?’ There are new people in favour. They match the requirements in terms of ‘bants’ — banter with presenters.”

John Simpson on Twitter: "I’ve warned for some years now that the concerted attacks on the BBC would end in its destruction. Only a determined few want this to happen. The rest are unthinkingly caught up in the mud-slinging, or feel powerless. If you want the BBC to survive, now’s the time to speak up."

International Federation of Journalists general secretary Anthony Bellanger in a statement calling on governments to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment to help reduce the level of violence against women journalists: "The level of violence facing women journalists is unacceptable. Once a state ratifies the Convention, it becomes legally binding and we expect women journalists to receive stronger support from their employer when they become a target of harassment and violence. We urge our affiliates to campaign nationally for a ratification of this desperately -needed convention."
  • According to IFJ statistics, 65% of women journalists have experienced violence at work, either in newsrooms, in relation to their sources, at home, on the way home or online. It can take the form of physical attacks, unwanted touching, sexual comments, online abuse, threats and intimidations in all their forms.

Newsquest’s editorial director Toby Granville, speaking at the official launch of HM Courts and Tribunal Service’s (HMCTS) updated media guidance at the Old Bailey"Our reporters on a daily basis challenge court orders and anonymity orders that are often incorrectly used to protect guilty defendants from publicity. Often orders are used incorrectly by lawyers who don’t always understand the law around anonymity which is regularly successfully challenged by our professional, qualified journalists. Without this level of expertise and qualified learning we are in a serious and perilous situation. A worse case for open justice is that we’re not even there to contest them in the first place and the public are censored from knowing the truth about what is going on in their community."
  • Granville added that in order to ensure trained journalists are present in court, sustainable investment was urgently needed to enable increased coverage of cases – particularly in the magistrates’ courts. This could come from an expansion of a programme similar to the Local Democracy Scheme through the partnership publishers have with the BBC or through digital giants such as Google and Facebook funding such reporters.

Committee to Protect Journalists advocacy director Courtney Radsch in a statement after the U.K. Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, which oversees surveillance by government agencies, released a report revealing authorities requested six warrants for surveillance that “would relate to journalistic confidential material” in 2018: “While we welcome the U.K. government’s disclosure of some information about its surveillance activities, the material that has been made public is far from sufficient. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office needs to provide much more detailed disclosures to help journalists in the U.K. understand who is investigating them and enable recourse in cases of abuse.”


Thursday 5 March 2020

Media Quotes of the Week: Responsible journalists can be part of the Coronavirus solution to slavish backing of Boris makes a mockery of Telegraph

International Federation of Journalists general secretary Anthony Bellanger, in a statement: “The journalist's responsibility towards the public takes precedence over any other responsibility. Media can increase public awareness of the situation regarding the Coronavirus through reporting that educates, warns and informs properly on the problem. That way they can also be part of the solution. It’s in this kind of context when we have the opportunity to again demonstrate to citizens the value of quality, ethical journalism."

Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray in a statement on covering the Coronavirus: “It is only the mainstream media that provides edited news and information on this vital subject. This is too important an issue to be left to the vagaries of social media where conjecture, rumour and disinformation run rife. It is in the newsrooms of newspapers both national and regional, broadcast organisations and genuine online news outlets that every step is taken to ensure that the information produced is as accurate and fact-based as possible.”

The Times' Steven Swinford on Twitter: "Downing Street has agreed to end boycott of Today programme so ministers can go on air to discuss Coronavirus.  Lee Cain, No 10's director of communications, told aides he had agreed with BBC that there was a 'public interest' in having ministers on national broadcaster. Cain said he agreed to end Today boycott after talks with Fran Unsworth, BBC’s head of news, and Katy Searle, head of BBC Westminster... At present boycott only lifted so ministers can discuss Cornavirus."

The Reuters Institute: "The BBC is by far the most widely used source of news in the UK both online and offline, and it is one of the most highly trusted sources of news. It is also more widely used as a source of news than many of its peers among other public service media. According to the BBC itself, it also reaches more than 400 million people globally with news every week. The BBC is very widely used across the political spectrum. It is the most popular source of news among both Conservative and Labour voters, and among both Leave and Remain voters."

Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter, as quoted by HoldTheFrontPage: "It’s ironic that the Be Kind trend is now being used as another stick to beat journalists with. I sat on the Kent Online newsdesk this week and within the space of a couple of hours three people had mentioned Caroline Flack when haranguing our news editors. In each case, it was an attempt to have a court story removed. I received an email the same day claiming that publishing the names and addresses of people in court cases amounted to ‘bullying’ and again urging us to ‘Be Kind’. I find it quite offensive that people are attempting to use the Caroline Flack scenario for their own ends and we are letting them know so."

Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray launching a new campaign for 'real news' against the use of fake newspapers and news sites and the rise of partisan non-media operations"We are increasingly alarmed by reports of taxpayer-funded money being spent on attempts by public bodies and others to ape the work of mainstream media in acting as their own unbalanced and unchecked publishers. It is not the job of official communications departments to circumvent the media in favour of pushing out their own often one-sided ‘news’ via fake newspapers and social media channels. The Society strongly believes that political parties, local councils and police press offices should not be in competition with the mainstream media."

Alan Rusbridger on Twitter: "How to spot a lead story."

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian: "The Daily Telegraph is a newspaper with a great past, a pathetic present and an uncertain future. Its ownership is in doubt. Its profits have plummeted. Its editorial slavishness to the prime minister has turned it into such a laughing stock that it is now widely known as the “Daily Boris”...What irony! The Telegraph’s slavish support for a comic journalist has helped turn the newspaper into a joke."