All 56 entries tagged Journalism

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May 03, 2007

What you can do for World Press Freedom Day

Visit www.writetothem.com and tell your MP they shouldn’t vote for the amendment to the Freedom of Information Act which is in the House of Commons. It would exempt MPs and Lords from having to reveal information that any other public body has to, and is a ludicrous example of self-serving legislation.

And if you haven’t already, sign the petition to release the BBC’s Alan Johnston.


April 11, 2007

Strangled at Birth?

Are you an insomniac, unemployed sports fan? Good! Because there’s a new TV show that seems to be just for you!

BBC News has for months been working on a sports news show, now called Inside Sport. It’s probably going to be a little bit like a UK-focused Trans World Sport, and it sounds great.

Except the schedulers have stuck it precisely where no-one’s going to watch it: Monday, 11pm.

Probably the least exciting night of the week when it comes to sport, and after the weekend newspapers have come out with their beefy sports sections. Not to mention it’s ludicrously late for a weeknight. What’s wrong with 10.35pm, straight after the news? Or at 10pm on BBC Two?

There’ll be a daytime repeat, but that’s six days later, on Sunday morning. When, er… people are still in bed. You’d think they don’t want anyone to watch it.

P.S. Irony note: Mihir Bose left his Telegraph column to become BBC Sports Editor. His column’s name? ‘Inside Sports’.


April 10, 2007

NY Times outdoing the broadcasters at their own game?

In a piece of video-journalism entitled ‘Anatomy of a Firefight’ C.J. Chivers of the New York Times shows up the typical 2007 television news bulletin for what it is: Froth.

Alastair Leithead, the BBC’s correspondent based in Kabul, has occasionally been given free rein to show what the war in Afghanistan is really about, most notably in a brilliant Panorama programme. But not regularly. And not properly within one of the BBC’s main news bulletins. These programmes, with the infrequent exception of the 10 O’clock News, only really treat Afghanistan as a news story when it affects the fortunes of British politicians and troops.

And yet on a daily basis there are fascinating stories coming out of the country, such as this day-in-the-life piece done by a newspaper journalist for the New York Times. I’ve seen C.J. Chivers’ work before, and it’s really good, both as a video and a written feature. It’s the sort of thing which television viewers should see much more often in Britain, but won’t while the bulletins remain so formulaic, nervous and ‘safe’.

By Tyler Hicks of the NY Times. Members of an Afghan squad and a Dutch platoon took fire from the Taliban insurgents in Uruzgan Province, an isolated area of Afghanistan.

March 28, 2007

We've Been Framed

Cardiff is probably one of the best-regarded places to study journalism in the UK. Even Johnny Foreigner comes over to study here. We call him McFad. Yet the evidence below suggests this reputation may not be entirely deserved…


March 26, 2007

Don't work with children or animals… or politicians.

Phew… They say you shouldn’t work with kids or animals in television, but I’d recommend avoiding politicians too. It’s not that they run around uncontrollably or piss on the studio floor, but they’re a bit of a chain around your neck. What would have been a fairly flexible deadline is suddenly made precise by having a few demanding egos in the room.

We’ve been recording a Question Time programme with participants from Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Plaid, and things started going badly when the Labour person pulled out about six hours before filming. Three hours of phoning later and we had a stand-in.

We were running predictably late, and started filming at the last possible moment. One candidate was having a nervous relationship with their wrist-watch. As soon as we were done with filming the main take, they got up, even though we needed them to sit and film a couple of inserts. Nope, not gonna happen, it seems. Politician has somewhere else to be.

Later it turned out that they could just about hear our talkback system, meaning anything I was saying in the gallery was getting through to them. Er… right. That’s the presenter’s prompts? The questions being read in advance? The lines of attack? And presumably it included the derogatory comments from the gallery as well then?

Live telly. Pain. In. The. Arse.


February 17, 2007

Bad TV

I’m watching a BBC News report on 0870 numbers and how much they cost. It’s awful.

Check out this bit: “But at over seven pence per minute they can be a very expensive way of complaining… They can be expensive. More than a national rate call. And the longer you’re kept on the call, the more you’re spending.”

Erm, no kidding.

The report then goes down a strange route, meeting a vicar “who spends much of his time flying to Eastern Europe to help children who’ve been abused…”

He spends lots of money booking flights on British Airways. This is bad. But it seems so much worse because the bastards are taking money from a man who’s helping abused kids! It’s very odd, especially as the report admits the BBC is just as bad as BA in using these phone numbers.

The report has a few other clangers in it. Like introducing an interview clip by using the same words as the interviewee. They must think no-one’s watching cos it’s the weekend.


February 08, 2007

Sky wave the white flag at the Beeb

Listen…

That’s the sound of the retreat.

Sky are to pull Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Three from the Freeview platform in order to use the space for pay-per-view football and films.

I’m not personally worried by the loss of the latter two, but the absence of Sky News from Freeview is bad news all round.

The channel’s been on the slide ever since its expensive revamp in 2005, culminating in the loss of the channel’s boss, Nick Pollard. BBC News 24 has pulled ahead in the ratings, largely thanks to cross-promotion from BBC One and the increased number of recognisable ‘faces’ on the channel, such as Huw Edwards and Ben Brown.

But the news that Sky News is to retreat from such a popular platform (almost certainly losing a large percentage of its viewers) suggests Sky has little faith in the future of their news operation. The latest figures from BARB suggest 9% of the population see a bit of Sky News every week – but only being available on Sky and Cable will probably reduce this substantially.

Sky News also has incredibly low advertising rates – they’re not exactly rolling in cash, even if the channel’s a bit of a loss-leader for the Sky brand.

But it’s not just bad news for Sky. The demise of the ITV News Channel in 2005 was bad enough, as it was just becoming half-decent when it was killed off. But soon there will be little competition for BBC News 24. And not even the most ardent of BBC fans want to see an end to the rivalry between the two.

It’s not good for journalists, and it’s not good for viewers.


January 31, 2007

Guardian's website has a taste bypass

Cartoon on The Guardian Terrorists were, apparently, planning to kidnap, then behead a British Muslim soldier.

Given that, isn’t the cartoon on The Guardian’s Comment is Free website a little distasteful? It’s caption is Tied Down. Oops.


January 25, 2007

Huw says political 'argy bargy' is a gigantic switchoff

I’ve just met Professor1 Huw Edwards (right). Lovely man. But he’s worried.

The audience is changing. We need to know what the audience thinks and why they may or may not be watching.

Because while big news stories like the Suffolk Murders get big ratings (the same audience as big stories got in the 1980s), there’s been a large general decline in TV News watching.

Huw Edwards, speaking at Cardiff Journalism School, 25th January 2007Since 2001 there’s been a drop of 16% in the number of 16-34 year olds watching BBC News bulletins. It’s been worse on other channels and no, they haven’t all been going online.

By 2012, if current trends continue, only around two-thirds of the UK will see any BBC News. It’s currently over 80% each week.

Huw’s worried because the licence fee – which pays his wages – depends on the BBC being seen by as many people who pay for it as possible. If they stop watching, people will wonder what they’re paying for.

Another worry – for politicians, and for me as a budding political journalist – is that the public are fed up with what Huw called “political argy-bargy”. It’s a “gigantic switchoff”. And yet that’s what political reporting seems to have become. Because we care about ‘human interest’ stories. So Gordon Brown’s home life is more interesting than his five economic tests. And yet we hate seeing stories about him and Blair having a tussle. Hmm…

Audiences are fickle. And so Huw’s message was that if you watch the news and think “Why are they doing that!?”, then the answer is that it’s because – often – that’s how you want it. Their very expensive research says so.

Listen to some of what Huw had to say (1m10):

1 Professor? Yup, that’s right. He was in Cardiff to give his inaugural lecture as a Professor in the Journalism School.


January 18, 2007

Fun in the sun wind

A dodgy photo of a fallen tree in Cardiff Eight people dead, thousands of trees struck down. It’s been a crazy day. Apparently part of Warwick Uni’s campus has been closed as debris was being blown off the roof of the library.

I’ve spent the day trying to get video of said destruction in Cardiff (see right – not taken by me, I should add) and if there’s two things I’ve learned today, it’s:

  1. Trying to shoot in 50mph+ winds is fun
  2. Trying to show 50mph+ winds on film is a nightmare

Even blowing trees look tame on tape. I nearly fell over several times down in Atlantic Wharf, but the only way to show the strength of these winds would have been to hang me from a lamp-post. And you can imagine how bad that would have looked…


January 15, 2007

4.30pm is a stupid time for an exam

...I’m waiting. I have a 90-minute exam starting at 4.30pm and have nothing left to revise. I’m all revised out. I know what the questions are going to be, I know how I’m going to answer them. And this waiting is killing me.

Someone on my course said they’d be more likely to read my blog if I put revision notes on it. So here’s a last-minute review of the Barker Review of Land Use Planning, 2006…

Screw residents, let businesses build whatever they like.

And the interim Lyons Report (2006)?

Waffle.

Hope that helped.

Finally, what’s the shortest amount of time you’ve been given to write an essay in an exam? 60 minutes? 45? 30? At Warwick I typically had 45mins per question. Today I have… 20-25. Anyone do better than that? Thought not.


January 10, 2007

Brown needs a challenger, or else he'll have to call an election

Stephen Byers sees the world through blinkered eyes. He says there are “no fundamental ideological divisions within New Labour”, ignoring the section of his party who consider themselves ‘Old Labour’. And he is as Blairite as they come, which colours his judgement of the Chancellor.

But he is right in saying that Gordon Brown’s coronation would be an unattractive spectacle.

Only Labour’s opponents want to see the leadership contest turn into a bloodbath, but every Labour MP should want an open discussion of the challenges their party faces.

If Mr Brown provides us with an idea of what he wants to do, and not just what he believes in, then the public might retract their demands for a ‘snap election’ to vote on his agenda. Otherwise their calls for greater accountability would be justified.

But he needs to stop answering questions with bland waffle, as he did with Andrew Marr this weekend. Otherwise he leaves himself open to attack from Blairites like Mr Byers, who rightly criticise his failure to indicate where the Labour Party is heading.

Published in the Evening Standard, 10th January 2007.
Written in response to an article by Mr Byers in the paper two days earlier. (No web link available)


January 03, 2007

Fixing politics, and journalism at the same time

In the leafy autumn of 2004, Boris Johnson found himself at the eye of a storm. The Conservative Vice-Chairman was sacked for lying about his personal life. Now in recent years it has not been an unusual story for politicians to be caught with their trousers down. But Johnson had a safety net in the form of the profession that had brought him down. As Editor of the Spectator magazine, he was both victim and potential attacker.

Boris JohnsonMr Johnson is, thankfully, a special case in British politics. But the relationship between predator and prey is a timelessly complex one, often involving a little subterfuge, deception, and a politics all of its own. The press spit scorn at those who are supposed to run the country, and the politicians fight back with a flurry of spin and bluster. And while sometimes fun for those involved, many argue it has turned off people who aren’t in on the joke.

The 2004 Phillis Report was supposed to provide cures to politics’ ills. It recommended the end of the closed lobby system and drew a line under the years of ‘spin’. But three years after its publication, the report seems to have had little effect. Its critics say it underestimated the usefulness of the system’s faults.

The former Political Editor of the Evening Standard, Charles Reiss, contributed to the report. But he believes the existing system served the purposes of both politicians and journalists, and so was unlikely to change.

“Off-the-record information is a part of journalism in every country you care to name. It’s certainly true in America. Although [American journalism] is praised in some respects, you will often find sensitive stories attributed to a ‘senior Administration official’.”

Reiss agrees with the report’s findings: that ‘nasty’ politics has brought about atrocious levels of public trust in both politics and the media. Research for the report suggests that Members of Parliament are trusted by just 19% of the public, while Journalists are trusted by 13%.

But he disagrees with its recommendations. While Phillis proposed changes to systems – such as the closed lobby – Reiss thinks a change in culture is the only way to improve things. The Andrew Neil school of “why is this bastard lying to me” journalism isn’t sufficient for painting a true picture of government, he says.

When it was released, others rounded on the report’s proposals. David Miller of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom said it “sounded the death knell for government information as a public service”. He said the report was full of praise for “PR-speak”, ripped page-for-page from the corporate world.

The former BBC correspondent Nicholas Jones said it “presented a lifeline” to the beleaguered Prime Minister and put upon him no real pressure to treat the media fairly.

Nicholas JonesThere have been changes. Even the online political rebel, Guido Fawkes, can now attend the briefings given by the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman. And Tony Blair himself gives a televised briefing once a month, laying himself open to Westminster’s finest.

And yet the levels of trust in the process have remained low. According to MORI, who monitor trust in public institutions on an annual basis, politicians are trusted by the same number of people now as during the darkest days of Tony Blair’s government. Journalists’ ratings have also stayed the same.

The amount of trust in British politics is almost identical to that in every other major country. But the 2005 Harris Interactive poll showed journalists were much less respected here than they are elsewhere. In Spain and France, three in five people trust reporters. In Germany, the figure is two in five. In Britain however, it is just one in five. So perhaps the breakdown of trust is the result of bad journalism?

The Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, thinks so.

“Journalists are driven by deadline dynamics, by getting things out on time. If you’re turning out a fast-paced, attractive newspaper, there’s going to be hyperbole and exaggeration, and I’m afraid people are quite properly going to say ‘this is very amusing, but I don’t believe a word of it’.”

Charles Reiss admits that journalists work on a “razor’s edge”. Stories have to be taken as far as they can legitimately go without crossing the line and entering into speculation and guesswork. Clearly it doesn’t always work and mistakes are made. But it seems the razor isn’t sharp enough to tempt journalists back from the edge.

So while Phillis has – with limited success – addressed how politicians can earn the public’s trust again, a similar investigation may be required in order to foster better reporting by political journalists.

Perhaps the uniquely-qualified Boris Johnson should chair it.


December 27, 2006

Journalism by Chris Doidge

Broadcast

The future of Cardiff’s Victorian shopping arcades:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

David Cameron visits Wales:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

Disabled Services in Cardiff – Is the money being well-spent?
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, December 2006

Interview with David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary
Broadcast on Radio Warwick and BBC Radio 4, October 2005

A current affairs programme on the AUT Lecturers’ Strike
Broadcast on Radio Warwick, June 2006

Print

Comment on the Labour leadership race
Evening Standard, 10th January 2007

An opinion piece on John Prescott’s behaviour
Evening Standard, 25th July 2006

The Phillis Report – What it means for politics and journalism
Unpublished, January 2007

Blogs

An article on the 2008 United States Presidential Elections

Thoughts on the plan to have more directly-elected mayors in Britain

Chris’s blog has been quoted a number of times in The Guardian, as well as in The Times, Le Monde and on BBC News Online.

Other

A letter to the Guardian regarding their ‘Student Media Awards’
Printed in MediaGuardian, 10th April 2006


December 18, 2006

Judge, Jury, and entertainment for all the family

As the former head of the Flying Squad said today, “it looks like a soap opera”.

Police have arrested a 37-year-old in connection with the five murders in and around Ipswich. And that’s about all they’ve said.

But at the current rate, we’ll know whether he’s guilty and how long he’ll be banged up for by the end of the day. The 24-hour news channels have jumped on this one line of news and given us a torrent of copy, video, audio, maps, helicopter shots, speculation, 3D graphics, screenshots from MySpace and worse.

And, in my opinion, they’ve done enough in 5 hours to prejudice a potential trial.

It took the BBC a few hours, but they found they had interviewed the arrested man for background material. Sure enough, this not-for-broadcast interview was on BBC News 24 by midday, despite assurances given to him that it would not be used. Must be guilty then, if we’re taking his rights away from him already.

The cameras have been given us multi-angle options of his house like we’re in an interactive DVD. Oh yes, there’s another picture of his roof. Very informative.

Not only is our world-renowned broadcaster damaging the chances of a fair trial, they’re also ignoring every other news story in the process. The competition between News 24 and Sky News has become so ridiculous that they dare not move away from the story in case they are a nano-second behind the other.

It’s making a mockery of ‘news’ and I hope every journalist involved in it feels ashamed by the decisions being made by their editors.


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