Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The UK mass media is awful because…..

March 19, 2013

John Naughton puts it very succinctly

The reason that sections of the UK mass media are so awful is simply that there’s a market for intrusive crap. People continue to buy disgraceful newspapers, so bad behaviour is always rewarded, not punished. The only thing that would change that would be for consumers to make ethical decisions when buying papers. And they don’t. The elephant in Leveson’s court-room was the Great British Public. But nobody talked about that during the proceedings.

You can bet your bottom dollar nobody talked about that. Which of the people involved in the proceedings would be willing to bite the (public) hand that feeds them?

Media 2


The Sun stoops to conquer.

April 28, 2010

John Naughton was the (unintended?) recipient of this

A copy of an intriguing email just popped into my inbox:

Please do let me know if you think you can help.

From: [redacted]
Sent: 27 April 2010 11:15
To: [redacted]
Subject: request from Jenna Sloan, The Sun

If you have relevant information for the media professional concerned
please click this link to reply:

Request deadline: Thursday 29 April, 2010, 4:00 pm

Contact me by e-mail at

My request: I’m looking for a teacher and a nurse to be case studies in The Sun next week.
This is for a political, election feature and both must be willing to say why they feel let down by the Labour Government, and why they are thinking about voting Conservative.

We’ll need to picture them, and also have a chat about their political opinions.
We can pay the case studies £100 for their time.

Is this genuine, I wonder? If so, interesting, ne c’est pas? First of all in terms of the implicit journalistic ’standards’, but also in terms of chequebook journalism. It just shows you what they think of teachers and NHS Staff — assuming that they’d be willing to pimp themselves for £100. Max Clifford’s clients wouldn’t blow their noses for that.

It says a lot about the regard in which we hold the fourth estate that we do not entertain for a moment the possibility that either Jones or the Sun is above this kind of “dirty trick”.

New journalism.

September 14, 2009

In a fascinating piece for today’s edition of The Guardian, the always thought-provoling  Jeff Jarvis suggests that those who wish to continue in paid journalism should consider a “future no longer controlled by a single newspaper but instead by an ecosystem made up of many players with varying motives, means and models, working collaboratively in networks”

We see the faint beginnings of this ecosystem today in the 10,000 hyperlocal bloggers who operate in the US, according to the hyperlocal network They are being joined, almost daily it seems, by unemployed professional journalists intent on continuing to report and eating while doing so – for example the New Jersey Newsroom, the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and My Football Writer in Norwich. At CUNY, we surveyed more than 100 of these local-site proprietors and some are becoming profitable.

Keep in mind that few, if any, of these bloggers and journalists have experience in business, advertising or sales. So in our project, we suggest that there are many ways to optimise their businesses. Start by improving the products and services they offer to local traders. Then add the potential of regional advertising that will need outlets when the metro paper dies, as well as smaller networks made up of a few towns or built around interests such as parenting or sports. We even see potential for e-commerce revenue, following the example of the Telegraph, which sells hangers and hats, and now Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, which has begun selling homes………………..[link]

 • Jeff Jarvis blogs at

Simon Caulkin bids farewell 4.

July 24, 2009

A letter from the founder and Chair of Human Capital Forum,  Philip Whiteley, to the letters pages of totalpolitics, sums up how many readers of The Observer feel about the enforced departure of Simon Caulkin’s management column from the pages of the paper’s business section.

The decision by The Observer to drop the Simon Caulkin column on management is probably the worst decision I have witnessed in more than 20 years in publishing. It raises serious worries about the quality and depth of debate in our media.

Second only to Vince Cable, he has been the most consistent and intelligent commentator on the contributory factors that lay behind the credit crisis. The Observer’s appalling decision reveals two unfortunate prejudices at the heart of media and politics. Firstly, the assumption that issues of governance and management are minor or fringe issues; secondly that quality newspapers have to court celebrities and drop informed comment in order to stay viable.

Turning to the first matter, while economics correspondents like Robert Peston are feted and given prime slots, they are only ever reporting on the effects of economic decisions made by institutions and individuals. Simon Caulkin analysed the core underlying ideology that causes economic events. This is far more important for understanding how to prevent a repeat of the crisis that we are living through. The mechanistic modelling, treatment of people as resources, obsession with the short-term, and management by targets in the public sector are all symptoms of the sick ideology that has driven management culture, which Simon brilliantly dissected. This is not a left-right issue: the ideology appals many conservative Board members and school-masters, as well as the trade union activist.

Secondly, to what extent are we losing a quality press in this country? When I see the likes of Frank Skinner and David Mitchell given prime spots, I wonder: would The Observer of the 1940s have replaced George Orwell with Tommy Trinder? And how would that have helped, exactly?

I co-ordinated the signatures for a joint letter of protest to The Observer about the decision. Over a weekend, I received 60 vehement voices of support.

If anyone wishes to join the campaign for proper coverage of management, and to arrest the decline of formerly quality newspapers, please contact me on

Philip Whiteley
Chair of the Human Capital Forum London

It seems to me that no amount of huffing and puffing from readers is likely to arrest the decline of newspapers. The best and brightest are slowly beginning to realise that newspaper as we know it is in decline and that if as writers they intend to become professional commentators, they will find ways other than through newspapers of bringing their work to the attention of the public.

Simon Caulkin bids farewell…..3

July 9, 2009

I don’t suppose that the great and the good at The Observer – yes, I’m talking about editor John Mulholland and co. – are going to be all that pleased that it was the man from The Torygraph who was able to report rather that the Government was now abandoning its long held belief in target culture, a culture that Simon Caulkin, the man they unceremoniously dumped a few weeks ago, had long and persuasively agued was fundamentally flawed from its inception.  

Today, the Government will publish a policy document that will say – wait for it – that the target culture that has suffocated initiative for 12 years is to be abandoned because it is unlikely to deliver the reforms that the Labour Party wants to see. Instead, the various parts of the public sector that deliver services directly to us as taxpayers, such as the police, doctors and teachers, will be allowed to make more of their own judgments based on what is needed locally. Gordon Brown will announce the new approach in a document laughably entitled Building Britain’s Future, together with a draft legislative programme for the next session of Parliament….

For myself I find it hard to believe that the man – John Mulholland again – who can put his name to a letter like this is too concerned about Caulkin’s value as a writer.

Thank you for your letter and I must apologise for the delay in responding.

Simon Caulkin is a tremendous writer and his column has added enormouslyto our understanding of British business and management. For these to lose the column was not taken lightly. It followed much discussion and only after exploring many different options did we reluctantly conclude that we had to take this course of action.

As you will doubtlessly appreciate, this was just one of a host of difficult decisions we have had to make in order to reduce costs across the newspapers at Guardian News and Media.

Newspapers and media groups are experiencing the most difficult trading conditions imaginable. Not only are we suffering, like everyone else, from the catastrophic fallout from the credit crunch in terms of severely reduced advertising revenues but, additionally, our industry is under structural assault from digital media which is causing enormous disruption to our business models.

In these circumstances, we are having to make extremely difficult decisions many of which have caused real anguish as we seek to cut costs. I do hope that Simon can continue to have a relationship with the paper and that we can continue to publish his writing from time to time. Should the economic climate change, then perhaps we can revisit the issue.

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and I completely understand your sense of loss but hope you can appreciate the dilemmas we are facing.

Yours sincerely
John Mulholland
The Observer

A defence of blogging.

July 4, 2009

John Naughton uses Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column in today’s Guardian to mount a defence of blogging against “print-based critics of online news, who are forever asking rhetorical questions about how much fact-checking is done by pyjama-clad bloggers”

I’m quoting John’s whole posting here because it should be read through without interruption caused by the reader having to find bits through links.

Lest we get too carried away by admiration of the Daily Telegraph’s role in exposing the hypocrisy and corruption of MPs, it’s worth consulting Ben Goldacre’s column in today’s Guardian.

He focussed on a report in the Torygraph which appeared under the headline “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists”. The report begins:

Psychologists found that all three factors had a bearing on how far men were likely to go to take advantage of the opposite sex.

They found that the skimpier the dress and the more flirtatious the woman, the less likely a suitor was to take no for an answer.

But, contrary to popular opinion, alcohol consumption did dampen their ardour with many men claiming that they were put off by a woman who was drunk.

Sophia Shaw at the University of Leicester said that men showed a “surprising” propensity to coerce women into sex, especially those that were considered promiscuous.

Ben phoned Sophia Shaw to see if the story was an accurate account of her research. She told him that

every single one of the first four statements made by the Telegraph was an unambiguous, incorrect, misrepresentation of her findings.

Women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped? “This is completely inaccurate,” Shaw said. “We found no difference whatsoever. The alcohol thing is also completely wrong: if anything, we found that men reported they were willing to go further with women who are completely sober.”

And what about the Telegraph’s next claim, or rather, the paper’s reassuringly objective assertion, that it is scientists who claim that women who dress provocatively are more likely to be raped?

“We have found that people will go slightly further with women who are provocatively dressed, but this result is not statistically significant. Basically you can’t say that’s an effect, it could easily be the play of chance. I told the journalist it isn’t one of our main findings, you can’t say that. It’s not significant, which is why we’re not reporting it in our main analysis.”

Ms Shaw went on to say:

“When I saw the article my heart sank, and it made me really angry, given how sensitive this subject is. To be making claims like the Telegraph did, in my name, places all the blame on women, which is not what we were doing at all. I just felt really angry about how wrong they’d got this study.”

Ben reports that since he started sniffing around, and Shaw complained, the Telegraph has changed the online copy of the article. But “there has been no formal correction, and in any case, it remains inaccurate”.

Now… Of course this is the kind of thing that happens every day in much of the mainstream media, so we’re rather resigned to it — especially in reporting any aspect of scientific or scholarly work. But it’s conveniently overlooked by many of the most vociferous print-based critics of online news, who are forever asking rhetorical questions about how much fact-checking is done by pyjama-clad bloggers. Actually, in this particular case, a blogged account as factually inaccurate as this Torygraph story would have been picked up and demolished within minutes in the blogosphere. So let’s have less cant from the processed-woodpulp brigade about the intrinsic superiority of their trade.

The Anonymous blogger 2

June 22, 2009

Emily Bell, the Guardian‘s very wise director of digital content, considers the implications of last weeks decision by Justice Eady to overturn the injunction obtained by Richard Horton against the Times revealing him as the author of the NightJack blog

It was ironic that the ruling came in a week when Iranian protesters harnessed the power of the web and social media to spread their message and organise their demonstrations. How would the Times view anonymised Iranian bloggers? The unintended consequence of its action will be to restrict the free flow of information rather than to encourage it. A cynic might suggest that this is no surprise given that old publishing models benefit from restriction rather than spread of information.

If a citizen journalist, or a blogger, or a witness is only allowed to remain anonymous if published under the protection of an established news organisation, it suggests yet again that courts have some way to go before understanding the full impact of democratised media.

Why should the judiciary recognise this when one of our most august news organisations doesn’t seem able to either? The curious business of NightJack gives the strong impression that the Times views such publishing efforts as essentially competitive, when they have to be viewed as complementary. A further unintended consequence would be that if, as an anonymous police source, you felt the need to unburden yourself about some aspect of the force, turn into a whistleblower even, then where would you turn? How safe would you feel about your identity being protected if it were put in the hands of a publisher which apparently thinks it is in the public interest for anonymous writers, sources and citizens to be exposed?

One of the best points she makes is that the courts have “some way to go before understanding the full impact of democratised media”. I cannot for the life of me believe that there is any serious newspaper reader in this country who expects The Times to do anything other than protect its own narrow interests, and there is certainly nothing very surprising about its seeing independent bloggers as competition, or about its attempting to render them ineffective as information gatherers and discriminators. The fact that Justice Eady chose to take the argument that The Times was acting in the public interest by exposing NightJack on its fact value does show that courts not only do not understand what Bell calls “democratised media”  but are  still grappling with anonymous publishing and whistleblowing as concepts.

Simon Caulkin bids farewell…..2

June 21, 2009

I have no idea how many letters The Observer received in the last week protesting about the  its decision to drop Simon Caulkin’s management column, but I imagine that this one pretty much sums up what a good many of them said.

Truly a voice of reason

What a terrible disappointment it is to learn that Simon Caulkin’s management column is being removed from the Observer (“Farewell, with a last word on the blunder years” , Business, last week). His elegant and considered writing, as well as his open-minded approach to the world, are hallmarks of the kind of journalism I thought the Observer nurtured and valued. I have often thought if people like Gordon Brown read him more assiduously, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.

The Observer needs to retain its distinctive identity. This can be done by keeping the “voices” of its treasured columnists. Reading Simon Caulkin, along with Andrew Rawnsley and Philip French, is part of the way I keep informed.

Alastair Phillips. Coventry

The TV licence fee and newspapers.

June 21, 2009

The one-time editor of The Guardian, an now regular columnist for it and it’s stable-mate, The Observer, Peter Preston, says in today’s issue of The Observer that that if the licence fee is to be used to fund ITV regional news and local TV consortia, then some of it should be used to subsidise newspaper websites which cannot charge because they are  presently competing the BBC’s news website which does not have charge because it’s funding comes out of the licence fee.

Give newspapers a slice of BBC’s fee

Boil down Digital Britain‘s 236 pages and what have you got? Admission that the licence fee is no longer the BBC’s alone; it can fund ITV regional news or local TV consortiums. Lord Carter, like Ofcom, wants competition and more voices. And one form of communication can fund another: £6 a year on the phone bill goes to spread broadband further.

Enter logic. The biggest blight for newspapers now is the BBC’s “free” (ie fee-subsidised) news website. Papers can never charge for online news while the BBC chucks in a £153m service at no charge as a natural part of broadcasting.

So why not let broadband operators collect £6 a year for newspapers’ sites? Why get stuck with old definitions of public service broadcasting when most newsgathering relies on reporters on the ground finding the stories for broadcasters to re-process? Carter sets up the argument. Now follow it through.

It’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure that the licence-fee payer, who has for as long as I remember has not been happy about having to pay a licence fee at all, and who is certainly going to resent the idea of some of it going to help commercial TV get over the fix it’s in,  would take very kindly to subsidising newspapers they never read,  and probably never  want to read.

The anonymous blogger.

June 18, 2009

I’ve never been tempted to blog anonymously, but I can very well comprehend why there are bloggers for whom anonymity is not just desirable but essential.

There are, for example, good reasons for thinking that the tearing away of that veil of anonymity from blogger Detective Constable Richard Horton from the Lancashire Constabulary, who blogged as Nightjack, served no useful purpose. The Guardian, leader writer, commenting on Justice Eady’s ruling that   Detective Constable had “no reasonable expectation of privacy”, in a nicely judged aside observes the decision in this case resulted only “a blow to new media, on behalf of the old.”

No right-minded person would take issue with the Justice Eady’s argument that “blogging is essentially a public not a private activity”, or would want to suggest that Mr Horton, just because he wrote on the internet, should expect special protection. The Guardian concedes all this, but it also recognises that there are people like Mr. Horton whose anonymity is central to what they do and can do. If they lose that anonymity, as Mr. Horton now has, they can no longer operate effectively.

With it will vanish some of the more fascinating and useful online writing. Mr Horton’s blog expanded the public’s understanding of policing, as he could not if he had told his employers what he was up to and published a sanitised account of life on the beat. At their best, blogs such as Nightjack, or the Civil Serf who revealed life in a Whitehall office before also being exposed, made the public services more open, and improved debate about how they should run. Anonymity was essential to their ability to do this.

So the problem we are now left with is whether or not we can ever have any bloggers who can operate anonymously. If we can’t, then there is a big problem, that might appear to be just a local one now, but is an iternational one by implication.