03
Nov 11

Media regulation: a new idea (and some older ones)

Almost every week in London this autumn there has been panel discussion, a lecture or a seminar on one aspect or another of regulating the media. Regulation fatigue is starting to set in.

Several dozen regulators, analysts and academics tried looking for a new ideas on regulation at City University this week. They heard a few, not least from the Irish and Australian media regulators who came to compare and contrast their own systems of self-regulation.

But the discussion never quite escaped the battles of the past. The issue of how a self-regulatory system guarantees that it covers all the major players was dramatised by the appearance of the editorial director of Northern & Shell, owners of the Daily and Sunday Express, which withdrew from the Press Complaints Commission earlier this year. One disgruntled commentator was led to wonder if the Leveson Inquiry was really worth holding if the informal debate on regulation would soon produce changes sooner.

The audience was offered one entirely new idea in the form of a book outlining a 3-tier system for the regulation of all news media by Lara Fielden, who has been both a broadcast journalist and a regulator. At first sight, Fielden’s scheme looks too complex and hard for consumers of news to grasp or use. But Fielden’s research and reflection has two great strengths: it relies heavily on incentives to voluntary submission to rules to improve journalism’s quality and it tackles the pivotal issue of producing a convergent regulatory scheme for converging media.


22
Sep 11

The future of international journalism is…female

I haven’t looked back to see if this is a growing trend or a one-off. But the gender ratio of students enrolled for Masters courses at City University London’s Graduate School of Journalism is striking.

Our largest course, the MA in International Journalism, has registered 89 students (from 32 countries). Sixty-eight of them – 76% – are women; there are just 21 men on that course. In our other nine MA courses, the ratio is 66:34 in favour of women. The overall balance for all our postgraduates is 69:31.

One of our students, Rizwan Syed, thinks that journalism’s bosses haven’t yet woken up to this shift.


06
Apr 11

Blogs, paywalls: trends and straws in the wind

Two signposts for two clear trends this week.

Last night a journalist whose form is live-blogging won the “Political Journalist of the Year” title at the UK Press Awards. This is Andrew Sparrow of The Guardian, who has carved himself a niche as the Westminster reporter who writes minute-by-minute bulletins of big political set pieces and crises. What makes Sparrow good is his blend of old skills and new form. He is fast, but he is also wise.

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2010/5/28/1275066281360/PoliticsLiveAndrewSparrow_620.gif

As I’ve heard him explain, he began as a normal political reporter and just evolved his live-blog speciality as he went along. He doesn’t think live blogs on any subject replace reporting of a more conventional kind; they complement and enrich it. His strength lies in a combination of “old” qualities (journalistic self-discipline, background depth) and the “new” digital opportunity to distribute updates frequently and instantly.

Second trend sign: people experimenting with paywalls. It isn’t a coincidence that at least two newspapers on either side of the Atlantic announced digital charges this week: in Wolverhampton and Tulsa (with perhaps San Francisco to come). This isn’t just a metropolitan rarity any more. And we had the first public appearance by the two head honchos at the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger and Janet Robinson, since the paper announced its metered payment system.

Continue reading →


01
Aug 10

Blog on holiday

This blog is on holiday until August 17 or thereabouts. See you then.


25
Jul 10

Marr’s optimism, part 2

I mentioned a piece by Andrew Marr in which he had confessed his creeping conversion to reading news online. He’s now followed up with some optimistic conclusions. It sounds from this post as if he’s making a programme or programmes on journalism, so we’ll no doubt hear more on this before long.


10
Jul 10

Future of Journalism (part 94)

Some soundbites from a Future of Journalism conference in London yesterday organised by the Axess Foundation’s Media and Democracy programme.

  • The connection between new media and “regime change” in countries with authoritarian governments is much overdone. Mass protests fail much of the time. New media’s effect works at a deeper, slower level to change beliefs and assumptions in society. (Abiye Megenta, Ethiopian political journalist, Oxford University).
  • Citizen journalism doesn’t work as a standalone business. (Turi Munthe, Demotix).
  • News media agenda change: Metro is the most popular paper in Britain and it doesn’t cover cost of what the Daily Mirror covered in,say, 1980. (Professor Stephen Coleman, Leeds University).
  • Internet and new media did a lot in the 2010 election but didn’t change the dynamics of the campaign. (Andrew Sparrow, political blogger for The Guardian).
  • In a world in which more internet news sources go behind paywalls, an increasing proportion of those that remain free will be government-funded, such as Russia Today (rebranded to disguise its origins as the bland “RT”) or China’s new 24-hour channel. (Evgeny Morozov, Georgetown University).
  • American foundation-funded investigative startup ProPublica uses a network of 5000 volunteers to crowdsource. A recent project which dependent on that large number: did your Congressman get given free tickets for the Superbowl? (Paul Steiger, ProPublica).
  • Recall all the technologies which were said to be transformational and which weren’t: facsimile newspapers delivered by wireless (1940s), Citzens Band radio, the CD-ROM, the interactive TV red button. (James Curran, Goldsmiths University).
  • In 2002, only 4 countries censored the internet. Now, 40 states do so. (Peter Barron, Google).

04
Jul 10

Weekend miscellany: Eric Schmidt, exabytes, cognitive surplus and shallows, Ferguson vs Daily Mail

A handful of bits and pieces that I didn’t get round to posting last week. No point in pretending that they’re connected.

  • It’s 16 minutes long but this video of Google boss Eric Scmidt speaking to a London conference is well worth a look for a tour of the man’s thinking. His themes are mobiles, the cloud and networks. For my money, the stuff about the computing cloud is the best. Other highlights: Google has a highly advanced face recognition application which they did not launch in Europe because it would be illegal. Google translation software works without a dictionary but with a “statistical machine translation” programme.
  • One last Schmidt stat: from the beginning of history to 2003, humankind produced 5 exabytes of information. That quantity is now generated in two days. Yes, Google love this kind of fact because it describes a problem they will make money by solving. But even so.
  • NiemanLabs is running a series of pieces (why so long please?) on Clay Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus, and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. Interesting pairing. Evgeny Morozov has been writing about Carr’s book in Prospect (but I can’t see the web version).
  • In 2004, the playwright Joe Penhall wrote a brilliant, uncomfortable play called Dumb Show for the Royal Court which examined the love-hate relationship between minor celebs and red-top journalists. It is a black comedy but with biting moral: get too close to reporters with blowtorches and you will get burned.The play jumped into my mind when I read this sad, angry paragraph from an interview with the historian and prolific commentator Niall Ferguson. Ferguson has recently left his wife for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born campaigner on Islam and former Dutch MP. He is asked about the Daily Mail and this is his reply in full.
  • “I wrote for the Mail when I was a struggling undergraduate. For money. But having been on the receiving end of that combination of intrusion and defamation and misrepresentation, I have revised my opinion and want nothing more to do with those people. I despise them from the bottom of my heart, because they are just hypocrites. While they posture as opponents of radical Islam they have twice put her in danger by revealing her whereabouts. And that is the thing I will never forgive.”
  • That long quotation comes from The Times, whose online content is now of course no longer free so if I link to it and you click, it’ll ask you to pay. I think that makes linking not worth it, which is why I haven’t provided one here. If you’d like links to sites with registration, charging or paywalls, let me know.

12
Jun 10

Weekend miscellany: Assange, Kenyan corruption, why is sport so huge, the missed banking story and Iran

I’m increasingly finding, as this blog finds its feet, that I reach the end of the working week with a bunch of links which I’d like to pass on but which don’t require much comment or elaboration. I’m going to try bundling them into a single post. From time to time these pieces will have already appeared in “What I’m Reading” (just to the right of here) but that feed often osbcures the real subject of something I’ve clipped into Delicious. What follows is an eclectic selection, so there’s no point in trying to pretend that there’s any common thread.

  • Fascinating drama now going on around Wikileaks as the US government goes after its founder Julian Assange. Some background here. A more recent summary from The Economist, containing an intriguing little hint from Pentagon Papers man Daniel Ellsberg.
  • I’ve been reading properly for the first time It’s Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong, the story of John Githongo, the man who exposed deep-seated, systemic corruption in the Kenyan political elite. The book is a superbly-written tragi-comedy: Githongo “exposed” a lot of appalling evidence but failed to dent the practice by which Kenyan ministers plunder the country’s treasury. But thanks to the depth of Wrong’s knowledge of her subject, the book is also a history of modern Kenya – and a very dispiriting chronicle at that. When Kenya’s tribal rivalries explode again, as Wrong predicts they surely will, reading this book will explain what is happening and why. Among her many qualities as a writer, Wrong is unafraid to take aim at conventional pieties. As they say in Texas, sacred cows make the best burgers.
  • Especially at World Cup you may occasionally wonder how sport, all sport, got so big. Because once upon a time, sport just wasn’t that huge a thing. When you don’t read much a subject – and I don’t read much about sport – you like an issue fully dealt with in a single place. This piece by Tim de Lisle from Intelligent Life is it.
  • Sometimes it takes a non-journalist to spot that journalists are asleep at the wheel. Not every document that emerges from the Bank of England is newsworthy or even comprehensible but the one spotted in this post was. As the perenially interesting MP Frank Field remarks here, this was not a story which either the Financial Times sor The Times ought to have missed.
  • A cluster of excellent stories from The Guardian on Iran at the first anniversary of last year’s stalled “green” revolution-that-wasn’t.

Continue reading →