Archive for December, 2006

Ohmy what a year

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Reading the many reviews of the media year one thing is immediately apparent. 2006 was a defining year. Media historians (if such a category exists) will look back on it as a turning point, the year that Time magazine nominated ‘You’ as the person of the year. In the ‘old media’, it was the year newspapers became horribly aware of their mortality. Having poo pooed much of Web 1.0 the press viewed the latest new media revolution with rising panic. Some, like the Daily Telegraph, literally threw the baby out with the bathwater – moving to a ‘multi-media hub’ in Victoria, changing job titles and responsibilities, and getting rid of many of the older, experienced print journalists. Others, like the Daily Express, adopted the ‘milk it till it fails’ approach – cutting editorial resources and journalists to the bone (another 3 redundancies today) to extract as much profit as possible. Those with slightly longer term perspectives developed social networking aspects – surely one of the key means of success in the future – such as My Sun.
No-one has yet worked out how to integrate social networking effectively, neither has anyone really understood how to use blogs (or indeed how to differentiate journalistic blogs from diaries, conversations or rants).
And so we take a short breath for Christmas and New Year before plunging into what promises to be an equally exciting 2007.

Written by Martin Moore

December 21st, 2006 at 9:40 am

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Trial by Media (rpt.)

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2 newspapers, 2 different photographs of Steve Wright, the second man arrested on suspicion of murder in Suffolk. The Daily Mirror’s has Mr Wright working behind a bar – eyes blacked out ‘following police requests’. The Sun has a picture of Mr Wright staring wide-eyed into the camera, looming over his second wife, with his hands clasped around her neck. In case we missed the implications of this, the headline reads, ‘Is THIS the strangler?’. The photograph is copyrighted to The Sun.
It’s hard to think of a picture and a headline more likely to lead people to believe that he’s guilty – an impression enhanced by the accompanying copy. Neither does the paper give any indication that it will restrain its coverage of Wright now he’s been arrested – quite the reverse. ‘Do you know this man?’ it asks on page 2, ‘Did you ever meet him or work with him? Call the Sun…’. This after we were treated to blanket coverage of the ‘sad and lonely’ Tom Stephens who, it now appears, may soon be released without charge.
As with coverage of previous sensational murder inquiries (e.g. Soham) sections of the press seem to have excited themselves into a competitive frenzy and forgotten where to draw the line so as not to prejudice a future trial.

Written by Martin Moore

December 20th, 2006 at 8:45 am

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Media in the mirror

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Of course I’m biased, but is the British news media gradually becoming more self-conscious? We’ve never been very reflective about our media coverage in this country, dismissing it as awful navel gazing, but there are signs that this is changing. Read Steve Richard’s editorial in today’s Independent, for example (‘The BBC’s coverage is symptomatic of an anti-politics movement that serves no-one‘). Richards presents a lengthy critique of the BBC’s approach to Blair’s questioning by police in the cash for honours inquiry. In it he cites the lack of context, the propensity to interview only critics of Blair, and how discussions were put in an ‘aren’t politicians miserable and corrupt’ framework. This sort of constructive criticism of coverage should have a positive impact, especially if coupled with the type of reflection that it can (sometimes) set off within the BBC. I hope that it does, and that it sparks further reflection about coverage elsewhere – not least in the Independent itself, which has certainly been guilty of many of the faults Richards points to at the BBC.

Written by Martin Moore

December 19th, 2006 at 11:50 am

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Interviewing the suspect strangler

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Amongst the many so-called scoops and exclusives in yesterday’s Sunday papers there was one that made me stop short. This was The Sunday Mirror’s front page exclusive interview with ‘The Suspect’ in the Suffolk strangler investigation. Michael Murphy of the SM talked extensively to Tom Stephens about his relationship with the five murdered women and how the police had already quizzed him 4 times. In a compelling Q&A that had lasted for more than two hours, Stephens repeatedly broke down in tears and talked bizarrely about how he should have done more to ‘protect’ the women. Remarkable in itself, the interview has been made all the more noteworthy by the news this morning that Stephens has indeed been arrested on suspicion of murder.
One can’t help but wonder how the Sunday Mirror came to choose Stephens to focus on. As Stephens himself says in the interview, he was one of about 50 suspects, and did not (despite the front page lead) expect to be on the shortlist. And he denied having anything to with their murder.
It could have been availability – Stephens had also spoken the previous week to the BBC. But why make it such a major front page lead? Did the paper have any inside information? Were they tipped off that Stephens was one of the prime suspects?
Who knows, but it certainly puts a whole new slant on the editorial code (which prohibits any payment to convicted or confessed criminals – Clause 16).

Written by Martin Moore

December 18th, 2006 at 1:31 pm

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