Archive for the ‘Financial Times’ tag

Why Journalism Matters – introduction

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Last night the Media Standards Trust invited Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, to open its series of talks on the theme ‘Why Journalism Matters’.

We’ll be publishing an edited version of his talk, along with others in the series. You can also read the text in full here.
Why have we organised a series on Why Journalism Matters?
  • Because we believe that it does. Amidst all the talk about technology and business models, we don’t want the critical values of journalism to be lost almost by default
  • Because we believe that the real values of journalism are not universally understood or acknowledged.
  • And because we think that, as journalism goes through a massive period of transition it is not enough to rely on important concepts that – to borrow from George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language – have become stale from over-use, and whose lack of precision has reduced their power to convince. Phrases like: The Fourth Estate, the democratic deficit, the public interest, and the people’s watchdog.
If you care about journalism, and genuinely believe it has a critical role to play in our democracy and society – as we do – then you cannot use such phrases as a crutch without interrogating them, challenging them, and trying to work out what they actually mean.
Over the next year a number of decisions will be taken – or not taken – that will have a significant and material effect on journalism. Rules surrounding ownership of news outlets may be relaxed. The government will consider if – and how – to intervene in local and regional news. It will consult on whether to top slice the BBC License Fee.
During the same period more newspapers will fold.
And you can be sure that, between now and next summer, no-one will suddenly work out how to fix news’ broken business model.
We have a choice. We can wait and watch change happen around us. Hope that it is creative destruction and that in the end things will sort themselves out for the best.
Or we can try to do something about it, and make sure that, while navigating the rapids of media change, we do not lose things that are difficult or impossible to rebuild.
But it’s no good doing anything without first having thought carefully about the purpose and value of journalism.
Which is why we have started this series – that Lionel Barber began at the British Academy last night. Barber has been at the FT for over 20 years – in which time he has been the paper’s Washington correspondent, news editor, Brussels bureau chief and editor of its continental edition. Before that he was a reporter at the Sunday Times and at the Scotsman.
‘In the new world of citizen journalism,’ Barber wrote last October, ‘the role of the trained journalist as trusted intermediary no longer holds…. Perhaps there is no such thing as a neutral filter or objective truth, and (print) journalists were imposters to suggest as much.’

Written by Martin Moore

July 16th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Who should judge if a charity has done a good job?

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Selective and misrepresentative media coverage has led the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the body that co-ordinates a dozen international humanitarian charities, to decide not to evaluate the overall success of these charities on the ground (according to today’s FT). DEC made this decision “due to the increasing tendency for the media to report evaluations selectively and take criticisms out of context” (Brendan Gormley quoted in the FT).

It’s easy to see why Gormley and others should take media coverage so seriously. A couple of months ago The Times reported that, following the significant amount of footage of the earthquake in China and the access given to domestic and foreign journalists to cover the disaster, over $900m was raised in aid. By contrast, despite a death toll nearly twice as high, and similarly awful destruction and suffering, Burma received only about $55m in aid.

Most aid agencies – and The Times article – linked the level of fundraising directly to the amount of media coverage. There were stories every night on the news from China, yet hardly any footage from Burma. As Mark Astarita from the British Red Cross said at the time, “At the end of the day, charitable giving doesn’t necessarily follow the need. Disaster fundraising follows the news agenda”.

So media coverage matters. And that includes coverage of the charities’ performance. Therefore if an independent report makes criticisms of their performance – as did a 2004 study of the way charities dealt with the 2002 drought in southern African – and the media pick up on those criticisms, then those charities receive less funding. Or so they believe.

This has led DEC to look ‘for new ways to ensure accountability’. Or, to be less euphemistic, to be less comprehensive in its post-appeal evaluations, relying on occasional reviews. And even with these not guaranteeing they will be made public.

But if the charities do not audit their own performance, who will? Journalists sometimes like to assess the way charities do their job, or where their money goes. But these assessments tend to be either unduly critical – ‘look how this money is being mis-spent!’ (e.g. see ‘Myanmar cyclone: Drug lord crony will profit’), or unduly uncritical – i.e. simply appeals for more funding (e.g. ‘Give disaster appeals a life’). Few journalists have either the time or the resources to monitor the work of a charity over a long period.

Perhaps the answer is for charities themselves to do less auditing and more reporting. As I argued in a previous post, if charities adopted some of the values of journalism and began reporting regularly on what they were doing – and this is reporting I’m talking about, not PR – then they couldn’t help but talk more honestly about the successes and failures on the ground.

Some charity heads will still complain that any self-criticism will be leapt on by journalists looking for fault, but at least it gives charities more control of the story, it enhances their commitment to transparency, and provides them with a defensible position should they need it.

Written by Martin Moore

July 8th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

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The Financial Times does Amy Winehouse

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Why are Amy Winehouse’s exploits appearing in the FT’s editorial pages?

When I blogged last week about The Sun’s fascination with Amy Winehouse going off the rails and her poor father’s desperate pleas for her wellbeing, I didn’t expect to then read a similar article in the editorial pages of the Financial Times on Saturday, and then another full page by Ed Vulliamy in the news section of Sunday’s Observer.

At first I figured the articles were platforms from which to talk about her music, or maybe about the relationship between music and drugs. But no, they were pretty much about Amy Winehouse going off the rails and her poor father’s desperate pleas for her wellbeing. The Observer even interviewed the red top and celeb mag journalists who ‘broke the story of Winehouse’s rush to rehab’.

The Financial Times had the grace to say that Winehouse is the ‘staple of tabloid gossip columns’ before telling us that ‘Her thirst for alcohol earned her the nickname “Wino”‘ – information presumably gleaned from ‘tabloid gossip columns’?

Perhaps this is part of the FT’s plan to compete with Murdoch’s more populist Wall Street Journal?

Written by Martin Moore

September 3rd, 2007 at 4:33 pm

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