Archive for the ‘Press Gazette’ tag

How many sources is enough?

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Leeds Trinity and All Saints journalism school has earned the ire of at least 4 regional newspaper editors by suggesting – in a study out this week – that 76% of the papers’ stories are single sourced. The journalism department analysed 2,994 stories and found most ‘rely on one person or organisation for information’ (from Press Gazette). The papers’ editors immediately criticised the report, attacking its methodology and saying it failed to take previous coverage into account (although one hopes by this they weren’t implying that local journalism has always been single sourced). But the analysis correlates with other studies that suggest cutbacks in local journalism have seen a corresponding reduction in multiple sourcing and in original, grassroots reporting (see, for example, Franklin and Williams).

Just after I read about the study yesterday I visited the Orwell archive – housed in an ominous grey building on the Hampstead Road that would have fit comfortably into the bleak landscape of 1984. Hidden on the second floor of this 1960s monstrosity is the most fantastic collection of Orwell’s notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, and journalism.

Orwell was omnivorous in his sourcing. Just looking at his notebooks for The Road to Wigan Pier shows how wide he spread his net to gather information. He pulled in everything from statistics about population size and growth, to health records, to economic figures – and meticulously stitched these together with letters from local doctors and politicians, newspaper reports, and hand drawn maps and sketches, before finally living with and amongst the people about whom he was reporting. The notebooks contain a bonanza of fantastically detailed material. My favourite is a handwritten page exactingly laying out the weekly income and spending of the family with whom he’s staying – showing how, every week, despite careful budgeting, they keep falling short of even basic necessities.

What comes across most powerfully from Orwell’s notebooks is his genuine desire to understand. Living with people and just telling their stories wasn’t enough – he wanted to work out why they were living in the conditions they were, what effect government policies were having, what people were doing to make things better – or worse. His commitment to properly understanding his subjects, through as many sources as he could get his hands on, is an object lesson to the rest of us.

Written by Martin Moore

September 21st, 2007 at 7:32 am

From Fourth Estate to Fourth Short-Let Apartment

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Isn’t it ironic that as we Britons become the most watched people in the world, fewer and fewer people are watching the watchers?
4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain and rising. One for every 14 people (Surveillance Society report, p.23)
But what about the sources of power? Who is watching the executive, the legislature and the judiciary? By all accounts less and less of us – at least for our day job.
Press Gazette reports this week on research it’s conducted – backed up by similar work by the NUJ – showing a steep decline in reporting of local government. ‘Most local newspapers now do not have a regular local government correspondent’. For political scoops local papers rely on leaks from ‘disgruntled politicians’ or ‘residents with an axe to grind’. In the same issue Adrian Monck describes the disappearance of detailed court reporting. Parliamentary reports, as we know, were dropped from all the nationals over a decade ago.
Why does it matter? It matters not just because we’re losing a base layer of knowledge and understanding about the use and abuse of power; nor just because there won’t be people ready and able to expose corruption or miscarriages of justice, but because those in power will know they’re not being watched.
If you’re being watched you behave differently. You know if you don’t participate you’ll be embarrassed (ask the guys at www.theyworkforyou.com -MPs have been attending votes and making speeches to make sure their stats don’t look bad), you’ll probably do more preparation if you know you’ll be asked difficult questions, and you’ll think twice before you decide to ignore something or cover something up.
There’s no question that the foundations of the Fourth Estate are being eroded. Sadly, we don’t yet know what, if anything, is going to replace them.

Written by Martin Moore

June 28th, 2007 at 8:27 am

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Lights dim on media freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan

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When Bush sought to justify the war in Iraq, back in 2003, he talked alot about a ‘free Iraq’ in which people would have free speech and where there would be a flourishing free media. In December 2005, in his National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, he was still talking about establishing a ‘free, independent and responsible media’ (p.38).
But we read this week that Iraq’s media is ’90% propaganda’. In an interview for the Press Gazette, Jasim Al-Azzawi, presenter of Al Jazeera’s Inside Iraq, says that many newspapers and magazines are now just propaganda outlets for militias. “They spew nothing but hatred” he says, and that “judged by Western standards they would be closed down immediately”.
The situation appears to be no better in Afghanistan. “Effectively we’ve moved from an open media environment to a state-controlled media environment” the spokesman for the UN mission, Adrian Edwards, told CNN. Edwards is particularly worried about a proposed new law, being debated in Parliament in a few weeks which will, amongst other things, prohibit; the “propagation of religions other than the holy religion of Islam”, stories that “affect the stability, national security and territorial integrity of the country,” and “articles and topics that harm the physical, spiritual and moral well-being of people, especially children and adolescents.” (source: CNN).
Sadly it looks like one of the most positive, obvious signs of Iraqi and Afghan freedom flamed briefly but may now be going out.

Written by Martin Moore

March 29th, 2007 at 3:48 pm

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