Tag Archives: journalism

My letter to The Guardian, unpublished


I noticed that around half the recent stories about phone hacking on the Guardian website with photos feature a photograph of Sienna Miller. Does she make up around half of all the people whose phones were hacked?

Yours etc.

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How Twitter makes news consumption more diverse

Back in the internet boom at the turn of the century, one of the popular debates was whether the internet would provide exciting new access to a diverse range of information or whether the internet’s ability to give you far more power over what information you see or read would result in a narrowing of horizons as people just go for what they already know and what they already agree with.

Cass Sunstein in particular made the case for that latter pessimistic view very forcefully in his Republic.com book and it’s a pattern you see often in, for example, choices over political blog readership where supporters of different parties particularly congregate on blogs that take similar lines.

Now, however, researchers have taken a close look at how news is shared on Twitter and come up with a rather more positive finding:

Indirect media exposure increases the diversity of political opinions seen by users: between 60-98% of the users who directly followed media sources with only a single political leaning (left, right, or center) are indirectly exposedto media sources with a different political leaning. In orderto reach this conclusion, we use public classification of news sources and infer the political preference of every audience member. One can only speculate about the effect of political diversity, because users do not necessarily read the complete Twitter timeline nor do they always prefer receiving diverse political opinions (Munson and Resnick 2010). Nonetheless our results show the power of social media, in that users are exposed to information they did not know they were interested in, serendipitously.

One of their other findings is that for all Twitter’s newness, the sources of information are mainly fairly traditional:

There is much about the media landscape in Twitter that is ‘old media’. Established media outlets retain the role of publishing news and stories without much interaction with readers. However, the features of the ‘new media’ age are reflected in the way journalists and audience engage in new communication patterns, communicating with each other directly, and tapping into breaking news.

Media Landscaipe in Twitter – A World of New Conventions and Political Diversity

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So you want to be a political journalist?

A sister title to Shane Greer’s So you want to be a politician?, Sheila Gunn’s So you want to be a political journalist? is a collection of thrity-two lively short chapters giving an insight into the life of a political journalist.

With an impressive cast of contributors, including Peter Riddell, Carolyn Quinn and Michael White, the book has plenty of insider information, presented usually in the style of lively anecdotal chats. This is not a tedious career advice book nor a studious academic tone but rather something that gives a flavour of what it is like to be a political journalist and how to get there.

MP Adam Holloway’s contribution is the one that turns sour on political journalism, explaining how he became so disillusioned with coverage of himself that he not only ceased writing a column for the local newspaper but also stopped sending out local news releases.

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Youth unemployment: when one in five isn’t one in five

It normally sounds pretty obvious – you work out the unemployment rate by looking at the number of people in work and the number of people seeking work. But sometimes that leads to rather odd figures, as today’s youth unemployment figures demonstrate.

The Guardian’s headline, One in five young people out of work (headline used on Guardian news page; there’s a longer slightly different headline on the story itself), s pretty typical.

But take your way to page 36, Table 14 and look at the raw numbers and it looks rather different.

Number of 16-24 year-olds: 7,337,000.
Number of 16-24 year-olds unemployed: 963,000

In …

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New questions over the police’s relations with the News of the World

The Independent reports:

The police chief who headed Scotland Yard’s inquiry into phone-hacking dined with the News of the World at the height of his criminal investigation into the newspaper.

The sensitively timed meeting between then Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman and the NOTW was left off lists of contacts between senior officers and the paper’s owner sent to the Metropolitan Police Authority. Its disclosure in a Freedom of Information request prompted claims that the force had an unduly “cosy relationship” with Rupert Murdoch’s print empire News International (NI)…

Liberal Democrat MPA member Dee Doocey said: “It is extraordinary that when serious allegations about

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Press Complaints Commission toughens up correction rules for websites

As I’ve commented on before (such as here), there has often been a problem with the Press Complaints Commission upholding a complaint about a story but the news outlet’s website not being fully updated to reflect this. For example, the complained about story might continue to appear on a newspaper website without any indication in the story that it was subsequently the cause of a ruling against the newspaper.

Now however the Press Complaints Commission has issued new rules:

When a complaint is upheld by the PCC, the editor is obliged to publish it with “due prominence”. Here is some

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Dear BBC…

Dear BBC,

I’d like you to reconsider your decision to ban the use of the word “reform” when your staff are reporting or commenting on the proposed changes to the voting system for the House of Commons (as reported in The Independent last month).

Given that the phrase “electoral reform” has been a widely used term for decades to describe all sorts of different proposals to change the electoral system and given that it has been widely used by proponents on all sides of those exchanges too, I’m surprised that you now are of the view that it isn’t an appropriate …

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Press Complaints Commission upholds MP’s complaint over expense reporting

Here’s the main part of the ruling against the East Kilbride News:

The complaint was made by the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, Michael McCann. The article related to his Parliamentary expenses, which had been published following the release of the figures by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). Mr McCann argued that a claim made in the article – that his expenses “include £1150 in hotel bills to fund his trips to Westminster, while he also claims for a rented property in central London” – was misleading because it suggested that he had claimed for hotel rooms at

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Sal Esposito: the mythical story of the cat and the jury summons

Even if you follow the news only lightly, the chances are you’ve seen a story in the last few days about how a cat received a jury summons in the US and, when the owners pointed out it was a cat, the local bureaucracy ordered the cat to turn up to court anyway.

So far, so normal as far as daft bureaucrats go?

Well, not quite. Because you don’t exactly have to be a fan of American judicial bureaucracy to stop and think, “Is it really true that the person organising the jury just ignored it when someone told them they had …

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Meanwhile, in other news…

Let’s start with some updates on stories we’ve previously covered here on The Voice.

Conservative London Assembly member Brian Coleman has backed down from his attempt to ban questions to him at London Fire Authority meetings.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is to investigate the Daily Telegraph, following complaints from Tim Farron and others that the newspaper had gone on a fishing expedition rather than having the sort of public interest case which justifies journalistic subterfuge. On the substantive policy issue at stake, Ofcom look set to recommend that the Sky bid should be referred to the Competition …

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The Royal Family, freedom of information and the rest of the story

At the weekend The Independent ran a piece very critical of the Liberal Democrats in government:

The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest…

The decision to push through the changes also raises questions about the sincerity of the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to government transparency.

And …

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Vince Cable: I could bring down the government

When I talked before about the Liberal Democrats showing in public the behind-the-scenes disagreements in the coalition with the Conservatives rather more, this wasn’t quite what I expected…

Vince Cable has privately threatened to “bring the Government down” if he is “pushed too far” during fractious discussions with his Conservative colleagues, The Daily Telegraph can disclose…

He believes that policies are being rushed through by the Conservatives and that ministers should be “putting a brake on” some proposals, which are in “danger of getting out of control”. Mr Cable says that, behind the scenes, the Tories and Liberal Democrats are fighting

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Small step forward on press corrections as press code altered

A press release from the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee (the body that draws up the code with the Press Complaints Commission implements) brings the news:

From next year, corrections involving the Press Complaints Commission – which oversees press self regulation in the UK – will be agreed with the PCC in advance, under new rules agreed by the Editors’ Code Committee, which reviews the Code…

Code Committee secretary Ian Beales said: “This amendment is designed to help kill the myth that newspapers and magazines routinely bury corrections. Research conducted by the PCC has shown this to be untrue – nearly 85%

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So, how did Michael Crick do?

Exhibit A:

“I hear from a well-placed source that the list of peers, with about 55 names from across the party spectrum, will be published on Wednesday 1 December.”

The list was published on Friday 19 November with 54 names from across the party spectrum, so not bad at all.

Exhibit B:

“A normally astute and well-informed Lib Dem observer reckons the following people are in line to be among the expected 15 new Liberal Democrat peers:

* Brian Paddick (2008 London Mayoral candidate and former senior Metropolitan Police officer)
* Sal Brinton (Parliamentary candidate in Watford in 2005 and 2010)
* Dee Doocey (member …

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Newspaper readership habits of Liberal Democrat voters

The following figures show (approximately – see notes below) the number of Liberal Democrat voters from May 2010 who read different newspaper titles:

The Sun: 796,000
Daily Mail: 576,000
Daily Mirror: 396,000
The Times: 340,000
The Guardian: 331,000
Daily Telegraph: 278,000
The Independent: 233,000
Daily Express: 190,000
Daily Star: 136,000

These figures have been calculated from the data provided in The British General Election of 2010 and are based on survey data for newspaper readership, party support and turnout. The newspaper readership figures include people from age of 15 and also adults who are not eligible to vote. Therefore all the figures for individual titles are a little on the

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Opinion: Not the whole truth

On Monday, while in London for a meeting, I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard. (I can never resist a good freebie – I was once an MP after all –  and besides it gave me three extra Sudokus to do on the train home).

Inside I found four vouchers (one for each of the remaining days of the week) for “i” – Britain’s first new quality newspaper for over two decades. The paper only costs 20p a day. But I am such a sucker for freebies that I just could not resist using the vouchers to try it …

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It’s not a science journalism problem, it’s a journalism problem

Late last month, Martin Robbins wrote a fantastic spoof of science journalism for the Guardian’s website – This is a news website article about a scientific paper. In his subsequent commentary on the reaction to that spoof he wrote,

Science is all about process, context and community, but reporting concentrates on single people, projects and events … Hundreds of interesting things happen in science every week, and yet journalists from all over the media seem driven by a herd mentality that ensures only a handful of stories are covered. And they’re not even the most interesting stories in many

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Has the long-term decline in trust finally bottomed out?

It has been a regular finding of both MORI and YouGov research that the public’s trust in members of different professions has been steadily declining for many years. However, the latest survey from YouGov suggests this decline has stopped, with several professions – including politicians – seeing a recent recovery in their standings.

In 2003 on average 49% of people said they trusted different professions on average to tell the truth a great deal or a fair amount. This fell to 42% in 2006 and 37% in 2007 but was 39% this August. The two point rise is not statistically significant …

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A polite round of applause for the Press Complaints Commission

We’ve often covered the issue of press standards on Lib Dem Voice, including posts such as those from myself calling for the Press Complaints Commission to be reformed – which was also the subject of a speech I gave at party conference. So it is only fair to give credit where some is due – as it is in the case of the PCC ruling against the Daily Star:

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Daily Star about an article titled “Muslim-only public loos”, ruling that it was inaccurate and

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The flaw in war reporting from Afghanistan, or why Robert Peston should not be embedded in a McDonald’s for a fortnight

On Wednesday evening I went to a Frontline Club event titled Who is winning the media war in Afghanistan? and was reminded of the way what journalists call “the kinetic stuff” (that is soldiers and shooting to you and me) dominates mainstream TV footage. The set of clips shown to set the scene at the start of the event were all of the kinetic kind and although during the event some journalists made the point that other types of footage is also used – they also conceded that those other reports are not the ones which grab the public …

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The press and the right of reply

Here on Liberal Democrat Voice we’ve often covered the work of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), including the motion being proposed at party conference on it and a response to motion piece from the PCC itself.

It isn’t only on Liberal Democrat Voice that the PCC has been given a full column to express its views. Last week’s edition of the party’s newspaper, Liberal Democrat News, also contained a column from the Press Complaints Commission, this time in the form of its chair Baroness Buscombe.

On reading it I was moved to pen the following letter, which appears in the …

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BBC: Met may reopen phone hacking case

The BBC reports:

The Metropolitan Police has said it may reopen the investigation into claims of phone hacking by the News of the World if it uncovers new evidence.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates said officers would consider any new information – and examine if further action should be taken.

A former reporter on the paper has claimed the paper’s former editor, Andy Coulson asked him to hack into phones.

Mr Coulson has denied using or condoning the practice while editor…

One reporter – Sean Hoare – said he had been personally told by Mr Coulson to intercept phone messages. In a statement, Mr Yates said

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100 days of the Coalition: how the news media has turned out to be the biggest, sorest loser of them all

One hundred days. How the media loves a yardstick.

We have US President FD Roosevelt to thank for the obsession with the first 15 weeks of a new government’s activity: in a race against time to save the US economy from its Depression slump, he signed into law over a dozen recovery programmes. Some worked, some didn’t… You can draw your own analogy.

It is of course far too early to know if the Coalition will succeed. It is also far too early to know whether the Lib Dems will be boosted by our involvement in government, or if we’ll be …

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Reform of Press Complaints Commission to be debated at conference

The future of the Press Complaints Commission is up for debate at the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool. A motion from Truro & Falmouth echoes many of the criticisms made of the PCC by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in its recent report. The motion calls for a fully independent regulator to take the place of the current structure which is heavily staffed by people holding current senior newspaper roles.

The motion also supports a shift in the PCC’s role from handling individual complaints towards upholding and improving press standards more generally. That’s a question I wrote about

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Is the problem that people don’t want to pay for news or don’t want to pay for newspapers?

Each round of newspaper circulation figures makes grim reading for anyone trying to balance the books at a newspaper. Month after month circulation is dropping away across the board. The usual explanation is that newspapers are suffering because so much free news is now available online, and there is certainly a large degree of truth in that.

However, there are two important caveats to that. First, the massive lack of trust in journalists, who are regularly rated one of the least trusted professions in the UK. As I wrote last year on this topic,

Isn’t a major reason that people increasingly turn

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No, 1980s hairstyles haven’t made a comeback at Southampton Football Club

Latest news in the ongoing saga of Southampton Football Club’s attempts to ban photographers from its matches, and instead insist the media buys official photographs from itself, is that the Bournemouth Daily Echo has joined the Plymouth Herald in refusing to play ball.

The Herald is using a cartoonist instead of using photographs, but the Echo has decided to take another route – and is using photographs from the 1980s instead. Footballers’ hair has never looked so good if you ask me.

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Southampton bans photographs; newspaper employs cartoonist

Southampton football club have joined the long list of clubs that ban or want to ban the media from their matches as it suits. Back in November it was Portsmouth FC banning a journalist whose coverage it didn’t like and Alex Ferguson for a long time did not allow the BBC to interview him, again because he didn’t like the tone of its coverage.

This time it is photographers in the firing line as Southampton has banned them from its matches, wanting people instead to buy official photographs for use in media coverage. This has at least been good news for …

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Worth a second outing: Does the Daily Telegraph know its up from its down?

Welcome to a series where old posts are revived for a second outing for reasons such as their subject has become topical again, they have aged well but were first posted when the site’s readership was only a tenth or less of what it is currently or they got published and the site crashed, hiding the finest words of wisdom behind an incomprehensible error message. Today’s has been updated with the latest hemline flip-flop.

Daily Telegraph, 12 December 2008: “Recession pulls hemlines down“.

Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2009: “Hemlines rise during economic downturns”.

Daily Telegraph, 9 July 2010: “It’s happening again. Hemlines are …

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How the Westminster Village media is still struggling with concept of coalition

It can be surprisingly easy to excite some journalists. Today is a case in point. Nick Clegg stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. During his exchanges with Jack Straw (who was standing in for Labour’s Harriet Harman), the Deputy Prime Minister referred to the invasion of Iraq as “illegal”.

To most people watching this is not a surprise. The Lib Dems’ opposition to the Iraq war, which was supported by both Labour and the Tories, is pretty well-documented, I think it’s fair to say. The fact that the Lib Dems and Conservatives have reached a coalition agreement does not alter the past, nor does it alter politicians’ individual views. Why should it?

And yet the response from some journalists has been to label this a “gaffe” – a term otherwise known as a politician saying something he believes which a journalist hopes to be able to spin into a story.

Indeed, it’s interesting to see how a story like this can develop.

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Hackney Council under fire over allegations it misled public about who was standing in election

The excellent Jack of Kent legal blog has the full details of the brewing story in Hackney, where the council had already been accused of wrongly excluding the manifesto of the Conservative Party’s Mayor candidate, Andrew Boff, from the booklet sent to the public. (The Mayoral elections in Hackney have similar rules to those for Mayor of London, whereby all candidates submit artwork which is then collected in a booklet and sent out to all electors.)

In addition, Hackney Council is now accused of repeatedly misinforming members of the public, telling them that in fact not only was there no …

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