“Trusted friends”


Leveson reading a “trusted friend”?

Leveson’s report includes just 456 words on magazines, if you exclude the case studies on OK, Heat and Hello. It makes just two references to the “4,765 business to business magazines” and barely touches too on the “515 consumer magazines” he mentions.

Leveson does say: “Whereas newspapers are essentially ephemeral, and understandably have developed a reputation as tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers, magazines are kept and referred to because they are considered to be a “trusted friend”.

He also says: “Most of these consumer magazines are specialist interest titles of varying sorts and are not engaged in the sort of news and current affairs reporting, or reporting on individuals, with which the Inquiry is primarily concerned.”

So the question for Leveson is, why try to regulate them? The question for the NUJ is why they called for huge swathes of their honest and ethical members to be treated like criminals?


Fine for Leveson


Leveson, wrong, wrong and then wrong again

The press were fascinated by Leveson today but the public were interested in the simultaneous event going on in court where SAS soldier Danny Nightingale was released – after a press campaign to free him. Hurrah for the press.

Leveson did not ask for examples of good journalism, only bad, so that’s all he got. The Leveson report is an example of biased research and reporting. A statutory regulator would fine him and demand a right of reply. Continue reading

More please, Sir

Article in teh Journalist called Freelance: the musicalAn email discussion with freelances today about stagnant rates prompted me to dig out an article I wrote more than a decade ago on how to get a rate rise – based on the musical Oliver. It appeared in The Journalist in December 1999. I have reproduced it below.

I was on the way to speak at the London Freelance Branch when I learned that Humphrey Evans was speaking on the same subject. I knew Humphrey would say the same as me, so I needed to say it differently A call to my musical-mad friend resulted in this presentation hastily written on the train. Continue reading

Qur’an crimes

Should journalists mention facts that will play up racism, even though the source seems impeccable?

I did a story yesterday about insurance fraud on Daily Finance. In the course of interviewing the lawyer, she made the statement that the defendants refused to testify in court because they would have had to swear on the Qur’an. Continue reading

Poor Govt. PR

Big Ben and a streetlight in the dark

Throw some light on it

An email to my MP asking whether I should complain about the Communities PR team to the minister or head of the Civil Service elicited a response, at last.

I called Matthew Gorman there on 15 December. I asked for the amount of council tax collected and the cost of collecting it, plus the amount of council tax benefit paid and the cost of paying it. I was given this information ten years earlier by the predecessor department for an article in the Guardian.

Continue reading

Wheelchair hero

Andy Barrow in blue Team GB vestI lunched with Andy Barrow, captain of the GB wheelchair rugby team, at the Charlton Park rugby club vice-presidents’ day yesterday.

I follow Andy on Facebook. I was surprised to see him at the club as he is always abroad, usually playing for Team GB in another tournament, though sometimes just on a well-deserved holiday.

He’d just been with some Charlton Park players at the Dubai rugby sevens. He’s off next week to watch the cricket in South Africa.

Facebook friends

Andy follows me on Facebook. “How do you write seven stories before breakfast every day?” he asked. “I have to write one blog a week for the team’s website and it takes me ages.”

If that’s true – and I suspect it was just flattery – writing is one of a short list skills Andy has not mastered. He has become an expert press spokesperson for the team. He has negotiated higher levels of sponsorship from the RFU. And he is learning to be a motivational speaker.

All of that is on top of taking on the team captaincy. He will be captain at the London Olympics and possibly the Olympics beyond that. Andy has broad shoulders – both physically and metaphorically.

Follow the money

I’m going to ring Andy tomorrow and interview him in more detail about the finances involved in getting elite wheelchair athletes to the top of their sports. Andy has to chase up various grants, gifts and sponsorship to fund his sport.

I’ve been reading the NUJ’s guidelines for reporting disability. Well-meaning though they are, they are very hard to stick to.

“Ditch the super-crip stories – they are patronising and set disabled people impossible standards. Report disability sports as you would any other sport,” they begin. So that’s reporting Andy out of the question. And my headline will have me drummed out.

Spanish practices

“Would this be a story if the person was not disabled?” is another question. If the captain of the GB wheelchair rugby team were not disabled, it would be a bigger story. In 2000 Spain’s wheelchair basketball team all jumped out of their wheelchairs after the final whistle. It was a scandal.

“Is the person’s impairment really relevant to the story?” is another question. How can it not be? The players get graded by their level of disability and the team has to maintain a certain average disability score of players on the pitch at any one time.

“Life isn’t a ‘trial over adversity’ – most disabled people don’t see it that way,” the guidelines say. Well I am sorry but other people do see it that way. We’d report nothing interesting if the measure was whether the people doing the interesting thing “don’t see it that way”.

The best

Andy is an extraordinary person. He broke his neck playing rugby aged 17. When I visited him in hospital at the time he was determined to walk again. If anybody could have done, he would. When that dream died he turned to being the best wheelchair rugby player he could be.

I interviewed his doctor for The Guardian, shortly after Andy came out of hospital. He said that stem cell research might actually mean they could make a paraplegic walk again at some point in the future (Andy is tetraplegic – he has limited use of his hands too).

Yesterday I asked Andy about that. He’s happy just the way he is, thanks. He is one of the most level-headed people I know. He is a realist, understands the limitations his sporting career has and is readying himself for a second career afterwards.

He will be just as successful at whatever that is too.

Links (open new windows)

I’ll be back

True to the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin in the Terminator, I am back and I’m blogging again. (I had complaints that I had stopped blogging – thanks for those.)

I have been busy. Most recently I have been paid to blog. I am now lead blogger on a new AOL-owned website called Daily Finance (my RSS feed right). Before that I was (unpaid) running a blog at the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) annual delegate meeting (ADM). It has been hectic.

So much has happened. News Now has ceased using national newspapers on its new aggregator service because of demands for payment from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). A company called Meltwater is now challenging the basis of that in the courts.

Links for free

I have not had time to get to the basis of the NUJ’s argument that aggregators should pay. But my gut reaction is to back the Meltwater. If you provide links to the source articles and don’t copy the articles themselves then that should be free.

News Now was a much more sophisticated search engine than the newspapers’ own websites. It found stories related to insurance that never appeared when searching each paper individually. And whoever designed the Telegraph’s search engine, for example, should be taken out and shot.

A Right to Link campaign has started. I am minded to back it.

Elinor and Kat working on their laptops

Elinor and Kat


Covering the NUJ’s ADM was a great, if knackering experience. The next issue of the journalist will include a fair chunk of the students’ work but the website itself is worth a look.

My full report on it says all I need to say, but I’d repeat here how great both Kat and Elinor are. I know Kat has spoken to a few editors I have recommended and I hope she gets a job out of teaching NCTJ law and into a newsroom where she belongs.

Elinor would be a good poach if anyone is interested in a reporter with a nose for news.

And finally

I was Jon Slattery’s third journalist to review the year and make predictions for 2009. This does not suggest I am the third most important. I think I was the third to reply.

In fact, quite possibly, I was the first to reply but he managed to convince two more interesting and important people to answer his questions before he had to use my answers.

Links (open new windows)

Go students go!

I am heading for Southport for the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ’s) Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM). In 2009 why can’t we get a Vodafone and 3G signal on a Virgin East coast train?

Tomorrow I am running the NUJ student members’ conference. We should have 25 students there. A mix of students of journalism and students journalists working on student media. Continue reading