BBC gets out of the kitchen as government turns up the heat.

I suppose it says a lot about our current national obsession with all matters gastronomic that the focal point of media attention concerning the BBC’s decision to “redefine” its online presence centres around the decision to take down its food website.

But it also says a lot for the power of social media that, within hours of the announcement, BBC management went back on its plan to bin more than 11,000 recipes, announcing that the bulk of them would instead be moved to its commercial BBC Good Food website which will remain open for business. What really appears to have angered the 120,000 or so people who signed a petition calling for the decision to be reversed is the unnecessary attack on such an altruistic, beneficial and tangible example of public service provision.

Continue reading

A Glorious Resistance: The Power of Social Media in Modern China

Guest post by Hiu M. Chan 

Lately, debates about social media have turned slightly sour, so I thought perhaps an alternative story from the other side of the world might spread a little freshness.

Ever since WeChat (the major communication App used in China) was launched in 2011 by Tencent, users of Weibo (micro blog, a functional combination of Facebook and Twitter) dropped a significant number. While the ‘Moments’ function (similar to Facebook updates) on WeChat is now commonly flooded with selfies and foodies; Weibo, to some extent, remains a special space for public justice. Although the  ever watchful ‘red light’ remains strong up top, Weibo has been the main site for active citizens to expose social injustice, generate public debates and discussions – all in the hope of achieving a more just society through the ‘people power’.

Continue reading

The BBC Charter – threats avoided but leash tightened

Posted by Professor Richard Sambrook

This post originally appeared in The Conversation.

The dust is settling on the skirmishes of the past few months, now that the White Paper on the future of the BBC has been published. While many of the worst fears of the corporation’s supporters have not come to pass there are still some big points of principle at stake – and a lack of detail in key areas.

The BBC had four criteria it believed needed to be met by the White Paper: clarity over funding, creative and commercial freedom and independence from government. So how do the government’s proposals stack up? Firstly, the new charter is for 11 years, taking it out of the political cycle and potentially reducing the political heat around the BBC’s future.


On funding there is broadly good news. The licence fee deal struck last year is confirmed for the next 11 years – and while that deal – which loaded an extra £750m of costs for licence fees for the over-75s onto the BBC – was not a good one in itself, at least the concessions over future inflation proofing have been met.

Continue reading

The end of a brand New Day

Yesterday evening various political and media websites began to give credence to rumours that Trinity Mirror was to announce the imminent closure of the UK’s newest daily newspaper, the New Day.

These rumours were proved to be true this morning as a trading statement released by Trinity Mirror confirmed the worst fears of its journalists. It read;

Although The New Day has received many supportive reviews and built a strong following on Face book, the circulation for the title is below our expectations. As a result, we have decided to close the title on 6 May 2016. Whilst disappointing, the launch and subsequent closure have provided new insights into enhancing our newspapers and a number of these opportunities will be considered over time.

What an abrupt and sadly inevitable end to a project launched with great optimism  and, whatever your views on the paper itself, a freshness of approach intended to challenge the cynicism and negativity of the conventional press. If you didn’t like newspapers – then this was the paper for you.

Continue reading

The Sun, Hillsborough and ‘the truth’.

As Jared Ficklin wrote here yesterday, the verdicts returned at the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 completely vindicate the 27-year campaign for justice resolutely undertaken by the families of the 96 who died.

The verdicts, which will surely have far-reaching consequences for the South Yorkshire police, found that those who died were unlawfully killed and that a series of failures by the police and ambulance services contributed to the tragedy. The jury also unanimously agreed that the behaviour of Liverpool supporters did not contribute to the horrific events. After the decisions were made public, the prime minister, David Cameron was moved to say:

All families and survivors now have official confirmation of what they always knew was the case, that the Liverpool fans were utterly blameless in the disaster that unfolded at Hillsborough.

Outside the court, Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, said: “Let’s be honest about this – people were against us. We had the media against us, as well as the establishment.”


And, when we consider Mrs Aspinall’s sentiments concerning the media and the fact that both The Sun and The Times, in isolation, originally chose not to cover the verdicts on their front pages the following morning it’s impossible not to think about how the tragedy was originally reported by The Sun.

Continue reading

How relevant is investigative journalism today?

Posted by Dr Janet Harris

At first glance it might seem odd to ask a documentary maker to run a workshop on investigative journalism, but there are many similarities in the practice of both.  

The investigative journalist, Mark Lee Hunter writes that in investigative journalism the story is based on the obtainable maximum of information, and can be very long; the dramatic structure of the story is essential to its impact; there must be a conclusion, and investigations can be challenging, requiring a level of perseverance, patience, and mental toughness.

Dr Janet Harris was invited to discuss the structures of investigative journalism at the University of Zagreb. from TV Student FPZG on Vimeo.

These are all traits that can be applied to documentaries. Many of the series I have worked on have taken over a year to make, involving detailed knowledge of legislation, regulations and obtaining the trust of very suspicious contributors. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Twitter?

Posted by Professor Bob Franklin

Twitter logo

Twitter claims more than 200 million active users, with 400 million tweets posted daily

The Guardian’s front page story on Tuesday 12th April carried a lengthy and disturbing article about how women are increasingly ‘targeted online with racial abuse, pornography and death threats.’ One woman, ‘having made 126 crime reports to the British Police and numerous reports to Twitter and Facebook’ declared that she felt ‘destroyed and defeated’. 

The problem of digital stalkers, internet harassment and people who open multiple or fake social media accounts to make abusive threats is a problem which neither the police nor Twitter seem able to resolve. Worse, the Guardian reports that the Police fear such cases of online abuse threaten to ‘overwhelm them’ (Guardian 12 April 2016, p1).

In this case Twitter, the microblogging platform for disseminating and sharing news, information, gossip, entertainment or any whimsical thought (no matter how drunken), seems to have been the focus of the news rather than its more usual role as the digital platform reporting the story. Continue reading

Lessons from The International Journalism Festival, 2016

By Una Kelly, MA Journalism student 2015-16

“It seems like these days to be a journalist you also need to be a computer science expert and hacker and lawyer,” someone whispered next to me. We were at the International Journalism Festival (#ijf16) in Perugia, Italy, which brings together people working at the cutting edge of journalism for five days of discussions and workshops. In an industry changing so fast there was lot to learn, but the atmosphere was one of optimism and excitement about the state of journalism.

The common thread from most conversations was ‘innovate or die’. The need for good reporting and storytelling hasn’t changed, but the architecture of how we tell stories has. With 60% of the BBC’s traffic now coming from mobile, Trushar Barot, mobile editor of the BBC World Service, said a news organisation will not survive if its content doesn’t work on a mobile device – and Jomec’s Richard Sambrook made the point that mobile journalism is not an just an adjunct to TV news.

Several speakers, including Megan Lucero from the Times data journalism unit, even commented we need to stop talking about ‘digital journalism’ and ‘data journalism’ and just call it journalism, since they are no longer facets of journalism, but just what the trade now is. It was mentioned many times that entry level journalists should at least be able to do some basic data manipulation and coding. On a panel called ‘Why do journalism schools still teach like it’s 1996?’, Jomec’s MSc Computational and Data Journalism got an honorary mention when John Crowley, editor-in-chief of the International Business Times, said the course teaches exactly the skills he’s looking for in a journalism graduate.

Continue reading

Panama Papers: media attacks on Cameron may have more to do with Brexit than banking

In an era in which public trust of traditional media is slowly rising from the low point of the phone-hacking scandals and the Leveson inquiry, the Panama Papers has brought us evidence of just how potent sustained, investigative journalism can be in helping to bring the powerful to account.

As veteran editor Peter Preston wrote in the Observer, this is an example of how journalism has “crossed borders” to shine a light on global corruption. To break the story, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, assembled a team of some 400 media workers in more than 80 different countries to systematically work through 11.5m digitised documents leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca relating to how the worlds rich and powerful use tax havens.

Continue reading

The Panama Papers: How does an international investigation work?

Posted by Prof. Richard Sambrook

This post originally appeared on The Conversation.

The reporting of the Panama Papers – which has been based on a massive global analysis of documents leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca outlining how the world’s elite use tax havens – is a remarkable feat of collaboration which builds on several trends in investigative journalism.

The whole story started with a whistleblower who leaked a huge number of documents and data. At 2.6 terabytes of information, this leak is enormous, dwarfing the Wikileaks documents about the Iraq war or even Edward Snowden’s leaks of NSA surveillance details. Once again it shows how in the data age all organisations are vulnerable to vast caches of information being smuggled out on a computer hard drive or USB stick.

Following the authorities’ pursuit of the people behind those stories – Julian Assange, who is in the Ecuadorean embassy in London; Edward Snowden, who remains in exile in Moscow; and Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year jail sentence, many had feared that whistleblowers would be more reluctant to come forward.

Continue reading