The Conference: Remembering, forgetting and moving on

Photojournalist I.C. Rapoport

Photojournalist I.C. Rapoport, who photographed Aberfan for Life magazine

Posted by Dr Janet Harris

The conference began with a story of a child.  Standing in front of a picture of the white-haired 8 year old boy, an adult Jeff Edwards and ex Merthyr Tydfil council leader told his story of that day. 

He was last survivor to be rescued from coal tip no. 7 which slid down the mountain nearly 50 years ago engulfing Pantglas junior school in Aberfan on October 21st 1966.  144 people died, 116 of them were children.

Organised by the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, the structure echoed that of a broadcast programme, starting with an authentic emotional tale to hook the audience and set the context for the day.  Among the invited speakers and attendees were Aberfan residents, and participants from the media and academia, gathered to examine how both the media and the community remembered, and forgot, and whether and how both groups have or could move on.

What emerged was a moving and fascinating day where some of the disaster survivors: children, family members, reporters and emergency service workers, spoke publicly for the first time after 50 years, where the ‘academic’ conference was transformed into something else.  It moved beyond the didactic and performative to become a safe location where people could speak out and exchange and share knowledge both within and beyond the institution. Continue reading

Where have all the flowers gone? Remembering Aberfan.

October 21st 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. At 9.15 am on that day in 1966, just as Pantglas junior school was beginning its first lesson, a coal tip situated above this small village near the South Wales industrial town of Merthyr Tydfil slid down the mountain enveloping first a farm and then Pantglas school itself.  Though some did manage to escape, it was a catastrophe that claimed the lives of a 144 people, 116 of whom were children. Though Wales is historically no stranger to mining disasters – between the years of 1853 and 1974 24,470 colliery workers were killed at work in South Wales -the Aberfan disaster, because of the loss of so many young lives and the impact that has had on the community since, is the single most shocking event in modern Welsh history.

This week Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies held a one day conference  focussing on the themes of remembering, forgetting and moving on in the media and in the community. It brought together not only survivors of the tragedy but also media practitioners and academics including photojournalist I. C. Rapoport , whose presentation was of a breathtaking poignancy which moved all to tears,  and the elder statesman of the Welsh media, Vincent Kane, who reported from Aberfan in 1966.

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Journalists at risk undermine us all

This post from Prof. Richard Sambrook was originally posted on the INSI website

csm_000_E39MV_01_b48b5ba098This month I stand down as Chair of INSI after nearly five years – and many more having been involved with or supporting the organisation. It provides some perspective.

INSI is a charity focused on safety and the prevention of harm to journalists and media workers around the world. It is supported by news organisations seeking to look after their staff and freelancers and to that extent is focused very much on real-time, in-the-field journalism.

But to really understand the current risks to journalists – and to journalism – we need to take a more strategic view. The safety of journalists has wide social and political importance as well. And if we are to tackle the corrosive issue of impunity for those who kill journalists, that social and political link needs to be recognised and pursued.

Exposing corruption

Civil society relies upon information to provide citizens with the opportunity to build political representation, grow economic capacity, improve public health and education and strengthen the quality of life. In providing that information, journalism can oversee the formation and implementation of policy and shine a light on corruption, human rights abuses or poor governance.

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Why we are moved by images of children in war….and why that’s not enough

Few images have captured the peculiar horrors of the war in Syria more powerfully than the photograph and short video that emerged recently showing five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after being rescued from the aftermath of an airstrike in Aleppo.

Within minutes of the video (reportedly filmed on August 17 by photojournalist Mustafa al-Sarout) being uploaded by the Aleppo Media Centre the images were being shared on social media and gaining the attention of Western newsrooms. As the Financial Times reported, 24 hours after the original YouTube report was posted, it had had 350,000 views and been shared thousands of times. Former foreign secretary David Miliband, currently president of the International Rescue Committee, tweeted:

Tragic image of young boy in Aleppo reawakens the world to the most innocent victims of Syrian war: children. 6M remain in need.

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Local journalism in crisis.

In October 2015, at a cost of £220m, Trinity Mirror, the parent company of Mirror newspapers and the Sunday People, took complete control of Local World – publisher of around 100 local newspaper titles. The purchase has worked out well for the newspaper group – This is Money reported that the company’s share price rose 7% to 80.0p on August 1 following the company’s announcement of a 42% increase in profits for the half year to £66.9m on revenues of £374.7m.

Trinity Mirror’s chief executive, Simon Fox, told the BBC that the acquisition of Local World brought with it sales and profits across a significant number of respected titles. The company’s concentration, he said, was on digital, adding:

There may well be a time when there are no papers … I hope and think papers have a long life ahead of them – at least 10 years.

I suppose this is called hedging your bets and with the latest figures issued by Trinity Mirror indicating that overall print revenue has fallen by 10.3%, the focus is also on tight management. The Guardian reports that the company plans to make savings of £15m this year, largely as a result of newsroom costcutting. Periodic industrial action by journalists across most of the the group’s titles is the new normal.

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Fox News: Out with the old – in with the old familiar.

The resignation yesterday of Roger Ailes, Chairman and Chief Executive of Fox News in the US, sent shock waves through an American media system currently struggling, like everyone else, to make sense of Donald Trump’s performance at the Republican Party convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Events began on to take shape on July 6th when Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox newscaster, filed a lawsuit accusing Ailes of sexual harassment. This triggered an internal investigation by Fox News which has now led to the downfall of its CEO. The particulars of the departure are still a little obscure but the New York Times   reports that Ailes departs with around a $40 million settlement agreement.

Though relatively unknown in the UK, the 76 year old Ailes has for decades enjoyed a position of some influence in US cultural and political life. As a former advisor to Presidents Nixon and George H.W. Bush, this was a man, according to Richard Wolffe  who had the power to make or break presidential campaigns. He is credited with building Fox News into the most watched cable news channel with unquantifiable benefits for Republican politics. So his resignation, resulting from accusations of sexual harassment of female colleagues going back 25 years, is hugely significant.

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A remote control being used in front of a tv

Why we must study the media

Posted by Dr John Jewell

From time to time various Tory politicians, journalists and ill informed misanthropes rise from their bunkers to exclaim: ‘Do you know that in redbrick polyversity they study that Beckham fellow? How standards have dropped!’

With the imminent A-level results, we can expect the routine trashing media studies and related subjects.

It’s not a new criticism of course, those of us involved in teaching or researching the media are met almost daily with the accusation that we are wasting our time and ‘their’ money on Mickey Mouse degrees which have little intellectual value and even less currency in the ‘real world’ (whatever the hell that is).

Utter rubbish. But let’s stop and think about the importance of the media.

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A few words on Graduation day 2016…..

At around 3.00 pm on the 14th July, after champagne, strawberries, congratulations and awards, the latest bunch of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies BA graduates began to make their way away from departmental buildings back into Cardiff.

And what a graduation day it’s been! Inspirational speeches at the ceremony  from Pro Vice Chancellor Pat Price and  Honorary Fellow, Nigel Owens  emphasised the importance of education and the duty we all have, as those fortunate enough to be educated to a high level, to carry our knowledge and education out into the wider world.

We hope that a student’s university experience at JOMEC is ultimately an intellectual and character developing experience. I read some years ago that in theory, a university degree should, irrespective of the subject, ‘hone a person’s critical analysis skills while teaching them the value of acquiring expert knowledge in a particular area’.

We hope that our graduates have attained the ability to research, write and critique according to highest academic standards. That they have the skills to work both independently and in groups. That they recognise the importance of intellectual objectivity, preparation, meeting deadlines –  and most importantly , that they leave us as citizens better prepared for a life in a media dominated world. These are the added values of a degree, beyond the classification, that a student takes into the world of work.

But today was not about such things – it was about celebration and recognition of achievement and I can assure everyone that staff members enjoy the day very much.

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Will the Labour membership say goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn?

Who can solve Labour’s leadership problem?

Posted by Professor Justin Lewis
Photo by 70023venus2009 / CC BY

It would be an understatement to say that, in recent weeks, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PNP) has been guilty of oversharing. While the Conservatives do much of their backstabbing in private, the Labour Party prefer to do it on the BBC Today programme.

Right or wrong, those in the PLP who regard Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable have – by attacking him so publicly – made their judgment a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what does Labour do now? For those who would like to see a strong opposition the current scenario looks grim.

The problem is a fairly simple one: after years of Blair and Brown, most of the leading figures in the Labour Party who might be strong candidates – David Miliband being the most obvious example – are too Blairite/Brownite to appeal to a membership that backed Jeremy Corbyn in such overwhelming numbers. Continue reading

Journalism and the road to war in 2003. The Daily Mirror stood out.

When, in October 2015, Tony Blair apologised for the use of “wrong” intelligence in the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, his contrition was qualified. Speaking to Fareed Zakaria on CNN, the former prime minister also said:

I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.

Blair’s belated regret for how events transpired cut little ice with the British press. Writing in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade expertly discussed editorial responses which ranged from the scathing: “Blair’s weasel words insult Iraq war dead” in the Daily Mail – to the rather more considered. The Independent, which had offered qualified support for the invasion of Iraq, stated that the apology represented progress in coming to some sort of understanding about that ill-starred adventure and its longer-term consequences.


In The Sun, meanwhile, Trevor Kavanagh wrote that Blair had taken the country to war on a false prospectus. He was now a globe-trotting, perma-tanned ex-PM who, until now, had rejected any blame for the greatest geopolitical catastrophe this century. With his weasel words, Blair’s reputation was in tatters, opined Kavanagh. This one-time political colossus now had to settle for life as a very rich but grubby pariah, despised and unwelcome in his own land.

Clearly, the same newspapers which had (by and large) so staunchly and unquestioningly supported the Iraq war were now condemning Blair for his duplicity. It’s a fair bet that, with the imminent publication of the Chilcot report, these titles will be highlighting Blair’s culpability without examining their own role in the progress towards war.

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