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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Reporting the battle of the Somme – 100 years on.

Today is July 1st 2016 and it marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. The most brutal encounter of the Great War is characterised by loss of life and attrition warfare, where the British and French allied forces fought German opposition over a 15 mile front.

When the battle ended on November 18th, just four and a half months after it had begun, the British forces had advanced just seven miles and had not succeeded in breeching German defences. In just 141 days though, they had suffered in the region of 420,000 casualties.

On the first day of combat 19,240 British men lost their lives  and an already tragic war sank into an abyss deeper than anyone could have possibly predicted. But how were the events of that tragic day reported in the newspapers back home? How did the journalists on the front line communicate the horror? The answer is that events were hardly referred to at all and the deaths of so many heralded as part of a ‘day going well for Britain and France’. 

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The Sun, ‘buyer’s remorse’ and perpetual prejudice.

Providing perhaps a little schadenfreude related light relief amidst the seemingly endless EU referendum coverage was the news yesterday that Sun columnist and former editor, Kelvin Mackenzie, was suffering from Brexit ‘buyer remorse’. Through the platform of his weekly column, he told his many readers that four days after he felt the power of democracy he now doesn’t feel quite the same and that there is a sense of be careful of what you wish for. Which is a great pity for both Mackenzie and Remain supporters – for just last week he was using his column to list ten reasons why we must vote Brexit. Notable among his reasons for leaving the EU was the fact that it would lead to an Australian points system of immigration control which would prevent the UK’s population growing by 250,000 a year. That, said Mackenzie, was the equivalent of a new city the size of Wolverhampton.

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Re-Imagining Challenging History conference

Posted by Dr Jenny Kidd

Challenginf History written as text

  • 29 June – Cardiff University University, Glamorgan Building
  • 30 June – Amgueddfa Cymru / National Museum Wales
  • Follow conference discussions and activities on #challhist
  • Register or find out more Re-Imagining Challenging History

Since 2009 the Challenging History network has been working with and alongside cultural  institutions in order to support their work with difficult and sensitive subject matters.

The work of the network arises from a very real – and justifiable – anguish on the part of museum workers and visitors about how best to navigate this difficult terrain.  This anxiety has been a recurrent finding of the network over the years, even as the volume of work in this arena carried out by museums has grown staggeringly.

Some heritages are understood as challenging by virtue of their content; they might make visible such themes as war and conflict, genocide, human rights violations, struggles for meaning and for representation. They are heritages that – not least within the museum context itself – have complex legacies and links to politics and memory.  They raise serious questions: If heritage is a construction, who has constructed it? Whose voices are heard? And whose are consigned to silence? Continue reading