Just flippin do it – hyper-local journalism

24 11 2011

By Melanie Brown

‘Just flippin do it’ was the message from Philip John to a group of wannabe multi-media student hacks.

He’s not a Nike representative but a hyper-local journalist guru who is encouraging others to start their own media sites using niche or local content.

Philip who lives in the Midlands town of Lichfield started ‘Lichfield Live’ a popular local website.

He says he started the site in response to the slow pace of news reporting in traditional media in his local area.

He started tweeting local news and was soon gaining followers many of whom then started to send him their news.  He has 735 followers on twitter.
He stressed the importance of not just observing but getting out and about and meeting people camera and audio recorder in hand.  “Just flippin’ do it,” he told students from Brighton Journalist Works on both the MA in Journalism and on the Fast-track NCTJ Diploma in Journalism courses.

Reassuringly, he said the costs of his work are low and described how some innovative thinking can bring in revenue.

He has already brought in over £1000 from advertising without really trying and also sells ‘Love Lichfield’ T-shirts.

He recommends connecting with other similar organizations as this can raise your profile with a wider audience, improve your own work and create new networking opportunities.

It seems that Philip is on the cutting edge of where technology and local media converge and he had lots of ideas for how start-up journalists could find resources.

We thought scrapers were for cleaning your car window but apparently ScraperWiki is offering a different way of pulling and presenting data from multiple sites.

For more information visit his site: www.philipjohn.co.uk


Leveson inquiry starts today – what kind of free Press do we want?

14 11 2011

By John Jenkins,  lecturer Brighton Journalist Works

What kind of a free Press do we want? A totally free Press left with its own self-governing body for standards of behaviour?

Or a Press without any restrictions other than the existing laws of libel?

Or a Press subject to government and legal censorship?

Think carefully before you give an opinion for this is not a black and white matter. There are huge benefits in having a totally free Press but there are also drawbacks.

There are also disastrous drawbacks in having a Press subjected to Government control and censorship.

With a censored Press you can end up like Stalinist Russia which had two government controlled newspapers: Izvestia and Pravda. These words meant truth and news. Hence the Muscovites used to joke: there is no news in the truth and there is no truth in the news.

Press lords like prostitutes
Stanley Baldwin, regarded by some as safe pair of hands as a Prime Minister and by others as a pusillanimous ditherer said that Press lords were like prostitutes – they wanted power without responsibility. He was referring in particular to those two newspaper titans of the day, Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail group and Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express. Both achieved more for Britain than Baldwin ever did.
Another wit used to proclaim:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British journalist,
But seeing what the man will do unbribed,
There’s no occasion to.

This debate has come about of course during the furore over phone tapping which led to the closure of the News of the World and huge payments made by Rupert Murdoch’s company, News International to alleged victims of the phone tapping.

Leveson inquiry
Now we have the Leveson inquiry which in due course will report to the Government. The good Lord Leveson has been listening to evidence from all quarters as he delves into the word of news.

I am left with the unmistakeable impression that this has nothing to do with whether or not we should have a free Press but a form of revenge from MPs who by and large were shown to be dishonest in the presentation of their expenses to Parliament..

In case you have forgotten the statistics let me remind you. Out of 646 Members of parliament only 50 minimised their expenses – and even one of those, the saintly Vince Cable, has just been fined for not completing his tax return correctly.

This was not petty cash we were talking about. Some of them invented fictitious mortgages which they expected you and me to pay for, another claimed for clearing his moat while another built a house on his pond for the ducks.

Yet another had to pay back £80,000 – others – but too few – were sent to jail.
Big stick
Since that day members of all parties have been looking for a big stick to beat the Press with.

The phone tapping gave them a great excuse because stupidly the News of the World used phone tapping to check on victims of crime.
They could have got this information – if necessary – from orthodox reporting methods.

And do not think that the News of the World was the only newspaper to employ these tactics.

Equally, newspapers have helped many an investigation where the police have been unable to trace criminals or solve crimes.

Smart phones
Modern technology has already made phone tapping out of date. If you own a smart phone you can buy at a reasonable price the kit to monitor anybody’s e mails. Dodgy politicians, errant husbands or wives and other miscreants can be easily monitored.

Not only does the march of IT progress make the phone tapping inquiry redundant, other advances in media platforms for citizen journalists mean the days of newspapers as we know them are numbered.

Soon we will have one tabloid paper – call it the Sun-Mirror: one middle of the road paper – call it the Mail-Express and one heavyweight paper, call it The Times Telegraph.

It is worth quoting some of the evidence given by leading journalists to the Leveson inquiry.

The most trenchant came from Kelvin MacKenzie, a former successful editor of the Sun and now a columnist on the Daily Mail.

Arse kissing or arse kicking
In typical fashion he cast doubts on Leveson to produce anything worthwhile and points out that politicians behaviour to Press lords varies from arse kissing to arse kicking, depending on when they want their support. That, in my experience is a pretty fair summing up.

Of course, super injunctions and the courts are being wrongly used to prevent the truth coming out in the public domain. If some successful sportsman is held up as a shining light to our young people and endorses products from football boots to hair restorer I think it is a matter of public interest to correct the image if he is a lying, cheating, adulterous, tax dodging, drug taking imbecile.

Not that any of our shining young men qualify in all categories.

And if Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Andrew Marr and Jeremy Clarkson want to appear whiter than white they must mend their ways, admit they are human and not hide behind the law. Marr and Clarkson have admitted their errors.

The associate editor of the Sun – and a shrewd political commentator, — Trevor Kavanagh – points out that but for the Free Press in the United States Dominic Strauss Khan’s conduct, widely known among the chattering classes in Paris was deemed under French law to be of no concern to the people who were going to be asked to elect him President.

Kavanagh makes the reasonable point that if people are going to persuade us to part with our cash or give them our votes we should know something about their characters.

Would we have wanted to have John Stonehouse, Jeremy Thorpe or John Profumo in power if we had known what they were really like?

Freedom of information
Alan Rushbridger of the Guardian claimed to Leveson that the laws in Britain actually hindered investigative reporting and pointed out that in a world league table we came in joint 28th place when it came to freedom of information.

Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail put things in perspective. He roundly condemned phone tapping but pointed out:

No British cities were looted, nobody died, and no banks were in danger of collapsing and elected politicians continued to steal from the public. And moreover the nation did not go to war.

And yet the Leveson inquiry has wider powers than any inquiry into these problems.

Rank smell of hypocrisy
He sums up neatly:

Am I alone in detecting the rank smell of hypocrisy and revenge in the political class’s current moral indignation over a British Press that dared to expose their greed and corruption?

Well what do you think?

Talking of greed and corruption did you read about the Pakistani cricketers?

After the jury were out for 17 hours at Southwark Crown court in London they were found guilty of a match-fixing plot in a Test match against England and jailed.

Now, cricket authorities for years have suspected something like this – ever since the disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje was implicated. So have the police

There were also some very strange happenings concerning a cricket tournament in the Middle East.

Suddenly the term it’s not cricket seem to foreshadow something much more sinister than a batsman refusing to walk after being given out.

The trouble stemmed from the huge illegal betting on the Asian sub continent.

Investigative journalism
Whether the cricket authorities were naïve in ignoring the implications, or whether they did not want publicity to harm potential television rights we shall never know, but the whole affair would have gone on – again and again – and unpunished, had it not been for some clever investigative reporting by a Sunday newspaper. That newspaper was the News of the World.

As we cannot trust our MPs or international cricketers I think we should be very careful of muzzling the Press.

My work experience got me a job – here’s how

7 11 2011

By Scarlett Wrench

When I turned up for my first day at Brighton Journalist Works I still wasn’t completely sure what ‘subbing’ involved. I think I even tried to change the font size on the first piece I worked on, to try to make the copy fit. I was working as a waitress at the time, writing for a couple of local papers on the side — and just excited about the prospect of a job where I didn’t come home smelling of beer and gravy every day.

Eight very short months later I’ve been offered the junior sub-editor position at Men’s Health magazine, and I honestly can’t wait to get to work every morning. You don’t need a degree or years of work/life experience under your belt — just a lot of enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. So for those of you who think subbing may be your thing, here’s the best advice I have for you… bearing in mind that I am still very new to this!

1. Read the magazine before you start your work-experience placement. Really read it. And think like a sub while you do so — look at the heads, sells and picture captions. Take note of whether they are funny, informative, a smart play on words or straight to the point. Ask yourself who buys this magazine, and what they expect to gain from reading it.

2. Find out who works there and what they do. Not just the editor and the chief sub, but the creative director, features editor, the head of the fashion team… You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you know who to address your questions to.

3. Read the style guide and try to memorise as much of it as you can. Do they favour “learnt” or “learned”, m-dashes or n-dashes? Is it “photographs by” or “photography by”?

4. Fact-check absolutely everything. Names, places, statistics. And if you read anything that doesn’t make sense, ask someone. No one will think you’re stupid. They’ll just think you’re thorough.

5. Brush up on your spelling and grammar. That’s not to imply that you have to be some sort of grammar wizard to get a job, but it helps to know the difference between “which” and “that” and how to use a hyphen correctly.

6. Learn the language, so when people start talking about folios, flatplans and ABC figures you’ll know what they’re on about. Take the one-week Business of Magazines course if you can, or if not, ask Paula or Dinah very nicely if you can look at a copy of the ‘key terms’ sheet.

7. Have confidence in yourself and your opinions. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but your opinions matter. If something doesn’t look right, doesn’t read well, doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sit comfortably with the tone of the magazine then tell someone — whether the piece was written by the former editor, a celebrity panelist or the work-experience student is irrelevant. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s the sub’s job to flag them up.