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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

It was 2005 and I felt like I had to do it. I wasn’t forced, but the culture of the previous several years, for good or for bad, saw moderately intelligent 18 year-olds follow the natural and somewhat expected path to university. Like so many of my peers I would choose to apply to an institution, to a course that I had not put a lot of previous thought in to and that rather explains where I am today. It is my fault, there’s no denying that, but now I have reached an age where the decisions made by my teenage self matter, I can’t help but think there wasn’t enough emphasis put on how seriously I should have taken it all.

While scrolling through university courses, my mother stressed the idea that I should apply for a course that provides training. This was a novel idea, but one that had never really been brought to my attention, not by teachers/career counsellors/or anyone else who may have potentially held influence in my life, so the concept was fleeting. I was never going to be a lawyer, and couldn’t bare the thought that people would put their trust in me if I trained to be a doctor, but what training was there that built upon my pre-existing talents? For years I had loved acting, music and writing; communicating in general, I felt, could be beautiful.

Although I built up a reputation as a performer throughout school, I didn’t always enjoy the attention that came with it, and with the lone voice of my mater easily ignored and no secondary voice to support her, I opted to apply for an enjoyable course in the remaining form of communication I enjoyed.

2009 arrived, and after three informative, educating and entertaining years of Creative Writing, I realised my future employment. Working for a newspaper would be the best opportunity continue using my talent in the workplace, but as the year-old recession hit the already struggling environment of journalism, every paper’s in-house training scheme was postponed, and none were willing to take on an untrained, directionless writer, so I looked for work abroad.

Whilst in Prague, working as a tour guide, I answered an advert to write for a website, unpaid, and as there were no other interning placements on the planet, it seemed this was my only chance to gain some work based knowledge. A year later, with experience under my belt and a desire burned on to my brain with a cattle prod stencilled ‘journalism’, I returned home and got a job as a salesman to keep my pockets moderately full while applying for every journalist job advertised.

I remained unsuccessful. Newspapers were not just looking for people with experience, they wanted their upstarts to have training, but by doing a now clearly useless degree, had I missed my chance?

Not if I had anything to do with it.

I applied to do an MA in Journalism, a course that provided elements of training, and thanks to the two years fighting for payslips and paying rent, I approached every lecture with a new level of energy and focus. I impressed so much that I was recruited to write for two academic textbooks before I’d graduated. When it came to applying for jobs after learning shorthand, radio production, news writing, multi-platforms, social mediums, interviewing techniques, law and ethical considerations, I picked up on a sentence that in every job specification I looked at. “The ideal candidate will have passed all their NCTJ exams.”

My course had taught me everything I needed to be a journalist, I had even been recognised in the field of journalism academia. I had done work that most people get good money for, but my course was not affiliated with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). I had not passed exams those in charge deemed necessary to enter the profession.

The training no one had promoted when I was a teenager is haunting. It’s a cloud over my head every time a job is highlighted on my Twitter feed, and it makes me angry with everyone who should have mentioned it throughout my comprehensive education.

Two or three generations before my own, people were required to learn a trade, they were told they had to train in something. My father; he’s a trained carpenter and although companies he’s worked for have gone bust, or he’s faced redundancies over his 40-plus years of work, he’s never been out of a job for long. My mother, trained as a teacher, was only without work when she had my brother and I.

Training is important in everyone single person’s life; why it’s been overlooked for so many years, and why we have sent people to university without them being informed of it’s role in society, is a joke. Journalists graduating university now don’t realise what a bleak future there is for them, and until they discover the importance of the NCTJ before applying to further education, there will be thousands of old hacks unable to work.

I have met people who have worked since 15 and reach the age of 65 only to be struck with cancer, dementia or worse, die. Some people who have worked all their lives fall apart from working too hard before getting a chance to enjoy their retirement. One thing I can say is that I’ve enjoyed my youth. I’ve travelled, worked abroad, spent three years in education learning how to enjoy the effects of alcohol, and now, I am a highly talented journalist yet an officially untrained twentysomething in fear that I might never experience my chosen profession. When I read such stories of people in my situation declaring bankruptcy before having a chance to earn any money or worse still, committing suicide thanks to their inability to secure full time work and pay off their student debts and career development loans, it further demonstrates the importance of emphasising training from a young age, and perhaps listening to your mother more often.

If anyone requires a very talented, but unqualified journalist, please contact me on the details enclosed and we can work on fixing society together.
Yours Sincerely,
Huw L. Hopkins

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For two weeks I would take part in two vastly different types of work experience. Week one would be at a very popular, national car magazine and the second placement would take place in a small local newspaper.This diary captures the experiences of a professional work environment for the first time as a journalist in busy London capital and a sleepy Midland city.

The first week I stayed in London with a friend.

 

On the fourth day God created travel.

Getting to work is getting easy but despite the night in, I’m beginning to get rather tired of long hours travelling across London. If I ever get a job here, I will have to get an apartment one or two stops away on the tube. But it is easy.

To begin the day I was given the task of doing some work for the new website. All the content has to be re-uploaded before the site goes live and I had the pleasurable role of attaching images to stories one-by-one to ensure that they all fit correctly on to the page. A job I imagine most work experience bums have to sit through at some point.

After an hour or so of doing this, I was informed by one of the photographers that I would be helping him on a photo shoot. This meant I got to drive…

The two cars in particular were an original and the latest version of the BMW 3-series 320. Two pretty cool cars, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t give a damn about them.

We drove down to a place in Surrey where they film lots of things for movies and TV and we cheekily parked round the back to do some shooting. I first drove in the 2012 model, which is a diesel sport, and it was pretty incredible. It was so comfortable and the first thing I noticed was that the digital mph number was reflected on to the windscreen, directly where your eye points when looking at the road. This I thought is a must for every car, its so simple but so important to not have to take your eyes off the road.

The car was actually owned by the photographer himself and before I got in it, he called it his ‘baby’. I have never been more nervous driving a car. The bonnet was HUGE, much bigger than I’d ever driven before and I used to drive estate cars for a living as a travelling salesman. I was terrified driving past parked cars on the road or on narrow streets in case I clipped something going past.

Once we arrived at the destination the photographer set up and I was told to hold the flash while he did his thing. I felt like a bit of a tool standing there just holding a box and a light but these are the type of exciting things a work experience person gets to do I guess.

He then needed a few driving shots of the car and I wasn’t aware that the majority of moving photo shoots for cars in magazines are simply done on a roundabout. Honestly, the person driving the car just keeps driving in a circle and it’s the photographer that makes it look like it’s in different place. Top Gear doesn’t actually go to Vietnam or the North Pole, its all camera work*.

After taking plenty of images we parted ways. At this point I had to return the classic BMW back to the office and the photographer was going somewhere else to shoot in the midlands. The drive was beautiful and although the car lacked an impressive top speed, the fundamentals of the car were there. I will upload a story about that soon.

I returned back the apartment to throw on a suit and return out for the evening. The Oxford & Cambridge Club was my destination and to enter you had to wear a tie and suit jacket. The building was along Pall Mall, a beautiful Dickensian block where the rooms feature ceilings higher than some cliffs. After touring around through each room, upstairs, downstairs, every secret doorway made to look like a bookshelf, we spread out across 3 couches in one room, to fill less than 1% of it, and order some tea and scones. While we discussed politics, the budget and other things that floated in the stratosphere above my head I noticed a crusty old Oxbridge fellow sitting across the room from us reading a book titled ‘Blogging for Dummies’, I thought “right on, old dude, gowan wid yor bad self”.

At this point we headed for food in China Town where the crispy duck was cooked on the bone and removed from it right in front of you. The chow mein was one of the better ones I’d tasted and they served lychee juice, my favourite. A particular apt note was the choice of music this very traditional eastern restaurant played: American Country.

The evening was slightly dampened by the big city slickers on the table next to us. Three gentleman who thought they belonged on a pedestal, all close to the age of forty, all trying to one-up each other on ‘the chick they banged last night’. They were pathetic, lonely people who spent the whole night over-compensating for their miserable lives. “Welcome to London” I thought.

 

 

*This may be factually incorrect.

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For two weeks I would take part in two vastly different types of work experience. Week one would be at a very popular, national car magazine and the second placement would take place in a small local newspaper.This diary captures the experiences of a professional work environment for the first time as a journalist in busy London capital and a sleepy Midland city.

The first week I stayed in London with a friend.

 

 

I awoke with the same urgency as any man after a night of heavily spiced Bangladeshi curries and legged it to the toilet. This would become a recurring theme throughout the day.

With a little more preparation the night before, I was ready for the commute to the far west side of London slightly earlier today. The trains were all running to time and I never felt the urge to leap off in a moments panic. Oh no. I was now a veteran of the big city rush, I never had to pace, jog or run to any train.

I read an interesting comment piece in this morning’s Metro about people getting ready for work on the way to work and how there must be so much hair, plucked eyebrows, shaving remnants and nail clippings from a regular travellers morning routine before work flying around, we must be travelling in gross, unsanitary conditions. It may be simply because I read this article, but I certainly did notice a lot more people doing exactly this.

I arrived at work slightly early but with good intent. I completed the list of ideas for the facebook timeline from the day before and wrote a news item that I had found. This took a little under an hour, slightly longer than it took me to write the story from the day before. I had been asked to do the one from yesterday and I felt more pressure but today’s story was produced under appropriate conditions. instead of simply doing it I felt more pressured, more on that later.

I was then asked to fill out some car specifications on a road test article going in to next week’s magazine. This was far more complicated than just transferring data in to the correct column.

Of course I knew what none of this data meant so simply finding the right heading for the information to be published under was hard enough. I eventually found out that some of the information isn’t available in the press release and that I have to complete the boxes myself. How I was supposed to know how to calculate power to weight ratio or a car’s drag coefficiency rating I have no idea.

Much of the sheet was not filled in but I don’t think he was expecting me to be able to complete it as he asked me to make a list of what I couldn’t find so he can go back and do it. I haven’t received feedback on what I did or didn’t do well.

Some feedback that I did eventually get was one of the news stories I had written the day before. It turns out, it was shit. I took completely the wrong angle on the story and I let all my basic news-writing, upside-down pyramid techniques go out the window and it showed when he returned it to me. The piece was astonishingly awful. On the plus side, a different story I had written earlier in the day was put online, admittedly with a large amount of subbing but that is what sub-editors get paid to do. Still, I have to work on this.

Tomorrow it seems the picture editor is not in and I will be taking over a number of his duties. A large part of his job seems to be cropping images which I will hopefully have no problem doing as he showed me the ropes a little. A hugely interesting moment was being taken to the archives. The first car magazines even before the 1900’s were all bound and categorised in to large folders and books. I then continued my tour through a maze in to the image catalogue. Equally as colossal and just as precious, the printed images are stored in files of film that can be scanned on to the computer and in to a magazine.

On my way home I was due to meet Kyle and his workmates at his company pub quiz. My arrival was late and the quiz was in full flow, suitably enough as I would have otherwise stuck out like a short plump ugly child at a Nazi Youth camp. Not only did I not look the part being the only one not in an expensive high-powered suit, I quite clearly was not the intellectual match of the gentlemen that rounded out the quiz team. This lack of focused knowledge and expanse of general knowledge served me well in a pub quiz and when the team chose to ignore my request to change an answer (that would have been marked correctly) I got their attention. My moment came on the music round – where else? The theme was matching the song title to the artist with a colour in their name. Our team had 13/13 on this round that would be the catalyst to move us from a bottom-dweller to a respectable middle of the pack finisher.

At the close of the quiz Kyle offered me to view his office, it was the sky-scraper at the end of the street. In order to be let in I had to pass security clearance. At such a late hour there weren’t many heavies I had to fight pass. We then got in to the marble elevator to rise to the 35th floor. The office was an open plan with a 360-degree panoramic view of the city of London. Its walls were 100% glass and it provided views of St Paul’s Cathedral, the gherkin, the BT Tower, as well as ever other visible landmark you associate with the elite London power system.

Kyle’s friend offered to take us to the Cambridge and Oxford Club tomorrow, a toffs association similar to Wightes, an exclusive club full of aging pompous elitists, an opportunity that cannot be missed and may deserve an entirely unique blog post or feature at some point.

In the meantime I continued to enjoy the view as there are not many occasions that an artsy bugger like me will be able to view one of the world’s most important cities from the view of one of the most important business in the world.

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For two weeks I would take part in two vastly different types of work experience. Week one would be at a very popular, national car magazine and the second placement would take place in a small local newspaper.This diary captures the experiences of a professional work environment for the first time as a journalist in busy London capital and a sleepy Midland city.

The first week I stayed in London with a friend.

Up at 6.30. This isn’t new. When I’m being good I often get up at the same time as my girlfriend back home, so I’m quite happy to get up, washed and dressed at this time.

I left just over an hour later. As I was walking to the tube I rang said girlfriend and she’d informed me that my colour-blindness had let me down again. My choice of blue shirt with a purple jumper and a red tie on top of grey trousers wouldn’t work. I then scuttled back to my friend’s apartment, where he is kindly allowing me to stay, to change tactics.

I made it on to the tube in plenty of time so I wasn’t completely bowled over by the rush hour rat race. I was also early enough that it allowed me to take my time and find the right train line and the correct platform with ease. Others seemed to be rushing round but I really didn’t see what all the stress was about, this may be because my starting time for the first day was an hour later than most people in London.

Once I got on the final train toward my destination, several stops along, the tannoy started to say at each stop “this train is going toward Waterloo”. Now this information posed quite an issue because I had got on the damn thing at Waterloo and I really couldn’t remember us turning around, we were still going in the same direction as when we first started. In panic, I leapt off the train at a place called Putney, which must have been a nickname as I think it’s real name was ‘Dog-shit Nowhere’, and began looking for a digital board a bit sharpish. Typical of Dog-shit Nowhere, there were few to be found so instead I asked a warden gentleman, at least that’s what I think they’re called, unless political correctness has issued a change in that department. He said the train I need is the one just behind me, the one I’d just got off, and as I turned toward the train so to did my chances of getting back on. The doors shut and the next one would be half an hour.

No need to worry as this was the reason I left so early. The next train arrived and I got on and took my seat. By the time it arrived at the destination I was now nearing the time I had to meet the co-ordinator of the work placement, so I ran and reached the office with about 3 minutes to spare, sweaty.

I removed my jacket and risked showing off my sweat patches to try and air my pits out to counter the problem and luckily the co-ordinator was half an hour behind schedule so this allowed me to recuperate.

Once we had done the hello’s and nice to meet you’s, I then proceeded to do this with everyone else in the office. One gentleman said I was the best work-experience person he had ever seen, because I was wearing a tie, I made a quick note to myself “this was gonna be easy”. The co-ordinator was well prepared despite being late and she had drawn me up a list of names of the staff members I’d be working with this week and correctly situated them in a seating plan for the office.

After the additional hello’s and nice to meet you’s, I sat, took a deep breath in then before I let it out, my supervisory person appeared. Quite a nice gentleman, I was glad to hear that he had studied at the same university I am currently completing a course in. He asked me how familiar I was with the magazine and the press release website that the company generated a lot of stories from, I skirted around my lack of car knowledge so expertly that I’m sure he didn’t suspect for a moment that I knew anything about cars, but he ran me through the basics anyway. Before I could do such a thing another man appeared at my desk.

I had of course just done a tour of the office, and I knew that some of the staff members weren’t at their desk when the co-ordinator had initially shown me around, so I didn’t in fact meet everyone. But did I meet this gentleman? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember. When he stood there expecting, I said “Hi I’m Huw, what was your name?”

He was someone I had just been introduced to. Fantastic. The Digital Editor. The person I should have memorised perhaps more than the Editor himself, the person I’d be working most closely with above all other staff members, and I’d already forgotten his name. Oh well, he gave me some work to gather the magazine’s most popular road tests in order of date so that when the facebook timeline goes in to effect they will be able to make good use of it. This took several hours and ate in to my lunch break, not that I minded I was there to impress, although at one point there was no one to impress as everyone seemed to take their lunch break at the same time.

25 minutes in to the company recess I set off in to the local high street to find myself a sandwich and a beautiful little genuine Italian café bistro with what I would later discover to serve the greatest Latte this side of Rome. Despite the great taste of this and an oven baked spicy meatball and mozzarella wrap I walked away a little disgruntled as everything cost more in London.

Well over £7 poorer, I returned to the office 15 minutes before everyone else to display my eager nature to an empty room again. I completed the remainder of my morning task and when my supervisory person returned from his lunch I was asked to write up a news story. “Yes!” proclaimed I, “Yes! I can write a news story.” It was of course a news story about a new car and its features…

As I desperately tried to stitch my limited knowledge base together with some quick wikipedia explanations I eventually cobbled together a 200-word story that I never received feedback on and I’m sure got entirely re-written. Something I will be sure to ask about tomorrow. How can I improve? That should impress them.

Following on from the work I did for the Digital Editor bloke, whatever his name was, I was asked to hunt down some additional landmark moments in motoring history to finish out the day, and while I didn’t complete it by the time I left (around 25 minutes after many others) I figured I can start of tomorrow with this task.

I turned out to be coming home rather late and thus rush hour had passed and I managed to avoid the obscene stress rush that I so feared when coming to London.

Once I returned my gracious host kindly offered to take me out for food which although I probably could have done without he seemed keen to show me about town and ensure I have a good time so I happily accepted. We went to a wonderful and mildly famous Bangladeshi restaurant Tayyab. The place was alive. For a Monday evening at 21:00 when a table eventually opened up, the restaurant, all three wall to wall packed floors of it, was only just entering their busy period. On the table next to us sat 20-25 blokes, an entourage of a certain Tinchy Stryder who seemed to be enjoying an evening out. There were so many of them they ended up taking the majority of the waiter’s attention but the food, when it arrived, was undeniably fantastic and it was easy to discover why the place was so full.

When food began to be digested and plates began to empty the place quietened down (a lot of this had to do with the sliding away of Tinchy’s group of friends) and once we went to exit upstairs another line of people had begun to queue in anticipation of a table.

Tired and ready for bed, the two of us returned with a view to do it all again tomorrow.

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Ahead of our magazine production Andrew felt it was important to look at sub-editing one another’s work found (stretched) this out to 10 points, because as he pointed out ‘there’s ten points to everything good’.

1 – Don’t start at the beginning

When you write a feature introduction you want to write something that has lots of impact, that pulls them in to the story. It is not impossible to do that when starting at the start of the story, but you usually find a better idea to start the story with once you’ve written it. Once you’ve revealed the anecdote, they want to know more and will give you time to read through the rest of your story. Get them excited then start the start of the story.

There are a few tried and tested ways at starting a feature; Reveal an anecdote, state an unusual fact or say something shocking.

This applies to someone else’s article when you’re proofing. Subbing is not just checking for apostrophes, you have to read like a reader. If you need to re-write the intro you re-write the intro, if you want to re-write the whole thing do it.

2 – Don’t accept the first draft

It is a common failure of all writers to write something and its cast in stone. You have to approach everything you write as a draft, you have to write something then come back to it and re-read it, don’t accept the first version you wrote as the best version.

Instead of you doing it and getting credit for it, you end up getting a reputation of people thinking they have to re-write everything you hand in.

3 – Know as much as you can about your reader

There should be a difference in how you write depending on who you are writing for. If you’re writing for an enthusiastic car magazine, you’ll write differently than if it were meant to be for a teenage girl.

It can work to your advantage because you can talk to them in a more personal way. If your reader doesn’t know jargon you have to avoid it. Is your reader someone who is up with the news? The only way to weigh these things up is figuring out who your reader is. NRS, readership surveys, magazine polls.

4 – Have a conversation with a single reader

If you read features and stories they have a conversation with you, it makes you as a reader feel as if you know what’s going on and as if you’re part of the story.

5 – Keep it simple

It’s a great temptation to make things more complicated to use fancy words and write in a professional way, which very often gets interpreted as writing in a complicated way. Write about complicated issues, but write them in a simple way. There’s always a temptation to write and overdo it, sometimes people try to hard because fancy is better but less fancy is better because it allows the story to come through.

6 – Only connect

The reader only knows what you tell them, if you don’t make connections between one fact and another fact then they’ll get lost. Your reader doesn’t know the story you do, you have to guide them.

7 – Don’t rely on crutch phrases.

Things like ‘however’ ‘at this moment in time’ ‘now’ ‘really’ phrases that you use but have no use. The same point could be made should you not use them.

8 – Don’t leave participles dangling

The participle always refers to the object which immediately follows:

‘Having died’                        they                         buried him

Participle                        Object

‘Being lame’                         he                        did not ride the horse

Participle                        Object

You’ve got to pick up the ability to read the sentence you’ve just written.

9 – Keep subordinate clauses under control.

The sentence, which was full of subordinate clauses, was difficult to understand.

10 – Read and analyse good writing

Go away find yourself a feature that you think is good and see if they are subject to any of this.

Editor—-Contributor—-Sub-editor—-Designer

Plan—-Creates—-Copy-taste—-Layout

Comissions—-     —–(might go back —-(goes back to

                                  To contributor)            sub-editor)

Ultimately it will all go back to the editor for a proof check and they will pass the proof to press.

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The front cover

Huw L. Hopkins attended the launch debate, marking the release of the first ever book published on the hacking scandal.

 

Tuesday 7th of February saw the official release and launch debate of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (Arima 2012).

The book marks a turning point in journalism that will affect all journalists and the future of their profession. The debate panel featured a mixture of editors, journalists and academics, all highly respected in their trade. Chaired by Raymond Snoddy with live heated discussion from Kevin Marsh, Richard Peppiatt, Glenda Cooper, Bob Satchwell and Paul Connew, all of who recalled anecdotes of both a serious and a comical nature.

One of the editors of the book, John Mair strutted proudly around the lecture hall, relaxing on his walking stick like a Monopoly man with every property in hand. He and Richard L. Keeble have released The Phone Hacking Scandal at the peak of the Leveson Inquiry, that features many professionals who have sat, and many who will in due course, in front of Lord Justice Leveson.

The panel played the role of Crown, prosecution and defence as Snoddy allowed everyone equal time to let their opinions be heard.

Kevin Marsh and Richard Peppiatt spoke in favour of the prosecution. Marsh stated “I found it easy to contribute to this book” as he recalled some of the evidence he had heard at the Inquiry. Peppiatt told stories of his time as a tabloid journalist and how he asked himself “is this what I signed up to?”, when chasing Jack Tweed through the streets of London without any reason.

Paul Connew took on the brave role of defendant, as a former deputy editor at the News of the World. Despite not being present during the period of phone hacking, he admitted that “there was a period of four years where the lunatics were allowed to take over the asylum”, a statement that everyone on the panel agreed with. Backing him up with caution was Bob Satchwell who, as a younger journalist, also worked at the NoW prior to any illegal activities. He stood up for the red tops at one point saying, “tabloid journalists should be drinking in the last chance saloon”; as it is only then other hacks know where that line is.

In a central, ethical advisory role sat academic Glenda Cooper, who offered her own knowledgeable insight on the rise of social media, “it is easier to treat people like collateral damage if you’re not knocking on someone’s door”.

Despite the typically awful taste of the wine, it still flowed like a French Merlot between journalists meeting for a common cause, as well as a good gossip.

The panel sharing a few laughs

Raymond Snoddy did invite lighter moments in to the debate when Phil Harding, who was sitting in the audience, claimed David Blunkett’s affair with Kimberly Fortier was the first moment where ethical considerations went out the window. Snoddy said “What annoyed me was that I had lunch with Kimberly Fortier at least four times and nothing ever happened between us”.

Aside from the occasional japes, the book launch celebration exposed more ethically questionable practices than Lord Leveson could dream of hearing inside his courtroom. This included a snippet of information from another audience member, the erudite Nicholas Jones. “We mustn’t lose sight of the relationship between the proprietors and the government of the day. We knew how deep this was and we as journalists should have conspired together to go against proprietors.”

Many of the panellists, and several members of the audience contributed to the newly released textbook, a seminal work that John Mair doesn’t want anybody forgetting about. “Let’s not mince words here, we’re not just here to listen to a debate, we’re here to buy books” but the co-editor may be happy to give a free copy to Lord Justice Leveson himself.

Read Huw L. Hopkins’ contributory chapterNobody likes a rotten apple, but someone picks them’ in The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial now, or on his website http://www.huwlhopkins.com.

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This essay was written for my Global Media and Communication module, handed in 9/12/11, with a final mark of 63%.

Introduction

The existing media system operating in the Czech Republic is representative of the strides forward the country has taken since the shadowed past of pre-Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce, in 1989 and 1993 respectively. Politically, the country has a Presidential system and a Prime Minister-led Parliament. This is a clear indicator of the country’s determination to be an autonomous state since the fall of communism. The President that oversees the government is a political hangover of the communist regime; a leader with powers to overrule. The media system is a combination of a public broadcaster, mainly funded by the government, and a free system built on private ownership. This promotes competition, an attribute of capitalism in the United States of America that the general public wanted to recreate. This case study looks at how the Authoritarian theory as promulgated by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm in 1956 still influences aspects of the Czech print media system after the country tried so hard to remove itself from Soviet rule.

 

The Czech press and its governance

In 2001 the Czech Republic was the first country of the former Soviet occupied states to review their original media policy. After the fall of communism in 1989, media legislation proved such a low priority in comparison to the creation of a new government that the press simply began a form of self-regulation (Gulyás 2003: 85). When the country divorced from the Slovak Republic in 1993, the Press Act created was largely similar to the framework still in use today, one that promoted freedom with no regulation regarding foreign ownership. The state amended the original Press Act, managed by the Ministry of Culture, in 2000. It still clearly denotes the freedom of the press in Section 4. This entire section is summed up in one line of text: “The content of a periodical lies with the editor” (Klaus et. al. 2000)

Major restrictions include regulation on defamation. This is covered in Section 10. It states that if “communications containing factual allegations which touches the honour, dignity or privacy of certain individuals”, the affected can ask for a repeal or a response from the editor to be printed within 30 days. This section has caused the most controversy.

The general public tends to be of the opinion that attaching legislation to regulate the press largely devalues what the country fought for during the demise of Soviet power. Regulation goes precisely against the societal beliefs of what the free press should be. There was public outrage in 1994 when a journalist, Zdenek Svavorky, was arrested and jailed for four months when he described the President, Vaclav Havel as a “traitor” (Wachtal 1996).

The current political leaders have long had a widely publicised loathing of journalists, which has in many cases been duly reciprocated. If the level of detest is so high then why don’t the political leaders impose more restrictions on the media?

There would be, without doubt, absolute disgust on behalf of the public should stricter legislation be introduced, but I would argue another reason: The government tolerates the way the media system operates because it is ultimately the decision of Czech leaders to provide a ‘free’ press. Allowing the public to express their views in a newspaper can in itself be seen as a form of regulation.  Adorno and Horkheimer explain; “there is the agreement of all executive authorities, not to produce or sanction anything that in any way differs from their own rules, their own ideas about consumers, or above all themselves” (1944: 122).

The Czech government supports a system that is intended to allow private ownership and public body broadcasters to work in unison. This bicameral approach is represented in practice in all sectors of the media apart from the newspaper industry.

According to Metykova and Cisařová the current mixture of journalists is divided between those working before the fall of communism and those who came in to the profession following the Velvet Revolution and Divorce. These two types of journalist have opposing ideologies on what their role is in society.

 – Pre 1989

The journalists that survived the cold war reported a huge cultural change in their country. Despite this experience they seem to have developed a hangover of the journalism practices drummed into them by their previous leaders. The job they fulfilled was one that spoke for the government and provided information and structure to the daily order. “The ‘old’ generation identify themselves as the bearers of (arguably idealized) professional standards and professional integrity and pride”. (Metykova &Cisařová 2009: 733)

 – Post 1989

The modern journalist, or at least those who began working after the fall of communism, are far more aggressive in their attempts to undermine the government at any opportunity. The general feeling amongst them is that they now have the freedom to speak out against the government so they will. (Sparks 1998:  162)

The political leaders tend to take these criticisms personally; consequently they have let their feeling for journalists be known. In an interview with Forbes magazine in 1994, the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus stated, “journalists are the biggest enemies of mankind” (Gulyás, 2003: 87).

We can take a clear element of distaste shared between the two sides from this quote but Sparks argues that Klaus and other politicians later developed a collaborative relationship with many media outputs, especially TV Nova. The leading commercial Czech television station used these links with politicians to lobby for and achieve changes to media legislation. In exchange for this, the media diluted their hostility toward the country’s leaders (2000: 43). Therefore, as is the case under the authoritarian model, the government achieves support from the press without formal regulation.

Newspapers are under private ownership and must abide by the Press Act. This Act now falls under the terms of the Competition Law of the European Commission, as does the regulation of the rest of the media. The Competition Law says that it regulates “(i) cartels, (ii) abuse of a dominant position and (iii) merger control” (Hoffman 2005: 4). The Antimonopoly Office ensures that the terms of the legislation are followed by taking in to account the specific roles of each publication and investigating media convergences. The media is seen as a vital role in Czech culture, which is “viewed as a ticket to the future”. (Jehlička 2008)

 

Other theories the Czech press may fit into

Some may argue that 4 Theories of the Press is the Bible of media theory but many modern theorists have started to lose faith. There are already suggestions of a fifth, Development theory that applies to peripheral countries, as well as modern combinations of the original four.

Sparks (1998) concludes that the 4 Theories of the Press is a completely useless tool to benchmark the Czech media system against. This is true to an extent.

The Soviet-Communist system is obsolete as the current system was set up to directly oppose the purpose of a Soviet press.

With the press being free, perhaps the Libertarian theory offers a connection, yet the Czech Republic definitely maintains a solid government.

The Social-Responsibility theory does reflect elements of the Czech system. The Czech Press Act gives the impression of a free press, but its official legislation in Section 10 regarding defamation, and the jail sentence of Svavorky, proves otherwise. The media ownership also negotiates too many underhand deals with the government in order to influence freedom and legislation for this theory to fully apply to the Czech system. The media moguls Vladimír Železný and Ronald Lauder of TV Nova have proven that the Czech media owners are savvy enough to persuade the government to work in their favour, indicating self-interest rather than social-responsibility. The press doesn’t have a Czech media tycoon, as German or Swiss publishers own the majority of papers. Právo is the only Czech-owned newspaper. It is the second biggest broadsheet and not strong enough in power to broker deals with the government similar to it’s broadcast colleagues. In the absence of such deals, print journalists have no reason to dilute their antagonism towards the government. Notions of social-responsibility certainly do not encourage them to present a balanced view.

The Czech media system is a complex mix of journalistic practices from the old regime, the new revolutionists, the media moguls and the stubborn governance.

Such a hybrid of ambitious powers jockeying for position in this still young country can cause theorists to jump to conclusions when discussing which theory best describes its press.

With its private ownership, and the part control of broadcasting by the government it is the Authoritarian theory that still holds true. Despite Hitler’s control of the media, privately run newspapers faired rather well under Nazi rule. Alfred Hugenburg owned a successful paper that went largely uninterrupted in its choice of content (Sparks 1998: 40). It was taken over by the regime toward the end of WWII to ensure support for the cause but for the most part it was left to choose its own content. One thing the Authoritarian theory relies on is strict support for the government in power; the Czech press have very little belief in their leadership, but the theory should not be thrown out over such minor details. This lack of belief does not necessarily destroy the application of this theory. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that the emotion achieved after the consumption of culture remains the same, regardless of the political system. “Consumers appear as statistics on research organization charts and are divided by income groups into red, green and blue areas; the technique is that used for any type of propaganda.” (1944: 123).

 

 

 

Conclusion

Applying the arguably outdated Authoritarian theory to the press system of the Czech Republic is a questionable choice that will undoubtedly draw critics. That doesn’t mean it should be disregarded.

The Controlled Commodification theory has revitalised the concepts of self-regulation and state control. It is tough to argue without hesitance that the media system in China is entirely under control of the state, and the same can be said for self-regulation. The combined theory shows that both aspects have relevance (Weber & Lu 2007).

Just as Controlled Commodification developed from two ideas, for this reason I believe the Authoritarian theory may still be of use when analysing today’s Czech press. Although the theory cannot stand by itself when describing the current system, for reasons I have stated, its utility could combine with a second, or even third, theory after more specific examination. Due to the limitations of this article I am unable to expand much further than stating a prospective amalgamation with the Social-Responsibility theory.

Examples of the government looking after their own principles, and the media expressing their freedom demonstrate that it would be best to submit a Socially-Responsible Authoritarian media theory. As further research is needed of the two archaic systems, this is yet to be confirmed. What is clear from my study is that with the government’s attempts to control the broadcasting system, and the more relaxed attitude toward the newspaper industry, the Authoritarian theory should still be considered when describing the Czech Press.

 

References:

Adorno, T. Horkheimer, M. (1994) ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception’ Dialectic of Enlightenment: 120 – 167, Norfolk: Lowe & Brydon Printers Ltd

Gulyás, Á. (2003) ‘Print Media in Post-Communist East Central Europe’, European Journal Of Communication (18) 1: 81

Hoffmann, T. Fucik, J. Institute of European Media Law (2005) ‘Chapter 3: Czech Republic’, Market Definitions in the Media Sector [online] available from <http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/documents/&gt; [26 November 2011]

Jehlička, V. (2008) National Cultural Policy of the Czech Republic, Prague: Government of the Czech Republic

Klaus. Havel. Zeman. (2000) ‘Regulation No. 46/2000/Předpisy č. 46/2000’ Collection of Laws/Sbírka zákonů, [online] available from <http://www/sagit.cz.pages.sbirkatxt.asp?zdroj=sb00046&cd=76&typ=r&gt; [5 December 2011] (Translated via Google Translator)

Metyková, M. Císařová, L. (2009) ‘Changing journalistic practices in Eastern Europe’, Journalism, (10) 5: 719-736

Siebert, F.S. Peterson, T. Schramm, W. (1956) Four Theories of the Press, Urbana: University of Illinois

Sparks, C. (2000) ‘Media theory after the fall of European communism: Why the old models from East and West won’t do any more’, Curran, J., Park, M. De-Westernizing Media Studies, London: Routledge, 35-49

Sparks, C. Reading, A. (1998) Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media. London: SAGE Publications

Wachtel, B. 1996, ‘Czech media: Democratic or anti-communist?’ Nieman Reports (50) 2: 51.

Weber, I. Lu, J. (2007) ‘Internet and self-regulation in China: the cultural logic of controlled commodification’ Media, Culture and Society (29) 5: 772-789

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Huw L. Hopkins traces the long and winding history of Hackgate from
its beginnings way back in 2000. After jailings there came silence. But
then a constant stream of revelations, arrests, and resignations have all hit
the headlines since those heady days in July 2011. Where will it all end?

The question is not: ‘How far back does it go?’ it is, in fact: ‘Who knows
how far back this thing has gone?’ The phone hacking saga turned from
journalists doing something dodgy to get a story to complete public
outrage on 4 July 2011. Then it was revealed by the Guardian that 13-year-old
Milly Dowler, who went missing in 2002, had her phone hacked. At the time
this caused the parents to believe their child was still alive and it led the police
up a non-existent path.
There had been rumblings of a hacking nature when the News of the World
published some trivial but private details about a royal in 2005. In the end, a
NoW journalist and a private detective went to jail in 2007. But it was the
Dowler revelation in July 2011 that caused national outcry. No longer did it
seem the press focused only on the self-obsessed celebrities, or the discredited
politicians or royals. Phone hacking now affected ‘ordinary’ members of the
public.
Over the next six-months the hacked victims came out thick and fast. Each
story piled more pressure on the media and politicians – particularly as links
between the press and David Cameron’s government were revealed. Calls for
action from the public and lobbying groups intensified. The result – Prime
Minister David Cameron announced a judge-led investigation into the ethics of
the press. But let us now return to the start of the scandal – in the year 2000.

2000 – Rebekah Wade (later Brooks) became Editor of News of the World.

The News of the World was one of the biggest papers in the world well before
the turn of the millennium. In 1950, it had a weekly sale of 8,441,000. By May
2011, its circulation figure had dropped to just 2, 660, 000. In 2000, Rebekah
Brooks took over from Phil Hall as Editor and immediately her presence had an
impact. Her three years in charge brought about the hugely controversial but
highly marketable ‘Sarah’s Law’ campaign, with the tabloid carrying the names
of paedophiles in an attempt to gain public access to the Sex Offenders Register.
There were misnamings, mistaken identities and protesters holding ‘PEADO’
signs outside the homes of paediatricians. During this time Brooks befriended
the mother of the Sarah Payne, (of Sarah’s Law) and gained her trust.

2002 – Milly Dowler disappears.

The 13-year-old girl who would ultimately be the NoW’s undoing was
reported missing in March. Her body was discovered six months later, on 18
September.

Andy Coulson, Editor of News of the World

2003 – Andy Coulson took over as Editor of the NoW; Brooks flies closer to the
Sun.

Despite the controversy, Brooks left her mark on the NoW by the time she
had left in July 2003. While she moved next door as Editor of the Sun, her
Deputy Editor, Andy Coulson, took her place. They sat together at a select
committee shortly after the swap and Brooks stated boldly: ‘We have paid the
police for information in the past.’ Coulson interjected quickly assuring the
world that it was ‘within the confines of the law’. There was little follow-up by
both the press and police.

2005 – Clive Goodman writes about Prince William in the NoW.

Somehow Clive Goodman, the NoW royal correspondent, became the best
investigative reporter the world had ever seen. He managed to convince the
otherwise private and respected royal family to tell him about personal
conversations they had had as a family. Not only that, they allowed him to print
these private stories in one of the biggest selling newspapers in the world. A
fantastic achievement. But the truth is Goodman used underhand and illegal
methods to discover a knee injury to the future king.

2006 – Goodman arrested, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

2007 – Jail terms handed out but Editors move on to bigger and better things.

Whether the two events are linked does not matter. Andy Coulson left the
newspaper at the end of January and a few weeks later the two men arrested in
the royal phone hacking scandal were jailed. Rupert Murdoch seemingly ordered
a ‘rigorous internal investigation’ of the News of the World. Les Hinton, News
International Chief Executive, confirmed that there was no widespread hacking
taking place at the newspaper and the Press Complaints Commission later
confirmed this in May. Coulson, the ex-Editor who fell from grace several
months earlier, was appointed Director of Communications and Planning for
the Conservative Party. To top off the year, the head honchos have a shuffle.
Rupert Murdoch steps down as Sky’s non-executive chairman and his son,
James, takes over the running of News Corp’s UK newspapers, Asian TV and
Star TV.

2008 –News International pays Gordon Taylor £700,000.

Testing period for James Murdoch
Under a bus. In the deep end. Pick your metaphor. The first few months at the
helm of News Corp’s European and Asian operations proved a testing period
for James Murdoch. In April, News International paid the chief executive of the
Professional Footballers Association £700,000 in legal costs and damages on the
condition that Gordon Taylor signed a gagging clause to prevent him speaking
about the case.

2009 – As Brooks became CEO of News International, the Guardian revealed
new levels of illegality.

Brooks took over ‘Fortress Wapping’ in September as she was appointed
CEO of News International. The company manages the three subsidiaries;
Times Newspapers Ltd, News Group Newspapers (NGN) and NI Free
Newspapers on a large site in Wapping, East London. In July, the hefty payment
made in the previous year to the PFA executive became public knowledge. The
Guardian also revealed several other illegal activities by NGN, including the
hacking of more than 3,000 phones, misleading the PCC, the police and the
public. Coulson told the Commons culture, media and sport committee that he
had ‘never condoned the use of phone hacking, nor do I have any recollection
of the incidences where phone hacking took place’. The PCC released a
statement confirming that there was no evidence that phone hacking was
continuing.

2010 – Coulson feels the heat and the hacking spreads.

The Commons culture, media and sport committee released the report of
their findings in February stating it was ‘inconceivable that Goodman acted
alone’. A month later Nick Davies, of the Guardian, continued his long list of
Hackgate scoops. One involved Max Clifford’s acceptance of more than
£1million to keep quiet about the interception of his voicemail whilst Coulson
was the Editor of the NoW. In May, the Conservative Party formed a coalition
government with the Liberal-Democrats after failing to secure an overall
majority. The leader of the Lib-Dems, Nick Clegg, was reported giving advice to
Cameron over his choice of press secretary, Andy Coulson. When autumn fell,
an ex-NoW reporter revealed in an interview with The New York Times that
phone hacking was ‘encouraged’ at the Sunday tabloid. The interviewee, Sean
Hoare, also later said that Coulson helped spread the practice which had become
‘endemic’. This led to Coulson being interviewed by the police in November,
but only as a witness.

2011 – Inquiries begin and the spotlight turns on the Murdoch family.

Media Rolling Stone Gathering Moss and Other Disgusting Forms of Life

This is the year when the media rolling stone really began gathering moss,
stones, dirt and all other disgusting forms of life, as the Hackgate scandal simply
refused to go away. The year began with three high profile claims of hacking
which led to Operation Weeting being set up by the police: Ian Edmondson;
news editor the NoW, was suspended on 5 January over allegations of phone hacking in 2005-6. And Andy Coulson resigned from his position as Director of
Communications at No. 10 on 21 January, blaming the coverage of the hacking
scandal.
February saw Glenn Mulcaire being called to reveal the names of who
commissioned him to hack phones. From one rogue reporter to one rogue
newsroom. The News of the World had three journalists arrested in April: Ian
Edmondson, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck. The paper then set up a
compensation scheme for those affected. The following month actor Sienna
Miller and sports commentator Andy Gray received damages after their voice
mails were intercepted.
July was the knockout month for the News of the World. On 4 July, Rebekah
Brooks said it was ‘inconceivable’ that she knew about the hacking of Milly
Dowler’s phone as she was on holiday when it was carried out. The following
day, evidence showed the victims of the London 7/7 bombings, the families of
the murdered Soham schoolgirls and the parents of Madeleine McCann
(snatched while on holiday in Portugal in May 2007) were all targeted over
phone hacking. The Guardian reported ‘messages were deleted by NoW
journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance…As a result friends
and relatives concluded wrongly that she might be alive’. This quickly put
pressure on the Murdoch’s to make a bold decision about their newspaper. On 6
July, the Hacked Off campaign, calling for a full public inquiry into the hacking
scandal, was launched (headed by Professor Brian Cathcart, of Kingston
University) and finally James Murdoch announced the closure of the 168-yearold
News of the World on the following day.
On 10 July, the newspaper apologised in its final edition (with its front page
declaring: ‘Thank you & goodbye’). But the closure of the tabloid did not mean
the end of the problem at hand. Two days earlier, the Prime Minister announced
that a judge-led inquiry into press standards would take place. On 13 July,
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation withdrew its bid to take over the rest of
BSkyB, just as MPs were to vote on a motion, with cross-party support, calling
on Murdoch to scrap the bid.
Then Rebekah Brooks resigned. Les Hinton resigned. And so the bricks of
Murdoch’s empire started toppling. Then Sir Paul Stephenson, the most senior
police officer in the country, resigned (after criticism of his links to former News
of the World Deputy Editor Neil Wallis). Even Met Police Assistant
Commissioner John Yates resigned.
Sean Hoare, the first NoW journalist to come forward bravely and speak on
the record about hacking, was found dead at his home (though the police
indicated there were no suspicious circumstances).

Gotcha! Rupert Murdoch eats ‘Humble Pie’

What happened on 19 July has gone down in the annals of history. How
Jonathan May-Bowles managed to walk into the select committee hearing with a
paper plate and shaving foam, completely unnoticed, is bizarre. How he managed to make the foam pie, walk out of the public seating area, in front of
the cameras and the desk where the Murdochs sat, and launch the pie at
Rupert’s face before being tackled, is totally baffling. During the ruckus, his
wife, Wendi Deng, managed to strike a blow to May-Bowles. But pictures of
Murdoch with ‘humble pie’ on his face and the caption ‘Gotcha!’ went
worldwide.
During this turbulent select committee hearing (watched live on television by
millions) both Murdochs claimed they knew nothing of phone hacking. Several
days later, NoW staff, including the senior legal adviser, Tom Crone, and the last
editor, Colin Myler, claimed they had told James about the hacking in an email
marked ‘For Neville’. On the 28th, the close friend of Rebekah Brooks, Sara
Payne, was told by investigators that a phone that Brooks had given to her had
been hacked into. This announcement came less than a month after Payne had
written a column in the final ever edition of News of the World thanking the
tabloid for its support through the traumatic time of the loss of her daughter.
The next day found Baroness Buscombe, chair of the PCC, resigning. The
PCC’s failures to investigate the phone hacking allegations adequately ultimately
made her position untenable. Glenn Mulcaire also defended himself by saying he
was merely working ‘on the instructions of others’.
From 2 August, arrests began taking place left, right and centre, each one
being NoW staff or former employee. Interestingly, a Guardian reporter, David
Leigh admitted to phone hacking on 5 August. But he claimed that when it took
place in 2006 he was investigating bribery and corruption, not ‘tittle tattle’.
On 17 August, the Guardian revealed an explosive letter written by Clive
Goodman to Les Hinton. Dating from March 2007, it stated Coulson knew of
the hacking and that the practice was ‘widely discussed’.
As the saga entered September, Tom Crone, the former NoW legal manager,
and the former editor, Colin Myler, were called to the select committee. They
stated that an email titled ‘for Neville‘ was seen by James Murdoch. The email
was meant for Neville Thurlbeck and should have led him to knowing about the
illegal practices.
On 17 September, it was reported that policeman John Yates secured a job at
Scotland Yard for the daughter of NoW executive Neil Wallis. He was later
cleared of improper behaviour on this action. On the same day, James Murdoch
finally admitted the £700k payout to Gordon Taylor of the PFA.
Two days later, Rupert Murdoch paid £2million to the Dowler family and a
personal donation of £1m to their chosen charity. Later, a Scotland Yard
detective was arrested for leaking phone hacking evidence to the Guardian. And
on the 26 September Glenn Mulcaire revealed the full list of people that paid
him for illegally sourced information.
Over the next month a number of further and re-arrests were made. Tom
Crone told the select committee that one of the reasons Murdoch had for
settling one case was because he knew of the ‘for Neville’ email. Operation Weeting also increased the amount of police officers assigned to 200 to assist
with the investigation.
On 25 October, a third of News Corporation’s investors voted against the
Murdoch sons being re-elected to the board. The following day the
Metropolitan Police find a phone that was used for more than 1,000 instances of
illegal hacking.

Rogue Newsroom becomes Rogue News Company

Entering November, one rogue newsroom became a rogue news company as
the Sun had its first journalist arrested for paying police officers. Jamie Pyatt was
released on bail until March 2012 – as have all the others arrested. The
Metropolitan Police calculated that 5,795 people had been victims of phone
hacking but this figure could actually increase. One of these cases is the father of
Josie Russell who survived an attack in which her mother and sister were killed.
Shaun Russell, the father, sued News International.
On 5 November, reports surfaced that a former police officer was hired to
spy on the lawyers representing phone hacking victims. Shortly after a second
private detective claimed that he had followed more than 90 people under
orders from NoW. Derek Webb continued to work for them right up until the
close of the newspaper.
The following morning, James Murdoch was questioned again by the select
committee since his previous appearance was considered misleading by some.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP, accused him of being ‘the worst Mafia boss in the
world’.
On 14 November, the Leveson Inquiry officially started. This inquiry over the
next few weeks would see celebrities, witnesses, victims and journalists all give
evidence. Some of the high profile cases involved Hugh Grant and Charlotte
Church, along with comedian Steve Coogan. It became clear that the scandal
was no longer just about phone hacking. Lord Justice Leveson is now looking at
the ethics of journalism as a whole. Certain newspapers, such as the Daily Mail,
are being asked to write apologies and are coming under severe pressure.
Whether or not any more newspapers will close, no one knows but one thing for
sure is that no newspaper is safe. The News of the World is shut, the Sun is trying
to distance itself from the scandal, the Mail and Daily Mirror are facing all sorts
of pressures –and the Guardian has also admitted being involved in hacking –
but ‘in the public interest’. The latter newspaper has been instrumental in the
revelations and is largely responsible for the campaign building up such
momentum.
On the 12 December, the Metropolitan police made a statement to the
Leveson Inquiry saying it was ‘unlikely’ Glenn Mulcaire, whilst working on
behalf of the News of the World, deleted any of Dowler’s voicemail messages. The
Guardian had reported this as fact, having been briefed to that effect by the
Surrey police. It apologised and amended the relevant reports online.

Leveson: Allowing the Public see the Damage after a Car Crash

Lord Leveson is effectively allowing the public see the damage caused after a car
crash. The victims can air their grievances. Not only has Leveson interviewed
celebrities, but also affected members of the public. ‘We’re just ordinary people,’
said Milly Dowler’s mother. The lack of journalism ethics isn’t just affecting the
rich and famous, it’s hurting the people who want no part of it.
The fishing for stories, rummaging of bins and the hacking of phones will
undoubtedly be very hard to do in the near future. Next year, Leveson will
recommend a path to take. One of many. Together they could bring about a
monumental change in how journalism is conducted and regulated in the UK.
As Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news presenter, said in a Coventry Conversation:
‘There are many people with great integrity in the media, there are also some
rotten apples.’ It’s time to throw the rotten apples out and focus on the fruit that
is still healthy and does some good for the public.

Extract taken from: THE PHONE HACKING SCANDAL; JOURNALISM ON TRIAL. Arima: Bury St Edmunds. Feb 7th 2012

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Our deadlines are drawing closer, not just for assignments but for exams as well. We have just one written test in Law, Ethics and Public Admin. Yesterday we went through revision and past exam papers.

The exam will be on a number of different subjects.

1) The European Court of Justice in Luxemburg, and what takes place there.

2) The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and its role.

3) A Question on Libel/Defamation

4) A Question on Contempt of Court

5) A Question on reporting a serious sexual offence

  • If you name the person, you can’t name things like incest etc

6) A Question on Data protection

  • Personal Data
  • Non-personal data
  • Sensitive personal data

 

We also briefly covered the journalistic product which I aim to discuss with Marcos today, to look for advice and direction on how to record it.

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Very few people really know who a journalist is. Unless you’re one of the famous personalities like Jeremy Clarkson or Piers Morgan nobody really pays the slightest bit of interest.

One of the lower profiles to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry was Richard Peppiatt. He didn’t have the celebrity to garner front-page news level of attention but he may have been one of the bigger stories to come to light so far. The tabloids barely put wrote about him at all, but that was for a different reason altogether.

Peppiatt was a ‘journalist’ at the Daily Star, he fell in to the role of a tabloid journalist and was asked to do some wildly unethical things to get stories, things he now regrets, and things he now campaigns against.

“I’m certainly very repentant in the way I conducted journalism.”

Peppiatt spoke to a enthralled Coventry Conversation audience on Thursday about the thing’s he’d done, what giving evidence was like, death threats linked to his former employer and that famous letter of resignation.

The famous Press Baron of the early 20th Century, Lord Northcliff once said, “News is what someone, somewhere wants to suppress, everything else is just advertising.” According to the ex-Star “The tabloid culture is; seeking out the truth is not an objective. It’s a matter of how aggressively can we frame this story to make the most impact.”

It is for this reason the Select Committee for Culture, media and sport interviewed and re-interviewed nearly every member of the News of the World management, it is why the PCC is on its last legs, and it is for this reason the Leveson Inquiry is being taken seriously to the majority who aren’t in the tabloid media or the Mail.

The reason Peppiatt left was originally due to the anti-Muslim undertones the majority of the Star’s content, but the racism didn’t just stop at Muslims. “Black on black killing were called BOB-slaying behind closed doors. If a young, attractive, white woman with blonde hair gets murdered, that’ll get more coverage than a young black male. When they do write about them, it’s more of a caricature. That’s tabloid journalism, creating the caricature.”

In his resignation letter he openly stated the reasons for his departure and this may have indeed upset people at the top. “I started getting death threats saying ‘you’re a marked man til the day you die’ or that ‘Richard Desmond will get you’. This isn’t confirmed to be anyone that works for the paper but Peppiatt did say it was a person linked to the tabloid world.

For everything Richard Peppiatt did as a journalist for the Daily Star; from proposing to Susan Boyle, just for the photograph, to writing hurtful content about the death of Matt Lucas’ former husband, and even being ambushed by anti-terror police when he pretended to be a Muslim woman dressed in a full veil, this is certainly no way to treat a former employee.

“Some days we would have three people writing the entire newspaper”, an average reader would never know this. Included in that day’s content would be un-edited press releases, articles written under pseudo-names (look up the name Laura Neil and you’ll see some of Peppiat’s work), reworded news from the Daily mail and fake headlines “Simon Cowell is dead”.

“When I first got there, I thought, it’s a break on to Fleet Street, because everybody wants to work for the Guardian but not everybody can”.

As the Leveson Inquiry rumbles on even Guardian journalists will have to reveal some ‘underhand’ tactics they used to get some of their stories. As David Leigh put it at his evidence hearing “I don’t hack phones normally. I have never done anything like that since. I’d never done anything like that before. On that particularly small occasion, this minor incident did seem to be perfectly ethical.” This level of ethicality seemingly never translated to Peppiatt’s view when inside the Daily Star.

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