BBC presenter Clare Balding revealed on twitter today that she has complained to the Press Complaints Commission about critic AA Gill's Sunday Times review of her new programme Britain By Bike in which he described her as a "dyke on a bike". Balding, who has already written to Sunday Times editor John Witherow accusing Gill of homophobia, is getting strong support on twitter with a hashtag #GoClare. Witherow dismissed the BBC presenter's complaint by replying: "Some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society...Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes."
Gill caused another twitter storm last October when he admitted in a restaurant review that he had killed a baboon while on safari.
Associated Newspapers editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, in the Editors' Code of Practice Committee Chairman's Annual Report , has today hit back at critics of the Press Complaints Commission and warned that many UK newspapers are in "near-terminal" economic decline. He writes: "Many of the submissions to the Code Review, to the PCC Governance Panel or indeed, some parts of the Select Committee's Report sadly perpetuate opinions founded more in prejudice and preconception than fact. "The sadness is that much of this criticism simply misses the point, for it is an ineluctable truth that many provincial newspapers and some nationals are now in a near-terminal economic condition. "If our critics spent as much zeal trying to help reverse this tragic situation and work out how good journalism - which is, by its nature, expensive - is going to survive financially in an internet age, then democracy and the public's right to know would be much better served." Dacre adds: "Certainly, the critics of self-regulation are entitled to expect more of us and we must continue to develop the Code and explain better how it works. But, by the same test, we are also entitled to expect more of many of our detractors in Parliament and in these self-appointed media accountability groups. "They will probably never concede the truth, which is that the PCC has over the years been a great success story. Britain's newspapers are infinitely better behaved than they were two decades ago. Yes, the industry can do more to improve standards. We will rise to our challenge. If our critics will rise to theirs, today's often-corrosive debate could become instead tomorrow's constructive way forward."
Staff facing redundancy at Trinity Mirror's 23 Manchester Evening News titles reacted with despair at the company's continued plans to sack up to 10 staff, despite a 25% hike in profits to almost £62m, according to MEN Media NUJ chapel officers. They have issued a statement following Trinity Mirror's interim financial results yesterday noting that they included "an acknowledgement of the great financial contribution already being made by the recently-acquired MEN Media" and said it "leaves us even more baffled and angry that we are currently in the process of shedding up to 10 more journalists' jobs on top of the 78 axed last year. "Over the past few years, journalists at the Manchester Evening News and weekly newspapers have seen that when business is good, management cuts our jobs, when business is bad, management cuts our jobs and when business is improving, management cuts our jobs. "Different management, same philosophy."
DMGT financial director Peter Williams is quoted on MediaGuardian today ruling out a report that its regional newspaper arm, Northcliffe Media, could be sold to either Trinity Mirror or Johnston Press in a major consolidation of the regional press sector. He said: "We said internally [following the report] that we are not talking to anyone and there is no expectation of talking. We have said that we can understand why consolidation is a good thing for regional media. But we don't wish to be the consolidator." Northcliffe Media's total revenues for the quarter to 4 July this year were down by 4% to £66 million, a similar underlying percentage decline to that experienced in the previous quarter, the Daily Mail and General Trust reported in an interim management statement this week. Advertising revenues were 4% below prior year levels. By major category, both retail and recruitment revenues were 6% lower, but in contrast, property revenues were 9% above last year. Digital revenues were 10% above prior year levels, driven by strong property and motors revenues. July has seen similar trends. Circulation revenues fell by 5% compared to last year. DMGT reported revenue for the third quarter £508 million, down 2% on last year, but up 6% on an underlying basis. Martin Morgan, chief executive, said: "Trading in the third quarter has continued to reflect the generally positive trends in our international B2B and UK consumer media businesses, although we remain wary about the medium term outlook, particularly in the UK."
New York Times executive editor Bill Keller has sent an email to The Daily Beast website explaining why the the paper has made the "gesture" of not linking to WikiLeaks' intelligence documents on the war in Afghanistan, despite being one of the three publications, along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel, to be given exclusive access to the information. The Daily Beast reports that WikiLeaks founder Jullian Assange has accused the New York Times of being “pusillanimous” and “unprofessional” for failing to link to WikiLeaks' and for giving the White House too much say over what The NY Times should print. Keller's email to The Daily Beast says: "As I read his remarks, his complaint is that The Times -- in a note to readers explaining how we handled the secret archive -- made a point of saying that we did not link to the material posted by WikiLeaks. Since we normally do link to source data that we have used in our stories, we thought readers were entitled to know that the absence of a link was intentional, not some oversight, and to know the reason for it. "In our own publication, in print and on our website, we were careful to remove anything that could put lives at risk. We could not be sure that the trove posted on WikiLeaks, even with some 15,000 documents held back, would not endanger lives. "Our subsequent search of the material posted on WikiLeaks found many names of Afghan informants who could now be targets of reprisals by the insurgents. (The Times of London has done a similar search.) "Obviously our decision not to link to the WikiLeaks archive would not deter anyone who wanted to find it. All we could do was make this gesture to show we were not endorsing or encouraging the release of information that could cause harm."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: "We have tried to make sure that this material does not put innocents at harm. All the material is over seven months old so it is of no current operational consequence, even though it may be of very significant investigative consequence." New York Times executive editor Bill Keller: "In their raw form, we believe the documents could put lives at risk — especially Afghans who are identified as having cooperated with the NATO force, but also Americans and NATO allies, by providing information about tactics and intelligence-gathering. That is why we took great pains to eliminate such references from our coverage."
Telegraph deputy blogs editor Will Heaven: "The information leaked from Afghanistan is undoubtedly sensitive, but if Wikileaks had been true to its principles, it should have been up to an online audience (of casual readers and experts) to decide its value, not the editors of three Left-wing newspapers. Sadly, those principles have been ditched."
Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell: "The fact that I've been trusted by the Guardian to do it for so long is something for which I am eternally grateful. Yet the very nature of what I do compels me to not only bite but despise the hand that feeds me. I've worked for the paper from the days when I regarded it as a bourgeois, SDP-loving crapsheet. In some ways nothing has changed, except that nowadays the SDP-lovers would be considered far too leftwing."
Heather Brooke in The Times: "The rhetoric of the English legal system is that justice must be seen to be done so why are the public forbidden – under threat of jail – from recording a verbatim account of proceedings? Not only that, rules are so opaque and obscure that court reporters struggle to report cases with any degree of accuracy or depth. And that is when there is a reporter in court, which these days is a rarity – there used to be 25 reporters covering national courts for the Press Association; by 2009 there were only four."
Siobhain Butterworth on guardian.co.uk: "There is something rather quaint about journalists in the 21st century using pens and notebooks to record what goes on in court hearings when the tools of the trade now include laptops, mobiles, BlackBerrys and other digital paraphernalia. Why not use them in court? In fact, why not report live from the courtroom? The obvious answer is that judges won't let you."
David Higgerson blogs on journalism bloggers: "How about journalism bloggers upholding some basic principles of reporting and seeking to produce fair and balanced blog posts? Surely it’s the job of a reporter/blogger repeating claims made by someone else to check the validity of what’s being said?"
Tom Bower in the Guardian on Richard Desmond: "The choice of Richard Desmond as the new owner of Channel Five beggars belief. Never before has a government regulator (Ofcom) lowered the threshold for the suitability of the prospective owner of a TV channel enough for someone like Desmond to control a potentially lucrative franchise. Desmond's success owes much to the general ignorance about his rise to power. Protected by Britain's libel laws and a pact among newspaper proprietors not to attack each other, Desmond has successfully concealed his colourful past to become a major media player in London."
Stephen Glover in the Independent on Simon Heffer and whether he will get a new role at the Telegraph: "My impression is that Mr Heffer is not as appreciated as he should be, partly because his violently anti-Cameron pieces embarrass executives now that the Tories are in firmly power. Surely it is time to rally to his side. I feel about him as I would if some familiar monument were threatened by an iconoclastic town council, and would cheerfully contribute towards his maintenance."
A.A. Gill in the Sunday Times on Clare Balding: "I warm to Clare as a presenter. Away from sport she has a comfortable, no-nonsense enthusiasm; when every other girl on television is winsome and coquettish, it’s a relief to be talked to by someone who isn’t flirting down the lens. Though I’m not sure this is much of a format: I’d like to see her as a sturdier Judith Chalmers, possibly in lederhosen. I wonder if the production team noticed that, even through three layers of Viyella and Gore-Tex, Clare has heroically assertive nipples."
Balding has complained to the Sunday Times about Gill's article - accusing him of homophobia - and had a response from editor John Witherow. You can read about the dispute here.
Editor Stewart Kirkpatrick (above) has blogged onallmediascotland about the first six months of Scotland's new online newspaper, the Caledonian Mercury. He writes: "Since we launched in January, more than 700,000 people have visited the site, looking at more than 1.5million pages. We have more than 1600 fans on both Facebook and Twitter. We're cracking the advertising nut and while our committed team of writers have had to be patient at times, we have started to pay them a decent amount." Kirkpatrick, the former editor of scotsman.com, adds: "We've made a bunch of technical tweaks under the hood, We've worked out an 'elevator pitch' to describe ourselves: 'The Economist meets the Huffington Post drinking Irn Bru.'” He adds, however: "But, ye gods and little fishes, it's been tough. I've worked harder than I've ever worked. I've spent months slaving away 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I've endured mood swings that would make a crystal meth addict blink in disbelief: bouncing from despair to exultation as traffic or revenue or story count rose and fell, fell and rose. "But it has been worth it. We have a large and solid audience, a strong social media presence, increading revenue streams and a clear vision of who we are and what we're for."
It looks like production gremlins have again hit a newspaper owned by Johnston Press, which has introduced a controversial new editorial content management system. This time it's the pictures with a story in Tuesday's Sheffield Star, about a sculpture in tribute to ex-Sheffield United stars Derek Dooley and Joe Shaw, which don't fit the page. The gaffe follows a series of editorial howlers that led the NUJ to warn JP managers in April that their newspapers were being made to "look silly". The union claimed the mistakes were down to the new Atex content management system being forced onto newspapers with inadequate training and staffing. One of the howlers the union highlighted was a Sheffield Star front page with pictures of a group of convicted football hooligans with most of their faces blacked out.
Another Johnston Press paper, the Bedfordshire Times & Citizen, became an internet sensation in June after it appeared with a front page splash headed: "headline headghgh".
Then there was the infamous "workflow memo" from Paul Bentham, managing director of Johnston Press' South Yorkshire titles, which suggested editors should not continue with the old practice of reading every story before they were published.
Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey pointed today at the way the company had acquired the GMG Regional Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News, as an example of "our ability to lead consolidation in the regional media". Bailey was commenting on today's half-year financial report to 4 July which shows operating profit up by 25.7% to £61.7 million (2009: £49.1 million); group revenue flat at £382.2 million (2009: £383.0 million); operating margin up by 3.3 % points to 16.1%. GMG Regional was acquired by Trinity in March for £7.4 million. Today's report says: "Since completing the acquisition the business has delivered a strong revenue and profit performance with revenues of £18.2 million and operating profit of £2.7 million, achieving a margin of 14.8%." Bailey said: “The continued execution of our clear and consistent strategy has enabled the Group to deliver a strong performance for the first half of the year with operating profit up 25.7% and earnings per share up 58.6%. "This was achieved despite a fragile economy and volatile trading conditions. We have continued to invest in the business through the downturn in strengthening the portfolio and delivering IT led efficiencies, in addition to maintaining a keen focus on costs. We are now reaping the benefits of these actions with profits increasing and slowing rates of decline in underlying revenues." She added: "The acquisition of GMG Regional Media was a clear demonstration of our ability to lead consolidation in regional media in a way that adds substantial value for shareholders. Looking ahead to the second half of the year we remain cautious on the economy but are confident of delivering a robust performance for the full year driven by stabilising revenues and continued cost efficiencies.”
An expected strike ballot by NUJ members at the Independent over plans to make education features editor Lucy Hodges redundant has been averted. The union says the redundancy has been withdrawn pending an appeal hearing. The NUJ said in a statement: "Whilst this move is to be welcomed the main issue remains. It is to be hoped that the company will now use the time created to review with us the necessity for such an attack on the editorial quality of the paper and reach a sensible solution that fulfils the commitment to invest in quality journalism."
These pictures of billboards taken in the city centre of Birmingham this afternoon clearly shows the massive news advantage the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star has been handed by the decision to switch the Trinity Mirror owned Birmingham Mail to overnight printing.
A post by Siobhain Butterworth on guardian.co.uktakes the debate prompted by Heather Brooke today about whether tape recorders should be allowed in court a bit further. What about laptops, live blogging and tweeting? Butterworth writes: "There is something rather quaint about journalists in the 21st century using pens and notebooks to record what goes on in court hearings when the tools of the trade now include laptops, mobiles, BlackBerrys and other digital paraphernalia. Why not use them in court? In fact, why not report live from the courtroom? The obvious answer is that judges won't let you. "In the US, lawyers have been fighting for the right of reporters and others to live-blog and tweet from court with some success. The Tribune, in Greeley, Colorado, is currently tweeting the trial of a man accused of killing his wife and last year, in Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Gazette live-blogged a tax and mail fraud case." She quotes US lawyer Steven Zansberg of Denver law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz :"The role the press plays is an important role and the question becomes why shouldn't they do it in the courtroom as opposed to stepping outside the courtroom at intervals."
Trinity Mirror Regionals head of multimedia David Higgerson (left) is holding up journalism bloggers to scrutiny and asking "are they letting the side down?" The focus of his blog is his claim about the way a piece by Cardiff University research fellow Andy Williams, attacking Trinity's Media Wales, on Open Democracy was reported uncritically by some journalism blogs without a response from the company. Higgerson asks: "How about journalism bloggers upholding some basic principles of reporting and seeking to produce fair and balanced blog posts? Surely it’s the job of a reporter/blogger repeating claims made by someone else to check the validity of what’s being said?" Although I believe all journalists should try to balanced and fair in their reporting, I think there is a big difference between print and online. When I worked for Press Gazette we would normally seek to get the views of the other side when proposing to run a critical story but we were working to a weekly publishing print time deadline.
With online there are no deadlines but a post can be added to or changed, if it is challenged, or a response carried later - as did the journalism blogs when the editor of the Western Mail hit back at Williams. It's what some people mean by a "conversation" on the web, a continuing story that adds in new detail and reaction in a way you can't in print.
That doesn't mean you can publish anything online. But the Williams piece was already out there, how long should journalism bloggers wait for a reaction before publishing or linking? Some media companies are notorious for not coming back, one big regional player says only the chief executive can comment, and few have PR departments.
Update: Roy Greenslade has responded with a post on MediaGuardian. He says: "This blog is a mixture of aggregation, commentary, analysis, diary items and news reporting. It represents a developing form of journalism as we come to terms with the digital revolution. This platform is very different from print, not least in the way it allows for swift, almost instantaneous, rebuttal and comment from users. It is a forum for the rapid exchange of ideas and views. That is a great advantage, and an advance, over printed newspapers. In content terms, a blog is not a screen replica of a print newspaper. It is journalism in the raw, a live conversation between people interested and involved in a specific topic (in this case, journalism). It does not mean, as Higgerson argues, that we bloggers ignore basic journalistic principles."
Moves to hold a strike ballot at the Independent are expected to be confirmed today at an NUJ chapel meeting, the union says. It follows the breakdown of talks to prevent the compulsory redundancy of education features editor Lucy Hodges. Head of NUJ Publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said: "This is one redundancy too far following on from the those that led up to the Lebedev take over. It is not only a bad decision commercially but destroys the credibility of the new owner's promises to invest in quality journalism. If the Independent abandons its prime position on education it does not bode well for its future."
The Sun combines two of its favourite subjects - football and a rescued donkey - for its splash today. It reports the news that big-hearted Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has agreed to find a home for the parasailing ass Anapka which the Sun has saved from a life of torment in Russia. This gives the Sun the chance to mention other "donkeys" signed by Redknapp for Spurs - like Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.
After reading Heather Brooke's plea for tape recorders to be allowed in court (see post below), I was interested to see how Steve Dyson highlighted court reports when he reviewed the Northern Echo on his blog, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, today. Dyson writes: "I was pleased to see plenty of staff reports from local courts, including:
'Pregnant woman was kicked in the stomach' on page four, covering a Darlington garden attack;
'Teenager faces jail for fatal nightclub punch' on page five, describing a local nightclub death;
'Nurse jailed for phone smuggling' on page nine, a fascinating tale about a prison nurse's misdemeanours; and
'Blonde invited man into toilet, jury told' on page 41, a sorry tale of a pub groping gone wrong.
"Yes, it costs regionals a small fortune to cover local courts properly, but here was a day's worth of evidence showing the colourful tales that can be told, and offenders that need to be exposed. No media but the good regional gets down to this level of court reporting."
Courts have complained that they are not getting enough coverage from the media. Maybe if they were more co-operative with journalists and prepared to modernise by, for example, allowing tape recording or cameras in, others would give legal proceedings the same coverage as the Northern Echo. Then justice really would be seen to be done.
When I was covering a Crown Court case I was once put in the dock and asked by the judge if I had been using a recording device, which would have been contempt of court. I hadn't, I was relying on my shorthand. I think some court official had got the wrong idea after the electronic alarm on one of the lawyer's expensive watches had gone off. But, I have often wondered what was so wrong about using a tape recorder, especially if you wanted to accurately report a judge's complicated summing up or his final remarks when passing sentence. It just seems archaic, like seeing drawings of major court proceeding on the news and in the press rather than photographs. Today in The Times and on her blog, journalist Heather Brooke (pictured), makes the case for tape recorders being allowed in court. She argues: "The simple answer is to allow tape recorders for all: no party is disadvantaged and an ‘official’ recording is there for checking. This is how it works in other countries. But this is to ignore the root objection of the courts: that they are losing control of how court proceedings are presented to the public. "The courts’ refusal to allow people to tape-record benefit a few private companies whom the court approves in cosy deals. These people have exclusive right to tape record or listen to official recordings. The cost to the individual of hiring them is about £150– 250 per hour of typing and even before the transcription process begins, you must sign a form stating you will pay whatever amount the company decides. You could be out tens of thousand of pounds and there’s no way to challenge the bill as only the company is allowed access to the raw tapes." She adds: "Many trials in the upper courts are now officially recorded (and in the case of the new UK Supreme Court, filmed) yet these records are not accessible to the public. All High Court hearings have been digitally recorded since February 2010 and sit in a basement in the Royal Courts of Justice. When I spoke to the court’s governance officer he told me there were no plans to make these accessible directly to the public. Why not?" I couldn't agree more when Brooke argues: "The rhetoric of the English legal system is that justice must be seen to be done so why are the public forbidden – under threat of jail – from recording a verbatim account of proceedings? Not only that, rules are so opaque and obscure that court reporters struggle to report cases with any degree of accuracy or depth. And that is when there is a reporter in court, which these days is a rarity – there used to be 25 reporters covering national courts for the Press Association; by 2009 there were only four." If anyone can shake up our fusty old court system it's Heather Brooke. Court officials should remember what happened to MPs when they tried to block her finding out about their expenses.
The Timesleads today on a story alleging that hundreds of Afghan lives have been put at risk by the passing to WikiLeaks of 90,000 intelligence documents because the files identify informants working with Nato forces. It claims: "In just two hours of searching the WikiLeaks archive, The Times found the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed intelligence to US forces. Their villages are given for identification and also, in many cases, their fathers’ names. US officers recorded detailed logs of the information fed to them by named local informants, particularly tribal elders." The Times report says: "Among the documents is a report from 2008 that includes a detailed interview with a Taleban fighter considering defection. He is named, with both his father’s name and village included. "There is also detailed intelligence on other Taleban fighters and commanders in his area. The Times has withheld all details that would identify the man. The man names local Taleban commanders and talks about other potential defectors." WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking at the Frontline Club on Monday about the intelligence documents, said: "We have tried to make sure that this material does not put innocents at harm. All the material is over seven months old so it is of no current operational consequence, even though it may be of very significant investigative consequence." He said WikiLeaks had held back 15,000 of the intelligence reports on Afghanistan which would not be released until it was safe to do so.
New York Times' executive editor Bill Keller has told readers (see post below): "In their raw form, we believe the documents could put lives at risk — especially Afghans who are identified as having cooperated with the NATO force, but also Americans and NATO allies, by providing information about tactics and intelligence-gathering. That is why we took great pains to eliminate such references from our coverage."
The New York Times has been answering question from readers over its use of the WikiLeaks War Logs documents. The NY Times, along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel were given exclusive access to the leaked military intelligence reports. NY Times executive editor Bill Keller answers the question "Does the WikiLeaks’ release put lives at risk?" by saying: "In the end, WikiLeaks temporarily withheld about 15,000 of the approximately 92,000 documents for what it described as a “harm minimization process.” It’s too early to tell how much that reduced the potential threat. In their raw form, we believe the documents could put lives at risk — especially Afghans who are identified as having cooperated with the NATO force, but also Americans and NATO allies, by providing information about tactics and intelligence-gathering. That is why we took great pains to eliminate such references from our coverage."
The Guardian's brilliant Steve Bell writes about being a cartoonist in the paper today and is as controversial as his daily drawings. Bell writes: "It does require a certain arrogance to sit in judgment over the great and good, as well as the not so good and the less great who rule our lives, but I've had a political agenda as long as my arm since I was in flared trousers, and have never been expected to express any point of view other than my own. "The fact that I've been trusted by the Guardian to do it for so long is something for which I am eternally grateful. Yet the very nature of what I do compels me to not only bite but despise the hand that feeds me. I've worked for the paper from the days when I regarded it as a bourgeois, SDP-loving crapsheet. In some ways nothing has changed, except that nowadays the SDP-lovers would be considered far too leftwing." Bell's article previews six new cartoonists the Guardian is to showcase over the summer. He says: "Political cartooning has no strict career path and no particular age or gender limit, in spite of the obvious fact that all the leading newspaper practitioners are white, male, middle class and getting on a bit. The six we chose are the best we know of. They range between 19 and 48; three women and three men and with an uncanny ability to think, draw, make a point and even have a laugh. Doing all these things simultaneously and hitting a deadline is more than a little challenging."
The Independent in a leader today accuses Washington of "attacking the messenger" by criticising WikiLeaks for revealing thousands of Afghan war military intelligence documents. The leader says: "In their response to these documents the authorities have demonstrated that they have learned little since the leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Washington has once again attacked the messenger for compromising national security, rather than addressing the substance of the revelations. Instead of complaining about whistleblowers, the US and other Nato governments, including our own, need to explain how they will perform a thorough audit of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and prevent military spokesmen misinforming the public again. Until they make a serious commitment to enhance transparency, the only conclusion that many will draw is that the appalling picture these documents paint of the Afghan war remains the reality."
In contrast, the Sun leader today describes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as "a clown" and says the person who leaked the documents should be "in the dock".
The Telegraph's deputy blogs editor Will Heaven has accused WikiLeaksfounder Julian Assange of "politicising" the Afghan War Logs intelligence material by giving it to three "Left-leaning newspapers" - the Guardian, the New Tork Times and Der Spiegel. Heaven blogs that Assange says WikiLeaks has no political agenda but adds: "So I’m puzzled by today’s 'Afghanistan war log' story. It doesn’t strike me – or many of my colleagues – as politically neutral to feed such sensitive information to three Left-leaning newspapers... Even more puzzling that Wikileaks would choose, very deliberately, to contravene its own mission statement – that crowdsourcing and open data are paramount." He claims: "By selecting three like-minded newspapers, Julian Assange has politicised the information. Wikileaks has effectively achieved the polar opposite of crowdsourcing, demonstrating precisely why selective disclosure is a far more subtle – and far more dangerous – method of operation. "Wikileaks is getting an easy ride today – on social networking sites and elsewhere. I’m not sure it should be. The information leaked from Afghanistan is undoubtedly sensitive, but if Wikileaks had been true to its principles, it should have been up to an online audience (of casual readers and experts) to decide its value, not the editors of three Left-wing newspapers. Sadly, those principles have been ditched."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a packed press conference at the Frontline Club in London today why he had chosen three media partners - the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel - to simultaneously release military intelligence on the war in Afghanistan. Assange said he wanted a small media coalition that could work together as equal partners, share resources and techniques. He described the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel as the "three best research publications". He told the press conference that the New York Times had approached the White House for a response on behalf of the media partners last week and today had been chosen to jointly publish the leaked material because "Monday is a good day to release something big and set the agenda for the rest of the week." Assange added: "We as a media group have only scratched the surface of this." He said WikiLeaks had held back 15,000 reports on Afghanistan which would not be released until it was safe to do so. Asked about White House claims that WikiLeaks had put lives at risk by releasing the intelligence data, Assange said groups often "criticise the messenger to distract from the power of the message." He added: "We have tried to make sure that this material does not put innocents at harm. All the material is over seven months old so it is of no current operational consequence, even though it may be of very significant investigative consequence."
In April, WikiLeaks released a classified US military videowhich it said depicted the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad - including two Reuters news staff.
TheNew York Times has defended publication of the Afghan War Logs, the intelligence documents leaked by WikiLeaks to the US paper, theGuardian andDer Spiegel. The Times in a note to readers says: "Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. "The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not. Most of the incident reports are marked “secret,” a relatively low level of classification. The Times has taken care not to publish information that would harm national security interests. "The Times and the other news organizations agreed at the outset that we would not disclose — either in our articles or any of our online supplementary material — anything that was likely to put lives at risk or jeopardize military or antiterrorist operations. We have, for example, withheld any names of operatives in the field and informants cited in the reports. "We have avoided anything that might compromise American or allied intelligence-gathering methods such as communications intercepts. We have not linked to the archives of raw material. At the request of the White House, The Times also urged WikiLeaks to withhold any harmful material from its Web site."
The White House has accused WikiLeaks of endangering the lives of American, British and other coalition troops by releasing the intelligence documents.
The Guardian has published what it describes as the 'biggest leak in intelligence history' after obtaining over 92,201 internal records of actions by the US military in Afghanistan via whistleblowing websiteWikiLeaks. The documents cover the period between January 2004 and December 2009 – and cover reports from intelligence agencies, plans and accounts of coalition operations, descriptions of enemy attacks and roadside bombs, records of meetings with local politicians, most of them classified secret. The files were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel. The Guardian says the Afghanistan War Logs detail: • How a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial. • How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles. • How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada. • How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date. The Guardian claims the reports, many of which it is publishing in full online, "present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war. Most of the material, although classified 'secret' at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive." It says: "A small amount of information has been withheld from publication in the Guardian because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets."
Andrew Marr on the BBC News website has blogged again about the future of the media and held out hope for "a better kind of journalism". Marr says of the future for journalism: "Two things struck me. The first is that I've started to spend quite a lot on buying online reading material, from books and magazines to news material; and that the quality's pin-sharp, easy on the eye and addictive....People pay for magazines, television channels, DVDs and endless apps. The notion that they shouldn't ever pay for news is actually quite bizarre and a historic anomaly." Marr adds: "The second thought is that journalism may be on the edge of a great new age. How good have we been, honestly, at telling the truth to the powerful? When a crisis blows up, or a problem of deep complexity has to be confronted, few reporters have the specialist knowledge or time to really confront government, or a company." He suggests: "The next media age may be differently configured. We may have a group of very large "aggregators" bringing busy people the most important new news of the day, rather as now, but there will be fewer of them. "But underneath that, we will have large numbers of specialist news sites - for specific companies or sectors, for different environmental issues, for overseas crises - which bring together journalists, academics, specialists, campaigners, professionals, lobbyists and so on. "These will be where the expertise and longer-term attention span will be found. They will pile the pressure onto the powerful, and keep asking the questions. And from time to time their work will break upwards, to the aggregators (we need a better word) and the global headlines.Or so I hope. "There's the real chance of a better kind of journalism in all this."
Keith Perch , editor of the Leicester Mercury, asks on his blog if social media used by journalists in a professional capacity should come under the remit of the Press Complaints Commission. He says that journalists on the Mercury have a requirement to abide by the Editors' Code, which undepins the work of the PCC, written into their contracts. But he adds:"However, it's not quite clear how the PCC code relates to our online work and particularly to the use of social media sites by our journalists." Perch says he is concerned about professional usage of social media by journalists rather than personal usage, where the Leicester Mercury is not mentioned. He adds: " I believe that any use of social media sites (including Twitter) in a professional capacity (ie where the member of staff links their usage directly to their job) should be treated in the same way as a column of the newspaper. "As a columnist, the journalist gets far more freedom and is able to express an opinion. However, as a columnist their work is subject to my editing. I reserve the right to edit their posts. In practice, I never see their posts until after they have been published, but staff know that I am reviewing them and, therefore, I believe, they take this into consideration before publication. "I have not had to intervene in any posts so far. I regularly read all staff blogs and have a ‘list’ of Mercury journalists set up on Twitter and I review their posts every day. It follows from this that I would be happy for the professional usage to fall within the PCC’s remit." Perch is asking for views on the issue his blog.
The Committe to Protect Journalists reports some good news for US journalists which should stop them being sued in the British libel courts. It reports: "This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill shielding journalists and publishers from 'libel tourism.' The vote on Monday slipped past the Washington press corps largely unnoticed. "Maybe it was the title that strove chunkily for a memorable acronym: the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act. Journalists and press freedom defenders outside the United States did, however, pay attention to the legislation, which they hope will spur libel law reform in their countries. "The bill, which is expected to sail through the House of Representatives and become law soon, protects U.S. journalists and writers from libel suits filed by repressive governments or wealthy tycoons in foreign jurisdictions such as England, where the law is heavily skewed in favor of the plaintiff."
Chris Wheal has a new post on his blog today suggesting changes to the way the media currently "death knocks" relatives after a family tragedy. It follows his earlier blog on death knocking, based on his and his family's own experience after the death of his young nephew in an accident, and his interview on the Today programme this morning in which he pointed to the differences between the NUJ's Code of Conduct and the Editors' Code of Practice over clauses on intrusion into grief by journalists. Chris says: Change the System: "I think there is scope for a better system. The police have excellent family liaison officers. They have the patience of saints and an ability to drink gallons of tea for as long as a family needs them. Perhaps they could be the starting point, handing over to the police press office soon after? "Each family could be given a leaflet outlining the media’s likely response, making clear that the press can and will get some details and may well get inaccurate information from third-party sources. The press is also likely to find someone who will give them a photo and comment. It may therefore be better to issue some information and the family’s preferred picture up front." Pooled journalism: "We could have a national protocol agreeing to “press pooling” in these circumstances. That way either the family or the police press liaison officer would only have to deal with one journalist. I’d make the default position that the press make no effort to intrude in a private person’s grief – as the NUJ code states. Families have the right to choose that option and let the police media person deal with the press. Families who do wish to speak to the press themselves can say so and that can then be arranged for them, but still with the pooled system. They would need to speak only to one journalist. A third position would deal with the financial offers. If families wish to take up financial offers that may be available, then I think it fair that all restrictions be removed. The police cannot be involved in financial matters. A family choosing to take money needs to source their own press advice. An industry solution: "These are just early thoughts. Maybe it wouldn’t work. Maybe the ideas need fleshing out, revising or rewriting completely. But there must be a better way and I’d like to think we journalists could come up with it ourselves."
Dominic Ponsford at Press Gazette asks how do you know it's in the public interest until you make the call? He remembers: "Whilst working on the Battle Observer as a young reporter, I found out that a local woman – a mother of four or five – had committed suicide by covering herself in petrol and setting herself alight. I drove up to the family’s house and sat outside, thinking long and hard about whether I had the courage to knock on that door. I couldn’t imagine what horrors they were going through and didn’t dare add to them. When I eventually did knock at the door the husband welcomed me inside when I explained who I was and appeared to have been expecting a visit from the local newspaperman. He handed me a pre-prepared statement revealing that he had been warning the local psychiatric services for years that his wife was at risk of suicide and that he had been begging them, without success, to commit her to residential care. The public interest in telling that story was clear."
The Sun is asking readers today to name the parasailing donkey it has rescued from a Russian beach. I think it should be named Blackie in honour of one of Fleet Street's great capers, in which the Sun rescued a Spanish donkey only to have it pinched by the Daily Star. Up to Speed Media remembers: "It all started one Pancake Day in a sleepy Spanish village called Villanueva de la Vera. The year was 1987 and the hero of the story was a little donkey called El Negro. El Negro was picked by the villagers to be the star of an ancient Shrovetide festival. The bad news for El Negro was that the role involved being ritually beaten, abused and dragged through the streets and tormented in an alcohol-fuelled fiesta. "It didn’t look good for the little donkey, but then help arrived from the unlikely direction of London. Fleet Street reacted swiftly. With the stroke of a pen, the unfortunate ass was re-christened Blackie and the leader writers worked their cojones off, goading the great British public into a froth of righteous indignation. "Meanwhile, two rival desperadoes called Whittow and Mackay, were dispatched by the Sun and the Star. The race was on. Fleet Street was hell-bent on vengeance, mercy and a piece of the ass. The Spanish villagers didn’t know what was about to hit them. Whittow of the Sun arrived first. Clutching a fistful of pesetas, he bought young Blackie for the equivalent of £250. Back in London, Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie sensed victory. "Whittow filed his story and then, baulking at the thought of bedding down with his burrito, the intrepid Sun reporter paid a farmer a sackful of pesetas to turn the young donkey out to grass in one of his fields. It was an error of judgement Hugh Whittow would live to regret. "For, hot on his heels, was Don Mackay. And Mackay, a gringo from the Daily Star, meant business. Dawn broke with a rustle of bank notes, and before Whittow could say, “full English breakfast”, Mackay and Blackie had made a break for Blighty and the border and Kelvin was choking on his corn flakes. "The Daily Star headline, read GOTCHA! and the front page showed a picture of Blackie and the receipt they had been given by a Spanish farmer who can scarcely have believed his luck."
Chris Wheal gave a very thoughtful interview to BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning about death knocking based on how he and his family were treated by the media following the death of his young nephew in an accident. One of the points Chris made was that the NUJ's Code of Conduct on intrusion into grief is stronger than that of the Editors' Code of Practice, which underpins the work of the Press Complaints Commission. The NUJ Code states journalists should "do nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest." The Editors' Code on intrusion into grief says: "In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively." Chris said that although journalists were interested in the story of the death of his nephew there was no public interest angle. He also made a more general point about journalists and death knocking: "Journalists hardened themselves to make these calls. By hardening ourselves we forget the impact of our actions."
To give a personal view, I've death knocked when working for a local paper and a news agency and found families were often surprisingly willing to talk to the press. Chris made the point on Today that his nephew's parents were private people who did want to talk to journalists.
For more comments on death knocking see post below.
Chris Wheal on his blog tells what it's like to be on the receiving end of death knocking by the media: "My nine-year-old nephew Jamie Bray died in a tragic accident last week, getting caught in a rope swing in his garden, breaking his neck in the fall and ending up hung by the rope. Since then I have had to deal with the press. Being a journalist on the receiving end of journalism is an eye-opener. And the first thing I have noticed is just how good the local press is and how lazy the nationals are."
Chris Morley posts on Chris Wheal's blog about death knocking: "My experience was that very often families were appreciative that the local paper was showing respect in coming down personally. It was especially poorer families that actually welcomed me in on a death knock as it was a way of giving meaning to the grief and informing others of what had happened in a responsible and articulate way."
Lawrence Shaw, also on Chris Wheal's blog: "It is a sick part of our trade that a death knock is seen as some kind of test for trainee and junior reporters to prove themselves. It is seen as a badge of honour to go and intrude on families grief, with warm congratulations given to any journalist who comes back to the office with good quotes and a picture. Failure was not an option for my old news editors – if you didn’t get anything, you were sent back until you did – or risked a shouting down for not being “good enough” at your job." Alexander Lebedev in the Sunday Times Magazine: "My dream is to set up a foundation to finance journalistic investigations into international corruption. The free media can change the world. My idea is for some of the biggest titles around the world to pool resources to uncover the schemes and money flows used to sustain massive corruption. The results would be presented to the G8. That would force governments to act. We need transparency and accountability."
Daily Mail md Guy Zitter interviewed in InPublishing magazine is confident about the future of national newspapers: "Fortunately my readers, because of modern health care, are living to at least 100 so it should be fine."
The Independent on the freeing of Conrad Black: "The bigger question is whether this will turn out like the Hundred Days of Black's hero Napoleon – a lively but brief campaign before the inevitable and final end. Or will it mark the beginning of an incredible resurrection, another remarkable chapter in an extraordinary career? Black will doubtless find encouragement in the words of the French emperor that "impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools". For the rest of us, the drama continues."
Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten: "Not very long ago, the typical American newsroom had three types of jobs: reporter, editor and photographer. But lately, as newspapers have been frantically converting themselves into high-tech, 24-hour online operations, things are more complicated. Every few days at The Washington Post, staffers get a notice like this: "Please welcome Dylan Feldman-Suarez, who will be joining the fact-integration team as a multiplatform idea triage specialist, reporting to the deputy director of word-flow management and video branding strategy. Dylan comes to us from the social media utilization division of Sikorsky Helicopters."
Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times on why some journalists don't like Piers Morgan: "There is, I suspect, another — unspoken — reason for Morgan’s unpopularity among his erstwhile peers. We journalists are, on the whole, people who feel more comfortable in dismantling, from a safe distance, the reputations of others in public life than in competing directly for the nation’s affections. So when someone takes that leap out of our own ranks — Boris Johnson is another who springs to mind — we tend to hope it will end in tears. Any success on their part is just a further rebuke to our own absence of adventure."
Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten has had a general moan about the present state of newspapers and, in particular, the ending of the art of headline writing. He writes: "My biggest beef with the New Newsroom, is what has happened to headlines. In old newsrooms, headline writing was considered an art. This might seem like a stretch to you, but not to copy editors, who graduated from college with a degree in English literature, did their master's thesis on intimations of mortality in the early works of Molière, and then spent the next 20 years making sure to change commas to semicolons in the absence of a conjunction." Weingarten picks a couple of his favourite headlines: When the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE. He adds: "Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don't seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That's because, on the Web, headlines aren't designed to catch readers' eyes. They are designed for "search engine optimization," meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted 'eyeball.' He ends: "I spent an hour coming up with the perfect, clever, punny headline for this column. If you read this on paper, you'd see it: "A digital salute to online journalism." I guarantee you that when it runs online, editors will have changed it to something dull, to maximize the possibility that someone, searching for something she cares about, will click on it. I bet it'll read Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga. "Lady Gaga." Guess what?..it does.
The latest IPA TouchPoints Survey on media usage shows the time people spend on the internet has increased by 38% in the past two years. Television remains the dominant medium for all adults, the survey says. People watch 3.7 hours of television per day, listen to the radio for 2.1 hours and access the internet for 1.8 hours per day and 37% of adults claim to social network each week. In contrast, the time spent writing to someone on paper has fallen to just 1% of communication time. The survey also says about the same number of adults use a mobile phone (57%) as read a newspaper (59%) each week and for a similar amount of time.
Other findings are: • Only minor changes in the levels of television viewing (-5%), radio listening (+1%) and reading (-5%) have been recorded since 2008. Any marginal decline in consuming each medium through traditional means have been more than compensated for by the growth in their consumption through their digital platforms.
• The only medium to record a significant increase in audience is online, with hours spent using the internet on an average day up from 1.3 to 1.8 hours — a 38% increase.
• The number of adults using more than one medium in any half-hourly period has increased from 74% to 75%; for 15-24s the growth has been from 75% to 78%.
• For 15-24s, television is still the largest overall medium (97% weekly reach/2.6 average daily hours) but internet use (96%/2.3hrs) is a very close second, whilst the time spent reading newspapers and magazines falls in comparison to all adults.
• The BBC continues to be the dominant supplier of media to the British public. It reaches 98% of all adults with at least one of its television, radio, online and magazine properties. In comparison, Sky only reaches about half that number.
The Independent compares former Telegraph owner Conrad Black, now free on $2 million bail in the US, to his hero Napoleon in a leader today:
The Indy says: "Free at last! Well almost. It is not exactly Nelson Mandela emerging from Victor Verster Prison. The former media tycoon Conrad Black, known to his admirers as Baron Black of Crossharbour and to his enemies as prisoner 18330-424 of the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, has been granted bail after serving two years of his six-and-a-half year jail term.
"It will be a restricted sort of freedom. Apparently, Black will have to remain in the United States pending his appeal against his 2007 conviction for stealing from his company's shareholders. And it remains to be decided whether any fancy-dress parties will be permitted for the released prisoner.
"But the bigger question is whether this will turn out like the Hundred Days of Black's hero Napoleon – a lively but brief campaign before the inevitable and final end. Or will it mark the beginning of an incredible resurrection, another remarkable chapter in an extraordinary career? Black will doubtless find encouragement in the words of the French emperor that "impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools". For the rest of us, the drama continues."
Chris Wheal's blog about being on the receiving end of death knocking by the media, following the death of his young nephew in an accident, has provoked very interesting comments. I thought the posts byChris Morley and Lawrence Shaw gave very insightful and contrasting views about death knocking. Chris Morley posted:"Dreadful news and I extend my condolences for what they are worth in these circumstances. I agree that your insight is valuable to our trade, seeing us as others do. I do have to disagree with some of the comments about death knocks however. "I did them for many years as a district reporter and was fortunate enough to never have been subject to pressure of the newsdesk to go back if you were refused the story/pic. "There was trust that you had done the best job and it was not worth the aggro of offending the grieving relatives. It was rare that I was turned away with and empty notebook and no pic. "My experience was that very often families were appreciative that the local paper was showing respect in coming down personally. "It was especially poorer families that actually welcomed me in on a death knock as it was a way of giving meaning to the grief and informing others of what had happened in a responsible and articulate way. "The important thing is to give them the choice and if the answer is no, the door is closed and you walk away. I accept the pressures on some reporters, especially those working for agencies, may be different and where there is a scrum over the bigger stories but that is mainly about the manner in which contact is made and the number of times it is done."
However, Lawrence Shaw takes a strong line against death knocking. He posted: "Very sad story Chris, my condolences. I totally agree with your point about the death knock. It is a sick part of our trade that a death knock is seen as some kind of test for trainee and junior reporters to prove themselves. "It is seen as a badge of honour to go and intrude on a families grief, with warm congratulations given to any journalist who comes back to the office with good quotes and a picture. Failure was not an option for my old news editors – if you didn’t get anything, you were sent back until you did – or risked a shouting down for not being “good enough” at your job. "It is the inherently macho and bullying culture in the media that gives rise to this in my opinion. It is a mark of shame on our trade and the industry in general and it wouldn’t take much in the way of sensible co-operative working agreements around sensitive stories like this to ensure that packs of journalists don’t hound people in the depths of mourning and desperation."
Staff across the BBC will be balloted for industrial action by their unions after BBC managers today refused to withdraw plans that will implement a cap of 1% on pensionable pay, irrespective of future pay rises or promotions. The NUJ's broadcasting organiser Sue Harris said: "BBC management have shown complete contempt for staff in the face of the clear message from staff attending the series of consultative meetings that have taken place over the past two weeks. "Those meetings have seen repeated votes - unanimous in almost all cases - calling on the staff unions to ballot for industrial action should the BBC continue to pursue its plans for a blatant pensions robbery. "Staff across the country are already incensed at the proposals and will be even more furious now, particularly given the revelation this week that BBC deputy director general Mark Byford trousers a staggering £400,000 a year in pension payments. It's hypocrisy, pure and simple." The NUJ, together with Bectu and Unite, will continue to meet with BBC managers during the statutory consultation period.
Journalist Chris Wheal has told on his blog what it is like to be involved in a family tragedy and be death knocked by the media. Chris writes: "My nine-year-old nephew Jamie Bray died in a tragic accident last week, getting caught in a rope swing in his garden, breaking his neck in the fall and ending up hung by the rope. "Since then I have had to deal with the press. Being a journalist on the receiving end of journalism is an eye-opener. And the first thing I have noticed is just how good the local press is and how lazy the nationals are." You can read his full blog here.
Forget about appealing to the young, here is a reason to be cheerful about the future of newspapers. Daily Mail md Guy Zitter (pictured), in an interview with Ray Snoddy in the latest issue ofInPublishing , is confident that in five years time there will still be "a recognisable paid-for national newspaper industry in the UK" although with fewer titles. He tells Snoddy: "Fortunately my readers, because of modern health care, are living to at least 100 so it should be fine."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
You can contact me with stories, ideas and comments by email at email@example.com You can also follow me on Twitter @jonslattery