Saturday, September 17, 2016
I remember as a teenage copy boy back in the day making a point of reading the text beneath the red pen lines of the subbed copy I had to dash off to the composing room. I did it because a likely lass who'd been in the job a few months longer warned me not to. Too gruesome, she said. The bits they take out. But I was young. So these were the juicy bits the guys in green eye shades had all the fun of censoring. Storyful and Reported.ly and other eyewitness organisations are having to adopt policies to protect their, I imagine quite youngish, staff from the worst effects of days spent trawling social feeds and coming across what Storyful’s news projects chief Derek Bowlder describes as “unmediated and graphic evidence of brutality”. One of the reasons the organisation has teamed up with a Dublin-based counselling service to introduce an Employee Assistance Program which lets them seek help in confidence if they feel unduly affected. And all power to them. It's not that long ago an expression of disgust at an unsavoury scenario or other would have been met with an empathetic nod but a request for "a few minutes' fresh air" would have prompted raised eyebrows and a dismissed with a simple: “wuss”.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Ipso, Another day, another regulator. The names change, the stories come in anew. But the one thing guaranteed to stay the same: MPs will reach for the cliché drawer and brand the watchdog “toothless”. It happened again a few hours ago when Sir Alan Moses appeared before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. MPs wanted to know why Ipso, set up two years ago after the Leveson inquiry, had not fined any newspaper it found to be in breach of its rules. They also couldn’t understand why it had not insisted on equal prominence for corrections of dodgy headlines and why no-one had bothered to call the whistleblower’s hotline it set up for disgruntled staff with issues about what is expected of them. Now, it may just be me but, reading through the ever-growing archive of complaints adjudications, I’d be hard pushed to find one worthy of a financial sanction, equally hard-pushed to find a breach so bad it warranted a splash apology and can’t realistically envisage many circumstances thus far when anyone would phone the hotline. On the last point, I’m not suggesting there has never been any justification for such a call in the past two years, although I hope not. It’s just that, in the main, I think it’s something most journalists would have a problem with. What I wouldn’t want to see is any regulator feeling pushed into a position where it felt it needed a scalp or two to feel properly blooded. It’s early days, the changes to the culture of certain newsrooms is palpable at the ground level and I sense a strong feeling among those at the top that they don’t want Ipso on their case lest it can be avoided. That can have as much to do with the Leveson legacy as anything else but, for the moment, it exists. And while it does, there’ll be little to seriously test a fledgling watchdog. Early days. Methinks the MPs were questioning in haste.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Peter Foster’s piece in the Telegraph today recalls the day America came under attack on September 11, 15 years ago. He nicely mixes fact with anecdote to bring quite a vivid inside view of what it was like to be in a daily newspaper office as the story of the decade was evolving.