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'Government is hiding the true story of fighting in Afghanistan'

Censorship (by denial of access) of the fighting in southern Afghanistan is political, not military, Alex Thomson, of Channel 4 News, says in Guardian Media today. He writes:

The Paras in Helmand want their story told on TV. The army media people on the ground and commanders in theatre have few, if any, objections to that happening. Their mandarins back in the MoD are, from what I am told, equally keen – but the politicians, terrified of “bad” news, are shutting them down.

The pictures we are getting of the fighting are from military camera crews and, sometimes, blurry cameraphone video from the soldiers themselves.

It seems to me that the the government is damaging its own case with unsubstantiated claims of high numbers of casualties among Taliban fighters. To maintain its position that British troops are doing well in a country which has seen off the British army (and the Russians) before, the Government is going to have to let us see the evidence.

Football bungs – ‘a hype too far’

It was understandable that BBC’s Panorama, returning to a prime-time slot after exile to late-night Sundays, should want to make a splash. But the pre-publicity of the football bungs edition turned out to be a hype too far.

As Stephen Glover writes The Independent today: “It slowly began to dawn that they had discovered very little indeed.” But he blames the newspapers too:

Of course, we should give the BBC half a pat on the back for trying to do some investigative journalism. The press doesn’t undertake much of it nowadays because it is so expensive. That said, I can’t imagine any newspaper putting a sizeable team on to a story for a whole year and coming up with so little. And yet the sports pages of these same newspapers cheerfully fuelled the hype before the Panorama documentary was broadcast and, with very few, if any, exceptions they then repeated the programme’s pretty feeble allegations as though they amounted to something.

Over at the Guardian, media lawyer Sarah Webb, is also concerned about the programme not living up to the hype. She writes “If the programme, together with its pre-broadcast hype, is said to mean that the BBC was accusing those identified of being guilty of corruption, then that is what the BBC will have to prove.” My emphasis.

Football bungs – 'a hype too far'

It was understandable that BBC’s Panorama, returning to a prime-time slot after exile to late-night Sundays, should want to make a splash. But the pre-publicity of the football bungs edition turned out to be a hype too far.

As Stephen Glover writes The Independent today: “It slowly began to dawn that they had discovered very little indeed.” But he blames the newspapers too:

Of course, we should give the BBC half a pat on the back for trying to do some investigative journalism. The press doesn’t undertake much of it nowadays because it is so expensive. That said, I can’t imagine any newspaper putting a sizeable team on to a story for a whole year and coming up with so little. And yet the sports pages of these same newspapers cheerfully fuelled the hype before the Panorama documentary was broadcast and, with very few, if any, exceptions they then repeated the programme’s pretty feeble allegations as though they amounted to something.

Over at the Guardian, media lawyer Sarah Webb, is also concerned about the programme not living up to the hype. She writes “If the programme, together with its pre-broadcast hype, is said to mean that the BBC was accusing those identified of being guilty of corruption, then that is what the BBC will have to prove.” My emphasis.

Media turmoil in Scotland

A dismal picture of media life in Scotland is painted by Iain MacWhirter in the Guardian today. The newspapers, consumed by their own falling circulations, have all but ignored BBC Scotland’s 25% cut in the news and current affairs budget. On top of this an editor from the Portsmouth News is moved to edit the Scotsman.

It is a grim story which has gone largely unnoticed south of the border. One which should have been noticed for, as MacWhirter says: “Just imagine if the BBC in London had tried to cut network news and current affairs by a quarter in an election year. There would have been a political outcry, a media firestorm.”

The spin doctors’ nightmare

“The political party that can harness blogs to its cause is the one that will win the internet campaigning war,” says Tory blogger Iain Dale in today’s Observer.

He argues that blogs provide a chance for the parties to “market their message without the filter of mainstream media reportage and comment”. Blogs, he believes, are the spin doctor’s worst nightmare come true.

Dale, who has produced a Guide to political blogging in the UK which is available at his blog, says the trouble is that most politicians see all the dangerous downsides of blogging and rarely the benefits.

He points out that ConservativeHome and his own blog both get far more visitors than the official party website. Blogging is a way of reaching younger people who are deserting mainstream media.

Over at Labour, Mike Ion who fought Shrewsbury and Atcham at the last election, tends to agree. He writes: “There’s no question in my mind that political bloggers are a major new development in British politics. They take the media out of the hands of the corporate world and put it into the hands of anyone with a computer and an internet connection.”

He heads this post “Is the Left useless at blogging?” His conclusion: “Labour is on the back foot at present and it desperately needs to find a way of reconnecting with the influencers and political junkies before it is too late.”

From the perspective of a journalist, it is clear that the political landscape is changing and that news agenda is being influenced in a different way. It should make political coverage in MSM more interesting.
Other links: Labour party, LibDem party.

The spin doctors' nightmare

“The political party that can harness blogs to its cause is the one that will win the internet campaigning war,” says Tory blogger Iain Dale in today’s Observer.

He argues that blogs provide a chance for the parties to “market their message without the filter of mainstream media reportage and comment”. Blogs, he believes, are the spin doctor’s worst nightmare come true.

Dale, who has produced a Guide to political blogging in the UK which is available at his blog, says the trouble is that most politicians see all the dangerous downsides of blogging and rarely the benefits.

He points out that ConservativeHome and his own blog both get far more visitors than the official party website. Blogging is a way of reaching younger people who are deserting mainstream media.

Over at Labour, Mike Ion who fought Shrewsbury and Atcham at the last election, tends to agree. He writes: “There’s no question in my mind that political bloggers are a major new development in British politics. They take the media out of the hands of the corporate world and put it into the hands of anyone with a computer and an internet connection.”

He heads this post “Is the Left useless at blogging?” His conclusion: “Labour is on the back foot at present and it desperately needs to find a way of reconnecting with the influencers and political junkies before it is too late.”

From the perspective of a journalist, it is clear that the political landscape is changing and that news agenda is being influenced in a different way. It should make political coverage in MSM more interesting.
Other links: Labour party, LibDem party.

HP boss ‘sorry’ about spying on journalists

When facing a PR disaster, the best advice is usually to be open and honest. Mark Hurd, chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard seems to have taken good counsel before his press conference yesterday when he apologised to journalists who had been spied on by the company.

Effectively, he said it was a leak investigation that got out of hand. He also announced that the chairman Patricia Dunn has resigned.

His comments and a transcript of the sequence of events outlined by Mark Holston of lawyers Morgan, Lewis who have carried out an independent investigation is at Silicon Valley Watcher

HP boss 'sorry' about spying on journalists

When facing a PR disaster, the best advice is usually to be open and honest. Mark Hurd, chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard seems to have taken good counsel before his press conference yesterday when he apologised to journalists who had been spied on by the company.

Effectively, he said it was a leak investigation that got out of hand. He also announced that the chairman Patricia Dunn has resigned.

His comments and a transcript of the sequence of events outlined by Mark Holston of lawyers Morgan, Lewis who have carried out an independent investigation is at Silicon Valley Watcher

Power struggle at the Telegraph

Earlier this week I took Kim Fletcher’s piece in the Guardian about “Who wears the trousers at the Telegraph?” as an examination the role of the editor in the digital multi-media age of journalism.

I failed to read the code and it was really about an old fashioned power struggle. The Editors Weblog saw it for what it was on Wednesday and boiled it down to a battle between the old guard (John Bryant, the editor in chief) and the new (Will Lewis, editorial managing director).

Yesterday the context became even clearer when Roy Greenslade recorded a statement from the paper saying: “John Bryant is in the building, he is the editor and there is no change in that.”

The crunch issue seems to have been over who hires the staff. Quite clearly anyone without that power cannot be an editor in anything but name.

Top Gear crash is reminder of dangers for journalists

The serious injuries to BBC’s Top Gear co-presenter Richard Hammond in a 300mph jet-powered car crash show how things can go wrong even in an organisation that gives safety high priority.

Under BBC rules there are risk assessments for everything and and extremely extensive range of safety courses. Concern about the safety of journalists in conflict zones has led in recent years to much improved training and the setting up of the International News Safety Institute in 2003.

My former colleague Colin Bickler (a Reuters’ correspondent for many years and campaigner for INSI) who has worked tirelessly for improved safety awareness and training for journalists always stresses the dangers that lurk for every journalists, not only those going into obviously dangerous places.

It is an issue that media groups have only recently started to take as seriously as it should be. There is a clear need need for improved risk awareness and safety training for journalists and those who work with them.