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Let’s not have a debate – let’s DO something about the media!

May 1st, 2012 No comments

Angela suggests that the cliche ‘we need a healthy debate’ should go the way of the News of the World

 

‘What we need is a proper debate about the media.’ ‘We need a debate about all these issues.’ Boy, am I sick of hearing and reading that. The get-out clause of politicians seems to have leaked into the discourse of the dissenters and complainers, yet they should avoid this phrase like the plague.

The latest instance is in the surprisingly strong judgment of the Murdochs by the House of Commons Select Committee which heard their evidence on phone hacking and associated sins last summer. The ‘not a fit person to run a media company’ was adopted, apparently, at the urging of Tom Watson MP. Watson, a doughty campaigner who has his own history of pain with News International, has used stronger language for the Austral-American media moguls in the past, and not always well-advisedly. Watson calls News Corp ‘the Mafia’

However, the ‘not fit’ quote was not embraced with enthusiasm by half the committee, five out of 11. Surprisingly or not, depending on your degree of cynicism, the split went along party lines. The five dissenters are Tories, featuring the lovely novelist Louise Mensch. ‘We all felt that was wildly outside the scope of the select committee and was an improper attempt to influence Ofcom,’ Ms Mensch was quoted in the noticeably benign story about the report in Murdoch’s flagship paper in his homeland, The Australian. News Ltd story on the report (Australian)

But still. Today, it is as if someone has pointed up into the sky at night, at the white circular luminous object hanging there, and said “The moon!” The love (or hatred) that dare not speak its name has indeed been named. ‘Not a proper person’ – as I observed on Twitter, the wording has been used in the past about moguls Maxwell and Al-Fayed. Were you under the impression that Rupert Murdoch and co were running all those news organisations out of a desire to make the world a better place? Surely, the old guy loves newspapers, and I cannot fault him for that. I love newspapers, even as I prepare to wave newsprint goodbye from the stage of history. But balanced with love of the print, the sound of the presses – even the lining of the canary’s cage the next day – newspapers, as the press, have to play a central and responsible role in informing citizens about the world around them. This is the role of the media in democracies.

Murdoch senior’s well-judged performance at the Leveson inquiry – far better than the befuddled apologist of the cream-pie attack last summer – showed the flinty charm that has helped him forge a massive business empire. It also revealed a little more of the ruthlessness with which News Corp can treat those who stray from the party line..

But it didn’t indicate someone who was prepared to accept a responsible role in democratic societies – despite the risibly guileless contentions about his insouciance in the face of government changes, and his sunny lack of interest in how power shifts affect the commercial interests of his newspapers.

So…let’s not have a debate that goes on and on and all the windbags wave their bellows around about the media. Let’s get the Leveson report and insist that the Cameron government do something about limiting the power of media owners.

What? Well, maybe we can have a debate about that (only kidding).

Thanks to the Guardian, and other generous sharers, here’s the link to the full report of the Committee:

Commons Report on Murdochs and Phone Hacking

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Growth is on the agenda for women in business

April 20th, 2012 No comments

IRELAND has a hugely popular radio show with the catchline “Talk to Joe”, during which people phone up the host to complain about injustices in their lives. But after just one conversation with Paula Fitzsimons, it’s evident that businesswomen in search of a more positive and empowering experience should talk to Paula.

“The power of role models for women – personal context and contacts – is true in spades,” she declares. “It gives other women the permission to do the same.”

Paula heads Going for Growth, an initiative to develop businesses run by women.  Its menu includes mentoring, information and advice sessions, and practical how-to talks and seminars from successful role models. In various forms, it has been going for about four years and now enjoys government support and the endorsement of the national business development agency, Enterprise Ireland.

And its eyes are on the world.

Read more…

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Babel policy can be counter-productive

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Angela considers the pros and cons of the comment-rich internet

Who guards the guardian?

Or maybe, The Guardian?

Is it ‘whimsicaleye’, who recently wrote….. ‘It’s time to smash the state.
Summer of Discontent 2012
F*** the olympics.
F*** the c**** jubilee’.

There, loud and proud, on the Guardian’s justly famed website with around 38 million unique users a month. Good stuff, eh?
Over at The Irish Times, are people reading it online for the humour of Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary, the polymathic brilliance of Fintan O’Toole, or the robust interventions of his well-behaved interlocutors? On irishtimes.com, comments generally appear after Comment pieces, rather than any old bit of news on sites such as TheJournal.ie.

The issue of who is providing journalistic content has gone well beyond the concept of the ‘citizen journalist’. This is the brave, public-spirited individual who reports on events, meetings, injustices, without the benefits of pay or professional training. They then post their accounts of what’s going on for the benefit of all.
But as well as the CJs, there’s a multitude of commentators, aggregators, and responders, who append their comments to news stories on websites. Some also blog and put across their view of the world – whether well-founded or not it’s often impossible to tell.
In last Saturday’s Irish Times newspaper, contributor Stephen O’Byrnes raised the issue of what you might call ‘user-generated content’, and how it should be handled. Here’s a sample…
‘Offering engagement and accessibility to Seán and Mary Citizen
is all well and good (“do keep your texts and tweets rolling in”),
but too often this is becoming a platform for political soreheads
of every hue.’

Although (as I said on Twitter) there was a whiff of elitism in O’Byrnes’ argument, he did raise a point of decision and discussion for ‘big media’ platforms. To what extent do you allow your product – which all news platforms are, if they want to make money – to go open-slather? Over the past five years there has been a mounting enthusiasm, or anxiety, among publishers and broadcasters for using and publicizing the reactions and comments of the audience. (Yes, even audience is a bit of a dirty word now, suggesting the ‘us and them’ structure of the old days of ‘gatekeeper’ journalism, when news was the sacred possession of the narrow and self-elected journalist class.) Read more…

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Kony2012

March 13th, 2012 No comments

The viral success of the Kony2012 film by Jason Russell brings together the power of social media, the idealism of youth, the horror of a human rights atrocity, and the skill of a slick film-maker in one very modern – and possibly very short-lived – media sensation.
Here’s the film…80 million hits in just a few days.
Kony2012

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Be first or be right? Tweet dilemma for old media

March 8th, 2012 No comments

Angela Long

In March the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint against the state broadcaster, RTE, regarding a Tweet read out on a current affairs programme. The problem was that the programme’s producers had not verified the provenance of the Tweet – which purported to come from political party Sinn Fein. But the bigger problem was that this Tweet was believed to have assisted in the downfall of then presidential candidate, Sean Gallagher.
The circumstances: a televised debate involving the five six candidates for Ireland’s presidency was held in October 2011. Sean Gallagher, a businessman and ‘dragon’ on the Irish version of Dragons’ Den, had healthy figures in the polls and was a likely winner. His rivals included the Sinn Fein politician, and deputy first minister in the North of Ireland, Martin McGuinness. During the programme, the host, Pat Kenny, said that a Tweet had been received from Martin McGuinness’s campaign office. This claimed Gallagher had received money from a Fianna Fail supporter some years previously ( a claim which brought up the recent spectre of political corruption, bribery, and ‘brown paper envelopes’). The Tweet, Kenny declared, also said a press conference giving full details would be held the next day.
Slight as it might seem, this was enough to seriously damage Gallagher, and in the event he polled poorly in the vote (which saw Labour Party candidate Michael D. Higgins elected).
Afterwards, Gallagher complained to the BAI about the use of the Tweet, citing unfairness and irresponsible journalism. He also complained of an interview Kenny did with him on radio the following day. Both contained unfair and partial material, it was claimed.
The BAI found in his favor.

Adjudication text

This brings up the issues of sources, verification and the competition traditional (legacy, if you like) media faces from the immediate, informal social media channels such as Twitter. Pressure is immense on legacy media workers to adopt and master Twitter. In the ongoing alarm and dilemma over how to switch the legacy business model to viability in the digital environment, media bosses are insisting that Twitter and Facebook be used – but often without thinking hard about the limitations of these.
As Ireland’s communications minister said, commenting on the BAI ruling, the national broadcaster is supposed to be the ‘gold standard’ for journalistic practice. Hence the mistake was a serious error, as the leader for ethical and professional journalism had been caught out in rushing to broadcast without any serious attempt at checking the facts.
Fact-checking is a fundamental of all journalism. Where did this information come from, why was it released, and who might benefit?
Indeed, the Tweet looked like it came from a Sinn Fein source – but a child of 10 could tell you that fake Twitter accounts abound, and in Ireland there are plenty of well-known examples (such as the account attributed to Geraldine Kennedy, former editor of The Irish Times, and first woman to hold that position).
RTE’s defence, according to the BAI adjudication, rested largely on the ‘but it was true anyway’ (that Gallagher had received money on behalf of FF interests.) This sounds a bit like ‘the dog DID eat my homework’.
As of today, Tweets are still unregulated, constant, opaque – and often break news. News organisations – in fact anyone using Tweets as a source – have to decide which is more important to them: to be first; or to be right.
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