Launch of the Reuters Institute of Journalism
To St Anne's College to hear the great and the good at the launch of the Institute http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/. Among them, Wahad Khanfar of Al Jazeera International, my old boss Len Downie of the Washington Post and Helen Boaden director of BBC News (so I guess another old boss of mine then). Spotted in the crowd: Ian McEwan, Alan Rusbridger, Sir Crispin Tickell, Liz Forgan
The topic of the speech and the debate was journalism post Iraq...
Downie admitted that the Post did not listen as much to the sceptics on WMD as they should have done and they did not give stories enough prominence.
Helen Boaden on the changing nature of audiences and how they get their news: "if you are not interested in Africa you never need consume another story about Africa in your life" (Note: she was not advocating this; just pointing out that people can now avoid stories they don't want)
Wahad Khanfar pointed out that AJI was the first place that Israel got an editorial platform in the Arab media - and that AJI was put under huge pressure from governments and intelligence agencies as a result.
Timothy Garton Ash presided - and said he saw himself as an academic who writes journalism as Conor Cruise O'Brien put it "with one foot in each grave". Could that apply to journalists turned aid workers I wonder?
I was sitting next to Prof Adrian Monck who heads up journalism at City University whose waving hand was somehow ignored by Garton Ash. Maybe that's because he wanted to ask Wahad Khanfar whether Al Jazeera English will use the term suicide bombers - which AJI does not...or whether it will use the Arabic term which uses martyrs. He writes about it on his blog this morning - http://adrianmonck.blogspot.com/
Meanwhile at dinner I found myself opposite Dr Suzanne Franks who is writing a history of the BBC but has done a lot of the Ethiopian famine of 1984 so we swapped tales of journalists and aid workers....but mainly argued over is there ever such a thing as a natural disaster? Even the tsunami could be said to fail to be a natural disaster given the decision a year earlier to not put warning systems in the region...