Monday, December 21, 2009

Woo hoo!

My piece on the blurring of NGOs and news organisations has just gone online at the Nieman Journalism Lab. What a great end to 2009 - and in a week where all my pre-Christmas planning has gone completely awry, a great break....

The Nieman Journalism Lab, a project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard is running a series on NGOs and the news at the moment so there's plenty of stuff to read there at the moment (and should speed up my next research considerably :)

Totally chuffed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dispatches from Disaster Zones

I spoke on a panel at the Red Cross's Dispatches from Disaster Zones symposium earlier this week - Charlie Beckett's account here. Our panel was particularly lively thanks to provocative statements from Sam Kiley who wrote the following piece Do starving Africans a favour - don't feed them. He got into a debate with the DEC's Brendan Parry about whether NGOs had been misusing the word all got rather hot under the collar. Thoroughly good fun.

Meanwhile the Guardian has a really interesting piece here about how Africa is leading the west in terms of mobile phone journalism....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent resolution

After a bit of a break from blogging due to various life situations getting in the way, I'm hoping to start blogging again on the subject of new media, aid agencies and the like. First a very interesting piece by Charlie Beckett about MSF and multimedia work in the DRC here.

Second - from a month ago there is the special that I contributed to on Al Jazeera English on 25 years since Ethiopia. Great quote from Michael Buerk on why he didn't interview any of those who had come to Korem because they were starving - shows how much times have changed. So for those who inevitably think journalism has got worse, think again. Part one here, and part two (including Buerk) here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Holding the aid agencies accountable

Interesting to see that Peter Gill is writing a book on famine reporting 25 years on from the Korem reports. He has done a piece for Media Guardian today reflecting on this - found here. The Dimbleby quote - how many skeletons - is all too believable (although the intro about Michael Buerk made me inadvertently laugh which I don't think was either Gill or Buerk's intention).
Gill puts his finger on it. The IBT's view that we should refuse negative images has its limitations. What is really needed is an examination of what aid agencies have done over the past quarter century. NGOs frequently complain they get a hard time in the media; I would disagree. Frequently they are not examined closely enough at all....

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Distraction - or the future?

Most journalists see user-generated content as a distraction from their real job according to a paper given at the Future of Journalism conference......
Certainly I think Claire Wardle is right that attitudes at the BBC have changed a lot - even from 2007 when the survey was carried out. When I last visited the UGC hub there there was a definite pro-active attitude and eagerness to embrace Twitter, Flickr et al.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blurring the lines

Good report in the Times yesterday about Lord May attacking the BBC's decision to drop Planet Relief Day. Although this is about global warming, the issue raised (and the reason why the BBC dropped the idea) is ongoing worries about impartiality - although it's only fair to say the BBC denies this in their response to the Times. Certainly however there has been ongoing criticism from certain sections about the BBC getting involved in big issues like this....and this is the result.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Red Cross begins lobbying....

Picked up PR Week today to find a hugely interesting article by Kate Magee which reveals that the British Red Cross is setting up its first advocacy department.
Magee writes that this marks 'a radical departure from its long-standing politically neutral stance'. The BRC has hired a senior associate from PR giant Burson Marsteller.
The Red Cross has traditionally eschewed advocacy, preferring to concentrate on providing aid on the ground. But the reality of NGOs in the 21st century is that advocacy is a central part. As Ian Bray of Oxfam told me for my original research 'We don't believe aid changes the world; politics does."
Oxfam and Save the Children have been some of the strongest players in this area - along with Christian Aid which has just launched its Mass Visual Trespass Campaign. All will be nervous however about the BRC's venture into this field: it will be seen as a potential sleeping giant awakening. The BRC has huge reach, influence and will be taken very seriously.
Will this compromise the Red Cross's famous neutrality? The agency has said it will be careful not to by lobbying all parties equally and making sure its campaigns focus on humanitarian consequences rahter than root causes. It'll be a tricky one. A cliche to raise Amartya Sen at this point but it's something that the BRC will have to bear in mind.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Alagiah in hot water over Fairtrade teabags

Interesting blog from Tony Durham of Action Aid on the BBC making George Alagiah step down from the Fairtrade Foundation. Has got to be about the corporation's sensitivity following criticism  of their coverage of Live Earth and the (aborted) plans for a day long strand on climate change....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How 31-year-olds consume media

Great comeback here to the 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern....ah it all rings rather too true....I do remember when Mum used to answer the phone with our number....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Privacy report now online...


And debate with John Lloyd and Anne McElvoy on this week's Media Show is here
Why I can't recommend BT Vision

I signed up to BT Vision in April this year, after being offered a deal as a longstanding BT customer. However I'm very disappointed.
The programme takes at least three minutes to load every time you switch the TV on - it's like going back to the 1970s waiting for a TV to warm up.
And it has when recording two half hour programmes on the run recorded 3 x 20 minute bursts instead and sometimes lost sound altogether (curiously always on ITV).
On catch-up TV only BBC is free, ITV and C4 you have to pay for.
The saleswoman who signed me up also neglected to set up the direct debit which meant I got stung for a bill of £60 (the processing fee was later refunded by BT after I complained). 
All in all it has not been a pleasant experience.
BT refuses to cancel my 12 month contract on the grounds that a) the saleswoman did not mention catch-up TV in the call and b) I can get some service on BT Vision therefore it can't be cancelled on the grounds I get no service at all.
I'm sure they are absolutely correct that I cannot cancel BT Vision under the wording of my contract. But given the difficulties I've had with the service, the frustrations of getting it to work and failing, I'm afraid that I can't recommend it to anyone else.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Going public on privacy - ET and sadomasochism

So today after a year in the writing, the report that I wrote with Stephen Whittle is finally published by the Reuters Institute, in which we argue that privacy has been fundamentally changed by the net, that there needs to be a stronger definition of public interest and that the PCC should be brought into line with Ofcom. There is a piece in Media Guardian today focusing mainly on the aftermath of the News of the World hacking story and we also made Reuters, Press Gazette, and PA in which I am quoted as follows....

"The person who believes in flying saucers or is conducting a sado-masochistic relationship may be a council officer or a department store manager. But this cannot be presumed to affect their behaviour in their job.

"There is no prima facie public interest in extra-terrestrial believers or in sado-masochists."

So there you have it.

There is an event to launch the report later in the month at the Frontline Club where various luminaries will be assembled.....see here

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blog off?

Charles Arthur on how the long tail of blogging is dying....

Certainly that seems to be true. It's much easier to tweet than commit to a blog unless you've got something that has to be said in depth. 

Meanwhile John Naughton is more optimistic for print journalists.....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Twitter vs CNN

Interesting piece from the Telegraph looking at news out of Iran and the pluses/minuses of citizen journalism...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gordon Brown: the internet is changing foreign policy

In an interview with the Guardian, the PM says that foreign policy can no longer be down to a few elites as the Twitter revolution in Iran has shown over the past few days....

In regards to humanitarian crises he claims:

"You cannot have Rwanda again because information would come out far more quickly about what is actually going on and the public opinion would grow to the point where action would need to be taken.

"Foreign policy can no longer be the province of just a few elites."

I'll be interested to see if that is correct; the cynical would say Sri Lanka, Darfur etc have still happened despite the growth of the world wide web.

In other news Google and Facebook are rolling out Farsi services in the aftermath of Iran

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The revolution will not be televised....

it will be coming to you via YouTube, Flickr and mobile phones....

See BBC story here

Plus see Guardian story here

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran cont'd

Today reports on the importance of blogging/Twitter/Facebook in the Iranian election aftermath....Turi Munthe points out the second language on the web is Farsi.....points out that we are only hearing a self-selecting constituency - Western

It takes a few days for social networks to be up and running he points out.

Follow the hashtag #iranelection as the best on Twitter

Also some pictures out of Iran - thanks once again to Richard Sambrook....

PS The US state dept gets involved- although at time of writing Twitter appears to be down for maintenance

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran and the media

Just been watching the extraordinary scenes in Iran - amazing stuff. On C4 News as Charlie Beckett points out, Lindsay Hilsum had to have her track voiced by someone else although she later managed to do a live with Jon Snow. On Twitter Stephen Fry has been listing functional proxies.

There are striking pictures here  - although Getty and AP not UGC...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Putting it all together...

Thanks to Richard Sambrook for linking to this on Twitter - this is Mashable's guide to tracking the Iran election with social media....just what I've been looking for for the next piece of research I'm thinking of doing.....(if the link doesnt work then try

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back to basics

As Dr KP has pointed out this blog has been moribund for over three months. I plead guilty to 
a) having a baby
b) getting obsessed with Twitter
c) having to finish a 20,000 word report for the Reuters Institute

The combination of the three has not left a huge amount of time for blogging (and I am wondering whether it is superseded by Twitter anyway)
Anyway this week I submitted From their own correspondent? to RISJ - it now goes through an internal review before going to the editorial committee so not likely to be seen for some months. Also waiting on the Annenberg book to which I contributed a paper to be published
Meanwhile I am trying to put together my next proposal. But decided to give myself a day off first as its sunny and a small child wants to go to the park for an icecream (well technically speaking I think that is what small child wants....)

Friday, January 30, 2009

DEC: was the BBC right all along?

Very good piece by Dan Sabbagh in the Times about why the corporation was right to say no to the Gaza appeal....

Much later....

Meanwhile, my analysis of the Katine project has made it online.......

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The DEC rolls on....

Good piece by Keith Dovkants in the Standard which recounts the recent problems for the BBC and Israel in the past.....

Also AP is now reporting that the IAEA head has refused to do an interview with the BBC in protest at the BBC's refusal to do the Gaza appeal.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More DEC....

Good account of what has been going on for the last week here in the Guardian......

Monday, January 26, 2009

DEC cont'd...

The DEC row rolls on, becoming increasingly bad-tempered in parts. 
There is an interesting line tucked away in Patrick Foster's account in the Times this morning in which it appears correspondence between DEC chief exec Brendan Gormley and the BBC has been leaked. Cui bono?
It says that Gormley wrote to the BBC on the 13 January admitting little of the aid would go to Israel and thus  "this state of affairs would conflict with the BBC's editorial need to be impartial".   
I'm wondering however in what context these words appear because it would seem unlikely to me the DEC would continue to push the BBC for an appeal if they had accepted the BBC would be unlikely to consider one. Particularly in the light of the problems over the 2006 Lebanon appeal that never happened where impartiality was a key issue, mainly because the original idea for the appeal had included Gaza as well.

It's also interesting that Sky has come out late in the day saying it won't run the appeal either.
The appeal itself I think is different to the usual, where different personalities depending on the channel 'front' the appeal. The version I saw on Channel 4 was only footage and no one on screen voicing it.  

It also seems there is no one who hasn't written a piece on this. Interesting stuff from Martin Bell on the crisis of confidence at the BBC -and also Iain Martin in the Telegraph on the truth about covering the Middle East if you are a news organisation.
Re Iain Martin's piece, this is the elephant in the room that Mark Thompson refused to address in his Today interview: the rules are different when it comes to the Middle East. Or as one person said to me 'it seems when it comes to appeals set in politically contentious situations, Africa, there's no problem, Asia be more careful and Middle East - forget it'

(PS It's also worth noting that while there has been a lot of criticism of the BBC publicly from journalists, politicians and humanitarians, a majority of comments on the Times forum appear to support the BBC's stance.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The BBC and the DEC

Hugely interesting to see the fallout over the BBC's refusal to broadcast a DEC appeal for Gaza

It seems the BBC has form in this area. In 2006, the DEC wanted to set up an appeal for Lebanon; at that time the BBC and other broadcasters turned down the ask, as the Guardian reported at the time (it's worth noting that the other broadcasters said they did agree with the BBC on that occasion compared to this time where Sky for one basically passed the buck by saying the DEC appeal could not be launched if everyone did not agree and as the BBC had taken that decision then it was out of their hands).

It is also worth remembering that the Balen Report of 2004 into the BBC's coverage of the Middle East was said to have been prompted by criticism of anti-Israeli  bias. The BBC is in an unenviable position.

There are three criteria that have to be met for a DEC appeal: if it is large and urgent enough; if help can get in to whichever area is to be the subject of the appeal and if there is enough public awareness.

The BBC has talked about the need for political impartiality and sensitivity; the issue as its critics have pointed out is that many DEC appeal do end up dealing with areas where there are political dimensions; the Darfur appeal, or the Burma appeal. Perhaps the message is that some places are more impartial and sensitive than others.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I've been offline for a long time but one of my new resolutions is to be back (another is to use up small coins)...And curiously since my last posts are concerned with Obama this is what my first one of 2009 is about.
I won't name the poet who wrote this poem as she hates what she calls "the dreaded Sometimes" and no longer allows it to be anthologised although she allows it on personal blogs. But I think it's apt, and given that D has just told me off about getting overexcited about the inauguration, it's time to think that maybe things will not turn out as badly as the pessimists think:

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.