Saturday, 21 November 2009

Is it Christmas time by any chance?

I suspect that the cheery time of the year has returned once again. There are many signs to indicate this, maybe you've seen them?
Firstly, you will notice that everyone around you will be wearing hats. In this case the phrase 'I don't really suit hats' goes straight out of the window and that 'attractive' black woolly is back in business. Maybe you will think to yourself; 'there is a slight chance that I look a little like a bank robber' won't care because it is keeping those ears nice and toasty.

Secondly, the town lights are up, ready and waiting for their countdown. The anticipation of the 'switching on' is in fact the most exciting time, although one cannot neglect to mention that inspirational speech given by that 'famous person' that you can't actually see or hear. Still, the atmosphere is festive.
The lights are on and out flows the 'ooos' and 'aaahs'. The realisation that we've waited in the cold for someone to flip a light switch soon hits but the confusion is met with the smell of roasted chestnuts and all is well again.

Another favourite reminder of the jovial season is the sheer stupidity of the spending!. Recession? Really? I was queueing (a great British past time, a skill perfected during these festive times) and I was witness to a horror unbeknown to many, someone spending £36 pounds on stamps! STAMPS! Ok maybe it is simply the debt-laiden student talking but during such times as 'The Crunch' that price tag scares me ever so slightly. Surely Christmas emails could be the solution to that financial problem and there would most certainly be a forest somewhere just greatful that its not that years mantlepiece decor. And they say Winchester has a mammoth carbon footprint, where ever did they get that idea?
I suppose there is also the option of actually giving people their over-priced Christmas cards in person but that's just silly talk.

After my 'stamp' trauma I've decided to root for the homemade card this year; the personal, creative and cheaper alternative. Although, if I don't see you, unfortunately you won't get it, but definitely know that the thought was there.

WiNOL - behind the scenes with Winchester's top news team!

What's happened so far?

Week one and two were 'dummy runs', which we were using as opportunities to become more comfortable with our assigned roles.
I am Chief reporter/ Breaking news reporter and found week one and two to be very helpful in order to become familiar with my role and my duties.
I was very apprehensive as I lacked any filming or editing experience and worried about my physical ability in order to go out at make packages.

Week one could be described as a 'minor car crash' and I do not think that anyone on the team would disagree with that; we were missing two news packages (admittedly one being mine), we forgot to press 'record' and we were generally disorganised in most areas.
I was extremely disappointed with my own work and performance as a whole. I worked hard to find stories, adding dates to the diary and bringing ideas to the table, but my package was not at the level it should have been and despite racing to meet the deadline I was unable to complete my package in time.
I did however manage to film a ptc (piece to camera) by myself which was a great experience, even though i did not use it in the final edit. It was the Vox Pops that I found the most difficult; struggling to find any students that would stop to talk to me. When I did manage to grab a couple of people however, I found it difficult to complete the technical side of filming on my own, e.g. white balance and sound.
Despite the obvious problems, I felt more confident with using the equipment even if it did go horribly wrong.

I think we know that week two had to be better than the first and in Monday's debrief everyone was able to clear up a lot of issues and problems that had arisen in the previous week.
We had Ian Anderson from BBC 10 o'cock News as guest Editor.
The energy was great and we all started to work as a team, everyone cooperating really well together; there always seemed to be someone that knew how to help someone else, so any issues that occured seemed to be resolved quickly and effectively. The help between 'desks' was also great; I was particularly greatful to Cara, Chanin and Emma who each helped me with filming at different stages during the making of my package despite them being part of the Production.

Week three went LIVE at 5 for the first time, a scary concept but in practice everything went smoothly. There was more of a relaxed atmosphere and everyone knew what they were meant to be doing and it turned out, thankfully, to be our best bulletin yet. I did not make a news package for this bulletin but submitted a news story and tried to get in contact with Hampshire Police to get an interview for our NIB (News in Brief) but unfortunately lines of communication were limited. 
I think its fantastic that every week we are improving so much, I think the de-briefs after the bulletin goes out on wednesday and monday morning are really helping to filter out the problems and people are really taking on board any 'constructive criticism' that we get back from the lecturers and guest editors.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Media Law. Investigative Journalism.

In thursday's lecture we discovered what 'investigative journalism' is.
  • The Journalist initiates the story.
  • It does not just follow the news agenda of that time. 
  • It does not really matter what is in the news. If there is something to investiagate then you do it.
- John Sweeney - Investigtive journalist, investigated a series of cot deaths where the mothers had been wrongly improsioned. He helped Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony to be cleared.
He also did a lot of investigations into Scientology.

Find out more about Sweeney's investigative journalism:

- Emile Zola - known as the 'The father of investigative journalism' was one of the first to leave the 'agenda' and initiate his own journalism.

Well known for the 'Dreyfus Affair', he wrote 'J'Accuse!' which he published on the front page of the Paris Daily, accusing the French Army of a miscarriage of justice, after they wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus, an artillary captain, of espionage and sentenced him to life on Devil's Island, French Guiana.
(Want to know more about Emile Zola go to:

Watergate - President Richard Nixon was suspected to have been responsible for having the Democratic National Committee Headquarters broken into and then conspired to cover it up. It was investigated by two journalists from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, assisted by Deep Throat, later revealed to be Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI who started helping Woodward and Bernstein in 1972.

"What did the President know and when did he know it?"

Woodward and Bernstein effectively brought down the President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world.
(SEE for everything you would ever want to know about Watergate!)

When there is an absense of malice =  entitlement to common law qualified privilege


!!! NEVER investigate or go off the agenda where you are personally involved! A BIG NO NO!!!

Public Interest

If you are exposing:
- a danger to protect or inform the public.
- a health and safety issue
-  a gross intention to mislead public/society

Justice Eady said "its the rock on which we stand" when talking about working within Public Interest.

When investigating remember: someone else's rubbish may be your treasure.
It is not illegal to go through people's dustbins...a less favoured approach but one that has helped in the discovery of incriminating evidence.

Benjamin Pell (aka 'Benji the Binman') - made it his job to search the bins of the rich and famous looking for something incriminating to sell to the media.
(for more see:

Mazher Mahmood - 'The fake Sheik' - Undercover reporter for the News of the World.

Regulations for 'subterfuge' state:
- There must be some prior indication or degree of proof that the 'abuse' is taking place or the 'accusation' is true.
- Trawling is not allowed.
- There must be prior permission from OFCOM or BBC etc...
- The tip off must have come from a reliable source and there must be a reason for believing it to be true.

THE  'great' evidence gap!
Libel is civil law - within civil law you only need to show the balance of probability.
Therefore a newspaper can state that it thinks a group of men who were 'let off' murder charges are in fact the murderers because it would be libel, and if the probability is that they were 'most likely' the murderers then the newspaper will win.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Media Law. Qualified Privilege.

This session covered Qualified Privilege. I have used Chris Horrie's Media Law notes to develop my own notes taken during the lecture.

You are entitled to this defence if:
You report, contemporaneously, anything heard in court or parliament, even if it is defamatory.

Journalists are NOT entitled to Absolute Privilege.

QP also applies when reporting from:
- Local government meetings
- Pressure group meetings
- AGMs of companies

If your report includes defamatory allegations you MUST always give the person an opportunity to deny it.
You can then use a statement such as: "Subject to contradiction"

The Reynolds case plays an important role in the defence of Qualified Privilege.
 An article on the BBC's website explains the case briefly...

'The Reynolds Defence is named after a defence raised in the late 1990s by Times Newspapers after the Sunday Times published an article about the former Irish prime minister, Albert Reynolds. Mr Reynolds sued, arguing the allegations in the article were not true and were defamatory. The newspaper argued that the allegations it published were serious and that it had a duty to publish them. They were, it argued, made in the public interest and after they'd exercised all reasonable care in checking. Even if the allegations were not true, they argued they should have been able to report them and be legally protected by 'qualified privilege'.'

The Judge in the Reynolds case was Lord Nicholls, he set up a ten point test to ensure that all journalism be at the highest level and if followed by the book your report will in theory be subject to a certain amount of legal protection.

We also had another helpful recap of Defamation...

Publication + Defamation + Identification = Libel    ...and the defences...

- Comment
- Justification
- Qualified Privilige

George Galloaway - Daily telegraph failed the ten point test, mainly because not all of the defamatory allegations were put to Galloway prior to publication.

Chris mentioned the 'final call' - the call that no journalist wants to make, it will literally make or break your story.

!!! REMEMBER!!! With QP Judges like it when reporting live/notes are published straight away!

***TEACHING GOLD**************
The 7th point of the ten point test... it is critical to put the defamatory allegation to the person and allow them to deny it at equal length.

"Just one more thing..."

...Make sure that when adding a picture that you do not simply copy and paste it from an unknown source. Use but make sure that when searching you use the 'Advanced Search' and tick the box that says 'Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content', which means that you are allowed to use that picture IF you attribute it.

Why not also try:

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

'How to' with press officers.

This week's 'HOW TO' explains how journalists and press officers can work together in harmony, just the way it should be.

How do I talk to 'them'? Can I talk to them?

EMAIL. A phone call is obviously an excellent communication devise (if you make notes in your journalism notepad, preferably in short hand or record the conversation) however, emailing is a great way of keeping record of the contact you make. It is also the best evidence to produce if you need proof of contacting someone
Is there a lack in communication? Are you being fobbed off every time you call or email?

That sucks! But eventually something or someone has to give, and it certainly won't be you! Hold your ground. If you've acted fairly, politely and according to THE code of conduct then you are in the right!
It will of course be the reputation of that press officer or the person/company that they are working for that will be shattered by their unfavourable avoidance methods, so be tough, you can do it!

Is all of this a little bit overdramatic?

Yes, of course it is. But it has become apparant that not many know that press officers are meant to be there to assist the press. Yes, that's right. But if you are battling to get anywhere with your story and cannot get access to the people who can help you, then things do become dramatic because they are stopping you from doing your job.
The next thing you'll know, some P.O's wll get so over-protective about the information that you are attempting to obtain, University students will need permission to talk to their own lecturers!

So why do PO's get a little power crazy from time-to-time?

Who knows! But it is certainly a big waste of time on their behalf. The fact that we are trying to put together a balanced, two-sided story sometimes seems to surpass all thought. Try not to take it personally.

NUJ - is the press officer a member? Journalist's are supposed to help other journalists!
"What do I do!! The PO still hasn't got back to me!!...I'm doomed!!!"

Step one, get a grip!
Now...try the good old 'no denial denial' other words "no comment" them.
If you have:
- Given them a reasonable amount of time to get the information or organise a contact that you need.
- Informed them of your deadline.
- Acted professionally and politely.... yet they still refuse to help?
...then you can quite simply state that that the person or organisation in question refused to comment.

If you make contact with someone who you would like to interview and they insist on waiting for the PO's approvable inform them that:

"We're going to run this, we just want your side of the story"

NEVER say that someone was unavailable...if read between the lines this just means that you have not managed to get hold of them or have not actually bothered to.
This WILL come back to bite you...'they' can say "you didn't contact me"and even worse, there wil not be any evidence that you did, because you did not.

Unfortunately that's all for this weeks 'HOW TO', I do hope its been helpful and remember... NEVER GIVE UP, you CAN beat that irritating PO!