THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

2 posts from October 2014

15 October 2014

Newspaper reading rooms - a subversive history

The third in our series of lectures named after the 19th century journalist WT Stead is to be given by Professor Aled Gruffydd Jones, newspaper historian and head of the National Library of Wales, on 21 November 2014 at the British Library. Entitled 'Newspaper reading rooms and civic engagement: a subversive history,' it will look the history of the newspaper reading room and their relation to civil society.

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The Old Newspaper Reading Room in the British Museum, Bloomsbury. Sell's Dictionary of the World's Press 1893. Copyright ©1999, The British Library Board

Newspaper readings rooms in the UK since the eighteenth-century have come in all shapes and sizes, from local literary societies and miners' institutes to august national institutions like the British Museum. Often they allowed access to both a range of relatively immediate information about the contemporary world and to the past. In both senses, they could serve as spaces not only for the quiet consumption of information but also for the development of creativity, the deepening of civic engagement and the enhancement of public education in the broadest sense.

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 The Newsroom at the British Library, St Pancras

Professor Jones's talk will look at the history of newspaper reading rooms, the role the collective reading of the Press has played in the building of civil society, and the creative challenges posed to the cultural and civic world they represented by the digital technologies and platforms that are a growing part of their current manifestation. The British Library's own Newsroom, opened earlier this year, is only the latest expression of a long and important tradition, fitted out for a digital age and hopefully playing its own part in contributing to the growth and maintenance of civil society.

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Aled Jones

Professor Aled Gruffydd Jones is Chief Executive of the National Library of Wales and a notable cultural historian, who has published on has published widely on newspaper and journalism history, the history of modern Wales, labour history, tand on the relationship between Wales, the British Empire and the Indian sub-continent. His publicati0ns include Powers of the Press: Newspapers, Power and the Public in Nineteenth-century England and Press, Politics and Society: History of Journalism in Wales. His is a broadcaster and columnist, and was the joint organiser of the first Welsh International Film Festival and co-founder of the film and video arts collective, Creu Cof. He has also acted as an advisor to the British Library on its newspaper digitisation plans. 

This will be the third in our series of W.T. Stead lectures, named after the 19th century journalist William Thomas Stead, which have looked at news past, present and future. The previous lectures were given by James Harding, head of BBC News, and Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Columbia.

The lecture will be from 18:00 on 21 November 2014 at the British Library at St Pancras, in the staff restaurant area on the first floor. Details of how to book for the event are on our What's On pages.

02 October 2014

Recording Scotland

Our television and radio news recording service, Broadcast News, has been busy over the past two months recording extra programmes on the Scottish independence referendum. Usually Broadcast News takes in some 60 hours of programmes per day (40 TV, 20 radio) from across 22 channels available via Freeview or Freesat. We record the same programmes at the same times each day, to provide a consistent research service. But when there are news specials, breaking news programmes or major news stories that spill over the schedules, then we record more.

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The Big, Big Debate, BBC1 tx 11 September 2014

For the Scottish referendum we added recordings from two further channels, BBC One Scotland and STV, for most of August through to the end of September. So, as well as the standard TV and radio news programmes from BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, CNN, LBC and others, we recorded BBC one Scotland's Reporting Scotland and Kevin Bridges: Live at the Referendum, STV's STV News at Six and Scotland Tonight, BBC Parliament's Scotland 2014 and Reporting Scotland, special programmes such as the Salmond/Darling dates, referendum broadcasts from the Yes and No campaigns, Radio's 1's Big Conversation: Scotland Decides (16 Sep), STV's Scotland Decides - The Facebook Debate (12 Sep), BBC 1's The Big Big Debate (11 Sep), and several more.

The heaviest extra recording activity was inevitably over 18 September (the day of the referendum) and the the results and aftermath the following day. BBC TV broadcast two through-the-night programmes entitled Scotland Decides: one hosted by Hugh Edwards for BBC1 and one for BBC Scotland hosted by Glenn Campbell. Bernard Ponsonby and Aasmah Mir hosted ITV/STV's coverage, also named Scotland Decides. Sky News went with Decision Time Scotland, hosted by Adam Boulton, Kay Burley and Niall Paterson. For radio, BBC Radio 4 went through the night with Scotland Decides, hosted by James Naughtie and Rachel Burden, while BBC World Service had a special edition of its The Newsroom programme.

Not watched by so many people in the UK, but fascinating for their different perspectives, were the special programmes produced by France 24, RT (Russia Today) and CNN, the latter two broadcasting coverage throughout the night and early morning, evidence of the huge interest the referendum generated worldwide. Steering clear of value judgments, it was nevertheless most intriguing to see how international opinion ranged from disbelief that Scotland would ever consider breaking away from the United Kingdom, to incredulity that it would ever consider not doing so having been given the opportunity. They are among the most interesting programmes from referendum night, and likely to be of particular value to future researchers.

The result itself brought about a mixture of triumph, disappointment, and even a sense of anticlimax, as we know. Sally Magnusson hosted BBC One Scotland programmes which analysed the results overthe morning and afternoon of September 19th, STV had John MacKay and Andrea Brymer hosting Scotland This Morning: How the Nation Voted. And then gradually the dust settled, the story dropped from the news agenda, and we returned to the regular round of news recordings, carrying on with our BBC One Scotland and STV recordings to the end of September. Now normality reigns, until the next drama unfolds.

All of the Scottish referendum programmes that we recorded are available to view (or listen to) at the British Library's St Pancras and Boston Spa sites via the instant access Broadcast News service.