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23 April 2019

A political scandal, a fatal duel

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One of the most rewarding aspects of working on the Heritage Made Digital Newspapers, the British Library’s project to digitise a number of 19th century British newspapers, is uncovering the hidden, forgotten or lesser-known stories surrounding the newspapers we have selected. One of the aims of the project it to begin to fill gaps in the digital archive, and therefore many of the newspapers that we have chosen are from the early 19th century, were short-lived, and are generally less well known (though not necessarily less important) than those that have been digitised by other projects and organisations. This means that there is often limited information about these newspapers, and in researching the publication histories of each title, we sometimes stumbled across interesting news stories, images and accounts of events; and even on occasion a juicy story that directly involves the newspaper itself. A perfect example of this is the Beacon (1821).

Beacon_cropped

The [Edinburgh] Beacon, vol. 1, no. 1, 6th January 1821, p. 1.

The Edinburgh Beacon

The Beacon was published in Edinburgh between January and September 1821, and is one of the few newspapers based outside of London that has made it on to our project shortlist. It came to our notice as it had links to a title that had already met some of our selection criteria (in that it was London based and out of copyright), a later newspaper also called the Beacon (1822), which had been identified as being of particular interest due to the involvement of the famous author and poet, Sir Walter Scott  (below, 1822 portrait by by Sir Henry Raeburn). However, after digging a little bit deeper, it became clear that these two separate titles, the Edinburgh Beacon and the London Beacon, had been muddled in some of the core resources on 19th century newspapers, and Walter Scott was, in fact, linked to the Scottish and not the London newspaper.

250px-Sir_Henry_Raeburn_-_Portrait_of_Sir_Walter_Scott

It also became clear that the Edinburgh Beacon’s short existence was mired in controversy and scandal, and while there is only a limited amount of information and scholarship on the subject, what there is tells a hugely interesting story. The Beacon’s founding and financing set the stage for political turmoil; the way it was run led to libel action and heightened political and press antagonism; and the ultimate outcome of the newspaper’s existence was a fatal duel between Sir Alexander Boswell and James Stuart in March 1822. John Chalmers, who wrote a book on the surrounding scandal, suggests that the impact of events was far reaching and significant, crediting it with ‘a move toward more responsible journalism and a contribution towards the popular demand for parliamentary reform.' (John Chalmers, Duel Personalities: James Stuart versus Sir Alexander Boswell). These are no small claims. So how did a newspaper, which ran for only a few months, have such a huge impact?

The Beacon was established as a Tory counterpoint to the popularity of the Whig supporting Scotsman (1817-2004), and also as a reaction to the coverage in the Whig and Radical Press of the Queen Caroline Affair in 1820. However, the newspaper quickly caused trouble, printing personal and vicious attacks against those it disagreed with. In particular it levelled frequent abuse at a small number of Whig politicians, including Francis Jeffrey, James Stuart, James Gibson and Lord Archibald Hamilton. The Beacon was closed down suddenly in September 1821, after several cases of libel were brought against the publication, and its printer fled to the continent.

Two things elevated the Beacon’s notoriety to scandalous levels. The first was the involvement of a large number of well-known figures, many of them in positions of authority or with links to the Establishment. In general the financial backers of a newspaper during this period remained anonymous, and could therefore deny any involvement if trouble arose. However, the money to publish the Beacon had been raised via a subscription, and many of those involved, rather than paying the money up front, signed a bond of security with a bank which advanced the money, therefore creating documentary evidence of their ties to the publication. One of those named on the bond was Sir William Rae, Lord Advocate of Scotland, and his involvement with the publication sparked discussions about the close relationship between politicians and the press, and ultimately resulted in a debate before Parliament. Others named on the bond included the Solicitor General for Scotland, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the MP for Stirling. Sir Walter Scott, whose involvement initially drew our interest, was also a signatory on the bond. He was one of the driving forces behind the launching of the newspaper, providing both funds and advice, however much of his advice was ignored, and he quickly became disillusioned with the venture, describing it as a ‘blasted business’. He attempted to distance himself from the paper as the scandal took hold, but this was largely unsuccessful and his reputation took a significant hit as a result.

James_Stuart_of_Dunearn_(1775–1849) _Duellist_and_Pamphleteer_by_Daniel_Macnee

The second particularly scandalous element came about because of the attacks the paper printed against the Whig politician, James Stuart (right, portrait by Daniel Macnee), who was a favourite target for abuse. Stuart took exception to several of the items written about him, especially those that he saw as attacks on his social standing. The result was a prolonged dispute with the paper’s publisher, Duncan Stevenson, with Stevenson refusing to disclose who had written any of the offending articles. This largely played out in the pages of the Beacon, but also in one public event where Stuart horsewhipped Stevenson. Unable to find satisfaction via the publisher, Stuart turned his attention to Sir William Rae, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, after discovering his name listed on the bond. It was in Stuart’s public revealing of the connection between the newspaper and the Lord Advocate of Scotland, which led to the scandal and the ultimate demise of the paper. Stuart may have felt that the affair was laid to rest with the shutting down of the Beacon, but this was not to be the case.

Challenged to a duel

Upon closing, the Beacon’s cause was instantly taken up by a Glasgow paper, The Sentinel (1821-1823). Not only were several of the contributors shared between the two papers, but Sir William Rae had once again lent his support to the founding of the newspaper, under its former title The Clydesdale Journal (1820-1821), although he was more circumspect in that instance and did so privately. In particular the Sentinel continued in publishing personal attacks against those Whigs singled out by the Beacon, with a sustained campaign of articles, letters and poems levelled at James Stuart. This time, due to a dispute between the two publishers of the Sentinel, Stuart was able to get hold of original copies of the articles and identity their author. It was revealed to be Sir Alexander Boswell, son of Samuel Johnson's biographer James Boswell, a distant relation of Stuart’s, and a well-known and well-liked member of the Tory Establishment in Scotland. Stuart believed his only recourse was to challenge Boswell to a duel, and therefore sent his appointed ‘Second’ to issue the challenge.

Sentinel

The Sentinel, vol. 1, no. 1, 10th October 1821, p. 1.

The duel was fought on 26th March 1822, and while neither side intended to cause actual harm, Boswell was fatally wounded by Stuart’s mis-aimed shot. The duel and Stuart’s subsequent trial for murder gained intense public interest, much of it whipped up the extensive media coverage of events. Many of those accounts linked back to the original scandal surrounding the downfall of the Beacon, with more focus placed upon that than the role of the Sentinel in the dispute. Stuart was acquitted, as so frequently happened at trials for duelling during this period, and came out of the affair with little damage to his reputation.

Many of the others involved suffered more long term consequences, particularly those who were directly linked to the two newspapers involved. Notably, the printer of the Beacon, John Nimmo, who despite being only a very minor figure in the operations of the newspaper, was briefly accused of being its proprietor. He fled to France, fearing prosecution, and remained in exile there for the rest of his life. William Borthwick, one of the publisher/proprietors of the Sentinel, also had his life completely turned upside down by the affair. It was his dispute with his former colleague, Robert Alexander that led to the revealing of Boswell’s authorship of the offending articles, but as a result of his actions he was arrested for stealing papers that may or may not have rightfully been his property. Borthwick’s circumstances were complicated because the papers he was accused of stealing also played a role in James Stuart’s trial, and his own prosecution was repeatedly delayed. Upon Stuart’s acquittal, Borthwick was suddenly released from jail without trail, but the legal wranglings and imprisonment had left him penniless and unemployed. He spent much of the rest of his life bitterly campaigning for compensation for the miscarriage of justice against him, claiming, not unreasonably, that he had been used as a pawn in the political dispute between the Scottish Tories and Whigs.

An important factor is all of this once again brings Sir William Rae, Lord Advocate of Scotland, to the fore. As Lord Advocate, Rae was the only public prosecutor in Scotland, and therefore oversaw all Crown prosecutions in the country. This meant that he oversaw not only James Stuart’s trial, but also William Borthwick’s, but in both cases he was personally connected to the case via his involvement with the Beacon and the Sentinel. His close relationship with scandalous elements of the Tory press would be debated in parliament, but alongside this he was also accused of using his political power and privilege to interfere with the legal proceedings surrounding the two cases, and particularly of illegally extending Borthwick’s detention, while having no real intention of prosecuting him. While a parliamentary vote narrowly acquitted him of these charges, allowing him to continue in the role of Lord Advocate, Rae’s reputation was severely dented. He continued in high office until his death in 1842, but Rae was not raised to the bench, as was customary for most Lord Advocates, indicating that his involvement in the scandal had long-term consequences for his career.

The London Beacon

Finally, we turn to the title which had originally drawn the attention of our project, the London Beacon, which was founded in April 1822. It boldly declared its connection to the original Beacon, introducing itself with a fiery statement:

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‘The Beacon in London’, The [London] Beacon, vol. 1, no. 1, Sunday 21st April 1822, p. 1.

However, it lasted for only seven issues, perhaps indicating that the public had lost interest and patience with the personal attacks and antagonistic writing style that were the Beacon’s trademark. It might also speak to the geographically specific audience that the original publication had engaged with, meaning a London based successor did not have a solid base of readers to rely upon. Or it might tell us something of the wariness of investors to put money into a venture that might be both a political and a financial catastrophe for them.

While Chalmers credit’s the Beacon scandal with beginning a move away from the personal libellous attacks and irresponsible journalism that had characterised the period, there was certainly no sudden change in tone or attitude in either the Scottish or English press at this time. The shift was slow and subtle, and libel cases were frequent for many years afterwards, and even the occasional duel resulting from the fraught political and publishing environment of the time. However, it was a memorable case, drawing well-known individuals into a scandal that played out across the media, and may perhaps be seen as the starting point for the slow emergence of a more thoughtful approach to political journalism.

Whatever its impact, the Beacon, and those titles closely linked to it, provide interesting and amusing additions to the collections of newspapers being digitised by Heritage Made Digital. They remind us of the importance of detailed research into the titles we are presenting, and also the delight of coming across a hidden gem in the diverse range of material we are working with.

Further reading

 

Beth Gaskell, Curator Newspaper Digitisation

 

06 January 2016

Dennis Griffiths, newspaper historian

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Dennis Griffiths, journalist and newspaper historian, died on 24 December 2015, aged 82. He worked for over forty years in the regional and national UK press, serving as production director at the London Evening Standard, and research and development director with Express newspapers. However, he is best known for the histories of British newspapers that he produced upon his retirement, and for his dedicated efforts towards promoting appreciation of newspaper history, which included working closely on several occasions with the British Library.

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Dennis Griffiths (the facsimile colour picture of the Moon landing was a famous coup by which he enabled the Evening Standard to scoop the rest of Fleet Street)

If you go behind the scenes at the British Library and see the desks of the Newsroom reference staff, you will see that each one features a copy of Dennis Griffiths' The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422-1992 (1992). This essential reference guide is used constantly by archivists, librarians and academics, with its wide-ranging biographies of journalists, editors and owners, its authoritative entries on individual newspapers, and its essays on aspects of newspaper history and the work of newspaper-related organisations.

His best-known work, however, is Plant Here the Standard (1996), a definitive and much-praised history of the Evening Standard. His other works included Fleet Street: Five Hundred Years of the Press (2006), an exhaustive history of the newspaper press in London, published by the British Library, and most recently Blum & Taff: A Tale of Two Editors (2013), his story of the newspaper editors R.D. Blumenfeld and H.A. Gwynne, produced by his own Coranto Press.

His Fleet Street book was produced to accompany the British Library's 2006 exhibition on newspaper history, The Front Page, marking the centenary of the Newspaper Publishers Association. He served as a lead curator for the exhibition and made use our offices at the former British Library Newspapers building in Colindale. He was a member of the Library's Consultative Group on Newspapers in the 1990s, and made a generous donation of several items from his private reference collection of works on the history of journalism and the press for the then Newspaper Library Reading Room reference collection, a number of which remain on open access in the Newsroom at the British Library's St Pancras building. He also carried out a feasibility study into the Heritage Lottery Fund  bid for what would become the Newsplan 2000 project to microfilm endangered newspapers in libraries across the UK.

Frontpage

The newspaper-style background guide to the British Library's 2006 exhibition The Front Page

Between 1999 to 2002 Griffiths served as Chairman of the London Press Club, which operates as a society for journalists and through which he did much to promote newspaper history, including helping to organise the unveiling by the Prince of Wales of a plaque to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first British regular daily newspaper (The Daily Courant). 

Newspapers history has been served greatly by Dennis Griffiths' dedicated and scrupulous research and commitment to public understanding. We here in the British Library's news collection lament his passing and are grateful for all the help that he provided for so many years.

Tributes have been paid to Dennis Griffiths by the Evening Standard, Roy Greenslade at The Guardian, The Independent, the Telegraph, the Society of Editors, and the London Press Club. The greatest tribute will come from students for many years hence who will be able to rely on his research and his reference works.

27 February 2015

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 37

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Here's the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our now monthly round-up of news about news. So here are the highlights from February 2015. It's been a full month, what with one thing and another - Peter Oborne quitting the Telegraph, NBC's Brian Williams exposed, the Future of the BBC report, 10 million digitised newspaper pages, plunging circulations, and 64 ways t0 make a news homepage. Plus newspapers as poetry. Read on...

Circulations

The UK's biggest newspapers are all dying: Graphic of the month from Dadaviz appears to say it all. As Roy Greenslade noted at The Guardian, regional newspaper titles are also suffering yet more substantial sales declines.

How the New York Times works: Terrific long article by Reeves Wiedeman at Popular Mechanics, with great illustrations, on how the New York Times gets published. Essential reading.

Why I have resigned from the Telegraph: Political commentator Peter Oborne quit the Daily Telegraph with this incendiary post from OpenDemocracy, in which he accuses the paper's owners, the Barclay Brothers, of suppressing reports about the HSBC scandal.

The Telegraph's promise to our readers: After Peter Oborne's explosive denunication of his former employers, the Telegraph came up with this much-commented-upon statement of principles.

Snapchat stories: Nieman Lab looks at how six news organisations are making use of the app whose messages disappear after your've read them. But, asks Mathew Ingram at Gigaom, are media companies building another house of cards on SnapChat?

Someone is handing out hand-drawn copies of The Guardian and no one knows why: Mysterious hand-drawn copies of The Guardian from four years ago were being handed out at London Bridge station. It turned out to be the work of artist Charlotte Mann.

Green Party's Natalie Bennett gives 'excruciating' radio interview: Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, gave an agonisingly awkward radio interview for Nick Ferrari on LBC in which she struggled to answer basic questions about the party's economic policy.

NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest: Scoop of the month came from American military paper Stars and Stripes, which revealed that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was not on board a helicopter hit and forced down by fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as he had long claimed.

Brian Williams has gone, but false news is bigger business than ever: Emily Bell looks at the acceleration of untrue news stories in the web world, following the exposure of Brian Williams.

64 ways to think about a news homepage: Fantastic illustrated post from Melody Joy Kramer on different ways to present the news online - actual, or potential.

 

Cassetteboy remix the news: Irresistible mash-up of BBC news clips from the Cassetteboy remixing duo.

Jon Stewart to leave The Daily Show: Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show - an essential news source for many in America (and beyond) - is to step down.

Future of the BBC: The Culture, Media and Sport Committee's report Future of the BBC addresses the hot topic of the broadcaster's relationship with and effect upon regional newspapers, and comes up with these recommendations:

The BBC must not expect to receive others' news content without providing something in return. We are attracted by the idea of exchanges of content and information, where the BBC local websites link to the source of local material they have used, and in return the BBC allows others to use its content and embed BBC clips on their sites, where these would be of local interest, under a licence agreement. There need not be a financial transaction. However, we also see the case for the BBC outsourcing the supply of some local content on a commercial basis, where there is an ongoing requirement for such material, and it is a more cost-effective way of meeting this need. We recommend this be ensured by extending the BBC's independent production quota to cover local news.

Why is the BBC just so bad at TV news?: Meanwhile, a provocative opinion piece from Michael Church at The Independent, comparing the BBC News channel to Al Jazeera.

Fox News site embeds unedited Isis video showing brutal murder of Jordanian pilot: To show or not to show? Fox News chose to; The Guardian, reporting on this, and most other news sites, did not.

10 million newspaper pages are now fully searchable at the British Newspaper Archive: The British Newspaper Archive, which is digitising newspapers from the British Library's collection, has reached the magic milestone of 10 million digitised newspaper pages.

How about a search of only original news reporting on Google?: Hmm, interesting proposal from Jeff Jarvis, writing at Medium.

If UK newspapers wrote unhinged Twitter poetry: And finally, Journalism.co.uk offers us some poetic renditions of British newspapers, taken from their Twitter feeds, using the Poetweet site. Here's @MailOnline expressed in rondel form...

Mail_poem

15 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 31

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library. 

Islamicstate

https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-full-length

The Islamic State: Medyan Dairieh scooped the world with his inside report on the Islamic State, the fruit of three weeks spent embedded with the group in Syria and Iraq. A notable coup for Vice News, the youth-oriented news service increasingly challenging the methods of the mainstream media companies. Originally released in five parts, linked here to the full forty-minute report (with some disturbing scenes, please note).

Print is down, and now out: David Carr's piece for the New York Times on how media companies are spinning off newpapers, which could be an indication of bad things for the medium, has been much discussed all week.

The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street. For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is being kicked to the curb.

See also Columbia Journalism Review's The great newspaper spin-off and Roy Greenslade's Will newsprint-only companies really hasten the demise of newspapers? On the other hand, News Corp's Robert Thomson announced ""We remain firm believers in the power of print", adding ""Print is a concentrated, intense reading experience with unique affinity in our digitally distracted age." So who really knows?

UK press coverage of the death of Robin Williams: The issue of tabloid and social media coverage of the suicide of Robin Williams is sensitively handled by David Banks at his Media Law blog.

Turning a profit in the Netherlands: How a Dutch hyperlocal network has grown: Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Journalism Lab on the success of Dutch hyperlocal website network Dichtbij.

The relentless trauma of covering Gaza: Jared Malsin at Columbia Journalism Reviews on how even seasoned war correspondents are feeling the impacts of witnessing continual civilian casualties.

Ebola

All quiet on the ebola front in Lincolnshire: Quite possibly the news story of the year, brought to the grateful residents of the county by the Lincolnshire Echo and noted by the Media Blog - though China's news agency Xinhua's confident assurance that "There is no evidence that coffee and onions cure Ebola" surely runs it very close.

6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcom's latest report: They include the bald asertion that newspapers would not be missed by most of us: "just two percent of respondents saying a newspaper would be form of media they would miss the most", notes The Media Briefing.

Behind the BBC's interactive 'The rise of the Islamic State: Journalism.co.uk reports on the production of the BBC's innovative interactive video piece 'The rise of the Islamic State'.

160,000 newspaper pages added from 1787-1954: They continue to go full steam ahead at the British Newspaper Archive, adding 160,000 pages in July, including the London Evening Standard (for some years in the 1860s, please note), Glasgow’s Daily Record and the Surrey Comet.

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998: A great new digital service just introduced into the British Library's Newsroom is this Readex World Newspaper Archive collection of around 270 US newspapers documenting the African American experience over a century and a half.

Graphic content: How media differ on use of Gaza images: BBC Monitoring shows how news organisations in different countries have approached the use of images about Gaza.

08 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 30

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library. 

Escortedin

Passenger on plane escorted by RAF to Manchester Airport breaks bomb threat story - social scoops news media again: Anyone can be a journalist - you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Josh Hartley, a passenger on board a Qatar Aiways flight turned unwitting citizen journalist when he tweeted images of a fighter jet escorting the plane to Manchester airport after someone on board made a hoax bomb threat. The Drum reproduces his tweets and those of others and calls it "the latest example of how social media is changing the face of modern journalism". 

The bad guys hate me... but most journalists are decent people and are glad I exposed phone-hacking: Nick Davies book Hack Attack, on the phone hacking scandal, which he was instrumental in exposing, has been the hot topic of discussion this week. He doesn't mince his words in this incendiary interview for Press Gazette.

Anonymous sources are vital, but in the end we need to put a name to them: Peter Preston, commenting on Nick Davies' work, argues that the whole truth requires more than "faceless whistleblowers".

'I'm out of scoops' Daily Express veteran Chapman Pincher dies aged 100: One of the most celebrated of all British newspaper journalists and rooter-out of spies, Harry Chapman Pincher has died , aged 100. An obituaty from the newspaper where he made his name, the Daily Express.

How the smartphone ushered in a golden age of journalism: Frank Rose supplies a handy overview of the revolution in how we read the news today, for Wired.

First world war: newspaper editors bow their heads in remembrance: Roy Greenslade surveys the newspapers' solemn front page responses to the centenary of Britain entering the First World War.

Twitter-media-israeli-palestine-map

Map of connections between Twitter accounts responding to the bombing of a school in Gaza (in July)

There is only one major news site that both pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians read: and it is left-wing Israeli paper Ha’aretz, according to Quartz, also our source for this striking graphic by Gilad Lotan for Betaworks.

What Ebola on a plane means for the U.S.: The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is causing alarmist headlines across the world. You wouldn't think Ebola would be high among the concerns of the average American, but it's exciting an obsessive amount of interest there, as in this Daily Beast piece.

One year in: 10 ways The Washington Post has changed under Jeff Bezos: So how has The Washington Post changed since Amazon's Jeff Bezos bought it last year? Not as much as some might have expected, to judge by this DigiDay piece.

8 new titles, including the London Evening Standard: New newspaper titles keep being added to the roster of the British Newspaper Archive, and new titles added including the Evening Standard (for 1860, 1861, 1862, 1866, 1867 so far) and Glasgow Daily Record (1914, 1915) with more to follow. There are 8 million pages on the site; the target is 40 million (by 2020).

How the BBC approaches longform, immersive storytelling: Giles Wilson, features editor for BBC News Online, tells journalism.co.uk about the art of multimedia online journalism work.

Russia enacts 'draconian' law for bloggers and online media: The BBC reports on the new law passed in Russia which says that bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with Roskomnadzor, the mass media regulator, and conform to regulations that govern the country's larger media outlets.

Should news get personal? Emotion and objectivity in the face of suffering: We were a bit late in discovering this post from Charlie Beckett at the LSE's Journalism and Society Think Tank Polis blog, but it's a thought-provoking (and comment-provoking) piece on whether journalists should get emotionally involved in their stories (with specific reference to Channel 4 News' Jon Snow's The Children of Gaza video.

 

01 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 29

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.

 

Jon Snow has opinions, and they’re fit for TV: Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow's heartfelt account of the child victims in Gaza went viral this week. James Ball at The Guardian praises its sentiments, notes that such partiality would have probably breached Ofcom guidelines (the video was not shown on Channel 4 News itself, only its YouTube channel), and calls for more opinion to be allowed for broadcast journalists:

What then is gained by making people who have opinions withhold them? Journalists’ views shape the questions they ask, the people they interview, the images they choose to show, and more. The current system requires those judgments, and the reasons behind them, to be hidden from the audience in a pretence of impartiality.

The conflict in Gaza has generated impassionated debate among academics and media practitioners around questions of bias, partiality and media control. Among these are Michael Chanan's Behind the news at Gaza at his Putney Debater blog, Justin Schlosberg's Media wars over Gaza at Open Democracy.net, Paul Mason's Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza for Channel 4 News, Surabhi Vaya at First Post, Gaza: How bias affects coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict, and Glenn Greenwald at Intercept, Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza. Some of the fiercest debate has been around the perceived role of the BBC. Ian Burrell at The Independent surveys this in With Charter Renewal on the horizon, complaints over Gaza are dangerous for BBC.

Net roots of BuzzFeed plagiarism: BuzzFeed apologised this week that one of its writers, Benny Johnson (now sacked) had been guilty of plagiarism - and provided links to all the affected stories. Dylan Byers at POLITICO puts the blame on the Internet, presssure of production and lack of journalism training (though in the same week The Times's tennis correspondent has been suspended after plagiarising work for a tennis yearbook and a reporter at the New York Times accused of copying from Wikipedia).

MH17: how Storyful’s ‘social sleuthing’ helped verify evidence: Ben Carter at The Guardian on how News Corp-owned Storyful has been verifying content from Twitter and YouTube to get to the truth behind the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Social media has changed the way that war reporting works - and that's a good thing: Mathew Ingram at Gigaom finds that the influence of social media on war reporting has made the news more personal, more chaotic, and more democratic.

Spain likely to pass 'Google Tax': Spain has approved a bill giving newspaper publishers the right to seek payment from any site that links to their content. TechDirt is sceptical, pointing out that a similar case in Belgium led to Google simply removing the affected newspapers from the local Google news, the result of which was the newspapers ended up asking to be let back in after they suffered a drop in revenue.

Palin

sarahpalinchannel.com

Sarah Palin's low-budget TV channel is pricier than Netflix: Sarah Palin has launched an online news channel, to widespread mockery. "We'll go beyond the sound bites and the media's politically correct filter to get to the truth," she promises. 

The newsonomics of how and why: Ken Doctor at Nieman Journalism Lab asks whether explanatory or data journalism (exciting much interest in the USA) can expand to cover news on a more local level.

Welcome to Storyline: Talking of which, though we're a bit late in reporting this, Washington Post has launched its own explanatory journalism site, Storyline.

At front lines, bearing witness in real time: David Carr at New York Times ponders what the impact is on us now that we can follow wars in real time, and the impact that it is having on journalists (including Anne Barnard at the New York Times, criticised by some for not tweeting from Gaza.

Drama in Crimea: From the days when war reports would take weeks to reach their public, but had a seismic effect once they did so, Roy Greenslade reviews a new collection, Battles in the Crimea, which gathers together William H. Russell's renowned reports for The Times on the Crimean war of 1854.

In 1858, people said the telegraph was 'too fast for the truth': Also on the theme of the speed by which information reaches us, Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic uncovers an 1858 New York Times article which complained that the telegraph brought the news too quickly too it public.

Superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth, must be all telegraphic intelligence. Does it not render the popular mind too fast for the truth? Ten days bring us the mails from Europe. What need is there for the scraps of news in ten minutes? How trivial and paltry is the telegraphic column?

LaFrance points out how new technologies invariably upset our sense of time and control.

Boy, 4, has mark of devil: The Sun's bizarre choice of a front page story for 29 July 1914 ("A sinister Satan sign that mysteriously appeared on a four-year-old boy is proving a devil to explain") has generated reactions from bafflement to rage.

11 July 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 26

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news. It may be summer holiday time, but there is so much going on - George Clooney taking on Mail Online (and winning), the fallout from the phone hacking trial, BBC TV news at 60 (supposedly), the rise of hyperlocal news, and lots of digitised newspapers being added online.

Clooney

Via USA Today

Exclusive: Clooney responds to 'Daily Mail' report: This week's news lesson is that there are some things in this world that wield greater power than Mail Online, and one of those is George Clooney. The American actor reacted furiously to a story about his future mother-in-law via USA Today with a strong critique of its newsgathering ethos. An apology from Mail Online followed swiftly after, and the story was removed  from its website (it still exists, in reduced form, in the separately edited print version).

'Yes journalists have broken the law, and we should be pleased and proud that they did': An impassioned post-Coulson piece from Mick Hume for Press Gazette, on how journalists have broken the law or broken rules in the past to uncover the truth, from John Wilkes in the 18th century, to WT Stead in the 19th, to the Sunday Times investigative team in the 20th.

Of course journalists are "not above the law". But neither should they be subject to special prosecution and persecution, as has happened in the UK over the past three years with the arrest of more than 60 tabloid journalists. Strangely, few of those high-minded media types at the BBC or Channel 4 news now protesting about the jailing of journalists in Egypt have offered a peep of protest about the criminalisation of tabloid journalism in Britain – and not because anybody has taped over their mouths.

BBC TV News reaches 60-year milestone: BBC News celebrates the sixtienth anniversary of its first TV news bulletin  on 5 July 1954., with Richard Baker reading the headlines (he wouldn't be seen on screen for another three years). Strictly speaking, BBC TV news started in January 1948 with Television Newsreel, unmentioned in this anniversary piece, which is otherwise a great summary of how its news has developed into the age of 24-hour channels and the Internet.

Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton on Rebekah, Rupert, paywalls and filling the gap left by the News of the World: A great interview in Press Gazette with Victoria Newton, editor of Sun of Sunday, on thriving in a changing world:

Obviously in terms of print it’s a declining market ... A huge chunk of readers went out of the market with the News of the World. About 800,000 readers just went, which is devastating because you find it very hard to get them back – especially in the digital world.

Newspaper industry to review audience count metrics: Interesting. The Drum reports that Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newspapers is to conduct a review of audience measurement metrics for the industry to reflect the changing ways in which we now read the papers, from print and laptops to tablets and mobile. 

The New Yorker alters its online strategy: and while it does so, the magazine will be making making all the articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers. The offer starts 21 July.

Punch Historical Archive goes online: The Punch Historical Archive has gone online, with 7,900 issues (200,000 pages) from all volumes of the satirical magazine published between 1841–1992 now available via the Gale NewsVault to subscribing institutions.

Whitstabletimes

The Whitstable Times, 23 December 1950, Image © Local World Limited

240,000 extra newspaper pages from 1752-1954: Keen-eyed newspaper archive watchers will have noticed that the number of pages being added to the British Newspaper Archive is double or more per month what it used to be. 240,000 extra pages were added in June for the period 1752-1954, including the Lichfield Mercury, Selkirk’s Southern Reporter, the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald and the Illustrated Times.

Diving into newspaper archives: Chronicling America: We're big on digitised newspaper archives this week, which is great. Here's a really useful Europeana Newspapers interview with Deborah Thomas from the Library of Congress' online newspaper archive Chronicling America.

Newspapers in Europe and the Digital Agenda for Europe: Yet more on digitised newspapers: the British Library is hosting a Europeana Newspapers workshop 29-30 September, which will be in  two parts: What is the value of newspapers? and Barriers to improving access to digitised newspapers.

The state of hyperlocal community news in the UK: Two AHRC-funded projects at the universities of Cardiff, Birmingham City and Westminster have combined to produce this clear, useful and timely report into the state of hyperlocal news (including asking such pertinent questions as How local is hyperlocal?).

Press freedom is being frustrated as privacy becomes new libel: Thought-provoking piece in The Standard from Roy Greenslade on the threats to journalism he sees in the European Court of Justice's 'right to be forgotten' ruling and the UK's Data Protection Act:

Privacy has become the new libel, and the loser in the long run will be the people who misguidedly think of “the media” as some kind of homogeneous evil institution. In fact, it is there for them, not against them.

A $52 million loss, but a good year for The Guardian: Columbia Journalism Review looks admiringly at how The Guardian's ownership by the Scott Trust has enabled it to paper to experiment and expand digitally across the globe. On the same theme, Gideon Spanier at The Independent interviews Andrew Millar, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group in a post strikingly titled The death of the newspaper has been exaggerated (which is not the same thing as the print newspaper, please note). Having an £843M investment fund certainly helps.

Sir Ray Tindle 'totally convinced' of almost complete return to 'full viability' for local press: More from the newspaper optimism corner. Ray Tindle of publishing group Tindle Newspapers sees the turning of the corner for the local press.

Why you can no longer expect that the news will find you: Tom Krazit at Gigaom warns us on how corporations such as Facebook and Google control the flow of news they think we want to see. Talking of which, All Tech Considered looks at searching for news stories on the World Cup and discovers that in Google Newsroom, Brazil defeat is not a headline.

Beacon Reader's crowdfunding platform now lets supporters fund topics as well as journalists: There are crowdfunded journalism startups that let you fund specific journalists; now how about funding individual topics you'd like to see covered? Mathew Ingram at Gigaom looks at one example, Beacon Reader.

Rolf Harris sentencing made Saturday a good day to bury bad news about the jailing of a national newspaper editor: How Rolf helped bury Andy, with Press Gazette asking why.

 

02 July 2014

Why is this lying bastard lying to me?

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Jeremy Paxman, who recently hosted the BBC's Newsnight for the last time, has cited the words attributed to Times foreign correspondent Louis Heren that make up the title of this post as inspiration for his method as an interviewer. It says a great deal about the news interview as it is now understood, and the function of the news producer. News may in part be about holding those in power to account, but should its starting point be the belief that its subjects are liars? How did the news interview become so inquisitorial, and will it remain so?

 Newsnight

Jeremy Paxman interviewing Michael Howard, Newsnight, tx. 13 May 1997

It is interesting that in the same week Paxman stood down, with many commentators discussing his contribution to the art of interviewing, some of the first ever filmed interviews were honoured with an inscription on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register. The Hepworth Cinema Interviews are a series of 36 filmed interviews with UK public figures (Lloyd George, Herbert Asquith, Bonar Law and others) made by film producer Cecil Hepworth in 1916. The subjects were invited to give comments on the war and what would follow after it. This was the era of silent films, so the subjects mouth their answers to the camera, with their words being reproduced through intertitles. There is no onscreen interviewer - these are just statements made to the camera. Rather than being any sort of radical development, they are interviews in the tradition of nineteenth century newspaper interviews - pronouncements from the elite, with the media serving as the willing vehicles for such pronouncements.

Lloydgeorgewords

Lloyd George's words as intertitles from the Hepworth Cinema Interviews, courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

Interviews in newspapers are generally accepted to have appeared in the USA in the 1860s and in the UK in the 1880s, where they were often viewed - often with suspicion - as an American innovation. The American journalist James Gordon Bennett is credited in some quarters with having 'invented' the newspaper interview in 1836 with his verbatim transcript of a conversation he allegedly had with Rosina Townsend, a witness in the trial of the murderer of a New York prostitute Helen Jewett, which was published in the New York Herald. Other cite the interview conducted by Horace Greeley with Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon religion, and published in the New York Daily Tribune of 20 August 1859 as being the first interview as we would now recognise it.

NYtribune

Part of Horace Greeley's interview with Brigham Young, New York Daily Tribune, 20 August 1859, p. 5, from Chronicling America

But newspaper interviews were not 'invented' - they grew out particular changes to the medium. The process of interviewing is as old as journalism itself, so one can trace it back to the 17th century at least. Journalists find the information they require often by asking someone questions, and then using the replies they receive as the substance of their report. That is interviewing, and Daniel Defoe employed it as a news reporter for his Weekly Review much as today's journalists do 400 years later. Interviewing is integral to how news is understood - see how often news readers on TV and radio ask questions of reporters, experts and other interviewees, extracting what we need to know through that dialogue.

The interview as a formal newspaper feature emerged in the mid-19th century, as newspapers turned from being vehicles for partisan standpoints to broadly factual reporting. This included the use of direct quotation. The evidence became all the more important, and what better evidence could there be than the words spoken by the subjects themselves, in answer to the questions put by trustworthy journalists? Of course, it was also part of that process by which "news gathering turned into news making", as Daniel Boorstin writes in The Image, where he labels the interview as one of his 'pseudo-events' - events artificially created in order that they may be reported. The interview is not what happened but rather what the media has caused to happen.

Lily_langtry

Interview with Lily Langtry (in which she complains about being interviewed so often), Pall Mall Gazette, 29 October 1892 p. 3. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

However, the nineteenth century newspaper interview was a far cry from the investigative and combative interviews of today. The interviews that British journalists such as William Howard Russell (The Times), George Augustus Sala (Daily Telegraph) and W.T. Stead (Pall Mall Gazette) produced were the pronouncements of the great and the celebrated who had reason to use the press for self-promotion. Stead undoubtedly helped establish the interview as a standard newspaper device by his enthusiastic adoption of the form, part of the 'New Journalism' revolution of the 1880s which placed great emphasis on the personal, through devices such as the interview. As well as his own interviews with figures such as Tsar Alexander III and Pope Leo XIII, Stead employed Hulda Friederichs as 'chief interviewer' at the Pall Mall Gazette from 1882 (women journalists were considered to have a particular aptitude for interviewing). Unfortunately interviewers are seldom named in newspapers from this period, making it difficult to trace the work of particular reporters.

Interviewing

The subjects of late nineteenth century newspaper interviews give their opinion on the experience in this piece from Pall Mall Gazette, 31 December 1890, p. 3. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Interviews in newspapers in the late 19th century tended towards celebrities from the world of entertainment. Politicians were wary of the practice, and saw little advantage in indulging requests to give interviews, when what they had to say could be heard on public platforms or read in Hansard. As A.J. Balfour says in the quote above, "this channel of communication must be rarely required by English politicians considering the great increase in platform speaking which has taken place during the last twenty years." Instead the interview became primarily the feature of journals such as the 'Illustrated Interviews' in George Newnes' Strand Magazine - light reading for those who wanted some personal insights into the lives of the famous. Interviews in newspapers were to become more searching as the new century began, particularly in America, but it would be new technologies that would help transform them.

Phonograph

The first sound interview (probably). Interview by Phonograph with Edison agent Colonel George Gouraud, as recorded by the Pall Mall Gazette, 24 July 1888, p. 1. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A startlingly early intimation of how thing could change occured in July 1888 when the UK agent for Thomas Edison's Phonograph sound recording machine was 'interviewed' by the Pall Mall Gazette, boasting of how a sound recording would provide a 'faithful report of the conversation' (intimating that not all newspaper interviews were so faithful to the words spoken). This was in all probablity the first sound interview, but although the Phonograph and later technologies such as the Dictaphone were used to record famous voices and as dictation devices in the early 1900s, it would be decades before they were adopted for news reporting.

Gouraud

Colonel Gouraud (left) being interviewed by an unidentified journalist from the Pall Mall Gazette, with the Phonograph recording the meeting, July 1888. From British Library Sound Archive collection.

Projected film appeared in 1896, but it proved a medium ill-suited to interviews. Attempts were rare and seldom successful, even after films gained sound in the late 1920s, with the few efforts from the cinema newsreels being short statements delivered in stilted fashion that offered little advance on the Hepworth interviews of 1916. What gave the news interview new life was radio, which began in the early 1920s. This gave the interview greater credibility, through the chance it gave the public to hear the subject's voice, through the live nature of radio, and because the interviewer's questions gave the sense of a process of interrogation, a driving towards the truth. BBC radio interviews of the 1920s-50s were seldom adversarial, being more in the way of civilised conversations, but the greater power had now been offered to the public to judge what was delivered to them, be it the words spoken or the ways in which those words were spoken. 

It took live television to make the news interview come into its own, a process not for delivering statements but instead a contest for the truth. 

 

Leslie Mitchell interviewing Anthony Eden for a Conservative party political broadcast, BBC tx. 16 October 1951. From University of Sheffield's Department of Journalism Studies' YouTube channel

Television's first news-related interviews were a disappointment. The BBC's Leslie Mitchell's pre-planned interview with prime minister Anthony Eden for a Conservative party election broadcast in 1951 has become notorious for its stilted obsequiousness, even if it was viewed as a technical success at the time. Mitchell asks:

Good evening. I would just like to say that, as an interviewer, and as I what I hope you will believe to be an unbiased member of the electorate, I'm most grateful to Mr Anthony Eden for inviting me to cross-question him on the present political issues ... Well now, Mr Eden, with your very considerable experience of foreign affairs, it's quite obvious that I should start by asking you something about the international situation today, or perhaps you would prefer to talk about home. Which is it to be?

Supine as this was, it did show at least an understanding of how television was ideally suited to the question-and-answer format, counterbalancing formality with informality. The first step on the road from here to Paxman came in 1955, when Robin Day brought a new forthrightness to television interviewing at ITN, two notable highlights being his sharp questioning of President Nasser in 1955 and his interview with prime minister Harold Macmillan in 1958, where what might now seem a fairly tame question asking about criticism that had been made of the foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd was seen by some as shockingly intrusive, not least because you could see Macmillan thinking about his answer before delivering it. The interview was letting the viewer be the judge, exposing what might be the truth between the lines.

The adversarial quality of the television news interview grew throughout the 60s and 70s, in tandem with the emergence of a less deferential, more determinedly democratic society. Television was becoming the forum for public debate. The medium delighted in getting the upper hand, as demonstrated by David Frost's interrogation of the fraudster Emil Savundra and the revelations that he coaxed out of Richard Nixon. The goal of the interview came to be the revelation of the truth, hoping by a process of seeking out weak points to lead the subject into revealing something they would rather not have made public. The interviewee was no longer someone who had deigned to share some selected information with us all. They were now lying bastards, and their lies had to be exposed.

Interviews on radio likewise became less polite and increasingly forensic. BBC programmes launched in late 1960s/early 70s such as The World at One, Analysis and It's Your Line (a programme hosted by Robin Day, in which the public phoned in questions to ask of the interviewee) made the interview central to a process of burrowing beneath the headlines to uncover what was really happening. The Today programme moved away from its cosy beginnings to become the programme opinion makers had to listen to and had to appear on. This was particularly on account of presenter Brian Redhead's refusal to doff his hat to anyone in power, as in his famous response  (in a 1987 interview) to  Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson accusing him of bias through being a supporter of the Labour party:

Do you think we should have a one-minute silence now in this interview, one for you to apologise for daring to suggest that you know how I vote, and secondly perhaps in memory of monetarism, which you've now discarded?

Politicians accountable to an electorate had little choice but to appear before the cameras and microphones, but as television became bolder so they responded through increasingly sophisticated media training. The art of not answering, or of turning the interview to your advantage arose. Margaret Thatcher was well trained in interviewing techniques and image management, through the guidance of former TV producer Gordon Reece, but it was the Labour government of 1997 that turned control of message into an artform (guided by another former TV producer, Peter Mandelson).

A power game arose between politicians and the news media over the communication and interpretation of the message, with the interview as the battleground. There was an increased desire on the part of the media to use the interview to extract revelations, matched by an increased determination from their subjects to reveal no more than they had been instructed to reveal. Sharp interviewers such as Paxman for Newsnight and John Humphrys for Today gained praise for their tough questioning and refusal to be hoodwinked, but the praise was sometimes more for the stance than any illumination obtained about the subject discussed. Paxman's celebrated 1997 interview with Michael Howard in which the interviewer asked the same question twelve times did little to inform its audience, for whom the point that the subject was not going to answer the question could have been made after two or three attempts.

Campbell_v_snow

Jon Snow and Alastair Campbell, Channel 4 News tx. 27 June 2003

Interviews turned into theatre, perhaps most famously when Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's Director of Communications, turned up unannounced at Channel 4 News on 27 June 2003 and was interviewed by Jon Snow on the Iraq 'dodgy dossier'. The result was a tour de force on both sides, a great interview of sorts but primarily a startling display of political passion. Politicians understandably prefer softer rides  - Margaret Thatcher's interviewer of choice was Radio 2's Jimmy Young, for example. Equally, one of the marks of a successful politician has come to be how well they can deal with the toughest interviews. It is a trial of strength, as much as anything.

Interviews on television and radio flourish on non-news programmes of course. From Face to Face to Parkinson, to Piers Morgan's Life Stories there has been a consistent focus on celebrity and the personal revelation, teased out through a bonding between interviewer and subject. Interviews continue to be a mainstay of newspapers, or their associated magazines, where some of the dangers inherent in a live interview are lost and both sides have greater control over what is said. The interviewee will have their press adviser by their side, determining what can or cannot be covered; the interviewer can fill out the verbal testimony with background impressions, barbed or otherwise. Both sides have control, though it is still a battlefield, a game of attack and defence.

Hardtalk

HARDtalk interviews, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/n13xtmdc/clips

A good example of the news interview programme of today is the BBC World series HARDtalk, first broadcast in 1997 with Tim Sebastian as the interviewer and now Stephen Sackur asking the questions, is a model of how two intelligent minds, with good preparation, can discuss issues of the day in a form that is a genuine questing for the truth. This is not news manufactured as pseudo-event - it is rational and vital extension of what is news. Nor is it a question of exposing liars (usually) - it is using the time-honoured process of question and answer to come to an understanding. 

Biden

Tweets from a Twitter interview with US Vice President Joe Biden, 26 January 2012

Where next for the news interview? HARDtalk is a good programme, but quite traditional in format. Newspaper interviews continue, but seem more about drawing out character than setting the news agenda. The online world is developing new ways in which subjects can be interviewed, which involved the general public much more, such as Twitter discussions, while BuzzFeed's interview of 29 May 2014 with Ed Miliband (the one in which he said it was a good idea not to read the newspapers) transfers the magazine-style interview with illustrations to a web format in a way that resfreshes the interview form. Al Jazeera's web/TV programme hybrid The Stream is an example of how engagement through interviews is being adapted for a multi-platform world, and television interviews can feature questions posted by social media (see, for example, Glenn Greenwald's interview for NBC on 18 May 2014). The growth of citizen journalism may make anyone into a potential interviewer, with all of the hazards as well as the advantages that suggests.

In such a world, the traditional confrontation between interviewer and interviewee begins to look like it belongs to another age, an age when current affairs television (and radio) served as the forum for public engagement with the issues of the hour. That forum is increasingly located elsewhere, and the interview will have to adapt accordingly if it is to continue to be meaningful. It may not be so combative or theatrical as it has been in the past; it will undoubtedly be more social. It will be less constrained by space (as is the case with newspapers) or time (as is the case with television and radio). Consequently it may either be freer in form or hampered by a lack of discipline. The questions demanding answers remain the same; just who will be asking them looks certain to change.

More information

  • The Hepworth Cinema Interviews are held by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - a press release on the UNESCO recognition is here, and a catalogue record for the films is here
  • Michael Cockerell's Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television (1988) is insightful and full of great anecdotes and quotations (such as the Eden-Mitchell interview quoted above)
  • On interviewing in Victorian newspapers, see Lucy Brown, Victorian News and Newspapers (1985) and Laurel Brake, Marysa Demoor (eds.), Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism (Gent/London: Academia Press, British Library, 2009)
  • The Pall Mall Gazette for the period 1865-1900 has been digitised and is available online via the British Newspaper Archive
  • On Hulda Friedrichs and other women journalists of the nineteenth century, see F. Elizabeth Grey (ed.), Women in Journalism at the Fin de Siècle: 'Making a Name for Herself' (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • On the technique of modern interviews, see Steven Clayman and John Heritage, The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • The Radio Times has a list with links of 'the greatest broadcast interviews of all time', including Campbell v Snow, Paxman v Howard, Frost v Nixon, and John Nott walking out on Robin Day

20 June 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 23

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library. 

Paxman

Jeremy Paxman's final Newsnight

Jeremy Paxman signs off from Newsnight: Jeremy Paxman, host of BBC's Newsnight, bowed with a curious programme that had Paxman and Boris Johnson on a tandem, Michael Howard finally saying 'no', Paxman feeling tempted to say (as with Peter Finch in Network) that "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more" (but saying it sweetly), a goodbye to the tune of 'I'd like to teach the world to sing', and a final refusal to read out the weather properly. Time to move on, for all parties' sake.

Broadcast news: We now have 50,000 television and radio news programmes recorded and available for instant onsite access at the British Library. Here's a guide to how to find and use them.

Why the Oxford Mail is experimenting with WhatsApp: The Whatsapp smartphone messaging app is exciting much interest jin news circles, and the Oxford Mail has made an imaginative step in using the app to pass on news to subscribers. Journalism.co.uk investigates.

News sites ally with Mozilla in ongoing quest to reinvent online commenting: Much interest in the New York Times and Washington Post working with Mozilla to develop a platform that will tackle issues like unonymous trolls who plague the comment threads of news and other sites. The Guardian's report looks at the motivation (will it be open source?) and how other news sites manage the comments they receive.

The anatomy of a robot journalist: Nicholas Diakopoulos at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism explains how automated journalism works.

Time divides, ads subtract and it's hard to sum up newpapers' future: Peter Preston at The Observer looks at the World Association of Newspapers' annual survey of trends in 70 countries, and sees a mixture of good and bad news for the medium, but asks the crucial question: "Would anyone today invent something called a newspaper'?"

Reddit's newsgathering comes of age after growing pains: Mashable looks at how Reddit has turned things round for its gathering of news since its calamitous misuse during 2013's Boston Marathon bombing, which led to accusations being made against an innocent college student.

Ed Miliband apologises for endorsing The Sun: Ed Miliband posed for a picture showing him holding a free copy of The Sun newspaper with its World Cup theme (as did the Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg), then ended up apologising for his action the next day after party members complained. The Spectator reports. Holding the media is easier than handling it...

No point in fanning the flames over the great Sun giveaway: Did you get your free copy of The Sun? I'm rather disappointed that I didn't (in a conflicted sort of way), but many of those who did turned to social media to express their disgust and to show ways in which were disposing of the paper. Grey Cardigan pours cold water on such attitudes, and dismisses the suggestions in some quarters that the paper could be fined for not publishing an imprint.

Scoop: A Glimpse Into the NYTimes CMS: Content Management Systems are cool, and they are essential to innovative online journalism. Here's a really interesting - and smartly illustrated - guide to the New York Times' Scoop CMS.

 

The TV news where you are is not the TV news where we are...: Roy Greenslade passed on this gem of a monologue from Scottish author James Robertson, one of a series of 365-word witty thought pieces, which offers an astute lesson how one person's news is not always another person's news (but is this in the mind of the producer or the consumer?) You can read the text of 'The News Where You Are' here.

15 Crazy Facts About BuzzFeed That Will Totally Blow Your Mind: A Buzzfeed-style guide to Buzzfeed from the New York Times magazine e.g. "Listicles with 42 items are viewed the most (104 posts for 44,582,700 views), while 4-item lists are viewed the least (4,635 posts for 75,452 shares)."

A paper boat navigating a digital sea: More from NYT, this time Margaret Sullivan, pondering (as every commentator has) on what sort of digital future the title has "when the business model — and the DNA of the newsroom — is so tied to the printed newspaper".

National newspapers, local newspapers and cases of breach of promise: An interesting and useful post on the British Newspaper Archive blog by Denise Bates, on how historical regional newspapers often have more essential detail for the historian than do the nationals.

Jeremy Hunt reaffirms his faith in local TV despite low viewing ratings: The ratings for the local TV stations such as London Live are terrible so far, but Jeremy Hunt, who came up with the idea, still holds out hope. "If New York can manage six local TV stations the idea that London cannot sustain one is bonkers, despite the desire of competitors to rubbish it."

Should the BBC unpublish any of its online content?: Now here's food for thought. David Jordan, the BBC's Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, considers the implications of the European Union Court of Justice's ruling that Google must remove some search results on individuals if they can be proven to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant."

Today, the BBC is publishing Editorial Policy Guidance about when we remove or amend BBC online content. Essentially, this says that material on the BBC website which is not available for a limited time period will become part of a permanently accessible archive that we are reluctant to remove or change and that we will only do so in exceptional circumstances. We are also reluctant to remove or alter programmes available on BBC iPlayer during the catch-up period.

Man bites dog: What joy there must have been at the South Wales Argus when they were genuinely able to run with the most legendary of news headlines.

Manbitesbog

Via Press Gazette

23 May 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 19

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.   

Chart-5-more-getting-news-from-internet

One of DigiDay's five chart's illustrating the New York Times' digital challenges

The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age: The New York Times continues to dominate discussion about the news media, for the sacking of its female executive editor, and for its leaked report into its digital shortcomings. The title of this Nieman Journalism Lab investigation into the document's contents may be a touch hyperbolic, but it does reflect the fascination and excitement that the document has generated, with lessons for all those involved in news publication (on digital publishing generally).

The New York Times’ digital challenges, in 5 charts: It's a long document, so for those who don't have the time (or who find reading so much detail on a screen hard on the eyes...) DigiDay has produces five illuminating charts extracted from the report's data that tell the story of the NYT's digital struggles.

Le Monde and New York Times turn on their female editors: Peter Preston in the Observer looks behind the sacking of Jill Abramson at the New York Times and the ousting of Natalie Nougayrède at Le Monde through a staff revolt and sees it all as part of the brutal and sometimes clumsy weilding of power. Meanwhile, in her Guardian piece Life and death as a female editor Amanda Wilson (formerly editor of the Sydney Morning Herald) looks at the perils of editing while female.

"I thought of Hakim as a friend. Then he shot me": An unbeatable title for an article which is as powerful a read as you will find anywhere. Anthony Loyd, a hugely respected reporter with The Times, describes how he was kidnapped by Syrian rebels lead by someone that he had previously befriended and who had him severaly beaten and then personally shot him in the ankles to cripple him. Loyd was eventually freed following intervention by the Islamic Front. The Times piece is behind a paywall, but there is a BBC News interview with him that provides the main details.

8 million newspaper pages are now fully searchable: The British Newspaper Archive has hit the magic number of eight million historical newspaper pages digitised and available online. 

Local heroes: The British Newspaper Archive is largely made of the regional newspapers of times past. Press Gazette reports on the regional press of today and the winners of the Regional Press Awards 2013 (with a poweful set of front pages and prize-winning photographs).

Time to look afresh at the role of the BBC: The BBC's influence on regional news is a never-ending topic of debate. The Yorkshire Post has published the full text of a speech given to the Newspaper Society by Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press (and a former BBC high-flier) that calls for a new relationship between the BBC and regional publishers.

The BBC is one of the country’s most important cultural institutions and the relationship it has with us as a nation is truly astounding. But it’s not the BBC which has a direct relationship with people in Pocklington, Peterborough or Portsmouth. It’s us – the local media operators.

'BBC News should learn lessons from Buzzfeed in digital strategy': Of course it's charter renewal time, so everyone has advice for the BBC. Someone they might well listen to (given that he is being tipped as a possible BBC Chairman) is Sir Howard Stringer, who has produced a report on the future of BBC News. Comparing BBC News to the rapid rise of Buzzfeed, he argues "It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the BBC is punching well below its weight in the digital world." The report was commissioned by BBC Head of News James Harding, and readers of this blog will know that Harding himself champion Buzzfeed and its ilk in his WT Stead lecture given at the British Library in January.

BBC World News channel in 30m American homes: Meanwhile the BBC news channel you don't see unless you are outside the UK is doing rather well. Ariel report on the success of the advertising-supported 24-hour news channel BBC World in America, where it now reaches 30 million homes, up from six million two years ago.

What data journalists need to differently: Don't just rely on the same old sources, advises Liliana Bounegru in this really interesting piece on the rise of data journalism for Harvard Business Review.

How algorithms decide the news for you: Think you are finding the news for yourself on that phone of yours? Think again. Jihii Jolly at Columbia Journalism Review explains how social media and reading apps bring us the news depending on who we are and where we are.

These type of algorithms create a news literacy issue because if readers don’t know they are influencing content, they cannot make critical decisions about what they choose to read. 

Grasswire founder Austen Allred is trying to build a Wikipedia-style platform for real-time news: Mathew Ingram's pieces on new media for Gigaom tend to give you a lot of plain detail in their titles alone. Here he gives the background the crowdsourced breaking-news service Grasswire, a sort of Wikipedia for breaking news (or that's where its ambitions may take it).

What newsroom spaces tell us about the future of digital journalism: An interesting twist of digital journalism debates from PBS's Mediashift, reporting on a Tow Center for Digital Journalism study. What implications does physical space hold for the digital future of news?

Barbara Walters retires after five decades: American broadcaster Barbara Walters, famed for her high-profile interviews for ABC, has retired after 52 years in the business.

Globalised news looks around the world – but too little at the north: Peter Preston again, noting that for too many London-based journalists the digital world is more real than the actual ones in the north of England and Scotland, which are treated as remote places.

Fleet Street's last religious affairs position axed as Ruth Gledhill leaves Times after 27 years: End of an era, sort of, but as Ruth Gledhill interestingly says to Press Gazette:

When I started the job I was asked to take religion out of the sanctuary, and into the general news arena. And in a way you could say it’s a sign of my success that now my job has been made redundant because it’s so much a part of general news now.

The concept of news: And finally, this blog provides you with some thoughts about what news is, inspired by debate that took place at a Newsreel Netowrk meeting in Copenhagen. "How far does the idea of news stretch? Does it include any kind of information delivered to an audience at a particular time, or does it lie specifically in those media which identify themselves as being carriers of news, such as newspapers?". We will continue to discuss.