15 June 2015
The UK General Election of 2015 was decided by television. Despite the ardent advocacy of some newspapers, and for all the claims being made about it being a social media election, television dominated perceptions, debates and the presentation of policies. A Panelbase survey of the UK audience said that 62% found TV coverage had been the most influential in informing them about the general election and the policies of the political parties, far more than newspapers at 25%, websites at 17% (mostly the BBC news website), radio at 14%, speaking to family and friends at 14%, and only 11% social media (primarily Facebook). 38% of the audience said they were influenced by the broadcast debates, 23% by TV news coverage and 10% by party political broadcasts.
James Graham’s The Vote, broadcast on More4 on election night 7 May 2015, with Judi Dench, Catherine Tate, Timothy West and Mark Gatiss
It is important therefore that to have an archive of what was broadcast on television over the general election period. The British Library's Broadcast News service usually takes in around 30 hours of TV news and 18 hours of radio news each day, from 22 channels. We expanded this significantly to capture every debate, party political broadcast, manifesto launch, campaign event, press conference, interview, leader profile and documentary that we could, plus the full election night broadcasts of each of the main broadcasters (including those from BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Wales and STV), as well as coverage given to the election from CNN, France 24, Al Jazeera English and RT (Russia Today). We also recorded the relevant TV dramas (Coalition, The Vote) and comedies (Ballot Monkeys, Newzoids, Have I Got News for You etc).
From RT's general election night coverage
Overall, between 26 March (the date of the first of the TV debates) and 8 May 2015, we recorded 1,775 television and radio news programmes. Not all touched on the election, but most did, and it makes for compelling evidence for how much energy and calculation went into using television as the forum for a national debate.
All of these recordings are available via the British Library's Broadcast News service, accessible at our St Pancras (London) and Boston Spa (Yorkshire) sites. We're also making available here a spreadsheet listing every programme we recorded between 26 March and 8 May. They are listed by date, medium, channel, type of programme, title, description and duration, and the data can be sorted by anyone interested to undertake some preliminary analysis or simply to see in one list which party political broadcasts were recorded.
The programmes are also listed on a new Special Collections page on the Broadcast News site, with links to all the main recordings. Please note that these general election recordings do not as yet appear on the British Library's main Explore catalogue (but will do eventually).
We would be interested to hear from any researchers using this archive. Do get in touch via email@example.com.
06 May 2015
Five years ago to this day, at 21:55, we threw on the switches for the first official television and radio news recordings for our Broadcast news service. It was, of course, the day of the General Election, and we decided to kick off our service the moment the polls closed - or five minutes beforehand, to be precise, as that it when the all-night news programmes began.
BBC1's election night broadcast, 6 May 2010
Things were simpler then. We had only just acquired the system for recording TV and radio programmes off-air, and there were a few teething troubles. So we started cautiously, and recorded just four programmes on that first day - the BBC 1, BBc Radio 4 and ITV election broadcasts, and Channel 4's Alternative Election. the following day we boldly upped the ante to record 15 programmes, adding broadcasts from the channels BBC News, World Service, Al Jazeera English and CNN.
ITV's election night broadcast, 6 May 2010
Five years on, and things have grown. For 6 May 2015 we will be recording some fifty programmes from twenty-two channels: BBc1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, BBC 4, BBC News, BBC Parliament, Al Jazeera English, RT, CNN, Bloomberg, CCTV, Sky News, France 24, talkSport, BBc Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, LBC, BBcCRadio 1, BBC London, BBC 1 Scotland and STV. We won't know until a day or two later how many programmes we've recorded, because we catch up on some unscheduled programmes after broadcast (such as the many General Election interviews and campaign events currently popping up on BBC Parliament), but it will amount to some 50 hours of TV and radio recorded for that day.
Channel 4's Alternative Election, 6 May 2010
Over the five years we have recorded some 45,700 television programmes and 12,100 radio programmes. We record mainly news programmes, though we interpret news quite broadly and include current affairs, interviews, documentaries, live broadcasts and so on. The top 10 most recorded channels are BBc 1 (6,410 programmes), BBC Radio 4 (6,144), ITV1 (5.604), BBC News (4,865), Sky News (3,457), Russia Today/RT (3,153), NHK world (2,995), CCTV [China] (2,918), BBC World Service (2,647) and Al Jazeera English (2,552).
All of the programmes are available on any Library terminal at our St Pancras and Boston Spa sites. For reasons of copyright we cannot make the programmes available online. You can find records of what we have on Broadcast News on the Explore catalogue, but for the most up-to-date records and the fullest service - including word-searchability of programme subtitles - it is best to go to the Broadcast News site, which you can find under the Sound and Moving Image services page on any Library terminal, or just look for http://videoserver.bl.uk (please note, this link only works if you are located at one of our sites and working from a British Library terminal).
And here's to the next five years of news.
22 April 2015
The UK General Election means that we have been busy with the video recorders. As well as our regular intake on newspapers and the special web archive collection being built up by the British Library and other legal deposit libraries, we have been recording many extra television programmes relating to the General Election for our Broadcast News service. In our multimedia, multiformat, mobile-driven world, television is still the medium which leads the news agenda in the UK and serves as the focal point for debate.
Here's a run-down of what we're recording, all of which is available soon after broadcast on Broadcast News, available in our Reading Rooms at St Pancras and Boston Spa.
We record selected television and radio news programmes from 22 channels on a regular basis, and so pick up on all the main news reporting on the election - from BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, ITV1, Channel 4 and Sky News, as well as the somewhat less intense election reporting from Al Jazeera English, CNN, RT, France 24 and others.
The ITV Leaders' Debate
The will-they, won't they arguments over the live debates with party leaders dominated media discussions in the run-up to the formal launch of the General Election period. There was no repeat of the three-way leader debates that so riveted the nation back in 2010, but the compromise solution for 2015 generated variety, much interest and plenty of online debate. We have had Cameron & Miliband: The Battle for No 10 (Channel 4 tx. 26/3/2015), with Jeremy Paxman grilling David Cameron and Ed Miliband and Kay Burley fielding questions from a studio audience; the ITV Leaders' Debate, with Julie Etchingham hosting a memorable seven-way debate between the leaders at their podiums (ITV tx. 2/4/2015); and the BBC Election Debate (BBC1 tx. 16/4/2015), hosted by David Dimbley, featuring the leaders of the five main opposition parties. We have also recorded Scotland Debates (STV tx. 7/4/2015) and the Leaders' Debate - Scotland (BBC1 Scotland tx. 8/4/2015), the Newsbeat Debates on TV and Radio 1, the Daily Politics Debates, and several others.
The ubiqitious Andrew Neil
Discussions and commentaries
Accompanying the news, we of course have the discussion programmes. Analysing it all have been the Daily Politics, Sunday Politics and This Week (all hosted by Andrew Neil), Election Tonight, Question Time, the Andrew Marr Show, The Agenda, Murnaghan, Newsnight, and even the Election Late Show.
The number of interviews with the party leaders seems prodigious. ITV has had its Spotlight interview series with Tom Bradbury, BBC1 had has the Leader Interviews with Evan Davies, there have been the Newsbeat Interviews on BBC TV and radio, numerous interviews on general news and current affairs programmes, and ad hoc pieces to camera being picked up by BBC Parliament.
The BBC Parliament channel has thrown open its schedules to capture many of the interviews, reactions, manifesto launches and campaign events of which we only see highlights in the main news programmes. So, for example, the manifesto launches include those of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Ulster Unionist Party, Alliance Party, SDLP, Green Party, UKIP, Democratic Unionist Party and the Christian People's Alliance, as well as the Scottish and Welsh branches of Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP, and assorted youth manifestos.
The Green Party's 'boy band' election broadcast
Party election broadcasts are a television staple, and for this election it is noticeable how stylishly made most of the broadcasts are, aiming as they are to attract not just television viewers but an online audience intent or liking or disliking the same videos on YouTube. So far we have broadcasts from the Conservative Party, Green Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Scottish National Party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and UKIP.
All party election broadcasts shown on the BBC are currently available via iPlayer.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond on Newzoids
We are also recording the many news satire programmes that are popping up: Have I Got News For You, ITV's new puppet show Newzoids, Channel 4's The Last Leg, which has a special focus on the election, and programmes created for the election period itself: Jack Dee's Election Help Desk and Charlie Brooker's Election Wipe on BBC2, Ballot Monkeys on Channel 4 with its up-to-the-minute gags, and the planned post- election programmes including Election Autopsy (with Frankie Boyle) and Rory Bremner's Election Report.
We will be producing a special collection page for the election recordings on Broadcast News, once the election is over.
27 February 2015
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...
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...
02 October 2014
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.
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.
22 August 2014
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.
James Foley, via http://www.globalpost.com
Here's some of James Foley's finest reporting for GlobalPost: American journalist James Foley was murdered in Syria in an act that has revolted the world. The American online news site for which he did most of his work, GlobalPost, has published this tribute along with examples of some of his work.
View of #Ferguson Thrust Michael Brown Shooting to National Attention: David Carr at the New York Times looks at how the story of the shooting of Michael Brown spread through Twitter to national consciousness.
BBC’s long struggle to present the facts without fear or favour: An excellent, thought-provoking historical overview of the BBC's striving to remain independent and impartial as a news provider, part of a nine-part series by Charlotte Higgins, 'The BBC Report', for The Guardian.
In depth: The 64 UK journalists arrested and/or charged following the News of the World hacking scandal: An astonishing line-up provided by Press Gazette.
Last call: Clay Shirky writes the obituary of the printed newspaper, and what it means for journalism, for Medium.
Contrary to the contrived ignorance of media reporters, the future of the daily newspaper is one of the few certainties in the current landscape: Most of them are going away, in this decade. (If you work at a paper and you don’t know what’s happened to your own circulation or revenue in the last few years, now might be a good time to ask.) We’re late enough in the process that we can even predict the likely circumstance of its demise.
Bulgarians and Romanians in the British National Press: The Migration Observatory has produced a report on how British newspaper reported Bulgarians and Romanians leading up to the lifting of temporary restrictions on the right to work in the UK in January 2014.
Over 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have completely disappears: Gawker reports with alarm that BuzzFeed has deleted many post from its site. In an interview with Slate, BuzzFeed boss Jonah Peretti explains why (they were "technically broken, not sourced to our current standards, not worth improving or saving because the content isn’t very good") and says it's because they were originally a tech company not a journalistic one, though they are a journalistic one now.
The weird new future of news: New York-based discussion site The Awl reports that NowThisNews is looking to place its fleeting news reports to the apps of others. It reproduces some alarming examples of what a 90-second news briefing from NowThis News on Snapchat, the messaging service which deletes messages once they have been read, looks like. On the same subject, the Wall Street Journal reports News and ads to debut on Snapchat:
The product would let users read daily editions of publications as well as watch video clips of TV shows or movies by holding down a finger on the screen, like they do with photos and other messages on the app before disappearing.
Mathew Ingram at Gigaom reviews this trend towards publishing on apps rather than a brand's own website, arguing that News needs to go where the people are, not the other way around.
The future of mobile apps for news: More on the mobile future for news in this useful summary of the technical issues by Frederic Filloux at Monday Note.
Teenagers and the news game: The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones looks at how teenagers get their news and the challenge this presents for journalists.
Using Oculus Rift to build immersive news experiences: Wired reports on Nonny de la Peña from USC School of Cinematic Arts, who is creating immersive journalism experience using gaming platforms and virtual reality.
The Illustrated First World War: Illustrated London News Ltd has launched a handsomely-designed website featuring 1914-1918 archive material from the Illustrated London News, with other titles in its collection (such as The Graphic, The Sketch and The Sphere) in due course - all free, thanks to a £96K Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
The Guardian view of the Cliff Richard search: The controversial reporting by the BBC of a search of Cliff Richard's house is viewed by The Guardian as something that could could reopen issues about the police and the press that troubled Lord Justice Leveson.
Google removes 12 BBC News links in 'right to be forgotten: Fascinatingly this includes a 2009 item on the merits of hummus.
25 July 2014
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.
Map showing evidence of Buk surface-to-air missile position in Donetsk region of Ukraine, with geo-located links, created by Storyful
How social sleuthing uncovered evidence of surface-to-air missile systems in eastern Ukraine: News about news has been dominated this week by the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. This powerful blog post from the NewsCorp-owned verification service Storyful shows how effective it has been at analysing information from social networks, YouTube and other sources to get at the truth behind the claims and counter-claims.
There have been a number of other pieces this week which focus on the verification of information, particularly images and videos, with a focus on Ukraine. The title of Julie Posetti's piece for PBS Mediashift, When Good People Share Bad Things: The Basics of Social Media Verification picks up on the worry people have about sharing false information and explains the verifcation process, which involves the source of a piece of content, and the content itself. Jihii Jolly at Columbia Journalism Review offers help on How to check if that viral video is true, steessing that the rise in user-generated contents makes it imperative for journalists to question before using. Kevin Loker at American Press Institute gives us How to find out if a photo your friend posted online is fake, and at Gigaom Mathew Ingram says Want to help fact-check breaking news like the Malaysian airplane disaster? Here's how and where you can do it, providing a handy a guide to verification communities and tools.
Graphic content: when photographs of carnage are too upsetting to publish: Roger Tooth, The Guardian's Head of Photography, explains the decision-making process behind selection or otherwise of news images from stories such as Gaza and MH17. (Warning: graphic content).
RT “Covers” the Shooting Down of MH17: Adam Holland at The Interpreter (an online journal presented translated material from the Russian press and blogosphere) offers a scathing analysis of how RT, aka Russia Today, the state-owned TV channel, reacted to the downing of MH17.
Russia Today London correspondent resigns in protest at 'disrespect for facts' over Malaysian plane crash: Press Gazette piece on Sarah Firth who declared that RT's coverage of the air crash was the last straw. "[I]t’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me." she says. RT commented:
Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth. We believe that truth is what our reporters see on the ground, with their own eyes, and not what’s printed in the morning London newspaper. In our coverage, RT, unlike the rest of the media, did not draw conclusions before the official investigation has even begun. We show all sides of the story, even if everyone else has already decided which side is to blame.
From outrage to recrimination: How the media covered the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: Chris Boffey at The Drum looks at how the British news media reacted to the immediate news of the MH17 crash.
MH17, my error of judgment: Sky News' Colin Brazier has been roundly condemned for a live news broadcast, lunchimte July 20th, when he briefly looked through the content of the luggage of one of the victims of MH17. Here he apologies via The Guardian in a sincere and interesting piece of how a journalist faces up to horror, while live on air.
South Sudan humanitarian crisis: The poor media coverage highlights the flaws in news gathering: Perhaps the most powerful piece about news production this week has come from Ian Burrell at The Independent, looking at how the absence of media coverage in South Sudan has had a tragic impact on people's lives:
The tragedy of South Sudan highlights a number of basic flaws in modern news. Despite the breadth of online information, the major news providers still play an essential role in bringing humanitarian stories to the public’s attention. It is the misfortune of the starving and homeless in South Sudan that their agony coincides with the appalling turmoil in Syria, Gaza and Ukraine.
Minus proper archives, news outlets risk losing years of backstories forever: Another essential read, this time from Columbia Journalism Review, looking at the possibility and dangers of losing news archives in the digital area.
The 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood’s extraordinary career: The career of The Sun and The News of the World's notorious entrapment specialist, Mazeer Mahmood - the 'fake Sheikh' - may have come to an end after the collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos. Ian Burrell tells his story.
High value, low income: report reveals trends in hyperlocal publishing: A handy summary from Journalism.co.uk of the key points from the recent academic report The State of Hyperlocal Community News in the UK.
Readers, viewers, browsers: it's time to count them all and unify the ratings: Peter Preston at The Observer calls for the unification of audience research.
Ashley Highfield - interview: InPublishing interviews Ashley Highfield, CEO of regional newspaper publisher Johnson Press, on the digital revolution he is bringing about.
I don’t want cannabilisation of what is our biggest source of revenue (print). The great thing about the regional press is it’s not like the Guardian where people stop buying print and consume online. Actually we have pretty much created a new audience online who never bought us in print.
Newspapers begin to challenge broadcasters in video storytelling: Douglas Grant at World News Publishing Focus explains how newspapers are marking their mark with online video.
Reddit Live is now official, lets anyone create their own breaking news live blog: This could could be a major step in the growth of alternative news publishing. The hugely popular social networking and news service Reddit has launched Reddit Live, which lets anyone create their own breaking news service (including tweets, videos etc).
The Sun says farewell to Wapping with special souvenir staff issue: The staff of The Sun left Wapping on 18 July, as they set up home in London Bridge. Roy Greenslade looks at the souvenir issue produced for staff to mark the momentous occasion.
18 July 2014
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.
Hyperlocal map: Talk About Local has produced a 'heat map' of the hyperlocal sites around the UK, based on data from the Openly Local database. Delve in and see how the local news made locally revolution has spread.
Report around the clock: Fascinating piece by Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Journalism Lab on how news organisations use time zones to their advantage to operate a 24/7 service, including Bild, The Guardian and Wall Street Journal.
Hey, Publishers: Stop fooling us, and yourselves: David Boardman says too many newspaper companies says too many newspapers executives (in the US) are deluded about the financial future and maybe ought to stop printing newspapers altogether.
Robots are invading the news business, and it’s great for journalists: So here's a piece of journalism for you:
Alcoa Inc. (AA) on Tuesday reported a second-quarter profit of $138 million, reversing a year-ago loss, and the results beat analysts' expectation. The company reported strong results in its engineered-products business, which makes parts for industrial customers, while looking to cut costs in its aluminum-smelting segment.
It was produced by a robot (a piece of software anywhere) which is generating business news stories for AP. Kevin Roose at New York magazine reckons this bright new future will give human journalists more time to concentrate on less humdrum stories.
The Daily Mail's 'historic 1914 edition' is not quite as billed...: The Daily Mail produced a First World War facsimile issue. Roy Greenslade takes in to task for not being up front about the fact that the 'paper' has been set like a modern newspaper.
Latest ABCs show newspaper market decline running at 8% a year: More from Greenslade, reporting on the latest ABC figures for newspapers, which show a general market decline, though some times (The Times, The Guardian) and beginning to buck the trend.
About i100: First there was The Independent, then there was i, now we have i100, a Buzzfeed-style news site launched this week by ESI Media with a list of numbered stories (called The List), the top one being the most popular (there's a voting system with each story having an 'upvote' button). The top 5 for today are all on the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine.
BBC News to cut a further 415 jobs: BBC News currently employs 8,400 people. 415 jobs are to be cut as part of cost-saving measures. 195 new jobs will be created. Net loss = 220.
The tale of the women who turned vigilante: the BBC News Magazine has been running a series of entertaining pieces by Jeremy Clay on bizarre stories culled from nineteenth-century newspapers. Entitled 'Victorian Strangeness', this example from the series retells an incident from 1878, the moral of which is don't mess with the women of the Forest of Dean.
British blogger Brown Moses launches new site to train others in crowdsourced reporting: Self-taught investigative journalist Brown Moses (aka Elliott Higgins) is looking to pass on his skills to others through a new site called Bellingcat. The admiring Mathew Ingram at Gigaom tells the story.
If newspapers are dying, no one's told the Farnham Herald: Peter Preston agrees with local newspaper publisher Sir Ray Tindle's optimism that print's not dead, yet.
Journalism that matters: Jon Slattery at InPublishing writes in praises of the many examples of serious journalism practised in the UK that make a real difference to the communities that they serve.
The reading experience: This blog writes admiringly of the excellent Reading Experience Database, which reproduces written testimony of reading 1450-1945, including newspapers, and asks what sort of a newspaper history we have if it doesn't consider the readers.
11 July 2014
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- 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
The Newsroom blog recent posts
- Encountering the news
- Breaking news on Breaking the News
- The US 2020 election broadcast archive
- Ten years of Broadcast News
- Moving from a newspaper collection to a news collection
- Help us make the news
- Archiving the general election on TV
- Trump on TV
- Brexit - the broadcast archive
- St. Pancras Intelligencer no. 39