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What a Journalist Isn't

I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - ...

24 January 2019

Embargo Farrago

Here's the story. Simon Mayo, the very unhappy Radio 2 presenter who chose to leave the station after being forced to work in a format which didn't work for him or his equally uncomfortable co-host, found a new gig in commercial radio.

This is part of a trend. Chris Moyles, Eddie Mair, Chris Evans and now Simon have all handed in the pass at the Beeb to take up high profile roles in a newly-confident UK commercial radio sector.

Making the move is an art in itself. The objective is to get as much coverage as possible from other media normally too far up their own importance to acknowledge the massive audiences these and other radio giants draw every day.

Simon started teasing his move on social media, letting first Zoe Ball and then Chris Evans have their moments in the sun as their new shows started .. playfully announcing an announcement, driving fans and radio anoraks to distraction as he kept them waiting.

Meanwhile Bauer had their plans well advanced for Scala Radio. These things don't happen overnight. Simon's announcement was the icing on the cake, an announcement timed for Tuesday 22nd January. But across the country, newsdesks were told in advance with an embargoed press release.

The BBC's Media Correspondent Amol Rajan broke that embargo, and tweeted the news a day early.
And that, I believe, is a problem. Here's why.

17 September 2018

Your First Day in Training

It's start of term today for dozens if not hundreds of wannabe journos as they arrive at universities across the UK to embark on a course.

It feels odd, because it's the first time in a quarter of a century I've not had to give a speech to an incoming class of trainees.

For most of that time, for very good reasons, my class started in late January or early February.

My priority was always unashamedly employment, job outcomes and placement opportunities. Going on placement in October and November opened many, many more doors to my candidates than is possible in April or May, a time of year which suits the mindset of traditional University types.

But whether class starts in January or September, the gist of my opening remarks was much the same. So I'll take the opportunity to make them anyway, just this time to a virtual audience. I hope you find at least some of them to be of value.

29 August 2018

We're Not All Posh

You've heard the expression "repeat until true".

Especially so in the age of memes, falsehoods can be repeated over and over until at least a substantial proportion of the audience believe them to be facts.

"Carrots help you see in the dark" originates in Second World War propaganda designed to shield the development of radar, whilst simultaneously boosting the mythic status of the RAF and helpfully creating demand for surplus veg.

"Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen waiting for science to cure cancer" is another. He isn't.

Neither is "Channel Four looking for a new national headquarters". The meek way regional journos have swallowed the spin on that channel's petulant refusal to give up its London base is shameful.

But the lie I really want to nail is the suggestion that all journos are posh. We're not. And the meme created round the suggestion we are is actually harmful for all of us who've devoted a career to helping diverse candidates into the profession. Here's why.

15 July 2018

Keeping It Real - The Case for Immersive Newsroom Teaching

One of the major challenges in news training is making the student experience as realistic as possible. It’s an objective that sits uncomfortably with the norms of university life, because it requires total immersion in the newsgathering environment over a period of time.

A key feature of the postgrad course I ran for two decades at Leeds Trinity University was the “month on air” – 28 consecutive days of radio news for BCB 106.6 FM, with trainees providing bulletins from 0800-1800 weekdays and 0800-1200 at weekends. They also did a fortnight of live TV programming, originally with cable TV, more recently online.  
Compare that with the sector norm, which is quite often a single newsday at the end of a module, maybe two consecutive days if the institution has taken on board guidance from the BJTC.
I’ve seen course leaders literally wringing their hands at the prospect of finding just fifteen days a year in the timetable for all newsdays … “that’s not how universities work!”. 

Well, it should be. This post, originally commissioned by my good friend Dr Richard Thomas for the Journalism Knowledge Exchange (@JournalismKX) website, sets out why.

19 June 2018

What a Journalist Isn't

I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - but that's the problem.

The title has become devalued, muddy, imprecise because basically anyone with a keyboard and a wifi connection can call themselves a journalist. Is it any wonder the punters have become confused?

Rather than trying to define what a journalist is, it's probably more useful to start by making clear what a journalist isn't.

02 April 2018

Regional Blindness

I'm just back from a week spent in Cornwall.

It's a part of the British Isles I've never visited before. I was in the habit of heading down the M1 and turning left for France, but since the Brexit fallout means my Pound is only worth 7 Francs or so today in real money (instead of the 9 or 10 that mean decent food and accommodation is affordable) we decided to turn right instead and head for the West Country.

We had a great time, thanks for asking. The Eden Project, couple of fabulous National Trust places, and some cracking little seaside villages that give Robin Hood's Bay a run for its money. But as I explored around Bodmin, St Austell and the wonderfully-named Lostwithiel I realised this is a part of England .. my own country .. I know next to nothing about.

Why's that? Regional blindness. It's the reason why more .. much more .. network TV and radio production needs to be moved (at gunpoint if necessary) out of the comforting embrace of the M25.