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March 23 2010

15:33

From the frontline: how ‘true’ is the media’s picture of Afghanistan?

Journalists gathered to discuss the British media’s coverage of the war in Afghanistan at last week’s video conference at Coventry University.

The ‘Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth?’ event, chaired by the editor of the BBC College of Journalism, Kevin Marsh, brought journalists such as Vaughan Smith and Stuart Ramsay together with academics Richard Keeble and Tim Luckhurst, and the Ministry of Defence’s head of Operational Communication, Brigadier Mark van der Lande.

Vaughan Smith offered what was perhaps the most troubling thought: “Sports journalist knows more about sports than war correspondents know about war, and that is a cultural problem”.

Vaughan, a news pioneer and independent video journalist who has in the past managed to disguise and bluff his way into an active duty unit to shoot uncontrolled footage of the Gulf war, also held up two photographs as part of his speech; one of Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud, and another of an injured civilian in Nagasaki.

He used these photographs as evidence to explain that you never see enough of the second type, showing the injured and other devastating side effects. Instead, the audience is shown ‘Bang Bang’ images; “a fundamental problem,” he said.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, had a mixed response to the event’s theme: “I think it’s a pointless question, we are embedding some truth, and the truth is very complex. War through a keyhole is what war correspondents are giving you.”

Nonetheless, he doesn’t think that embedding is bad practice, when taken as a whole: “If you put all these keyholes together, you start to form a bigger picture and understand what is going on.”

“However, it is a problem that paradoxically, with advances in technology and globalisation, we can do a lot more. Yet, we are reporting less than we used to,” he said.

Brigadier Mark van der Lande argued that they don’t instantly show casualty because they have a duty to inform next of kin first. “We are not hiding things for the cost of war; we are looking out for individuals,” he said.

It is difficult for the MoD, he said, because the ‘Bang Bang’ is what the audience and the media in general is interested in.  Most of the time the more important things that the military look into aren’t released simply because “it is of less interest to the media and the audience,” he argued.

The media do, to a certain extent, manufacture stories, agreed Tim Luckhurst, a Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent, but it is not because of dishonesty, it’s because “we simply cannot stay away from the impact kinetic stories get; embedded journalism serves the needs of the state.

“We do not see humanitarianism or suffering children because it bears no relevance to the needs of the states.”

“Views of the military and government do not comply with journalists’ views, and today’s conference has revealed the extent of that fact.”

Robert Williams is a student at Coventry University.

Read more here, over at Daniel Bennett’s blog, including detail of the video contribution from Channel 4 News’ Alex Thomson.


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January 21 2010

11:14

Radio 4 Today: ‘Crisis in the economics of media industry’

Radio 4 Today follows up on the New York Times plans to charge for online news content. In this segment Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent and a former editor of the Scotsman, shares his view. “The industry has been waiting for it [charging] to happen,” he says. Newspapers made a “spectacular mistake” in making it free in the first place and “they need to find a new way of paying for that expensive journalism.”

Full clip at this link…

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January 06 2010

10:58

Tim Luckhurst: Journalism academics must learn from multimedia reporters

Professor of journalism at the University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, has raised the issue of the gulf between journalism study and practice in a recent review of the ‘The Future of Newspapers,’ a collection of academic essays.

In his Times Higher Education piece, Luckhurst praises the book’s editor Bob Franklin – who led a journalism education conference on the subject in Cardiff in September 2008 – for  making the academic study of journalism relevant to journalists and for dealing with the internet. But, Luckhurst argues, it also reveals “how far the academy must travel before its endeavours can make a significant impact on the industry it toils to describe”.

“[J]ournalism academics must learn from the new generation of multimedia reporters,” he writes.

Relevance in journalism demands speed. Published online by their authors as soon as they were written, complete with links and summaries of no more than 800 words, several of these essays might have been discussed in newsrooms. Instead journalists read Media Guardian and academics are exiled from the debates that will define the future.

To achieve impact in the online era, the study of journalism must embrace new working practices, just as it counsels journalists to change the habits of their lifetimes.

Full review at this link…

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