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February 24 2010

12:45

Journalism often hamstrung by petty obstacles, says Sky News’ Mike Mcarthy

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week is running from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry will be at Leeds Trinity to talk about the latest trends in the news media, including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; BBC news director Helen Boaden, Sky News reporter Mike McCarthy and ITN political correspondent Chris Ship.

Journalists face a never-ending series of obstacles – and the most disturbing of all is secrecy, according to Sky News journalist Mike McCarthy.

McCarthy, who is Northern Bureau chief for Sky, told students at Leeds Trinity University College: “It is not necessarily the cloak and dagger secrecy of big government, it is often petty obstruction.”

He was speaking at the launch of the university’s Journalism Week, along with digital media expert Bill Thompson and YTV presenter Duncan Wood.

McCarthy spoke about how the media had challenged attempts by magistrates in Bradford to impose a Section 39 order preventing journalists naming nine-year-old stabbing victim Jack Taylor.

A challenge from a reporter covering the case led to the order being lifted and McCarthy said: “It is not easy to get on your feet and challenge the authority of the court . . . but if this had gone through, then what is to stop those magistrates and that solicitor in the future thinking that they can rubber-stamp other banning orders which they do not have the power to impose?”

He also talked about the severe restrictions imposed on reporters covering the inquest into the death of Greater Manchester police officer Ian Terry, with journalists unable to name officers giving evidence and forced to sit behind a huge screen, unable to see any of the proceedings.

Obstacles of a different kind were discussed by digital media expert Bill Thompson, who outlined the massive challenges facing journalists at a time of social and cultural revolution.

He said journalism was perhaps no longer about getting information – because so much was freely available over the internet.

“Perhaps what we do now is to put information in context and make sense of it. The future role of journalism is up for grabs. We are living through a revolution but we are causing it because we are doing the things that are bringing change about,” he told students.

The final speaker on Journalism Week’s opening day was YTV presenter Duncan Wood, who talked about his career working in news and sport and the challenges of working as a GMTV reporter, getting up at 3.30am and traveling all over the North of England. He also spoke about the challenges of interviewing people who really did not want to talk, confessing that his most difficult experience was interviewing Sylvester Stallone’s mother, Jackie, sat on her bed.

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12:44

Gavin MacFadyen: ‘maniacs’ make good investigative reporters

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week is running from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry will be at Leeds Trinity to talk about the latest trends in the news media, including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; BBC news director Helen Boaden, Sky News reporter Mike McCarthy and ITN political correspondent Chris Ship.

Addressing journalism students from Leeds Trinity University College as part of its annual Journalism Week, veteran investigative journalist Gavin MacFadyen said he is optimistic about the future of the specialist field, despite the “bad environment” that surrounds the industry in the UK.

The American, who is the director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and a Visiting Professor at City University London, told students about his experiences as an investigative reporter and shared anecdotes about some of the world’s most famous exposés.

MacFadyen outlined the bleak conditions that reporters face when attempting projects that are time intensive and require sufficient financial backing, and criticised the “risk averse” culture of media organisations in the UK, who refuse to fund lengthy inquiries that are costly and could end up in court.

“This kind of journalism is very rarely practised in Britain,” he said. “The media don’t want to spend the money – they don’t want to pay for it. It’s time-intensive but there’s no way around that.”

But despite the issues, he said good examples of investigative journalism remained, highlighting the MPs’ expenses scandal and exposure of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme as good examples.

The former war correspondent – who has worked on flagship programmes such as Panorama, World in Action and Dispatches – refuted concerns investigative journalism couldn’t be profitable, citing the example of French magazine Le Canard Enchaine

He described it as the French equivalent of Private Eye and explained it was “profitable because the information is critical to your life.”

And he advised students to get involved in investigative reporting, encouraging them to look for opportunities overseas where such journalism receives better funding and resources.

MacFadyen added that there was a “salvation” in the form of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a not-for-profit organisation that he helped set up.

When asked what skills and qualities were needed in aspiring reporters, he said: “It’s not so much [about] skills, its mania. If you’re a maniac and really suspicious and compulsive – you’re going to do well, you’ll get the skills.

“You have to know your way around public sources. You’re prepared to work extraordinary hours and put up with the endless reading of the most boring documents you have ever seen.

“But then there’s the ‘eureka’ moment and suddenly you see something on the page that’s going to nail some very bad people and it’s all worthwhile.”

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12:42

More media graduates than jobs in entire industry, warns BBC radio presenter

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week is running from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry will be at Leeds Trinity to talk about the latest trends in the news media, including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; BBC news director Helen Boaden, Sky News reporter Mike McCarthy and ITN political correspondent Chris Ship.

BBC Radio Leeds presenter Andrew Edwards believes that enthusiasm and passion are the key ingredients needed to break into the media.

Speaking to students at Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week, he said that studying for a degree was of great importance but people also needed a desire to work if they were to make it in one of Britain’s most competitive industries.

“When you hear somebody talk about what they do for a living and they can’t actually give you a reason why they are passionate about it, there’s probably something wrong,” he declared.

“I have never met anyone yet who has that burning passion in their heart to do this job, who hasn’t made onto the radio in some way.”

Edwards reminded students that no matter how passionate, they will be up against stiff competition: “There are more people graduating from media related courses this year than there are jobs in the whole of the British media. That’s a sobering figure.”

However, he was quick to point out that the rewards for a student who can get a foothold on the radio careers’ ladder are exceptional.

It’s a fantastic job. To be able to talk on the radio in the way that I can about any range of issues to anybody, opening their hearts, opening their eyes and opening their minds is fantastic.

Like most mainstream forms of media production, radio’s longevity is being questioned because of the threat imposed by new technology.

But Edwards sees there being a healthy future for the broadcasting format that has both enthralled and intrigued him since childhood.

I think a lot of people like to listen to real people talking in the real world about real snow, falling out of the real sky, in real time. I don’t think in my heart there will ever be a substitute, because of the intimacy of radio and the times you listen to it.

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