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August 17 2012

14:00

6 Questions for Arion McNicoll of The Journalism Foundation

It has been a difficult time for the British press, caught up in the phone-hacking scandal that has meant the death of the News of the World paper, along with arrests of News Corp. personnel, suspensions at Scotland Yard, and never-ending investigations. But from those ashes has risen one idealistic effort to promote free press issues around the world: The Journalism Foundation.

Unlike in the U.S. with our non-profit funders such as the Knight Foundation, the U.K. and Europe have been looking for a white knight that could help support struggling legacy media in their transition to digital. The Journalism Foundation was started last October by former editor of the Independent, Simon Felner, with money from the Independent's owners, the Lebedev family.

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The Foundation's first two projects include a training program for journalists in Tunisia (in conjunction with the City University of London's journalism school) and financial support for a hyper-local site in Stoke-on-Trent called pitsnpots. But the Foundation has also hired its own editorial staff, who are posting stories online relating to digital media, freedom of speech, and the Leveson Inquiry. The site recently ran a first-person account from the Independent's Guy Adams about Twitter suspending (and then un-suspending) his account.

I recently struck a content-sharing deal with The Journalism Foundation, so that they could run our various stories from MediaShift on free speech issues, while we could run their stories that touch on the digital and global angle of freedom of expression. The hope is to spread our content and ideas across the pond in both directions.

I asked the site's editor, Arion McNicoll, six questions via email to learn more about the Foundation and how it plans to spend its grants. McNicoll comes to the Foundation after being the assistant editor of The Sunday Times online, helping the Times build its iPad app. The following is an edited version of our exchange. (McNicoll also posted his interview with me here.)

Q&A

1. How did you get involved in The Journalism Foundation, and what are its goals?


Arion McNicoll: I joined The Journalism Foundation just prior to its launch in October last year. At the time, British press was under intense scrutiny in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal -- a public event that shocked the nation and led to the closure of the News of the World newspaper. Senior figures at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper publishing company, News International, were summoned to explain themselves to the government; the Leveson Inquiry was initiated to look into press standards and regulation not only within Murdoch press, but across the entire U.K. media landscape.

Against this backdrop, and at a time when the media seemed to be running out of friends, The Journalism Foundation was established to promote free and fair journalism around the world. We try to do this in two ways: by running media-based projects that have a positive impact, and by promoting intelligent debate around the big questions in journalism today on our website. My role as editor is to nurture that debate.


Arion McNicoll.jpg

2. Who has more awareness of press freedom issues, people in the U.S. or U.K., and why?


McNicoll: Whether the average American is aware of it day-to-day or not, freedom of the press is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment upholds a raft of important freedoms -- of press, religion and expression -- which simply do not have an equivalent in the U.K. That said, media in the U.K. is deep and varied, with numerous newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, and I think the U.K. public is rightly proud of this plurality. The high rate of literacy is mirrored by a history of high newspaper consumption.

The national broadcaster, the BBC, is a much-loved public institution, in which many people feel they have a stake. When the BBC spends money frivolously or in the wrong place, the public actively complains. Many regard the BBC's service in a similar way to how they think about the free medical care -- as a right and an integral part of what it means to be British.


3. Explain the grant process for people who'd like to get a grant from The Journalism Foundation.



McNicoll: The Journalism Foundation looks to support a broad range of projects. From community-based enterprises to broad initiatives, our grant scheme is intended to support people or organizations with specific projects that further the cause of journalistic freedom. Once an application is lodged (go here), staff from the Foundation will review it and get in contact for more information if the project seems promising. If we can offer support (either practical or financial) we then work out how best to make that happen.

We don't have an upper limit on what we can grant (notionally) but in truth our projects have tended to be to the tune of about £10,000 to £20,000 so far. Our initial funding comes from the Lebedev family who own the Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers here in the U.K. This is one of their benevolent programs. We also do our own fundraising though, and all the money we raise from donations goes straight to projects.

4. Do you believe new online media outlets can help cover news lost at legacy organizations as they cut back? How?

McNicoll: I think media is currently in a transitional state. News organizations were quick to get their content online in the early days of the Internet, hoping that they could convert vast numbers of readers into advertising gold. Gradually it became apparent that simply having a lot of readers was no guarantor of financial success. Consequently, many news organizations have begun putting up pay walls and returning to subscription-based revenue models.

In the meantime, a raft of new media news organizations have sprung up offering alternatives to the traditional providers. Initially, the point of difference was journalistic veracity (i.e., people felt old media could be trusted, whereas new media was more suspect), but even that has eroded over time. Various sites such as Huffington Post and TMZ have put considerable effort into ensuring that their news is not just fast, but also accurate. Can such outlets fill the gap left by the decline in newspaper sales? Certainly, but the transition is not necessarily going to be swift or smooth. Plus, the future of news is unlikely simply to be digital newspapers, but something that fuses the best bits of print, TV, radio and social networking.


5. In the realm of press and Internet freedom, which organizations (including for-profit media and NGOs) do you respect in Europe and why?



McNicoll: Reporters Without Borders does a fantastic and admirable job, fighting for the rights of journalists who work in places where simply doing their job can cost them their lives. The Chartered Institute of Journalists does good work here in the U.K., and has been doing it for longer than almost anyone else in the world, founded, as it was, in 1884. The Centre for Investigative Journalism champions the kind of critical, in-depth reporting that makes the rich and powerful nervous.

At a more community level, Talk About Local is an excellent organization that trains people in starting up their own digital publications. And there are countless blogs and citizen journalism projects around the country which are doing their small bit for the spread of free information, many with deeply journalistic sensibilities.


6. How important is collaboration now in journalism, among non-profits, for-profits, public media and readers/community members?

McNicoll: Very important. In recent years the traditional division between people who are journalists and people who are not journalists has been almost completely eroded. Now anyone with a mobile phone can report on the news. While people remain rightly suspicious of the more sinister aspects of journalism, overwhelmingly I think there is still a great deal of public support for the free spread of information -- support which people are expressing through engaging actively with the process of news gathering and commentary. Just last month the United Nations unanimously backed a resolution that Internet access and online freedom of expression should be considered a human right.

While the spread of journalistic practice is an important development, I think the next stage is working out a fair way to recompense those people who work in the more costly or dangerous sides of news reporting: writers and photographers who report from the front line, investigative journalists who spend months on end trying to uncover a hidden truth. But I think there is broad understanding that some kinds of journalism cost money and people are prepared to pay for it.

The interaction between non-profits, for-profits, public media and readers underpins the evolution of journalism, and that evolution is essential to the continuing spread of information.

*****

What do you think of The Journalism Foundation and its work? Can it succeed in spreading freedom of expression ideas around the world and in the U.K.? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian and fiancee Renee. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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July 21 2011

06:35

Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller, Barbara Boxer ask News Corp. to investigate itself

AdWeek :: On Wednesday two Democratic senators Jay Rockefeller and Barbara Boxer sent letter to the Dow Jones and Company Special Committee, which was created to ensure the Wall Street Journal's editorial independence when News Corp. bought the paper and its parent company in 2007. In the letter, the senators ask whether the committee will conduct its own investigation of the paper and its leadership.

[Jay Rockefeller | Barbara Boxer - from the letter:] We were pleased to learn that the Special Committee will take steps to ensure that no illegal activity took place at Dow Jones and Company publications. But we were surprised that the Committee’s statement appears to foreclose any further investigation, despite the fact that the former chief executive officer of Dow Jones and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal served as the top official at News International while illegal phone hacking occurred at its newspapers. ...

The letter and the response - continue to read www.adweek.com

July 20 2011

09:08

Piers Morgan's statements as a staunch defender of Murdoch: "management failings"

AdWeek :: Rupert Murdoch has an increasingly outspoken defender on TV: Piers Morgan. After a week of relative silence on the subject of the ballooning hacking scandal, the CNN primetime host and one-time Murdoch tabloid editor has taken to the airwaves as a staunch champion of the Murdochs and their associates. 

[Piers Morgan:] I don’t think to any neutral observer, that Rupert Murdoch had any personal  knowledge of what was going on with this phone hacking. Or James Murdoch for that matter, or Rebecca Brooks. ... What you have seen are clearly management failings, in how they controlled this story when it first came up….

Rupert Murdoch made Piers Morgan the youngest editor in Fleet Street, when he was 28 years old. As Morgan points out he knows that he owes Murdoch a lot. "I wouldn’t probably be here (at CNN) without his help." Would probably be odd for him not to comment on a story so near to him, even as a CNN host.

Continue to read D.M. Levine, www.adweek.com

July 19 2011

21:32

Former News of the World editor Piers Morgan, a CNN host today, takes on tabloid scandal

Politico :: Former News of the World editor Piers Morgan, now CNN host, finally, if briefly, confronted the News of the World phone-hacking scandal on Monday night after coming under pressure for avoiding coverage of the story while the rest of CNN went into overdrive.

[Piers Morgan, CNN host:] For the record, I do not believe any story we published in either title was ever gained in an unlawful manner. Nor have I ever seen anything to suggest that.

Morgan was editor of the now-defunct News of the World from 1994 to 1995. (Note: he was 28 years old.)

Continue to read Burgess Everett www.politico.com

20:09

James and Rupert Murdoch's unread statement, now published

paidContent :: Before MPs kicked off their phone hacking questions for James and Rupert Murdoch today, James asked John Whittingdale, the chair of the Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, if he could read out a statement—another apology. Whittingdale wouldn’t let him, but News Corp has mailed it out and paidContent published it on their website

[The unread statement:] Mr. Chairman. Select Committee Members: With your permission, I would like to read a short statement. - My son and I have come here with great respect for all of you, for Parliament and for the people of Britain whom you represent. This is the most humble day of my career. After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today. ...

Continue to read the full statement here ngrid Lunden, paidcontent.org

05:38

News of the World phone-hacking whistleblower Sean Hoare found dead

Guardian :: Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbusiness reporter who was the first named journalist to allege that Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead. "The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing."

German radio stations reported about his death already yesterday.

Who was Sean Hoare and what was his role in the phone-hacking scandal?

Continue to read Amelia Hill | James Robinson | Caroline Davies, www.guardian.co.uk

July 18 2011

07:16

"Trash" bag treasure: 11,000 pages of handwritten notes - Scotland Yard's role in the phone-hacking scandal

New York Times :: Four years, from August 2006, when they were seized, until autumn 2010, six overstuffed plastic bags gathered dust and little else in a Scotland Yard evidence room. No one at the Metropolitan Police Service took care. Inside the bin ("trash") bags was a treasure-trove of evidence: 11,000 pages of handwritten notes listing nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims whose phones may have been hacked by The News of the World, a now defunct British tabloid newspaper. During that same four years, senior Scotland Yard officials assured Parliament, judges, lawyers, potential hacking victims, the news media and the public that there was no evidence of widespread hacking by the tabloid.

Scotland Yard's role - continue to read Don Van Natta, Jr., www.nytimes.com

July 17 2011

16:09

Rebekah Brooks arrested over phone-hacking allegations

Guardian :: Rebekah Brooks has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World and allegations that police officers were bribed to leak sensitive information. Spokesman for Rebekah Brooks says she did not know she was going to be arrested when she handed in her resignation

Continue to read Vikram Dodd | Juliette Garside, www.guardian.co.uk

07:03

Wall Street Journal's succession drama

The Daily Beast :: Now the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has claimed Dow Jones’ CEO. That has the Journal newsroom worrying they could end up working for a controversial Rupert (Murdoch) henchman.

As the British wing of the News Corp. media empire imploded this month under the weight of a series of ethical scandals, staffers at The Wall Street Journal--itself a News Corp. subsidiary--might have considered themselves insulated from collateral damage. They were an ocean apart, and more to the point, they did not engage in reprehensible reporting tactics.

Anyone thinking that that would be enough, however, would have been wrong.

Continue to read Nick Summers, www.thedailybeast.com

July 16 2011

05:02

Fow News: phone-hacking scandal is overblown, ‘we should move on’

Think Progress :: Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., finally addressed their parent company’s hacking scandal head on this morning, with Fox and Friends launching a comically sycophantic and pathetically inaccurate defense of News Corp. Host Steve Doocy and guest Robert Dilenschneider, agreed News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has done “all the right things” and argued that the scandal is way overblown. “For some reason, the public, the media, keep going over this, again, and again, and again” the guest said. “,” he added, “We should move on.

Fox News Channel (FNC), or Fox News, or "Fox", is a cable and satellite television news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of News Corporation. As of April 2009, the channel is available to 102 million households in the United States and further to viewers internationally, broadcasting primarily out of its New York studios.

Continue to read Alex Seitz-Wald, thinkprogress.org

July 14 2011

04:46

Bancroft family members express regrets at selling Wall Street Journal to Murdoch

Pro Publica ::  A number of key members of the family which controlled The Wall Street Journal say they would not have agreed to sell the prestigious daily to Rupert Murdoch if they had been aware of News International's conduct in the phone-hacking scandal at the time of the deal.

[Christopher Bancroft:] If I had known what I know now, I would have pushed harder against the Murdoch bid.

The comments by family members in interviews with ProPublica came as the crisis engulfing Murdoch's News Corporation threatened to spread to the U.S. with two senators calling for an investigation into whether the company broke U.S. laws over the phone hacking scandal.

Continue to read Richard Tofel, www.propublica.org (This story was co-published with The Guardian.)

July 12 2011

19:56

Phone hacking: Met police chiefs appear before MPs - Guardian's interactive timeline

Guardian :: Senior Metropolitan police officers, including assistant commissioner John Yeats, appeared before a Commons select committee and faced questions over the police's response to the phone hacking scandal. Confused about what happened when and who knew what? - No problem. The Guardian has published an interactive timeline which you can virtually "walk" back and forth to see how the whole scandal evolved.

Continue to read Paddy Allen | Sam Jones, www.guardian.co.uk

July 08 2011

20:10

On itnnews - James Murdoch "regrets" phone hacking scandal

itnnews:: News Corp boss James Murdoch has said he regrets the phone hacking scandal that has led to the closure of the News of the World. Watch the video below.

Original video published here itnnews channel, www.youtube.com

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