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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.

twitter-account-suspended.jpg

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 31 2012

18:03

By tweeting about a developing story, could you be inciting a riot?

You’re probably not going to like this, but we’re facing bigger Twitter problems than @GuyAdams having his account suspended.

For those who haven’t been among the outraged on Twitter: Guy Adams, a Los Angeles-based reporter for The Independent, tweeted up a storm of criticisms about NBC’s handling of the Olympics. One of those tweets included NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel’s work email address. Twitter suspended his account for allegedly violating its user policy. The Internet went bananas.

What’s making people so berzerk about all this is the idea that Twitter and a corporate partner — one that works in the news business, no less! — appear to have teamed up to silence a guy who said things those companies didn’t like. (Breaking: Adams apparently has his account back.)

In reporting on something through social media, your action might be seen as calling for that thing to happen.

But here’s a scarier thought: What if it were up to the government to choose what kind of Twitter speech is allowed? What if instead of account suspensions, Twitter users had to worry about being arrested for what they tweet?

That’s a question that Yale Law School lecturer Margot Kaminski has been thinking about a lot these days. The premise of her recent research is that as people increasingly use social media as a tool for community organizing, government will try to impose regulations.

Kaminski has delved specifically into “incitement to riot” statutes in the United States. These are the laws that add the “but” to that freedom-of-assembly bit in the First Amendment, and they vary in key ways from state to state. (How many people have to assemble for it to be considered a riot? What kind of activity constitutes a riot? What’s the difference between someone who’s acting violently, or just threatening violence? And what about intent? Etc., etc., etc.)

Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say I take to Twitter, and tweet that everyone in Cambridge should meet at the Out of Town News stand and start moonwalking at noon. Harmless flash mob, right?

But what if instead I tweet that everyone should meet there for a looting spree? Am I inciting a riot? (For the record, I am decidedly pro-moonwalking and anti-looting.) Kaminski argues in her paper, “Incitement to Riot in the Age of Flash Mobs,” that “there is no real need to go after the speaker for a crime of ‘incitement to robbery’ or ‘incitement to riot,’ because the speaker’s involvement in the robbery could be punished through other means.”

A thornier question: What if I’m a reporter or some other passerby who tweets about a crowd that’s gathering at the newsstand, and my tweet notifies others who then turn up?

“If somebody tweets there’s a protest happening at XYZ location, there’s a possibility that that might be seen as incitement to riot,” Kaminski told me. “So the thing that might be harmful to journalists is in reporting on something through social media: Your action might be seen as calling for that thing to happen.

This isn’t just an academic thought exercise. Last year, Cleveland’s city council passed ordinance to prohibit “the improper use of social media to induce persons to commit a criminal offense.” Mayor Frank Jackson vetoed the measure. But in December, the council adopted a revised version of the original ordinance, making it clear that “electronic media devices” can be considered criminal tools.

Kaminski says the Supreme Court has never addressed whether there should be a distinction between “direct and indirect advocacy of unlawful action.” The other thing to remember is that states define riots differently. Get the image of a torch-and-pitchfork-toting mob out of your mind: Only two states require at least seven people for a gathering to be a possible riot. Four states require only two people to gather for their assembly to be considered a possible riot. For most states, the minimum is three people.

Many states already criminalize incitement to riot, and plenty of them in ways that Kaminski says are overly broad, even unconstitutional. She calls these statutes fascinating because they implicate not one but two protected freedoms: speech and assembly. In the landmark 1969 Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, justices unanimously ruled that the government may not punish speech unless it incites violent action. They drew a line between speech that advocated for violence versus speech that actually incited it. Traditionally, it was up to authorities — often in the midst of a crowd — to determine whether someone was inciting a riot.

“Now there’s a particular fear of social media,” Kaminski said. “I use Twitter as the example because of the fact that cops are afraid that it creates instantaneous reaction. Before, the call to gather would have occurred by some kind of telephone chain, passing out pamphlets or putting up posters. Brandenberg put up this idea that the harm has to be immediate before you can legitimately go after it. It really meant you’re watching the speaker give the speech, and you’re seeing how soon bad stuff is going to occur.”

In an age of virtual assembly, authorities are trying to figure out how to navigate incitement in a non-physical space. One high-profile example from last summer: When police in Britain threatened to bring charges against people for using Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to incite widespread London riots.

“Twitter brings this immediacy question back into play again,” Kaminski said. “You can have 100,000 followers and send out a message, and have something occur in 20 minutes. There’s a lot of potential for ex post facto justification. The chance that you, with 100,000 followers, put out this message and something really bad happens? Well, you might put out 50 messages with nothing happen and one thing occurs and post-legislators are going to try to apply this to social media. The core of this is making this really clear how much of a high level of intent you have. You have to be able to show that the speaker on Twitter wanted the gathering to occur, wanted it to be large, wanted it to happen immediately, and wanted to frustrate police ability to control it.”

Image derived from photo by Dave Hogg and illustration by Matt Hamm used under a Creative Commons license.

May 27 2011

11:53

LIVE: Session 2B – Social media strategy

We have Matthew Caines and Ben Whitelaw from Wannabe Hacks liveblogging for us at news:rewired all day. You can follow session 2B ‘Social media strategy’, below.

Session 2B features: With: Jack Riley, head of digital audience and content development, the Independent; Stefan Stern, director of strategy, Edelman; Mark Jones, global communities editor, Reuters News; Mark Johnson, community editor, the Economist. Moderated by Suw Charman-Anderson, social technologist.

October 21 2010

13:50

WELCOME TO THE BRITISH i NEWSPAPER

Since The Independent announcement of a new paper for

‘lapsed readers of quality papers’

many people contacted INNOVATION asking us the same questions:

Are you involved in this project? NOT AT ALL.

Is a franchise of the Portuguese i? NOT AT ALL.

What to do you think about the idea to call it i? IT DOESN’T BOTHER US AT ALL.

What’s your impression about the new paper? CALM, LET’S WAIT AND SEE.

All that said, let me add a few personal comments:

1. I am very happy to know that there is a British newspaper company that has the gutts to launch a new print paper, and I congratulate them. That’s an act of bravery.

2. I am very happy too that they want to create new readers. That’s the only way to survive. If you don’t get new young readers you are dead. So, congratulations again.

3. My only concern is that ghetto newspaper don’t work. You will never succeed patronizing women with women sections and young readers wit newspaper for young people.

4. And I have very serious doubts about the final results of flashy newspapers or readers for “non readers”. Young people read and write more than ever. So it’s not a question of design (let’s scream!) or short or long news and stories, but a question of content, content, content. The new gewnerationd don’t read our traditional newspaper just because their interests, lives, passions, opinions, feelings and concerns are NOT reflected in our pages.

That’s the problem.

That’s the solution.

And for this you don’t need a new niche or “ghetto newspaper.”

But if  i finds a new, loyal and growing audience, The Independent journalists and managers will get a very strong message.

This was going to be, let’s remember, The Times for New and Young Generations”.

Something that The Independent wanted to be, but failed.

So never is too late to try it again.

My best wishes for them.

Thank you for adding a new print voice to the elderly and dying British newspaper market!

And count with me as a “newspaper fan” and reader.

September 30 2010

10:05

The Independent: Regional press challenging bad forecasts

The Independent has an interesting article by Ian Burrell this morning comparing the current situation for local media – in terms of production levels, revenues and staff – with previous predictions.

The overall picture it paints is that the regional press, despite facing predictions that half of the industry would be closed down by 2013, is proving forecasters wrong.

A year or so later, the picture is somewhat different. Whereas 60 local newspapers did close during 2009, only eight have gone to the wall in 2010. The UK’s local press isn’t quite ready to draft its own obituary.

Early on Burrell discusses the impact of the American press situation on encouraging the bleak outlooks for British media, but adds that action taken by the press such as the increasing use of hyperlocal sites has helped it survive.

The earlier predictions of Armageddon were influenced by events in America, where the regional press has suffered badly. The closure in February last year of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News in Denver caused great alarm, as did the demise the following month of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which moved to online-only production after 146 years in print. The company that owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times filed for bankruptcy. But the New York Times reported recently that hedge fund “vulture” investors are circling newspaper businesses in anticipation that the worst days are over.

But the article also raises the question of how you should measure the pulse of the local newspaper industry. Therefore as well as looking at the number of titles (and money) still being made, Burrell asks what the wider impact on the journalists within these newsrooms is?

Barry Fitzpatrick, head of publishing at the National Union of Journalists, says not. “Most of our journalists are working multi-platform and they are working long hours to deadlines that are increasingly difficult to meet. I’m fearful of what the long term effect will be on journalism itself and on the health of a lot of people that are trying to earn a living as journalists.”

See the full article here…Similar Posts:



August 10 2010

13:47

Wanky Balls festival: Wikipedia-reading journalists welcome

According to the Independent on Saturday’s print edition:

The Big Chill was founded in 1994 as the Wanky Balls festival in north London.

Always good to be reminded of the perils of lifting from Wikipedia – unfortunately the page has since been updated, but the Google search snippet sheds some light:

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July 12 2010

10:56

Media faces stong criticism from within over Raoul Moat coverage

Media coverage of the police hunt for Raoul Moat may have come to an end, but the debate over how the press reported on events continues.

From live video coverage of Moat’s stand-off with police, to interactive maps, to timelines of events leading up to his attacks,  – the terrifying story gripped our news headlines.

But the volume and content of some coverage has led to criticisms of sensationalism and glamourising, from outside and within the industry – with some even warning reports could encourage future attacks.

The debate over the media’s responsibility when reporting such events has even prompted a Twitter debate from the BBC, who will hold a debrief tomorrow to discuss the lessons to learn from covering the actions of people like Raoul Moat.

Responding to the debate on Twitter, @julesthejourno illustrated the problem – while some of the real-time footage may have been difficult to watch, it was equally impossible to turn off, for a public with a desire to know the latest developments.

Friday’s live coverage was so raw (especially the phone calls) it felt wrong to watch but even more so to change channels.

This supports Barbara Ellen’s post at the Observer, which claimed that the media are simply “feeding the ‘public interest’ monster”.

It’s too pat to blame the news media. They are merely feeding the “public interest” monster – a ravenous, impatient, rubbernecking creature. In a way, that seems almost too tidy. It seems to be this very part of us that feeds the “death and glory” monster presumably lurking inside poor, deluded sods such as Moat, making all those fantasies about being the centre of attention, the big scary guy with the gun, come true.

But she warns that demand for such coverage could lead to a very dark road.

Homicidal sprees as another form of spectator sport? Just another button on the remote control, perhaps labelled “Homi-tainment”, with a helpful skull and crossbones motif? The whole thing was reminiscent of iconic scenes from the US. “Homi-tainment” was definitely there when OJ went off on his car chase, Waco went under siege, even in those candlelit vigils outside prison executions. Didn’t Brits used to think we were rather above this kind of thing? Well, seemingly not any more.

But is the media to blame for how the news itself plays out?  Freelance journalist Martin Robbins has written a series of “serious questions” which he feels need to be answered by the media, who he claims created a “carnival atmosphere” with their coverage.

His comments have since exploded across Twitter and the blogosphere.

One such question is whether the media understand the nature and extent of their influence on Raoul Moat? Robbins says a quote from Moat proves that media coverage could have directly led to another person being killed:

For every piece of inaccurate information published I will select a member of the public and kill them.

In response, Robbins questions the morality of the press who he accuses of doing just that.

Can they explain why they printed inflammatory details that had no conceivable public interest justification? Can they go to bed tonight safe and sound in the certain knowledge that they did not contribute to his death?

Answering his question, the bloggers at Fleet Street Blues simply replied: “yes”.

Look, it’s not as if the Raoul Moat story was Fleet Street’s finest hour. It showed how the proliferation of online news has only heightened the demands of the 24-hour rolling news cycle, and no one’s saying the televised ending was particularly edifying for anyone concerned.

But the implication that journalists were too intrusive, too inquisitive and too obstructive to police is just inaccurate.

Channel 4′s Alex Thomson, whose real-time Tweeting also came under fire from Robbins as an illustration of the media chase, defended his work on Twitter:

“can’t speak for media but yes, v proud of c4n Moat coverage which I say was informative, factual and not sensational.

But psychologists remain concerned that even though the coverage of Raoul Moat’s run from the police may be over, it had the power to encourage another similar event in the near future.

Reporting for the Independent, Johann Hari asks if the media will now indirectly help others “pull the trigger”.

Suddenly, they are shown a path where their problems won’t be trivial and squalid and pointless. No: they’ll be the talk of the entire country. They’ll be stars.

The way we report these cases can make that man more likely to charge out of his house to kill, or less. The psychologists say that currently we are adopting the most dangerous tactics possible. We put the killer’s face everywhere. We depict him exactly as he wanted, broadcasting his videos and reading out his missives. We make his story famous. We present killing as its logical culmination. We soak him in glamour: look at the endless descriptions of Moat as “having a hulking physique” and being “a notorious hard man”.

We present the killer as larger than life, rather than the truth: that these people are smaller than life, leading pitiful, hate-filled existences.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts below.Similar Posts:



June 14 2010

12:36

InPublishing.co.uk: Publishers’ anonymous commenter dilemma

In a piece for InPublishing, media journalist and blogger Jon Slattery takes a look at anonymous commenting and its pros and cons for publishers.

Following the Times’ decision to make users use real names; and the Independent’s changes to its commenting system, Slattery asks the Guardian’s Steve Busfield and the Argus’ Jo Wadsworth for their thoughts.

Wadsworth says: “[S]ome of the most valuable comments, news-wise, are left anonymously: tip-offs, personal accounts of traumatic experiences, etc. If I were implementing a real-names policy, I’d definitely want to retain a way for people to post these, even if these were post-moderated.”

Slattery ends:

How do they [publishers] stop the abuse of freedom of speech on their websites while protecting those readers who can expose abuses of power and generate content by being whistleblowers only if their identity is protected.

Full post at this link…

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May 25 2010

18:49

LESS HYPE, LESS SPIN, AND JUST THE (GRAPHIC) FACTS, BABY

the_independent.750

We need more editors like Simon Kelner.

And less art directors.

Less decorators.

Less designers.

Less cosmetic journalism.

Less infographic artists.

And more visual journalists and editors like the editor of The Independent.

Today, all the British papers are using the same BIG words about the “savage cuts” announced by the new government:

“Dramatic”

“Agressive”

“Huge”

Well, that’s easy hype and spin.

The reality check is this front page.

“Show, don’t tell” at its best.

The rest is bullshit.

Non sense.

Garbage.

Bad journalism or, better, lack of journalism.

We are here to tell the real story.

Not just propaganda stuff.

With front pages like this one you cannot say more with less.

Caviar Journalism.

May 17 2010

09:09

March 31 2010

07:55

Beehive City: Alan Rusbridger on the Times, paywalls and industry in-fighting

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, adds some “industry context” to other paper’s reports of the Guardian and its business, in particular the departure of Carolyn McCall, CEO of Guardian Media Group (GMG), last week.

In a memo to staff reproduced by Beehive City, Rusbridger takes on the Times:

The Times’ print circulation is falling at exactly the same rate as the Guardian’s – but the Times’ web traffic is down seven per cent year on year while the Guardian’s rose by 22 per cent.

The Independent:

Having vociferously argued (in 2006) that newspapers were dangerously under-priced and that the future was about boosting cover price rather than hoping for increased advertising revenues, it is now talking about going free.

Paywalls:

What’s right for Murdoch (with Sky as a digital subscription model in the background and infinitely deep corporate cross-subsidies) may well not work for us at GNM, and vice versa. There may be different models within one newspaper. We’ll all make some mistakes along the way. We can all learn from each other.

And why the Guardian and GMG will stick to its plans and be swayed by “the pecking and sniping of outsiders”.

Of all media companies I truly believe we are better placed than the great majority to make the transformative change that will be demanded of us. The editorial future has the potential to be richer than anything any previous generation of journalists could have imagined. We can imagine it – and we are well on the way to achieving it.

Full memo at this link…

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March 09 2010

10:08

#followjourn: Jane Merrick/political editor

#followjourn: Jane Merrick

Who? Merrick is political editor at the Independent on Sunday

Where? You can find her writing collected on the Independent’s Open House blog and Independent Minds pages. You can also visit her Journalisted page here.

Contact? Merrick tweets about Politics and more at www.twitter.com/janemerrick23.

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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February 04 2010

10:17

January 18 2010

10:47

BJP: The Independent apologises for Flickr ‘errors’

The Independent newspaper has apologised, “after it was accused of breach of copyright for publishing a Flickr stream of images which included at least one ‘All Rights Reserved’ photo of the snow,” reports the British Journal of Photography.

Full story at this link…

(The photographer, Peter Zabulis, who challenged the Independent has more detail at this link)

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