Monday, July 31, 2006

Do journalists and PR professionals live on different planets?

As a music journalist, this strikes a chord - especially as I am increasingly reliant on musicians' web sites for information to write a good story.

Many web designers for musicians, agents and tour organisers seem to have problems understanding what journalists need. Biographies that contain no substantial information but just eulogise on the artistic merits of the latest CD, photographs which are of too low resolution to be used in a newspaper or which cannot be published without permission of the photographer or which cannot be downloaded at all, information provided as pdf documents, or worst of all, websites that are inaccurate, out of date or still 'under construction' - these are just some of the difficulties that have frustrated me in my attempts to give an act some decent exposure in my weekly newspaper column or in the pages of a music festival programme.

This problem isn't confined to the music industry. I recently received a white paper entitled What journalists want to see on your web site, published by Vocus, a provider of software for PR and corporate communications. This was based on surveys of journalists who turn to corporate websites in the hope of finding useful information and parallel surveys of PR people on what they think is important to include on their web sites.

The differences between their perspectives is remarkable. Just to illustrate, 98% of journalists value the inclusion in web sites of press releases, 93% value media kits and 89% photographs. The figures for PR respondents who thought these were important are respectively 83%, 71% and 59%.

The Paper cites one magazine editor who scans hundreds of corporate web sites every week. On the day he was questioned, he only found one in five web sites that provided basic name spellings, mailing information and phone numbers. The advice from the authors of this paper is 'Don't send the reporter away empty-handed from your site.'

I won't bombard you with any more figures and unfortunately, I cannot link to the White Paper as it is itself a pdf document! However, I will be happy to email it to anyone who asks.

Filed under:
music journalism    websites    media relations

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Beeb under scrutiny in Guardian blog

If you haven't checked it out yet, I would recommend the 'Comment is Free' blog as an interesting forum where Guardian readers discuss their perspectives on current stories and issues. For a lively interchange of views on how the BBC (described by the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips as the 'Beirut Broadcasting Corporation') is covering the current hostilities between Israel and the Lebanon, here is a good example of how the blog comes into its own.

The blog was started by Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. He makes some useful reference to the Glagow Media Group's recent publication, 'Bad News From Israel' which suggests that Israeli perspectives are given greater priority in British broadcasting than Palestinian views.

If you're a media student, you might find the Comment Is Free a useful case study for discussion if you ever get asked to write an essay on whether the Public Sphere is alive and well on the World Wide Web.

Filed under:
Guardian    blogs    BBC    Daily Mail    Middle East    Glasgow Media Group   
Public Sphere

RAMming the message home about asylum-seekers

Should journalists learn about cultural and religious diversity as part of their training? Should it be a prerequisite for entering the profession that journalists actually understand the people they write about?

This is one revolutionary idea referred to in an article by the Director of MediaWise, a registered charity set up to provide advice, information, research and training on media ethics. The suggestion is one of several in response to concerns on how some British newspapers have portrayed asylum seekers and refugees in prejudicial terms and falling back on racist sterotypes.

Until recently, MediaWise ran a project called RAM (Refugees, Asylum-seekers and Media) which encouraged good practice in media representation of refugee and asylum issues. This role has now been taken over by the Exiled Journalists Network which was set up last year to support journalists who have themselves fled their home countries to escape persecution.

Filed under:
journalism education    MediaWise    asylum seekers

The intelligent interface between journalism and PR

If you haven't latched on to this buzzword yet, let me introduce you to the concept of Editorial Intelligence. Actually, it's more of a club than a concept. It describes itself as 'an Information and Networking Club for all public and private sectors of PR and Journalism which captures and digests the world of comment and opinion in the U.K.'

It has a pretty nifty website that has some useful links and resources available even to non-members - for example, click on 'the media and e.i.' for relevant press articles and 'downloads and briefings' for podcasts.

But it is a little scary as it suggests some form of regular collusion between journalists and PR people to control the news agenda and keep the information flowing to sell newspapers while keeping PR clients in a positive light. You might think that the role of a truly 'intelligent' journalist is to see through the spin and tell us what's really happening.

Filed under:
Editorial Intelligence    media relations    spin

Distilling the truth

We heard a lot about embedded journalists when the US and UK sent troops to Iraq. We haven't heard much about the role and experience of journalists currently dodging the missiles in the Lebanon and Northern Israel. So turning yet again to the Press Gazette, I found this article by CNN's Nic Robertson to be an interesting if brief account.

In the penultimate paragraph he describes his role as distilling the truth from the different messages that come from both sides of a conflict. OK you might think - he's a reporter defending the role of the media so he would say that wouldn't he?

But truth, as Hiram Johnson (who he?) (look it up!) once said, is the first casualty of war, so fair play to correspondents who do try to provide a lucid picture in the fog of violence and propaganda.

Filed under:
war reporting    Middle East    press freedom    Press Gazette    CNN

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Guardian - an online newspaper that you can still wrap round your fish and chips

The Internet's impact on the consumption of news continues unabated. We have not yet reached the stage where commuters sit on the train reading their morning news on their palmtops but today sees the launch of the Guardian's latest venture, G24, a print-and-read pdf newspaper. Not a broadsheet, not a tabloid, not even a Berliner, G24 is an A4 document of 8-12 pages that you can print off as you get ready to catch the 8.14 to St.Pancras.

The only drawback is its short shelf-life. It is updated every 15 minutes so the news will be out of date by the time you find a seat in the end carriage. Well there is so much news about these days!

Read all about it here - and download your copy of G24!

Filed under:
Guardian    online news    new media

Another fine mess for Maz

Investigation or incitement? That's the question that was on the lips of many commentators on the ethics of Mazher Mahmood's approach to undercover journalism when his failed 'Fake Sheik' sting of George Galloway last October provided excellent copy for The News Of The World's rival newspapers. This week he blew it again when his dubious methods resulted in the acquittal of the 'Dirty Bomb' trio.

The Press Gazette covers the story here and has set up a discussion on whether Maz's approach is justified, although it has attracted no comments yet.

One clear lesson to be learned for any journalist thinking of applying Maz's methods is: make sure that the big story is the subject of the investigation, not the antics of the investigator.

Filed under:
Mazheer Mahmood    News Of The World    investigative journalism    Press Gazette

Thursday, July 27, 2006

...and monitoring the manipulators

Click here for a useful US site that I will be no doubt plundering for resources at regular intervals. Run by Source Watch (formerly the Center for Media and Democracy), it espouses the cause of uncensored and unrestricted journalism to expose malpractices by the State and by big corporations. It does include references to the UK press but generally seeks to expose spin and media manipulation. Check out the links to some revealing articles in the Center's journal, PR Watch.

Filed under:
Source Watch    PR Watch    spin    flack    politics

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Monitoring the Mail

Click on the title of this blog to link to the Daily Mail Watch - a blog site that's been going for two years, monitoring the priorities of the press that serves Middle England - mainly the Mail, Britain's second biggest selling newspaper, but also the Express. The front page of both newspapers is displayed and contributors are invited to comment on the news values behind the stories. It's interesting to note for example how the Express digs up a Diana story at regular intervals (and often on a Monday) - presumably because market research has shown that potential Express readers are more likely to buy copies if she is in the headlines.

Filed under:
Daily Mail    Daily Express    Diana

Can I quote you on that?

Quotes about the practice of journalism tend to be tongue-in-cheek. More often than not, comments about the profession are critical, even when made by journalists themselves.

Cultural critic Matthew Arnold described journalism as 'literature in a hurry'.

Malcolm X warned us of the political effects of journalism: 'If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing'.

Helen Swaffer takes a swipe at the British press whose business interests seem to take priority over freedom of expression: 'Freedom of the press in Britain is freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers won't object to'.

As a music journalist myself (not rock music I hasten to add!), one of my favourite quotes is from the late Frank Zappa: 'Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read'.

Filed under:
quotations    music journalism    press freedom    spin    politics