Tag Archives: the guardian


Change is in the air.

Barack Obama’s mantra may have gone stale, but it has now been adopted by the media world. The widespread economising and downsizing of newsrooms has even affected the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, The Observer. Two weeks into its slimmed down relaunch, it has cooked up a storm with the extracts from Andrew Rawnsley’s new book, End of the Party.

It’s easy to look at the measures implemented at The Observer (voluntary redundancies, scrapping of music and sport magazines) and surmise that this is a newspaper sentenced to failure. However, look more closely, and what you’ll see is a newspaper that is down, but not yet out. John Mulholland and his editorial team have clearly realised that there is little place for breaking news in print. Consequently they have slimmed down the news section and expanded the analysis, features and comment to be found in The Observer.

Will Sturgeon, founder of The Media Blog agrees:

“They’ve boosted the prominence of opinion and comment. Relaunching with revelations from Andrew Rawnsley’s book signalled this intent most clearly. That is the only way the papers will mitigate the fact the news game is entirely lost to online”

Find your niche. That’s what writers are incessantly told. Now it seems newspapers will have to do the same. Those who value breaking news will always find it somewhere on the internet, something that paywalls cannot stop. But what newspapers can offer is good content in abundance. Well written commentaries and adventurous features are to be found primarily within newspapers, and not exclusively online.

Will Sturgeon:

“The Telegraph’s expenses story and the subsequent spike in its circulation shows us the value of quality content. Anything where speed is a pre-requisite will break first online. However, quality content will never go out of fashion”

A media prediction, if I dare be so bold: We’ll see organisations focusing solely on what they’re best at. For The Observer, this is investigation and opinion. For Sky News, this is, and always has been, breaking news. We’ll see the breakdown of newspapers as an universal authority, instead visiting a variety of outlets for what tickles our fancy.

So where to go now? The Guardian is one newspaper who’ve broached the subject of paywalls more than most. Alan Rusbridger and Emily Bell (Director of Digital Content) are resounding in their opposition of paywalls, believing them to be against the core principles of what the paper stands for.

Guardian.co.uk receives 37 million users a month. If half of those could be persuaded to pay a paltry monthly subscription fee…well, the finance department at Guardian News & Media would look a lot more chirpy. Frequently hailed as a design success, The Guardian now need to convert this brilliant layout into a viable commercial model. Being one of the first nationals online brings merits in the form of knowing what works and what doesn’t, but where they go from here is anyone’s guess.

The NYT iPad application

The second big publication to address the issue is the New York Times. It’s better positioned than most to tackle the issue of charging for content, having access to an army of commentators, reporters and analysts. The system that’s to be implemented would allow readers to access a certain number of articles free per month, and then request payment for more.

This crucially allows other websites and blogs to link to the New York Times without being blocked out by a paywall, something that interests Paul Bradshaw:

“This makes a link to the New York Times valuable in itself. If you run a blog, you’re more likely to link to the New York Times. Even if the paywall scheme doesn’t actually make them any money directly, it could drive valuable traffic to the website”

The message seems to be Adapt or Die, both on a personal and organisational level. A bleak future (as chorused by every other media blog ad nauseum) certainly, but it’s good to see a few well known publications taking their first tentative steps in addressing a new business model.


Investigative Journalism Masterclass, City University

To City University’s famed journalism department, for a day of lectures about investigative journalism, held by two of it’s leading lights, Nick Davies and David Leigh.

Considering all information received was regarded confidential, I can’t delve into specifics as to what was covered. Research strategy, sourcing contacts and legal minefields were all covered in the scrupulous detail you’d expect from such driven journalists.

The line between journalist and detective seemed to blur. as writing copy became secondary to a feverish pursuit of stories.

The crowd were a mixed bunch, containing a blend of old hacks with a fair amount of students. It seems that what Davies and Leigh do is push what it means to be a journalist to the very boundaries. That is, take all the skills required to be a successful inquisitorial journalist, and maximise them tenfold in order to uncover skulduggery wherever they can.

While no recording was allowed during the sessions, I managed to get a quick interview with Nick Davies, asking his views on the future of journalism, how the law affects practicising journalists, and his views on books like End of the Party:

Both men hold events like this fairly regularly, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to any potential, current, or former journalists.

Climate Change: More than just hot air

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth”
Turns out we proved David Thoreau wrong, and didn’t need wings to ruin the planet.
The divisive topic of climate change was once again on the agenda at the start of the month, with new evidence coming to light of hacked emails at the University of East Anglia. Commentators have all thrown their hat into the ring; the main sticking points are whether the new evidence has been taken out of context, and if there is any truth in the ranting of climate sceptics.

The main flaw in the debate is the notion of absolutism. Climate change is perceived to either be real, or a fallacy. You either believe in it, or you don’t. Such a debate (if it can be called that) is not only strongly irrational, but fundamentally damaging to the notion of progressing to a better understanding of climate change. To the uninitiated, the climate change community seems a hotbed of exclusivity and reactionary tendencies. Any notion of criticism directed towards environmentalists is inevitably met with a call to arms, lest you even think about criticising the movement.

Such a refusal to allow analysis and self criticism means that they keep the stigma of being something only of relevance to the chattering classes. It’s unfortunate that public figures who champion the green movement are almost without exception seen to be elitist (Messrs Goldsmith, Monbiot and Prince Charles). The combination of a ubiquitous green lobby and the topic being adopted as de rigeur by Westminster means that any dialogue sounds like white noise. That it’s been trumpeted in the liberal media as a catastrophe waiting to happen also does little to help the situation. Bombarding the public with yet more studies and statistics only has the effect of disenchantment, further stalling any progression to universal understanding.
This universal understanding is key to the development of environmental policy of the future. Polls show that in the UK we have a fairly good understanding of climate change issues- we are aware that it exists and are definitely more concerned about it than many other countries.
Contrast this with the United States (still emerging from the Bush administration of denial) and the blank refusal of China to co-operate at the Copenhagen summit to see that we still have a long way to go to achieve a global plan. Scientists have been given the benefit of the doubt for too long. If you read the hacked emails that caused this latest farrago in the UK, they are mostly taken out of context and of little real significance to question the effects of global warming.
But that doesn’t excuse politicians for raising scientists onto an unaccountable plinth.
Climate change is a problem. We know this. But what can’t happen is to let urgency cloud judgement. Facts need to be checked, studies carried out and cross referenced, and scientists know this better than anyone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts a rise in sea levels between 90mm and almost a metre. Hardly a paradigm of accuracy and diligence. There is much written about misinformation, bias and skulduggery in the media. But what about the green movement? Surely they, like everyone else, are equally fallible? I’m no climate sceptic, but am tired of the halo bestowed on the green movement.

Where can neophytes fit in with all this? Do your research. Most people take in information passively, letting other people make decisions for them. Individual empowerment is something that is scarce within the youth population.

I’ve lost count of the amount of hoops I’ve had to jump through in the past, despite “independent learning” being a university’s main ultimate selling point. A culture of being patted on the head, bombarded with “yoof” television and demonisation means that it’s a lot better to go and get the information yourselves. Read the literature for and against, and make your own minds up. Then, and only then, can we start to properly compare, contrast and analyse the theories, and maybe it won’t seem quite so dull after all.