Tag Archives: Journalism

On the subject of the News of the World….

As News International licks its wounds and withdraws its hugely popular News of the World from the history of British journalism, a quick anecdote involving its sister paper, The Sun, and its reputation in my home town, Liverpool.

Back in 1996, I was waiting in the departure lounge of Tashkent International airport (yes, gentle reader, the glamour of global journalism).  I had been living there for 12 months heading up a media project for the EU.  In front of me in the queue was a group of Scousers.  They weren’t the usual Western visitors to Tashkent – businessmen, diplomats, charity workers, academics – but ordinary blokes in their thirties.  I was “made up” to find some fellow Scousers so far from home so got chatting with them.  What were they doing in Central Asia?  “We’ve been working in the gold mines,” they replied. (There must have been some pretty eccentric careers advisers knocking around Liverpool schools back in the eighties.)  “What’s it like working in a gold mine the middle of the Uzbek desert, miles from anywhere?”  “Yeah, it’s OK.  We live in trailers and of an evening there’s beer and some nice ladies.”

They asked me what I was doing in Tashkent.  “I’m a journalist, ” I said.  Their friendly smiles suddenly froze and there was silence.  “You don’t work for the Sun, do you?” one of them eventually asked.  “No, BBC World Service.” Palpable relief all round.

(Actually, I don’t think the Sun ever carries many Central Asian stories)

A news journalist confesses

Jeff Jarvis has – as is his custom – stirred a lively debate with a couple of recent pieces about the “death” of the article as the end product of the journalist’s job.  In brief, he says that an article is too static and out-of-date once it is published.  It is also expensive and time-consuming to produce and deliver making it a luxury product.  The time, effort and resources spent on it could be better used, he argues, in doing the real journalism job of finding out what the story is and sharing updates with the reader ASAP, in real time, ideally.  Social media makes this possible, as Andy Carvin at NPR (@acarvin) has famously shown.

Of course, as Jeff Jarvis writes, the article is not actually dead.  He wrote one for the Guardian on precisely this topic after all!  But he believes that an article now has to contain loads of context, analysis and opinion (a la Economist) to justify the expense.

It got me thinking about the way I access news these days, especially now that I no longer work in a newsroom.  Do I still read “articles?”

How often do I listen to radio bulletins?  Nowhere near as much as I used to.  This is mainly because my daughters chat so much at breakfast it’s impossible to hear the Today programme properly, even though it still gets switched on.  When I do have time to myself in the kitchen to listen or when I’m out running, it’s invariably a time when there isn’t a news bulletin being broadcast on my preferred channels – radio four and World Service.  This is really frustrating.

How often do I watch TV news programmes?  Hardly ever but, then, I was never a huge fan.  It always feels that too much effort and money is put into the production values rather than real reporting but that may be my World Service envy of the resources lavished on the 10 o’clock news.  But also, watching a TV news bulletin is very time-consuming and not a very intense news fix to justify the time I have to invest in watching.

How often do I read newspaper articles?  I’m almost embarrassed to answer this one!  I download the Saturday edition of the Guardian but rarely get to read articles on the Saturday so by the time I do get time to read, the purely news articles are way out-of-date so I skip them and go to the comment/analysis pieces.  I’ll dip into Media Guardian articles – but only if they’ve tweeted their existence to me first.  I love the Guardian brand but I hardly ever buy the end product these days.  I consume it online but mostly via Twitter.  I’ll read other Newspaper’s articles too if they get a good recommendation on Twitter!

So, erm, that looks like a pretty radical shift in my news habits just over the last 6 months.  I now need to think about whether I feel more or less informed about the world.