How the silent nanny state is killing local journalism


If you missed Start the Week this morning it is well worth listening to tonight, Radio Four, 21.30. In this programme investigative journalist Heather Brooke (it was she who first uncovered the MPs' expenses scandal before the Telegraph bought the information from its infamous mole) discusses her new book The Silent State,  where she reveals the true extent of council-funded freesheets and their catastrophic effect on local journalism and thus local democracy.

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Banging our heads against a paywall?


Following News International's decision that the Times and Sunday Times will charge for online access, the news industry is dividing into distinct camps over the question of whether journalism is worth paying to read.

Everyone inthe Centre should know my view: the idea that journalists can gather facts and hold power to account on a charitable basis is nonsensical. The industry was built on the principle of fair payment for quality reporting.Free access to news spells the end of professional newsgathering on which representative democracy depends.

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D-day for Journalism


Not my words but the words of Ian Dunt for

He talks about the Times Online's decision to implement a pay wall in June by charging £1 per day or £2 a week for their content. He also discusses the possibility of the Indie becoming free by the end of the year.

I like his view that journalism shouldn't go down the road of being fully funded by advertising and become free to consumers:

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Who'd want to be a politician?


Roy Hattersley argues that those at the centre of the recent 'cash for influence' scandal just don't care about politics in the way that his generation did: "The fundamental difference" he writes, is that "When I left the government, I would have been mortified by suspension and possible expulsion from the Labour party. I suspect that Hewitt, Hoon and Byers regard it as a price worth paying." Do politicians care more about money than is good for governance?

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BBC Blast reporter scheme 2010


The BBC is launching its Blast Reporter scheme for 2010, which it describes as "an opportunity for budding reporters to learn the tricks of the trade in hands-on work experience that will enable them to build on their knowledge of the media along with providing fresh and exciting opportunities in Sport and Music."

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Social services and lessons learned...or not


Social workers and failings in the system of caring for vulnerable children are all over the news today, emphasising exactly how and why this is such an important subject and why journalists need to know how things work and who does what.

The first story is close to home and relates to the death of a 25-day-old baby in Kent and the failings that led to the tragic killing by her violent father. The others relate to the sacking of social workers in Birmingham and the third to a story in Wales.

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Guardian Student Media Awards



The Guardian Student Media Awards 2010 have now launched

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Novels to read


After my  comments about the importance of reading widely (and Allan Little's impassioned guidance on the same theme), Alan McGuinness asked me to recommend my favourite novels about journalists and journalism. You know about Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.  I also recommend Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn, The Quiet American by Graham Greene and Yellow Dog by Martin Amis. Of course, journalists should not restrict themselves to fiction about journalists.

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Faking news


The Republic of Georgia panicked on Saturday when the pro-government Imedi TV station reported that a Russian invasion force had crossed the border. It was fiction (though not remotely pure). Fear among the civilian population was mimicked by the conduct of Moscow based foreign correspondents who grabbed their laptops and made calls to their news desks before realising the story was a hoax. The Guardian tells the story well, complete with a useful backgrounder on previous news hoaxes.     

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Understanding Famine or Aid for Arms


Some of you may have followed the row between Bob Geldof and the BBC this week, following a radio documentary about the misuse of aid in the 1980s.  This is obviously a controversial topic and the aid agencies have joined Geldof in attacking the BBC, as you can hear. on the latest episode of the Media Show.  This is also a matter close to my heart since my PhD thesis was on the reporting of famines.

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