Category Archives: News

Emotion in journalism

I won’t apologise for feeling emotions about particularly moving news stories. I couldn’t change the way I am anyway, nor would I want to. I’ve met journalists who feel differently about this; some think if you’re covering a story then you should detach from the emotion involved. My own view is that I think it makes me a better reporter, giving me a better understanding of events if connect with stories on an emotional level. The audience are going to have these empathetic feelings too, so it makes sense that a journalist should be in tune with this – the audience are the people we are creating the news output for.

Lee RigbyEach day there are stories in the news that can affect us in this way but the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich is one that has flared up public opinions across the country, from the London borough where it happened to his hometown of Middleton in the North-West. A man who had survived the warzone in Afghanistan was murdered on a British street.

Part of the reason why this gained so much prevalence is because the media broadcast or print it. There are no right or wrong answers to the argument as to whether images of terrorism like this should be reported. On one hand, people want to know what’s going on in the world and censorship would water down the, sometimes unpalatable, realism that goes on.

The other side is that it can be seen as gratuitous, just because it’s a big story doesn’t mean we lose taste and decency. This isn’t a film that’s being shown – it’s real life. It’s hard for parents to keep track of too; children may access the images easily in newsagents, on TV channels and the internet, particularly social media and the backlash the news coverage has caused for Muslim communities is a negative example of this.

In terrorism cases, the media gives attackers a mouthpiece for their message to reach (and frighten) more people than it ever could have otherwise, which is essentially giving them what they want. The Woolwich attack suspects were heard asking for onlookers to film them after the attack, proving that point entirely.

My view is that these events need to be reported – the whole point of news is that we cover current events – we don’t want to wrap society in cotton wool either. However, I do feel there needs to be a line on how graphic this coverage needs to be. I know I’ve written about this before in my post about the Boston marathon bomb coverage, but I don’t mind saying it again. Unless we speak openly about this nothing will change. It is important to identify the people who did this, there’s no reason why they deserve anonymity after such acts of violence other than to prevent false accusations on who the attackers are. (This is not an issue in the Woolwich case.) But do we really need to see their bloodied hands? Even a description of that is graphic enough.

Personally, I feel it is disrespectful to to show images of a dead body to the victim’s memory, as well as their loved ones to have to see. It is poignant enough just seeing the photos of him in his soldier drummer uniform, anything else seems unnecessary to me.

It goes without saying that any news coverage should be reported objectively but human interest elements are what make the public want to hear news. I’m not a fan of sensationalism either – so emotion should be kept out of news reports as much as possible too – particularly in broadcast media. That’s not to say that journalists can’t have feelings when the cameras and microphones are switched off; we are all human after all.

BBC – British Broadcasting Crisis?

BBC Director General and ‘editor-in-chief’, George Entwistle resigned from his post following a string of mistakes during his time in positions of authority. Of all the news stories you would expect the BBC to break it would be one concerning a change at the top of its own corporation – but ITN got the scoop. The announcement came just seconds too late to make the BBC 9 0’clock news bulletin, which epitomises the corporation’s bad luck over recent weeks.

The decision came after the BBC themselves made headlines by not airing a Newsnight interview that revealed allegations into Jimmy Savile’s paedophile past as well as airing another Newsnight programme which wrongly accused former MP, Lord McAlpine, of child abuse in a North Wales care home. The freelancing fiasco about how presenters were paid indirectly through separate companies to avoid tax wouldn’t have helped matters either.

Entwistle had been in charge for just 54 days, making him the shortest director general in BBC history. His time at the top was short and sour, rather than sweet, after being made a scapegoat to take the blame for the mistakes of others. Of course, part of his responsibility was to oversee the corporation, but a consequence of a big corporate hierarchy like the BBC’s is that the people who made the crucial mistakes will escape punishment and carry on, if not at the BBC then at another media organisation. These flaws don’t even concern good journalism – it’s common sense. Programmes about child abuse should have alarm bells ringing to be referred for checks.

However, Entwistle’s name may not have been on the Director General’s door when the root of these problems occurred but he was high enough in other positions at the corporation to have done something about it. We don’t get second chances often in life but Entwistle did when he was promoted to the top spot. Part of his role was to deal with controversy when it occurs and it’s a paradox that John Humphreys’ interview with Entwistle on Radio 4’s Today programme on the morning of his resignation probably played a part in his decision to leave. Instead of sounding like a man of authority Entwistle came across bumbling about facts, not displaying qualities of a strong leader.

The BBC’s ability to examine and interrogate themselves must be commended; this is one of the reasons why the ‘crisis’ will be resolved when the news becomes chip paper. Critical times lie ahead for one of the world’s much-loved and trusted broadcasters. Former head of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie, takes over as ‘acting Director General’ for now. He lacks a journalistic background but also lacks involvement in any of the scandals that contributed to his predecessor’s downfall. A series of unfortunate events led to Entwistle’s resignation but this was probably the right decision in order to sustain the public’s trust in the organisation that we fund through our licence fee.


Rachel Jardine: Gone Too Soon.

Part of journalism is that sometimes you have to report on stories that are uncomfortably harrowing. It is even worse when you know the victim involved…

I was on my way to a meeting in Piccadilly last Friday when, as I usually do, I picked up a copy of that day’s Manchester Evening News. I skimmed the front page reading the horrifying news that my friend Rachel Jardine, a masters student from the University of Manchester, had fallen 80ft from Bloom Street car park in Manchester.

To make matters worse, while she lay dying Ben Heney robbed her of her mobile. It is thought that Rachel was making a last phone call to her mother. She died of her injuries later that day in Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Originally from Bristol, 22 year old Rachel came to Manchester to study philosophy. Just an hour and a half before she died she posted this poignant quote on her Twitter page:

‘Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.’ – Jean-Paul Sartre

Heney managed to sell the mobile phone for £20 to fund his drug habit. Greater Manchester Police have called this crime “unforgivable”. The fact that anybody could rob a dying woman, instead of trying to help her, is terrible but it is even more hurtful due to the fact that I knew Rachel personally.

I graduated from university last year but knew Rachel due to our involvement in the student radio station Fuse FM. She was enthusiastic, dedicated, and most of all, such a lovely warm person who I know will be missed by all at the station.

In just 12 weeks time Ben Heney will be out walking the streets of Manchester again, free from jail. While the crime itself was petty, is the lack of morals that motivated the robbery something that should have surely justified a longer sentence?

God bless you Rachel x

In the Fuse FM studio celebrating the end of broadcast. Rachel is on the far right, I’m at the bottom.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

In fact, a super injunction prevents me telling you the answer to that…

Yes, we have to watch what we say now, even on micro-blogging sites, such as Twitter.

This has all made the headlines after a married premiership footballer had an affair with a Big Brother star. This ‘star’ has been named in the press, it’s Imogen Thomas. However, the footballer was granted a court order that prevents him from being named in the press – this is the, now illustrious, ‘super injunction.’

However, social media is not covered by this court order. A Twitter account was set up that revealed the identity of this footballer and many other ‘celebrities’ who were alleged to have had affairs. The media can comment about all of this but are prevented from naming any of the people involved.

The footballer didn’t let this die a death though; A reported 30,000 Twitter users are now at risk of being sued for revealing his identity. This, therefore, has caused his name to be used in the mud-slinging even more. Well, if nothing else, this conforms to the stereotype that footballers are as thick as two short planks.

So, does this super injunction culture demean the principles of freedom of speech? The front cover of today’s Independent gives their opinion:

Is this super injunction law a farce? Yes it is – the Sunday Herald had a picture of this footballer, barely censored, on their front page yesterday. They didn’t do this to sensationally reveal his identity; most people already know that. The Sunday Herald did this to expose the fact that super injunction law is not applicable in Scotland!

So, what did happen to freedom of speech? Well, it moved to Scotland. Let’s hope that this gagging order doesn’t follow it. If these adulterers can’t stand the heat then they should get out of the bedroom. They’ll reap all the benefits of their fame, enjoying the money, fast cars and… girls. Then they spit their dummy out when the consequences come back to bite them.