Internet journalism in 1981

Great video from 1981 on the wizardry of computers and how it might change journalism, one day. We have come far!

‘Sub-editors will have to change’

A challenging piece from Lloyd Shepherd:

That said, subs will have to change, and I see that change being an evolution into a profoundly different role: that of curators of the news space created by the news brand. If Arianna Huffington was right when she described news media as having attention deficit disorder while the blogosphere was obsessive-compulsive, then we need some more obsessives around the place to keep the place tidy. By which I mean keeping content organised around topics, farming tags, checking search terms, seeding communities, enriching text with pictures, sound and video. As well as keeping those childish reporters in line with their spelling and grammar. More obsessives required, please. There’s a ready supply on the subs desk.

This is the why online journalism is such an exciting place: it’s constantly changing. Right now, anyone working in online media needs to be as multi-dimensional as possible, particularly subs. From my experience, the online world needs concise and accurate writers more than ever before. Speed and accuracy are everything, a fact that might suggest the sub’s role is increasingly redundant…but as Lloyd says, there are plenty of other things to satisfy their OCD…

A united Middle East, of sorts

Nice observation from Richard Sambrook on three friends united by journalism and varying degrees of trauma.

I was talking to Alan Johnston earlier this week (yes he is as decent and remarkable as he appears). He told me something which keeps playing in my mind. A little while before 9/11 he was one of three BBC correspondents having dinner one night in Cairo. They all had a deep interest in the Middle East and were discussing how events were likely to play out. The other two were Frank Gardner, later shot and badly injured in Saudi Arabia and Caroline Hawley who reported from Baghdad for a number of years until she took a break in Amman on the night a suicide bomber blew up her hotel (she was uninjured). Alan of course was kidnapped in Gaza earlier this year. His story is being told by Panorama next week. Three very talented and commited reporters, friends, who together have experienced the sharpest end of the Middle East.

Got a minute or ten?

I had the good fortune of (finally) meeting Patrick Kidd for lunch today and, among other things, he told us about his interview with Rahul Dravid yesterday (certainly worth reading). He managed 800 words – a fine feat considering he was afforded just two minutes with the India captain. Two. He and another journalist were given five “precious” minutes with him which never ceases to annoy me. With such a short time frame, you often end up firing questions at them, nodding furiously but not listening sufficiently, and it becomes a barrage for the interviewee. Of course, neither party – least of all those being interviewed – have hours and hours spare. But all we’re asking for is 10 minutes. That’s a fair amount of time in which to conduct a decent interview and get to know the human behind the sound-bites.

In Ireland, I was lucky to speak to a number of the players and the restrictions were far less. Rare and priceless. I wonder if and when that’ll ever happen? Anyway – go and read Patrick’s piece and of course his blog, Line and Length, immediately.

Phrases and cliches to be banned (along with smoking)

It’s D-day for me and millions of other happy smokers on July 1. Yet while we wheeze our way to a healthier lifestyle at the behest of our loving, caring, huggable government, there is one burning issue in the ashtray of politics which has yet to be doused: clichés. They are absolutely everywhere, and the disease is spreading thick and fast.

Lawrence Booth wrote a piece on it for 2006′s Wisden Cricketers Almanack (absolutely required reading), but still nothing has been done. And I’ve just read one of the worst – one of my most hated expressions – from Paul Nixon, regarding tomorrow’s Twenty20 kick-off: express yourself. “Just go out there and express yourself”. It provokes in me a boiling rage, and makes me want to eat my feet.

Talking of such things, Mr Booth scribbled this in his column a couple of weeks ago which caught my eye:

Moments before Monty entered the Lancashire library to share his
thoughts on his four-wicket haul in West Indies’s first innings with
the press, a member of the fourth estate decided to get to work on
the pad of A4 placed on the table in front of Monty’s seat
(presumably in case he felt the need at any stage to jot down a few
thoughts). “REMEMBER TO SAY,” wrote the journalist “HIT THE RIGHT
AREAS, WORK HARD, KEEP IT SIMPLE”.

Enter Monty to stifled titters. He sits down, spots the advice and
chuckles out loud (the Spin has the chuckle on tape and will happily
place an audio version of it on-line if challenged). He points it out
to England’s media-relations officer, James Avery, who chuckles too,
and then scans the beaming faces before him in search of the culprit.

Superb. Lawrence’s The Spin is emailed to just about everyone who knows or cares about cricket, and journalism, every Thursday. Get it now.

And your favourite clichés? Come on; put your hands up and come to the party. Express yourselves…

The modern cricket journalist

It’s no longer all about words, clusters, headlines, subbing and nailing the point of your piece in the second paragraph. The modern journalist needs to cook, too, especially when covering the Ashes.

Making fish pie

Chez Cricinfo will be serving fish pie this evening. What five-star winners we are.

Cricket, is it?

A young Pakistani, whose parents hail from Lahore, noticed me reading Andrew Strauss’s book on the bus this afternoon. “Cricket, is it” (it wasn’t a question, more a statement; “is it” is relaxed, Londonish ghetto-talk for “eh”. Like an Australian would say “Ahhh cricket eh?” I am your professor, heed my knowledge).

“Yes, cricket,” I answered. “You like cricket?” was my pathetic, tired attempt at continuing the conversation.

“Ah is it! Cricket innit, you know” he offered, which was either an abrupt end to our brief chat or the makings of an entire diatribe – I wasn’t sure. Instead, I chose to big myself up and told him I was a journalist.

“Cricket journalist? What paper is it?” (correct usage of “is it” there) and he knew Cricinfo, his favourite site and so on. Immediately I regretted telling him – every other word he uttered was either Inzy, ICC or Hair. I couldn’t tell him much – the hearing was mid-way through and is due to run on tomorrow too. He was still at school, yet knew all about the hearing, its location, Inzamam and so on. Hilariously he assumed I’d be best friends with Mr Inzy, not to mention drinking pals with Daz and Billy D. “Can’t you call ‘em innit? Call Inzy, is it!”

The passion a sport can ignite in people astounds me sometimes.

Photo journalism revisited

Following my post yesterday on photo journalism, Shane Richmond, News Editor of the Telegraph, has responded – and makes a very valid point:

Writing on his own blog, Will from The Corridor wrote: “Words can be mistaken, misinterpreted, altered, subbed and disagreed with – part of its joy and appeal – but photography, especially wartime photo journalism, has no such luxury. A dead kid is a dead kid; an elephant is, well, just that.”

Unfortunately, Will is wrong. Photos can be deceiving in all kinds of ways. They too can be mistaken, misinterpreted and disagreed with. But Will is right about their power, which is why they provoke such passion.

Many people don’t think we should publish photographs showing dead bodies or seriously injured people because they think it is in bad taste. They feel that it’s inappropriate or exploitative to show such images.

That was the case with the ‘falling man’ image taken on September 11th, 2001. It was used in many publications following the attack on New York but, such was the outcry from the public, it is seldom republished.

Of course photos can be mistaken and misinterpreted and, as Scott rightly points out, tweaked in Photoshop too. I hadn’t given any thought to what I wrote (a common problem with blogging in general. Or is that just me?) and, in retrospect, my remarks were rather flippant and ignorant. Perhaps my point is thus: whereas a paragraph, or even an entire story, might helpfully convey the background to a situation, an accompanying photo adds so much more to the story. The two are intrinsically linked and compliment eachother.

Shane has entered into a lively debate with a political blogger who argues, or rather questions, that these photos (and perhaps photo journalism of wartime conflicts “in general”) are contrived or staged. Call me naive but I simply cannot agree with this. Political propaganda is as old as the hills but, as Shane points out, there are simply too many photographers all competing for the same shot. What chance of staging such a shot and getting away with it? Despite the rise in citizen journalism, no Tom Dick or Harry can rock up with their favourite Canon EOS, masquerade as a journalist, avoid being killed by falling bombs, conspire with their chosen favourite warlord, stage a photo and get away with it.

Anyway, rather gone off topic here, but I remain fascinated by the decisions behind what is published in newspapers. Blogs like the Telegraph’s – to a lesser degree the BBC’s, too, although I find their style surprisingly cocksure and sickly – really are demystifying the often shadowy world of newspapers and their editorial decisions. As someone who is now in that industry, albeit dedicated to one sport, I find it all pretty fascinating to say the least.

Choosing a photo

You ought to know by now my fascination of photography is nearly boundless. Working for Cricinfo – and listening and watching the fine folk of The Wisden Cricketer magazine a few desks away – has opened my eyes to the decisions made in the decision of which photo should be published.

Given that we’re running a news site our task is pretty easy: fresh, fresh, fresh. Keep it relevant to (one of) our main headlines and/or relevant to the day’s main stories. Similarly with the magazine, a photo should correspond (and add to – and entice people into reading) a certain story. We are, though, talking about cricket which, despite our best efforts, remains a mere game. Although, approaching the first anniversary of that Test match, I’m reminded of its significance to our lives!

Over in the middle-east, they’re having a crap time of it. So it was fascinating to read the Telegraph’s blogs (which are superb I might add) and the decisions involved in choosing which photos to go to print. While we deal in photos of cricketers, their main headache is death. In the end, they chose these two:

Instead of these:

Apologies for the harrowing imagery but it’s nevertheless fascinating to someone relatively new to the industry; I certainly view newspapers, columns and so forth in a different light these days, and wonder sometimes “who decided that this be published? How many people subbed this article?”. The media get a bad wrap in this country. Often it is deserved. But quite honestly I think they made the right choice here between informing the public of what is going on out there (I still don’t understand it properly) and shielding them from unnecessarily graphic photography. The Telegraph geezer says:

There is no written policy on photo publication at the Telegraph. No two photographs are alike and no two stories are alike so it is almost impossible to write guidance that covers every eventuality.

Where possible we try to avoid explicitly showing dead bodies but the decision lies with the picture editor on the day. The choice of picture depends on the story, what other images are available and – in some cases – consultation with the editor of the paper.

If the story merits it, or if the picture is the best image for the job, then we will sometimes publish a picture which may shock some readers.

The Qana story was particularly powerful because so many of the victims were children. The most striking images of the day showed dead children and it was impossible to tell the story adequately without showing bodies.

The flip side is that arguably they’re wrapping us in cotton wool by not showing us the most violent imagery. As a wordsmith and writer I’ve a greater interest in the pieces produced than the actual photos but, nevertheless, photography continues to aid and influence journalism in every corner of the industry.

Words can be mistaken, misinterpreted, altered, subbed and disagreed with – part of its joy and appeal – but photography, especially wartime photo journalism, has no such luxury. A dead kid is a dead kid; an elephant is, well, just that. It’s quite a restrictive form of reportage in that sense but equally it has a great power and I reckon we’re fucking lucky to live in the digital age, with every man and his dog owning cameras and sharing images all over the place from every nook and cranny.

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