Sad news about The Guardian pulling its local projects. We had John Baron
@johncbaron over of Guardian Leeds at Leeds Met only last week and he was full of good ideas about how big media could re-engage with a city like Leeds
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Sad news about The Guardian pulling its local projects. We had John Baron
Another break from blogging (this time to make way for the birth of our lovely daughter) which meant that I missed commenting on the passing of the Guardian’s Technology supplement in the week before Christmas. It was a sad day, for me, to see the paper section finally go offline, not least because it had been given my first big break in journalism. Without the section (pictured, right) I might never have enjoyed many of the opportunities to develop my journalistic career; might never have seen quite so much of the world; and, by extension, never have met my darling Anna one fateful day in Helsinki without the network of contacts the section gave me access to. It’s not the end of an era, but it is the passing of a part of my life that proved pivotal. It was, however, really sweet, or more accurately bittersweet, to be remembered in the final issue, mind. This following comment by the section’s last editor, Charles Arthur, unexpected as it was, made me giggle when I stumbled across it one morning in the university library:
“Of the thousands of words that I’ve edited in Guardian Technology since November 2005, none has delighted me quite so much as the opening of Sean Dodson’s article in May 2006: “In 1824 an English bricklayer named Joseph Aspdin rediscovered one of the great secrets of the ancient world.” It has it all: mystery, storytelling, and most of all it’s about the sort of technology that you can drop on your foot. (Don’t quite recall what he rediscovered? Find out online).”
The section will continue online and in different parts of the paper. But it will be missed. Thanks to Vic, Jack, Neil and Charles for all the help you gave me.
I’ve always thought that the libel lawyers Carter-Ruck sounded like a euphemism or, perhaps, a piece of forgotten cockney rhyming slang. Anyway, I’m delighted that they have dropped their attempt to prevent the British media from reporting on the proceedings of parliament. It is, in part, a victory for the chorus of twitterers that defied the ban yesterday. Only hours after the ruling was announced the full report as made available on Wikileaks and transmitted across the internet by hundreds of users of the microblogging site Twitter. Carter-Ruck, acting on behalf of the oil firm Trafigura, were attempting to prevent the Guardian reporting on a question tabled on Monday by the Labour MP Paul Farrelly.
The rule of prior restraint has been gaining ground in recent years, despite misgivings from European Court of Human Rights, as judges seem more willing to allow last moment injunctions against the publication of exposes. But the kind of injunction used on Monday (a so-called super-injunction) not only prevents publication, but also makes the injunction itself secret. It is a type of censorship that recalls Apartheid-era South Africa, when newspaper editors were not allowed to leave pages blank or blacked-out when they had been censored by the government.
Interviewed in the Guardian, Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, said:
“The injunction against the Guardian publishing questions to ministers tabled by the Labour MP Paul Farrelly is an example of a chill wind blowing more widely through the press. In increasing numbers, aggressive lawyers, who used to use libel law to protect their clients, are now using injunctions to secure privacy and confidentiality. They have found it is a legal technique which shuts stories down very quickly so that now it is not a question of publish and be damned, as it used to be: we are now finding that we can’t even publish at all.”
Really good piece by Polly Toynbee in this morning’s Guardian on what is to be done about failing local newspapers. The first paper who ever paid me (a fiver for a band review), The Holme Valley Express, went bust a couple of months back. Many others are in navigating similar straits. But maybe, just maybe, argues Toynbee, a new business model, one based on the idea of a public trust, could save local papers.
“Bring in the money available from awful ITV local news. Add in some BBC money: their local news is shamingly bad too, partly because the area covered is too wide. Then oblige local councils to stop wasting money on their own Pravda sheets, and to buy space in clearly defined zones in their local news trusts. It might need a small subvention from council tax, too. Roll all this into a local trust with an obligation to good reporting, fair rules and open access, and you could have independent local news across web, print, radio and television offering a genuine community service. It is on the table.”
Lots has been written about the sad death of the great Charles Wheeler. I though John Tusa summed him up best in today’s Guardian:
“Charles was the obverse of a puffed-up “personality journalist” – the kind of person who thinks his personal presence is our message. Charles was the last of the great BBC bureau chiefs, the journalists expected to lead the BBC’s coverage of a great subject – India, the US – and to do so with real knowledge and total authority. Listeners and viewers recognised that when he expressed a judgment, it was based on thought, knowledge, experience, and acquired information, not on prejudice or wish-fulfilment.”
If you’ve got nothing to hide, why hide behind an official spokesperson? If you believe in free speech, why not agree to a proper interview? The morning’s Media Guardian published an article I have been researching for the last few months. Headlined A Platform for Free Speech … or Hate, it examines the Telegraph’s attitude towards some of the more extremist views available on its readers blogs. My investigation has uncovered that the My Telegraph service is being used by members of the British National Party (BNP) to promote their nefarious views. I knew that I would attract a fair bit of heat from the article, as you can’t go around accusing a national newspaper of harbouring the views of the far right, albeit a vocal minority of them, and not expect it to bite back.
So here goes. One of the card-carrying neo-fascists I mentioned in the article quoted Socrates in his defence (although he couldn’t actually spell my name correctly) on his blog. Many others from the far right called me, and the newspaper I often work for, a lot of nasty names. All as to be expected. Many of them, moreover, also accused me (apparently without reading my article as there comments were published before it was printed) that I was against free speech. I think it goes without saying that I’m not against freedom of speech. I just want to question whether a reputable and recognised brand like the Telegraph (a newspaper I’ve long admired) wants to allow members of the far right to use it as a platform to propagate their extremist views. Of course, it’s not me who is against free speech, but a party that routinely uses violence to support its views; who deny the holocaust and whose leader has been tried twice for incitement to racial hatred (although he did eventually get off). The BNP is also a party that, according to its own constitution, is “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration.”
I asked Weyman Bennett, national secretary of Unite Against Fascism what he thought of the free speech defence and whether the Telegraph should allow active members of the BNP to use the Telegraph to promote their views. He told me that the British National Party remain far from a legitimate organisation and that he “would assume that the Telegraph would be at pains to condemn the BNP. Instead they are allowing a fascist party to whip up racism and that it needs to recognise that it is not a benign organisation, but threat to anybody who believes in democracy.”
The communities editor of the Telegraph, Shane Richmond, published a list of my questions on his blog on Friday without my consent. I took such an intrusion into our private correspondence in good humour, but I think it’s a bit rich of him to complain about freedom of speech when he refused both a face-to-face and telephone interview forcing me to send any questions I had via email and to conduct most of his comments over the internet and in public before even reading my article. So one that question again to Shane Richmond: if you’ve got nothing to hide, why hide behind your official spokesperson?