Tuesday, 27 September 2011

It’s all about standards.

At my first lecture at Cardiff today, the word ‘standards’ was mentioned a lot. A hot topic at the moment, it seems.

In the aftermath of further phone hacking revelations, journalists are not renowned for their high standards of practice; and today Shadow Culture Secretary, Ivan Lewis, outlined his plans to rectify this.

Talking at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Mr Lewis said that some lessons needed to be learned.

1.   No one commercial organisation should have such power and control over the media ever again. 

2.   Self regulation of the press is ineffectual and a new system of independent regulation is needed. As part of this, journalists guilty of malpractice should be struck off.

3.   Mr Murdoch should realise that the integrity of the UK’s media and politics is not for sale.

Now, I’m all for points 1 and 3. However, point number 2 is something that would make a lot of journalists squirm. I’m unsure how I feel about it myself, but I understand why Mr Lewis thinks it’s necessary.

The media has the power to completely ruin a person’s life. Just like those in the Medical profession in some ways, though less obviously. But for those whose life has been torn apart, the cruel effects of bad press can cause deep emotional pain like a shoddy operation causes physical pain.

In this light it seems that the all-powerful media should indeed be kept in check, and held accountable where they are reckless with the lives of others.

Adam Boulton from Sky said:

However as most journalists these days are required to complete a Postgraduate course where they will learn about the law, isn’t it fair to treat them equally to other professionals like doctors, teachers and lawyers?

Aside from the issues of power, an independent regulatory body might be a good mechanism for restoring trust in the press. If the public know that ‘bad’ journalists can be held accountable they can be more confident in the fact that what they’re reading is produced to the highest standards. Some people argue that journalists can already be sacked for making errors. But if you ask Rebekah Brooks or Johann Hari, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

A move like this would cause a massive headache to editors and reporters everywhere. It would also require an extensive (and no doubt expensive) regulatory infrastructure to be created. Considering the amount of citizen journalists and bloggers out there in this digital world I’m not sure it would even be possible.

But something needs to be done. I’m not convinced a journo-register is the answer; but somehow the power should be checked and the trust in the media restored.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Top tweet to woo employers

There are no jobs in journalism. This is almost 100% true. To (loosely) quote Rob Attar speaking at a Media Course earlier this year: 

“To get a job in journalism, you basically need to wait for someone to retire, get pregnant or die.”

And that’s certainly been true for me. (No, I didn’t hatch any sinister murder plans to secure myself a job this summer, a reporter was on maternity leave). Anyway.

Employers are inundated with CVs from equally qualified applicants, to the point where one frustrated editor today decided not to read any. Alan Geere, Editor of Northcliffe Media South East claimed on his blog to be “fed up wading through turgid ‘letters of application’ and monstrous CVs outlining an early career in retail handling and a flirtation with the upper slopes of the Andes.”

So, in a move to separate the mice from the men Geere decided to limit all job applications to the 140 characters allowed in a tweet, stating that he wants reporters that can write “quickly and accurately.”

I thought I’d give this a go and see what I could fit in 140 characters. My would-be application looks a little something like this:

@alangeere LLB 2.1, shorthand 60wpm, attending Cardiff for journalism postgrad 11/12, 3 months experience @WTelegraph, clean driving licence

Whilst I think that writing concisely is a skill, I don’t think this 140 character passage really does me justice. On this subject Matthew Holehouse tweeted this:

And I have to say I agree with him. In 140 characters you can only establish the very basics to a person’s qualifications. Geere says himself: “I keep getting told there is an over-supply of qualified people wanting to do journalism. Well, maybe there is but there’s definitely not an over-supply of people who are any good.”

If you limit someone to 140 characters, all you can establish is their ability to make an extremely short list. In an incredibly overcrowded job market, I would hope that prospective employers take budding journalists more seriously than this. It takes half an hour, maximum, to read a CV. A yes or no to a job application can affect an applicant’s whole life.

It's been a while.

Apologies to my nine blog followers for the lack of regular (or even rare) posts recently. The reason I have neglected this blog all summer is because I have been doing extensive research on how to become a journalist, by actually being one!

Due to a mixture of luck, timing, and (I hope) a good first impression, I managed to get a three month contract working for Newsquest on the local papers in my area. I’ve been working hard all summer, to contribute and to learn as much as I can; because I know how lucky I am to get an opportunity like this.

However, this is not an excuse for lack of posts and I intend to be much better in future. I’ve got a few things up my sleeve, but in the mean time to see a few things I’ve been doing during my absence, check out thisthis and this.