Friday, 30 November 2012

Has Leveson Logged Off?

The blogosphere is unsurprisingly swamped with responses to the publication of the report from the Leveson Inquiry - that Sword of Damocles suspended over the head of British media. 

Or, more accurately, the PRINT media. 'Dead Tree' journalism as it is routinely and scornfully referred to by disciples of the other mediums of communication - yes, even in this so-called 'multiplatform' age. The divides between television, internet, radio and broadcast journalism have never been more keenly felt than when the knives came out for the pariahs of Wapping and Fleet Street. 

Indeed, many commentators - such as the Wannabe Hacks - have observed Lord Justice Leveson's failure to include the quasi-press entities online in his recommendations to the government for media regulation. George Berridge of WH expressed his surprise thus:
True, the inquiry was set up to look at the print press but, Hell, when we’re spending £5m why not at least try and cover the web?
There are two responses to this. Firstly, web journalism - blogging, tweeting and social media reporting - was simply not on the stand. The catalyst for this Inquiry was the scandal exploding out of the News of the World, illuminating dodgy practices across News International even as the editors and executives desperately tried to bail out the dirty water.
At fault were some of the flagship titles of the British print media, which still remain the greatest source of news for consumers, which can influence government policy and practice (never the same thing), and which have become traditional institutions which command respect far and above the sort of work that, say, Guido Fawkes does. 

This isn't to condemn Paul Staines and his work, which certainly has its place. Indeed, he was a witness at the Inquiry, but his input was of a sideline commentator, describing the action as it happened on the field Leveson was judging - that of newspaper journalism. 
Staines wasn't being accused of hacking voicemails, blagging personal details, or any of the crimes laid at the Murdoch's door. So - for the moment, anyway - online journalism simply doesn't deserve the Leveson gunsights training on it. 

Secondly - the attitude of 'try and cover the web', with the remnants of the £5m spent on Leveson pursuing the world-famous publications which led to a 2,000 page report, indicates a dangerously optimistic opinion of success. Or a dangerously simplistic idea of how the internet actually works. 

To try and tackle the concept of legislating, even trying to control and corral the vast, chattering, rambling masses of online news producers, will be a herculean task. I cannot even imagine where to begin with such a task - but if it is to succeed, it will signal a landmark legal, cultural and social turning point in our online history. 

The internet is a vast, vital, lawless, perplexing, intimidating and invaluable place. Deciding how we proceed in this entirely new world is not something to be tacked on carelessly to the side of an equally crucial Inquiry into 'dead tree' journalism - which as we've established, is far from being woodchipped just yet. 

Let us concentrate for now on how best to regulate print media, how to put the old house in order, before we even consider the challenge of controlling the new.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

On the Shoulders of Video Journalists

Last week I submitted my final report for my TV Journalism module - this year, excitingly enough reduced to run less than a single semester to replicate the pressures of a conventional TV newsroom.

Since starting my degree course, I have been fascinated with the TV modules and consistently applied, enjoyed, and done well. Not surprisingly, as being a television journalist has long been a dream of mine. When other children were imagining being footballers or hairdressers or train drivers, I wanted to be a cameraman.
As a precocious eleven-year-old, I visited the Eureka! museum in Halifax where they had a fully functional TV studio, and I soon took charged, shepherding baffled children into place and squeaking out camera orders in tiny, unbroken tones.

"He'll be a director one day!" remarked one parent, probably trying politely to convey "Your child is a terrifyingly bossy control freak." Nevertheless the prophecy was born out, and I have twice produced and directed news programmes on my degree course.

Additionally, I have filmed any number of stories, and if not come to understand, then at least agreed to an uneasy truce with the powerful but inflexible AVID editing tool. Outside of the Gallery and the edit suites, however, my tutors observed my singular nature and tendency to 'lone wolf' off with my reporting - and despite my lack of team player spirit, I always rationalized to myself that this was how video-journalists were expected to work now. I am reporter, camerman, soundman, editor and presenter all rolled into one exhausted figure, lugging tripod, JVC and boom mike around West Yorkshire. Not for nothing did I title this blog post 'on the shoulders...'

Many students come to a journalism degree course with an express intention of qualifying for a set role - I believe I've spoken clearly before on the hordes of Sports Journalists. I set out with no more desire than to discover what I enjoyed, and what I was good at, by attending the course.

I enjoyed beyond expectations the finding, filming and finishing of news stories. Hopefully my marks will bear out my ability as well as my enthusiasm. Soon enough, my youtube channel will be updated with my latest productions so that you can draw your own conclusions. 

Have I decided then, what role I want to follow? It's still up in the air, and graduation is still the other side of some final deadlines... Not to mention the dearth of jobs in the sector for budding video-journalists. But without doubt, it has been the side of journalism I have enjoyed the most.

Mind you, the decision might be made entirely for me - my colleagues were dismissive of me as an anchor because of my long hair, and if asked to choose between fame and flowing locks, well, that's a decision I don't want to have to make...!