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The Truth About the MSM

Journalists have always had their critics. Back in the days of typewriters and carbon paper complaints would arrive in the post, often scraw...

19 March 2017

25 Years of BCB Radio

I was delighted to give a talk this week to members of BCB Radio (Bradford Community Broadcasting - 106.6FM). They're celebrating a special anniversary this year, 25 years of delivering great community radio for Bradford.

I was originally asked to give a bit of a pep talk to the membership on the opportunities offered by expanding the hyperlocal news service. Somehow, in the pre-publicity for the event, this became "Adventures in Broadcast Journalism" - a rather more ambitious brief - and then it was billed as the opening event in a series of "Creative Bradford" talks to encourage creative industries in the district. So no pressure, then.

I was surprised, but after the foregoing shouldn't have been, to discover, the day before the event, that not only was it to be broadcast live on BCB but it was also to be livestreamed on Facebook.

So this is the literal, verbatim account of the session as it happened - there is more I could have said, more I wish I'd said in retrospect.

I'll be writing a follow-up blog when pressure of other commitments allows.

It will become obvious why I never did telly.


10 February 2017

Viewers in the North? How Awful for You

Imagine the scene. It's January, 2010. Children are crawling on their hands and knees to get to school, because the roads and pavements are too icy to stand upright.

This has come about because of a rare weather phenomenon where lying snow and ice has begun to melt, then frozen suddenly as temperatures drop sharply. You'd think it would be a huge story for journalists - pictures! Human interest! Once in a lifetime event! Did I say pictures?

But it hardly got a mention outside West Yorkshire, because it happened in Holmfirth. Not Holborn. For a while the BBC News website marked the unseasonal weather with a picturesque shot of a snow-flecked red London bus passing by the tower of Big Ben.

This is a classic example of regional discrimination, in its own way as bad as sex or race discrimination, and the basis of a piece I've just written for an ebook on diversity from the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, of which I'm a Journalism and Accreditation board member.

03 September 2016

On Demand? It's Not The Same

I've struggled for a while to articulate why podcasts, or indeed any type of on-demand audio including listen-again recordings of radio output, are fundamentally different from live radio.

I meet uncomprehending stares from the download-everything generation, then get the kind of nods and smiles that mean I'm being indulged.

Don't get me wrong, I think catchup services are brilliant and I'm convinced podcasts (despite the awful name) offer the best potential for radio to reach new audiences in future. But they're not the same as live radio, happening now and being shared by a disparate audience .. in real time. It's a concept the brains behind BBC Five Live understood when they named the station.

Then, just this week, an example presented itself. An example involving one of radio's finest practitioners.

23 August 2016

Don't Confuse Style and Substance

There's been a lot of discussion this month about changing practices in newsrooms.

It's mainly a newspaper thing. Both Trinity Mirror and Johnson Press have been getting a lot of stick from award-winning journalists, and disgruntled former employees, alleging that "clickbait culture" is becoming so prevalent that easy-reading listicles on soft topics are pushing more difficult issues out, unless they are likely to generate more than a thousand views per article.

There are issues in the argument that also apply in radio, and more generally online; the culture wars are back in full swing.

09 August 2016

Nine Out Of Ten

The figures are in. Again. The beast won't lie down. Radio, that most unglamorous of media, is consumed by 9 out of 10 people in Britain every week. Nine out of ten. Ninety percent. We need to shout that number loud and long at every opportunity. It astounds each new class of students I face.

Astonishingly, given the proliferation of shiny new distractions, that figure has hardly budged in decades. Big events like the Olympics, or a general election, can even nudge it up a point or two. Calmer news agendas might see it subside to 89, but there's no doubt radio remains an established part of our lives for an overwhelming majority of the population.

Commentary on the latest figures has been pretty upbeat, with Folder Media's Matt Deegan even suggesting we're in a new "golden age" for radio (lots of detailed analysis on that link too). That might be putting it a bit strong, but I think there's definite room for optimism.

02 August 2016

The Truth About the MSM

Journalists have always had their critics. Back in the days of typewriters and carbon paper complaints would arrive in the post, often scrawled in green ink on lined Basildon Bond writing paper.

Complaints are usually from people unhappy about what has been published; or, just as often, about what has not been used. Editors have to make rapid decisions, and a big part of that gatekeeper role is to keep out free advertising and, vitally, the sort of unmoderated, opinion-heavy "press releases" turned out endlessly by those with a cause - whether that cause be political, religious, or just an obsession.

Recently I'm concerned to see a new kind of conspiracy theorist emerge online; the keyboard warrior who blames what they call "the MSM", or "mainstream media", for all the world's ills. It's a lazy slander of many hardworking journalists.