02 May 2016

A New Deal For Political Coverage

This week, voters are going to the polls across England to elect local Councillors, and to choose the Police and Crime Commissioners who supervise forces in England and Wales. Londoners also have the little local matter of a Mayor.

Turnout is unlikely to be impressive. Most people can't name their Police and Crime Commissioner, let alone describe what they do for (in West Yorkshire) their £100K salary. I don't sense a huge enthusiasm for the town hall contests either.

What I do sense is profound cynicism towards the democratic process. Call it the Boaty McBoatface phenomenon. People don't vote in huge numbers but when they do it's for anti-politics, anti-establishment options or candidates. As to the real decision, they don't believe any party or individual is speaking to them or for them. The prevailing mood is that politicians - all politicians - are in it for themselves.

And we in the news media are partly to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

12 April 2016

Five Questions

This is the time of year when thousands of sixth formers are making life-changing decisions about which university course to choose. Many are seeking vocationally-relevant, advanced training to get the right start in a professional career.

For those seeking to enter journalism it's vital to get the choice of course right. There are many, many training institutions out there, and it's so important to choose the one that will best meet your aspirations.

An essential skill for any wannabe journo is to ask the right questions. No journalism tutor worthy of the title will think badly of you for going beyond the glossy pictures in the prospectus by seeking hard information about the realities of the course. Five key questions ...

03 April 2016

Breaking Bad Habits

The two most over-used words in the modern lexicon of journalese have to be "Breaking News".

We are in an age where the speed of publication is reduced to nanoseconds, and a genuine scoop (at least in terms of blue light stories) is almost unheard of, although to be fair Sky News came close when, by chance, a MoJo-savvy reporter happened to be checking in at Brussels airport as the suicide bombs went off.

It's a bad habit, and we've got to break it.

18 March 2016

Frustrated with DAB

No-one is more delighted than I am to see all the new choice for radio listening in the UK with the launch of the new tranche of DAB services this month.

But there's a problem. I'm angry about how difficult it is to listen. I'm furious about the money I've spent on and the commitment I've made to DAB, only now to be unable to enjoy it. This frustration is coming from a dedicated follower of wireless fashion.

12 March 2016

Too Much Love

Someone in the Number 10 press office is having a bad weekend.

They've been caught out, like the kid at school who buys a multipak of Valentine's cards, professing too much love. Not for The Little Red-Haired Girl (and all her mates), but for the English regions.

In the wake of the devastating floods around Christmas there has been a widespread disaffection out of London with the scale and speed of Whitehall's response. This reflects badly on the PM . So our unfortunate spinner was given the job of sending out a "personal" message from David Cameron to make clear the Prime Minister's grave concern.

A simple task, but they messed up. Why they messed up is the important lesson, and the reason goes far beyond party politics.

09 March 2016

Set BBC Local Radio Free

BBC Local Radio has a lot in common with Higher Education.

Both are publicly funded, albeit in different ways. Both are stuffed with passionate, clever, articulate people who put up with a lot because they love the job that they do.

And both are plagued with a bureaucratic culture which forces the very people who should be leading the organisation to spend far too much of their time being conspicuously accountable through either writing or responding to endless reports.

There's another such report on local radio out this week. I've lost count of how many there have been. I'm not going to try summarising it because, frankly, I haven't got the will or the energy to do so and besides David Lloyd has already written a brilliant commentary on it.

I'm going to spend my time in this blog proposing a solution. The bosses aren't going to like it.