Benlowndes

a perspective on PR in social housing and regeneration

Category Archives: Journalism

MacKenzie: our media is better than this

Kelvin MacKenzie’s missive against Ross Barkley and the people of Liverpool reaffirms his status in the city as a uniquely offensive and mistrusted figure.

Twitter users quickly voiced disapproval of his column, which likened a young player of mixed-race heritage to a gorilla and made disparaging remarks about Scousers.

The reaction – as the city prepared for the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – highlighted widespread bafflement that the piece got past the editors in the first place. Fair enough. What the hell was he doing writing about Liverpool at any time, let alone now?

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Trolls and threats: don’t blame social for nastiness

I’ve always enjoyed debate and place great importance on our freedom to challenge opinions we disagree with.

This can be tough, and I have become jaded lately by what I’ve seen and experienced on Twitter in relation to Syria. I stayed away from it for a couple of days last week because of the unpleasantness displayed towards people who expressed different views to opponents of the decision to start a bombing campaign.

Social media enables anyone to voice opinions, unchecked and unfiltered, to the wider world. On balance, this is a good thing. It’s make discourse more interesting and gives an airing to views which are too easily overlooked by the mainstream. If there was ever a time when politicians, media and civic institutions shaped public discourse, it feels distant today.

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Media say old habits remain with ‘new’ PR

It’s beyond doubt that PR has changed massively, and continues to do so, thanks to the opportunities created by digital communications and the diversification of traditional media.

CIPR president-elect Stephen Waddington asked a room full of comms people at the South West Communicators’ Conference in Bristol recently how many had bought a newspaper that morning, and only one confirmed that they had. It’s possible that some people in the room were too busy on their tablets or smart phones to realise he was asking them a question. But he had made the key point; that the media is changing rapidly and communicators must respond to this. Many operators in the South West are rising to this challenge with some great work, as Bristol agency Spirit demonstrated with its support for the Gromit Unleashed campaign in the city.

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MEN’s ‘model newsroom’ makes more cuts

I was sorry to read today that the Manchester Evening News is making further cuts to its editorial team, with two of the city’s best known business journalists set to leave the paper.

Prolific North has reported that MEN business editor Kevin Feddy and his deputy Simon Donohue have been made redundant and could leave the paper as early as this month.

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Press gets lock in at last chance saloon

For weeks, I’ve listened to arguments about the press ahead of Leveson’s damning report today. It’s depressing, but not surprising, how quick people on all sides of the debate have been to reach judgements about the report, which appears at first glance to be thoughtful, proportionate and measured.

During the hearing, we’ve heard sickening tales of people traduced by media misconduct. It shouldn’t be forgotten how people like the McCanns, the Dowlers and Christopher Jefferies were treated at times when their lives were already under huge strain. Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Charlotte Church (who was on Question Time tonight) have sounded at times like they are speaking for the country when calling for independent regulation of the press. It was painful to see experienced tabloid journalists Trevor Kavanagh and Nevile Thurlbeck speak on Channel 4 News tonight about the importance of a free media. Surely noone disagrees with this. But their performance tonight suggested that they don’t get what’s happening around them, or what they need to do to deal with it.

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People aren’t grieving when retweeting celebrity comments

I’ve been reading about something called Celebrity Death Twitter Harvest, or the tendency for people to express collective sadness on social media when someone famous dies.

The recent death of Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn led The Guardian to ask today why celebs (or anyone who tweets) mark the passing of someone famous with such a tribute. Well, it contributes to the conversation taking place in the Twittersphere for a start. And it’s easier than buying flowers.

I’ve always thought some of the tweets seem insincere, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it to acknowledge the death of someone who has made an impact on my life. And doesn’t this go with the territory?

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Plagiarism plagues the press at all levels

Protest the Pope - 23 - Johann Hari vs Benedict

Johann Hari (Photo credit: lewishamdreamer)

The issue of journalists plagiarising content has hit the headlines recently, most notably with the Independent’s Johann Hari last year.

He was derided as the symbol of unethical journalism in the ‘cut and paste’ age for lifting passages from the work of others to embellish his copy. Having made a name for himself by criticising the wrongs of others, the industry was never going to give him a sympathetic hearing once he was found out.

I don’t have sympathy for him either, but the rest of the media is in no position to crow about this practice in my view; what, after all, does that make the press releases regularly published at all levels of the media?  It isn’t plagiarism in the sense that Hari’s activity was, sure. But it is little more than ‘cut and paste’ reporting in many respects.

There are a couple of things recently that have brought this subject closer to home for me and added to my suspicion that this becoming more common.

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City Deals: big news outside London

I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.

These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.

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Could scrapping stamp duty silence noisy neighbours?

Housing is one of the big stories of the year, in terms of the impact it has on the economy and our lives. But a glance at the daily headlines reveals very little about the issues the sector faces that is new in itself, and merely seems to confirm what we already know.

Inside Housing, for example reports findings from a poll by Safestore which looks at public views on home ownership. The storage and removal company used that old PR tactic – a survey – to highlight familiar concerns (that we can’t raise the money we need to buy) and package these as a ‘finding’ that half  the country won’t be able to buy a home in the future.

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Leveson hears from old contact

Martin Salter MP

Martin Salter MP (Photo credit: stopaidscampaign)

I was interested to the read latest from the Leveson Inquiry, which touched on how an old contact Martin Salter was treated by the News of the World when he was my MP in Reading. My old paper the Reading Chronicle reported on his written evidence as part of Labour MP Tom Watson’s appearance at the hearing this week.

Mr Salter has said before that he believes he became an ‘enemy’ of the News of the World for publicly refusing to back its controversial ‘Sarah’s Law’ anti-paedophile campaign in 2000. I worked with Martin on a number of stories at around this time, and remember him explaining his reasons for not backing the campaign to name all convicted paedophiles, stating that it could endanger the children it is intended to protect by driving sex offenders underground.

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