Ramblings

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UPDATE: Content is all back up and categories are fixed. Images are uploaded but not displaying for old posts, comment previewing needs to be implemented, and a search template is missing, as is the RSS template. So we’re 90% functional, just missing a few bells and whistles.

If you’re looking for something, I’m really sorry if it’s not here.

We migrated hosting providers today, and also made the move from ExpressionEngine 1.6.9 to to 2.1, which has caused a few problems. The blog content needs to be uploaded, categories and comments are broken for the moment, and there may be a few kinks all around. All this will get fixed in a day’s time, so… please forgive our appearance while we renovate.

137 murdered journalists

There’s an excellent piece published on The Guardian today, titled “Waking up to press slaughter”. In it, Jim Boumelha, President of the International Federation of Journalists, argues that the press need to take more responsibility for publicising the plight of their own kind, and mount pressure on the international community to combat the targeted assassination of journalists. There’s an interesting point to be made here. From the above-linked article:

For many years the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has been publishing on the first of January the list of journalists killed in the past year, but it’s rare for commentators to show the slightest interest. Last year was one of the deadliest years on record, with the IFJ listing 137 journalists and media workers killed across the world. Only a few newspapers, among them the Guardian, bothered to report it. Imagine if these were killed politicians or killed policemen. In almost every corner of the globe, journalists continue to be targeted, brutalised and killed. Some say they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But journalists have a duty to be on the spot when news is in the making.

On a day when most media headlines and blogs will be devoted to the decision by Google to stop censoring its search results in China, I thought I’d encourage you to read the pieceand think about the genuine dangers of a career in serious investigative journalism.

As a teenager, when I expressed an interest in journalism, family members warned of the dangers of the profession (naturally, following on from the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996). However, I had always thought of that as an isolated case; I assumed that most journalists died in wart reporting. Not so, says Boumelha:

Contrary to common belief, most are not killed in war, and most are not foreign correspondents. Only one in four died in armed conflict and the great majority fell in peace time in their own countries, attempting to cover serious issues such as politics, crime or corruption. Two thirds of the fallen journalists were murdered – silenced because they tried to expose wrongdoings.

And, to add to the problem, the murderers are rarely, if ever, caught or convicted. Boumelha argues that there is an apathy of sorts towards the journalistic community, and that even journalists themselves ignore the issue. Serious issues that require true investigative work and nerves of steel- crime, drugs, foreign correspondence- have always been glorified as some sort of magic “fast track” in the industry, and carry a kind of glamorous, dangerous style with them. But those dangers are more real than, I feel, we young aspiring journalist types often realise, and it’s this type of thing that we should read and remember.

And for those cynics among us, who think this is just hopping on the media cycle following the death of Rupert Hamer, sure, I’d agree. But the point is still important. From the Guardian pieces’ comments section:

In Mexico people rely on reading information written by journalists and hearing radio news reporters to find out which roads in Chiapas have the highest rates of armed road blocked robbery AND whether or not the robbery is just money and valuables OR are women targeted for rape.

In the north and border regions we read about where and why machine gunnings happen because the weapon of choice here for the cartel gunmen is an AK47 and I believe a bullet from an AK47 can travel a kilometre and still kill.

After a chief of police and later 3 local small political appointees were machine gunned to death near my house I have changed my route to work and no longer shop in my local store. I and my neighbours park our cars in the street not in the garage to form a buffer between our houses and the street.

Without journalists I wouldn’t be able to make these decisions.

Bit of perspective, eh?

Newspaper Ads: Not Made Like They Used To

Is it just me, or do newspapers consistently fail to tell us why they’re important? All the advertising I see these days (that isn’t just a quick plug about a free DVD in tomorrow’s paper) seems to emphasise the choice and diversity available to the reader. Surely it’s time for struggling papers to emphasise the core value they offer instead?

The Sunday Times is “for all you are” and has some (admittedly great) ads like this one featuring a paperboy emphasising the diversity of their content. But with this form of publishing in direct competition with the infinitely diverse web browser, surely there’s more sense in talking about their extensive resources and (supposed) impartiality?

I recently came across this wonderful old advert for the Guardian which tells me it’s an independent newspaper with the resources to get to the truth that might not be easy to find. And it’s so much more effective than anything I’ve seen recently.

Does anyone know of any recent campaigns that remind the public of these kind of values?

Rolling the dice for a scoop

The media frenzy following the death of Michael Jackson has been discussed in depth, and done to death, elsewhere. I planned to completely ignore the topic, but today, @suzzaneyada posted a link via Twitter to an interesting post on the LA Times website, asking what would have happened had TMZ been wrong. Did TMZ and others really know, or did they just roll the dice? I know I didn’t accept the fact until the PA report confirmed the facts.

I don’t really want to weigh in on the tired topic of the troubled artist, but from a media perspective, I think the question is important.

Cimín Cruthaitheach: Creative Commons Ireland

I haven’t posted in a while due to my university finals, and I’m slowly re-immersing myself in media.

One of the most interesting things I’ve read this week is the creation of a localised version of the Creative Commons licence which is custom-built for the nuances of Irish copyright law. The above links to Eoin O’Dell’s excellent cearta.ie blog, but the actual project is the child of UCC staff Darius Whelan and Louise Crowley.

It’s great to see these types of initiatives. Irish law is different to that of the USA, where many of these projects originate, and to those of us lacking a law degree, it’s these little things that make our lives easier.

Trinity Ball- know thy audience

The biggest social event in the Trinity College calendar, the Trinity Ball, is Europe’s largest private party and is a black tie event. This year, in order to create a buzz around the event leading up to ticket sales, the organisers withheld the last act until today- revealing that it is, in fact, The Script.

Today, Facebook (which holds a massive place in Trinity’s social structure, far more, I think, than other universities) is awash with complaints, dismay, and general name-calling aimed at the Ents office. I think this is a little unfair- The Script, while not my type of music, are generally considered up-and-coming high-profile stuff- but it has to be said that this demonstrates a misunderstanding of how PR works.

If you’re going to keep people in suspense, there needs to be a pay-off of some kind. Deliberately heightening the public’s expectations does not automatically create a positive response- you run the risk, as in this case, of disappointing lots of people. And in the end, it amounts to a simple case of knowing your audience.

The reason that this is frustrating? Because the Ents office at Trinity has recently recognised the fact that the students there have, by and large, a preference for indie and electronica music. So much so, that they’re holding the launch party for the Trinity Ball at a new indie night called NOIZE in Andrew’s Lane Theatre on Wednesday. It should have occurred to someone that raising expectations, only to reveal an act that will, by virtue of their genre, disappoint a large number of people (there were rumours of MGMT, for crying out loud) would create negative publicity.

Again, I’ve nothing against The Script myself, and in my opinion, Trinity Ents and MCD (their partners in the ball) have consistently produced good results, and I’m sure it will be a fun night. I’m just agog that the potential backlash for letting the rumour mill turn without actually having a stellar hand didn’t occur to someone.

Free Shorthand Course!

UPDATE: I still get a lot of traffic from search engines to this post, so I thought I’d include the fact that, since Geocities shut down, this site and the course document on it is no longer available. I’ve been unable to find an archived copy or mirror, and I have no right to re-upload the university’s content. Sorry.

Following on from yesterday’s post, in which I argued it’s possible to improve your journalistic skills outside of a degree course, I’ve tracked down one of my all-time favourite links.

It’s a free, online shorthand course for the Teeline system, the one used by the NCTJ for their vocational training courses.

And it’s not a poor quality document, either. It’s the documentation for the University of Westminister shorthand course, which is publicly accessible on this Geocities site from 2003-2004. It’s an ever-so-slightly customised version, geared for journalists (as opposed to secretaries etc). My guess is that the course lecturer and other staff forgot about it.

Click here to go to the site!