Starsuckers interview

I met with Chris Atkins - writer and director of the documentary Starsuckers during his visit to the University of Gloucestershire today.

We were offered a screening of the doc and a lengthy Q&A session with the man himself afterwards.

It was a fascinating piece of film about, in my openly bias view, a fascinating industry but it did not portray the media in a good light at all.

Exploiting the fame-hungry parents of toddlers, running false stories, preventing coverage of humanitarian demonstrations, behaving illegally to expose celebrity gossip - and those were just the bits we did see.

Particularly interesting to me was the furore afterwards when the News of the World attempted to sue over the sting operation carried out by Atkins.

In short the NOTW (remember them from the illegal phone taps during the reign of the now chief Tory spin doctor Andy Coulson?) objected to Atkins' sting. This is despite having perpetrated it for motives less in the public interest hundreds of times.

Shame that Charlie Brooker couldn't find time to put the story into Newswipe but he assures us on Twitter that it wasn't a conspiracy!

The Max Clifford footage was gold dust. Who would of thought that a man who earns millions burying stories could be so indiscreet.

I heartily recommend Starsuckers to anyone with a view on media and journalism - stick with the annoying American drawl in the commentary. But be warned you will feel extreme guilt if you donated to Live8 or LiveAid in the last 25 years!

Afterwards I caught up with Chris Atkins for a brief interview about his project. Forgive the quality, it is recorded on a NokiaN95 and edited in Movie Maker (boo).

Why the BNP gets coverage

Great article on the front of The Times illustrated by this superb picture:

It says it all really. Journalist attends press conference and is viciously attacked.

What is particularly strong is the lengths the henchmen are going to to ensure that not only is Dominic Kennedy of The Times ejected but hurt in the process.

The use of the nose grab highlights this perfectly, it being a move favoured more by Daniel Day-Lewis's psychotic character in The Gangs of New York.

Even when people are disaffected with many aspects of this country, you would hope they could not be tempted to vote for this 'party'.

But then who is providing a credible alternative?

The Greens can't be bothered to promote themselves beyond the perception that they are the political wing of Greenpeace , the Lib Dems are suffering from the Kennedy debacle and Campbell experiment and then general impression that it ain't worth the effort.

Why can't we have parties who believe in something and stand up for it?

Instead we get three main parties wooing voters by changing to suit the climate in order to be elected. That's not what I want.

I want people to stand up and say 'This is what I believe' so I can decide if I agree with them. But all I have, which exception of the BNP, is people saying 'What do you believe and we'll agree with you'.

Thing is, I would not vote BNP even if it were to guarantee that the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse could be persuaded to never to return to this mortal realm.

Just a quickie

Thanks to one of my students for bringing this to my attention.
It has made me use term ROFL for only the second time:

Google Buzz

I could be wrong - I have been frequently - but Google Buzz may be one of the least well-named items around.

I suppose actually that's not true because it is creating a buzz of sorts. It just happens to be a general buzz on Twitter and Facebook that Google Buzz is disappointing.

Google doesn't seem to have understood that there isn't really plurality in the social networking market unless you genuinely offer something unique.

So Twitter exists because of, not despite, its 140 character limit and Facebook exists because where would you be without hours spent flicking through complete stranger's wedding pictures.

But Google Buzz adds little to this - it's just another thing to update when updating brings very little reward in itself.

But then again, as I have said, I could be wrong....

Embedded citizen journalism in Haiti

I have finally caught up with the most recent Radio 4 Media Show podcast - always a good listen and it sparked an interesting internal debate for me.

The first part of the show was centre around coverage of the earthquake in Haiti.

There was an interesting interview with Matthew Price from the BBC's New York office on how so many reporters seemed to get to Haiti when aid workers couldn't and how they remain detached when faced with such human misery.

However, it was the second Haiti section which interested me the most. Nancy Snyderman is a paediatrician and professor of surgery who has been reporting for NBC. She was sent out to Haiti so she could fulfil two functions
1) work as a doctor
2) report on the situation and her work as a doctor in the middle of a humanitarian disaster.

Now it is clear she is not a citizen journalist in the strictest sense of the title (and I know the title annoys many people; but just as with joyriding and happy slapping we are stuck with it). She is a medical correspondent for NBC and has been for some time.

However, it does raise some interesting ethical debates.

On the one hand it is great to get doctors on the ground and it is equally valuable for the outside world to be able to see and hear first-hand what is going on in Haiti.

But I have some concerns. Do people know that by being treated by this doctor they are becoming part of a story? Do they have to give consent? If they are unconscious what happens to this consent etc etc etc.

If you look at the excellent Ethics Handbook from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. You can see 100 ways in which Dr Snyderman's role is both supported and another 100 in which is may be dubious practice.

I don't have the answers. As a news editor/web editor of course I would want her out there but I have reservations about her role and how it fits her.

That is no criticism of her as I am sure she is doing an excellent job for both masters. But I suppose my liberal side knows that there was probably a cold-hearted NBC business executive behind the decision to deploy her and it just doesn't feel quite right.