Delicious irony on the Media Show

Just caught up with last week's podcast from the excellent BBC Media Show.

Interesting interview with Sir Michael Lyons (rather bland, political and evasive) with Media Show host Steve Hewlett (informed yet overly forceful and opinionated on this occasion) regarding the deal with the Government to take a £340m cut by paying for the World Service and S4C among other things.

However the thing that made me chuckle the most was the final interview of the pod. It was with Clothilde Le Coz of Reporters Without Borders regarding their Press Freedom Index 2010

But just as Clothilde got to the issue of a lack of press freedom in the UK, Steve cut her off and said they had no more time.

Of course, it was true. But they only ran out of time because they gave so much time so their own Chairman could explain why he had cut a deal with the Government which in a small way compromised the independence of the BBC.

It was all done in a very deadpan way but surely the irony cannot have been lost on the staff of the Media Show.

Anyway, I would suggest you follow the link above and give the press freedom index a good read - it is well worth it.

The Wire and journalism

SPOILER ALERT - contains information regarding The Wire (all seasons)

I have finally caught up with Season Five of The Wire entitled Read Between The Lines.

I was looking forward to it as it involved journalism and I was interested to see how realistic the portrayal was from the excellent David Simon after four superb seasons.

In all honesty it was somewhat difficult to judge as the US style of journalism differs from our own and the newspaper model - few nationals with each city supporting at least one multi-edition daily - is so different from what we have here.

But the themes I saw in the newsroom were familiar from my time in regional papers in the UK and the frustration that city editor Gus Haynes felt when faced by bewildering decisions from above and lack of journalistic effort from below.

Don't get me wrong, I worked with some superb editors in my time and was honoured to work with some of the reporters that I had in my team during my five years on newsdesk.

However, seeing Gus struggle to get genuine journalism - ie articles of depth and insight - into the paper and hold on to journalistic standards resonated with me as it must have done with many news editors across the world.

Seeing the Baltimore Sun chief editor constantly praise a reporter whose sincere pledges of hard work were never backed up as he constantly churned out poorly researched pieces was hard to watch.

It can be difficult to spot when a reporter is pulling the wool over your eyes as we've seen with cases like Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. But this fictional character Scott Templeton's actions, which ultimately led him to make up news and get away with it, did resonate. It is the danger of the personality in journalism - he was being judged by what he said he was doing rather than what he was doing and, for me, that is wrong.

When I was recruiting reporters I was most interested in their cuttings file and their ability to explain the process they went through when newsgathering. Unfortunately I have heard colleagues say they are looking for an extrovert who'll represent the paper well. Of course, all newsrooms have those larger-than-life characters, but it only works if backed up journalistic ability and endeavour.

For a good example of how to build a feature watch Scott's colleague Mike Fletcher build a rapport with Bubbles. For a good example of how to build an amazing story read or watch All The President's Men and if that doesn't spur you on to become a better reporter you might in the wrong job!