Monday, 29 December 2008


It’s time to look again at the three major media events of 2008. Two involve sex, namely Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand and Max Mosley. The other is more probably a lack of it for one man because he’s spent all his time over the last few months on every BBC network available - Robert Peston is your man.

So Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand - the “he f****d your granddaughter” episode with Andrew Sachs, formerly Manuel (right) in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers. It had got to the stage that after so much abuse against Sachs by Basil and Sybil Fawlty over the years, the Daily Mail felt a line was crossed on BBC Radio 2. Seriously though, the journalism ethics behind this broadcast were horrendous - nobody will forget the now-famous “Yes” sent by Lesley Douglas in response to a concerned email from the BBC’s head of compliance, Dave Barber, about whether to run the show uncut. How you can justify calling up an elderly man to tell him about your sexual exploits with his daughter is beyond belief, but many young people did find it funny, and the fact that only two listeners complained at the time shows the BBC may have got its audience expectations just right. However this type of comedy has got to stop - it’s not funny, and Jonathan Ross should leave the BBC (as well as Brand) right now. Perhaps they could spend his wages on employing 1,000 new journalists to improve the output of BBC News? But no, that would be a silly idea. He’s worth 2,000 journalists, don’t forget...

Max Mosley’s victory against the News of the World for the ‘Nazi orgy’ story they ran about his S&M sessions last year was a disastrous result for all of the tabloids. However the NotW did show that kiss and tell journalism isn't all but over, with their dispatch on Gordon Ramsey’s exploits just a week later. However this is not good news on a wider scale (as noted by Paul Dacre, Daily Mail editor), because the ruling by Mr Justice Eady means that freedom of expression comes below privacy in European Human Rights law, which is a serious issue for investigative journalism. It is perfectly justified that the public should be made aware that a man in high office (as the head of F1) has had his bottom spanked in a Chelsea dungeon, as he could be considered a role model to younger people - and so therefore the News of the World were right to print the story. Well done Colin Myler; keep up the good work.
PICTURE: Daily Telegraph

Robert Peston doesn’t get much sleep. Up before the 6am slot on Radio 4 and then back to bed after a two-way with Huw Edwards on the 10 o’clock News. He is an incredibly gifted journalist, with possibly the best contacts book in the industry. I thought Evan Davis was brilliant as a BBC economics/business editor, but Peston takes things to a whole new level. From his scoops on Northern Rock to LloydsHBOS to the government’s bailout plan, this man is an inspiration to me and many other young journalists across the country. His book, Who Runs Britain?, and Panorama documentary last Monday are just a few examples of how he uncomplicates the complicated and makes finance so much more interesting to the common man.

Two ends of the spectrum: Peston and Brand/Ross. The BBC’s certainly fulfilled its remit of plurality of voices over the last year, hasn’t it?

Monday, 22 December 2008


Sometimes it's hard to know who to believe in times of economic woe. Let's compare the Metro and The Independent today. In the latter, we hear: "Retailers still hope for late rush as shoppers stay home". But in the Metro: "Last-minute shoppers come to stores' rescue". Two contrasting reports that left me completely confused on the way into work this morning. The Metro based its report on national footfall going up 7.1% year-on-year, whereas we hear from the Independent that footfall is down 8.4%. Surely these footfall results are coming from different companies, and doesn't that just show how you should never believe statistics? How can two newspapers get such different results, and who is right? There are lies, damn lies and then there's statistics. Winston Churchill was right all along...

It's that time of year again. Christmas Day is upon us this Thursday, and it's an extra special day for me as it's my birthday too. So let's clear a few things up: I do NOT get one set of presents and it's NOT annoying! In fact, I have a half-birthday on June 25th when I get presents and I suppose I've got used to having a birthday on December 25th, as I've done it for 19 years already. And it's actually really good, an excellent party piece to drop into conversation every now and again! Happy Christmas, by the way - and Happy Birthday to anyone who shares their birthday with me, like Jesus! Apart from the fact he was actually born sometime in September, but not to worry...

By the way, I'm currently working back at Premier Christian Radio in Westminster after getting back from a good term in Sheffield. I'm also going to be at The Week magazine for six days next month, which will be fun too! Looks like it's going to be a busy Christmas...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


It's been a weekend of drama on Strictly Come Dancing, in another typical overreaction from the BBC and the great British public. First there was Ross and Brand, which despite being unethical and vulgar in content, was actually seen as quite funny by most of its target audience - I don't like either of them but lots of people I know think they're hilarious. Now we have a voting 'scandal' on Strictly, because the production team were not prepared for a tie between two candidates from the judges' scoring. Whilst this should have been forseen and avoided in planning meetings, these "exceptional circumstances" are certainly not "unforgivable", as the BBC's Jon Beazley said today. Unfortunately every time there is a slight issue at the BBC it's blown into a full-scale disaster and Mark Thompson is rolled out to give a public apology. The BBC needs to delegate power more efficiently and keep things in proportion.
PICTURE: BBC Entertainment

The departure of newspaper groups Mecom, Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror from the FTSE 250 underlines the concerns for media organisations during the economic crisis. Shareholders in Johnston and Mecom have been concerned about their debts for some time, but Trinity Mirror's crash out is just as surprising as ITV falling from the FTSE 100 in September. Trinity (which owns many regional papers and nationals such as the Daily Mirror and The People) has traditionally been a market-leader under the direction of Sly Bailey [pictured], but falling circulation and advertising revenues are starting to take their toll on the business. It's ironic that at a time when there is such a huge interest in news - specifically financial and business - so many newspaper groups are in big trouble. How long until the market turns round? Who knows. (Disclosure of Interest: I hold shares in Mecom and have previously worked for Trinity Mirror).
PICTURE: The Guardian

There's was a great story in today's Daily Mail about how romantic comedies can have an adverse effect on your love life. They give people "unrealistic – and potentially unhealthy – expectations about real-life relationships", say researchers. Well it wouldn't be a good film otherwise though, would it?! Imagine watching Love Actually and everyone falling out with each other some insignificant issue like what to have on their toast... at least Romeo and Juliet didn't quite go to plan.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Karen Matthews isn't exactly the tabloid's most favourite character at the moment, and this story does highlight some interesting questions about areas like Dewsbury. I've got nothing against northerners - it's not their fault they were born above Watford [as noted by the Policy Exchange think tank during the summer] - but some of these slum estates are rightly said to "form a picture of a broken-down Britian propped up on benefits" (The Guardian, 8/12/2008). The viscious circle of crime and poverty that engulfs some parts of Yorkshire isn't helped by pictures of local residents standing outside their houses drinking cans of Carling - not very impressive when seen by the average Briton. This town has been called "a small pocket of working-class life that politicians and the chattering classes know exists but prefer to ignore" (Daily Mirror, 19/3/2008), and that's spot on. But should politicians care? Aren't these sort of areas always going to be like that? I knew the tale of Shannon was a chav story right from the start - and look what's happened. The poor girl would never get a chance in life, simply because of where she is brought up - and her mother's inability to be a parent. People like Karen Matthews need to sharpen up and get a job, as it's not fair on everyone who earns an honest living. She's received a lot of criticism from the media recently - and I think they're right.

Before I get slated by my northern friends [who, for the record, are all very nice people, and not in any way like Karen Matthews], I'll move onto a more happy note. There was a hilarious financial article in today's Daily Telegraph which I must share with you: A woman who wanted to extend her overdraft from £200 to £250 ended up getting an overdraft of £84,480,090. That's certainly one way to beat the credit crunch! I liked the way an Alliance and Leicester spokesperson said: "We apologise for any inconvenience or upset caused" - as if you would be distressed by getting £84 million more than you asked for...

Best wishes to Bobby Robson, who received the Freeman of Durham yesterday, on his road to recovery from cancer. He is a footballing legend, and a great man off the pitch too. In his own words: "I'm eating, sleeping and going to football — I'm trying to get as much enjoyment out of life as I can." And he's managed to find the time to raise over £1 million for charity too!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


I've had a bit of a manic week since I started court reporting on my course, but it's been very interesting and great fun. In Sheffield, we've got a Crown Court, Coroner's Court and Magistrates Court, so there's plenty going on. Over the past few days, I've heard about a 38-stone alcholic woman who died from scalding because she couldn't get out of the bath; a Kurdish man who rammed into another car and was traced because he left behind his numberplate on the road; and a man who sprays graffitti wherever God tells him to. Fascinating. Court reporting is very undervalued in local and regional newspapers today due to cost cutbacks, but I still think it's a superb source of stories - even though there is a minefield of legal restrictions on reports.

Student papers are an interesting phenomenon. The Guardian have recently held their Student Media Awards 2008, and the best newspaper gong went to Felix (Imperial College London). Their ex-editor, Tom Roberts, described the operation as 24/7 before print deadlines - and it was him doing the 24/7 bit... This reminds me somewhat of our own operation in Sheffield, called Forge Press - and I speak from experience, as I am the news editor! It involves around 32 hours a fortnight, and this is all voluntary. Why do I do it, and why does the team do it? Quite simply, we love journalism - and it's great to work with people like me, in that way.
PICTURE: Teri Pengilley, The Guardian

Many thanks to Trevor and Ray for picking out Chelsea v Southend United in The FA Cup third round draw. That is going to be one heck of a game, and I can't wait - the atmosphere will be tremendous with 7,000 Shrimpers planning to make the journey from Essex in early January. I'm off to Leicester City this weekend, which is a fitting stadium to be the 30th ground I have visited out of the 92 in the Football League. I've also got trips to planned to MK Dons and Leyton Orient over Christmas - alongside the small matter of a visit to Stamford Bridge...yes, I know we will probably get hit for six, but let me enjoy the excitement and anticipation for the moment!