Monday, 28 September 2009


Fabio Capello has been a mostly uncontroversial figure since he took over as manager of the England football team. This is in stark contrast to many of the previous incumbents such as Sven, McClaren and Hoddle. The Italian’s workmanlike approach to the job has won him many fans, although his recent privacy case against the News of the World and Daily Mail has caused a bit of a stir in the media world. He received an apology and “substantial” damages (paid as a donation to charity) from both papers after they printed pictures of him on holiday covered in mud with his wife. The interesting thing about this case is that the Press Complaints Commission told newspapers beforehand that the couple were concerned about the presence of photographers whilst on holiday - so therefore printing the photos was “bad manners”, says Stephen Glover in today’s The Independent. But Glover also makes the valid point that it is not illegal to publish photos of public figures taken in a public place.

There have been various privacy cases that have gone through every court twice in this land - I studied many of them as part of my degree last year - and it’s evident that nobody really knows what the press can get away with. We cannot allow a situation where the British press cannot publish pictures of celebrities and well-known people in public places, as that is not an element at the heart of a free media. Yes, Capello’s privacy request was not respected, but the Press Complaints Commission did not give this out as a legally-binding precedent. If he is on holiday, then there is a reasonable expectation of privacy from paparazzi snappers, but the nature of being a football manager is that there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to know about everything you’re doing. Luis Felipe Scolari was quite open about how one of the reasons he didn’t take up the England managerial position was because of the way in which the British media operates - and that his privacy would have been intruded upon. But now Capello is in the hotseat, and is doing a very good job, people want to know about everything he is doing. It’s no surprise and the price of stardom is that the media will follow him everywhere he goes in public. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be stopped from doing this.

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Nominations for The Guardian Student Media Awards 2009 were released today, and I’m pleased to say the paper on which I was News Editor last year has been shortlisted for Newspaper of the Year. Forge Press at the University of Sheffield has had a very successful first year in its new, rebranded form - and it’s exciting what the future holds. There is stiff competition this year in the Newspaper category - the other four finalists being Leeds, Cardiff, York and Imperial - and it’s no surprise that the former two are the only other established universities with Sheffield that run undergraduate journalism courses. Last year’s editor on Forge Press, Ciaran Jones, did a formidably good job in running the show in Sheffield - and I had a great time putting together the news section with fellow Journalism Studies student, Robert Golledge.

Getting involved with the university newspaper is one of the best things I’ve done in Sheffield - it’s a very well-run operation which has taught me many skills that I’m sure will come in handy in the future. You get to meet important people in and around the university, work against deadlines and learn how to organise a team of around 50 journalists. With a circulation of 15,000 it was a big responsibility - and I’m pleased to still be writing content for the paper this year; just not from an editorial position. I’ll also give a special mention to Paul Garbett - another one of my coursemates - who has got his second successive Guardian nomination this year. Well done to him. If you’re at university, or soon to be heading there, try and get involved with student media as it’s a super way to find your feet in journalism.

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I never really realised there was a north/south divide until I came to study in Sheffield. Then I met some people from the north and realised that - even in an often-jokey way - they didn’t really like southerners. Everyone’s favourite football chairman, Ken Bates (Leeds United), thought it would be helpful to add to the debate last week. He said: “Yorkshire people like their own. They don’t like southerners.” Well, that’s wonderful, isn’t it. Leeds United - the club where ‘everyone hates us but we don’t care’ - are not exactly trying their best to make friends, are they? There’s the old ‘dirty northern b******s’ chant directed at clubs north of Watford at southern grounds, but most fans are more concerned about their local rivals - not any old team in a different section of the country.

I don’t think a north/south divide really exists in football as much as it does in other areas of life like housing and finance - in fact, the north-west is this year’s powerhouse for the Premier League (representing 12 of 20 sides if you include the west Midlands). So Mr Bates’ comments were not really called for - even though he was only referencing manager Simon Grayson’s local roots. Why stoke an argument that doesn’t even exist? The old ‘waving the five pound note’ and ‘we pay your benefits’ chants are not directed by Southend fans to most northern teams - it’s usually to the likes of Milwall and Leyton Orient to wind up local rivals. So maybe Mr Bates could think again before generalising the whole of Yorkshire in a single statement. I’m sure there are some people in Sheffield and Leeds who don’t mind the fact I come from Essex!