Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Creating a Brand

I was recently linked to this fascinating piece by Gene Weingarten for the Washington Post.

I'm not here debating the reality of what he's saying, but I do question his opinion that this "branding" is new or bad.

The idea of creating a persona outside of your own to further yourself, especially in work, is something I've always considered to be one that's fairly public. Public, practiced and unashamedly encouraged.

In my opinion, it's this branding that separates good journalists from bad ones. While I don't agree with everything Mr. Weingarten says, I fully appreciate and respect his integrity. He reports as he sees it, and that's exactly what I want from my journalists.

However, other people don't want what I want. It's unfair of Mr Weingarten to assume negativity onto something while simultaneously proclaiming to be some kind of author of universal truths and noble causes. While he and I would rather a reporter's integrity be paramount, other people may want to read a sensationalist piece that embellishes and thrills rather than lists and teaches.

In my opinion, Mr Weingarten's piece is worth reading if only for the vitriol with which he splutters about how things have changed. His passion isn't a rare thing, but unfortunately seeing it in such a huge publication is.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Eric Schmidt - Google CEO and Bilderberg Conference Attendee

Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt has been caught on camera entering the Bilderberg conference in Germany.

For those that aren’t aware, Bilderberg is a supposedly open group, formed so Europe and the US could work towards promoting “Atlanticism” - a better understanding of each other’s respective cultures. The list of members and conference participants is made public to avoid the perception that it’s some kind of freemason organization, a perception that came to the forefront when it became clear that the powerful people attending would not be sharing what the conferences were actually regarding.

So Schmidt went a conference, nothing too crazy about that. Perhaps a little odd, as we don’t know what they spoke about, but he should be able to chat with his powerful buddies without fear of conspiracists and the media calling foul. No one did call foul when he attended the meeting a few years ago.  This time is different though, this time the most powerful man at one of the most powerful online companies arrived with Swedish banker, Jacob Wallenberg.

After a video of the two entering the conference surfaced on YouTube, the Google-owned video sharing site removed the video and threatened the account owner with a ban over alleged racism. The racism was alleged (by YouTube) concerning a popular video mocking President Obama. The video had been up and active for some time, and the user was even given privileges and awards from YouTube and its community.

Personally, I have no idea what to make of this bizarre attempt at censorship, but I don’t like it. One thing I’ve learned doing this blog is that the insight in the comment section is often more logical and less biased than my own, so feel free to share your views on this.

Friday, 17 June 2011


Well, I'm back after my unplanned two week absence.

Really nice to return to a barrage of comments displaying diverse opinions, so thank you! I'll be posting my next full post in around five days, as I still have things to do outside of the blogosphere, but thank you all for your patience and I look forward to catching up on all the posts I've missed in my absence!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Stylistic Editing - Harmful Manipulation or Harmless Preference?

Edits, rewrites, and outright rejections are all part of being a journalist; they’re something everyone expects when entering the realms of writing. Editors want reporters and they want individual and diverse articles - if that wasn’t the case, they could give the workload to a single person and have them teach others below them the “right” style.

This is what editors will have you believe, anyway. In truth, the alternate reality of a single person delegating and teaching is in practice, merely hidden as the “editor” role is played by the publisher, the top dog.

Publishers know exactly what they believe and think, and who can blame them? They’re human, they have opinions and they’re entitled to share them. Some, however, through luck and hard work, find themselves in a position to share these opinions on a phenomenally large scale.

Publishers of major news outlets are able to give the workload, be it driven by fact or opinion, to one single employee, the editor - whose job is to delegate and to teach. Editing often takes the guise of fact-checking, surplus-removing, grammar-correcting miscellany, but in reality it’s often a stylistic edit, making sure things are written the way the publisher wants.

This can be taken two ways - style meaning tone, or style meaning agenda. It’s no surprise or secret that employees must meet the publisher’s agendas, but tonal grooming is not so universally acknowledged. The diversity of tone masquerades as a diversity in readability, but is nothing more than diversity of personality. The publisher wants his editor to mold these personalities to backup the agenda.

It’s my opinion, or agenda if you wish, that the two strands of style are not exclusive. Rather, they serve each other and, in turn, the publisher. Agenda filters down to the journalists and returns stronger.
More weight is given to a cause when it has multiple followers in powerful positions, such as journalists.

A view is taken as fact when read through the eyes of a trusting member of the public, and fact is distorted by view when spoken through the mouth of the publisher, his editor, and their journalists.

Ethical Journalism - An Unnamed Journalist

As the title suggests, I won’t be naming the subject of this article. Straight away this causes an obvious barrier between you and the journalist in question, so I will tell you two things in an attempt to familiarize you and her. The first has slipped; it’s a female, the second is her initial - P.

P is the subject of this post as a demonstration that there are some journalists out there, despite what (ironically) the media would have you believe, with a genuine and staunch moral code. She aims to report the truth with as little “dressing up” as possible, all the while defending other journalists’ right to report in accordance to their own code, no matter how different to hers it may be.

She works tirelessly to make sure her evidence is concrete, sourcing only first-hand witnesses, her own experience, and sites she knows to be reliable. Relentlessly double and triple checks her sources, going to unbelievable lengths to put herself on the front line so she can experience the story. P loves writing, loves learning, and loves imparting what she’s learned.

It’s worth noting that journalists, for the most part, feed from the same watering holes. Reuters, IDG, The Associated Press and one or two more are considered the only 100% reliable online sources. While they may not be correct all the time, they have no opinionated reporting, just cold stats and facts. These services are called “wires” and are quoted/rehashed the world over, including by the BBC, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Forbes, CNet and The Guardian. Beyond first-hand experience or an unbiased witness, these wires are the single most reliable source of news the world has.

As if to separate these esteemed site further, they are the only sites P cites without adding "allegedly" or "reportedly" or some other "this-is-only-true-as-far-as-we-know" addendum.

This post is less of a discussion starter or even point of interest, more just a much-needed tip-of-the-hat to P and those like her. Their self-imposed ethics and morals are what journalism relies on, without them we're left to the publishers code of conduct - a code that is seemingly non-existent.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Xenophobia, Ignorance or Selective Morality?

Sepp Blatter has, unsurprisingly, been granted his fourth term as President of the biggest sports governing body on Earth after campaigning, standing, and inevitably winning, alone.
His rivals, whose histories were briefly outlined in the increasingly popular and unashamedly biased Win Finger Blog, were supposed to be Grant Wahl and Mohammed Bin Hammam. Both of his potential adversaries were unable to stand when it came time for the elections due to a series of inarguably suspicious events.
I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of FIFA’s much-maligned hierarchy, it doesn’t take a biased outlet to help you reach your own conclusions on that, but I am here to show an example of apparently respectable media’s xenophobia, ignorance or selective morality. 

Sir Stanley F. Rous
This example comes in the form of the repeated mentioning across the British media of Sir Stanley Ford Rous, who became FIFA President in 1961. He’s mentioned often, especially at times such as these, in the context of “the good old days,” the implication being that things were good when an Englishman was around. It’s fair to say that in some respects, BBC’s John Motson was right; things went rapidly downhill in terms of corruption in FIFA when Joao Havelange took over in 1974, but did it go downhill in every way?
It’s easy for us to sit in our incredibly wealthy country with our rich (albeit checkered) footballing history and say, “Our Stan wasn’t corrupt, not a single law was broken under him!” but that would be overlooking the incredibly controversial moral code employed by Rous.
Rous’ morals and ethics are infamous and nobody has ever questioned the validity of arguments made against them. While he may not have been a criminal by law, he was a criminal by nature. He championed South Africa while the rest of the world boycotted and was a fervent supporter of an organization that saw the principles of Apartheid, the segregation of Blacks and Whites in South Africa enforced by law, brought to football. Combine this with his successor Havenlange’s distain for this kind of flagrant racism, and it shows this apparently negative change to FIFA’s Presidency in a new light.
As always, I’ll try not to push my opinions into this blog too much; but personally, I would rather a financially corrupt FIFA than a racist one. Perhaps John Motson and others feel differently, and that’s fair, but it’s remiss of them to routinely ignore Sir Stanley’s immoral side.
Either they’re choosing to ignore these undisputed facts about English hero Stanley Rous, or they’re unaware of them. Either is inexcusable and even dangerous when presenting your opinion as fact in the way the BBC does so frequently.