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Media

I’m playing with Google Custom Search Engine (CSE), and here’s the result – a search engine focused on journalism innovation and experimentation. It currently indexes ~50 sites related to different aspects of journalism, including industry news and analysis, individual analysts and commentators, academic and civil society organisations, philanthropic funders of journalism, and networks of media and journalists publishing regularly on new developments in the field. It’s largely English-language and UK/EU/US at the moment, but will expand over time to include sites covering journalism in other languages, and in other parts of the world. If you have suggestions of sites you think I should include, please tweet or email me.

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Politico’s piece about NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson is – rightly – causing a storm over double standards in the treatment of women in power. Emily Bell’s piece pins the problem quite precisely.

My one observation on this is to compare how Politico characterises Abramson:

In one meeting, Abramson was upset with a photograph that was on the homepage. Rather than asking for a change to be made after the meeting, she turned to the relevant editor and, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, said bluntly, “I don’t know why you’re still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo.”

with coverage of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s handling of an analogous situation:

Tim Cook arrived at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer. He was a 16-year computer-industry veteran – he’d worked for IBM for 12 of those years – with a mandate to clean up the atrocious state of Apple’s manufacturing, distribution, and supply apparatus. One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia.

“This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?”

Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

So the long-standing debate about the independence of Italy’s public broadcaster, RAI – addressed in Mapping Digital Media: Italy, and by the Open Media Coalition, Italy’s media reform movement – has now received the Grillo treatment.

Italian comedian Beppe Grillo last week accelerated debate in Italy about the independence of broadcast media and journalism from political interests, releasing poll results showing that, out of 95,000 responses, 99% of respondents wanted a public broadcast channel free from political meddling, and 52% wanted to see more investigative journalism about domestic issues.

Under the hashtag #raisenzapartite (“RAI (the public broadcaster) without the parties”), Grillo wrote a blog post asserting that:

“a part of the Italian population is living in a gigantic “Truman show”, and responsibility for this is entirely due to Italian journalists, with the usual few exceptions and in a country like ours, these exceptions deserve every possible praise. […] RAI has to be reorganised and transformed into a public service following the model of the BBC without any connection to the parties, without advertising, producing quality content that has mainly been produced in-house and not like now, when it’s entrusted to external companies with the building up of one set of costs on top of another. In Parliament, the M5S, in accordance with its programme, will propose the establishment of a single RAI channel, without any connection to the parties and without advertising. It proposes the sale of the other channels.”

It’s sure to be a topic of conversation at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in two weeks, as Italian journalism already is over at the LSE’s POLIS project. In the meantime, take another look at the MDM Report, which proposed a wider range of media reform measures that could restore independence to Italy’s media:

 

As citizens continue to play a critical role in supplying news and human rights footage from around the world, YouTube is committed to creating even better tools to help them. According to the international human rights organization WITNESS’ Cameras Everywhere report, “No video-sharing site or hardware manufacturer currently offers users the option to blur faces or protect identity.”

YouTube is excited to be among the first.

Today we’re launching face blurring – a new tool that allows you to obscure faces within videos with the click of a button.

(YouTube Global Blog, 18 July 2012)

Advocacy in any arena generally takes a long long time. In this context we’re talking about pressuring key Silicon Valley companies that have gone in under a decade from being simple technology providers to being an integral part of everyday human activity across much of the planet.

That one line quoted above was something we’d been talking to YouTube/Google about for 4 years (and that’s more than half of YouTube’s own existence). Those who can make seemingly simple changes like this happen are busy people operating within multiple sets of interlocking wheels of law and policy, and myriad competing internal demands. The conversations with these people started before I got to WITNESS, and they continued after I left in mid-2010 (and continue to this day) – and as the Cameras Everywhere report shows, there’s still plenty to discuss in the future.

Here are my personal recollections and reflections on how the conversations with YouTube that I was involved in developed – with the accent strongly on “personal”. Since I left WITNESS 2 years ago, I’m not party to the latest conversations between YouTube and WITNESS – but I do know where the seeds came from and how they took root. Over at the WITNESS blog Sam Gregory explains the human rights dimension of this move by YouTube.

I am sharing this therefore partial account in the hope that reading a little about our experience will give succour to other activists and researchers running into what seem like brick walls right now. Keep talking, keep trusting, and keep pushing… and embrace serendipity.

[Thurs 19 July – I’ve slightly clarified some of the written-at-1.30am-language…]
[Sun 22 July – further clarification, including of when I left WITNESS.]

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When I worked at WITNESS, we debated hotly how to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2008. We wanted to do something that felt contemporary, that felt open as a campaign, and that anyone – anyone – would have a response to and could run with. What we came up with, and what ended up catching the imagination of quite a few people, was a simple question:

What image opened your eyes to human rights?

To kick things off, I recorded a load of interviews with interesting activists, researchers, journalists and filmmakers when I was at the GFMD conference in Athens. I’ve just put  a playlist of these short, sometimes spine-tingling interviews onto YouTube. Here, as a taster, is Mary Robinson’s answer: