Category Archives: Journalism

Behind the scenes: public art in Ghent

The third and probably final in a series of trips to Ghent, Flanders, took a public art angle with TRACK.

It was an odd story to cover: somewhat chaotic, at times baffling, often frustrating. Not easy in a short timeframe.

Still, I did come away with copy – thanks mainly to a smiling Italian artist and a book about Flemish sociology.

Here are some moments from the trip in images; check my Twitter feed for links to published stories.

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Filed under Journalism, Travel writing

Reporting from the front line of war correspondents

Martin Bells’s words are apposite.

“Our instinct is to publish and be damned. Theirs is to censor and be safe.”

The veteran reporter is one of the featured talking heads at the current War Correspondent special exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North in Salford Quays.

He describes the craft of the war reporter as one fading into rose-tinted history.

It’s an engaging exhibition, perfect for anyone interested in front-line reporting. But it also hammers home a difficult-to-swallow message: the day of the grizzled war correspondent has all but passed.

Rolling news, embedded reporters and social media have seen to that.

But at what cost?

Guardian journalist Maggie O’Kane says of the changing face of war reporting:

“The whole apparatus has been set up to feed the drip, drip, drip of journalism.”

Equally concerning is a chart of statistics from Committee to Protect Journalists, documenting the correlation between modern warfare journalists killed worldwide since 1992. The figure peaks at 92 in 2009.

In a world of story-hungry rolling news and fact-check free online publishing, is there still scope for the likes of Max Hastings on the front line in the Falklands, or Brian Hanrahan in Kosovo.

Or is it, as Martin Bell, says, “The death of news?”

You decide. Post your thoughts below.

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More talk than action with the bad scientist

Gillian McKeith in a white coat, Harold Shipman the mass murdrerer and Bruce Forsyth circa Play Your Cards Right. These are the characters who inhabit the world of Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre.

I saw him speak last night at Glydwr University as part of the Wrexham Science Festival. The talk was being recorded for the Science Cafe programme on Radio Wales.

I like his column and often refer to it in my classes, especially to teach students about the importance of verifying their sources.

So I was hoping for some new insight on how we the media report on science. But, disappointingly, there was a lot of medicine and little on the changing nature of journalism.

Better reporting

The session ran over thanks to some poor interview management by host Adam Walton of Radio Wales.

We touched on reporting science only briefly in the truncated Q & A at the end. And the only advice he proffered was thus: “What popular science really requires is more editors and less writers.”

I think he means more subs. But it was his advice for reporting on science that really grated with me. “Make it about data not stories about people,” he said.

Data journalism is a fine area for students to develop but, ultimately, if you want to bring key scientific issues to the wider public, then giving them a human face is vital.

Playing up the human-interest angle is clearly a better way to engage readers than a phone-directory-sized report crammed full with baffling statistics.

Doing the rounds 

Ultimately I guess this was just another book-pushing session for Dr Goldacre.

I’d probably be trotting out the old faithful anecdotes by this point in the promo tour, too, if I knew they’d raise a moderate-sized titter from the crowd.

But, on this showing, I’m not moved to buy the book.

As Ben himself said, “There’s an element in all this of wanting to be a massive clever dick.”

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Filed under Glyndwr University, Journalism, Wales