Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The power of print

With the constant evolution of technology, journalism is undergoing a radical change in both format and content.  It is being adopted across a diverse range of social media platforms, all of which are designed to engage you in different ways.  This is enabling people to both access journalism and create it for themselves. However, with the rise of the digital age, we are seeing a decline in the amount of print journalism purchased and an increase in digital journalism, but is this a good thing?

Below is a chart showing the monthly figures from April 2012 of popular print and online newspapers.

So is this actually an issue?  Well some may argue no – it’s great that journalism can be accessed on-the-go, you don’t have to lug about a massive broadsheet newspaper, fumbling about with it on public transport and the like.  It’s also possibly more diverse in content and far more cost efficient; I have often found myself flicking past political articles that don’t take my fancy and generally don’t even make it to the sports pages. Digital journalism allows you to filter your interests more efficiently by allowing you to tailor them.  Online journalism is also usually free which means saving yourself a little bit of dollar to go towards that latte at work, a sound investment right?

Wellllll, maybe not... Journalism on-the-go is great; being able to have constant updates from around the world on various topics, is really quite wonderful.  However, in doing so, it is actually acting as a catalyst for the slow, painful death of print.  Well what’s so great about print anyway?  Personally I think it is all about the physical interaction - yes you may have to lug it about a bit, but turning the pages of a glossy magazine infused with their latest promotional perfume or turning the crisp pages of a Sunday paper that has undergone the production process of a fine craft, withholds a certain inimitable quality.

Print is something that stays with you, it engages you both physically and mentally, and for me, that is quite a sacred experience.  Print offers me something that online can’t.  When I buy a newspaper or magazine, I want to sit down with a coffee (and let’s face it, probably a bit of cake too), and take my time reading through it.  I want to absorb it, not scan it; I don’t want to scroll down a plastic screen which I can’t read with ease, I want to turn each individual page and see what it has to offer.  Print also offers you the chance to learn and discover something new.  Yes, as stated above, digital journalism offers a great filtering process but, at the same time, works in a similar way to that of comfort eating – yes you like it, but maybe you should try some other things too.

Although digital journalism may be prints nemesis, it does provide it with a certain stature.  Generally speaking, as we see things reduce in quantity, they become more of a precious commodity and that is what I believe print has become.  Previously, print was the only form of journalism available and, as a result, may have been taken for granted.  However, now that digital journalism has made its d├ębut along with much, much more, I believe that our outlook regarding print has also changed.  Print journalism has become a luxury, a thing of leisure, and with this it has become something to treasure, appreciate and more importantly; respect.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Were we really that surprised by the phone-hacking scandal?

Many of us were left shocked, stunned and even outraged at the phone-hacking scandal of 2013, but was it really that much a surprise?

Rebekah Brooks arrives for the first day of the trial at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty

After recently reading the article, New apps make adultery harder to hide, in The Times newspaper, it revealed to me; that not only is adultery rather more common than I originally thought, but that the desire to pry and check-up on one another is also becoming alarmingly more apparent.  The fact companies have actually designed multiple apps to accommodate for this, highlights an obsession with each other’s business and an overwhelming lack of trust. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000,  it states that; 'It shall be an offence for a person to intentionally, and without lawful authority, to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdon' (including use of a public telecommunication system).  Clearly our obsessional snooping has also made us ignorant to the law.

So with this I ask, were we that shocked when the phone-hacking scandal came to light?  Was it that much of a surprise when the likes of Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of The Sun newspaper, used means to intercept communications; listen to mobile phone messages, allegedly make corrupt payments to public officials and pervert the course of justice by removing and concealing evidence?  Didn't she just get caught for something we are all, in some way, guilty of?  Whether it be a casual stalk on Facebook or a ‘lurk’ on Twitter, we've all become partial to a bit of prying.

But aren't there systems in place to protect us from this kind of thing?  Well yes, sort of; honourable Organisations such as IPSO (The Independent Press Standards Organisation) have been introduced to deter this sort of thing.  So surely they felt utterly disgusted at the phone-hacking scandal?  Wellll, maybe not... you see, IPSO's board is actually made up of 7 independent members who have no connections with the newspaper and magazine industry.  However, the remaining 5 are representative of such an industry, including publications such as The Sun, The Guardian, The Mirror Group and The Telegraph (to name a few).  So, in light of this small, yet interesting revelation, it becomes apparent that IPSO may not be so squeaky clean itself.  The fact numerous board members represent (or have represented) various publications which have been found guilty of phone-hacking (such as The Sun, which Brooks was the former editor of), suggests that members of IPSO may well have been aware of the fact phone-hacking scandal all along.  No!  Surely not I here you cry!  IPSO corrupt? NEVER?!  Well, yes, sorry to burst your cute little bubble, but if numerous publications were all illegally sourcing information, and it was working for them, they were bound to keep it on the down low as a sort of mutual agreement between them all.  Furthermore, in knowing this, it again echoes issues of trust, if you can't even trust the organisations which monitor and enforce the law, who can you trust?  Is this perhaps why we're seeing a growing amount of people taking it upon themselves to find the truth?

With the continual advancements in technology, we are not only gaining the ability to source more information, but are also projecting more about ourselves.  This isn't just via social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook, where you knowingly (and willingly) communicate information about yourself, but also through search engines and web pages which you subconsciously feed with snippets of information.  A prime example of this is the use of filter bubbles; filter bubbles make use of information via websites you use, which then generate personalised suggestions back to you, based on the information you've given it (such as location, interests, browsing habits and search history).  People may see this as a positive thing, a sort of online personal shopper, making everything a little more efficient.  However, in doing so, it is actually using information about yourself which you may not want to share or have permanently stored.

Taking into consideration how filter bubbles work, along with other similar data collectors such as cookies, is it any wonder various devices and accounts are being hacked into?  Isn't the phone-hacking scandal just a mere example of us becoming our own worst enemy?  Although I am far from condoning the scandal, or be it hacking of any kind, as I feel it is journalism of the lowest sort, I do feel the scandal was a disaster waiting to happen.  With growing social media sites, and an obsession with the World Wide Web, information about ourselves is constantly being transmitted and shared in places that we are not even aware of.

If anything, the phone-hacking scandal may have done us some good; for too long we've been ignorant as to how much information we've been sharing online and the scandal has made us stop for a second and address that.  In regards to what the scandal has done for journalism; the verdict is divided.  Yes the phone-hacking scandal was both unacceptable and illegal, but so are many of the apps used to check on an errant spouse, but we cannot simply tar evey journalist, or piece of journalism with the same brush.  However, it has addressed that this kind of journalism is not to be tolerated and that it will (eventually) get its comeuppance. It has also perpetuated (to a degree) what journalism is all about; the fact it’s controversial, engaging and at times hard-hitting, and that’s what we as humans love about it.

To some extent, the phone-hacking scandal reveals a case of pot calling the kettle black. We are all perhaps guilty of making premature judgments before assessing our own actions and evaluating our own lives.  One should therefore consider pointing the finger with far less haste.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ballsy journalism at its best

Journalism has balls and that’s why I like it.  Whether it’s scandalous, brutally honest, or so hard-hitting you feel physically violated, it has a shameless audacity which you can only admire.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of the fact that the world of journalism was ridiculously hard to infiltrate, especially as a woman.  However, this all changed when I stumbled across the book Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs, a book containing extracts of ‘the best journalism by women over the past 100 years.' A book which was to soon become my bible.

Reading through the various articles, I discovered women with balls, and big ones at that.  Women such as Djuna Barnes, who in 1914 endured force feeding to express some of the anguish experienced by women during the suffragette movement.  Not only did she take it upon herself to suffer for her art, she also provided a voice for the women of that time who had too often been silenced.  Judy Syfers also makes poignant criticisms about feminism with her article Why I want a Wife, by cleverly using the satirical device of role reversal to highlight inequality in the 1970s.  This article was published in the very first issue of feminist magazine Ms. Magazine which would have marked a time of feminist revolt.

Although this book touches on feminist themes, for me it redefines out-dated stereotypes of bra-burning and man-hating, and instead just celebrates women.  These are women who are part of history, they have both recorded and contributed to changing times.  This was something I found to be extremely empowering.  Joreen Freeman’s, The BITCH Manifesto and Martha Gellhorn’s Dachau are incredibly liberating both in content and context; Freeman’s manifesto is so feisty and ruthless (by the end of the article you find yourself resisting the urge to punch your fist in the air and shout “you go girl!”), and Gellhorn’s in the sense she is a woman giving an account of a prisoner of war camp in the midst of WWII.  These are women shown fearlessly pursuing their passions, women considered pioneers in demonstrating the limitless possibilities for women in journalism.

The article which has perhaps stayed with me the most is Gitta Sereny’s article On the Murder of James Bulger.  The way in which she reports the case of the two young boys is utterly compelling; the honesty of her words are incredibly haunting, to the point where I still often find the hair on the back of my arms prick up.  This is journalism that has inspired me, stayed with me and driven me.  It is journalism which has picked me back up when I'm having a terrible time and encouraged me to carry on because I am a strong woman.

Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs fills me with a sense of pride and gives me confidence; it reassures me that if I want something badly enough, I should go and get it.  It makes me feel proud to be a woman because the women in this book, together with their stories, are just so inspiring.  I aspire to be like these women and to write great articles like them, articles that say far more than what is just written on the page.