Friday, October 27, 2006

Sport the Difference

Why stop at sports? Why not have fashion updates and diet tips. Maybe squeezing in a home make-over if a "filler" is needed. Sorry to sound cynical but sport simply is not news....
Poster on BBC Ten O'Clock News Editor's Blog

As a would-be sports journalist the first reaction to a quote such as this is outrage. But, after thinking more closely about it this is precisely the type of viewpoint that those of us who love sport and feel it has a rightful place in news bulletins must confront.

On many TV channels, and especially on BBC network news, sport is on the run. The first day of the Ryder Cup failed to make the Ten O'Clock news, Test cricket is routinely ignored and anyone after that night's football scores often has to look away now- onto another channel.

Craig Oliver, the Editor of the Ten O'Clock news, has recently been defending his decision to largely ignore sport on his programme. He argues that focus group feedback to putting sport on the Ten is 'almost universally negative'. It seems there is a vocal group of people who believe sport to be just one of many leisure time activities and as such no more worthy of a place in national news bulletins than wallpapering or gardening.

So, why has sport been traditionally treated as an integral part of news bulletins? One argument could be that it's all down to the historical male dominance in editorial positions. Men like sport so they put it in bulletins and ignore what women may want.

But this is too simplistic. Women make up an increasing proportion of those attending football and rugby matches. And females athletes are reaching unprecedented heights in tennis, golf, football, athletics and elsewhere.

The truth is that sport has been, and still is a remarkably important part of many people's lives. It might appear irrational but the fever that the citizens of the UK whip themselves into when a big sporting event rolls around shows that. It's more popular than any amount of showbiz news, or, it has to be said, any number of long-winded 'special correspondent' pieces from far flung corners of the world.

There is a case for taking another look at what sports journalists do and how we do it. We do need to take a more critical perspective and earn our place in bulletins. There needs to be an end to the 'old boy's club' mentality mentioned by Eamon Dunphy recently. Footballers, rugby players and other sportsmen are not above answering tough questions, and bland answers shouldn't just be accepted.

Editors need to reconnect with what the whole population wants and not just a vocal minority. And for their part sports journalists need to reconnect with who they are- journalists. Otherwise we could end up with a sports news service looking 'sick as a parrot, John'.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Iain Dale *

Iain Dale was always going to be controversial. Even apart from accidentally calling us 'media studies' students his right wing political stance was going to ruffle feathers. He wouldn't be as successful a blogger as he is if he didn't wind one or two people up. I thought he made some interesting points on how the conventional media stunts political debate, and how the world hasn't adapted to blogging.

Iain's lecture was partly an ad for his online political TV channel 18 Doughty Street. He claimed the channel would not restrict 'intelligent political debate', challenge the 'liberal world view' and remove the 'media filter'.

I remain to be convinced that 18 Doughty Street will be anything more than a site for the politically obsessed. Long debates between talking heads is a format not used by mainstream media for a reason- it's boring! Doughty Street may find itself only appealing to bored 'policy wonks' in Whitehall.

Iain admitted himself that he didn't know what he would do if a representative of the BNP wanted to appear on his programme or submit a video report.

This will be an interesting test - how does the outsiders' channel deal with real outsiders?

Iain is on the A-list of Conservative candidates and so will likely be running at the next election. It will be very revealing to see how far he can retain his blogging independence when he launches his political career. This will be an important barometer of blogging and its status as a completely free form of expression.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Amanda Powell

This week we were visited by Amanda Powell who is the Head of the BBC Wales News website. Amanda's talk was interesting. It was not the most philosophical or wide-ranging but I think it is refreshing to hear about the nuts and bolts of journalism rather than great ethical debates once in a while. It was useful to hear something on the discipline of writing and producing content for the web, since it will soon be nearly impossible to be a journalist without being a web journalist.

Amanda mentioned that she would rather someone spent less time on a page than a lot because this indicates that they are being punchy and producing good web content. This is, of course, a valid way of doing things but I don't think journalists should aim to make their content too easy to turn away from. Content should always be punchy, and it should be accessible for those people with a limited amount of time on their hands, but it should also aim to entice the reader.

Even people with a limited amount of time on their hands can be made to stay on a page longer if it is an interesting piece of work, and if it has different features- such as the chance to interact with whoever is providing the content.

Overall Amanda Powell provided a really good introductory-style lecture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blog of the Week

Apparently, it is required by order from on high that we produce a 'Blog of the Week'. This week I have chosen the BBC Sport Editor's blog which is found on the BBC website. Quite bravely, Roger Mosey has decided to write a blog which explains his decisions about sports coverage on the Beeb. This is always a contentious issue, particularly here in Wales where the natives are forced to watch the English team take on the latest bunch of Eastern European teachers/firemen/factory workers instead of their own boys in red. Mosey usually comes onto the blog to announce some new rights that the BBC has acquired, but more recently he has been forced to defend several decisions. These include the failure to keep the summer test matches on terrestrial TV. The great thing about the blog is that a comment, such as the one which brought up the issue of UK-side screening of England matches can generate a dicussion and then Mr Mosey will come back with an answer. Democracy in action.
Anyway, the link below will take you to the blog and you too can give Roger the benefit of your views on the lack of curling on BBC television nowadays.
This can be found here.

Welcome to my blog. I hope to share my thoughts here on the various exciting speakers who will be coming in to talk about the go-getting world of online journalism. As if that wasn't exciting enough you may get an insight into some of the journalistic adventures I will have here in Cardiff. And on that thrilling note I will end my debut blog.