Tag Archives: journalism

A Panama Papers moment for Oxford?

Remember the Panama Papers? Who doesn’t? At the root of the story was the leaking of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The documents showed how the rich exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. What made the story memorable was the international collaboration that allowed 370 journalists across almost 80 countries involving more than 100 media organisations, to make sense of this huge amount of complex information, pick out the angles most relevant to their own national audiences, and publish simultaneously across the world.

What if that could be done by local journalists? Continue reading


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Making money from hyperlocal journalism: open meeting


Rich Coulter

Rich Coulter, founder and editor of the Filton Voice


We’re opening up the first hour of our October branch meeting for a discussion on making money from hyperlocal journalism, led by Rich Coulter, editor of the Filton Voice. 

 7.00pm, Thursday 15 October, Panel Room, Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford. Everyone is welcome. Continue reading

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Making digital journalism pay: doable. Making a living: difficult.



SA Mathieson was one of three speakers at an NUJ Oxford event on 3 July on how to make digital journalism pay. In a guest post, he sums up the key points.

It is perfectly realistic for journalists to make money out of digital journalism, but the problem comes from making a decent living.

That was the theme to emerge from the NUJ Oxford event on making digital journalism pay.

Speaking first, Tim Dawson, vice-president of the National Union of Journalists and a long-time writer and editor for The Sunday Times, has literally written the book on this area: Help Yourself – new ways to make money from writing. (It’s also available free for NUJ members – details here.)

He outlined some of the methods for raising money, which can be divided into three types: advertising-funded, marketing for other business and reader-funded. (More on his New Model Journalism site here.)

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by | August 22, 2014 · 4:52 pm

The new NHS: does anybody know who’s in charge?

Kate Griffin of the Oxford & District branch represented the NUJ at a May meeting organised by the Medical Journalists’ Association in London. This is her (somewhat belated) write-up of the event.

Who’s in charge of the changed NHS? That was the question being addressed by the speakers at the Medical Journalists’ Association event in May. The Health & Social Care Act became law at the start of April, but it will be some time before all the ramifications become clear.

Nicholas Timmins, King’s Fund consultant, said that the NHS has a change management programme “so large you can actually see it from space”. Although Andrew Lansley’s agenda might have seemed obscure to some, he actually laid out his intentions quite clearly in a 2005 speech. (I think Timmins was referring to the speech entitled The Future of Health and Public Service Regulation, which is still available online.) Essentially, he was trying to introduce a market element into our health service, which is very similar to what Labour were doing. Lansley was less interested in what he calls the “wiring” – the structure – and more interested in the principle of pro-competitive reform.

Timmins ended by asking: “Where does power now lie? God only knows.”

Bonnie Green, patient advocate, spoke next. She is former chair of the Richmond LINk. (LINks have been abolished by the Act and replaced with Healthwatch teams.) She pointed out that there’s more patient engagement built into the new NHS structure than you might think; NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) has a dedicated Patient and Information Directorate, and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have a lay Board member for patient involvement. But it’s too early to say whether the principle of “No decision about me, without me” is really working for patients in the new NHS.

Jon Sacker, communications lead for NHS Clinical Commissioners, had a different take on privatisation. “We have a fixed envelope. Privatisation is another way of talking about rationing.” He mentioned the new Commissioning Support Units, which do what the name suggests: support CCGs in their commissioning functions. (The CCGs still have legal accountability.) But it’s useful for journalists to know about these units because they’re almost like a PR agency working for the CCG, responding to Freedom of Information requests and supplying (or not supplying) data.

Lindsay M Davies, epidemiology professor at Nottingham University, brought out the public health aspects of the Health & Social Care Act. Local authorities have new responsibilities for the health of their populations, but it’s not entirely clear who is responsible in an outbreak or disaster.

She reminded us of the often-forgotten point that the UK has a devolved healthcare system, and the Health & Social Care Act only affects England. As a result, Public Health England and Public Health Wales are very different.

She also sounded a note of caution about the way public health officials are being pushed towards jobs in the civil service or local authorities. “Where is the independent voice?”

The final speaker was Roger Taylor of the website Dr Foster, which provides comparative information on health and social care services. He is also the author of God Bless the NHS.

He said that there is a gap between  “what most people want and what the policy people want”, because patients tend to be conservative. “The money has run out and the willingness to change is not there, so we can expect cracks to appear in the next 12 months.”

Looking at patient-reported outcomes yields some unpleasant surprises: some patients actually self-report as better before an operation than afterwards!

He said that if markets within the NHS truly deliver a better, more cost-efficient service, that’s great. But we’re missing out on the data to make comparisons and draw our own conclusions because private suppliers of healthcare services are hiding behind commercial confidentiality. And that won’t wash, because we need to formulate future policy based on proper evidence.

He ended with a plea to listen more to patients; currently there’s a culture of not trusting patients to know what is best, of ignoring what they say, and that has to stop.

Paul Bradshaw of the Help Me Investigate blogs was chairing the event, and took many questions after summing up. Questions raised but not fully answered included “How do working people engage with patient advocacy groups when they meet during work hours?” and “Why do we have such a complex system in such a comparatively small country?”

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Playing video games

The video games industry is huge in this country. Not that you’d ever realise that from the amount of attention it gets in the mainstream media.

But can journalists make a living from writing about video games?  The NUJ is holding an event called Game Over? which deals with this question and asks about the future of careers in the industry.

It’s on Thursday 18th April at 7pm in London. It’s free for NUJ members, £5 for non-members, but either way, spaces are limited and you must register in advance if you want to attend.

This event is organised by NUJ head office. It isn’t anything to do with the Oxford & District branch, but we like to keep you informed of interesting/useful events when we can.

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More power for working journalists, says Gen Sec

The General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, will be speaking at the Oxford Union tomorrow (Thursday 1 November), on the subject of Politics versus the Media.

She will be speaking against the proposition that This House Believes That British Politics is in the Pocket of the Media.

Stanistreet, who gave evidence on behalf of the NUJ to the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press, will argue that journalists have an essential role to play in informing the public, facilitating debate and holding people in authority to account.

“Evidence about collusion between politicians and press barons, including the handling of News Corp’s bid to take control of BSkyB and, we believe, the BBC licence fee settlement, have raised many important questions. I will argue that it is not the relationship between politicians and the media that needs to change, but the relationship between the media owners and the journalists who work for them.

“The evidence I gave to the Leveson enquiry demonstrated very clearly that the unethical and criminal behaviour of some of the journalists who worked at the News of the World and other News Corp titles was a product of a culture of bullying in which the need to get a story at all costs overrode any normal professional or ethical concerns. This in turn was the direct result of News Corp denying the journalists any collective voice through an independent union – journalists who wanted to stand up to pressure had nowhere to turn,” said Stanistreet.

“I will argue that the answer is not to weaken but to strengthen journalists and the media, through effective independent regulation and the adoption of a conscience clause which will give journalists protection in their contracts of employment against being victimised for abiding by the NUJ Code of Conduct.”

Speaking in favour of the proposition will be:

  • Brian Cathcart – Founder of ‘Hacked Off’ campaign, Professor of Journalism at Kingston University, and advisor to Commons Media Select Committee
  • Roy Greenslade – Trustee of media ethics committee MediaWise, and member of Board of British Journalism Review
  • Mark Lewis – Media Lawyer

Speaking in opposition:

  • Michael Crick – Chief political correspondent at Channel 4 News
  • Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP – Chairman of Health Select Committee
  • Iain Overton – MD of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
  • Michelle Stanistreet – General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists

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Reporting the Cuts

The spending cuts we’re facing today will not only be the largest since World War II, but perhaps also the most heavily spun. Finding out the real impact of the cuts means going beyond the press releases and searching for the small print in lengthy documents.

Health reporter John Lister has spent the past 26 years doing just that. He has become a familiar face on television as one of the few experts who can provide informed comment on NHS funding.

Dr Lister will be speaking at a public meeting on Thursday about how and where he finds his information. The event has been organised by the Oxford & District Branch of the NUJ, of which Dr Lister is a member.

We also hope to discuss the implications of the cuts in other sectors, such as education, libraries and housing.

You don’t have to be an NUJ member to attend the meeting; it’s free and open to the public. But please be aware that it won’t be an anti-cuts campaigning meeting. The focus will be on discovering and reporting, not on fighting the cuts.

  • Date: Thursday 11th November
  • Time: 8pm
  • Place: Oxford Town Hall; ask at reception for the NUJ meeting room
  • Cost: Free

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It’s not all bad news

Branch vice-chair Kate Griffin reports on last night’s speaker event. This report was originally posted on Kate’s own blog.

Who cares about journalism? Judging by the turnout at last night’s meeting, the answer is: “More people than you might think.” The Long Room at Oxford Town Hall was packed with local journalists, councillors and members of the public.

Journalist Nick Davies gave a talk drawing on the eye-opening material in his book Flat Earth News. He explained how cutbacks have created a newsroom culture that would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago. Increased pagination and reduced staff numbers over the past twenty years mean that the amount of page space to be filled by each journalist has tripled since 1985. To put it another way, each journalist must now find and check each story in a third of the time.

The result has been a decline in fact-checking and original reporting. The Cardiff University researchers who helped Davies gather data for his book found that even in the country’s top national papers, only 12% of stories are journalists’ own work and only 12% of key facts are being checked.

He explained how churnalism – cutting and pasting copy from wire agencies and PR companies – leads to distortion and misinformation.

Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary of the NUJ, explained that the cutbacks in journalism aren’t a response to straitened circumstances; they’re driven by owners’ desire for bigger profits and a disregard for quality.

She told the meeting that Gannett, owner of Newsquest Oxfordshire, aims for profits of 30% year on year – higher than companies like Centrica, which we traditionally think of as “fat cats”. The current financial climate is simply an opportunity to get away with using pay freezes and redundancies to squeeze even more money out of local newspapers.

We also heard from the Mayor of Oxford, Cllr Susanna Pressel, who expressed her support for local newspapers as a tool of local democracy. She backed up Nick Davies’s comments about churnalism, saying that she is bored of seeing council press releases reproduced word for word in the Oxford Mail and would prefer to see reporters actually coming to council meetings again.

Finally we heard from David Horne, a long-serving reporter on the Oxford Mail and Witney Gazette (both owned by Newsquest Oxfordshire), who volunteered for redundancy during the paper’s current round of staff cutbacks. He compared current conditions at the newspaper group to how they were when he started out as an Oxfordshire reporter.

He said that the Newsquest group was not prepared to spend money on investing in the newspapers and their staff, even if those investments meant greater returns in the future. He also explained how the widespread use of digital cameras is putting professional photographers’ livelihoods at risk.

For me the exciting thing about the evening was the high turnout and obvious engagement with the issues. What could have been a straightforward question-and-answer session became a lively debate, covering issues such as cost, quality and accountability. We also discussed emerging forms of journalism such as community journalism, blogging and citizen journalism.

We didn’t manage to solve the industry’s woes in one evening, but the evening ended on a note of hope that journalists have strong public support when they demand the resources they need to do their jobs properly.

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