Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Week at the Croydon Guardian

This week I have been working at the Croydon Guardian. It is a weekly paper, which specialises in local news from around the South-East London borough of Croydon. During my time at university studying journalism, this is the first time I have had some real ‘hands-on’ experience in the field.

Dealing mainly in broadcast journalism on WINOL, working at a local newspaper is somewhat different. For example, instead of actually going out and about to get quotes and interviews with people, it is mainly done over the phone. The Croydon edition of the newspaper is out on a Wednesday, and I started on the Monday, so by the time I had started the majority of the news-gathering by the reporters had been done, and now it was all about organising photographs, and writing the stories in time for the deadline.

My first task helping out and gaining some insight was to ‘turn around’ press releases that the reporters are sent by local organisations. A lot of the releases were sent by press departments of these organisations in an attempt to get some publicity, and were not hard-hitting news stories. Such stories would include local businesses giving free football tickets to schools, or news on upcoming events. Nevertheless, it was quite exciting to be involved in getting some real experience in the industry.

During my first day, the Chief Reporter handed me a story of four Croydon based youngsters who had reached the final of a prestigious London based award. My job was to call the four finalists and get a profile on why they had been nominated and to get quotes from them. It was at this point that I learned that shorthand was definitely a necessity for being a news hack! The first call was very ‘plain-sailing’, but the second a bit harder – a 12-year-old school girl, who was very reluctant to answer questions, she was a lovely young girl, but, as most kids do, she got very shy with speaking to a stranger. In the end we had to settle for a quote from the child’s mother.

With the first two so easy to contact and willing to speak, surely the next two would be the same – No. I was wrong to assume that. The next two have been a nightmare to contact, with not answering phone calls and not responding to e-mails. The reality of the difficulties news reporters face was beginning to settle in.

Day two was fun – Court. I was on my way to court with a reporter to get a bit of an insight into court reporting, when it dawned on me. I wasn’t wearing a tie! As I have learned from Chris in lectures, when visiting court, it is essential to wear a tie. Luckily enough, the reporter I was with was well connected in the court and explained that I was still learning, so all was fine! The difficulties and stresses of court reporting also became apparent, when we travelled all the way to the Crown Court, only for the case to be adjourned for one reason or another! So no doubt we will be back another day! The reporter I was with is still unaware as to the ‘interest factor’ to the story, but it is always worth finding out!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Media Law - Copyright

Most people believe tat copyright law exists as soon as you wright something down. This is partly true, but the law actually requires the subject to actually be published to be protected. There is no copyright in ideas though, so claiming you had the idea for facebook before Mark Zuckerberg, or that you 'thought of it first' wouldn't get you anywhere in a court of law.

Copyright is very important to us as journalists. We are basically selling our words. That's how we make our money. So if we publish something and someone else copies it then they will half your audience and half your money. No copyright, no journalism and no copyright means no profit.

If you work for an institute or a company then you often give up your right to have your work copyrighted in exchange for wages. However, if you are freelance, your work is your own and is protected by copyright law.

The Eiffel Tower:
During last weeks lecture on copyright, our guest lecturer Peter Hodges explained the copyright laws surrounding the Eiffel Tower - a normal photograph of the Eiffel Tower when it is NOT illuminated is fine and free from copyright protection. However, the lighting on the Eiffel Tower is STRICTLY protected by the law, so if you are a broadcaster and you take photos or footage of the illuminated Eiffel Tower, you will not be able to publish without consent. If you are on holiday and take photos, and you upload them to you Facebook account, it is extremely unlikely you will be sued though.

It is very important to journalists as broadcasters to make sure that any material they use is not affected by copyright such as music in the background - the rule is, if it can be recognised then it needs to have consent of use.

How long does copyright law last?
In most cases it is 70 years after the authors death - but in different cases it may last for less, or for more. The best rule for a journalist or anyone looking to broadcast any work which is not there own - get advice if in doubt.

Fair Dealing:
As journalists we like fair dealing. Fair dealing allows us to use snippets of someone else's work without the fear of being sued. We do this for such things as criticism or review, or for research and private study. We must make sure though that the copyright owner is acknowledged.

You must never use a photograph in fair dealing - it is not protected

Moral Rights - The copyright owner has the moral rights of their work. They have to right to say how their work is portrayed. For example, doing a spoof of a movie - the copyright owner must agree to the changes. Or if one music artist does a re-mix of the original artists' song - the original artist must agree.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Media Law - Confidentiality and privacy

The law is always changing, and in a couple of months everything I am writing today, could well be wrong.

 Article 8 of the Human Rights Act
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act
Freedom of expression - You have the right to say and have your own opinions

Privacy is mainly an issue that is found within the lives of celebrities and people in the public eye. So we are not able, as journalists, to go around publishing photographs of people, in their everyday life, without consent; or publishing secrets about anybody, celebrity or not, unless there is a defence for doing so. The main defence of invasion of privacy would be PUBLIC INTEREST. So for example, if Wayne Rooney was photographed taking bribes before England took to the field against San Marino, then it would be well within the public interest to publish these photos without fear of being sued for invasion of privacy. On the other hand, if you were to take photos of Wayne Rooney through his living room window watching 'Brokeback Mountain', it would be deemed an invasion of his privacy, as it is up to him if he wants to watch certain films, and he has the right to do that privately.

So what defines PUBLIC INTEREST?
- Detecting or exposing crime: (Example: David Cameron selling marijuana)
- Protecting public health and safety (Example: discovering that your next door neighbour is plotting a terrorist attack)
- Preventing the public interest from being misled by an action or a statement

 *** Official Secrets Act *** These are put in place to protect National Security - There is no Public Interest defence. This is something that can come into play in the everyday life of a journalist. For example, if a journalist was doing a piece to camera with an army barracks in the background, they could be in breach of breaking the official secrets act, as it could provide necessary secret information to the enemy. So journalists have to be careful of their surroundings.

Newspapers (especially tabloids), often print stories that are against the laws of privacy and confidentiality. The most notorious and recent case of this was Max Mosley and the News of the World. Mosley was accused by the newspaper of taking part in a 'sick Nazi orgy' with prostitutes in his apartment in Chelsea. Mosley believed that he had an expectation of privacy, and he was right. You are in breach of someones confidence if you can identify all four of the following points:
1) Necessary quality of confidence - NOT TITTLE-TATTLE! So you will not be in breach of confidence if you are telling your boss that your colleague picks his nose and eats it.
2) The information is provided in circumstances imposing an obligation to privacy - So if you are in someones home and not in the park or a cafe. ***I WILL COME BACK TO THIS****
3) No permission to pass on the information
4) Detriment to be caused to the person

What News of the World thought, is that there would be no way that Mosley would want to stand up in court going through all the sordid details of his 'orgy' in front of a jury and journalists who would be publishing the findings in the next mornings papers. They were wrong. Mosley did just that and it was found that Mosley had the right to a privacy in this case - winning £60,000.

The case of Princess Caroline: I said I would come back to point 2 - in 2004 Princess Caroline was photographed eating in a public restaurant to which she sued and won, with the outcome from the European Court of Human Rights stating that this was a violation of Article 8, and that just because you are in a public place, it does not mean that you have the right to take photos of them or film them. However, there has been a more recent update to this, in February 2012 the court has now decided that papers should be allowed to publish photos and stories of well-known people. In conclusion, it is clear that the line between Article 8 and 10 is always being moved, and there is never going to be a straight ruling into this. And with the outcome of the Leveson inquiry soon approaching, it is clear that there will be possibly the biggest shift in rules ever, possibly making it even harder for journalists.