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May 24, 2013


REPORTERS who broke the law by hacking phones in the UK should be sent to jail and other reporters should be the first to send them there but governments shouldn’t curb a free press and block investigative reporting – Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein told journalism students at Cardiff University.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been “wildly irresponsible and totally reckless” in not redacting material but governments who use national security to kill stories are “almost always spurious”.
“We have the First Amendment, thank God,” said the veteran American reporter, “and you have the Official Secrets Act…… I don’t know why there’s not a revolt in this country.”
“There’s less and less good editing. WikiLeaks needs some sub-editors.” He said that Washington Post sub-editors went “over every word” of the Watergate story he wrote with Bob Woodward, which prompted US president Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
He said that more journalists in places like Russia and Chechnya were being killed now for seeking out “the best obtainable version of the truth” than ever before and he warned that there was less interest in the truth in “this hyper ideological world” with people surfing online.
But he added: “The web is a great reporting platform. I think what we need are the best standards of old media. I think we’re doing too much self-flagellation instead of self-examination.”
In response to a question asking him if he thought it was more difficult to do investigative journalism today than it was in the early seventies, he said: “I’m not sure that great investigative reporting isn’t being done. Most news institutions want good stories.” He mentioned the website
“The notion of the common good has become eclipsed by partisan, ideological, religious interests.”
He said that whistleblowers were anonymous sources and a last resort but could, in certain cases, be preferable to official sources for a story.
He told students about Woodward’s maxim that “good work is almost always done in defiance of management” and he told them they would get good stories at night because “the truth comes out much better at night”.
“My generation in America did some wonderful things with gay rights, civil rights, womens’ rights but we have failed young people economically. Wages have been declining for 25 years in our economy.”
But he was optimistic for the future – praising the Boston Globe for their paedophile priests story and flagging up the George Polk memorial prizes for journalism in America. He said it was too easy to blame Rupert Murdoch for “a dumbing-down in the English speaking world”.
“Only young people your age are going to change it,” he told the journalism students, before closing by offering them two pieces of advice for the future: “Be a good listener and be respectful.”
Carl Bernstein will speak on Sunday at the Hay literature festival



28 November, 2012

MOVIE maker and Labour lord David Puttnam predicted that the police will be slated in the Leveson Report.

“I think the police are going to come out of this report very, very badly both in terms of individuals and as a group,” he said at Cardiff University.

“They actually began to erode it and damaged it very badly. Operations Weeting and Eleveden are being so meticulously examined as the police know they have a lot of clearing up of their own stables to do. Extremely sophisticated people at the top of the police,” he said.

He said that the next three months could be “very ugly” in the media.

“If this goes really ugly, we could go into a McCarthy-type world and we could get back to that world of smear, insinuation and serious career wrecking.”

Lord Puttnam is one of Britain’s most distinguished film producers with award-winning successes such as Chariots of Fire and Bugsy Malone. He sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords and has publicly commented on the future of media regulation and the post-Leveson world.

He talked about a “toxic triangle” and a “fear-based relationship” between media, politicians and police which was responsible for a “thoroughly dishonourable” last 30 years.

The British legal system had been “too soft” on white collar crime and “we were lead down a road that was principally designed to line the pockets of the already entitled”.

He called for responsible reporting from the media such as in their coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics in London this summer.

“In the run-up to the Olympics, it was going to be a disaster. Only on the third day did they realise it was working and the people thought it was terrific,” he said.

But he warned that the press had become “the enemies of social harmony” with their desire to shock. “The British press have to become as accountable as every other area in our society. They are not a special case,” he warned.

His lecture, called The Lessons of Leveson – The future of media regulation in the internet age, was delivered as the Haydn Ellis distinguished lecture. Haydn Ellis, formerly deputy vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, played a significant role in establishing Cardiff as one of the leading research universities in the UK.



22 February, 2013

“WE ARE all journalists now,” Lady Justice Arden told law students at Cardiff University as a warning to bloggers and social media users who do not know the law that they can be prosecuted for libel and contempt of court – some were by North Wales Police recently in the Ched Evans case.

My strong fear is that staff working on publications like Newport Matters, a Newport Council “newspaper” put through doors whether people want it or not, could very well be called journalists in the future and that kind of government propaganda may become mainstream “news” and the writers mainstream “journalists”.
These publications do sell advertising space alongside the usual stream of permanently upbeat pieces on dustbin etiquette and environmental preaching. Independent, objective inquiry and investigation would then, of course, become the opposite of news and journalism in an Orwellian nightmare world.
If that is what political funding of journalism will mean then I would be very strongly opposed to it. A Labour-led Welsh government with no legitimate mandate for increasing powers due to voter apathy would then change the discourse to suit itself.
Lady Justice Arden stated effectively that anyone and everyone can be a journalist but members of the judiciary were different as they had had a proper legal training.
Journalism is a broad term which encompasses a huge range of different writing styles and its greatest strength and at the same time its greatest weakness is that anyone can and should be able to do it and the technology has empowered people to do just that.
Two things are crucial:
1, What do politicians mean by “democracy” and safeguarding it? I have for instance, noticed how senior academics at universities and politicians at the Welsh Assembly are sometimes together on platforms, as if singing from the same hymn sheet and conveying the same message. University academic staff should be challenging and questioning, not meekly complying, and so should students.
2, How is journalism going to be defined in the future? Surely we no longer need “messengers” but instead need to educate and empower ourselves to break and decode the news. Many blogs now offer incredibly useful information and opinions which newspapers before the internet would have edited out or omitted altogether. I will watch with great interest the story of blogger Jacqueline Thompson, who was arrested after she refused to stop recording a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council. Read more:

Click to access lj-arden-speech-media-intrusion-cardiff.pdf



February 16, 2013

NEW redundancies have been announced at the Western Mail in Cardiff. Read more:



September 16, 2012

THE Hillsborough disaster and revelations about the political scandal brought back for me memories of Saturday afternoons on The Kop at Anfield and how sick that sometimes used to make me feel.

I would go to matches in school trips in the seventies from Ysgol Friars, Bangor, and always headed for the Liverpool end and stood at the centre behind the goal to make the most of the atmosphere and enjoy the unique feeling of being in a sea of bodies moving forward to crush against barriers and then backwards in a huge release, scarves aloft singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. A lot of alcohol had been consumed and there was an added intoxicating feeling of uniting with a loud, chanting tribe of working class people with common, primitive rites and regalia.
The crowd would rush downwards when Liverpool attacked and I would move with them, helpless and unprotected. I felt like a piece of flotsam being washed out then in on the tide. It was most frightening when the wave descended down quickly and unexpectedly, such as when a goal was being scored. I enjoyed a similar atmosphere years later on the North Bank at Highbury. The sense of kinship and of belonging to a tribal group was hugely heady and mind altering.
I actually didn’t see much of the game as my viewing was usually blocked by the person in front and often I would find myself pressed up against a barrier hoping and praying that the wave of people would move back up the terraces so I could breathe properly again. Visiting the toilet, obviously, was out of the question and it wasn’t unheard of for belongings to mysteriously disappear in the crush if you didn’t look after them.
What happened at Hillsborough, clearly, is that the pressure became too intense and fans were just crushed to death. I had been to an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1980 between Liverpool and Arsenal but I stood at the opposite end then with the Arsenal fans and there seemed to be plenty of room. The police, I think, arranged the ends geographically so that northerners or westerners would go to one end and southerners or easterners to the other.
It sometimes entered my mind that a disaster was possible on The Kop if too many people were allowed in but I always felt that that wouldn’t happen, for some reason.
I visited Anfield again in 1989 as a reporter on the South Wales Argus to report on the sea of flowers laid in memory of the fans who perished at Hillsborough and I wrote a piece on it, getting the views of Newportonians who were members of the Liverpool Supporters Club.
The political climate then was very different to now as there was a more deferential attitude towards authority – the fact that football stadia had a choice of cheaper standing and/or more expensive sitting in many ways epitomised that concept of a two-tier society. The “football hooligan” was an accepted term and the police and the government appear to have made the most of it on this occasion.
Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of The Sun, wrote the headline The Truth, alleging that Liverpool fans had urinated on other helpless fans and stolen their belongings. MacKenzie, though, was only repeating the propaganda fed to him and other journalists by the police.
Everybody now realises that they got it horribly wrong but it took too long to reach the proper conclusion.
Now, fans no longer stand on the terraces, the unique atmosphere on The Kop is probably very different and Hillsborough is not used for major matches.
But the key difference is that today we have the internet and I feel that that would have enabled the Liverpool supporters then to get their message across about what really happened much quicker and much more effectively.
It is at times like that that the internet comes into its own, freeing and democratising people to give their own accounts, contradict other accounts, challenge and question. Then, Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of making the world more “interconnected” really does make sense.

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