ICE blogs

November 1, 2011

A strange animal

Iraq has been the most deadly conflict for journalists ever. Between the American invasion in 2003 and the withdrawal of American forces, 230 journalists and media workers were killed. Unlike in previous conflicts, they have become targets for kidnap and murder.

For a time during the most dangerous period, international journalists stopped going out onto the streets entirely. Reporter Robert Fisk called it ‘hotel journalism’.

Iraq is somewhat safer than it was, but remains very dangerous for reporters. As a consequence, international journalists in an increasing number of areas of conflict have become dependent on locally-hired journalists and fixers to gather news.

This film looks at the way reporters call ’sub-contract’ stories because of risk. We follow reporters in Falluja and Baghdad as they work. And a student blogger in the Kurdish controlled area in the north is killed after writing about corruption in the ruling party.

Please watch the film here:

July 29, 2011

‘Inspirational’ journalism prof wins top teaching award

Filed under: Uncategorized, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 2:48 pm

Professor Richard Lance Keeble, Acting Head of the Lincoln School of Journalism (LSJ) and director of the Institute of Communication Ethics, has become the first academic at the university to win a National Teacher Fellowship - the top award for teachers in higher education.

The prize, worth £10,000 for professional development, will be awarded at a ceremony at Middle Temple Hall, London, on 5 October.

Professor Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning, said: “Richard has been at the forefront of developing progressive teaching and learning practices at the University of Lincoln. Key to Richard’s contribution has been to recognise the importance of ethics and progressive politics to pedagogical practice more generally; and to find ways to embed these core aspects for teaching and learning across the student experience.”

Professor John Tulloch, Head of the LSJ, commented: “This award is richly deserved. Richard is a hugely experienced and inspirational teacher of journalism. In particular, he has pioneered the teaching of media ethics and human rights in the journalism curriculum - two subjects that the industry badly needs to address, as the current scandal over phone hacking shows. We need to enhance journalism training and help to support a new generation of journalists who fully understand the ethical issues and are confident and courageous enough to say no to unethical practices, whatever the pressures from employers. Richard’s work helps to build a better journalism. The LSJ is proud of him.”

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, commented: “I am delighted that Richard has been recognised as a National Teaching Fellow. It demonstrates his considerable contribution to teaching excellence in journalism, not only at Lincoln but his wider engagement and influence.”

After studying history at Oxford University, Professor Keeble, who is joint editor of ICE’s journal, Ethical Space, worked on the Nottingham Guardian Journal and Cambridge Evening News before becoming director of the International Journalism MA at City University, London, in 1984. On 1 April 2003 he became Professor of Journalism at Lincoln.

He has taught in all the main journalism subject areas - both practical and theoretical. His book, The Newspapers Handbook (Routledge) is now in its fourth edition and is considered the seminal text in the field. He has also throughout his career sought to integrate his research interests into his teaching. Thus, at Lincoln, he has launched modules on Peace and Conflict Reporting, Ethics, a new MA on War and International Human Rights and a new BA in investigative reporting.

Along with Professor Tulloch, he has advanced the study of literary journalism: in particular the reporting of George Orwell and Robert Fisk. He has also done much to promote the critical engagement with the industry inviting top journalists such as John Pilger, Phillip Knightley, Bridget Kendall and Dorothy Byrne to give talks to his students.

His 20 written and edited texts cover a broad range of topics: for instance, communication ethics, the internet and news and the coverage of the Afghan War. And he has given talks in many countries including Australia, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, India, Malta, Montenegro, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States.

Professor Keeble commented: “Throughout my career I have been lucky to work alongside many wonderful colleagues in both the academy and journalism. I would like to thank them all, sincerely, for their support.”

July 12, 2011

‘TV failed to prepare viewers for Arab spring’

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 8:57 am

UK broadcasters failed to prepare viewers for the ‘Arab spring’, according to a major new report by the International Broadcasting Trust and the University of East Anglia.

The report, Outside the box, reveals that Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Oman, and Yemen - which have recently experienced unrest or uprisings - were not the main subject of any factual programme in 2010. And the only programme to focus principally on Syria was the BBC4 series Syrian school. Tunisia only received significant coverage in BBC4s On Hannibal’s trail and Morocco in Channel 4’s Jamie does Marrakesh.

Despite carrying international programmes such as the consumer travel series The secret tourist as well as covering developing countries in Sport relief, BBC1 is falling behind other channels in its reporting on developing countries, according to the IBT.

In total, North Africa and the Middle East received just 5 per cent of all international non-news factual coverage across UK channels in 2010. Last year, the main UK terrestrial channels broadcast fewer hours of new international factual programming than at any time since IBT began its annual reports in 1989.

Martin Scott, the report’s author and a lecturer in media and international development at the University of East Anglia, commented: ‘The results of this study strongly suggest that UK television left audiences remarkably unprepared for these momentous events. Public opinion and public debate in the UK about the Arab spring is surely the worse for UK television’s persistent failure to cover adequately this part of the world.’

He continued: ‘I’m not suggesting that the BBC and other broadcasters should have predicted the Arab spring but that they have not lived up to their responsibility to give audiences the opportunity to understand better this part of the world.’

- Download the full PDF of the report from

July 11, 2011

Orwell and the killing of the News of the World

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:26 pm

Richard Lance Keeble finds most intriguing the prominent display of a quotation by George Orwell in the final “Thank you and goodbye” edition of the News of the World

One of the most intriguing aspects of the News of the World’s final issue on 10 July was its prominent use of a quotation by George Orwell - on the back page and again as the opening paragraph in the Page Three editorial. In full, the quote reads:

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World.

Such a positioning of the quote, if nothing else, confirms the extraordinary, iconic place George Orwell still holds in the political and cultural life of the country - more than 60 years after his death at the tragically young age of 46.

Yet on closer inspection, the quote appears to be a strange choice to adorn NoW’s “Thank you and goodbye” edition. It comes at the start of an essay he wrote while literary editor of the leftist weekly journal Tribune. Titled “Decline of the English Murder” it was published on 15 February 1946.

Over around 2,000 words Orwell examines nine murder cases during what he describes as the “great period” between 1850 and 1925 and compares them to the Cleft Chin Murder of 1944 (so called because the victim, a taxi driver, had a cleft chin). Orwell lists the “great” murders (Dr Palmer of Rugely, Jack the Ripper, Neill Cream, Mrs Maybrick, Dr Crippen, Seddon, Joseph Smith, Armstrong, and Bywaters and Thompson) but provides no dates.

Analysing them (and excluding the Jack the Ripper case since “it is in a class by itself”) he finds that most of the criminals belonged to the middle class, most involved poisoning and the background to all (except one) was domestic: of twelve victims seven were either wife or husband of the murderer. From these conclusions Orwell goes on to construct a fascinating picture of the “perfect” murder:

The murderer should be a little man of the professional class - a dentist or a solicitor, say - living an intensely respectable life somewhere in the suburbs, and preferably in a semi-detached house, which will allow the neighbours to hear suspicious sounds through the wall. He should be either chairman of the local Conservative Party branch, or a leading Nonconformist and strong Temperance advocate. He should go astray through cherishing a guilty passion for his secretary or the wife of a rival professional man, and should only bring himself to the point of murder after long and terrible wrestles with his conscience.

In contrast to these murders, Orwell castigates the Cleft Chin Murder for having “no depth of feeling in it”. The two culprits involved, an eighteen-year-old ex-waitress Elizabeth Jones and an American army deserter, posing as an officer, Karl Hulten, sadly lacked the middle classness of the “great murderers”. Rather than use poison in a seedy domestic drama, Hulten and Jones went on a mindless killing spree - first running over a girl bicycling along a road, then throwing a girl into the river after robbing her and finally murdering a taxi driver who happened to have £8 in his pocket.

While the News of the World prided itself on its appeal across the classes and to the working man and woman, here Orwell betrays his underlying middle classness. This he associates with stability and strong, authentic emotion in contrast to the instability and working classness of the contemporary murder. For Orwell, “the old domestic poisoning dramas” were a “product of a stable society where the all-pervading hypocrisy did at least ensure that crimes as serious as murder should have strong emotions behind them”.

As Paul Anderson says in his brilliant overview of Orwell’s writings while on Tribune (Politico’s 2006), this essay amounts to a “masterpiece of dark nostalgia for the good old days of middle class poisoners”.

The quotation also identifies the imagined reader as exclusively male (the wife is said to be “asleep in the armchair”). This then again makes the quote a strange one for the NoW to use so prominently - since women as much as men were its target audience.

But on reflection perhaps the Orwell essay about the decline of English murder was a subtle choice by the editor: Rupert Murdoch, after all, killed off his 168-year-old Sunday jewel in a ruthless act which appears to have “no depth of feeling in it”.

- Professor Richard Lance Keeble is Acting Head of the Lincoln School of Journalism

May 21, 2011

Political reporting put simply

Barnie Choudhury reviews So you want to be a political journalist? edited by Sheila Gunn (published by Biteback Publishing; ISBN 978 1 84954 085 8 )

One of the joys of being in Higher Education is having access to all the books being published by people with the finest minds in the world. As someone who is getting to grips with the ‘academic world’ full time I have to admit that I am finding it challenging. You see, I have been a newsman for thirty years. The first lesson I was taught about writing was to K.I.S.S: Keep It Short and Simple. Any story can be summarised in three sentences and the cleverest people can explain their ideas to a child. And this is the debate I am having with fellow academics. For me some books are simply too dense. I guess that says a lot more about me than the author.

So what has this got to do with Sheila Gunn’s So you want to be a political journalist? Well this book is definitely not an academic tome. Rather, it is a collection of reflective essays, with some great learning points buried throughout the various sentences, from well-known political hacks. Gunn is herself a practitioner of journalism and the dark arts of spin; she was once John Major’s spin doctor. But Gunn hits the nail firmly on the head when on page one she tells of the need for aspiring journalists to go into a new village, town or city and come back with ‘a number of good ideas for stories’. This is so obvious to practising journalists but having taught in HE for more than a decade it is a lesson, I still have to drum into my students year in year out.

What Gunn does with her book is to take a student (and those already in the business, if they so wish) by the hand and navigate them through the various aspects of the democratic political processes. The brilliant Guardian commentator Michael White reminisces about his time as a lobby correspondent for the paper. He provides a readable history lesson for the uninterested and uninitiated about how politics and political reporting has changed over the decades. The sedentary lifestyle of reading committee reports, wining and dining political contacts replaced by the frenetic pace of a 24/7 continuous news cycle.

Inside this book are the thoughts of intellectual journalist giants. No, this is not an oxymoron; just spend time reading Peter Riddell’s potted biography and marvel at his achievements. When he tells you how to work with politicians, make notes, inwardly digest and practise the craft. My friend Carolyn Quinn - we were both BBC trainees together - explains how she broke into the business. Adam Holloway, the MP for Gravesham in Kent and former investigative journalist, tells us about his typical week in the Commons. But was he right to stop writing a weekly column and issuing press releases to his local paper because he was miffed by the way another MP and he were treated by the press? Andrew Hawkins’ explanation of reporting opinion polls puts in simple language what few but the best really do. No jargon, no mystery and certainly no trying to write for the academic.

I do have two criticisms of the book. I wanted to hear more from the elite of political reporting. It was as if they kept some of their secrets to themselves or perhaps this is a cunning ploy by Gunn to write a second book? The other fault is that it is aimed at a niche market. This book will not be recommended by those on politics courses or, dare I say, useful to them because it is not analytical enough. And conversely some journalism courses will also wonder about the merits of putting it on their reading lists because they will think it too detailed. But I would argue that this is a must for any wannabe reporter just starting out. Put simply: it is a collection of useful recollections from those who have been there, done it and bought the tee-shirt.

Barnie Choudhury is a former BBC News and Social Affairs Correspondent and a Senior Lecturer in journalism at the University of Lincoln

May 6, 2011

Ethics of showing bin Laden - both alive and dead

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:45 am

Barry Turner explores some of the ethical issues surrounding the representation of Osama bin Laden - both dead and alive

Days after the US military killed the most prolific terrorist murderer in history the press is engaging in the usual conjecture and hypothesising that follows all such activity. One of the central questions arising out of the already blooming conspiracy theories is the ethical position regarding showing photographs of the Bin Laden dead, or even in the process of being shot. It makes for interesting ethical debate on what should be shown in the aftermath of violent conflict but as usual misses a very real point regarding ethical portrayal of images in general.

The media has already created Osama the icon using repeated imagery of him in combat fatigues and traditional dress and, in particular, carrying the ultimate icon of terrorism, the AK47 assault rifle. It is this representation that is far more alarming than the sight of a gruesome corpse.

The media have for a long time portrayed bin Laden as a former ‘freedom fighter’ turned bad. If ever there was a misrepresentation of what he was it is this. The Mujahedeen were never freedom fighters. It was never the intention of these fighters to replace the Soviet supported communist government of Afghanistan with freedom and in that respect the US-backed Mujahedeen were nothing more than state-sponsored terrorists, opposing a socialist government’s attempts to modernise a mediaeval and tribal fiefdom. If anything, Al Qaida were nothing more than a privatised version of that campaign.

It has for a long time been clear that the US support for the Mujahedeen was one of the biggest US foreign policy disasters in a long line of alliances with criminal and homicidal despots. So why do our press continue to compare Osama the ‘freedom fighter’ with Osama, public enemy number one?

In recent years bin Laden had become an irrelevance. On numerous occasions the press speculated he was already dead possibly even from natural causes. The inability to operate in a world saturated with surveillance had ironically placed this medieval warlord into a medieval existence where even telephones and the internet were denied him because they would certainly have revealed his location years earlier. This isolation was only relieved by using couriers which eventually led to his being found.

What has the killing achieved then? Yes, it can be argued that if anyone deserved summary justice he must have been close to the top of the list and, yes, it is cathartic for America and many Americans to see ‘justice done’. But there is a down side.

The US were keen to get him ‘buried’ and out of sight as quickly as possible and were greatly aided by his own alleged Muslim faith requiring internment within 24 hours. The US military wanted no shrine so they buried him at sea. This has already failed. The house he was shot in has already had its first tourists and pilgrims turning up and is set to become that very shrine.

The US government has now quite sensibly decided not to show his corpse. Even if they had it is doubtful that these photographs would ever have been enough to convince the conspiracy theorists who already question whether ‘it was actually him’. Showing images of his dead and hideously disfigured corpse are said to have been likely to inflame his supporters into acts of further nihilistic mayhem, as if showing him lovingly caressing the Kalashnikov that became his trademark did not.

This killing has rid the world of a depraved individual, a terrorist for most of his adult life including during the period that the US and the West called him a freedom fighter. The killing has also made him a martyr and the press do not help by their portrayal of him in iconic poses. Before any further consideration of the ethics of showing him dead they should really consider the effects of showing him proudly alive.

- Barry Turner is a senior lecturer in law at the University of Lincoln.

December 17, 2010

Pilger: ruthlessly exposing media failures over conflict coverage

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:17 pm

Robert Beckett reviews John Pilger’s latest film which highlights the failures of the mainstream media in their coverage of conflicts since 1945

The war you don’t see is a powerful documentary film made by John Pilger, one of the world’s great investigative journalists. More than a documentary, Pilger’s film is ruthless in its aim of questioning war reporting and the role of the media in conflicts since 1945 - though much of the focus is on the recent wars of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

There are three questions at the heart of the film: what is the role of the media in war? why do journalists beat the drum of war? and how are crimes of war reported when they are [our] crimes?

Citing detailed film and documentary evidence and using expert witnesses, Pilger builds a case that is simply devastating. Both the 24/7 media and the Western military are implicated in a deceit that has the innocent starved, tortured and murdered in their thousands using the tools of modem technological warfare, and in the name of democracy (or should that be hypocrisy?).

Some of the footage is simply disgusting, demonstrating how it is that callous and deluded men kill children, women and unarmed foreigners in other countries, in the name of freedom. For a full archive of Pilger’s immense and valuable catalogue of documentary journalism see: John Pilger has donated his entire archive to the University of Lincoln which is in the process of digitalising it.

- The war you don’t see: a documentary film by John Pilger (97 mins); in UK cinemas from 13 December 2010. The John Pilger site will stream the film in the Video section at some point this year.

December 8, 2010

Hounding of Wikileaks condemned

Reporters Without Borders, the press freedom campaigning organisation, has condemned the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure being directed at, the website dedicated to the US diplomatic cables. RWB is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

After publishing several hundred of the 250,000 cables it says it has in its possession, WikiLeaks had to move its site from its servers in Sweden to servers in the United States controlled by online retailer Amazon. Amazon quickly came under pressure to stop hosting WikiLeaks from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and its chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, in particular.

Ousted from Amazon, WikiLeaks found a refuge for part of its content with the French internet company OVH. But French digital economy minister Eric Besson said the French government was looking at ways to ban hosting of the site. WikiLeaks was also recently dropped by its domain name provider EveryDNS. Meanwhile, several countries well known for their disregard of freedom of expression and information, including Thailand and China, have blocked access to

Reporters Without Borders commented: ‘This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed.’

Earlier, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the political backlash being mounted against WikiLeaks and accused the US of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website’s host server to shut down the site.

‘It is unacceptable to try to deny people the right to know,’ said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ‘These revelations may be embarrassing in their detail, but they also expose corruption and double-dealing in public life that is worthy of public scrutiny. The response of the United States is desperate and dangerous because it goes against fundamental principles of free speech and democracy.’

The IFJ is also concerned about the welfare and well-being of Assange (who was arrested on 7 December on sex charges and later refused bail) and Bradley Manning, the United States soldier in Iraq who is under arrest and suspected of leaking the information.

- See:

December 6, 2010

There, but for the grace of god…

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:01 pm

Barnie Choudhury reflects on Jim Naughtie’s unfortunate Spoonerism on BBC’s ‘Today’ - and remembers some nerve-wracking ‘two-ways’ he had on the programme with its daunting presenters

I was dropping my fourteen year old daughter off at her school when it happened. I almost crashed the car. Olivia looked at me aghast and then asked: ‘Did he just use the “C” word? On Radio4?’ ( Poor Jim Naughtie. There but for the grace of god, I thought.

Let me declare an interest. The ‘Today’ programme is my early morning wake up call. It was the programme which made my - and many others’ - career. I adore Jim, John, Evan and Justin. Sarah is wonderful and I still miss Carolyn Quinn and Sue McGregor.

I’ve been interviewed by all of them in what the industry calls a ‘two-way’. I took precautions. I made sure I woke up at least an hour before my slot, showered, shaved and was completely awake. These pesky presenters, you just don’t know what will come out of their mouths.

You see, doing ‘Today’ was, for me at least, a very big deal. It wasn’t an ego thing - well not completely. I was simply nervous about getting it wrong because I knew who was listening. Every single person in government. Every single serious politician in opposition. Every single police officer who hopes to be a Chief Constable. Every single academic worth his or her salt. Oh, and rumour has it, Her Majesty the Queen as well.

Everyone will be familiar with the infamous six-o-seven slot ( - the one which caused Alistair Campbell to go to war with the BBC. The result: the scalps of a decent reporter, a brilliant Director-General and a down-to-earth Chairman. Getting it wrong wasn’t an option.

What made things worse was that you always had a sense that John, Jim et al. knew more than you. They had been so well briefed. One morning I was greeted by a cheery Jim, croissant in one hand and the daily papers in the other: ‘Ah, Barnie, so we’re talking about the Council of Europe then…’ I could see where he might have got that idea - but it wasn’t what I’d intended to talk about. So I dashed to the computer and got the BBC Analysis section on the Corporation’s intranet to read up on the Council of Europe. Boy, did I sweat. And wouldn’t you know it, Jim didn’t ask me one single question on the CofE.

It is so easy to get it wrong on live radio and television. Live broadcasting can be exciting - but frightening at the same time. My personal nightmare, from which I have never recovered and which comes back to haunt me, was Friday, 17 February 2006. I am seated in the High Court listening to the case of Lotfi Raisi. ( For some reason I’m not understanding what’s going on. The problem is that I have to do a two-way with Julian Worricker on News 24, as it was then, as soon as the case is finished.

It was a disaster, a train wreck, a car crash…oh boy, the producer ran out from the satellite van screaming at me. I still have the recording of my appearance somewhere. You know the dreams where you’re running through treacle or trying to get to a place and you’re being held back? Well, that’s how I felt as the words tumbled out of my mouth - and I’m in a cold sweat thinking about it now.

So back to Jim. The papers had the story immediately. The Guardian has helpfully put the offending ten seconds on its website and it is also on YouTube. ( The BBC, though, has done something rather strange. It has accepted Jim made an error. It has allowed Jim to say he’s sorry, several times. But it has edited out the offending piece of broadcasting from its ‘Listen Again’ player. Come on, BBC! It was an honest mistake. And, for the rest of the programme, you could tell it had an affect on this fine broadcaster, one of our national treasures.

And what about the man whose name was mangled - the Culture Secretary, Jeremy HUNT? He did what I hope I would do in a situation like this: he laughed it off. Mr HUNT tweeted ‘They say prepare for anything before going on “Today”, but that took the biscuit…I was laughing as much as u Jim, or shld I say Dr Spooner.’ Ten out of ten, Sir. Someone to watch, me thinks. This is the right way to deal with something that can happen to anyone. One thing I love about the British is our shared ability to laugh at ourselves - and please, I implore you, long may it continue.

Barnie Choudhury,
Senior lecturer,
School of Journalism,
University of Lincoln

November 27, 2010

TV ’still failing to portray mental illness accurately’

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:16 pm

Prime time television drama still struggles to present an accurate picture of mental illness, a major new study finds.

Making drama out of a crisis, by the mental health initiative, Shift, aims to encourage writers, producers, directors and commissioners of television drama to enter into a debate about these issues and how they portray mental illness on television. Mental health charities, experts and people with mental health problems are keen to join this discussion.

The study looks at three months of TV drama broadcast between 4pm and 11pm on UK terrestrial channels. Researchers found 74 episodes from 34 different programmes that contained mental illness-related storylines. Researchers also spoke to programme makers and members of the public - both with and without personal experience of mental health problems - about portrayals of mental illness in broadcast drama. The report finds that:

- 45 per cent of peak-time programmes with mental illness storylines portrayed people with mental health problems as posing a threat to others;
- 63 per cent of references to mental health were pejorative, flippant or unsympathetic;
- 45 per cent of programmes had sympathetic portrayals, but these often portrayed the characters as tragic victims.

Barry Turner, senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Lincoln, commented: ‘Prime time TV portrays mental illness in a completely distorted and sometimes dangerous manner and escapes Ofcom censure with alarming frequency. This issue represents one of the most serious breaches of media ethics in journalism and TV media generally. There have been some improvements but there is a vast distance to cover, both fictional presentation of mental illness and news coverage is a major contributing factor to the huge stigma still encountered by those with mental health problems.’

- See

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