ICE blogs

August 11, 2012

Failures in reporting August 2011 riots highlighted

Serious failings by the mainstream media in their coverage of the August 2011 riots are highlighted in a major new report. It argues that the ‘unbalanced’ and ‘unhelpful’ coverage began with the shooting of Mark Duggan, the 29-year-old black man, by police in Tottenham.

‘In first reports of Duggan’s death, police stated that he was involved in a shoot-out with them, a statement that was later proved not to be true yet was reported as fact by news media.’

According to the report, the single most important reason for the spread of the disorder was the perception, relayed by television as well as social media, that in some areas the police had lost control of the streets. Social and broadcast media then helped the riots to spread.

The report stems from the ‘Media and the Riots’ conference organised by the Citizen Journalism Educational Trust and The-Latest.Com (the UK’s first dedicated citizen journalism website) on 26 November 2011.

It comments: ‘Conference participants felt that the apparent motivation of young people to target and loot shops and brands such as JD Sports, Foot Locker, Currys, Comet and PC World during the riots was strongly influenced by print and broadcast media. However, they also felt that this issue could not be adequately looked at without examination of the way in which the creative media industry, through films, music and video games, often glorified a criminal, gang or gangster-related lifestyle that some disadvantaged young people, including black males, then aspired to achieve.’

Marc Wadsworth, journalist, editor of and lecturer at City University, told the conference that most journalists covering the riots had no connection with Tottenham and as such did not know where to find authoritative voices: ‘They just fell back on lazy journalism, which was to rely on what the police was feeding them, what politicians were telling them and therefore not being the unbiased reporters they should be.’

The report also suggests that the Reading the Riots study, led by the Guardian and the London School of Economics, in analysing 2.57m tweets on Twitter sent around the riots, was ‘a model of good practice in looking for evidence about the use of social media and involvement in the riots, rather than relying on assertions’.

It identifies five action areas through which different actors - young people, citizens in affected areas, activists, journalists, professional journalism bodies, citizen journalists, educators - might use ‘the media’ to challenge the stigmatising of young people and affected communities and promote previously marginalised voices.

- hold the media to account;
- engage with journalists;
- communicate with decision-makers;
- promote citizen journalism;
- ensure wider access to journalism.

In a forward to the report, Professor Roy Greenslade, media commentator on the Guardian, welcomes its encouragement of citizen journalism. He continues: ‘But “big media”, at least at the moment, continues to hold sway over the national conversation. If it wishes to enhance democracy then it must ask itself whether it has become too remote from the public by creating a media class, a class apart from its audience.’

- Media and the riots: A call for action, £15 (organisations and companies); £5 (individuals); £3.50 (unwaged). Details from

August 2, 2012

‘Drone journalism’ focus for workshop

‘Drone journalism’ is coming to the UK, in perhaps the first event of its kind in Europe (the US is already ahead on this one, with the creation of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, led by Matt Waite.)

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) will host a workshop on 22 October to examine the use of drone aircraft in newsgathering and to make recommendations for policy and best practices. The event is co-sponsored by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford.
Advances in aviation and electronic control systems are now allowing drone aircraft/UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to move from military to civilian applications and they have potential uses and benefits for newsgathering by providing aerial platforms for photography and videography. Because of their relatively small size, they are portable and can easily be moved to locations were reporting needs to take place.
Drones will alter aerial newsgathering, which is now done primarily via helicopter and light aircraft, by reducing the cost of operations, making them available to a larger number of news organizations, and increasing the uses of aerial platforms in different types of reporting. Potential uses include traffic observation, crowd observation (events, demonstrations, and civil disorders), observing events and activities in areas where land-based access is restricted, and in both sports and entertainment production.

The development of drone technology and the increasing desire for its use in civilian contexts creates a variety of policy, regulatory, and ethical challenges. This workshop is designed to document the issues and formulate recommendations regarding their deployment in the UK, Europe, and globally and thus influence future policy debates. Policy issues include aviation law, flight regulation, and privacy concerns.

The event is being organised by Prof. Robert G. Picard, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, David Goldberg, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, and Daniel Bennett, War Studies Department, Kings College London.

- See

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