Thursday, 3 September 2015

The images that shame our civilisation




My recent posts about death on the front pages take a harrowing twist on today's newspapers. Editors may have been divided over the rights and wrongs of putting the shooting of journalist Alison Parker on the front page, but they were just about united in their use of the photograph of a small boy's body washed up on the beach in Turkey. Many people will of course find it harrowing - particularly the photo used by The Independent and The National. One of my friends, a young father, was understandably upset. 'I just don't really agree with using this image to sell papers,'he said last night. It isn't there to sell papers though. Why would anyone buy a paper because of it?

 





It is there to bring home the stark reality of what is happening in the Mediterranean - and the equally stark reality that Europe is turning a blind eye. There have been column inches about 'migrants', shadowy figures hiding in lorries and walking through the Chunnel in the dead of night. David Cameron referred to them as swarms, likening them to insects. But these pictures tell a different story. One of a real humanitarian crisis. Perhaps they will bring about a change in attitude, galvanise Europe out of its frightened complacency. If they do, this death on the front page, however shocking, is justified. 
'

The German newspaper Bild, using the image on its back page, explains why the pictures had to be used. This is a translation of what it said:

A Syrian child lying dead on the beach in Bodrum (Turkey), drowned trying to escape the war in his native country, died on the way to Europe. 
Images like this have become shamefully commonplace.
We cannot bear them any more but we want, we must, show them because they document the historic failure of our civilisation in this fugitive crisis. 
Europe, this immensely rich continent, will be guilty if we continue to allow children to drown on our coasts. 
We have too many ships, too many helicopters, too many reconnaissance planes    to continue watching this disaster. This photo is a message to the whole world, to finally unite and ensure not a single child dies again on the run. After all, who are we, what are our values really worth, if we continue to allow this to happen?  


Thanks as always to  and @suttonnick. Thanks to also to @tanit

Friday, 28 August 2015

Test yourself with this week's newsquiz

Last week's newsquiz was clearly a toughie with not many double-figure scores submitted. In fact veteran quizzer Ian McCulloch sent a message saying 'my score was so dismal that I will not disclose it!' I suspect there are a few more who felt the same. So well done Janet Boyle who was top scorer with a very impressive 16.
This week's is a bit easier I reckon. Let me know how you get on.


The Daily Mail reports on the Shoreham air crash (Question 1)
1. What type of aeroplane crashed on to the A27 at Shoreham during an air show? Bonus: What was the name of the pilot? Bonus: Three of those killed played for which football team?
2. A heavily-armed man opened fire in a terrorist attack on a high-speed train travelling to Paris from which city? 
Bonus: French President François Hollande awarded his country's highest honour to three Americans and a Briton who tackled the gunman. Which medal did they receive?
Bonus: At what train station was the train stopped and the gunman arrested?
Bonus: Following the attacks, Belgium called for a review of Europe's passport-free travel zone. What is the name of the agreement that allows people to travel without border checks?
3. What was the name of the 24-year-old journalist shot dead on live TV in Virginia?
4. Who said: 'Nick should be stripped of his anonymity and prosecuted for wasting police time and money’?
5. What will be illegal in a car in the UK after October 1?
6. On September 9 the Queen will become the longest serving monarch in British history, passing the record of 63 years, seven months and two days, set by who? 
7. Name Britain’s three Gold medalists in the World Championships in China? (Half a point for two, nothing if you get only one) 
8. Why was 64-year-old Bob Semple in the headlines?
9. Who said: 'I have my conscience and I know I'm an honest man. I am clean. I am not a worried man'?
10. How did Sheffield-born Justin Wilson die?
11. Which new word, which means sitting with legs wide apart on public transport, was added to the online Oxford dictionary?
12. Where will you find Natasha Hamilton, Daniel Baldwin, Gail Porter and Sherie Hewson?
13. It is the tenth anniversary of the hurricane which devastated New Orleans. What was the hurricane called?
14. What is the name of China’s currency that plummeted to a four-year low against the dollar?
15. Darren Walsh won the prize for the funniest gag at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. The joke starts: 'I just deleted all the German names off my phone.' What is the punch line?
16. Academics in Oxford said that there are now more than 8 million what in the UK?
17. Who went surfing on matching blue bodyboards at a beach in Polzeath in Cornwall?
18. Donald Trump asked a woman at a rally in South Carolina to come on stage and do what?
19. Which company claimed that one billion people, one in seven on earth, used its service on Monday of this week?
20. Who advertised for a £60,000-a-year executive personal assistant to grow his global brand, produce iPhone apps, stock his fridge and make sure his house is kept clean?

Answers here

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Death on the front page: Right or wrong?

The Guardian goes with a file picture

The Times uses the moment of death
Our newspapers are divided this morning over whether putting a photograph of the last minute of a 24-year-old girl's life on their front pages is justifiable. It is pretty much a split decision. The Guardian, the Daily Express, the i, The Independent, Metro and the FT choose not to use the picture. The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Mirror and the Daily Star all decide to use it. 

The Scottish Daily Mail uses a file picture, whereas its sister paper uses the moment of death. 
Inevitably Twitter has been awash with outrage this morning. Worryingly, most of the vitriol is levelled at the journalists rather than the man who pulled the trigger.
So, is the use of the photograph justifiable? On the one hand the picture is undoubtedly shocking, it tells the story, the event was live on TV and it has been all over the internet. It is definitely in the public domain. On the other hand, the picture is primarily there for its sensationalism.  Gun deaths in America often barely make it on to the world news pages. And although it happened publicly, it is still a private moment for a young woman and her family. It is an intrusion into grief and it has no real public interest justification.
That these kind of pictures exist reflects the fact that cameras are everywhere. We live in a world where just about every event, including births, explicit sexual activity and death, is recorded. Editors have to make daily decisions on whether to publish or not. 
When I was an editor - long before digital cameras were recording every detail of life - we would still get pictures of death. There were bodies pulled from rivers, car crashes, suicide victims etc. The instinct to publish would often take over and I would have to stop myself and ask why. What would the justification be? 
I am no stranger to death on the front page. I used the harrowing picture of the fans being crushed to death at Hillsborough in 1989 on the front of The Northern Echo. I used the controversial 'road to Basra' picture of the charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier still holding the wheel of his truck. To me, both were justifiable. The Hillsborough picture told the story and identified perfectly what the problem was. 


The Road to Basra
The Basra picture showed the reader what was really going on. There were lots of gung-ho pictures of Tornado jets and brightly lit skies, but this was the gruesome reality of war. We had a duty to show that to our readers. 
When Gaddafi was killed in 2011 there were pictures of his death all over the front pages. I argued they were justified. Simon Ricketts from The Guardian, and a former trainee of mine, disagreed. We had an interesting debate which you can read here
So, would I have used the picture of Alison Parker's last seconds of life on my front page? I am not sure. I would have agonised over it, I would have consulted senior staff and done some inner soul-searching. I would, inevitably, have related it to my own family. And in the end I probably wouldn't have used it. But it would have been a very tough call.

Footnote: I had wondered whether the American tabloid might be more sensitive with the shooting being closer to home. They weren't:





 Thanks as always to the excellent  and @suttonnick

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Layout: Don't clutter the Page 1 picture

There were some incredible images of the Hawker Hunter which crashed into the A27 at Shoreham at the weekend. There is an ethical consideration in using them of course. The pictures show moments of death and are harrowing to most people, let alone those whose loved ones were involved. But having made the decision to use them, the pictures needed to be displayed well. The simple rule is 'if you have a stunning image, let the reader see it.' Page layout is about hierarchy ... what you want the reader to see first, second, third etc. One of the best examples of effective hierarchy was the wraparound of Princess Diana's coffin in The Sun in 1997. 


The paper normally wipes out its front with big Tempo Bold Condensed caps but on the biggest story of the decade it changed to a smaller, lighter headline font which it relegated to the bottom of the page? Why? Because the photograph is stunning and the headline - good though it is - comes second. It shouldn't interfere or compete.


Eighteen years on and some newspapers don't appear to grasp that basic layout principle ... or perhaps they simply don't agree. The Sunday Express, for example, had a powerful picture from Shoreham. But it chose to push it down page, under two dominant blurbs, and then overlaid a huge (and not particularly inspired) headline that obliterated half of the photograph. The result: clutter.


The Sunday Mirror, on the other hand, dispensed with its blurbs and wrote a first person headline which didn't interfere with the main area of the photograph at all. It might have been tempted to sky the picture - and put the headline at the foot of the page. Nevertheless, it is a very powerful front.


It isn't the first time the Express has cluttered up a stunning image. Here is its front page from 9/11 ... with a crop that is too tight and an index running over the exploding twin towers. 



Compare it to The Sun, which again reduced the headline size and gave the picture space to breathe. Two similar pages, the same image and the same space ... yet the simple layout rules put them worlds apart. 

Poll: Do newspapers understand pie charts?


Weekly poll: Does the Westmorland Gazette understand how pie charts work? Yes or No? 
Hat tip Lydia Willgress.

Clever splash by the Indie

Lovely (and clearly deliberate) juxtaposition of splash headline and picture on the front of today's Independent.
Hat tip to Chris Lennon.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Valerie wins final US newsquiz

I said farewell to the DailyMail.com trainees in New York yesterday. They had a good final week with sessions by head of video Lisa Snell and former trainee Kelly Mclaughlin. They wrote stories around video, covered a breaking story, did some forward planning stories and submitted full packages to the website. They also had drinks with some of the senior journalists at Swifts Bar. Next week they will be going through the second stage of training in London. I look forward to seeing them on the other side. As always we finished with the week with the newsquiz. Congratulations to Valerie Edwards who was this week’s winner with 14.5 points out of 25. See if you can do any better.

Trainees Valerie Edwards, Jessica Chia, Clémence Michallon, Kalhan Rosenblatt and Alex Genova in the DailyMail.com newsroom in New York

1. Who was allegedly looking for 'conventional sex, experimenting with sex toys, one-night stands, sharing fantasies, sex talk’ on the Ashley Madison website?
2. What was the name of the group of hackers who released data from the Ashley Madison site?
3. According to the Ashley Madison data, which state is 'by far the most adulterous place in the US?’
4. New York mayor Bill De Blasio is trying to clampdown on topless women who pose with tourists in Times Square. How much do the women charge per photo?
5. What is the name of Cheryl Fernandes-Versini's new perfume?
6. Who said 'I’m totally pregnant' during a performance in Los Angeles?
7. The Bangkok bombing took place at which shrine?
8. Andy Murray went undercover this week in Ohio and pretended to be what?
9. Which tournament was Murray playing in?
10. Why was Heather Leavell-Keaton in the headlines? 
11. Who pleaded guilty to charges of travelling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and the distribution and receipt of child pornography?
12. Who was hoping to attract a record crowd at the Ladd–Peebles football Stadium in Alabama?
13. The staff at Platte River Networks, the IT firm which managed Hillary Clinton’s server, posted pictures of themselves on Facebook posing as characters from which film?
14. Whose LA home was searched by police as part of an investigation into child pornography?
15. What is the name of the new art exhibition ‘theme’ park built by Banksy in South West England?
16. Mansur Ball-Bey was shot dead by a police officer this week in which town?
17. The site of the Burning Man festival has been overrun by bugs. In which desert is the festival being held?
18. Who posted a video of herself wearing a t-shirt with 9.99 written on it?
19. Who was found in the house of Steven Sheerer, a convicted heroin dealer?
20. Regular sackings to keep workers on their toes at Amazon were described by one HR manager as ‘purposeful ………….’. What is the missing word?
21. If you are being bullied at Amazon, who should you email?
22. Rapper Lamar Davenport was charged with the murder of Morgan Freeman’s granddaughter E’Dena Hines. What is Davenport's performing name?
23. Treasure hunters say they have discovered a legendary Nazi 'ghost' train packed with loot in a mountain tunnel in which country?
24. Why was ten-year-old Kaley Szarmack in the headlines?
25. Name either of the women who were the first to graduate from the US Army's prestigious Ranger School?

Answers here

Friday, 21 August 2015

Test yourself with this week's newsquiz

Last week's top score in the newsquiz was Alex Richman with an impressive 17, closely followed by Janet Boyle on 16. Here's this week's quiz. As usual 25 points to be won. Let me know how you get on. Good luck.

Cilla's last ta-ra (see Q1)
1. Cliff Richard opened the dedication at Cilla Black’s funeral. What gospel song did he sing?
Bonus: Where did the service take place?
2. What was the name of the group of hackers who released data from the Ashley Madison website?
Bonus: Which MP’s email address appeared among details leaked by hackers?
Bonus: The Mumsnet website has also been hacked and all users asked to reset their passwords. Who has claimed responsibility for the hacking? 
3. The Bangkok bombing took place at which shrine?
4. Andy Murray went undercover doing what this week in Ohio?
5. Which police force’s chief constable has been asked to resign after being found guilty of misconduct?
6. What is the name of the new art exhibition ‘theme’ park built by Banksy in Weston-super-Mare?
7. When will the result of the Labour party leadership election be announced?
8. Regular sackings to keep workers on their toes at Amazon were described by one HR manager as ‘purposeful ………….’ What is the missing word?
Bonus: If you are being bullied at Amazon, who should you email?
9. What is the name of Cheryl Fernandes-Versini's new perfume?
10. Whose LA home has been searched by police as part of an investigation into child porn?
11. Treasure hunters say they have discovered a legendary Nazi 'ghost' train packed with loot in a mountain tunnel in which country?
12.The British embassy in Tehran is to reopen. How long has it been closed?
13. Why was Sarah Chesters in the headlines this week?
14. Who was appointed President of the International Association of Athletics Federations?
15. Prime Minister David Cameron was spotted eating what on an Easyjet flight to Portugal?
16. Mary Berry accidentally revealed the name of the person going home from the Great British Bake Off during an interview with Chris Evans. Which baker went home?
17.  What did Harry Clarke refuse to do?
18. Which former England footballer has put his house – with an indoor football pitch – on the market for £3.6 million?
19. Michelle Mone has resigned from the lingerie company she founded 19 years ago. What is it called? Bonus: How old is she?
20. A best-selling bedtime book for children promises to get them nodding off in no time. What is it called?

Answers here