Do women make better war reporters?

Veteran journalist (and, I must admit, a bit of a role model for me) Linsdey Hilsum seems to think so. She argues that:

“We can cover all the same stories as male reporters, but we also get special access and insight into how war affects women. “

She goes on elsewhere on the blog to quote the feminist Gloria Steinem, who says:

“…female journalists have demonstrably been more likely to cover the cost of war, to cover what happens to families, to cover rape as a war crime, which only has been ruled a war crime because there was a woman on the international criminal court. But the exposure of it was largely due to female journalists where male journalists were not seeing it as part of war or they were seeing it as inevitable.”

I think both women here make extremely important points: 1. that female journalists can firstly access more easily war’s female victims, and that secondly generally they can get them to talk and open up. Through this we on the outside can begin to understand the cost of war on its most numerous victims. And 2. that female journalists want us on the outside to understand this: they want to make us realise that war crimes are being perpetrated, and that true and proper justice must be sought.

I should say at this point that I am certainly by no means saying (nor, I’m sure, is Lindsey Hilsum or Gloria Steinem) that male journalists don’t consider rape by soldiers just as dreadful as their female colleagues.

There is a risk in today’s society, where feminism has become “the F word” and women are ever-more determined to prove that they are more than competent to do a “man’s job”, that female journalists won’t try to cover these sorts of stories through a fear of being thought “soft” by their (usually male) editors. But as I suggested elsewhere on this blog, any journalist worth his or her salt wants to get the best story. Male journalists can use male cameraderie, lunches in private clubs and visits to strip joints (I’m sorry but I bet it still happens regularly) to get the juicy stories. Female journalists must employ similar tactics: if that means using your female sympathy to encourage a rape victim to tell her story, then I can’t see anything wrong with it.

Possibly the best ad in the world?

I absolutely love this advert. Thank god for the innate British ability to take the piss out of oneself.

4 times in 4 days? Pah!

Poor little Florrie the Fiesta is starting to know her own way to Truro now (the title of this post referring to the number of times I’ve been to Cornwall’s capital). The reason for this apparent obsession with the fair city? Interviewing for my Politics documentary (though I must confess to a moment of weakness when I re-discovered the shops one can find in Civilisation. I nearly cried in Topshop).

Interviews are now all done (I hope – I’m not going back there again). So far I have audio from: Adam Paynter (county councillor, portfolio holder for the environment); Steve Bazeley (chair of RATs); Sarah Newton (prospective Cons candidate for Truro); Mike Cox (district councillor) and Derek Christie (Scottish Power). I think it’s a fairly good balance – one properly pro, one super-anti, a couple of decision-makers and a prospective MP. What I really could do with is some voxes – if I hadn’t been such a div I would have taken an M Audio to the planning meeting the other night, but I guess you can’t have it all.

So now that all the raw material’s collected I need to actually start scripting and putting the damn thing together. From the interviews it seems there are several angles I need to look at: 1. the actual application itself, and its pros and cons. 2. how much of a say local people really get in the planning process, especially when the authorities have to follow government guidelines. 3. that a lot of people think wind farms are not the only solution, that there are other possibilities down here in Cornwall. I think the opening 30 seconds are sorted: a brief “I’m standing on a hill at Carland Cross etc”, already recorded under a turbine, then moving into an audio montage of clips of Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and Al Gore talking about the threat of climate change. After that I get a bit stuck. Today I intend to write as much of the script as possible, which will be interesting since I haven’t had a chance to clip the interviews yet. Ho hum…

Setback for turbines

As part of my politics documentary I went to the District Council’s planning meeting last night. As my first council meeting it was an interesting experience: there was certainly a lively debate. Despite recommendations from both the County Council and the Planning Officer that the application be approved, councillors voted to reject Scottish Power’s plans to take down the 15 existing turbines and replace them with 10 new turbines twice the height. Surprisingly there was less of a landslide against it then I’d thought there’d be – it was rejected 8 to 7.

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There’s been a vociferous local campaign against the plans, with a petition collecting over 300 signatures and at least 80 letters of objection. And it seems that, for the time being at least, Residents Against Turbines &co. have been successful.

But why did councillors turn down the application, despite recommendations to the contrary? I’m sure the very well organised RATs campaign had a great deal to do with it – but then Scottish Power had thousands of pounds and a hell of a lot of lobbying power too.

I’m convinced the demographic of the councillors on the committee had something to do with it. They were almost indistinguishable from the 50 or so objectors who’d turned up to the meeting. All but one was over 50, most were over 60 and several over 70. White, middle class, middle England to a man (and one or two women). All the councillors who got up to speak, or to ask questions, were extremely hostile to the guy from Scottish Power who spoke.

Unrepresentative?

Even though almost half the councillors voted in favour of the application, I still think the profile of the average district councillor raises quite big questions. They do not represent everyone in Cornwall by any stretch of the imagination. And therefore, naturally, they won’t represent everyone’s views.

A few people did attend the meeting in favour of the wind turbines: they were a lot younger than everyone else, councillors included. Who was putting their side of the story?

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Personally, in spite of the arguments against wind energy that were put forward last night (and which I will include in my documentary), I’m still very much in favour of turbines. I went for a wander amongst the current turbines today, and personally I find them beautiful. Standing at the foot of one of them, they are a bit noisy – a bit like a washing machine on the spin cycle. But just a couple of metres away you can barely hear them, it just sounds like the wind. And I think that wind energy is incredibly important in helping reduce our carbon emissions.

Scottish Power has said it’ll appeal the decision, and the general consensus from those what know about these things is that it’ll probably go through on appeal. I know this will upset a lot of people, but I really hope Cornwall continues to expand its renewable energy resources. 

Multi-platform delivery

Also, a shameless plug: please, please, please visit Jack of All Trades.  This is the blog linked to our Regulation and Ethics presentation on multimedia delivery and journalism. There you’ll find, among other things, a highly amusing (and extremely professional-looking, thanks to the editing skills of one Mr Josh Vardey) video considering the role of an old-school journalist versus the ever-expanding multimedia that’s available today. Again, please feel free to leave comments.

Resurrection of the blog

After much assiduous blogging in the New Year I rather fell by the wayside as university started to take over all my waking (and some of my sleeping) hours. But as things start to quieten down a bit as we work on individual projects, I’m going to make a concerted effort to start blogging again.

First up, I can’t believe how much we’ve packed into this term. Live @ 5, our TV news show, has become an all-preoccupying concern. If we’re not filming and editing, we’re planning a guest interviewee, prepping a sports slot or simply trying to put it all into some semblance of order. This term I’ve filmed three packages, anchored the show, Paxman-ed it up with an interviewee, run the autocue, fiddled with the sound and been the producer’s bitch. And I’ve loved almost every second of it. There’s something so exciting about a live show, and if I can’t go straight into journalism then I’d love to do some behind-the-scenes work in the gallery.

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Me with fellow anchor Dan

Then there are the multimedia newsroom days. Alternating between Radio Falmouth, the commercial Shock FM, rolling news and online updating, it gives a really good taste of how most newsrooms work nowadays. Sharing content and audio is a really good way of forcing us to work together, and you start to look at all the different angles of  a story. Rolling TV news was definitely my favourite, perhaps because the Powers That Be decided to choose that day to launch “disaster scenario”. Naturally everything descended into chaos for the first half an hour or so, but after that people got more organised, and I think everyone got a real buzz from breaking news as it came in.

We also hit up RNAS Culdrose, which, despite my initial lack of enthusiasm, turned out to be a fantastic day. We got to really delve behind the scenes, including sitting in a real life Harrier. It was all in aid of the radio magazine show and, miracle of miracles, we actually managed to put together something to be proud of.

My Top Gun moment

My Top Gun moment

Personally lots of exciting things have happened too – the main one being, passing my driving test. I’m now the proud owner of Florrie the Fiesta, on whom, even after less than a week, I’m really dependent. As a journalist you have to be able to down tools, up sticks and get to the scene of the crime (resignation/protest/strike) as quickly as possible, preferably carrying several thousand pounds of equipment. Before getting Florrie this was practically impossible for me; I relied on other people being able to give me lifts. Now I can nip here, there and everywhere, and it’s given me such a feeling of independence.

This leads on to what’s going to be happening in the next few weeks. I’m currently working on my Politics documentary which’ll look at a wind farm development at Carland Cross, near Newquay. Needless to say lots of people are getting terribly het up about it, so I want to look at whether, with targets for sustainable energy looking increasingly hard to reach, the government will continue to press ahead with renewable energy projects regardless of public opinion and if so, how much will take place in Cornwall. 

I want to use this blog to chart my progress and try to channel my thought process to pull the piece together. Hopefully this’ll be a good practice for work on my MA project, on which more later. But anyway, I’d really welcome your comments and any suggestions you have for who I could talk to or any new angles I haven’t considered.

The unlikely saviour of the French press?

Union opposition is one of the barriers to modernisation of the French media

Union opposition is one of the barriers to modernisation of the French media

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to rescue his country’s ailing newspaper industry. One of the ways he intends to boost circulation of papers such as Le Monde and Libération is to offer a year’s free subscription to any paper to all 18 year olds. Apparently, the thinking behind this that French teenagers will develop an affinity for one paper or another, and continue buying that paper once their free subscription has ended.

There’s no denying that the French national newspaper industry is in a dire state. Regional newspapers are far popular than in Britain – although the quality cannot be said to be any better. The biggest selling national paper is sports daily L’Equipe. Le Monde, often considered to be the heavy-hitting paper of choice for ayone with half a brain, had a circulation of under 400,000 in 2005, while Britain’s Daily Telegraph sells over 900,000. 

This being France, anyone hoping to take steps to boost newspaper sales must first tackle the strong communist journalism union, who naturally oppose any changes. So online journalism is nowhere near as advanced as it is in Britain: most French print journalists would rather jump off the Eiffel Tower than contemplate wielding a video camera for the website.

So at first glance it would seem that Sarkozy’s promise of €600m in state aid to get the French reading the dailies once more should be welcomed with open arms. But hold on a minute – is an editor who’s just received a large wodge of government money for his struggling rag really going to OK an article criticising M. Sarkozy’s tax plans? And how far will this go? Could we see state-funded TV news every night?

Having been exposed to 7 months of Italian TV, I can say that journalism in which the ruling classes have even the slightest say, doesn’t make for pretty viewing. Let’s hope that France doesn’t go down that route.