Archive | November, 2009

Should journalists keep their opinions to themselves?

29 Nov

I know a number of journalists very well and I myself trained as one, so a question put to me today by a fairly senior journalist at Lloyd’s List made me think.

Do journalists, such as Melanie Phillips and Polly Toynbee deserve the platform as opinion leaders that they receive?

The theory behind the question is that journalists generally report on other people’s opinions. Once they start reporting their own through opinion columns and tv programmes, do they cease to be journalists to become opinion leaders?

At what point does a journalist graduate to this position? Most columnists, unless they are celebrities, start of as journos but once they gain a significant level of experience and a high enough reputation will often become columnists and opinionistas. But what is their experiential basis to write on certain issues.

Polly Toynbee often writes on political theory and messaging, which is fair enough as she has probably been around the workings of politics for most of her journalistic career.

Melanie Phillips however seems to often write and speak on environment and socialological issues. But when did she become an environmental scientist or sociology professor? Does she work with environmental or socialogical scientists?

I believe journalists and colomnists should be able to report on issues, but I’m not sure if their experience or their position necessarily allows them to analyse issues, unless of course they have trained in the sector or have been part of the issue.

Would be interested to know your thoughts.


Climate change debate is more akin to abortion debate, not the holocaust

29 Nov

Many journalists, generally the ones who fit into this category, complain about being called climate change denialists. It doesn’t help when denialists like Clive James tries to make the link as well. They complain that the choice of words links to offensive individuals that deny the Holocaust.  Whether or not the first person who used the term had this in mind is beside the point. I do think denialists are causing harm, but I don’t think they are necessarily going to cause a new holocaust. If anything does happen, we are all to blame because even if we did believe in man-made climate change, we haven’t swift and significant enough demanded action from our elected leaders.

But, after watching Melanie Phillips on Question Time and her horrendously arrogant display, I think the debate is more akin the pro-choice and pro-life abortion debate in the US.  Phillips complains that the climate change believers (which makes us sound like some kind of sect, such as the scientologists), are running some kind of totalitarian scam and swindle. But the fact is, she was quite happy to laugh, patronise and rudely dismiss the public and other panelists who believe in man-made climate change. Practice what you preach Ms Phillips.

To be fair though, climate change believers do dismiss the denialists just as badly. This is why I think the issue is similar to the abortion debate. No one will talk or listen to the other side and will never take each other seriously. In this particular debate,  I don’t think the eveidence will ever convince a sceptic or believer to cross sides.

However, what is definetly true is that while the denialists want to debate the issue, journalists like Philips give the denialists a bad name.

I think we are all guilty of refusing to listen to the other side. While I don’t agree with David Davis’s point of view, I was impressed with his point of view on Question Time; that while he is sure climate change is happening and is 80% that it is caused by human intervention, he still feels there is room for debate and it is important not to vilify each other.

Climate change believes say there is no time for debate. I disagree. There is enough action currently going on, to increase renewables, to decrease fossil fuel use, to create carbon sinks, that there is still room for debate but at the same time we can begin the process of saving the earth. Debates like COP15 aren’t going to stop and we will still make a huge effort to cut emmissions. Even in the worse case scenario, that we are wrong on climate change, it is never going to harm to lower energy costs, make the air less polluted and generally improve the health of the planet.

But refusing to listen to each other and complaining about it isn’t going to help.

Why the Parties need to monitor side-wiki

24 Nov

Side-wiki is a newish tool from Google that allows members of the public to place unmoderated comments onto a web page using the google toolbar. Every company needs to start monitoring this new tool,which theoretically can open a pandora’s box. Comments could range from the very positive, to the down-right insulting although, it is too early to say if it could have a real effect on a company’s brand image as it can only be accessed and viewed if you have the Google toolbar and you can only add a comment through a Google login and username. Both however, are very easy to get.

If Google starts indexing comments as part of their search result list, then there could be significant issues.

Below are a few high profile names that have been hit by negative or off-message side wiki posts which include the Labour and Conservative Parties’ home pages. The Liberal-Democrat website has no comments at all.

My particular favourite are the comments on the Sun.

My advice to all organisations, post something on your side-wiki now. You can’t stop people from making comments, but youcan at least try and push them past the fold. There is no way to moderate either.


Labour Party side-wiki comment

Conservative Party side-wiki comment

The Sun side-wiki comment

Tesco side-wiki comment

Walmart side-wiki comment


Will Henry’s PR campaign work?

23 Nov

Thierry Henry has clearly brought in a crisis PR firm, or at least his agent is working over time. After the debacle of Ireland being thrown out of the World Cup due to the Hand of Henry, Henry said replaying the match was the only fair thing to do. Albeit, he did say it after FIFA had already rejected the Irish request to do just that.

Now Henry says he was abandoned by the French Football Federation and seriously considered retiring from international football. Of course he has thought better of this and he is still going to South Africa.

Obviously, Henry is trying to sell himself as a victim here, but I don’t know how much sympathy anyone really has for him.

Will this PR campaign to lift his reputation out of the gutter work? Only time will tell, but I can pretty much guarantee the Republic of Ireland won’t be buying any Henry shirts in the near future.

Digital Economy Bill

23 Nov

I just posted on Left Foot Forward, on the significant issues within the Digital Economy Bill so please feel free to have a look.

New polling says it really is game on

22 Nov

There was some buoyant activists today in the Tooting Labour Party after the exciting news in today’s Observer regarding Labour’s improved showing in the latest opinion polls. The Conservative lead has dropped to just 6 points according to the latest Ipsos MORI poll. While 6 points is still a loss, it equals a hung parliament, which is obviously a better scenario than a complete Labour wipeout. But it could also be just the start of a fight back.

While I don’t think I can add that much more to the analysis of the result by Andrew Rawnsley and the UK Polling Report’s digestion, I can say that this is certainly going to lift the mood of the Labour faithful. This is going to lead to a more hopeful, and therefore more engaged Labour base.  Having people on the street, knocking on doors is vital and the more that come back to the fold because defeat is no longer inevitable, the better.

Hopefully, it will also lead to a more focused leadership, less rumours of a putsch and a more determined party overall.


Canvassing in Tooting

22 Nov

I had the pleasure of joining the Tooting Labour Party team canvassing with local MP Sadiq Khan today. We canvassed around the Hazelhurst Estate area and again, the results were pretty positive. Most people in the area I meet suggest they will vote Labour, with only a few previous Labour voters suggesting they are wavering.

This is obviously good news, and I think that in the not to distant future, probably early in the New Year, the focus of canvassing will change from purely trying to convince people to vote Labour, but to also make sure they actually get out and vote. I think that is one of the big challenges for Labour, ensuring people who may become slightly more apathetic, that they have to get out and vote.