Patience, do you have it? Will you even make it to the bottom of this article? Challenge yourself, because our attention spans are getting shorter. Chances are you might not even make it to the bottom of the next paragraph. However, when your brain is posed with the proverbial question. Do fish fart? It’s got to be worth reading to find out and what on earth the answer that has got to do with investigative journalism; surely?
Investigative journalism requires vast amounts of perseverance. Not only from the journalist, who has to dare click beyond the second page of the Google search results. But nowadays, the reader also needs to be enticed and immersed enough to scroll past the landing screen. Scroll being the crucial term, that all of journalism has to contend with in the information age.
Just this week new data reported by the BBC has shown that the ever-familiar trend in the Scottish media from print to online reading is continuing to chimes with worldwide trends. Research by Pew Internet Study seems to suggest, as our move from print to screen increases, our attention spans decrease. The wealth of content online means content providers and news organisations need to do more to attract their audiences, in order to try and revitalise their declining profits. Continue reading →
Former VP uses students union at University of Westminster to build a company and pocket profits
As a student, you might expect part of your £9000 fees, which fund your student union, to be spent diligently and with good intent. However it seems the University of Westminster Student Union (UWSU) has been through a period that this has not happened. UWSU recently announced its events company, So Fresh ‘N’ So Clean (SFnSC) was going it alone. They have split from the union and are setting up the operation up as an independent company. Latest figures show that the operation lost £100,000 from the union’s broader £500,000 deficit. The split means that even if the events company now begins to make a profit, UWSU will not benefit from this.
Thus any future profits the SFnSC company makes will no longer be going back into the UWSU. However the figures and sources at the student union have said there were problems with the operation, and union’s relationship. They also suggested that there were problems with the finances, so were So Fresh’s profits ever going back to the union? Continue reading →
Through the course of his career he has been shot at, arrested and had the nation at his front door during the phone hacking scandal. But Neil Wallis, former Deputy Editor at the News of the World started his guest lecture at the University of Westminster with this line:
“Don’t ever doubt, this is the greatest career”
Our parliament is currently considering and weaving its way around the Leveson Report. Something many of us have heard of, but a report, its fair to say, most of us can’t even begin to understand.
Neil Wallis came to the University of Westminster to discuss with students what the Leveson Report will actually mean for the press, journalists and the common citizen. On the whole, he doesn’t agree with plans that Leveson has set out. He pointed out that the laws being introduced following Leveson had become more than just a ‘complaints’ system underpinned by the statute (law) . His argument is that the government is trying to interfere with free press. Continue reading →
The Golden Dawn organisation is a far-right Political Party in Greece. On par with the BNP they have been accused of being fascist, racist and xenophobic; amongst other accusations.
This week four of their members of parliament, including the leader of the party Nikolaos Michaloliakos, were arrested for belonging to a criminal group. Other counts include murder, assault and money-laundering.
The Greek government have clamped down on the political party after a Golden Dawn supporter has been accused of murdering anti-racist musician Pavlos Fyssas on the 18th September.
The Greek government have begun referring to Golden Dawn as a criminal group to avoid being accused of preventing democracy take its course. But is it ok to stop fascist sentiments spreading, or is this a prevention of free speech?
So is giving fascists a platform to speak and air their views, which often call to remove freedom of speech, the right thing to do? Ask yourself, would you give Hitler and the Nazi party of Germany’s past a platform? They were banned in Germany after the Munich Putsch that led to Hitler being jailed and their numbers then dwindled.
However, when Hitler was allowed to speak again, the Nazis eventually succeeded in growing to become the largest party in the German Government. After three elections the President felt he had no choice but to appoint Hitler Chancellor, despite his opposition and two previous denials. Hitler and the Nazis then proceeded to shut down Democracy.
Democracy is about having the right to vote, having universal human rights. Allowing people who want to strip that right away, to air that view, is an attack on democracy.
It seems like a juxtaposition to defend free speech, with the exception of speech that essentially spreads hate. But you can at least agree, its ok to be who you are, who ever that is.
An important justification is: it is not right to have or spread the opinion, that other people don’t have the right to be Gay, Straight, Black, White, Disabled, Well, Women, Man. Neither, All, None, etc.
The only opinion that is Wrong, is the one that thinks certain groups shouldn’t have rights because of who they are, not the opinion they hold. Black people will always be black, but fascists can change their mind. They don’t always have to be fascists.
Every bit as terrifying to stand up in front the National Union of Students Lesbian Gay Bi and Trans conference, as it was in standing front of the Levenson Enquiry? I’m not sure it was that hostile; Indeed Helen Belcher received a standing ovation for her informative talk of the representation of trans people in the press.
The death of Lucy Meadows has brought transphobia into the public sphere of discussion. Lucy was a transitioning primary school teacher who was outed, first by her local paper, then nationally by the tabloids. The motive behind this outing was discussing whether it was appropriate for a Trans person to be teaching ‘our kids’. If this feels like history repeating itself, it’s because it is very similar to the discussions about Gay teachers during the time of Section 28 in the UK and Harvey Milk in the 80s fighting the ‘Briggs Initiative’ in America too. Obviously Lucy’s gender had no affect on the ability to teach; However the national press, the outing of Lucy’s status and broadcasts like a Radio 2 phone in to discuss whether Trans people should be able to teach all brought the issues Lucy faced into the public debate. It is unsure what happened to Sophie and it is unclear whether she committed suicide or if there were other factors, but its fair to say Lucy did not have an easy ride in the weeks leading up to her death.
In the Eighties a well-known human rights activist Peter Tatchell regularly outed gay people in the name of the public interest. But as Helen pointed out, that practice took place in a phenomenally different context. Tatchell outed politicians and significant figures as gay if they spoke out, homophobicly or against gay rights. Helen defends Tatchells efforts during that era but explained outing Lucy, was not in the public interest. Indeed she said we are enormously privileged to have freedom of speech and press in the UK but never should that freedom be used to take away other people’s freedom and privacy.
Helen also spoke of her time and statements at the Leveson Enquiry as a representative for Trans Media Watch. She believes her submissions were heard because the prejudice and slander faced by trans people is similar to other marginalised communities represented poorly in the media like Single Mothers & Immigrants. Trans people are not Frauds, Deviants or Jokes as they are often shown, they are people like me and you.
The press, which as Helen pointed out, has so much power to shape and frame the public debate. It should never consider it acceptable to ‘out’ any individual aspect of a person in the name of ‘Journalism’. Journalism is for serving the public interest and we as a population gain nothing about knowing private information of ordinary people. Helen thinks Journalism should be more focused on Investigative practices, which only makes up 10% of press coverage and warns on the dangers of Churnalism. In a post Levenson report press era although some politicians will lead you to believe there is, Lucy’s Outing is still not illegal and no law has been made to protect people from this sort of press harassment.
If the Press can pick on Lucy, and pick on Trans people AND get away with it. Then who will their next target be?
It’s the end of the financial year, and as many of you scream with pain and joy, depending on if you got over or under taxed, corporations across the country will be sorting their numbers out for the year.
The Students’ Union this year ‘ran out’ of money before the end of the year, so in its new budget has had to make cuts and savings to prevent this from happening again. The reason the lack of money occurred is due to a missed paperwork deadline for the Court of Governors. A budget was prepared for the Governors and money was spent based on this budget, so when the proposal deadline was missed, money had already been spent without it having been confirmed or receive; this created a funding shortfall.
Our Students’ Union has now released its budget documents for the last two years, which shows where your money has been spent. They’ve also announced in what way their bid for money from the university will look like. We’ve trawled though the numbers to pick out the important facts, so you don’t have to.
Every year the Students’ Union receives a “Block Grant” which is money given to the SU by the University to fund itself. They receive this by submitting a ‘Impact Report’ and ‘Strategic Plan’ which includes budget proposals. The Students’ Union also raises its own revenue with ventures like the Harrow Bars and Cavendish and Harrow Shops.
This year they are pitching to have a 56% increase in their block grant from the university from £720,000 to £1,125,000. This increase will give them an extra £405,000.
They highlight in the report how they have some work to complete to strengthen their “organisational structures” after this year’s financial troubles and have highlighted £70,000 worth of cuts to prove to the University they can make savings. It states that these savings will be made in areas such as “student staffing, design costs, specific areas of activity (e.g student radio) and sports travel“.
The media budget for the last year has been forecasted to reach £234,000. The Quintin Hogg (QH) Newspaper had the largest budget at £32,500, Smoke Mag next at £16,000 and Smoke Fest third at £11,000. The budgets for Smoke TV and Smoke Radio were merged together to total £12,000 spent by both. However, Smoke Radio is run by an independent committee that is separate to Smoke TV and is only forecasting to have spent £3,500 and has also raised approximately £1500 of its own budget leaving its approximated cost for the year at £2000. This is cheaper than the full budget for the Students’ Union website which stands at £5000.
The media budget has been highlighted as one area that will have major savings and reductions, a total of £28,000 next year. The QH’s budget has been reduced by 13%, Smoke Mag by 12.25% and Smoke TV and Radios combined budgets have been reduced by 37.5%. Smoke Fest and Smoke Extra have been cut from the forecast and will receive no funding next year.
Staff salaries have been increased across the board by 1%, with a few exceptions where staff are receiving an even larger pay rise. This will leave the Chief Executive with a £56,579, the Sabbatical officers and President with £25,808, and the Welfare Advisors salaries’ have also increased by 1%. The Deputy Chief Executive’s salary has increased by 3.82% to £45,16,3 and the full-time staff in the media budget will receive a 3.2% rise between them. The Sabbaticals’ expenses budget will also increase by 9% from £11,000 to £12,000.
Other cost increases include an extra £5,000 for events to £15,000, campaigns will also grow by £5000 to £9000 and finance costs (which include things like paying for someone to manage the accounts) will grow by £14,000 to £76,000.
Further cuts have been highlighted in the sports budget, a decrease of 5% (£9000) to £167,500 and in the ‘So Fresh ‘N’ So Clean’ student staff team from £19,000 to £12,500.
Societies and the Centre for performing arts (CPA) have been ring fenced and will not increase or decrease and will continue to receive £26,000, and societies will stay at £14,000.
This bid has not yet been agreed by the University and is subject to change. It will also be reviewed by the Student Union Trustee Board which is made up of Sabbatical Officers, University Set Trustees and Student Volunteer Trustees.
It’s a familiar story, we are all constantly aware of the pending Zombie Apocalypse. Countless films, TV programmes and series have covered the issue but never has a story centred around the un-dead been used to make so many different points.
BBC3’s ‘In the Flesh’ was about the lives of the Partially Undead Syndrome (PDS) sufferers – at least this was their politically correct name – to those in the village of Roarton it was about the lives of ‘Rotters’. We’re introduced to the lead character Ren, a youthful, blonde and fragile boy in a rehab centre. He, as with many PDS sufferers, is on the cusp of being re-integrated into society a year after ‘The Rising’ occurred; which saw people who had been freshly buried in the ground rise from the dead. With a daily dose of meds injected into the back of the neck, he is chemically balanced enough to go back into the ‘community’ (and not return to the uncontrollable state of eating the living again).
But home, is not a safe place to return too. Roarton, in the middle of nowhere, suffered heavily in ‘The Rising’, as the army tied up the cities, they weren’t able to get out to the rural village’s inhabitants. In the end they were defended by a group of villages who banded together as the Human Volunteer Force (HVF). Led in Roarton by the Vicar, the HVF, who are supposed to have disbanded at this point in the story at a nationwide level, are still in full force. They police the streets and watch the forests for any left over ‘Rotters’.
So far I’m sure you’re asking whats different? The story which is squeezed into 3 short hours covers many taboo topics in a way that accepts them as things that happen. Most shows would have picked one divisive issue to focus on, but this show tackles being gay in a prejudiced community, that hated you for your sexuality when you were alive, and hates you now, for waking from the dead.
It’s not an entirely original concept, using zombies to make comment on the ‘human experience’ and how we, in times of struggle turn to a certain group to blame all things evil on – i.e. ‘scapegoating’. It was once the communists that inspired moral panic, nowadays the ‘others’ are Immigrants, The Youth, Technology – They are our Zombies. ‘In the Flesh’ is by no means a happy watch, but it is a beautiful watch. We find out early on that Ren is ‘partially deceased’ because he committed suicide; his family feel blessed to have him back – but he is still unhappy. Over the three episodes we see him grapple with the facts that he doesn’t want to be living, but he carries on, for his family. On top of this we have to deal with a heart breaking romance storyline in Ren’s life too.
We talk about different cultures, we talk about different races, we talk about different sexualities, we talk about differences all the time. The overall message of ‘In the Flesh’ is that life is precious and we should all talk about that more. Its time to break the taboo, and TALK about Mental Health.
You Can see ‘In The Flesh’ on BBC iPlayer for a limited time, or download it on iTunes.
More Links: Campaign Against Living Miserably – (CALM) exists to prevent male suicide in the UK Harmless – Harmless is a user led organisation that provides a range of services about self harm including support, information, training and consultancy to people who self harm, their friends and families and professionals. Mind – Mental Health Charity
Kaled Mimouni, the Presidential candidate for the Your 5 slate, has been disqualified for encouraging students to vote for him, at the point of voting – a breach of election rules 2.1. His votes will be discounted and transferred down (so anyone who voted Kaled as their number one preference, will have their votes sent to their second candidate).
The complaint that lead to this disqualification also claims that Kaled was not only getting students to vote for him, but “forcing them to vote for all of his candidates” despite voters saying that they don’t even know who the other candidates were.
The reason that the returning officer opted for disqualification is so that any potential votes he gained using this method will be discounted and not affect the election result. But if he is running on a slate, and those slate members have gained votes by his misconduct, does that not call into question their vote count as well?
Jayesh Gohil, running on the Your 5 slate for VP of Marylebone, also features heavily in this complaint. He is accused of sending members of his campaign team up to the library to gain votes. Charlie Newson, his opponent, witnessed a Your 5 campaigner getting several students in the library to log in so they could vote on their behalf. He claims that Jayesh was seen “authorizing and ordering” the campaigner to go to the library.
Voting online was implemented this year to save money, making it more accessible to voters on study abroad schemes and other students who can’t get to the campus. It also, of course, makes counting the vote easier and quicker. However, are these blatant breaches proving to be too much of a risk to the credibility of the outcome? It seems this problem was not anticipated as candidates were only banned from canvassing with tablet computers, laptops, and other portable devices yesterday. If cheating has occurred on this scale all this week, as we come to the end of the elections, was this rule implemented too late?
“Influencing students by using the position, mirroring the controversy surrounding Sab endorsements, the final step would be to start endorsing herself, this utterly disgusted me. Something must be done on the illegality about the Your5 Slate – Adeel Anwar”
In another potential breach, Your 5 candidate Miriam Hanna has been seen campaigning from within the Student Union pod at Cavendish, by her opponent Adeel Anwar. He also claims that she has been using her official @UWSU_VPofCav to further her campaign as well.
The tweets below from the official @UWSU_VPofCav clearly include the #Vote1Your5 Hash Tag.
The election guideline document states in Point 1. 3
“1.All candidates should have equal and fair access to be able to communicate with students
3.Current officers or students in a position within the union or university should not use that position to advantage themselves”
Miriam also has a personal account, @Miriam_Hanna, which she uses for non-student union related tweets. As she is using her @UWSU_VPofCav account to discuss the election, and in one, include the #vote1your5 hashtag, it appears she has used her position within the union to advantage herself and her slate.
With these clear breaches in mind, must we consider whether or not tomorrow’s results will be fair and representative?
Jamal Achchi, the outgoing VP of Regents & Little Titchfield street, tonight made the decision to post onto Facebook an endorsement for each of the different posts. His statement publicly endorsed 4 of the Your 5 candidates and one of the Hi5 slate.
“Okay… So upon deep thought, having read all the manifestos, having watched all the debates again, I’ve come to a final decision as to whom I will be endorsing, and who I feel are the best candidates…” Jamal Achchi – VP Of Regents & Little Titchfield Street
He yesterday posted to get a feel of what people’s opinion was on his plans to go public at which point he was warned he may be in breach of the rules and was reminded by others that doing so he could potentially:
“(You might) influence the students quite strongly and considering it is the students’ choice, might not be the most ethical decision. Your experience as a VP for the past 2 years is undoubtedly valuable, but you need to think of the impact” – Ana-Maria Paun – PR Student at Westminster
The first comment he received told him he would likely be in breach of the rules, however today he posted that he had ‘Received confirmation that I am within my rights to endorse candidates’. So despite warning his opinion could majorly alter public opinion he went ahead anyway. And by doing so, he appears to have broken the rules. The document ‘Protocol for staff during the election period’ that was written and distributed in February 2013 to make Staff and the Sabbatical team, ‘aware of the standards expected from them’ clearly states:
“c. Union Staff may not take part in public discussion of, nor give public expression to, views concerning the Union’s elections or candidates therein.
d. No member of Union Staff may help with a candidate’s campaign.
e.Union Staff are not allowed to show favouritism to any particular candidate.
No badges, stickers, pins, t-shirts or candidate promotion material can be worn by staff.
No comments, remarks or forwarding of other people’s comments should be made on social media
Staff should “unfriend” or “unfollow” candidates on social media websites during the campaigning process unless it is required for administrative purposes”
At first read I can imagine that arguably Sabbatical officers are not ‘back end’ staff members and this may not apply. However early in the document the scope of who these rules are applied to is set out as follows:
“Scope of this protocol
This protocol covers all staff and officers who are identifiable as being part of the management structures of the union. This includes (but is not limited to):
Trustee board members
Student officers (who are not standing for election – see constitution for students standing for re-election)
Full time staff of the union
Staff contracting to the union
Consultants working on behalf of the union
This clearly states that Jamal, as a Student officer is not allowed to comment, endorse or take part in public discussion around the debate. Whether intentional or not posting to your Facebook page publicly, is commenting and taking part in public discussion. However even if it was kept private, he has still shown favoritism to candidates. Whomever Jamal received confirmation from, according to this protocol, seems to have been very much in the wrong.
Jamal was also the Smoke TV’s ‘Big Debate’ presenter, along with Smoke TV News’ Hanan Abdel-Khalek. The debate filmed on Tuesday and uploaded to YouTube since has already had many questions raised about it. As with any debate accusations of bias have been bounced around. As in much media it is impossible to pinpoint this as it is largely down to perception. However another clear rule that was broken on Tuesday night was:
“g. Union staff may attend the candidate’s hustings but are not able to ask questions or provide comment on the answers.”
Not only Did Jamal leading the debate contravene this, but both Jenny Ybanez (Outgoing VP of Harrow) and Jenny Chan (Outgoing VP of Marylebone) asked questions during the audience question time. Many of the candidates on the night questioned this practice and indeed when Jenny Chan is viewed on camera she can be seen holding a ‘Your 5’ election leaflet. In this instance it seems the night broke the rules with Jamal running the night. Now Jamal has declared allegiance to 5 of the candidates, it poses serious questions about his ability to be un-biased on that evening.
At first defence he does state in his post that he had made this decision with what happened at the debate in mind. However one of the Presidential candidates has revealed to us that in 2 meetings with Jamal Achchi about their potential running Jamal stated that the candidate ‘Could run if they want to’ but that Kaled Mimouni had a ‘More viable’ chance of winning. Although this does not state a physical allegiance at that time it clearly shows that Jamal, who wasn’t allowed to question candidates anyway, had prior opinions about candidates and the election before hosting this years debate. With poor attendance on the night, and most students relying on the YouTube’d debate as their main, if not only source of Election coverage, is this good reason to consider postponing the vote due to take place next week?
Complaints have been made to the Returning officer who runs the election, who ultimately decides whether this has been a breach of the rules, and what action should be taken. The Guiding Principles of the Elections policy, available on uwsu.com also states that “Ignorance will not normally be considered a defence” meaning if the information Jamal was given, was incorrect he could still be held accountable for breaching the rules.
The Smoke TV debate massively overrun and the audience chances to ask questions were cut short. This left many crucial questions left unanswered – like the mismanagement of Student Union funds that have left the body with No money already (a month before the end of the financial year), What Candidates would do for Disabled Students, LGBT students who suffer Homophobia on the Marylebone Campus and why there were No female candidates. And many students who stayed for the 5 hour process unable to ask their question can this election be classed fair, open, transparent and thorough?
After last years rousing hubbub of Social Media revolution at Radio 1, I did wonder what exactly Laura would be letting us in on this time with a title like, What Would Beyonce do? I figured miming didn’t lend to radio very well, Nor do her sensational dance moves, you certainly can’t put a ring on radio. So maybe it was a reference to the ‘Survivor’ attitude of the radio medium enduring the rise of TV and the Internet. But no, it was a reference to Twitter and the inspiring re-birth of a show that had endured massive success with a huge following that was about to turn into something very different.
Laura May’s job when she visited the University of Westminster for a guest lecture in the Story Sound Image and Text module was the Head of Social Media at R1 and 1Xtra. We heard stories of Reading and Leeds, Hackney weekend, innovative ways to get the audience involved in listening bringing the listeners to the heart of the content. She is now the social media producer for Nick Grimshaw’s @R1Breakfast show.
And what would Beyonce Do is she faced the massive task of getting people into a new morning routine after 8 years of a presenter they knew and love? She’d be Silent. When Beyonce got a twitter account she didn’t tell everyone about her breakfast, how hung over she was, she didn’t even post a picture of her Starbucks; She just let it build. This is exactly what happened with the new Breakfast show. Laura explained how they set up spaces for it, mainly the @R1Breakfast Twitter, and using all the other noisy spaces they had pointed people to the account. She explained how silence was golden and rather than having a dull and dreary count down with the usual teases and taunts, the account just slowly built as listeners all over the country wondered and anticipated what would be their new morning ritual or maybe, their new friend?
Laura explained how she wanted to not just re-launch the show with its social media, but create an ego, a character with them. One that people could really interact with and come to know. From hashtags like #TeamGrimmy, spoof videos, and clips of the show she took content to the people because as she explained its all well and good having a brand, an ego but long gone are the days when you can rely solely on people coming to that ego.
The most interesting concept Laura spoke of was that of Fandom, with stars like Justin Bieber, One Direction, Taylor Swift no-matter how much research you do, you are never going to get close to the way their ‘Super’ “I’M YOUR NUMBER ONE FANS” know them. So Laura’s team set up Skype calls, phone interviews and got the super fans to ask the questions. Why? Because they already know the usual semantics that the DJ asks, its new to the DJ but not the fans; so in order to give them something new you have to let them ask. Nothing new I hear you scream? What’s wrong with texting in, even tweeting in questions? Laura provided an opportunity for them to have a real fan experience, it was personal it gave them their 15 minutes of fame in such a new and massive way. And whats interesting about all of this? That in turn made them a super fan of @R1Breakfast.
At the end of the lecture one member of the audience spoke of the Rajar figures and how despite all this wonder and bemusement they still hadn’t quite retained Chris Moyles numbers. However despite them still being very good (Only a 40,000 average listeners difference for a show that had 6.7 million average listeners & intentionally ditched the more mature audience of its predecessor in an intentional vote of confidence in a new generation of listeners) What the Rajar figures don’t contain are everything that the breakfast show is doing, in all the places that people are. 15,000 listeners on Soundcloud when Nick Grimshaw ‘Woke’ up Harry styles, over a 1 million views on Youtube for a spoof video where Nick and guests click – and join the #BreakfastClique, International coverage of celebs ‘Instagrim’ (Photobooth) pictures, and incredibly 23,000 tumblr re-posts?
The future of Radio is not in live listening, although that will always be an element, its in investing in your audience by truly connecting with them where they are; Not just keeping happy the one that come to you.
So when in Doubt. Ask Yourself, What would Laura May Coope do?
A Special thanks to Laura for giving us at Westminster time and valuable insight into your work. You can find out more about Laura on her site ‘Milk Teef’ or by following her on twitter @LauraMayCoope