Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Why News Can't Cope.

I don't like the term 'commit suicide'.

It still has the overtones of a criminal offence; you commit homicide, or matricide, but not suicide.

In the UK an estimated 7 people per 100,000 kill themselves each year and to characterize them all would be a horrible disservice to them and their families. Everyone is different, with different needs, and hopes, and emotional drivers pushing them on through life; and people who kill themselves have reached a point of desperation or calm or decision... they choose, for whatever reason, to end themselves.

None of this is news.

When L'Wren Scott killed herself was a model, a stylist, a designer, a business woman, she was a rounded personality.

A person.

None of this is news... unless you have an interest in the fashion world.

At the time L'Wren Scott killed herself she was in a relationship with Sir Mick Jagger the front man of The Rolling Stones.

This is news.

News organisations have difficulty with the dichotomy of being respectful and telling the story.

On the morning after her death was announced the UK Newspapers were evenly split between "L'Wren Scott, designer and partner of Sir Mick Jagger" and "Sir Micks Girlfriend". The Ex BBC Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold tweeted
Whoever wrote @BBCRadio2 headline on death of L’wren Scott - be ashamed..”Mick Jagger’s girlfriend” didn’t even name her for ‘30 secs.
 L'Wren Scott's death has highlighted a problem in reporting.

Would this be international news if she wasn't Sir Mick Jagger's partner? And if not, then how do you report something without making the error of forgetting that she is a person.

When I was managing journalists there were a number of inaccuracies that I didn't want to see or hear; people die of AIDS related illnesses not of AIDS, murderers murder women who were working as prostitutes / in the sex industry they don't murder prostitutes, people are wheelchair users not confined to wheelchairs, people live with a disability they aren't disabled...

The way the news uses language is important, not just for the sense of a story but for the way we feel about it.

Coverage of L'Wren Scott has shown us how journalists thinking "What's important?" Sometimes don't think "what is right?".

For a journalist covering this story "Mick Jagger's Girlfriend" is what they see as the important bit, is easier and quicker than "L'Wren Scott, designer and entrepreneur, girlfriend of Mick Jagger". It doesn't make it right and it certainly doesn't add to the moral health of an industry that has such power.

My heart goes out to those affected by her death and those affected when anyone kills themselves.

I'm sad that this horrible, private event has become news fodder.

I'm sorry so many journalists don't think about language as much as they should.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Media Training - The Media Landscape; Radio - Frequency Modulation

Dennis McCarthy
I first appeared on the radio in 1995, and my first live broadcast was with Dennis McCarthy who was a legend.

Dennis had the ability to stand in a street in Nottingham and say on-air, "I wonder who's house we're doing the programme from this morning" and 60% of the doors would be thrown open by eager listeners who wanted Dennis to come and sit in their best parlor and do a radio show.

Everyone listened to Dennis...

His avuncular style belied a prickly nature. He was bigger than the station he worked for; it was BBC Radio Dennis.

The first and longest conversation I had with Dennis went like this...

Dennis (in the studio some 1000 yards from where I was, in a bunker, under a car-park, looking at the traffic cameras) - Hello Travel, who's that?
Me - I'm John, Dennis.
Dennis - John? John? What happened to Annie, or Claire?
Me - They're not on today, it's my first day, sorry.
Dennis - Pick up after the sting.

For the next year, every weekday afternoon all he said to me was "Pick up after the sting". I may have said "afternoon Dennis, are you well?" or "How are you today Dennis?" all he ever said to me was...

"Pick up after the sting..."

When he said that to me for the last time I didn't know that one of my colleagues was wrestling control of the studio from him. He was seriously ill, and the decision had been taken to get him off air for medical attention. He was having none of it, and every time someone pressed the control button in the other studio to take his signal away from the transmitter, he pressed it in his studio.

He was determined to finish the show...

That night he went home, and died.

20,000 people turned out for his funeral.

The days of Dennis are long gone. In Nottingham you had the choice between national stations and 3 local stations; BBC Radio Nottingham, Radio Trent & GEM AM (later re-branded to be Trent FM & Classic Gold Gem) both of the latter were owned by the same company.

There was little choice and that made for massive loyalty.

In Nottingham, a city of 730,000, there are now... well, there are around 10 stations serving the city, others serving other parts of the county and then you have the nationals, DAB and the internet.

There has never been more choice in listening in the UK if you want to listen to music. If you want news and speech content then you're pretty much stuck with the BBC it's the only place you'll find documentary, discussions and opportunities to be interviewed.*

In the UK it's a speech monopoly we have choice but only in very particular ways... you may as well have Dennis back.

*there are a couple of important Metropolitan exceptions LBC TalkSport et al.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Attractive Men are, more attractive...

Here's an interesting article I've been quoted in...

Here's the text of that -

Good-looking men give more convincing business presentations, while a woman’s physical appearance has no impact on how her pitch is received, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University.
For the study, 60 experienced investors were asked to view recordings of business pitches by entrepreneurs from various sectors.
The men deemed good looking consistently had more positive reactions to pitches than their averagely attractive counterparts, whereas for attractive women there was no difference in feedback.
Dr Alison Brooks, of Harvard Business School, said that “the power of male attractiveness to persuade evaluators to select one pitch over another” showed good looking entrepreneurs were more likely to get ahead in their chosen field.
But Harry Key, a speech coach and author based in the UK, says it is unlikely that the men’s good looks in themselves were winning over potential investors.
“Good looking men generally give better presentations because they are more confident,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer that people prefer to look at attractive people, but that’s not enough to win a pitch.
“There’s also the ‘halo effect’ where people tend to group together positive attributes; you see that someone’s good looking and on some level you assume on some level they’ll be smart and thoughtful as well.”
So why is it only with men that this makes a difference? Are attractive women not as confident with it?
Key has a depressing suggestion to explain results of the study: “I do coaching with a lot of start-up owners, and I have heard men say ‘I don’t want to hire women because you never know when they are going to want kids, and I can’t afford to lose any member of staff’.
“So that’s something that might be continuously in these investors' minds, even if they’re not consciously thinking about it when giving feedback.”
Branding expert Mark Borkowski has another idea about why attractive women might be taken less seriously.
“We’ve been fed this idea by the media that an attractive man has hidden depths,” he says. “But because of the glamour and fashion industries there’s the assumption that if a woman’s beautiful she won’t be intellectual.”
He adds of the study in general: "I think it's true that people are increasingly being attracted by youthful exuberance. If we fall into this trap we're going to miss out on some of the brightest and most creative brains."
Commentators also suggest the study’s findings might be less true of business culture in the UK than America. Key, for example, says he encourages his British clients to be funny rather than slickly confident.
“Being attractive doesn’t help you make the audience laugh or engage with them, which is important for people in the UK. In America presentations tend to be more flashy and like a commercial.”
John Rockley, a presentation and media consultant, agrees that American audiences tend to be more focussed on appearance than British ones.
“In the UK, if someone’s speaking with confidence then people are willing to listen. In America, they’re much more used to having very polished news anchors and media experts, so how someone looks might be more of an issue.”
But Rockley agrees that good looks are still an advantage for a man in business anywhere in the world. If that’s the case, then, what can the averagely attractive do to make up for it?
“Work harder and prepare more,” he says.

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