Gaza – war and bearing witness in real time

Posted on Updated on

Israeli Defense Force Paratroopers in Gaza.
Israeli Defense Force Paratroopers in Gaza.

“If Vietnam brought war into the living room, the last few weeks have put it at our fingertips. On our phones, news alerts full of body counts bubble into our inbox, Facebook feeds are populated by appeals for help or action on behalf of victims, while Twitter boils with up-to-the-second reporting, some by professionals and some by citizens, from scenes of disaster and chaos.”

David Carr on how media technology is changing the way war is reported on, and experienced in his excellent piece At Front Lines, Bearing Witness in Real Time in The New York Times.

Terry Bell says that Capitalism is sick

Posted on Updated on

Political/economic analyst and labour columnist, Terry Bell.
Political/economic analyst and labour columnist, Terry Bell.

“Capitalism is not dead. But it is severely ill and its chronic contagion is spreading through the economic and social fibres of the world. However, it can be saved and resurrected, but only at the cost of a massive transfusion of blood, sweat, suffering and destruction. Such is the nature of a system based on competition and where material profit is the over-riding priority.” – Terry Bell in A democratic answer to escape from crisis, from his blog Terry Bell Writes.

One of SA’s top journalists and labour columnists, Bell writes regularly for GroundUp. Read:

Voting every five years is not enough – direct democracy is possible.

Who are the real illegal miners?

Strikers refuse to be misled.

Terry Bell on Twitter: @telbelsa

“We don’t read newspapers because the journalism is so boring”

Posted on Updated on

English filmmaker, Adam Curtis.
English filmmaker, Adam Curtis.

“Newspapers might come back if they could do some good journalism. I mean the reason we don’t read newspapers these days is because the journalism is so boring.” – Adam Curtis in an interview with The New Statesman. Curtis is the producer of the BBC documentaries The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self.

The New Statesman on Adam Curtis: “Adam Curtis remains at the forefront of documentary filmmaking. He began in the early 80s, but his first major breakthrough came in 1992 with Pandora’s Box, a film which warned of the dangers technocratic politics and saw him pick up his first of six career BAFTAs.”

Adam Curtis’ blog at the BBC.

All things Adam Curtis at The Guardian.

Adam Curtis at ThoughtMaybe – a website designed to provoke thought on globalisation; technology; advertising and why we’re here.

Why the case against Al-Jazeera is about journalism not the network

Posted on Updated on

Azad Ezza writes about why Al-Jazeera is only one part of a puzzle of the growing restrictions on the freedom of expression of ordinary Egyptians.


Al-Jazeera journalist and author, Azad Essa.
Al-Jazeera journalist and author, Azad Essa.

“Egypt has traditionally been a difficult country to operate as a journalist. Under Hosni Mubarak, the country’s president for almost three decades, the media were forced to exist under the shadow of harassment and imprisonment.

Editors were often charged with “insulting the president” or “insulting public institutions”. The evidence however suggests conditions were never as bad as they currently are. One Egyptian colleague who has been advised not to return home in fear of being arrested told me that “this is Egypt’s worst period for freedom of speech and expression since Abdel Nasser’s era in the 1950s”.

Al-Jazeera is only one part of a puzzle of the acute political polarisation and mob violence restricting the freedom of expression of ordinary Egyptians daily.

And though thousands of journalists from Nairobi, London and New York taped their mouths and held up placards with the #FreeAJStaff over the past few weeks in a bid to raise more awareness of our plight in the country, we are certainly not the story here.”

Read the full story in Mail & Guardian.

Follow Azad Essa on Twitter: @azadessa

Flappy bird think pieces

Posted on Updated on

Flappy-Bird“Because this is what journalism has come to. People writing thousands of words on a game that took 72 hours to make. Our goal is not to celebrate the writing, but to cry for the brain cells wasted on the many, many analytical articles written about a silly game.” Flappy Bird Think Pieces – Read it and weep people, read it and weep.

News insights from The Newsroom

Posted on Updated on

The_Newsroom_CarouselJon and I have just started watching The Newsroom, the compelling HBO series created by Academy and Emmy-award winning phenomenon, Aaron Sorkin [the brains behind A Few Good Men and The West Wing]. What makes this series electric – apart from the fast-paced dialogue, the wit, and the politics – is the intelligence. Everything about the series is clever.

The plot of last night’s episode, called News Night 2.0, centered on protagonists Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) rebooting their television news show [called News Night]. McAvoy and his old team had been playing it safe [think celebrity politics; pitting politicians against each other instead of focusing on policy and issues; as well as digging into predictable ratings boosters like human interest stories, sensationalist opinion and pop-culture fluff].

News Night 2.0 – the reboot – is all about not playing to the crowd, but getting back to the roots of journalism. Doing news that educates and informs voters instead of news that tries to grab ratings. The big difference between the two, of course, is dumbing down voters and making money instead of taking the road less traveled. The tougher way of doing news is supporting democracy by doing the hard stories that teach people about policy, the constitution and empower a thinking citizenry.

During the News Night 2.0 episode McHale unveils a white board with her ‘rules’ for reinventing the fictional news show:


These new rules for a TV news show that’s relevant to voters and to informing a democracy are:

1. Is this the information we need in the voting booth?

2. Is this the best possible form of the argument?

3. Is the story in historical context?

As South Africa moves to what is the most crucial election of our young democracy these ‘rules’ offer much in the way of guidelines for local journalists covering South African news that matters. When reporting perhaps we should ask ourselves whether the stories we cover offer our electorate what they need to know in the voting booth; if we offer historical context in our news; and whether the argument we’re putting forward is the best form of argument in terms of our democracy.

MediaGizmos – Interviewy

Posted on Updated on

Interviewy-homescreen-iPhone-5COne of the tough parts of being a journalist is transcribing interviews. Recording dialogue is the most accurate way of capturing everything your subject says. Recordings are also handy as a back up for any disputes about quotes or “who said what” if you’re doing a controversial story.

But, oy, the task of transcribing interviews! Anyone who has made their bread and butter doing this knows how time consuming and laborious this is. And yes, speech recognition software has been around for years, but for the most part one has to train the software to recognise the accent. Hardly useful if your interviewing loads of different people each week, and you live in a country like South Africa where there are 11 different languages that affect local English dialects in really interesting ways.

That’s why it was particularly pleasing to find Interviewy, an iPad or iPhone app that promises to: “record the important stuff, keep it safe and quickly transcribe it later.” What’s cool about Interviewy is that it is free; is a compact piece of software at 4.5 MB; and looks pretty easy to use. Best of all Interviewy was built by journalists, for use journalists to take away the pain of what otherwise is a great job.

We’ll be testing the app over the next couple of weeks, and hope to report back about how useful it is.

Find Interviewy at iTunes.

Interviewy’s online home.

Read more: App for journalists: Interviewy, smart recording for faster transcription at