Aug 6 2014

Better To Be A Cat: How to be a political journalist

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This article by Spectator assistant editor Isabel Hardman is based on a talk she gave at Polis, LSE. In it she explains what it’s like to be a Westminster lobby journalist, how to get scoops and what it takes to be a political correspondent in one of the world’s most competitive news beats. She argues that starting out on a very untrendy trade magazine gave her the right training. But while political intelligence and guile are vital assets what really gets her stories is an insatiable and independent-minded curiosity about people.

Isabel Hardman, Westminster Lobby Journalist

Isabel Hardman, Westminster Lobby Journalist

I started my career as a trade journalist, working as a reporter on a magazine called Inside Housing. This was one of the best starts I could have got as this magazine taught its journalists how to work patches, how to find off-diary stories and how to get stories from data and turgid government reports. I am more comfortable as a journalist because of that first job, and I suspect that had I started on a national newspaper, I would not have received this one-on-one attention and training that I did on Inside Housing. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2014

Should news get personal? Emotion and objectivity in the face of suffering

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Should journalists covering suffering allow their own emotions to become part of the story?

[see comments and selected tweets at the bottom of this article for reaction]

Jon Snow’s heartfelt monologue about the suffering of Gaza’s children has become a YouTube hit amongst those who have been shocked by the images of the appalling injuries and deaths of citizens in that narrow strip of land. Predictably, others have criticised it as a one-sided piece of propaganda.

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What interests me is not just the alleged ‘bias’ itself, but the evident personal feeling that this broadcasting titan put on display. Will it help the cause he so obviously cares about? And does it make for good journalism? Continue reading

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Jul 28 2014

How the news media both shadows and magnifies feminism

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When Laura Bates from #Everydaysexism gave her presentation at LSE Polis Summer School, I felt so ‘echoed’. Those obscene sexual harassments, both visible and invisible, have happened to me and my friends in various forms.

 This article by Polis Summer School student Yinan Che.

At the time we felt disgusted and helpless. We raged about it together and then several days later, we forgot, until similar things happened again. We never write these experiences down, nor do we call the police or spread the stories to peers. As women, sexism is so close, yet we never think of any self-defensive methods. Continue reading

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Jul 25 2014

A personal view of social media as a battlefield in Ukraine (Guest blog) #PolisSummer

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‘URGENT-Malaysian Aircraft Crashed in Ukrainian Territory occupied by separatist groups. More to follow’.

That message from BBC notification service stared at me from my phone screen and I stared back, rereading it for 15 times before my brain converted those horrific words into meaning. I did not believe it… Notification message services failure, miscommunication on the grounds, traffic controller misinformation – anything, but the truth, but that was it.

This article by Polis Summer School student Kateryna Bakulina @bakulinak Continue reading

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Jul 23 2014

“Stronger than corruption, mistakes and lies”: being political and right wing in France (guest blog)

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“You know for a right-leaning person, you are surprisingly nice”.

If I had been given one euro for every single time I heard this sentence, today I would probably be a billionaire. I am French. I am nineteen. I am right-leaning. And this simple fact has caused me many problems, created me many enemies amongst my peers, and sometimes lost me friends.

[This article by Polis Summer School student Flavie Philipon]

Although France is a nation that is the home to various political beliefs, it remains the land of the 1789 revolution that suppressed the monarchy, that gave power to the people, thus a country where the Socialist Party – which is currently in power – embodies the most popular values. Continue reading

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Jul 22 2014

“Time to discuss”: a former US intelligence analyst says that Snowden and Manning were right (guest blog) #PolisSummer

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This article by Polis Summer School student and former Marine Corps signals intelligence (SIGINT) analyst Derek Matthews.

The intelligence community is bound by a code of silence and not the unspoken kind. Every individual goes through a thorough background check. When I was in boot camp, an FBI agent was flown to my hometown to interview my friends and family to see if I harbored any anti-government sentiments. After I cleared my investigation I was brought into a room with no windows and I had to leave my phone outside.

They played a video that explained that I would be entrusted with secrets that maintained the nation’s security, secrets I would most likely have to carry to my grave. I signed documents that explained I could be sent to military prison if I disclosed classified information to anyone without a clearance, or discussed classified material with anyone outside of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), even if they also had a clearance. Continue reading

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Jul 22 2014

Between personal and public interests: a look back at the impact of Snowden and WikiLeaks (guest blog)

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This article by Polis Summer School student Luciana Amaral.

Phone tracking systems, computer hacking, surveillance state and social network spying. It looks like the plot of a science fiction movie, but according to Eric King, Privacy International’s Head of Research, at the LSE Polis Summer School, this has somehow become the reality in many countries around the world.

The lack of privacy issue has come back to headlines after American former National Security Agency system analyst Edward Snowden delivered documents that revealed a worldwide surveillance apparatus to journalist Glenn Greenwald, at that time at British newspaper The Guardian, and filmmaker Laura Poitras. Continue reading

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Jul 21 2014

Copy Approval – a clash of journalism and citizen ethics between Sweden and Britain?

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”The story took a year to work out. It was never told before, less so published. The subject was sensitive and the people interviewed were vulnerable, so I had to compromise a little.”

What compromising did Sarah Morrison, then a journalist at The Independent have to do? What ethical short-cut did this morally-motivated reporter (who now works for Global Witness, a human rights NGO) have to take to secure the first every feature length story ever told in British mainstream media about intersex women?

Actually, very little, from my point of view.

(This article by Swedish journalist and Polis Summer School student Rakel Lennartsson @RakelEvaMaria ) Continue reading

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Jul 20 2014

“Gunman at Yale” So worth tweeting! How ‘citizen journalists’ can turn a drama into a crisis on social media

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Last year, on the first day of Thanksgiving break, I was sleeping in my dorm room at Yale when I got waken up by a phone call from school: there was allegedly a gunman on campus. That was only three months after I went to the United States, and I couldn’t believe what I used to see on TV was actually happening around me.

This article by Polis Summer School student Jingyu Yuan.

Several minutes after the campus-wide call, two close friends of mine came to hide in my room and we double checked that we locked the door. About ten minutes later, I saw an NBC truck parking right outside my dorm room, which arrived roughly at the same time as the SWAT team. This was when we realized the seriousness of this matter. Continue reading

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Jul 17 2014

The beautification of photojournalism

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This article by Polis Summer School student Aylin Elci.

As the cliche goes, “a photo is worth a thousand words”, but what are consequences of using “pretty”, “highly aesthetic” or “artistic” photos to convey the reality of war?

In 1972, Pulitzer-prize-awardee-to-be Nick Ut immortalized a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running away from a cloud of napalm in a world-renowned photo. At that time, press coverage of war had little or no military restrictions and to the despair of some – the American government – war was reported unreservedly.

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Continue reading

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