Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Compare and Contrast.

Firstly thank you to “damocles” for furnishing me with the piece written by Rob Shipley of the JEP, or the "FILTHY RAG" as it is better known in certain circles.

For my overseas readers/viewers Rob Shipley is the Deputy Editor of our ONLY “News”paper.

I would like my readers/viewers to compare the 2 items below. One is a piece written by Rob Shipley and published in our ONLY “news”paper, sometime last week I think, I’m not sure as I refuse to buy a copy of it but I think it was in Saturdays edition.

The other is part of some e-mail correspondence I have had with another Journalist, who incidentally, I am no friend of, nor him me. However it may just be that we have some common ground.

My personal opinion is that the Rob Shipley piece comes across as a desperate man trying to hang on to the Monopoly of printed “news” and believes that the only “news” the plebs should be privy to, here in Jersey, is that which himself, Chris Bright, Matthew Price, Denzil Dudley, and the bunch at Channel Television want to give us and believes he/they ("accredited" media) are the only ones qualified to do so.

On the other hand the (edited) e-mail from the (local) “Journalist” comes across as somebody with a true understanding of “Journalism”, who believes the game should be open to all players and is not in fear of news, opinions and views being shared by mere mortals.

I have stressed many times I am not a “trained” Journalist, I am merely a father of 2 children trying to protect them from our government. I am not Blogging willingly, but I have been forced into Blogging, not only by our Government but by the “accredited” local Media.

If I believed the “accredited” local Media were informing the public without fear or favour, were not burying NEWS stories and pleas for help and letters from alleged abuse victims and were impartial and not a mouthpiece for our government then there would really be no need for my attempt at “Citizens Media” and, believe it or not, it is something I begrudge doing but have no choice.

Citizens Media is here and it is here to stay, get used to it Shipley, you helped create it/us.

The Shipley Piece

THE proposal that the States should
be televised live on the internet
should remind us that, as time
marches on, the media of mass communication
A certain amount of hoo-hah over
who should be allowed to video
Scrutiny panel hearings also reminds
us that a new breed of media
person is abroad – or would like to
be abroad.
Citizen journalists, as they call
themselves, believe that they should
share the same rights of access as
more traditional media such as
newspaper reporters and TV or
radio broadcasters.
In itself that sounds like a reasonable
idea and a potential enhancement
of democracy.
The new kids on the block, however,
must realise that if they want
privileges they must play by the
rules – and that involves signing up
to codes of conduct and refraining
from defaming everyone who is
framed in the viewfinder or
splashed all over a blog.
Until that sort of agreement can
be negotiated and finalised, citizen
journalists are about as welcome as
citizen brain surgeons, citizen airline
pilots or, indeed, citizen bricklayers.

I really must ask Mr Shipley, if you were drowning at sea and a "citizen" held out his hand to save you would you say "no thanks you're a citizen life saver and not a trained life saver" similarly from a burning building, would you say "you are a citizen rescuer not a trained fire rescuer". Because people haven't been trained in Journalism doesn't mean they can't report news. But hey what do I know eh?

The (edited) e-mail from the (local) "Journalist"

Personally, I believe that the whole thing revolves around the definition of "journalism," or "journalistic." It used to be purely printed words on a page. Then along came Mr. Marconi and later Mr. Logie-Baird and the term had to expand to include the "new" media of radio and television.

People tend to look for "models" based on past successful practices, which means things are always backward-looking, slow to change and radical change is very difficult to achieve.

It took someone with the force of personality of Lord Reith to get radio taken seriously in Great Britain. When it was, finally, taken seriously, the journalistic practices adopted were those of the established Fleet Street broadsheets. When television came along, a great many of the, by then, well-established journalistic practices of radio were transferred over to the new visual medium. The past constantly and consistently informs the present.

The same is true for the Internet. The great temptation at the moment is to attempt to transfer the established practices of broadcast radio and television to the Web.
Where this falls flat on its face is that such thinking fails to address the communications revolution brought about by the Internet and to grasp the fact that, with the Web, we're no longer talking about "trained," "professional" practitioners, but about access to publishing facts, views and opinion which is open to anyone with a computer and a connection to the Internet.

Until recently, journalism was a passive activity, where readers, or listeners, or viewers have no choice but to accept what the "professionals" put before them. Thanks to the Web, journalism has become a massively active participatory activity.

Personally, I welcome this, but my welcome is not unconditional. I do staunchly believe that no matter what the medium and no matter who the journalist, certain basic principles must govern journalistic activities: e.g. the laws of defamation; contempt of court; the presumption of innocence, a respect for an individual's privacy etc.

But, whether we like, or agree with what someone publishes on the Internet is immaterial compared to the fact that, within the constraints of the law and accepted conventions, they have a right to publish it; and now they have the means to do so.

If journalism is defined as "reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news." and if "news" is defined as " a report of recent events." ( The true definition of the two terms can be argued ad nauseam, but these two should be acceptable to anyone and everyone; others tend to be too narrow and limiting.) then, without doubt, the activities of "Citizen Journalists" are, incontrovertibly journalistic.

The best definition of "Citizen Journalism" I have come across is:
"When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another."

And therein lies the real problem - the lack of understanding that, outside the Law of the Land, Citizen Journalism, being open to all and still developing, cannot be equated to the more traditional media. However, that does not make Citizen Journalism any less valid. It simply makes it different and new, just as radio was different from print and television different from radio.

Personally I believe that in seeking to limit, or restrict any legitimate journalistic activity -and it can be argued very strongly that internet activity which seeks to inform others about current events is journalism - any authority, or body is simply failing to understand and accommodate what is happening in the world in which they live and is in real danger of denying freedom of expression within the law.

"Political leanings," or "agendas" have nothing to do with it. Just look at the obvious political leanings of the UK dailies. People tend to buy and read the ones which agree with their view of the world, but others, as they say, are available. And that's a crucial point: All views should be available and it should be up to the consumer to decide to which they wish to give their time and attention. But if all views are to be available, it is necessary - even vital - for those who wish to publish their views to be given equal access to information - especially to the workings of government.

There has to be a level playing-field for everyone engaged in journalistic activity. Certainly, the playing-field is big enough to accommodate anyone and everyone who wishes to take part.
My apologies for the length of this reply, but I do believe profoundly that these issues are central to a free society and democracy, as well as to the essential nature of journalism and, by definition, journalists. I am proud to be a trained and experienced journalist, but I am not so blinkered as to believe for an instant that such as I and my colleagues should be the only ones allowed to report on, or inform people about what is going on.
The task is to get the "powers that be" to understand and agree to this.
Yours faithfully",

The reason it has been edited is to give the "Journalist" anonymity for obvious reasons. I have permission to publish it but not under the author's name.

Rob Shipley is more than welcome to leave a comment on here explaining, in a little more depth, his understanding of "Journalism". But as I have, on a number of occassions,by e-mail asked him to give me his idea of "Journalism" he never has, so I'll not be holding my breath!


  1. An excellent post VFC, and I have to say I was impressed with the reasoned and honest response from 'a journalist'.

    Citizens media is here to stay Mr Shipley, like it or not. It is a welcome outlet for ordinary people to voice their opinions and concerns about matters relating to our Government and the way it is running the Island, and an opportunity for the Citizens journalist to ask pertinent questions, and publish facts that very often the mainstream news outlets would not consider doing.

    Citizens media has been a breath of fresh air for a lot of members of the public who cannot always pass the pro-establishment 'rules' of your paper in getting comments or letters in print, or on-line. Do not underestimate the good work done by an amateur journalist who does an excellent job.

    Quite frankly if everything in the Jersey garden were rosy, upfront and honest there would be no requirement for what you obviously see as 'competition' Mr Shipley.

  2. The only reason the filthy rag still exists is because there's no alternatve or should i say wasn't an alternative. Thanks to Citizens Media now there is and it is only a matter of time before the filthy rag goes down the pan.

  3. It is indeed a sad reflection of a "supposedly wealthy curopt island" that there is only one newspaper that exists because it toes the establishment line.

    Well done VFC the voice of the people, they cannot get away with it for much longer.

    Citizen media has a long history in the UK. Cases have been fought and won - long may you continue to voice for Justice, Children et al., Jersey desperately needs people like you who are prepared to stand up and be counted. Long may you continue.

  4. The notion that Citizens Media can be denied a level playing field in any democracy is absurd. As an American, I can see that Iran is even coming to grips with the daily reality of internet reporting. Does Mr. Shipley believe Jersey communications should remain mired in the past and isolated from the rest of the English speaking diaspora? It sounds to me as if this Mr. Shipley is really afraid of something other than proper decorum.


  5. I don't think so called 'citizen journalism' is journalism, in the traditional sense of the word. But most modern journalism fails the same test, for many reasons.

    What citizens' media and the Internet are about, to me, is widening the conversation. Democracy is not just about voting, it's about having an open conversation that involves as many participants as possible, of the ones who want to join in.

    You can now say things in public that you had no vehicle for before and what's good about it is that people vote with their mouse: if they don't like what you say or you are boring or irrelevant, they stay away.

    Vested interests and repressive governments are already finding ways to shut down free expression on the Internet - either through the libel laws, censorship or intimidation, but it's not going to go away soon.

    It won't replace good investigative journalism, for the most part, because most people involved in it do not have the resources, skills, time or support to do in-depth investigations and corroborate numerous sources.

    But what it does do is publish the opinions you might not hear through official or commercial channels and it prevents the suppression of uncomfortable facts and evidence.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. RE: "citizen journalists are about as welcome as brain surgeons, citizen airline or, indeed, citizen bricklayers"

    Er, welcome to whom? I would have thought that it came down to competence. I would prefer a competent citizen bricklayer (I know a few) to an incompetent professional one (I've paid a few).

    Of course, any professional is going to dislike a mere amateur doing his work for less money or free.

    The truth is that there are lots of amateurs in all walks of life who are equally competent as many of their professional counterparts.

    And if the professionals are not doing their job properly - as is patently the case with the JEP - then other people need to take over.

    Although not bound by the same professional standards, responsibilities, and conventions as their professional counterparts, 'citizen journalists' are bound by the same legal constraints.

    But when commercial pressures, institutional obligations, nepotism, an overweening sensitivity towards the status quo, and sheer inertia result in journalism not fulfilling its primary role of reporting the facts and questioning the explanations of them, citizen journalists are obviously at a great advantage.

    Most newspapers and media channels these days are compromised both financially and politically. Read Nick Davies' "Flat Earth News" for an insight into what passes as journalism in seventy percent of the news outlets.

    Most news coverage these days consists mainly of cheese, including that of the revered BBC. It is light, tabloid mush - mere infotainment. And it is all fast becoming irrelevant as well as unprofitable.

    If you want to find out what is happening in Iraq, go to the Baghdad bloggers not to the BBC or Sky News who mostly regurgitate Government spin and follow closely their own agendas.

    Politicians are not going to save the world - people are. And journalists are not going to provide us with the information we require to do that - we ourselves are.

    Of course, if they stopped toadying up to the Establishment and actually 'spoke truth to power' - and did it proactively without waiting for official sources to reveal the 'facts' to them - they might restore our faith and belief in their ability.

    But when they try and feed us pap, treating us like idiots - although any fool can smell the lie without bothering to purchase and open their pages - what other fate can they expect but to be ignored?

  7. Can I order a citizen lawyer online please, as I would trust them more than any of our 'professional' ones avaiable at a high cost on legal aid......

  8. In my country, there are very few viable newspapers, and even the best of those struggle to be profitable. They have heaped blame upon the internet but there was a time in history when several dozen successful newspapers competed for a much smaller readership. The diversity I see with Citizen Media is similar to that which flourished before media consolidation restricted readers choices. Today, I am better informed because I do not rely on a government mouthpiece for news.

  9. Re: "Can I order a citizen lawyer online please,"

    Didn't Stuart Syvret already try that?

    Most of the responses didn't seem too well-informed. But what do I know. IANAL ;)

  10. Proof if proof were needed of the need for Citizens media.

    Last night the filthy RAG ran a front page story and also on the centre pages about Geoff Southern's view of Philip Ozouf and his seeking to have ultimate power over States departments and their spending.

    A story which would have attracted a lot of comments I am sure, but, yet again no comments permitted on this one. You afraid of too many negative ones JEP? Don't upset that Establishment boat will you.

    Anyone noticed also how much thinner and less pages we are getting these days. It was not value for money before and certainly is not now. Citizens media is FREE too!

  11. RE: Rob Kent's statement, "Most of the responses didn't seem too well informed."

    Actually, I submitted a legal analysis of Stuart's case, partially obtained from a volunteer Canadian attorney who specializes in litigation pertaining to free speech suppression on the internet. Of course, this advice was not published on the blog, and I believe Stuart even mentioned that certain helpful responses were not posted.

    What may have been helpful to Stuart is the comparison of Jersey to other legal jurisdictions. He should at least be able to establish Jersey's "arbitrary and capricious" application of established English common law, as accepted in other countries. Time will tell whether it was useful.

    So, perhaps it will help the courts "compare and contrast," if, well, that could make my comment at least marginally relevant to the topic at hand.

  12. RE: 'So, perhaps it will help the courts "compare and contrast,"'

    I understand your good intentions and those of others, but why would the Jersey courts care about other legal systems?

    They want to prosecute Syvret. They would probably like to shut him up and maybe even have him disbarred as Senator so that he no longer has access to privileged information.

    His best chance of fighting them is with a good solicitor who knows Jersey law. For that reason, I think that if he had started a legal fund he might have had a better chance of avoiding punitive fines and possibly jail for not paying them.

    If each of his unique blog readers had submitted a dollar, 150,000 dollars could have bought him a Jersey lawyer for a week or two.

    The JDA politicians got £12,000 court fines and £10,000 legal costs for helping a few people fill out voting application forms, despite that being an offence only in Jersey, as far as I know. They weren't ashamed to compare and contrast that with the rest of the world.

    So long as the Home Office and the Privy Council don't stop them, the Jersey establishment will do what they like. And I don't think erudite comparisons with other jurisdictions or well-intentioned but ultimately irrelevant speculations on the interpretation of Jersey law by 'citizen lawyers' [© Rob Shipley] are going to help Stuart.

    That doesn't mean that material such as the kind that you submitted will not be useful to him if he eventually reaches a higher court of appeal, just that it won't mean anything when he's standing in front of a Jersey judge who plays bridge with the AG or the Bailiff (to use a fictitious analogy).

  13. Sorry, VFC, if we appear to be hijacking your forum topic. I will try to steer it backwards!

    I previously posted about some professional legal advice submitted to Stuart, and Rob Kent replied about the greater wisdom of a voluntary fund to help Stuart with legal fees.

    I agree that a local advocate would be ideal, and I would happily donate and help raise foreign funds. Stuart obviously has his own stubborn way of doing things, however :)

    This is just a guess, because Stuart has never confided anything to me personally, but he has hinted in his forum that he actually has every expectation of failing in the Jersey court system, and does not believe any Jersey lawyer could prevent that anyway. His prior predictions in his blog appear to have been pretty much on the money, I'd say. If he is already resigned to losing locally, he may just have far more ammunition for appeal than any of us could know, from outside experts, even if that appeal is through the court of public opinion.

    From my own limited personal knowledge, I can only say that he has a rapidly growing base of activist support in Canada and the US. He also has a number of more powerful allies in the internet based free speech arena, so by being politically persecuted in such a blatant way, his cause is gaining momentum through the increased potential international attention.

    Remember, we North Americans find nothing wrong whatsoever in his manner, and the official Jersey outrage over his rough-around-the-edges honest character is already compelling enough for a story on that merit, alone. Our average man on the street here might feel that Stuart's free pursuit of justice is the very type of pursuit our own Greatest Generation helped fight to ensure in your land.

    Sorry, VFC, for allowing me to take the topic off track here. Your efforts with this blog are more relevant to the overall free speech issue, and that is a vital component, taking this back to the" Jersey Way" of journalism. Thanks!

  14. So Rob Shipley you have to abide by codes of conduct and you have special priviledges. Can I ask you the question then (on here because the JEP wouldn't allow me to comment) why is the JEP so biased, why doesn't give a fair and balanced view of what is going on and more to the point why does it continue to prop up a clearly corrupt and failing administration?

    Oh of course 'privileges' come with strings attached - not so citizen media.

    Word of advice Rob, set yourself free from the shackles of 'privilege' and join citizen media.

  15. (I had to publish this in two parts)
    Part one:

    I think that there are several things mixed up in the 'Stuart Syvret Story', and one of them is free speech, so it is a legitimate subject for this blog topic, I hope.

    I grew up on Jersey and I remember political discussions in which the adults described the island as corrupt, a club run for the rich, etc. And there was a general sense that you couldn't do anything about it.

    A lot of ordinary people believed that. That the States of Jersey was stuffed full of businessmen who were using their power to further their own business interests. The politicians believed, paternalistically, that anything that was good for business (specifically their own), was therefore good for Jersey. Now, I'm not putting this up as an argument - I'm merely recounting what I heard adults saying when I was a child.

    But you never ever heard those sentiments expressed anywhere outside someone's living room. If you wrote such a letter to the Jersey Evening Post, it would not be printed. Or, if those sentiments were expressed by someone who could not be ignored - by a dissident politician or a union official, for example - they would be printed selectively and with a strong editorial deriding them as foolish, misguided etc.

    Jersey was a closed shop when it came to public opinion: there was one newspaper and one TV station, and for a time they were owned by the same family concern, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong). Regardless of the actual ownership, there was no vehicle for radical or dissident opinion on the island.

    The JEP uses an ideological trick: it replaces the truth with heritage, an obsequious deference to 'Jersey traditions' and the past. That is what apparently counts as journalism. That reverence for the past is merely a disguise for the fact that they are not examining the present. It's an ideological gloss on the poverty of the island's polity. You can smell it a mile away.

    Something is rotten in the state of Jersey and has been for a long time. A feudal system of government invented before the age of steam is cosying up to the international finance industry. It's like a horse and cart that has suddenly found itself on a six lane freeway. A bit of nepotism for your cousin Hedley who wants to bypass some planning law to build himself a house on his agricultural land is a long long way from a Finance Minister who also runs a local law firm fast-tracking legislation for international accountancy firms so that they can avoid paying damages if found guilty of incompetence or corruption when approving the books of corrupt organisations like Enron.

    Stuart got suspended from the House for simply pointing out that the Finance Minister involved might have a conflict of interest. Apparently, to even impute self-interest to a respected elder of the House is a crime akin to blasphemy. You are confronted with a group of people who don't like the truth being spoken abroad in public. They can rely on the JEP not to rock the boat. Could anyone really imagine the JEP becoming anti-establishment in a campaigning kind of a way? Really digging up stories relating to the business interests of Jersey politicians and relating those to the way they vote in the House. We have to leave that to Private Eye.

    Rob Shipley's expression 'new kids on the block' with its demeaning connotation of arriviste ingénus is laughably wide of the mark: who actually wants to be on your block? Your block is the problem. People know that they are not being told the truth - it is neither being investigated nor reported by the JEP. It's a sad day for journalism when telling the truth about someone is equated with defamation.

  16. Part two:

    That is exactly the sentiment that got Syvret barred from the House in 1996:

    At the next sitting on 23rd July 1996, Senator Syvret claimed that Senator Jeune had a financial interest in supporting the legislation as the initial discussions about using Jersey for the LLP legislation were advanced by the law firm Mourant du Feu & Jeune and its client Price Waterhouse. Syvret claimed that the incident 'reeked of sleaze' and suggested that Senator Jeune should refrain from taking any further part in the debates. The Bailiff admonished Senator Syvret. On 30th July, the Bailiff asked Syvret to apologise for his comments. Syvret refused and was ordered to leave the Jersey States. (for the full story see http://visar.csustan.edu/aaba/Noaccountingfortaxhavens.pdf and Stuart's blog entry on Phil Bailhache in which he explains why he came to describe the Bailiff as having the 'ethics of a Bangkok pimp'.

    Sadly, that is the bottom line for the JEP: to tell the truth about someone's malfeasance is defamation. Unless they've already been convicted, in which case it is okay. Does the Press have a role to play in unearthing corruption in public life? Not on Jersey, it seems.

    It's an ancient Jersey tradition, and the old boys on the block don't want to change it.

  17. Just a thought, how about a separate blog which you could copy and paste the JEP online articles which don't have a comments section, so then everyone could have their say...

  18. Citizen journalists and traditional journalists have different functions, as was shown in the recent unrest in Iran.

    The BBC's Persian section were monitoring Twitter, Facebook and blogs to find out what was happening on the ground. The citizen journalists they were monitoring were not individually reliable sources of information but taken together, along with the visual evidence that they uploaded, they provided a corroborated source of information that was better than anything the BBC - or any other news organisation could have provided by itself.

    Notwithstanding the fact that the news organisations were banned from Tehran, even if they had not been, the could still not have gathered such a wealth of evidence.

    Another area in which citizen journalism is freer than its traditional counterpart is that it is not required to be in any way fair or unbiased (not that any of the UK dailies are fair or unopinionated).

    Any blogger can take as an extreme a position as they like. That normally makes it easier to see their ideology at work, much as Auden replied when asked why a man of the left read The Telegraph: 'Because the ideology is obvious to me.'

    Citizen journalists can never compete with traditional journalists in areas like complex, long-term and difficult investigations, such as those that used to be carried out by the Sunday Times' Insight Team(now referred to internally as the 'Hindsight Team'. Or now by Private Eye, or the Guardian. Or the Telegraph's recent expose of MPs expenses.

    So I don't think Rob Shipley should be so exercised about the rise of citizen journalism. It's not journalism in the traditional sense and it's not trying to be. It's doing something else.

    The trouble is, not many traditional newspapers are doing journalism these days. The epitome of that are the free dailies, such as the Metro, which now seem to be read by the majority of train commuters.

    It's nothing more than a collection of frothy stories pulled off the wire, usually the most salacious, reduced to their essence with no pretence at investigation or corroboration. Reading those free dailies won't inform you about what is happening in the world - it will only tell you what events are deemed to be interesting outside the much bigger bubble of celebrity gossip.

    Sadly, the traditional newspapers are now emulating the free press in their frothiness and cheapness. There's still a core of investigative journalism that makes them worth paying for, and there's some brilliant in-depth analysis done by their correspondents, but it seems to be getting proportionally less each year.

    Nearly all the traditional media outlets are running at a loss and have to cut back on costs, which exacerbates the problem and increases the diminution of their coverage.

    Paradoxically they resort more and more to relying on 'citizen content': upload your photos and videos, speak your brains, have you been affected by this event?

    Even the JEP does it with its reader comments, which are probably the most accessed area of its web site. Maybe Rob Shipley should close it down?

  19. "and that involves signing up
    to codes of conduct and refraining
    from defaming everyone who is
    framed in the viewfinder or
    splashed all over a blog."

    Codes of conduct are neither here, nor there, as far as defamation goes.

    Defamation is illegal, regardless of whom is saying it, or publishing it.

    In any case, the JEP often has to print apologies, after printing false statements in their paper.

    The JEP has defamed people in the past, so perhaps they should exclude themselves from the "accredited media"?

  20. Well if you think this is the truth then you really are as thick as the word is on the street. Why not wait until the Public enquiry for a change instead of going off on a typical looney tangent?

    Bridget on the phone-in summoned you all up today, it was spot on.