Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Ross and Russ: what a fuss!

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 29, 2008

Of the 50 or so blog entries which popped up when I opened my Google Reader this evening, there’s one topic which everyone’s got their two cents on. It’s what the Mirror is calling Manuel-gate.

Who’d have thought a prank phone call would shove the Recession, the U.S. elections and an unfolding humanitarian disaster to the sidelines.

But that’s clearly what everyone wants to talk out. I think because it’s something we’ve all got a strong opinion on.

As for me? Well, I’ve found throughout the last couple of days my opinion has swung back and forth. First I found the audio rather funny. Then I revelled in glee at the thought the Jonathan Ross might get his ¬£18m salary decimated (I still hope that happens). Then I felt angry at all the MPs who’ve stuck their nose and their opinions in, and back in favour of Russ and Ross. Then I felt I bit sad for Andrew Sachs who clearly is a bit overwhelmed by it all (he’s also lined himself up for Most Boring Man UK title). And back again feeling annoyed a good radio show has been pulled.

Sachs doesn’t seem that upset, more bemused. He, after all, built his career on what could be seen as a racist stereotype.

In order to have an opinion¬† on this you first need to listen to the whole thing, something 17,988 of the 18,000 people who complained haven’t done.

(part one)

I’m still undecided. Here’s what some other people think:

Chris Doidge raises some interesting points about what our language limits are.

Rod McKenzie points out the different responses from different generations.

Charlie Beckett at Polis reports on a speech by the shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Ooooh what av I dun??!

Ooooh what 'av I dun??!

Incidentally, if you’re reading this outside the UK, I’m very sorry. You won’t have a clue what all this is about!

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“Why don’t we promote the positive?”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development by Adam Westbrook on May 6, 2007

Here’s a really interesting statistic, you probably didn’t know: 60% of all the people who access the BBC News Africa page via their mobile phones…do so from Nigeria.

Frontline logoIt’s just one of a whole host of interesting points to come out of a debate on how the media cover Africa at London’s Frontline Club this week.

And the big question that came out of it was: “why don’t we promote the positive?

Here’s another fact that proves the point: Zimbabwe has the continent’s worst economy. Inflation was at 1600% last time we all checked. And it get’s argubly the most coverage in the western media, alongside the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan.

And the country with the continent’s best economy? Angola – it’s growing massively. But when was the last time you saw an article on Angola in the western media? Well I’ll help you out a bit: June 16th 2006 was last time a specific article was published in the New York Times.¬† When was the last time you saw it on a TV news bulletin?

The debate was handed to an audience of journalists working from Africa and they raised some interesting points – here’s a summary:

  • Western media has a “soft touch” with Africa, born out of colonial guilt.
  • Most African newspapers are now online, so there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.
  • Is there an Africa fatigue?
  • Western editors follow the news agenda like a flock of sheep – courageous editors and reporters are needed to break away and cover the uncovered.
  • We are failing because we’re not making African stories interesting to western audiences.
  • Is it time to help normal people in Africa tell their own stories?
  • And the most worrying point: “Nobody cares – editors don’t care.”

And the one thing I’d add to that myself is money. A problem in the eyes of coin counting editors is that it just costs too much to report on Africa. Maybe the answer might come from enterprising young multiskilled journalists going out with cheap kit and reporting it at a lower price? Who knows.
So is all news out of Africa bad news? For the most part yes – but then most news out of anywhere tends to be bad news. I definitely agree with the point that we’re not making it interesting enough and we’re not connecting stories from Africa to our own lives.

And with hundreds of western corporations investing in Africa, we are most definitely having an impact on the shaping of the continent. And not always for good.

There are many journalists and bloggers freelancing in Africa at the moment – I’d be interested to see what they think…

Kenya’s Mobile Revolution: a film you need to watch

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 6, 2007

Now I try and keep an eye out for these sort of things, and I haven’t found a genuinely surprising and stereotype-overturning piece about anywhere or anything in Africa since the excellent Inside Africa films I blogged about ages ago.

In fact the only people out there fighting Africa’s corner are the armies of bloggers like E.K. Bensah and Sociolingo – if you read their blogs (and I strongly urge you to do so) you’ll see a different side to the continent; a far cry to the famine, disease and war western newspapers and broadcasters would often have us believe.

Which is why it’s such a great surprise to see “Kenya’s Mobile Revolution” coming up next week on Newsnight on BBC 2 in the UK.

As part of BBC Newsnight’s Geek Week 2.0, they’re showing a film made by their tech reporter Paul Mason. He travelled to Kenya to see how mobile phones are literally changing every aspect of people’s lives.

Mobile Phone in KenyaTwo mobile phone companies have created an 80% network coverage of the country – which I’m sure is better than in the UK! – and even the Maasai nomads in the Rift Valley are texting each other. Even more, mobile operators are pioneering services yet to appear in Europe, like being able to send someone else cash with your mobile.

More and more people are getting them and Paul Mason reckons the mobile could be a democratising tool in a country where the ruling elite’s rife with corruption.

It’s beautifully shot, insightful, and crucially Mason answers the big question for us: “so what?”

When I was last in Ghana back in 2003, I noticed people were using mobiles; hawkers sold mobile phone covers on every street corner. Ironically, I refused to take a mobile phone out there, but if I had, I would have had constant coverage.
So if you’re in on Monday night, watch it. If you’re not, Sky + it. But being the techno-savvy lot you are, I’m sure you’ll watch the online preview now available. It’s 18 minutes long but well worth it.

Click here to watch the online preview

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