Thursday 29 November 2007

The rise of blogs

In 2002, Dave Sifry started Technorati. It's a website that tracks blogs, allowing users to search and participate in the blogosphere. By April 2004, the site was tracking more than 2 million blogs. Today, the site is tracking 112.8 million blogs.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

4 Rifles in Basra

4 Rifles came home from Basra, Iraq last weekend after a six month tour of duty. If you want to find out what they've been up to for the last few months, Michael Yon, an 'independent' American journalist has been embedded with them. He's currently writing up a series of dispatches. Part One is introductory, providing some background on British operations in and around Basra. Part Two describes the battalion's first mission during the tour on 21 May.

Monday 26 November 2007

Ahmadinejad's blog in The Guardian

I can't think where The Guardian got the idea for this article from.

Thursday 22 November 2007

A Blog from Inside Iraq

My favourite 'inside Iraq' blog is written by a Baghdad dentist. He blogs at Last of the Iraqis. His latest post is rather conspiratorial and I'm not sure he has much evidence for some of his musings, but his observations about life in Iraq are fascinating. Here's a bit I picked out towards the end of his last post:

"And by the way when people outside Iraq is hearing about the improvements they have the idea that everything is very good and it's so safe now, well, I'd like to make a correction; the "Hot zones" are way much better, because they were very disturbed before, it's relatively OK now, but the rest of the areas are almost the same, for example while I was writing this post there was two earth shocking explosions, and there was the 10 missiles attack in AlShaab few days ago and even yesterday I was in Palestine St. when a side road explosive detonated very close to me, I saw it in my own eyes…"
This blog was a recent feature on BBC Radio 5's Pods and Blogs and it looks as if there's going to be something on Radio 4's iPM programme this Saturday.

Tuesday 20 November 2007


I set the iPM team the challenge of getting hold of the President of Iran to talk about uranium, US foreign policy, and nuclear power to discuss his blog for their Saturday programme. I reckon the opportunity to momentarily escape the whirlwind of international politics and have a cosy chat with Eddie Mair would be too good to miss. Surely.

Collecting Iranian blogs

What better place to start a collection of Iranian blogs than with Mr Ahmadinejad's irregular musings!

Friday 16 November 2007

Reporting strategy and tactics

Thursday 15 November 2007

Media Coverage of Israel-Lebanon War

I'm putting together a presentation on the Israel-Lebanon war, (or at least doing some preliminary investigations) for the MA Reporting War course I'm tagging along to at King's. Here's a BBC video about the media coverage of the conflict in 2006 and it looks like I might be returning to the subject at a later date for the PhD. Note the use of the blogosphere!

Tuesday 13 November 2007

The BBC Brand and BBC Blogging

Last Friday, I met one of the senior editors at the BBC. I only had a brief five-minute chat with him but he highlighted what I think is one of the key issues with BBC blogging. BBC blogs, he said, must be something that last and not simply the random thoughts of a correspondent writing the first thing that comes into his or her head. Crucially they must “protect the brand”.

Although the ‘brand’ may have taken a bit of a hammering in recent months, the BBC’s determination to provide accurate, impartial and honest news remains at the heart of the organisation’s thinking. This raises interesting questions for BBC blogs. After all, one of the common sense positions on the nature of blogging is that blogs are best when they provide off-the-cuff, opinionated, almost gossipy information.

I’m not sure this is necessarily true and blogging has evolved to incorporate a variety of different styles. Generalising about blogs is dangerous. But I think BBC blogging is different to a lot of blogging that is taking place. Just try comparing Nick Robinson’s blog with that of Iain Dale for example. So why is the BBC blogging? Does the BBC merely feel it ought to because 4 million other people are doing it? And how does the need to protect the brand affect the nature of BBC blogs.

In the case of war and terrorism, is it worth getting a BBC war correspondent to spend time writing a blog, when military blogs (milblogs), unconcerned with the need to live up to any sort of ‘brand’ may provide better insights? (They also may not – British military blogging seems scarce compared with the richness of American blogs on offer). In times of war, the BBC’s commitment as a public service broadcaster would complicate any blogging activity any further.

As far as I’m aware there aren’t any BBC defence correspondents blogging on a regular basis at the moment. (Stuart Hughes, currently defence and security producer, used to have one but has since stopped blogging). Is this the sort of thing people want to see? Would it improve the BBC’s coverage of war and terrorism?

Monday 12 November 2007

18 Months of Blogs at the BBC (Part One)

Robin's piece is here. I'm obviously more interested in the editorial post (Part Two) which is promised for Wednesday.

Post on BBC's Blogging Trial coming soon

If his Facebook status is anything to go by (and it usually is), Robin Hamman, BBC Blog Network guru, is posting a piece about the BBC's blogging trial on the Editors blog sometime today. I'm sure it will make interesting reading...

Friday 9 November 2007

Research at World Affairs Unit

I'm doing some 'research' at the World Affairs Unit at White City. At the moment this consists of sitting around and nosing at what's going on. Fergal Keane's just commandeered an office to have a shave (presumably before a TV appearance though I'm not actually sure), and the Defence team are working on a story about Nimrod.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Gordon Gentle Inquest

The coroner in the Gordon Gentle inquest ruled yesterday that a logistics error led to the unlawful killing of the young soldier. The jeep he was travelling in was not fitted with the latest radio jamming technology which protects vehicles from IEDs.

Pamela Gentle, Gordon's sister has written about the inquest's findings at Military Families Against the War. She says:
"Well the inquest has nearly finished and so far we have been told what we already knew - my brother was killed for nothing. Says in the paper it prompted allegations of Ministry of Defence failings. Well the more I hear of this jamming device not being fitted - it could have saved Gordon’s life and was in a store room. Would you not say that the MoD are failing? I wouldn’t say it was an allegation I would say it’s the truth. Wouldn’t you? It makes me sick."
"I just wonder how some off these MoD people would feel it it was their son or daughter? And not just the MoD but the man who decided that our boys and girls should have to go to a war zone that had noting to do with us....We were a happy family the 5 of us but now there's something missing. Gordon will always be with us but it’s not the same. How would he feel if he was to never see his son again, never see him smile again, never being able to give him one more hug. I don’t think you would like it. I will tell you why, because it hurts so much you will never know Blair."
I very much doubt Tony Blair is going to enter the fray, but the MoD has this to say about it all:
"The protection of our troops in the face of lethal threats is of paramount importance and the Ministry of Defence takes all available measures to minimise the risks...

The Ministry of Defence’s internal Board of Inquiry in 2004 had similarly identified failings that contributed to this incident and made 12 recommendations, all of which were accepted and have since been implemented.

Following an investigation by the Royal Military Police (Special Investigation Branch) into the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident, the independent Army Prosecuting Authority considered the case and concluded that disciplinary action was not warranted.

The Chain of Command similarly found no grounds to initiate administrative action against any individual.

Tragically, a unique combination of events resulted in the death of Fusilier Gordon Gentle from an Improvised Explosive Device detonated by insurgents."

Here's a short extract from a video made soon after his death in June 2004. About halfway through Rose Gentle suggests that although she wasn't aware of it at the time, she saw images of the blown out jeep and her son on television before she was informed of her son's death by military representatives.

Political Blogging at the Telegraph

Yesterday evening I went to a panel on political blogging organised by Shane Richmond who runs the Telegraph's Technology blog. I had some trouble with Buckingham Palace Road's strange numbering system but eventually found the Telegraph's offices with its potentially ski-able escalator.

The panel consisted of Mick Fealty (and here), Tim Montgomerie, Lloyd Shepherd, and Alex Hilton and some other Telegraph guy who spoke exceptionally quietly. (Interestingly, no women). The proceedings were chaired by Iain Dale.

Here are some of the main themes to come out of the session.

1. Political blogging in the UK is two or three years behind the US. Panellists seemed frustrated by the state funded nature of British politics which hampered blogging activism, whereas in the States blogging and political debate is driven forward by the need for party fundraising.

2. There was general agreement that blogging democratised politics but scpeticism over how much influence the medium was having on politics. Tim Montgomerie: "Blogs are forming a new conversation". This "represents a massive decentralisation of power".

It was noted that blogs have not claimed any major political scalps as they have done in the US. Iain Dale wondered if political blogging in the UK was still moving forward at the moment.

3. The BBC's non-partisan political reporting was cited as a reason why political conversation has been diminished in the UK. Lloyd Shepherd: "[The BBC has] created a culture of political discourse which is devoid of energy". Mick Fealty described political reporting at the BBC as a "bland narrative".

4. Alex Hilton doesn't think the 'blogosphere' exists in any coherent sense and believes that bloggers are "micropublishers" feeding off, and feeding to, larger media organisations.

5. Mick Fealty thinks bloggers expectations have been too high in terms of what they can achieve. But says they provide a useful role in aggregating info and in-depth reporting.

6. Legal issues were discussed though nothing concrete really came out of these musings.

7. Some discussion of whether political bloggers are an elite cartel from the Westminster village. Not entirely accepted by the panel, but Tim Montgomerie admitted that most of those currently running politics blogs did have strong Westminster connections.

8. Tim Montgomerie: the best blogs have a specialist focus.

9. Nobody seemed to quite know where political blogging is going. Panellists seemed dumbfounded by the apparent inability of the major political parties to effectively use Internet technology. And there was some discussion about virtual political parties which could be started online and the possiblity that social networking might be used for political activism. It seems to me that these gaps are waiting to be exploited and the political establishment might be in for a rude awakening.

More reaction can be found here, and here.
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