Monday, 17 March 2008

Silencing dissent in Tibet

Chinese authorities have taken online action in an effort to suppress the protests against Chinese rule in Tibet according to United Press International. Chinese authorities blocked access to YouTube and other sites, stopping web-users from seeing video footage of the demonstrations.

No such videos have appeared on the China-based, video sharing site (Afraid my Chinese isn't good enough to verify this).

Danish Soldier in Afghanistan

Danish soldier, Lars, has arrived in Afghanistan. Actually, he's been there at least a month but he's taken a while to get his first post up amid the bustle of life in theatre. I suppose it's not always easy to blog when you're trying to fight a war at the same time...

Iraq week: TV schedule

Thursday marks five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Here's a rundown of the fairly depressing television available over the coming days...

Monday 17 March

Ten Days to War
10.30pm - 10.40pm
Short film series providing snapshots of the decisions that led to British forces being deployed in Iraq five years ago, with commentary on Newsnight immediately afterwards.

Rageh Omaar: The Iraq War by Numbers
The correspondent who reported on the toppling of Saddam's statue, and other key moments in the war, returns to Iraq to look for the human stories behind the much-disputed numbers. Omaar has written in The Telegraph about the documentary here.

Channel 4

Dispatches: Iraq - the betrayal
8pm - 9pm
Journalist Peter Oborne travels with foreign secretary, David Miliband, to survey the war-torn country.

Battle for Haditha
9pm - 10.50pm
Docu-drama of the Haditha killings when US marines killed 24 Iraqis in Haditha after the death of Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas on 19 November 2005.

Tuesday 18 March

Ten Days to War
10.30pm - 10.40pm

Channel 4
Jon Snow's Hidden Iraq
11.15pm - 12.10am
Jon Snow visits Iraq (without Miliband) and talks to a range of Iraqi citizens.

Wednesday 19th March

Ten Days to War
10.30pm - 10.40pm

Channel 4
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

12.05am - 1.35am
Documentary film Rory Kennedy speaks to those caught up in the most infamous incident of prisoner abuse of the war.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Reporting Tibet

Protests in Tibet have escalated today triggering the largest demonstrations in the province for decades. According to the BBC and Reuters, protesters have been burning cars and shops in Lhasa. (Even the Chinese news agency Xinhua acknowledges that something is happening.)

Unrest began earlier in the week after police arrested a number of Buddhist monks marching to mark the 49th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

One BBC reporter I spoke to today, who is working on the story, admitted it was difficult to know exactly what was going on.

But he said that blogs, and people who had contacted the BBC's User Generated Content (UGC) department, were helping to build up a picture of events on the ground:

"UGC is coming up trumps on Tibet".

Yesterday, the BBC's World At One radio programme used information they had obtained from a blog written by a Western tourist.

What's on the blogs?

  • One traveller wrote about his experience of the gathering on Barkhor Square on 10 March. His blog post also has a couple of images and a very short video, which has been running on BBC World Television today.
  • A 'blond scientist' joined the march to Tibet from India and meets Tenzin Tsundue on the way.
  • Another traveller twittered the (non)-coverage of the event on television in China, suggesting that the plug simply gets pulled when the BBC mentions the situation.
  • A round up of unrest can be found at the Students for a Free Tibet blog.
  • Some short extracts translated from Chinese blogs can be found here at Global Voices Online.


  • Unfortunate error in an article by "BEIJING - At least people were killed in rioting between Tibetans and Chinese security forces in Lhasa on Friday, according to a report." Hopefully someone will notice and amend it in due course.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

US fatalities in Iraq and other links

US in Iraq

  • Three American soldiers have died in a rocket attack in southern Iraq. At least 3,987 American military personnel have lost their lives in the five year conflict (AP)...
  • ...but fewer Americans are aware of the extent of the casualties according to a Pew Research Center publication. Pew's research showed that only 28% of American adults are aware that the fatality figure is around 4,000.
  • Here's one blog reaction to the research (Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus).
Defence in the Budget in the UK
  • The Treasury believes that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost the UK Government £2 billion next year (The Times).
  • The Guardian claims that social networking restrictions and guidelines are in the offing for BBC staff.

"Does the Internet move too fast for academia?" Yes - way too fast.

Neil Thurman from City University, London has recently published an article about the use of User Generated Content by the media. It's an interesting piece tracking editors' attitudes to UGC and the use of 'audience' forums.

The problem with it, as pointed out by Shane Richmond over on the Telegraph's Technology blog, is that it's already out of date.

One small example is the figure Neil uses for the number of blogs being tracked by Technorati. When Thurman collected the data in 2005, Technorati was following 9 million blogs. Today, the website claims it's tracking 112.5 million.

Many academic studies are subject to the inevitability of change after publication, but the problem with studying the Internet is the rate of change. Neil's piece tells us what was happening a couple of years ago instead of what is happening now.

Neil has replied on the blog explaining that the slightly historical nature of his paper isn't his fault; it's the incredibly slow rate of the academic publishing cycle which is to blame.
"...academics are leant on to publish in peer-reviewed journals (who demand exclusivity) in order that they and their departments are rewarded--for example with income from the Research Assessment Exercise. Even though the journal that published this paper has recently increased its pagination and frequency, more than 17 months elapsed between acceptance and publication (and more than a year between submission and acceptance)."
I'm afraid I'm too new to the game to know much about the nuances of academic publication, but this is something I'll have to seriously consider in the future. I fear that my hands may be tied in a similar fashion to Neil's.

If this is the case, that will mean I'll be giving you the impact of blogging on the BBC's coverage of war and terrorism in 2008-9, just in time for 2011 (at the earliest). By which time, I might be asking the wrong question never mind providing an out of date answer.

These lengthy publication schedules may be viable in other disciplines but in Internet technology and new media, papers need to be published quickly to maximise their usefulness.

I get some money from the government to help finance my work. It would be nice to think that the research I do would provide more than an interesting historical read and a footnote in the work of future academics.

But I fear that by the time most of it's published, my research will have little practical value to the media industry, and worse, to those who have given up their time to participate.

I'd like to publish my papers or chapters here on the blog, with embedded links. That would be a bit different. But I've no idea whether this is possible or feasible.

When is the academic world going to catch up?

Monday, 10 March 2008

Blogging is writing but not that sort of writing

I'm continuing my monumental post-illness catch up with a pointer in the direction of Adam Tinworth's reminder that writing a blog is different from writing a print article for a mainstream newspaper.

You might think that's obvious but the misfortune of an ill-starred travel writer by the name of Max Gogarty demonstrates that it's not.

War reporting: behind the scenes

ITV news have started a series of behind-the-scenes video blogs, including one which follows Mark Austin's team in Lashkar Gah. In this video, you get a tour of the team's tent, aka the 'Helmand Bureau'.

I picked this up courtesy of Charlie Beckett's blog.

Ten Days to War

The BBC is broadcasting a series of mini-dramas entitled Ten Days to War. The 12-minute films provide snapshots of the decisions that led to British forces being deployed in Iraq five years ago.

The first film will be shown on BBC Two at 10.30pm, just before Newsnight. The series will also be available online.

Blogging makes reporters more human?

Earlier this year, I wrote about the challenge that blogs present to the BBC's long-cherished ideal of impartiality.

In his Media Guardian column, Jeff Jarvis, lays down the gauntlet to 'impartial' TV broadcasters in the UK and the US:
"The more journalists tell us about their sources, influences and perspectives, the better we can judge what they say".
Transparency means revealing your opinions, he argues, and a blog provides an outlet for this sort of discussion.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Break in Blogging

Apologies to my regular readers for the blogging silence. I'm afraid I've been very unwell and I'm still several days away from returning to work.
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