Wednesday 29 February 2012

Two different sides of journalism

This week I've been thinking about two very different sides to journalism that have occurred to me.

The latest revelations in the Leveson inquiry which looks into press standards, revealed allegations of the Sun making illegal payments and bribes to corrupt public officials. Sue Akers, a deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said they were:

"frequent and sometimes involved significant sums of money", before saying that the payments were authorised at a very senior level, and that the journalists involved were aware they were breaking the law.

Hearing this, I could only shake my head and think here was another nail in the coffin to the credibility of journalism in this country.

But then I reminded myself about the tragic events from last week, that saw the death of the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin reporting from Homs in Syria.

This is the other side of journalism, one where reporters put their lives on the line to cover wars, conflict and tell those stories which give the rest of us understanding and insight into what's going on.

No wonder brutal regimes such as the one in Syria now see journalists as legitimate targets in order to prevent the outside world from discovering what's taking place.

It's easy to become cynical about aspects of our tabloid press, but lets not forget it doesn't define all journalism and the vital role it plays and the sacrifices many reporters make.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Linsanity: The rise of Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin? Jeremy who you're probably asking.

For those of you who don't know, Jeremy Lin is an American basketball player who up until 2 weeks ago nobody had heard of.

With the New York Knicks missing two of their star players, Lin has been drafted in to start games for the first time in his NBA career. Since then he's managed to score more points in his first 5 games then any other player in the history of the NBA. He's led the Knicks to an 8 game winning streak, which included beating the reigning NBA champions the Dallas Mavericks!

He's become an overnight superstar - they're calling it Linsanity!

Jeremy Lin running the show against the Lakers

The US Media has gone mad for this story, and it's spreading across the world, particulary in China where Lin's ancestory is from.

So just what is it that makes this story so special?

Well it's all about the back story.

Jeremy Lin is the first Chinese/American to play in the NBA. He's a Harvard graduate, the first Harvard graduate to play in the NBA since the 1950's - and he's a devout christian.

Before joining the Knicks, Lin had been with the LA Clippers and Huston Rockets but they let him go because they didn't think he was good enough. This theme of rejection and being overlooked is a big part of the story.

Today everyone's asking the same question: Why did nobody realise just how good he was?

The first and most obvious answer people are coming up with, is that as a Chinese/American Lin faced a number of steroetypes and prejudices. People don't associate Americans of Chinese descent playing basketball.

Then there's his Ivy League background. Graduates from Harvard just don't go on to play in the NBA. Add to this his Christian faith and his overall struggle for recognition of his talents, it's easy to see how this story of the underdog breaking down stereotypes and assumptions on race and education is proving to be so appealling to people.

What's really caught my attention though, is how people want to attach added meaning to the story. There's the question about our assumptions on race, education, faith, but also how Lin and his less fashionable teamates have turned the Knick's season around, whilst the so called star players weren't available to play.

During the last week, I've read the following articles which give you an illustration on how people are trying to find deeper meaning to 'Linsanity'.

'Just Lin, Baby! 10 Lessons Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us Before We Go To Work Monday Morning' A guide on how the Jeremy Lin story can help people make a sucess of their careers.

After that I found this piece on the American journalism website, Poynter: 3 things journalists can learn from ‘Linsanity’.

Then last Friday in the London Evening Standard paper they had this article: America must accept the true power of China: Looking at how Lin's rise to prominence was another example of China's growing political and cultural power!

I'm not sure about that, but again it shows how people want to attach greater meaning to one athlete and sport in general.

So where does Linsanity go from here? Is Jeremy Lin just a flash in the pan or is he the next NBA superstar?

The next big question is this: Athough basketball is a team game, it's also a very individualistic sport. Every team has its one or maybe two 'star' players who dominate the team. For the New York Knicks that star player is Carmelo Anthony.

He's been out injured and it's this that's given Jeremy Lin his chance to shine. With Carmelo Anthony coming back from injury how is this going to affect Lin's game? How will it impact on the Knick's overall game plan and the rest of their season? So many questions.

I think I've become slightly obssessed with this story in recent weeks, and I can see it's going to keep me hooked for the rest of the NBA season.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Finally Suarez and Liverpool see sense

Just when we all hoped we could move on from the Suarez/Evra racism controversy, Luis Suarez decided yesterday that he wasn't going to shake hands with Patrice Evra's before the Man Utd/Liverpool game and in doing so needlessly escalated this sorry episode.

Games between Man Utd and Liverpool already have enough edge to them without Suarez ignorantly adding to the tension that surrounded the game.

Suarez's decision led to the embarrassment of Kenny Dalglish's post match interview on Sky, in which one of British football's most respected figures ended up tarnishing his own personal reputation by trying to defend Suarez.

For Liverpool, the racism row has been an absolute PR disaster that has threatened to ruin the entire image and reputation of one of England's most iconic football clubs.

By coming out today and issuing an apology both Liverpool and Suarez have finally taken the right steps to draw a line under this issue.

Since Patrice Evra first came out and made allegations against Luis Suarez, I've been surprisingly quiet on the subject, but it's just refused to go away, and for me that's mainly due to Liverpool's mishandling of the situation.

Clearly during the first league game, both players were being verbally abusive to each other. During their altercation it's been reported that Suarez used the term/Negrito towards Evra. A commonly used term in South America which doesn't have a racist meaning and can be used as a term of endearment. The issue for me is we're not in South America, we're in England.

If you're having an abusive argument with someone, would you really be using a term of endearment towards that person? As soon Suarez used the words Negrito/Negro he was in trouble.

He was found guilty of racially abusing Evra and was banned for 8 games, You would have hoped that was the end of it, but Liverpool rather than accepting the punishment continued to make out as if Suarez and the club were the victims and not Evra, and in doing so tarnished the image of Liverpool FC.

Over the last few weeks, I've listened to a number of phone ins on Radio 5's 606 programme and heard various Liverpool fans trying to justify why Saurez has been harshly treated. I thought it was ridiculous.

As for yesterday's game, you have to ask why there needed to be a handshake between the players before the match. As Jamie Redknapp said on Sky Sports it should have been a case of not today.

Seeing as it did go ahead, Suarez should have just shaken Evra's hand which he apparently told the club he would do. By not doing so, not only did it show incredible arrogance but it undermined Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool as a whole.

No wonder after the game Alex Ferguson came out and called Suarez a 'disgrace' although I thought Fergie's comments hit the nail on the head, it was probably ill advised of him to say that when you look back on the actions of some Man Utd players over the years. Eric Cantona's infamous 'Kung Fu' Kick back in 1995 springs to mind.

As for Patrice Evra, at the end of the game he could already claim the moral high ground, but undermined himself just a little with his celebrations in front of the Stretford End.

I'm not going to be too harsh on Evra though, the abusive he took from Liverpool fans at Anfield in the FA Cup game was out of order so I can excuse his celebrations.

With the apologies now issued and Man Utd accepting the apology lets hope this really is the end of the matter.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Goodbye Capello - Is there really anyone other than Harry?

I was checking my Twitter feed on Wednesday evening when I discovered that Fabio Capello had resigned as England manager.

Was I shocked to hear the news? Well yes. Was I disappointed or upset? Not really. I don't suppose that will come as a surprise to most people. I doubt whether many England fans were sorry to see him go.

Despite two impressive qualifying campaigns for the last World Cup and the Euro 2012 Championships, Capello's reign will always be remembered for the horror show that was the World Cup in South Africa.

For all his accomplishments in club management in Italy and Spain, Capello added nothing new to England. Taking his time as England manager along with his predecessor Sven Goran Eriksson, I think the Foreign manager experiment has failed.

England are still supposedly one of the world's major footballing powers and so, we should be able to produce are own national managers. At present it has to be Harry Redknapp, but I'm not falling for the hype that we've seen over the last few days. It's got too much of a Kevin Keegan feel to it.

Redknapp is the people's choice, but would England under Harry Redknapp be serious challengers for the Euro 2012 or the World Cup in 2014?

We simply don't have the quality and depth of talent amongst English players, which is why although I think Redknapp is the best man for the job, he's unlikely to bring any greater success to the national team than anyone else.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Watch out for Facebook's Timeline

Have you heard about Facebook's new Timeline feature?

If you're on Facebook and you haven't, you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the next few weeks. Your Facebook Timeline will be your own personal Facebook history, where you'll be able to see all your old activities.

That means you can see all your old wall posts, conversation with friends, photos, friends requests - but everyone else will be able to see this as well.

For those people who love to share every little bit of personal information on Facebook, I'm sure they'll love the new Timeline feature; but what about those of us who still value a part of our private lives?

I'm instinctively uncomfortable with this Timeline feature. Why does my entire Facebook activity have to be made available for the world to see?

It's things like the Timeline that are adding to people's growing concerns about Facebook and its overall attitude to online privacy and security.

No wonder there's a growing backlash!

If you've got a Facebook profile, once you receive your update about the Timeline, you'll have 7 days to delete anything on there you don't like or don't want other people to see.

Now that sounds great in theory, but for those of us who have been on Facebook for years, there's probably tons of stuff to go through. How many people are really going to spend hours trawling through past comments and updates, looking for stuff to delete?

I've always kept my privacy settings to only allow 'friends' to view my profile, but there's still loads of people I rarely speak to or haven't seen in years who could potentially start snooping around all my old Facebook activities.

I'm guilty of this as anyone else, but Facebook does allow you to view other people's lives, but not always in a good way, it can be very voyeuristic and the Timeline allows even more opportunity for this increase in voyeurism.

What I don't like about the Timeline and Facebook's attitude to privacy is that as a user you have to 'opt out' to ensure that personal information is not shown to other people.

It's you that has to set your own privacy settings, otherwise personal and private information is instantly made available to people as with the Timeline.

Like many others I've really embraced the world of Social Media, but people need to be more clued up about issues of privacy and the importance of protecting yourself online.