Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Actors should be heard – rule number 1

October 19, 2013

Saw Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” at the Oxford Playhouse last night. Saw, not heard, because those of us in the Circle could catch only around half the words spoken by actors of the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS).

The OUDS is a prestigious launching pad for professional acting careers. But perhaps they should first learn elocution. The Playhouse is also a venerable institution, but it should not charge full prices for wanna-be amateurs.

Was the play good? Dunno.

First media interview for my new book “The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered”

September 26, 2013

25.9.2013 Jewish Telegraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

See …

http://amzn.to/15hyS3x

Committed to journalism – the Reuters Institute’s 30th anniversary

September 11, 2013

by Monique Villa

Reproduced by kind permission of The Baron http://www.thebaron.info/

Spending a week-end in Oxford is always a treat, but spending it with the likes of Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times, Nathalie Nougayrede, Director of Le Monde, John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail, and more than 100 fellows from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, was a real uplifting experience. Uplifting because a large degree of optimism in the future of journalism emerged from the two days’ celebrations and discussions.

The fellowship programme was the first launched by the then Reuters Foundation 30 years ago, and its anniversary was celebrated in style with almost 200 participants, mostly still journalists, coming from all around the world, with their suitcases full of memories and ideas. Seven years ago, the fellowship became the Reuters Institute, a partnership with the University of Oxford.

Mark Thompson kicked off the two-day event with the Reuters Memorial Lecture. And no, he didn’t talk about the BBC. Instead, he gave a fascinating insight into the complex dynamics of pay-per-read and digital advertising.

It is remarkable to see how the rise of social media is forcing long and well established publications such as The New York Times to re-think the entire business model, making video a key asset of their offering. “It’s one thing” – said Thompson – “when you compete with other newspapers in terms of digital impressions – it’s another when you compete with players such as Google and Facebook with their billions and billions of impressions”. He said the newspaper he manages leaves money on the table with advertisers because they don’t produce enough videos, the holy Grail of advertising online.

Mark Thompson stressed the importance of quality journalism, highlighting how time, accuracy and authority are even more precious at a time when everybody creates and circulates news via twitter. I agree with him, social media is not a substitute for journalism, and newspapers brands are surely not becoming obsolete.

What I found fascinating about this Oxford gathering was the palpable level of optimism shared by the executives of prestigious newspapers.

Both Nathalie Nougayrede and John Stackhouse depicted a future where newspapers will become more and more competitive, both commercially and editorially. It was refreshing to see an outspoken French woman outlining – in flawless English – the challenges and the opportunities ahead of the French media landscape. And it was captivating to find out how the Globe and Mail had shut down its print edition for a day – this past Labor Day – to drive users to a new, and enhanced online edition. The risk is part of a wider and bolder strategy at the Canadian newspaper that gives editors a financial premium if their audience online grows. The move, so far, has paid off, but it has also raised eyebrows among those who fear the red line between editorial and commercial could be blurred.

The role of women in journalism was also on the agenda. I was the moderator of an interesting panel which included: Suzanne Franks, Professor of Journalism at City University, Sue Lloyd Roberts, Special Correspondent at the BBC, and Laura Saarikoski, Sunday Editor at the Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest Finnish newspaper. Despite the recent boom in the number of female students enrolled in journalism courses around the world (in some cases up to 90 per cent of the students are in fact women), only a tiny percentage makes it to the very top. Why? The panelists were unanimous: childcare and family responsibilities. Even in Finland, where the government has a clearly progressive agenda when it comes to equal opportunities, maternity and paternity leave, a good number of women make it to middle management positions, but not to the role of Editor-in-Chief. According to Laura Saarikoski, this is due to the fact that women have an embedded guilt complex, which prevents them from putting career at the very top of their priorities. I don’t fully agree with such view, and the fact that two women are leading the editorial teams at The New York Times or at Le Monde is there to prove that things are changing fast.

I agree more with Suzanne Franks when she says that the career of most female TV presenters ends at 45. Sue Lloyd Roberts puts it in a very powerful way: successful female journalists are seen as a “third sex”. “They simply don’t know what to make of you”, says Sue – admitting that while reporting from tribal Afghanistan she was allowed to drink tea in the company of local men, while their wives remained segregated to the kitchen.

Seeing over 100 fellows from more than 40 countries in Oxford this weekend is direct evidence of the great success of the Reuters Institute that the Foundation partly funds. Great credit goes to David Levy, its Director, who has in four years succeeded to transform the Institute into a global player, with its trusted publications massively downloaded around the world. The Institute is today at the forefront of providing trusted information and data for media and policymakers adapting to the new challenges of the profession.

As Mark Thompson puts it: “Why did Jeff Bezos buy the Washington Post? Has he seen anything that the rest of us haven’t?” We don’t have the answer. And that’s why we need the Reuters Institute to pursue its mission of shedding light and provide analysis in the fast evolving media landscape.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is fully committed to journalism and to supporting the RISJ. Our Chairman, David Binet, came all the way from Toronto just for the event, as a testimony of this lasting bond. ■

Monique Villa is a French journalist, business leader and women’s rights advocate who joined Reuters in 2001 as managing director of media after a career as an Agence France-Presse correspondent and manager. She became chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation following the acquisition of Reuters by Thomson Corporation in 2008.

My new book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered

September 8, 2013

The Budapest House cover

 

My third book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered – has been published!

A Hungarian traumatised by the loss of half her family in Auschwitz returns to Budapest to retrace her roots. She discovers a dramatic personal history that enables her eventually to shed the burden of her past and move forward to a new life.

The Budapest House is Europe’s house…. a poignant but unsentimental journey … Marcus Ferrar masterfully recounts moving personal stories against their wider historical backdrop and vividly evokes Budapest’s haunted past.

Adam LeBor, correspondent of The Economist and author of The Budapest Protocol

Available online on

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803580&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

and

http://www.amazon.com/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803944&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

Paperback version comes out in early October.

My other books are:
A Foot in Both Camps: a German Past For Better and For Worse (2012)

Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival After World War II (2005 – co-author John Corsellis)

Will The Economist’s phenomenal success feed through to Reuters?

August 26, 2013

(This article first appeared on 24.8.2013 on The Baron, a web site covering media trends http://thebaron.info/.)

In appointing a senior manager of The Economist as “chief executive, Reuters, running news and media business from London,” Thomson Reuters has picked talent from one of the world’s most successful news businesses.

Instead of turning to another wizard from America, the company is looking towards a UK-based organisation which has built a powerful readership worldwide including the U.S. The Economist boasts playfully that it is the Voice of God: read its content once a week, and you know all you need about the world.

So what are the keys to success that Thomson Reuters must surely be eyeing in choosing Andrew Rashbass? Some of his colleagues recently briefed journalists attending the Reuters Institute in Oxford:

– The Economist has a circulation of 1.5 million, making 70% of its revenue from subscriptions and 30% from advertising. It is profitable on subscriptions alone. In five years, the ratio is expected to move to 80:20 or more. So much for the myth that nobody pays for news in the digital era.

– Digital publishing grows rapidly, but The Economist finds that print is far from dead. In fact, it tends to be more profitable.

– The Economist employs only a handful of staff journalists. But it draws on a powerful array of expert writers who produce dauntingly thorough series on subjects such as the U.S., China, India, international finance, technology and science.

– It surprises readers by writing about topics they had no idea mattered.

– The Economist does not try to be impartial. It believes readers accept an openly expressed point of view. It is liberal, socially and economically, and sees this predictability as a strength.

– Its journalists don’t write just for the weekly edition. They keep the news flowing in between in the form of blogs. They use feedback from the blogs to adapt followups.

– They see apps delivering news to tablets and smartphones as a more promising business model than web sites with paywalls, because consumers feel they are getting the whole news, not bits and pieces.

Some of The Economist’s lessons will not apply, and Reuters brand already carries authority. But Reuters does not quite have The Economist’s intellectual firepower. It has introduced comment, but it is varied and unfocused. Reuters avoids having “a line,” and in The Economist’s experience that is not a plus.

Look at Reuters web pages, and you see a disparate array of stories – some financial, some global, others lightweight and local. While Reuters has more experience of running 24-hour news, it has struggled to make it profitable. Its web sites have no paywalls.

By refocusing on the name “Reuters,” Thomson Reuters is signalling that it wants to make serious money from news. This has been the Holy Grail for Reuters throughout the ages.

Rashbass, who has been guiding a highly profitable global news brand, has been brought in to deliver.

I Skype .. and my PC suffers serious damage

July 30, 2013

Half-way through a Skype video call with my daughter, the video froze. At the end of our talk, neither of us could exit Skype. My whole PC froze too, and I could not restart.

The IT guy who took it into care says the PC and its systems were seriously damaged.

Skype, he says, it a relatively open system and it is not difficult for a malevolent person to penetrate into your PC during a conversation. I must say, I did not know that.

After 48 hours of cleaning and repairs, he got it back up again to where it was.

My daughter says her Mac froze too, but she could restart it after turning the power off and nothing was amiss.

Macs, says my IT guy, are more resistant to such attacks. My creative arts daughter kindly rubbed it home with another lecture about my Neanderthal computing choices.

Malaysia: Elections? What elections?

May 6, 2013

The ruling UMNO-led coalition has again won Malaysia’s “elections,” but after 57 years in power the process has become something of a charade. The government was declared to have won 133 seats and the anti-corruption opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim 89.

Despite its confidence beforehand, it is hard to see how the opposition could have succeeded. The government monopolises the mainstream media, which refused access to the opposition. Rather than an election campaign, there was thus a monolithic advertising campaign on behalf of the government.

The opposition was reduced to using social media and holding rallies. The latter were constantly disrupted by police mounting road-blocks to delay participants or interrupting proceedings on the grounds there was no “permit.” The opposition campaign bus, fitted out with a collapsible stage because halls were denied to them, was repeatedly vandalised. Under such circumstances, it is hard to see how they could have come out on top.

After 57 years in power, the ruling coalition has inevitably become financially corrupt. Its supporters are those who benefit from the sleaze and the ill-educated in the countryside: a coalition of the corrupt and the ignorant. The opposition has its power base among the well-educated in the major urban centres.

The government’s “election” result is nevertheless its worst ever, and Anwar claimed widespread fraud. There are even suggestions the government won less than half the popular vote. But there seems little for the educated and the open-minded to do except continue biting their nails in frustration. Many opposition supporters blacked out their profiles on Facebook after the results were announced.

Anwar, aged 65, and imprisoned for six years on a spurious pretext, was once a rising star of Malaysia, representing his country as Deputy Premier at the Davos World Economic Forum. Before this latest poll he said he would leave politics if he did not win. Malaysia will be the worse off if he does.

Government decides on media controls in the UK – but they won’t work

March 23, 2013

In blogs I posted on 23.11.2011and 4.12.1012, I forecast that nothing much would change in the UK media as a result of the Leveson inquiry into journalistic malpractices, triggered by a scandal over popular newspapers hacking mobile telephones.

Leveson has since reported, and the government, backed by the two other major political parties, has decided to set up a supervisory body acting according to criteria set by the politicians. However in practice, much will still continue as before.

The Economist, The Spectator and Private Eye have declared they will not submit themselves to the new body, even though refusal is supposed to expose them to extra-harsh legal penalties if they step out of line. The newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, as well as the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have reserved their positions but all likewise indicated opposition.

The new arrangement will be enacted not by legislation, but by Royal Charter. Not having lived in the UK for some time, I’m not sure what a Royal Charter is. However it’s seems obvious that it is weaker than a law, even if the parties insist it will have “statutory underpinning,” another phrase I don’t really understand.

If The Economist will remain outside, that means nothing essential changes for me, since I only actually read The Economist. It earns most of its income outside the UK, so should have no trouble staying out of range of UK controls.

I once lived as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe, where the Communist hold over the local media was absolute. People nevertheless found out what was going on through listening to foreign radios. In the UK today, consumers looking for unregulated news can find it on a host of foreign web sites. No need even for a radio set.

In Portugal, during the 1970s revolution, the radical left nationalised nearly all the media, with the result that they all reported the same versions of partial truth. However one newspaper, Espresso, remained independent. So anything that was not favourable to the regime got published there, and we all knew about it. Espresso became the newspaper to read. Controls which are not absolute have no effect.

So does that mean no joy for the victims of mobile phone hackers? Under existing legislation, hacking phones is illegal anyway, so the police could and should do a better job of enforcement.

Some of the media will doubtless remain rascally, but we have got on with that ever since newspapers first appeared. Even if much journalism is rotten, the world can still roll along.

A Change of Regime in Malaysia?

March 10, 2013

For the first time ever, Malaysia’s dogged and long-suffering opposition believes it has a chance of winning forthcoming elections and forming the next government. The ruling UMNO party will doubtless use the same strong-arm tactics which have kept it in power since independence in 1957. Yet the opposition senses a real chance of winning a majority in Parliament.

On the face of it, the opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (pictured) doesn’t stand a chance. The government controls mainstream media, which unswervingly backs UMNO and denigrates the opposition. Any gathering of more than four people requires a government permit, and these are only sparingly granted to the opposition. Police violently break up unauthorised rallies, and mount road blocks to delay people attending those which are. Thugs from time to time attack people who get through.

Hotels and public buildings refuse to rent space for meetings, and the opposition campaign bus which tours the country with a dismountable stage has been repeatedly vandalised. Dubious legal cases have been brought against many of the opposition leaders, including Anwar himself, who spent six years in jail. Electoral rolls are suspected to be stuffed with phantom voters. On top of that, the economy is not doing badly.

Yet the opposition, which campaigns for an end to the corruption pervading public life after 56 years of one-party rule, believes it has a real possibility of winning. On the last occasion they won 5 of the 13 state parliaments, and for the first time took more than one third of national seats.

Why such optimism? Firstly, they say people are losing their fear of exposing corruption, and scandals are increasingly being aired in public. Civil society is strengthening as NGOs band together. The government’s perennial warnings of political chaos and racial conflict seem to be gradually losing credibility. And the internet provides new media channels which the regime cannot control e.g. http://www.malaysiakini.com/ and http://www.freemalaysia.com/

The prospect is that the slow upswell of liberated grass-roots opinion will erode the well-constructed defences of the ruling party, much as it did in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and is gradually happening in China and Russia.

Parliament must be dissolved by 27 April. Meanwhile, Anwar and his fellow-leaders criss-cross the country, slipping down back roads to avoid road-blocks, and motor-cycling over rough tracks through palm oil groves. One of them recently started addressing a few dozen people, but after 20 minutes hundreds came trickling out of a distant plantation on foot, swelling his crowd to 2,000.

Coming soon … The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

March 1, 2013

DSC01949

Authors from different countries and writing backgrounds are taking part in an internet project called The Next Big Thing. We’re answering the same 10 questions about a work in progress.

My friend from the Geneva Writers Group, Katie Hayoz, asked me to take part. See her blog http://www.katiehayoz.blogspot.ch featuring Untethered, her YA novel about astral projection.

Here’s what I’m up to:

1) The title?
The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

2) Where did the idea come from?
I met the main character of this book through her husband, and her story fascinated and moved me.

3) Genre?
Historical memoir

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a film?
Meryl Streep

5) In one sentence: what is the book about?
A Hungarian Jew traumatised by Auschwitz struggles to find her identity on returning to Budapest, where she finds the property she inherited is inhabited by a sinister individual.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is Lorella Belli.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Nine months – but I am not on the first draft!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Hare With Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal)
Burying the Typewriter (Carmen Bugan)

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I share the main character’s concern over confused identity – it nags at me.

10) What else might pique a reader’s interest?
It’s a poignant story of a person who works through a difficult past and finally leaves her “bad home” to realise herself.

For other authors preparing their Next Big Thing see:

http://www.susantiberghien.com/ – Celebrating Love: Memories from a Long Marriage

http://www.danielanorris.com – On Dragonfly Wings: a Journey to Mediumship


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