Archive for the ‘Oxford’ Category

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.

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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.

Working hard for A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS

February 28, 2013

Final

Attending a weekly lecture on European statesmen, I tell some of the audience I’ve just published a new book A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE. As it happens, I have a few copies in my briefcase.

One woman wants to buy it, “but I just don’t have money with me.” Surprising how many people go out only with change for the bus. When she hears it’s just £7.99, it turns out she can pay, and does! Thank you.

Another woman buys one, and pays on the dot. Her friend says she wants one too, “but I don’t have the money with me.”

“You can share mine when I’ve finished,” says her friend.

“No need!” I cry, sensing the trap. “Here, take one now, I’ll sign it. Give me the money next week.”

Finally, a man sidles up and asks me to sign another copy. Before I can ask, he says: “Second-hand, I’m afraid. Got it from Oxfam.”

I think: it’s only just come out, so that was a quick read, or even worse, perhaps not a read at all. Perish the thought. I sign up cheerfully, glad that Oxfam can make a turn from my writings to care for the downtrodden masses.

Next week, back into the fray with another briefcase of books. It’ll be Helmut Kohl. I’m loving this.

British driving without winter tyres

January 19, 2013

Here’s a picture of British driving in the latest snow. All over the place, even on a flat road. And why? Certainly because winter tyres are scarcely used at all in this country.

In many countries on the continent of Europe, winter tyres are mandatory at this time of the year. The Swiss rule that vehicles must be “adapted to the conditions.” That means winter tyres when the conditions require. If you have an accident without winter tyres, you can fined or lose your insurance cover.

Isn’t that expensive? Not much. During winter, you don’t wear down your summer tyres. The main cost is to have a garage change them over twice a year. The savings in less damage make up for this – and you are safer.

Winter tyres are not effective just in snow and ice. At any temperature from 7 Celsius downwards, winter tyres grip better.

Perhaps we need a European Union directive …

Photo: Matthew Plucknett,/Oxford Mail https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BA9up9LCYAASMbn.jpg

Last chance to acquire 100 years of history for less than one penny per year

January 15, 2013

A Foot In Both Camps

Today 15th January 2013 is your last chance to experience 100 years of thrilling history, told through people who went through it, for less than one penny per year if you buy A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE as an ebook.

Special Offer: 99p, $1.99, €1.99. Ends at midnight tonight.

Sign the petition to re-open Friern Barnet Library

December 8, 2012

I am chairman of the Friends of Summertown Library in Oxford.

In 2011, we campaigned and won our battle to save our Library, which the local council announced it would shut down.

Meanwhile, other councils across the country continue to slash away at Public Libraries in order to balance their budgets, making learning, knowledge and culture pay the price.

Friends in the Friern and Barnet area have asked me to sign a petition to re-open their Library, closed last April by their local council and and due to be sold off.

I signed the petition myself, and invite you to do so too. Let’s show solidarity to others defending the same values as ours.

Thank you.

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/re-open-friern-barnet-library

“Preserving the Liberties of EUROPE” – that’s what the Duke of Marlborough did

November 3, 2012

File:Blenheim Column of Victory.JPG

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The inscription on the triumphal column to the Duke of Marlborough, one of Britain’s greatest national heroes, says a purpose of his successful campaigns in the first decade of the 18th century was “preserving the Liberties of Europe.”

He was mainly intent on eliminating the threat of French hegemony in Europe. To do so, he engaged with like-minded continental allies. The inscription talks of “the Principal States of Europe being united in one common Cause” – the cause Marlborough pursued on behalf of Britain. His string of victories earned “The Admiration of other Nations.”

Today talk is of “repatriating powers from Europe” and perhaps even leaving the European Union altogether. The Government and a large part of the media pour scorn on all that is European and play up British particularity.

History should teach us this is dangerous and against our interests – quite apart from any obligation we may feel to behave responsibly and decently towards our neighbours.

After Marlborough engaged with Europe by forming alliances, Wellington did likewise to defeat Napoleon, as did British generals in World War I and Churchill in World War II

Each time, it was obvious the British had to. It is foolish to believe this is no longer the case. The rest of Europe wants Britain as a balance, and the experience of two World Wars should teach us that turning our back on these “faraway people about whom we know so little” is disastrous, not least for us.

In an era of spreading knowledge, Britons should look beyond their coasts and see what lies to the East, to the South and to the West. It is Europe. We sit on the same continental shelf and are part of it. Act European. Marlborough did.

A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: a sellout at the Geneva Writers Group

October 23, 2012

My new book, A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE, sold out at a presentation to the Geneva Writers Group over the weekend – 31 sold in 20 minutes.

Readers’ comments:

Your mother seems a remarkable woman. It’s good to see a British book about Germany that takes a positive view! – Professor Sir Richard Evans FBA, University of Cambridge.

… and …

Not just good but brilliant.

One of the best books about Germany.

Eloquent, thought-provoking and remarkably reflective.

Unputdownable.

This book is unique … easy-to-read.

Highly recommended.

Illustrates history in a very readable way.

A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS, published by LBLA Digital,  is available through bookstores, Amazon, Kindle and the Apple I-Bookstore.

Carmen Bugan’s book on Romania – both heart-warming and spine-chilling

July 20, 2012

Carmen Bugan had an idyllic childhood in the Romanian countryside, relishing home-grown food, unspoilt nature, a benevolent climate and quaint old country customs. Her new book Burying the Typewriter in this respect reads like memoirs from elsewhere in Europe in the early 20th century.

Except that Carmen is in her early forties, and it comes as a shock to realise that this is Romania in the 1970s and 1980s – a land held back in cruel backwardness by the misguided tyranny of Nicolae Ceausescu. If electricity is scarce, that’s not because it has only just been invented. It’s because the regime cares nothing for the wellbeing of its people.

Shock number two comes as a teenager when Securitate police burst in on her when she’s alone at home, interrogate her for weeks, wire the house up with listening devices, come in and out at all times of the day and night, stop her going to school, and make her life a torment for year after year.

Unbeknown to the family, her father had paraded ostentatiously through the centre of Bucharest with protest banners against the communist regime. He was in prison, and the family from then on were pariahs. Only when the mother agreed to divorce her husband did the school allow Carmen to return to classes.

One or two people discreetly showed the family solidarity. But the majority of those around her had no scruples in ostracising them. So shock number three is that these collaborators in her persecution now carry passports of the European Union, despite having shamefully betraying the principles it stands for.

Carmen finally dared to contact the U.S. Embassy to ask for asylum for the family. As she crossed the square to the Embassy, Romanian guards converged to try to stop her while a female diplomat she’d alerted headed out of the gates to meet her. The diplomat reached her first. When she left to return home, the guards seized her and berated her as a treacherous whore. But the diplomat had told her she should say she was under the protection of the United States. It worked and they let her go.

Then followed emigration to the U.S. and scholarships to study at Oxford University. Surprise number four is how exquisitely Carmen writes. From her earliest youth, she immersed herself in the great authors of European literature. When the stress of persecution became intolerable, she wrote quatrains to relieve her despair.

Now, at little more than 40, she lives in Geneva with an Italian physicist husband and two small children. She has come far in a short time.

Burying the Typewriter is a masterpiece of refined expression and a moving story of the victory of light over darkness. Read it.

Russian editor heckled at Oxford University

May 20, 2012

A senior Russian editor attracted a large audience at Oxford University today to hear her view of Putin’s Russia as seen from London, but found herself harangued by a couple of Russians with decidedly anti-British and pro-Putin views.

Irina Demchenko, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and UK Bureau Chief of RIA Novosti news agency criticised anti-Putin coverage of British media as superficial. But she herself was clearly none too enthusiastic about the prospect of another 12 years of Putin either. “Maybe he will still be there when I am taking my teeth at night and putting them in a glass,” she remarked gloomily.

She recalls the collapse of Communism when she was 30, and the subsequent years when she and her peers put politics aside and devoted themselves to ensuring a good education for the children with the possibility to meet people from other nations.

Now the young Russian intellectuals (average age 31) are out on the streets against Putin demanding political reform. He needs them to modernise Russia, but they have gone into opposition against him. “The government can’t do anything with them, nor without them,” she says.

When it comes to questions, up jumps a Russian with a speech about how well Russia is doing, how viciously anti-Russian the British government is, and how British newspapers editors are given orders about coverage by MI6 – the spy agency.  What was the question? Not much. Shortly afterwards, another Russian in the audience delivered a similar diatribe.

The atmosphere grew a little tense, and one participant asked Irina if she felt at risk because of her views about Putin.

An apt question. The wild allegations and latent menace in the interventions of the two Russians reminded me of my time as a Reuters correspondent in East Berlin and Prague before Gorbachev. I asked a question too, for which I was berated by one of the visitors as “a Cold War dinosaur.”

When somebody asked them who they were, they replied that they were research fellows. Mmm.


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