Media control in Kenya… Not quite so successful.

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Back in December, it was announced the Kenyan parliament would have control over the television cameras covering the house.

The new rules propose control not only the angle of the shot, but what was actually shown, as all parliamentary broadcasts would go through a new Parliamentary Broadcast Unit (PBU).

There is no doubt, as the secretary general of the Journalists Association in Kenya (JAK), Martin Gitau, quite rightly said, this is an infringement on the freedom of the press.

However, one wonders how successful this proposed infringement will be. After all, the current Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, seems to be having a little trouble controlling his own wife’s mouth, let alone the entirety of the free press.

The president’s wife, Lucy Kibaki, has expressed outrage in the wake of a fire which killed 120 people last Saturday. This would probably be fine in itself, but her sentiments are in exact opposition to those of her 77-year-old husband.

The row erupted over a statement by Minister for Security, George Saitoti, in which he claimed the death toll was worsened by poor Kenyans scrabbling for the spilt oil and, therefore, they needed to learn a lesson. While President Kibaki has come out in support of his minister, his wife clearly had other ideas.

The First Lady asked: “How can dead people learn a lesson?”.

It is a valid point. The rant continued: “If it was a woman in the ministry of internal security, she would have stopped these accidents.”

As a woman, I feel this is yet another valid point.

There are numerous questions which can be raised from these events: the safety of the tankers, why some are so poverty-stricken they throw themselves into danger for the possibilty of a little money and how on earth someone with so little feeling for his people has been elected to serve his country. But I feel the most important question needs to be: will Michelle Obama ever be called to do this?

Capturing Cardiff: How Howells changed Cardiff

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Howells Department Store, St Mary's Street, Cardiff

Howells Department Store, St Mary's Street, Cardiff

The 967,500 square feet of Cardiff’s newest shopping centre must be quaking in their boots.If there was ever a time not to be building an American style mall, now is it. However, slowly but surely, St David’s 2 is rising from the ground in the Hayes. Its investors must be wondering if this is the biggest mistake they’ve ever had the misfortune to make.
After all, how do you fill 90 new units when Cardiff is struggling to fill those already in existence?
For lessons on how to survive, St David’s 2 doesn’t have to look far. Just across from the mess of scaffolding, one of Cardiff’s oldest shops stands proudly commanding the same block of land it has owned for a hundred years.
It has survived two world wars, a great depression and the decline of the department store.
Howells is the original St David’s 2: not only did it change the way Cardiff residents shopped, it changed the way Cardiff looked.

James Howell, the department stores founder, would achieve the kind of domination of Cardiff’s shopping scene – as well as Cardiff’s actual landscape – St David’s 2 will attempt to when it opens in 2009.
Unlike St David’s 2, however, which is being put up in one decisive movement, Howell’s grew almost organically and over many years, acquiring more space as and when it was needed.
The department store – which now covers an area of 150,000 square feet – started out as a small drapers shop in the Hayes. Within two years, the ambitious Mr Howell had made enough money to move to more auspicious premises at 13 St Mary’s Street, and he didn’t stop there.

Howell started to buy up all the properties in the row: all tall, narrow buildings with shops at the bottom and accommodation at the top. Later, he would place a façade over the fronts of all these buildings – one of which had been a bank – to help give a sense of unity to the store.
Mr Howell’s early success seems to have been down to his novel way of doing business: he didn’t like to give credit. Gareth Glover, manager of Howell’s food hall and in-store historian, explains: “His idea was to not allowing his gentrified customers to buy on tic, but to actually make them pay hard cash for it. All his competitors were offering tic and therefore had all their money tied up in their bank accounts of their clients but didn’t have any money to turn over stock.”

Howells silk department

Howells silk department

This meant Howells, unlike his competitors, would always have the latest stock in store, making it the most fashionable store in Cardiff.
However, Howell soon found his St Mary’s Street expansion plans blocked: on the corner, the Armoury was not yet for sale, and in between, the Bethany Chapel was still a working church.
Not one to be put off, Howell looked behind for more space: in particular, to the brewery which ran along what we now know as Trinity Street.
“By buying that brewery he was able to open up the whole back area and make a rectangular-shaped building for himself,” says Gareth, “It also gave him a point at which he could make deliveries.”

Howell also started the painstaking process of buying the tenements which ran alongside the building as and when they became available, removing from the city centre accommodation which St David’s 2 would try to replace a hundred years later.

In the midst of all this change, the church continued to work while the department store grew up around it, accessed by a gap between the shop and the armoury, which had now also been bought by Howell. When the chapel was eventually sold and deconsecrated, the building simply absorbed it: it now houses women’s shoes and underwear.

Howells Department Store: What was there before?



After Howells death in 1909, the store passed to his children. By 1972, however, the great Victorian department stores were a dying breed. But Howells was rescued by Fraser and Sons Ltd., and as such has been trading as a branch of House of Fraser for almost 40 years.
This year, though, Howells biggest threat for decades opens: John Lewis. A major revamp is on the cards, but they remain confident. Speaking to the South Wales Echo in July, promotion and public relations manager Siobhan Stephens said: “We were always known as Wales’ premium department store, like the Harrods of Wales…We will be aiming for that title again.”

Gareth is similarly unworried: “If anything, we see it as healthy competition.”

And, if previous form is anything to go by, that’s all it will be.

Gareth Glover talking about Howells

Adolf Hitler is turning 3…

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Adolf Hitler turned three this week.

Yes, Adolf Hitler Campbell, of Holland Township, New Jersey, brother of JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell (I wish I was joking), turned three and was (shockingly!!) refused a cake with his name on it.

His parents were outraged. How dare the supermarket baker refuse a completely reasonable request? How dare they!!

Well, what can I say. I’m truly shocked. Thank God Walmart (supposedly – I read it somewhere but it may be a lie, so don’t quote me) stepped in and provided the cake.

The entire world has gone barmy.

In the Express-Times editors blog, Joe Owens points out ‘stupid is as stupid does‘. So true.

One wonders what kind of life these children will have? In the comments following the article, someone points out the children will be bullied when they reach school. Another is quick to point out it is probable the children will be home-schooled, thereby avoiding the bullying, but then – surely – also meaning the children don’t have a hope in hell of growing up with a normal, balanced perspective.

This would be a travesty.

In New Zealand, a nine-year-old girl was taken into custody because her name – “Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii” – was considered to amount to the same thing as child abuse. As someone who has lived with the indignity of ‘Flora’ her entire life* – which is not even in vaguely the same ballpark of bad – I would have to agree. I would also suggest naming a child Adolf Hitler amounts to pretty much the same thing.

Authorities in New Zealand have said they have the power to stop children being given stupid names. Names such as ‘Fish and Chips’ have already been rejected (and hopefully the child taken away from the clearly incompetent/intoxicated parent).

So why, I ask, was someone allowed to name their child Adolf Hitler? In full no less. I could see an ‘Adolf’ getting through maybe (although I would imagine it is not in the “ten most popular names for baby boys 2008”), but the whole name? And ‘Aryan Nation’? Perhaps the question needs to be not how could the parents have called their children this – as, in the words of Owens, stupid is as stupid does – but who on earth signed off the birth certificates?

* No, I am not a margarine and I am not spreadable or any of the things you may be thinking of. My mother defends her choice of name by explaining she did not think Flora Margarine, a fairly new brand at the time of my birth, would survive for that long. This would indicate a level of understanding the complexity of margarine sales which I am pretty sure she has never had any knowledge of whatsoever.

Do I need to be nanny-d through my TV?

It is a widely accepted fact that Christmas is the time to be jolly and merry. Widely accepted by all, that is, apart from the British government apparently, who keep trying to put me off my tea.

The current road safety advertisement is the bane of my life. Seriously. I do not like blood and I do not like guts. Being told about some poor blokes rib cage piercing his heart in graphic detail is not my idea of a jolly time. I have had to resort to closing both my eyes and singing at the top of my voice throughout the minute or so the advert plays.

And the worse thing is I wear my seat belt. Every sodding time. The advert has absolutely no relevance to me whatsoever and yet persists in spoiling my dinner.

But I’ve gotten wise to it. I recognise the opening few seconds of the advert. Sometimes, I even manage to change the channel in the nick of time.

But the government was not done with me yet.

Nope, a few days ago I heard the familiar voice of the chubby one from Peep Show coming from the TV box. He makes me laugh, so I focus whilst munching on my spag bol.

Needless to say, it was a rookie mistake. The soothing, comic voice of David Mitchell is actually the rather upset voice of a dog whose insides are spilling out onto the television screen in front of me. What’s worse, the dog’s insides are rather reminiscent of the spag bol on my plate. I think I could forgive it if it was an advert against animal cruelty, but no. It is an advert informing people of the general nastiness of cocaine.

Now, at the risk of sounding very very uncool, I have never, ever taken cocaine or any related substance. So, once again, my dinner has been totally ruined by an advert which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to my life.

And then today, what do I see as I ate my savoury pancake? A man drinking his coffee and reading his newspaper. Lovely. A past-time I can relate to. I like reading the paper and drinking coffee. So far, so good.

Until the voice-over goes into vivid detail regarding the fate of this particular cup of coffee, which is destined to give some unsuspecting toddler third degree burns or some such. And whilst I may enjoy reading a paper and drinking my cup of coffee, I do not have a child and so am putting no small person in danger.

Yet the government persists in making me sit through this.

Frankly, in all three cases, only a complete and utter numbskull would not know these were the likely consequences of their actions. Why do I need the government to tell me not to do things which, in all honesty, I should have enough bloody common sense to do in the first place? And, most of all, how much money is being spent on ruining my dinner every night?

I am slightly irate.

Did Twitter come of age in the Mumbai shootings?

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courtesy of e-strategyblog.com

courtesy of e-strategyblog.com

It was rumoured Twitter had broken the Mumbai shooting stories in the days following the attacks.

No, it didn’t, says Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC‘s technology correspondent and all-round technology lover. It was tweeted pretty damn fast, yes, but broken, no.

I have to admit, I’m not surprised. Your average Joe on the streets, witnessing crazed, cocaine-fueled boys shooting apparently indiscriminately at the general public, is not – and I repeat not – going to stop and send a quick text to Twitter to alert the world to their imminent demise. No, they’re going to run like hell in the other direction and hope to God their demise is not imminent.

This is a perfectly natural reaction: I defy anyone who is faced with a life-threatening situation not to run like hell. If they are going to use their phone, it is going to be so they can call their family to let them know a) they are OK or b) they are about to die. I know this for a fact because I have a friend who witnessed the bus exploding on 7/7. Her instinct was – in this order – run like she’d never run before and then call her dad whilst continuing to run like she’d never run before. She didn’t think to photograph the bus, or the bodies, or anything and, if Twitter had existed, I can pretty much guarantee she wouldn’t have tweeted either*. She didn’t care.

Frankly, only journalists are dumb enough to head towards crazed gunmen** or towards exploding buses through choice, and it would only occur to a journalist to send a text to Twitter, alerting the world of said crazed gunman (and even then, I question whether it might be a bit faster to give newsdesk a quick call. After all, you can never be entirely sure a text has gone through).

No, breaking the news was not for Twitter. The real groundbreaking moment for Twitter was after the initial confusion, when the gunshots have died down a little and some sense of cohesion has been regained.

The BBC started to run tweets alongside its coverage of the Mumbai crisis. Not journalists tweets, but “citizen” tweets. This was citizen journalism working – perhaps for the first time – in a major news event. The citizen journalism in itself was exciting. The use of Twitter was more so. After all, who had heard of “micro-blogging” a few months ago?

But it was problematic. The BBC ran tweets without checking their facts. As The Independent’s Tom Sutcliffe points out, the tweeters had no need to worry about accuracy or truth: “They’ll pass on rumour as readily as fact, and there’s absolutely no way of telling which is which.”

The BBC was forced into making an apology of sorts. It is a trusted source of news for millions: it cannot afford to make mistakes. Tweets, to a large extent, seem to equal mistakes.

Mumbai has certainly raised the general awareness of Twitter. In that way, it came of age. But then again, I don’t think it was overly hard to do. Outside of the world of the journo, not many have heard of Twitter.

Yet again, it seems to me it is the journalists not the public who are getting a little over-excited about this new technology which is going to “democratise” the media. Could Mumbai have been the start? Maybe. But journalists have to remember one thing: no one is as preoccupied with accuracy, truth and breaking the news as a journalist.

* Furthermore, in situations of the magnitude of 9/11 or 7/7 the networks usually go down so Twitter would be rendered pretty useless

**Police and army and firemen head towards crazed gunman too, I admit, but that’s part of their job description so they kind of have to

The death of a stereotype?

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Courtesy of Draxus

Courtesy of Draxus

One of the certainties of my life is this: if I were to go to my aunt’s house on a Sunday morning, my uncle would be sitting with the Observer at the kitchen table.

If I were to turn up and the paper were not on the table or – God forbid – a different paper were in the place of the aforementioned Observer, I think it would herald my last moments on earth before I died of shock.

There are some things you just don’t mess with.

My uncle is a Guardian reader. This says stuff about him. My grandpa reads The Telegraph. This says stuff about him too. It certainly says different stuff about them though.

But I am concerned: my uncle, recently retired, has a laptop. With internet abilities. He could, if he so chose, begin making his way into the murky world of internet news. Not only would this be cheaper, but would mean he could ‘branch out’. With no monetary cost to himself, he could read The Independent on a whim. Or gather his international news from The New York Times. Or he could even begin getting his sport from The Telegraph, which, frankly, pushes him into grandpa territory and I think that might be a step too far. (I have no worries about my grandpa doing anything as ludicrous as all this – he still can’t work the video machine. I think, at 88, he is quite happy to read his Telegraph at the breakfast table like a good stereotyped grandpa should.)

The paper people buy says a lot about them, but with the advent of online newspapers almost fifteen years ago one has to wonder whether in the future depicting someone as a Guardian or a Telegraph reader will mean nothing. After all, Shane Richmond asserts, audiences will read or watch whatever is the most convenient to them at the time.

The editors have had to face facts: (print) newspaper readership has fallen by five million in the past 15 years (interestingly, about the same amount of time newspapers have been online), according to a study released in 2007. Online readership is rising though, leaving editors to fight a battle for loyalty on a new medium.

But how to do this? It’s not easy.

In June 2008, the six biggest UK newspapers recorded around 95 million hits, of which 19.6 million came from the UK.

The report showed half of British users stayed loyal to one website, but that leaves almost 10 million readers floating about willy-nilly. This, quite frankly, is not good for business.

Courtesy of Peter de Wit

Courtesy of Peter de Wit

In the online world, ‘hits’ mean money – advertising money. So, if a paper has a loyal reader who checks the headlines once a day, good. But if they don’t have a loyal reader – and remember there are 10 million dis-loyal readers out there – they might only get said reader once a week. Not good.

Editors are faced with the problem of how to a) attract readers to a website and b) keep them there. Attracting readers seems to be done via search engine optimisation (SEO), – also known as the death of the witty headline. There is much to be said on this topic, but not today. B) is the focus for this week: keeping them there.

The Telegraph (whose newsroom, by the way, is very pretty and very high-tech) has created My Telegraph in a bid to keep their readers loyal. And it’s a clever idea: essentially, it has become a meeting place for Telegraph readers to share ideas and thoughts. If anything, this is going to make them more loyal by reinforcing their own ideals. Plus, the interactive side of things keeps people coming back – it’s the feeling of being needed and being involved. People like it.

Other websites have started similar things – the Guardian’s Comment is Free, or the BBC’s Have Your Say section. Both are very successful. Both have a loyal following. One wonders: is this perhaps what will create a new loyalty?

Perhaps the stereotype will not die. Perhaps it will just be created differently. Perhaps, when I have children and I bring them to my sisters’ houses, they will become used to the sight of uncle wotsit scanning his blog on the Guardian. Perhaps it will become one of the certainties in their lives.

Who knows.

The New Media Revolution: Could history repeat itself?

It is amazing to think a few blocks of wood would lead to the destruction of one of the most powerful organisations in history, but it did. Before the invention of the (European) printing press in 1440*, the creation of books had pretty much been the preserve of the Catholic Church and this, well, it gave them a hell of a lot of power. Not a lot of people owned books in the Middle Ages at the height of the Churches control. They were expensive and rare because they took so much time – and expertise – to make, the result of which being if the Catholic Church said “do this otherwise you will spend the rest of all eternity going hot and cold“, the general populace did it, because no one** had the chance to read the Bible closely enough to question it and no one wanted to risk being very hot or very cold. But then – tadaa! – the printing press arrived and more and more people got their own Bible. Plus, now it was in a language they could understand instead of one that had died out around the same time as the Roman Empire. Yay! And it turned out the general populace didn’t always agree with the Catholic Church’s way of seeing things. It also turned out the printing press had given them a voice more easily heard. So religious dissenters began printing off leaflets full of ideas about the “actual” meaning of the Bible. And people read them. And then, as they say, the rest is history (I recommend a quick A-level in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries if you’re not sure what happened next. A quick clue: Protestants, America, divorce. Wikipedia will probably do too). All this proved information is power, as is the ability to communicate, a lesson still held in high regard by dictators today. Control of the media must be number one or two on any would-be dictators list of “things to do”. (China has kept the media on a tight leash since 1949 and Mugabe certainly understands the need to keep journalists under his regimes thumb.) But how do you keep the media under control when anyone can be the media? With information more freely available than ever before, how long can these dictators really hold sway? If a few blocks of wood hundreds of years ago could bring down an organisation on the scale of which and with control of which we have not seen since, what is to stop this new media revolution having a similar effect? All you need nowadays is a mobile phone and an internet connection and within seconds, the whole world could see what you’re seeing. When the media could be anyone in the crowd, what do you do about it? Of course, the Chinese government are trying to control the internet (google.cn is censored) but surely, even the Chinese government, as big as it is, couldn’t censor the whole internet? After all, there are more than 108 million websites and growing. It would take a hell of a lot of time to check them all. So what’s to say this media revolution couldn’t have as profound and long lasting an effect as the media revolution in the 15th century? As the saying goes: history has a way of repeating itself. *The first printing presses were made in China 400 years earlier. ** Apart from the elite and church officials and, frankly, they seemed pretty happy with the power they had already and weren’t overly willing to upset the balance.

Britain has found its morality – and what a questionable one it is

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Britain has found its voice! We have spoken out against the disgusting, shocking, terrible, awful, disgusting again and disgraceful misuse of the public’s money by a certain Ross and a certain Brand. It is clear this was the worst thing to ever happen in the whole entirety of history.

Or at least was, until last Saturday, when something far, far worse happened.

Yes, dear reader, I am referring to the abominable miscarriage of justice that was Laura White’s eviction* from prime time show X-Factor.

After all, it must be worse than Brand and Ross considering in the region of 12,000 more people have complained in a shorter space of time.

Somewhere in the region of 37,500 people complained to the BBC over the course of two weeks or so about the prank phone calls to Andrew Sachs, whilst 50,000 have complained in less than a week about Miss White being voted off the talent contest.

Yes, Britain must fight for the underdog! A little old man who is being terrorised by two big bullies whose pay packet is too big (but, of course, we’re not jealous. At all.). A girl on the X-Factor who so deserves her chance to be famous and spend her time going to the openings of letters…

Before you get angry and indignant with my trivilisation of the Sachs debacle, give me a chance to explain. Yes, what was said was bad and made me uncomfortable. But I ask you to consider the fact only two complaints were made at the time of broadcast, which means Brand’s other 400,000 odd listeners weren’t overly bothered. So who was complaining? People who listened to the show after being told what was said.

Am I the only one who thinks this may be akin to looking at a car crash when you know someone has been badly hurt? Seems to me, people love a witch hunt.

And let’s not forget people have lost their jobs over this. Not just Brand, who has other successful sidelines to keep him going, but Lesley Douglas, Radio 2 controller, and David Barber, head of specialist music and compliance. These are hard working people who have been brought down in the hunt for Brand’s head.

I don’t think I’m alone in being outraged for these people. At least, I hope not.

No one is going to loose their job over Miss White’s booting off of X-Factor. In the long term, the only effect will be higher ratings this week. Woop woop for Cowell.

People seem to forget the X-Factor is a game show. What was done may have been tactical, but isn’t that the point of games? To win through any means possible. I know I take that view when I play Monopoly.

I feel the need to reiterate: 50,000 people have complained. 50,000! About something that really makes no difference to anything. Because people, relax, if she’s any good, she’ll get a record contract and probably be more successful than the winner (who the hell won last year, I ask you?).

I am not impressed.

* that may be Big Brother lingo. Sorry, will try harder to keep up to date with my reality tv jargon in future.

Perez Hilton: A blogging master of new media

When someone talks to me about blogs, my mind does not immediately think of The Guardian or the BBC or even The Times. No, my mind thinks “Perez Hilton” (which frankly says quite a lot about me, and I’m not sure it’s that positive) – a man who has become a brand and has done so frighteningly successfully (the blog is currently rated the sixth most popular blog on the web, only just behind the Huffington Post). And when you consider Adam Tinworth‘s “hierarchy of interesting” , which puts a link at the bottom, followed by a photo, a video, content, discussion and opinion at its pinacle, it’s not hard to see why.

I was an avid reader of gossip magazines until, about three years ago, I discovered the gossip website The Superficial.com (currently the fourth most popular celeb blog). It was free, so I could laugh at the stars without makeup/with cellulite/with bad hair/with bad clothes as much as I wanted without paying a pound or thereabouts for the privilege, making me one of the many who abandoned print media for the Internet. Perhaps a questionable move for someone who wants to be a journalist working in print, but hey, I was a student at the time with very little disposable income. Fact of the matter was, I was already paying for the Internet.

In time, I grew bored of this website – it simply did not have enough content to keep me interested (ah yes, I was the picky audience all newspapers hate…). It was around the time the buzz about PerezHilton.com started, so I tired it out. Perez, real name Mario Lavandeira, seemed to have insider knowledge The Superficial did not have and broke stories more regularly – a key factor to keep a web audience happy.

So, I started reading PerezHilton, presuming, rather like with The Superficial, I would lose interest when the next big thing came along.

But it hasn’t happened, because, in my opinion, Perez is something of a master of new media.

In 2005, Perez was essentially a pretty simple blog: pictures (many drawn on with willies and such like) with a story below. You could comment. For the record, I never have.

And then something new happened, almost without my noticing. More and more videos (usually taken from YouTube) popped up in place of pictures. I liked this, so I stayed (it would eventually lead to a slight obsession with The View. Trust me when I say it was high drama). Later, he would go further and create PerezTV after a rather large falling out with YouTube.I suppose around the same time he began promoting artists he liked through posting their songs and saying ‘listen’. It’s a good deal for all sides: the singer gets a nice bit of publicity, Perez potentially gets an interview and the reader gets to hear the song, possibly before it has gone on general release.

Courtesy of Pena2
Courtesy of Pena2

And I’m not sure when this happened, but links began appearing more frequently to stories on other sites, meaning he was almost working as an aggregator.

Perez’s most recent use of new media are his blog casts, enabling him to chat directly to his readers and giving the reader exclusive celebrity interviews (through PerezTV). And we all know how important an exclusive is…

And these are only the basics found on the website: he makes regular television appearances, has columns in magazines, was a host for the MTV Europe Video Awards and even has parties across the States where he is the star attraction. All this has given him with considerable influence not just over over the celeb-o-sphere but increasingly over other matters (just look at all the posts discussing the recent Prop 8 vote in California). God only knows what’s next. Just like the online revolution, he shows no sign of stopping.

Perez is the best example of what can be done through blogs and why (and how!) they need to be embraced by old print outlets. He has taken a niche market and has captured an audience by keeping his blog constantly fresh by being the first – both in terms of the information he is putting out there and the platforms he is using to do it. And, as advertisers can pay as much as $40,000 for one days advertising on the site, he’s making a lot of money doing it .

Scientology v Panorama: The public bite back!

There is something slightly ironic about Scientology, a religion that likes to conduct its business behind closed doors, using one of the most visited websites in the world, YouTube, to create what can only be described as a media furore.

You have to hand it to them, the whole thing was a very clever piece of media manipulation. But then again, for such a private religion (and I am struggling not to put that word in quotation marks), Scientology has always used clever media manipulation. L. Ron Hubbard, inventor of the religion, knew he needed to recruit people to his church who had a high profile as far back as the 1950s. Celebrities becoming involved in the controversial religion gave it two things: a lot of advertising and a certain credibility amongst the masses.

The churches use of YouTube, one of the forms being heralded as a great democratiser of the media, falls in line with this media savvy attitude. Perhaps unlike a few years ago, it gave the church a chance to attack before they were attacked. It raised questions about the, well, sanity of the BBC’s journalist John Sweeney. By releasing the video above less than 24 hours before his documentary, Scientology and Me, was due to be aired it ensured that people would watch it with the preconcieved notion that The Church of Scientology was being attacked.

To a certain extent I am sure it worked. I am also sure it boosted the Panorama ratings for that Monday night. In a way, this made it a win-win situation. Well, maybe.

However, for journalism the Panorama-Scientology debacle raises some interesting dilemmas. Subjects of documentaries, articles etc no longer have to go through the media to defend themselves. They now have the ability to use attack as the greatest form of defence on their own terms, even before journalists manage to publish the offending article.

So what do the journalists of today have to do to defend themselves? In my opinion, we will have to make sure that our reporting is more accurate, more balanced and more truthful than ever before because then it will be able to stand up to an onslaught from a media savvy subject. And if it doesn’t? Well, perhaps that means you didn’t do the best, most balanced, most accurate or most truthful reporting you could have. And if you didn’t, then the subject deserves to be heard.

But then again, the subject deserves to be heard anyway. Everyone is entitled to their side of the story and the public is entitled to hear both sides of the story. So maybe we will have to work a little bit harder to make sure we are believed and that we are truthful, but surely we should have been doing that all along?

p.s. In the interests of balance, below follows a video demonstrating how Sweeney was pushed to the yelling: