Escape to Puerto Rico, Hunter S Thompson style

It’s the sort of reporting that makes you feel better.  Jason Booth’s almost poetic comentary on a recent trip to Puerto Rico inspired by Hunter S Thompson’s novel The Rum Diaries soothes over you, an effect due as much to its delivery as its content.

Retracing the steps of the fleeing Gonzo journalist, Booth escapes the media hubbub of New York for the white beaches of San Juan but finds that paradise isn’t as perfect as first impressions may seem.

The sense of a need to escape and the desire for adventure seems to have convinced Johnny Depp that the story was worth adapting for the silver screen.

An open invitation – journalism’s new futures

For the past year and a half I’ve been running a (more or less) monthly session where I gather together hot young talent working at the top levels of British journalism. The sessions are made up of journalists, producers and editors working in print, radio, television and online.

The ‘gatherings’ have ground to a halt after a got a little bit deluded by the sense that they’d turned into talking shops rather than the sort of events that inspired people to make a difference.

But I think I’m going to resurrect the concept later this month (venue in central London TBC) . All the doom and gloom that dominates the papers is really getting to me. There has to be another way or at least a more efficient way of fighting the decline in journalism that the commentators seem to be saying is inevitable.

So here’s an open invitation to the next event – let me know if you’re interested in coming along

Howdy all,

You’ve probably noticed that things have been a bit quite on the Gonzo front.

I got to the point where I felt it was time to stop talking and start doing but recent developments have me thinking the sessions should be resurrected (albeit in a slightly different format).

It seems like everything journalism related, from the events I’m attending, to the articles I’m reading to chats I’m having, is imbued with an impending sense of doom.

How about having a get together to brainstorm about positive outcomes in this seemingly gloomy environment?

This could take the form of anything from great story ideas that you might want to collaborate on, good places to pitch to if you’re looking to freelance viable alternatives to working for mainstream media organisations etc.

I’m imagining it as an event which by the end of it might just help us all to do something rather than just feeling like we’ve had a good debating session.

What do you think?


Boycott Buy a Newspaper Day

Don’t buy a newspaper, support online advertising instead!

2 February has set aside as Buy A Newspaper Day in the US.

Just last week, French president Nicholas Sarkozy announced a €600 million package to prop up France’s ailing newspaper industry.

The proposed measures include free newspaper subscription for 18 year-olds, paid partly by the government and partly by the publishers.

This is all utter madness! Why should taxpayers’ money be used to bailed out a flawed industry? What next? A bailout for porn too?

As one blogger wrote, in this split-second electronic communications age it can be argued that newspapers are relics from the “Stone Age” of news dissemination.

So rather than propping up a dead man walking, how about putting your pennies behind the potential offered by online journalism?

We’re not talking about the all-too prevalent rehashing of material that occurs on far too many news websites provide, but rather the sorts of publications that invest time, money and technology in creating original content, often in ground-breaking formats, online.

How can you make a difference? Support online advertising. Learn to love pop ups, click on links and sit through pre-rolls on videos.* You’re just one click away from making a difference!

*Other options are available

Katy Perry DID kiss a girl

Stop the presses, forget the credit crunch, dismiss concerns about global warming!

The breaking news story of the day? Californian songstress Katy Perry has admitted in a candid interview with OK magazine that she, yes, really did kiss a girl and, yes, she did like it.

What on earth is the world coming to when that counts as news (or when I think it makes for a decent blog post)?

From PA:

Katy Perry has revealed she really did kiss a girl – and liked it.

The 23-year-old old Californian musician’s single I Kissed A Girl has celebrated more than five million worldwide sales.

In an interview with OK! magazine, Perry was asked if she really had kissed a girl.

She replied: “Of course. I think I was 19. I kissed a girl and it was great.”

She said it went no further and she did not write the song about that one experience or a particular person.

She said: “Growing up I had a friend who, looking back, I think I had an obsessive little crush on her.

“I never kissed her but she was very beautiful and she was like a ballerina and I wanted to copy everything she did. But I think that was kind of the extent of it.”

She said her boyfriend understood the “tongue-in-cheek” aspect of the song.


Network news – inside the dragon’s den

Back on the day shift and the joys of the morning editorial meeting beckon.

Each morning at an hour long meeting takes place in which the programme editors of the news bulletins thrash out what news you the viewer will consume.

It’s a bit like the Roman gods; they decide what stories the correspondents will cover, where they’ll be deployed, how they’ll cover the story.

The meeting is an epic battle of the wills. The evening news editor will want to make sure that he doesn’t get shafted over by the night time news, which’ll probably have more time and a bigger budget to play with.

The foreign editor aims ensure his correspondents are kept happy by pushing for their stories from around the globe make on to air despite the current obsession for economic navel gazing or the latest round in the spat between Madge and Guy.

And the editor in chief needs to ensure that the day’s offering attracts as many viewers as possible.

A bit of a giggle

I personally find them hilarious. At our channel much of the discussion has more to do with the logistics of deploying limited resources rather than journalism per se.

Yet the presence of wit, irony and sarcasm so early in the morning makes it difficult to keep a straight face.

I would divulge some of anecdotes here but maybe they’re of the ‘you had to be there’ kind. Also I might end up getting sacked for it… which on second thoughts is probably a great reason to start posting.

Even online advertising is doomed

In the second quarter of 2008, the online revenue of the Newspaper Association of America was down 2.4 per cent compared with last year, to $777 million.

This is the first year-over-year drop since the group began measuring online revenue in 2003.

Maybe it’s time to bail on the media game in the UK and start farming cocoa and nutmeg with my grandfather in the Caribbean!

Journalism in global crisis

Following on from my post yesterday, the issue of a journalistic crisis appears to be as much of as an ongoing story as the financial crisis.

In today’s Corriere della Sera, Marco Pratellesi, editor in chief of Corriere online, blogs about Italian journalists suffering from a cultural crisis and a rupture between generations. Apparently the same issues are rocking French newspapers too.

Sarah Palin, former journalism student, can’t name a national newspaper?

Sarah, Sarah. You sure do give journalism students a bad name! How can you not be able name at least one newspaper that you read on a daily basis? At least lie and mention the one paper’s website you come across while surfing Google News.
I don’t want to diss Palin on the grounds of her religious beliefs which colour her views on abortion and homosexuality, her apparent lack of foreign policy inexperience, the fact that her daughter wipes spit on her little brothers hair, or because of her penchant for mooseburgers… but she is beyond square.




Reuters Journalism Fellowship, Oxford

Enough of these frivolous postings Zoe!

To redress the balance between the vacuous and the worthy, here’s the text behind an address I made last Saturday at the Reuters Journalism Fellowship Programme’s 25th anniversary event at Oxford University.

I took part in a Moral Maze style debate (yes there is more to be than blogging about boys). The topic was “Good journalism is in crisis“. I was on a a team alongside Charlie Beckett, Mehdi Hassan and Bill Dutton that opposed the motion.

Not the easy call that you’d imagine, is there is much to lament about the current state of British journalism. But ultimately I’m optimistic… anyway, enough rambling from me. Below are my thoughts.











Firstly, I take issue with the question. The suggestion that journalism is NOW in crisis implies there was a time when all was well and good.

I admit my daily experience of our trade is a far cry from the exploits of those who inspired me like Hunter S Thomson, Joan Didion and Harold Evans.

But I’ve read Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and you can call it the arrogance of youth but really I don’t believe there ever was a Golden Age of journalism.

If there WAS ever a time for journalism to sit on its laurels and feel contented with itself, surely THAT was the moment when it needed to engage in a bit of introspection.

A trade that consists of people who ask questions for a living is always going to go through changes.

The advent of commercial television broadcasting, Murdoch’s moves at Wapping and the boom in 24-hour news are all examples of the seismic changes journalism has gone through over the past century.

These testing times are not crises, they’re opportunities that, when embraced, force journalism to raise its game.

“New media is killing journalism” was the plainly hysterical title of a World Press Freedom day debate that I thankfully missed earlier this year.

But as reporter at Press Gazette I did sit through my fair share of hand-wringing lectures on how the internet has stuck the knife into the heart of journalism.

It’s wrong to blame the internet for our woes. It’s the democratising potential the web offers to journalism that keeps me in this trade.


In 1960 journalist AJ Liebling said – “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own it”. 

That potential liberty is now within reach of the masses, anyone can with access to a computer can publish content.

But this reality, which I personally find exciting, shouldn’t cause journalism to have a nervous breakdown.


Journalism is not in crisis, rather the public has sent us to sit on the naughty step.

Instead of indignantly stamping our feet and wailing about how unfair it all is, we should use it as an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes, embrace new opportunities and ditch some of our unacceptable behaviours.

It’s serves no purpose to be resentful that users are deserting what we’ve traditionally sold to them.

If they’re not distinguishing between ‘Journalism’ and ‘Content’ we must focus on the message as much as the medium.

The public remember our failings over WMDs, the controversies over Hutton, the New York Times’ Jayson Blair incident and allegations of TV fakery in Britain.

The old order of journalism has many questions it has to answer.


The digital revolution is a phrase that I’ve long loathed. But the more I think about this question, the closer I come to the conclusion that this is what we’re going through.

Whether a revolution appears as a crisis depends on where you’re standing.

For the bourgeoisie, the French revolution was a crisis, for the disadvantaged, it was an opportunity to change the status quo.

 Similarly while it may be a catastrophe for some older correspondents who take issue at the idea of having to blog, or self-edit their packages on Avid, for skilled young journalists who been cutting video they’ve shot on their mobiles for years, new technology offers another medium to tell great stories.

We ARE in a new age.  And it’s not going to be the last challenge we face.

But good journalism is not in crisis. This period of self-assessment we’re in has seen the rise of a much needed academic assessment of our trade.

Combined with the process of trial and error with new media I’m convinced this will lead to a much needed maturity in journalism that will help distinguish GOOD journalism from the masses of content that is on offer.

Quality will always be at a premium.