Category Archives: Projects

More on The New Journalist

This is just a quick message to all those taking an interest in The New Journalist project. Things are progressing well, a good range of writers have been in touch and the website coding has been completed. The project is now waiting for the following:

  • Completion of the website – mainly installing widgets, setting up profiles for writers and so forth
  • Completion of the various codes of conduct covering the website
  • Collation of enough content to launch – and enough content to keep the website updated for a few days at least whilst it gets settled.

If you can please spread the word, follow The New Journalist on Twitter and obviously get in touch if you would like to be involved. Click here for full details.

New Journalism project

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably know that I have created a new website called ‘The New Journalist’ and that I’m looking for writers and contributors.

The basic idea is this: I have blogged about the terrible state of the UK media for a few years now and whilst I do believe that this is a worthwhile pursuit, I also acknowledge that it is also never really going to make any real difference in the way that the mainstream media functions. I have therefore decided rather than just criticise the current state of a lot of media output, I would actually create a platform for young or aspiring writers to get their views into the public sphere to counter the increasingly dishonest and irrational content currently inflicted upon us by large swathes of the media.

Whilst many individuals may have a blog or want to start one, few people can properly afford the time and effort to build up a readership and many good writers often fall by the wayside because of this. What The New Journalist aims to do is offer them a well publicised shared platform to which they can make the occasional contribution, allowing them more time to research the topic that interests them and put together an article that they can be proud of [avoiding the late-night rushed blogging that so many of us suffer from].

I want to give a platform to younger writers in particular because so often they bear the brunt of negative media portrayals or indeed political decisions without necessarily having any real right of reply.

I have built the site on a spare domain somewhere ready for activation, I now just need writers to provide the site with some content. You can write about anything really because this is never going to attempt to be a news site [impossible given the constraints], but rather more considered articles on contemporary matters – or articles on topics of interest that are not covered by our throwaway news industry. General categories will be:

  • Arts & Culture
  • Education
  • Science
  • Environment
  • Business
  • Politics
  • Life
  • Technology
  • Human rights
  • Technology
  • Health
  • Essays

Here is what I expect from contributors [some of these adapted from NUJ code of conduct for journalists]:

  1. All contributions should be as accurate as possible. This includes hyper-linking to all online sources used and referencing all other offline sources of information using endnotes.
  2. All information disseminated should be honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
  3. Opinion pieces should clearly be marked as such, and should not contain any confusion between fact and opinion when creating an argument.
  4. Any information within the article must be obtained by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means.
  5. Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.
  6. Avoids plagiarism.

Furthermore, contributors should notify the editor as soon as possible if they spot any mistakes in their article/s or would like to add any form of clarification.

The editor reserves the right to publish only the articles that meet this criteria.

If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor, please email editor AT thenewjournalist.co.uk with details on yourself, what you are interested in writing about and preferably an article. All articles will be edited if needed before publication and for the time being no payment can be offered. What I do hope to offer budding writers is the chance for their work to receive a decent amount of readers from day one.

thenewjournalist.co.uk does exist but is currently just a holding page. The website will be launched as soon as a team of writers are in place. I made a resolution that in 2012 I would get my projects going, and this is the main one, but it cannot succeed without your help. Please spread the word, follow The New Journalist on Twitter and visit the new site when it is launched.

Lofty Visions, Rarely Shared

In Wales the Heads of the Valleys communities face a range of problems:

  • a declining population (9% decline over the 21 years to 2002)
  • high levels of economic inactivity (in 2004 30.7% of people of working age were economically inactive, whilst the unemployment rate was 7%)
  • low educational attainment and skills levels (in 2004 24% of people of working age had no qualifications)
  • low quality of jobs and opportunities
  • a high incidence of long term health problems (in 2004 36% of people of working age had a long term health problem)
  • an unfavourable image – the Valleys are typically associated with crime, underage pregnancy and drug abuse
  • deprivation, a lack of quality housing and poorly equipped town centres
  • limited transport and telecommunications links in some areas
  • poor maintenance and management of key natural resources and historic assets

In the recent election Blaenau Gwent – the county which contains the Heads of Valleys communities – had a massive swing from an independent candidate to Labour, but more interesting was the 1,211 votes for the BNP and a further 488 voters choosing UKIP. You might argue that the above social and economic problems highlight perfectly the dissatisfaction with being part of Europe and the media narrative that local communities are being left to rot whilst the state pursues an agenda of diversity and multiculturalism.

However, Blaenau Gwent is hardly touched by immigration, with 92% of residents born in Wales (the highest of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the area having been born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population is also just as insignificant, standing at less than 1% of the population, lower than the overall figure for Wales which is a piffling 2%.

As research has shown, the BNP gets significantly less support in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. The media narrative that dehumanises immigrants is less likely to be effective in areas where readers actually have human contact with immigrants (i.e. they clearly see that immigrants are human beings). Whilst the same media narratives are effective in areas like Blaenau Gwent because the local population has little or no access to immigrants as human beings, they are merely a bogeyman that they read about.

The research suggested the primary drivers for BNP support were socio-economical and lack of access to immigrants, which would support perfectly Blaenau Gwent being a likely place for BNP to attract support.

However, in terms of what is being done to try and help the Heads of the Valleys communities, this economic driver seems born out of ignorance. In 2006 the Welsh Assembly Government published ‘Turning Heads‘ a document which outlined the plans to revitalise the area. This report estimated that the area was already receiving £1billion from central and local government and a further special funding budget of £140million had been made available over the 15 year lifetime of the project. The project aimed to get at least a further £360million of investment from the private sector over the life of the programme.

The project has already re-opened a railway line from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff via a range of other towns which is both frequent and cheap – ideal for commuters working in Cardiff and wanting cheap housing. It has also created excellent road links to Cardiff and improved links both East and West. The five Valleys local authorities will have invested £0.6billion in the social housing stock by 2012.

Ebbw Vale is receiving a new ‘Learning Campus’ incorporating local sixth forms, the Ebbw Vale campus of COleg Gwent and HE courses will be run by Glamorgan and Newport universities. This new campus is situated next to a new hospital and other new developments on the site of an old steel works. Town centres are being renovated and pieces of art are being distributed, with the vision being that these towns make perfect weekend breaks, situated as they are at the edge of Brecon national park.

The vision is ambitious, the aims are noble and the money being spent is immense – particularly considering the current financial climate. Yet even when the area is a beneficiary of the European Social Fund you still get over 1,600 votes for parties who want to leave the EU. Even when this 99% white, 92% born in Wales population has billions of pounds spent on it you still get 1,600 votes for explicitly racist parties who campaign on the platform that the ‘white man’ is neglected.

Obviously I point the finger at the tabloid media for the majority of these votes. Not just because they create narratives in which the immigrant is always to blame, but also because they never give any coverage to regeneration projects like this. High ideals are never covered, whilst ‘broken Britain’ narratives are invented and flogged until we all despair at the world that we live in.

This is a valiant attempt to restore pride, prosperity and health to one of the most deprived areas in Wales. Yet I’m not sure even the residents understand just how much is being done to help them. I’m not going to pretend that the project will solve all of the problems the area has, but I certainly cannot think of anything else the Welsh Assembly Government could do to help this area.

Dealing with rape and sexual assault

I met Susan George over a year ago. She had been sent to see me because she had just completed a Counselling course at the college I work in and she wanted to move onto an undergraduate course, but her tutor was concerned that she couldn’t work at that level. After working closely with her for a couple of months on essay writing and research skills I gradually learnt about why Susan was reluctant to sit amongst students and interact with strangers. Just over a year ago she had been brutally raped by an ex-boyfriend and was lucky to escape with her life.

The story was covered by the national press, including the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail Reporter gave a fairly accurate version of events and the comments under the story were entirely positive. This is because Susan George was an acceptable rape victim. By this I mean that she didn’t drink, wear ‘provocative’ clothing and wasn’t sexually promiscuous.

Do not misunderstand me, I completely understand that the only person to blame for rape is the perpetrator and that none of the above factors should lesson the seriousness of the assault or place any blame on the victim. However, as Susan made clear to me, in her experience women feel shame after a rape and if they feel that they were drunk, or wearing a short skirt they are somehow responsible for their rape. Susan took the step of waiving her right to anonymity and it turns out that her rapist had a history of rape and serious sexual assault over a 21 year period. Several other rape victims came forward during the trial and her rapist was eventually found guilty of 19 offences.

Susan had not shied away from her rape and although she was still (and is still) attending counselling to deal with the trauma she has been through she went back into education in order to become a counsellor – specialising in helping trauma and rape victims. She wants to help victims of rape pursue their rapists through the courts in order to bring them to justice. She is acutely aware of how rape is a subject that is not talked about openly, and that rape victims are reluctant to come forward.

This is why she has now put her story on the Internet and offered her perspective on what happens if a rape victim decides to come forward. She has set up a website – rapecounselling.co.uk – with a chat forum and is ready to listen to and help victims of sexual assault. She has also started a blog and has just posted an introduction to herself.

So, please go and read her story, visit her blog and link to it so that she can help other rape victims come forward and bring more rapists to justice. She is also on <a href=”http://twitter.com/coming_forward”>Twitter</a> and should be using it regularly just as soon as I have shown her how to use it all, so please follow her.