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Justice and Journalism Assignment

Examine one current affairs TV series being broadcast in the UK. View one program from this strand (e.g. Panorama, Channel4 Dispatches) and critically examine and analyse its content.

BBC’s Panorama Midwives Undercover program was 58 min long and aired on Thursday, 3rd of May, on BBC 1.

It investigated serious allegations into systemic failings of under-staffed, underequipped and underresourced maternity units in NHS hospitals in England, using an undercover reporter as a work experience volunteer and quotes of experts, midwives, courts, government, NHS trusts managers and concerned parents. That May week, it was the only investigative program on TV which focused on a British issue.

What style of reporting did it use?

The program was narrated by Jeremy Vine, he intermittently appeared on screen.
But „Midwives Undercover“ mainly centred around the undercover footage of a hidden camera positioned in midwife units by Haley Cutts, the BBC undercover reporter who volunteered as staff support. Jeremy Vine basically bridged the different narrative parts of the program, presented facts and introduced experts or other witnesses. Vox pops were used to underline general statements and case examples were used to proof specifics. The undercover reporter Haley Cutts, was rarely allowed to address the camera directly, her footage was mainly used to hold the NHS trusts administration accountable. In the undercover footage, luckily enough the faces of the midwives were blurred to make them less identifyable.
The main questions and issues tackled were understaffing and underresourcing of maternity units, with St:Marys in Manchester and Barnet Hospital in London as case studies. This lack of patient care before, during and after birth leads to more serious mistakes being made, with avoidable deaths and injuries and lack of accountability of NHS trusts or government.
Apart from the main reporter and narrator Jeremy Vine, undercover journalist Haley Cutts apeared on the program, and expert midwife and Prof Marvis Kirkham, lecturer at Sheffield Hallam Universitycommentated the undercover footage on screen in an interview with Jeremy Vine.

Who appeared in the film?

Appearing in the film are also a lot of unidentified nurses and patients filmed undercover, and a few, who were named but their names were not subtitled. Iram and Faruk Ahmed (?) appeared as further case study when one of their identical twins died and the other was brain damaged after a caesarian section was postponed for the next day.
Another case study is baby Abbie Everitt with her parents Mike and Carrie from Telford, she got braindamaged and died when staff failed to respond to the abnormal heart rate of the baby.
The chief executive of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital Trust, Averil Dongworth, is interviewed by Jeremy Vine and he tries to hold her accountable for the understaffing and underresourcing.
A midwife called Deborah Killick (?), who is in the process of emigrating to Australia, is speaking out on the record about the atrocious work conditions for midwives in British hospitals.
Other case studies included two other couples who suffered the loss of their babies because of lack of staff and resources.
Kathy and Ben McKay, whose baby died because of not carrying out an emergency caesarian, were also interviewed on screen.
Caithlin Coyne died immediatedly after birth despite of being healthy, because of the staff and doctors delaying the delivery. Her parents Karen Coyne and her husband Wayne just won a court case against the hospital because of the lack of medical care.
Shakie Dee and husband Tsuki were interviewed after a 24 hrs painful labour and emergency caesarian showed lack of care and compassion in her case. Their healthy baby however survived the lack of medical care in the hospital.
There were also undercover interviews with mothers who were just called by their first names, such as Lilly, who did not get any pain relief when it mattered because the delivery unit was full, and Rosina who had a painful pelvic condition, but did not receive any care from the midwives.
Also a Mrs. Takour appeared on screen after she was left in a storage room waiting, and a Mrs. Osman complained on the phone about not getting any pain relief after she was forgotten on another ward.

Methodology and evidence

Many research methods were employed to provide credible evidence. The main reporter Jeremy Vine stated that the research for this investigation took about six months. A vast amount of subjective statements was collected from eye witness reports, vox pops and undercover footage, including statement made by nurses, examples from all over the country were given and more objective reports, interviews and evaluations by experts and written court case judgements, government and WHO figures, NHS and Royal College of Nursing reports were quoted.
The responses of NHS trust & hospital administration also served as evidence, as did birth and death certificates.

Some of the strongest evidence was the undercover footage of a woman who was in labour for over an hour whilst left sitting on the corridor, crying with pain and humilation because there weren’t any beds available and the maternity and delivery units were overcrowded.
Haley Cutts also kept a diary and notes which were partly read out again.

However, there weren’t any medical records used to substantiate the personal and subjective eye witness reports of patients and midwives, nor were any doctors verufying or denying the accusations of medical neglect.

The outcome of the programme:

The moral of the story was pretty much that another big tragedy would have to happen before things would change for the better.
Some results of the investigation were already shown in the film: Six more fetal heart monitors were purchased according to a response of Barnet and Chase Hospital Trust, and the hospitals administrations were held accountable by the BBC journalists.

However, when I enquired at the Department of Health, The Barnet and Chase Hospital Trust, the BBC, the Royal College of Midwives, and emailed Prof. Mavis Kirkham and the Haelth Commisssion to ask if the program forced any changes to be made, no specific responses were made.
St.Mary hospital in Manchester published a press release, stating they decided to build a new maternity unit which will be finished in 2009, and they also released the last years’ numbers of births.

The Royal College of Midwives also released a press statement
, in which it disassociated the midwives from lack of care provided, claiming the cause would be understaffing andunderresourcing.
The BBC published the number of a dedicated telephone line, for viewers who felt deeply affected by the program.

Journalism of Engagement or not?

I felt it was a powerful piece of Journalism of Engagement. Like no other program I saw this week, i felt very agitated and would have loved to organise a protest in front of the featured hospitals against the administrators and managers of the NHS trust. As I have been working in a hospital in Germany, I can understand many of the problems shown in the video, however, luckily when I was working there as support staff, I was very well paid in comparison to what nurses and midwives and support staff are paid now and in the UK, and there were aways enough staff and beds available.

However, I felt, that the producers of the video made it easy for themseves to just blame the NHS trusts and not examine deeper into why there are not enough midwives and equipment and beds available if there are record numbers of public money spent on the NHS by the government. Nobody seems to know where it is actually disappearing to.

The program also failed to investigate if the understaffing and underresourcing is only occuring in the maternity wards in the hospitals, or if in the same hospital other wards are suffering from the same problem. It would be interesting to know if there is a discriminatory element toward pregnant mothers in the running of that hospital or if the whole hospital is run in a substandard way. It would also be interesting to be able to compare PFI hospitals to state hospitals and see if the private, profit-driven ownership of hospitals shifts the financial balance from staffing to building maintenance, therefore endangering lives by the increased priority of paying the public debt from the PFI to private investors rather than staffing and equipping hospitals properly.

In short, the program suceeded into investigating some of the causes of stillbirth and disabilities such as brain damage of babies and increased illnesses of mothers post-partum, but the causes for the understaffing and underresourcing were not investigated.

Also, it should be remembered that it is easy to investigate state-run facilities because of the libel law and the Freedom of Information Act, but unfortunately similar reports into privately-run facilities, such as for example private hospitals, would never been aired, neither so in-depth investigated and the administration could have never been held accountable in such a way.

As the closure of maternity wards was frequently in the news in the last months, it was disppointing that the program did not mention these arguments at all, where the government says that bigger, more central situated maternity wards would improve healthcare for mother and babies, whereas most of the public seems to prefer local maternity wards and stresses that time is of the essence in difficult cases and terefore near-by maternity units would be more important to maintain than enlarge the ones further away.

The government was not held accountable at all for the understaffing and underequipment and the lack of capacity of maternity units as the film included to many whacky and shaky footage of the undercover reporter. There seems to be a danger, that if undercover reporter are used in an investigation, to overdo and exaggerate it with little substance, as it is actually quite a big financial investment, and it seems exciting for the journalists and producers involved, but it actually should just support the investigations and not be the main attraction to the program as done here.

The program is quite emotional, as the mothers and babies in the film are shown when they are in a helpless, dependent situation, and the nurses are distressed as well, and the viewer just feels so protective and disempowered that it provokes a lot of anger, luckily not against the nurses but against the management, in particular as Mrs. Dongworth did not do a particular good job in defending what’s going on in her maternity ward and comes over as an ignorant, repugnant, incompetent, greedy manager.

Credits for Panorama’s Midwives Undercover:

Reporter: Jeremy Vine
Undercover: Haley Cutts
Camera: Jarrod Roberts, Tim Sutton,
Sound: Tom Fricker, Oli Cohen
Technical Advisor: Heather Keeling
Dubbing Mixer: Ashley Jane Armstrong
Online Editor: Matt Brown
Web Producer: Paul Burnell
Production Co-ordinator: Laura Cockshoot
Production Manager: Samantha Maynard
Unit Manager: Irene Ozgar
Film Editor: Kate Dunn
Assistant Producer: Sophie Everest, Emma Cotton
Executive Producer Dave Stanford, Sam Bagnall
Produced and Directed by Anouk Curry
Editor: Sandy Smith

Report of the NUJ Student Conference

Student conference picThe one-day student conference at the centenary ADM in Birmingham was attended by eleven participants from Edinburgh, Falmouth, Cork, Essex, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Swansea and Gloucester.

Following agenda topics were discussed: how to set up and what to expect from a student chapel, exploitation during work experience and an NUJ/NUS arbitration agreement in cases of student media disputes.

In the discussions, students expressed their wishes for more training regarding student media and addressed the main problem of finding a properly paid job in the media after finishing their degrees.

General Secretary Jeremy Dear and the outgoing president Chris Morley also chatted with us students, whilst Linda King explained the NUJ training opportunities and courses.
Catherine Holmes structured the student conference, whilst Chris Wheal acted as back-up.

The students were also invited to stay for the duration of the Annual Delegate Meeting and to publish their musings, pictures, audio and video recordings in a blog.
Paul Bradshaw, Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism and Magazines at the UCE (University of Central England) Birmingham, organised this year’s live web reporting:
“I enjoyed the experience thoroughly, although it was exhausting! And I’m definitely inspired to recruit some more students from UCE.”

The student conference was also positively evaluated by the participants. Lucy MacLauchlan, fresher at the University College Falmouth, says:
“The Student Conferences was an amazing experience and I would definitely like to be more involved with the NUJ. It was also really interesting to meet other students and hear about their involvements with Journalism through their Universities.”

The event included a surprisingly large international input, with two Irish student delegates, and other participants originating from Hungary, Pakistan, Germany and France.
Ifran Raja, who is in progress to set up the first student chapel in Leeds, states:
“Well, I believe the NUJ student conference was a wonderful idea, especially for foreign students as they have more chances to see the British media closely, meet senior people in the media and they can create a perspective about the union as well. We don’t have such union activities in Pakistan for students nor in many other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Japan or China.”

Colin Brown, who studies film and broadcasting at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, says:
“ I really enjoyed being a student representative at the Conference and seeing the good work that the NUJ does. I never realised that the Union is involved in so many areas of important activity. We are very lucky to be part of such a progressive, caring and interesting Union”.

Why do we need specialist writers?

With the introduction of computers and digital resources into the newsroom, the media landscape changed. It did not just open up into a multi-format crossover industry whilst demanding a broader variety of general journalistic skills, but alongside requires in contradiction a higher degree of expertise and in depth knowledge of the reporters, too.

The Internet in particular now allows the public to self-educate itself to a far higher degree, with users hardly paying for information provided and cross referenced on the web.
This development is still highly debated in the journalism industry, with job cuts resulting from swindling paper sales and loss of advertising.

Specialisation of journalists could be one way out of the crisis in the media industry. In contrast to the newspaper industry, most magazines did not suffer, but have benefited from the digital revolution according to the Periodical Publishers Association. Toby Hicks, Senior Communications Executive, states: Since the rise of the Internet in 1995, sales numbers have actually increased by 62%.

But increased expertise did not just result out of the digital revolution, it was a natural development in the media. Editorial tasks and responsibilities have to be logistically distributed to individuals somehow, and a distribution alongside topics and interests has always ensured regular, responsible and reliable up-to-date coverage.
For example in this week’s Media Guardian, Peter Wilby tells the history and development of the once popular but now oblivious Labour correspondents, whose stories are at present covered by journalists in the Business and Financial sector.

Despite Peter Wilby arguing that there would be a growing tendency on all papers to devalue specialist knowledge, freelance journalists discovered that a higher degree of expertise improved their business and defied the cut-backs in general reporting whilst opening up new employment opportunities.

In her book “Ready, Aim, Specialize!”, Kelly James-Enger argues for increased expertise, mainly because of better efficiency and productivity levels.

Specialised reporters share the enthusiasm and passion for the topic with the readers, says Kelly James-Enger. Because of their own hands-on experience, they can easily include practical and pragmatic tips and real life advice; pepper their articles with funny and lively anecdotes, and ensure that their stories are more up-to-date, accurate and diverse.
They have plenty of valuable contacts in their area including sources with a variety of different angles and views.

Former Editor Paul Taylor supports the statement:
“At the Burngreave Messenger in Sheffield, one of our journalists specialised in writing stories concerned with drugs, crime, race relations and the police. Before he worked for the paper he had been involved in that ‘world’. He therefore had better contacts and ‘ins’ to stories we would have not been able to report as well as we did.”

But. most important of all is the ability to defy the hype of press releases, spin doctors, politicians and PR representatives. Without them, the public would be lost in jargon and lead astray in complicated topics. A misinterpretation of relevancy, especially in the fields of health, international relations and science could lead to a mass public panic or to unjustified war; such as for example the 45-Minutes claim of Weapons of Mass Destruction lead to the War in Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

Action day for Education in Germany

protests in Frankfurt/MainStudents in over 25 universities in Germany protested against the introduction of tuition fees during the “Action Day for Education” on 30th of November. Demonstrations and street parties were held in Berlin, Bochum, Bonn, Cologne, Darmstadt, Fulda, Hamburg, Freiburg and Oldenburg.
In Frankfurt the job centre was stormed by about a thousand students who put up banners and held speeches on its roof and proclaimed solidarity with the unemployed workers movement.
The student unions call for a boycott of tuition fees and mass lawsuits by students against the state, as the constitution was modified in 2005 to allow tuition fees.
The students argue that the introduction of tuition fees would not necessarily lead to a rise of quality in education, nor benefit the universities directly, and would lead to more social inequality and restrict access to universities. There are worries that fees would mainly stop students with children or from working class background from studying, and also that it would lead to accumulation of high amounts of debts and force more students to work part-time whilst neglecting their studies.
student demo Bonn
In the last years, there have been raids by police against protesters in Bielefield. In Cologne the rector tried to expel opponents. Students also stormed the regional parliament in Erfurt and Duesseldorf. The administration offices of Frankfurt and Freiburg University were occupied. Students also interrupted speeches and talks by politicians, such as in Flensburg.
In Dortmund, Nuremberg, Essen, Eichstaett, Kiel, Flensburg and Goettingen the students erected protest camps with tents on campus  in the case of Giessen for over 143 days.
There are no tuition fees for example in Cuba, Venezuela, Sweden, Finland, Danemark, Poland.
Australia has reintroduced tuition fees in 1989, Britain in 1998, Austria in 2001.
The highest tuition fees are demanded in the States, with up to $30 000 dollars a year.

Interview with Stewart Home

Stewart HomeIt is pretty late for doing my interview for the cultural journalism course assignment, and the planned talk with the
ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan has just fallen through. My last hope is a reliable libertarian communist: Stewart Home, unconventional pulp-fiction author, prankster and performance artist is now teaching postgraduates as a writer in residence at Strathclyde University.

Stewart expresses happiness with the postgraduate students he teaches. He encourages them to establish personal blogs as imaginary persons on Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace website.
“It is amazing when you first make them do something and initially they don’t like it but then are really getting into it.”
The blonde, short-haired, clean-shaven teacher thinks that pseudonyms help to develop the writing skills of his students.
“A lot of people have fictional identities at MySpace.”
The good-looking, former art class model is impressed with the immediacy of the Blog entries and the lively community responses. “There is nothing like developing your writing live.”


Every week new tasks are set for the students to progress:
“Last week they had to write reviews about books or theatre shows they haven’t read or seen, without it being obvious from their blog entries.” says Stewart.
“A lot of journalists do that all the time”. It would just be a matter of “talking about themselves but they need enough substance to look credible.”

In his most recent work, the Londoner started to utilise the world wide web. He is fascinated by YouTube, Wikipedia and MySpace.
“All the kind of Internet is now totally integrated into people’s lives, it is not the stuff of nerds anymore. It is a good way to distribute [my art].”

The author tells me that he planned for a long time to use the Internet’s potential for his art.
“It was just a matter of allocating time.”
With a professional development grant he received last December – one of the last given out before these grants were completely stopped – he was able to commit himself to digital development and website building. He creates his own content now on the former ‘fanclub’ website of the Stewart Home Society .

I ask him whether he has himself a blog on MySpace. He tells me he has six – “a whole lot of different profiles under different names”. I vaguely remember a previous conversation with the 44 years-old outrageous artist, whose polite private identity as a charming, friendly, loving and caring father seems as a totally striking contrast to his professional confident, cult persona. He told me then, that tried to be kicked off the MySpace site.
“On MySpace there is a lot of rule breaking – the last time I looked there were about 25 Pete Doherty. And it is also used commercially. There is a Rupert Murdoch, an anti-corporate activist and George Bush is out there and whoever else. It
is a very clunky site which never works very well.”

As a film maker, Stewart has just released BBC-funded interviews on YouTube with Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, sculptor Francis Morland, painter Mikey Cuddihy, musician Barry Smith and writer Bill Hopkins under the label of the psycho-geographical project “London Art Tripping”.
The former anarchist is enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Internet. “I have still got to get my head around [the photography website] Flickr.”
The writer tells me that he also got editorial access to Wikipedia, but he has not used his administrative privilege yet. His own biography is already published on the collaborative community encyclopedia.
“I think it has been written by Floriam Cramer because it’s someone German and there is a slant of me being ‘best known for the early novels’.”

The artist became famous with his early pulp fiction, such like “Pure Mania”, “Blow Job” and “Red London”, which usually feature sex and violence in an exaggerated underclass socio-political milieu spiced-up with class struggle, creative anti-authoritarian idea chaos and deliberate similarities to living persons.

Will his new book “Memphis Underground”, which is published in April, be as engaging and entertaining as his earlier works, I ask the former redskin, who still likes to wear DocMartens and working-class clothes.

“I like post-modern novels. The new novel is in the mould of the more recent books. When “69 things to do with a Dead Princess” was published [by Canongate in Edinburgh four years ago], a lot of the people who liked the earlier books found it hard to understand. But it was more commercially successful. It is not good to repeat yourself all the time.
The new book deals with the gentrification of London and includes art world content and four strings of action. It is not science fiction but structured like a science fiction book. I think it will sell very well.”

“Will the new release still include the usual class-war direct action and make a mockery of capitalism?” I ask enthusiastically.
“It is dealt with in a more subtle way. It is about an office worker who ends up homeless, because in London housing is so expensive. Then he tries to find a way out by impersonating an artist. And Princess Diana is back in this novel, too. This time she is living in a housing estate in Orkney together with other celebrities who faked their death to escape publicity.
And there is always sex and violence in my novels.”

Beside his novels, his art work is a lot more complex and less easy to understand, except that the musician experiments with rule-breaking and pushes the boundaries everywhere and anytime. He was even thrown out of college in the final year of studying philosophy “for arguing with the teacher and winning the argument.”

In the early nineties he initiated the Art Strike. “I read about this artist, Gustav Metzger, who’d declared a cultural strike between 1977-80, and thought ‘Why don’t we have one?’ “
Stewart loves working with multiple identities under names such as Luther Blissett, Karen Elliot and Monty Cantsin and called on others to adopt these names, too. He embraces Plagiarism by often lifting whole paragraphs of other authors into his written work without reference, and sometimes even without context. He deliberately breaks the copyright law for his artwork – for example by taking the amplified background noise of silence in “Screams In Favour Of De Sade” as well as his black footage to incorporate in his work. With his Necrocard – a satirical, necrophilic artwork based on the Organ Donor card – he established himself thoroughly as a professional prankster, too.

Stewart follows on from where the Situationists left off. He regards every reading and talk about his work as an opportunity for a performance.
“My live art routines mix stand up, spoken word and philosophy but are generally booked as ‘readings’.”, states Stewart. “I recite memorized passages from my novels and stories and since rhythm is important to me, audience members unfamiliar with my writing often believe they are listening to poetry.”

“I am still having fun with it.” Stewart says about his art. “What I do gives people a lot of credibility. I am the best”, he laughs.