Tag Archives | lazy journalists

Understanding “the angles” when reading the newspaper

Recently, I’m becoming more and more aware of “the angles” or agendas of newspaper journalists when reading their published articles. Some would say that I’m just becoming more cynical. While some angles and agendas are not always obvious, you would have to sometimes wonder where a journalist is coming from when they’re writing a story.

So, as an example, when a journalist wants to address the issue of mobile phone charges being very high in Ireland – say 3 or 4 years ago at the height of Rip Off Ireland, they won’t accept the networks reasoning that it’s because Irish people talk more. As far as they’re concerned, it’s because we’re being charged more. It’s good to knock the networks after all.

ARPU – Average Revenue Per User

One thing to remember here is that the measure of how much a consumer is charged, as calculated by the mobile companies, is ARPU – average revenue per user. This ARPU value is made up of two factors – the actual charges for services levied by the networks, and the amount of those services availed of by the consumer. So, a high charge with low usage, or a medium charge with medium usage, or a low charge with high usage could all provide the same ARPU calculation.

But back to angles and agendas!

Say in 2006, the ARPU for Irish mobile users is said to be high compared to Europe – this is can only be because Irish mobile users are being charged more for their services – not that they’re using the services more. Dan White of Independent Newspapers wrote about this way back then – The €300m mobile rip-off.

But say that in 2010, the ARPU value for Irish consumers has fallen by 8% and from €49 in 2005 per month to €37.40 now *, then this can only be because the “Irish cutting back on the auld chat” according to the very same Dan White of Independent Newspapers.

In 2006, Mr. White had this to say:

The massive margins being earned by Vodafone and O2 in this country are costing Irish mobile phone users about €300m a year.

Further proof that Irish mobile phone users pay over the odds is provided by the fact that the average European ARPU is just €30.26 a month (€363.12 a year), compared to an Irish average of €47.37.

Whereas in 2010, when the Irish ARPU has fallen to a level that is still above what the European ARPU was back in 2005 (not commented upon strangely), there is no chance that the increased market competion amongst the Irish mobile market participants is given any credit for this drop. If you’ve knocked the networks before, you can’t obviosuly give them any credit now.

In 2005, we had Vodafone and O2, with a little bit of Meteor pre-paid, in the Irish mobile market. We now have a much stronger Meteor, along with 3 Mobile, and Tesco Mobile, all providing strong competion to Vodafone and O2.

But this isn’t even entertained by Mr. White – he strangely now accepts the logic rejected back in 2006 that the usage costs of Irish mobile users is dependent on how much we use, and by extension, nothing to do with the level of charges applied by the mobile companies. He’s now on the side of the argument he dismissed back in 2006 and now uses it to justify a position he cannot back up in 2010:

Having long been the most prolific mobile phone users in Europe, it seems the recession is teaching the Irish to cut back on the gab.

And as we all know, competition can and frequently does bring down prices. So, Irish consumers could actually be getting the same mobile services from their providers as they were in 2005, but are just paying less for them.

As just one example, I’m paying less on a monthly basis now that I was 2 or 3 years ago, but I’m getting vastly more for my less money now than I was for my more money back then. My ARPU for O2 would be down, but I’m not using their services less.

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The danger of using stock photos

The Sunday Times online has recently again made it’s Irish stories available after a break. They have an ongoing feature on the site at the moment called “Irish property price guide 2009”. Unfortunately they’ve done something that I noticed the Irish Examiner doing some time ago.

Check out the picture below. Notice anything?

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Value for money – coffee, sandwiches and journalism

Back in August I wrote about how the Insomnia coffee chain were providing some excellent lunchtime value with their “€5 coffee and a sandwich offer”.

The Sunday Tribune caught up with the story last Sunday with their article “Salad days over as downturn bites into sandwich shop profits” , quickly followed by the Evening Herald today with their article “Cafes wake up and smell the need for value coffee”. Click on the image below for a clearer view of the comparison between the two articles.

I wonder are Jane Last from the Evening Herald and Neil Callanan from the Sunday Tribune actually one and the same person. “Hi, my name is Pauline during the week, Paul at weekends”

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Irish Independent and plagiarism played out again

Click here to read an excellent article by Cian Ginty where he followed up on our experiences with the Irish Independent and their theft of a ValueIreland.com article from our website for publishing in their newspaper.

What I found most interesting about the article was the journalists threat of legal action if his name was associated in any way with the article – particularly since this story has been around on some pretty prominent websites since December last year.

For the rest of blogosphere, the route of complaint to the Press Ombudsman and Press Council is also interesting – thought it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the first complaint brought to it for such indiscretions by national newspapers.

And finally, I’m loving the final quoted comment (assuming I’m getting the typo fixed correctly from the original) from Seamus Dooley, the Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists:

I am intrigued by the credence sometimes given to the opinion of bloggers simply because they express strong opinions on their own blogs.

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Rip Off Ireland is alive and well

I said earlier this week that I am of the opinion that we don’t really live in what many people call “Rip Off Ireland”. Yes, we have expensive shops, but we don’t always have to shop in them.

However, by the true definition of a “rip off”, the Irish Independent and Independent Newspapers (Evening Herald) seems to be singlehandedly keeping their own version of “Rip Off Ireland” going strong!

As you can see, from Answers.com, a rip-off can be defined as “something… such as a story… that is clearly imitative of or based on something else”.

I’ve already had my Charlie Weston experience, and Green Ink has highlighted a couple of more incidences in the last couple of days affecting Jazz Biscuit and Red Mum.

I reckon there must be enough regular content these days in our newspapers and magazines that’s plagiarised from blogs and uncredited by the publications concerned. I myself have 5 different incidences of journalists (and not all the Irish Independent) helping themselves to my own work without giving credit.

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Kildare Nationalist seeks inspiration from the Irish Independent?

Back on February 8th, I got a Google Alert to ValueIreland.com being mentioned in an article entitled “Survey to reveal price differences across the EU” in the Irish Independent. In the last few days, I received another notification of ValueIreland.com being mentioned in the Kildare Nationalist on February 14th (owned by TCH – publishers of the Irish Examiner). This time the article was called “New EU survey shows true face of rip-off Ireland“. It seems like the Irish Independent has fallen victim to the research tactics of it’s journalists.

From the Independent:

Existing research shows that the price of digital cameras can vary by up to 30pc between neighbouring European countries

From the Kildare Nationalist:

Existing research shows that the price of digital cameras can vary by up to 30% between neighbouring countries – a considerable differential, given the price of some of these cameras.

From the Independent:

and that the average fees for the management of bank accounts fluctuates by up to €80 across the EU.

From the Kildare Nationalist:

Another key area of comparison relates to the average fees for the management of bank accounts. The survey so far has indicated that these can vary between zero and €80 across the EU.

And finally, from the Independent:

Irish consumers can already compare domestic prices through a range of websites like www.shoppingbill.com, www.valueireland.com and www.ripoffrepublic.com, and the Fine Gael-run site www.ripoff.ie.

And from the Kildare Nationalist:

Irish consumers can already compare domestic prices through a range of websites, including www.shoppingbill.com; www.valueireland.com; www.valueireland.com; ripoffrepublic.com; ripoffrepublic.com and Fine Gael’s site, www.ripoff.ie.

Anyone know if Charlie Weston has started working for the Kildare Nationalist?

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Is it plagiarism if you copy and paste your own article?

Charlie Weston today has a strangely familiar article about AIB reintroducing their 7% regular savings account having previously reduced it to 3%. The story is available here. Last weeks almost exactly similar story is here.

He does add this week a dubious fact suggesting that it was down to consumer pressure that this change was made. Now, can you ever, in the history of Irish banks, remember when the banks actually did something under pressure from consumers. Damn it, banks hardly even bend to the will of the Financial Regulator and the Department of Finance, never mind the consumer.

Charlie goes on to tell us that though this supposed “people power” was denied by AIB, the change was instituted by AIB because the “people up and down the country” caused a “mini-revolt” which caused the bank to “bend to the will of the little guy”.

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Press Ombudsman & Council – just another useless Irish regulator?

As of January 1st, 2008 the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland are no in place. According to the Press Council of Ireland website, everybody in Ireland now has access to an independent press complaints mechanism that is quick, fair and free. This is one of the most positive developments in the history of Ireland’s newspapers and periodicals.

The new complaints mechanism is designed to ensure that the freedom of the press is never abused, and that the public interest is always served. These are the main principles of independent press regulation all around the world.

The site itself is a bit confusing as there are separate links for the Press Council as opposed to the Press Ombudsman. Apparently, any complaints go to the Press Ombudsman first who will “attempt to resolve the matter by making direct contact with the editor of the publication concerned”. This sounds horribly like the way our useless NCA and ODCE try to “work with” offenders rather than actually enforce the law.

Any complaints where “conciliation” is not possible can either be determined by the Ombudsman, or escalated to the Press Council.

Obviously, given the activities of Charlie Weston and my interest in other newspaper stories in the past year, I was interested to see what, if anything, this further extra regulator would be useful for, or would actually be able to do.

In the case of Mr.Weston, it seems as he may possibly have contravened (though not specifically according to the letter of the text) Principle 3 of the Code of Practice.

Principle 3 − Fairness and Honesty

3.1 Newspapers and periodicals shall strive at all times for fairness and honesty in the procuring and publishing of news and information.

3.2 Publications shall not obtain information, photographs or other material through misrepresentation or subterfuge, unless justified by the public interest.

In the case of the Richard Delevan article (which may or may not have gotten him fired), I don’t believe there is anything within the Code of Practice under which Mr.Ken McDonald could legitimately have complained. Possibly, Principle 5 – Privacy could have been used, however, subsection 5.2 states that:

Readers are entitled to have news and comment presented with respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals. However, the right to privacy should not prevent publication of matters of public record or in the public interest.

As far as I know, everything reported by Mr.Delevan had already been reported in the “press” previously, and there had been no previous complaints about this.

However, the sacking of Mr.Delevan, and the Irish Times articles referred to in my most recent “press” post, would both possibly fall foul of Princile 2 – Distinguishing Fact and Comment. Under subsection2.2, it states that:

Readers are entitled to expect that the content of a publication reflects the best judgement of editors and writers and has not been inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests. Where relevant, any significant financial interest of an organisation should be disclosed. Writers should disclose significant potential conflicts of interest to their editor. (My bolded italics).

Finally, there are a number of journalists who’s work I’m familiar with who appear to make up unattributed quotes (“We spoke to one mother of six children”) and comments in order to justify an angle they’re trying to personally take in articles. It will be interesting to see if these journalists to continue to do so – especially as this activity would appear to contravene Principle 2 also, subsection 2.1

Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they were fact, but newspapers and periodicals are entitled to advocate strongly their own views on topics.

As time goes on, it will be interesting if journalist behaviour changes, and if it doesn’t, what the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council will do about any complaints submitted to them. If you have a complaint to make, you should go here. Oh, sorry, you should go here actually.

Remember, this doesn’t work retrospectively – only for articles published after January 1, 2008.

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Reaction to Irish Independent post, and a little more

To follow up on my post below, here’s the Value Ireland site statistics for the month in which the infamous Top Tips article was published – April 2007. “Someone” from the Irish Independent was the most frequent visitor to the Value Ireland web pages over the course of the whole month.

On the other hand, I’m amazed at the response to my post (in a positive way obviously, thank you all) below about the Irish Independent and the methods of one of their journalists. Here’s some links to those who’ve responded, commented and followed up elsewhere.

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