Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fleet Street

Today we began the day with a walking tour of Fleet Street, the original home to all London newspapers. Back in the day all of the big papers were all printing on the same street, but over the past several years they've been moved out to different areas of the city. We learned all about the history of the papers along Fleet Street and saw the inscription of the names still carved into the side of buildings that once housed them.

Following the walking tour we took a short break for lunch at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a local pub on Fleet Street. We had a discussion of the role of the media in politics with Howard Patten, a former professor of King's College and expert in Middle East and Mediterranean relations. He told us about the use of scare tactics in the media and the government. 

Patten joined us for a tour of St. Bride's Church, also known as the journalists' church. It is located on Fleet Street and is well-known for its pews lined with plaques in memory of journalists who were killed or taken hostage on the job. 

Today was a full day of history and lectures, but I enjoyed walking the area known for the publications that lined its street. It was so great to see the support for those who lost their lives while in pursuit of the truth. And as Mary Coleman said, we have to have faith that our work is worth it and that we are truly making a difference. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

British v. American journalism

From accents to fashion, we all know that there are multiple differences between Great Britain and the United States. However, most of us don't consider the difference that is on every street in London: the papers. In America I think most of the papers are regarded as trustworthy and objective, but in London it isn't uncommon to see opinion pieces on the front page or an open campaign for a candidate. 

Consider the last election here. The front page of one London newspaper featured an Obama-style, blue and red campaign poster with a candidate's face, with the caption, "In Cameron we trust," followed by an editorial about why citizens should vote for him. This simply wouldn't fly in America. Sometimes people in America get angry because one candidate's ad ran higher on the same page as the other. Could you imagine if the staff outright campaigned for a candidate?

Let's think about broadcasters really quick. When you turn on Fox News or MSNBC you can expect to see two different versions of the same story most of the time, right? Well in London that shouldn't happen. The broadcast stations are regulated and watched very closely. This means that the broadcasters are held accountable and are much more factual and careful with what they report, which is complete flip from what we have in America.

This is just from one day of lectures. I look forward to the next month of learning all about British journalism. Then I can work for the Guardian and never come home. Kidding. (: sort of. 

Journalism love and Guardian trips

Today our MCJ class took our first of many trips to visit news organizations in London. First we stopped by City University and heard from Tom Felle, the director of the journalism department. Until then I didn't realize just how many differences there are between British and American journalism.

You know when you turn on your television which channel will give you a conservative or a liberal viewpoint, and usually our newspapers are more objective. Well, it's the complete opposite in London. Here the stations are regulated so much that they are facts only and the most objective. However, some newspapers have even used their front page for comment or opinion pieces, which is unheard of back in the States. Felle said the papers throw the typical journalism rules out of the window. 

However, Felle did speak highly of the Guardian, a news organization we were able to visit this afternoon. The Guardian is based in London, but has offices in the United States and Australia. It is a digital first publication, and the only non-American paper to win a Pulitzer. Many know them as the organization that broke the Snowden story, which happens to be their Pulitzer-winning work. 

The Guardian was everything I hoped for. I'm such a news junky, and the Guardian just happens to be one of my favorites. We weren't able to go into the newsroom, but just walking by and drooling over it through the windows was enough. We did get to learn a bit from a few Guardian journalists. One of the things that really stuck out to me was the fact that the Guardian is one of the first publications to start a web staff and hire journalists strictly for web right after creating their website back in 1995. 

Marta Bausells, a blogger and journalist from the Guardian, said engaging the audience is an important part of having an online publication.

"See it as a two-way street with readers. Not just about getting content out, but having an open line for communication with readers." 

Overall a successful day. Tomorrow brings a tour of Fleet Street and a visit to St. Bride's Church.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

London Calling

After spending a couple of days in London for the first time in 2012 during the summer Olympics, I dreamed about the day I could return and really see the city. I've wanted to attend the British Studies Program (BSP) since I started school at The University of Southern Mississippi. Now, as I'm saying goodbye to my college career and starting my first "big girl" job, I'm in London studying what I love most: journalism.

I was in love with the city before I even stepped off the coach with my bags. Our home for the next month just happens to be close to the River Thames, and within walking distance of the London Eye, Big Ben and so on. In three days we've taken a walking tour of the riverfront, toured Parliament, strolled through Trafalgar Square, popped into a pub and met a few locals and browsed around a market in Southwark.

Although I've visited before, the cultural differences still hit me after stepping off the plane. The South is known for hospitality. Think about it. When you go anywhere in Small Town, Mississippi, typically everyone smiles, holds the door and offers a "how are you?" or "good to see you." I can bet you don't get that much here. Walking down the street no one offers a smile and kind greeting.

The locals at the pub had a lot to say about what they thought about Mississippians based on what they've seen on television and in the news. They asked to hear our best British accent, so we had to hear a British attempt at a southern accent. We got an earful. Not only was the accent an exaggerated version, but the words that accompanied it were shocking. One guy said, "I'm from Mississippi and I hate (various people groups), but I love my guns." I'm not surprised to hear things like that from people back in the U.S., but for that misrepresentation to reach all the way across the pond was shocking.

I must say it has been an interesting few days, and I am looking forward to the next month of London living. Stay tuned for a recap of our trip to The Guardian tomorrow and my first July 4th outside of the U.S.