Self-righteous and Lazy Journalism

Over the past couple of days, the media has once again been in the spotlight, with Murdoch deemed neither fit or proper, and the role of England football manager being given to someone who the press hadn’t pre-approved and are now seemingly liable to destroy.

But are the media really in a position to be so holier-than-thou and what right do they have in 2012 to be judge, jury and executioner?

Since the launch of the BBC website nearly 15 years ago, the aim of most major news organisations has changed massively. All of them are now vying to get the big stories to the public before everyone else, and often at the expense of accuracy and decent journalistic standards. The public’s expectations have now been lowered so much, that the power of a picture and a quick quote has overtaken the respect garnered by a full length feature article. Many now prefer the cheap and cheerful likes of the Metro over tucking into a broadsheet during their supposedly time-poor days.

Unfortunately this has led to lazy practices from across the media world. Time and time again, the papers as well as the online media now rely solely on Twitter for their news, with one headline on Monday this week stating “Englandstars keep quiet on Hodgson appointment.” Strangely this was BEFORE Roy Hodgson had even been interviewed let alone appointed and based entirely on the fact that Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney hadn’t been as vocal as they were when Fabio Capello first resigned. Once again, the press were trying to goad a soundbite from professional footballers in order to create news themselves rather than wait for it to happen. It also appeared that they were trying to create a rift before Hodgson had even begun his new role, and even after the official appointment, they’ve continued to ridicule the man for his unfortunate speech impediment. No doubt these same organisations will be the first to criticise him when players don’t perform as they should in anEnglandshirt, and they’ll probably blame it on a lack of respect for the manager, something which they will ironically have helped to create themselves.

It can also be argued that what people put on Twitter, in the main, isn’t news. Yes, times change and more people are making announcements (Lady Gaga touringEuropefor example) via Twitter as it is such a quick and easy way to communicate to fans. But is this really news? Or is it just a modern day soapbox that just so happens to be accessible to most people across the globe? Surely it is far too unregulated to have any sort of journalistic integrity, missing many of the checkpoints that any good journalist should hit in order to prove the accuracy of their story?

Forgive me for going into detail, but being taught journalism isn’t just about telling people how to cut an essay down to a couple of columns, it’s about the legality and the accuracy of the writing that you are producing, and your responsibilities to the public interest. Any error, whether it is the spelling of a person’s name, or the date of a hearing could be hugely damaging and distressing, and journalists have a responsibility to check and check again before publishing any of their work in print or online.

The panic to be faster than everyone else to the big news stories of the day has resulted in some major errors, most recently during the recent Ched Evans rape case when Sky News “accidentally” revealed the name of the victim. This is something that would have been nigh on impossible to do only a few years ago, but instead it highlights just how poor standards now are. Interestingly, police have threatened to arrest those on Twitter who also revealed the girl’s name, but Sky seem somehow exempt from any sort of similar action, simply by claiming it was a mistake. To me, this simply isn’t good enough.

Maybe I am too pedantic. Maybe I am spotting things that don’t really matter, or mistakes that people don’t notice in their rush to skim the day’s news. I can’t help but feel though that by allowing standards to drop in the media, we are also encouraging poorer attention to detail and accuracy across the board. I’ve seen a lot of CVs in my time, and the amount of simple mistakes made which in my eyes disqualifies people from an interview immediately is unforgivable.

We need organisations such as the BBC to lead by example and I just wish that they would take more time writing and sub-editing their web news, rather than publishing it in a half-finished, typo-filled shambles. The Guardian used to be absolutely pilloried for their shocking mistakes (Private Eye even mocking them by calling them “The Grauniad”) but nowadays it seems to be an all too easily accepted part of media production.

Hopefully lessons are being learned, and in a post-Commons media committee/Leveson Inquiry world, the large media corporations will sit up and take note. If they don’t, we could see more than just the News of the World going out of business in the not too distant future.

Should Tesco Be Accountable For Their iPad Pricing Error?

Yesterday, Tesco briefly offered the new iPad, 64GB, 4G version for £49.99 on their website. Sure enough, news of such a great deal spread quickly across social networks, and it looked as if numerous people took them up on this offer. But eventually Tesco brought down the offer and ultimately the Tesco Direct site in order to prevent further losses. Admittedly this still took them quite a while, as even when the offer had been removed from their navigation, the direct link was still accessible, showing some naivety on the company’s part.

An article on the BBC website  appeared soon after, with Tesco claiming that the issue was caused by “an IT error” and that although they love to offer their customers “unbeatable value”, they wouldn’t be honouring purchases made at this price. No apology, no holding up of hands, just a flippant blaming of tools.

But is this really good enough? Surely Tesco have a duty to advertise their products fairly and correctly. It takes a lot to publish an incorrect offer and it must be questioned whether this was done purely to push hype and sales ahead of Friday’s new iPad launch.

If this happened in the financial services industry, the FSA would be all over the company like a rash, forcing them to adhere to an advertised APR or other product benefit. A defence of “it was the computer” doesn’t really wash and quite rightly too. I could stick an offer up on this blog for iPads at £50 or personal loans at 3% APR, just to get traffic in, to collect people’s personal information and to collect payment details. But this wouldn’t be fair of me would it?

Martin Lewis would also usually be attacking a company for false advertising in these situations, but Tesco appear to have wriggled out via small print stating that “If, by mistake, we have under-priced an item, we will not be liable to supply that item to you at the stated price, provided that we notify you before we despatch the item to you.”

Once again, no apology and no admittance that they were in the wrong and unfortunately this doesn’t just happen with Tesco online. I’ve had numerous issues in their store when multi-buy offers haven’t gone through the till correctly and it has always been me who then has to go and queue for a second time over at the kiosk waiting for them to muddle through getting me some sort of refund. Similarly, their bonus Clubcard points offers often don’t work as intended. I once had one for 50-odd bonus points when buying any fresh meat. The voucher didn’t work, according to the cashier, because the bacon I had bought was pre-packed and not fresh. I told her in no uncertain terms that I hoped to god it was fresh!

Don’t get me wrong I know that mistakes can happen. For me, it is all about how companies admit their mistakes and deal with them, and this time round, Tesco, for all their profits and successes were more than sloppy. I’m not one to attack them for being hateful capitalists killing the high street as some people do. I fully support them in being a business and making a profit. I like their online offering for its convenience and its level of customer service. I also don’t necessarily agree with those who jumped on this iPad offer and tried to buy 30 iPads just to sell on, but they had every right to try, just as someone would have every right to buy a job lot of baked beans if Tesco offered them at a knock-down price.

All I’m asking for is for Tesco to honour their deal and follow the lead of other companies who have held their hands up previously, such as Marks & Spencer.

I’m a long time Tesco customer and to me, the flippancy with which they have dealt with this error is unforgivable. Come on Tesco, put your money where your trigger happy web publishing finger is. And if you agree, please do join this group and spread the word amongst your friends and colleagues.

The Techpocalypse 2011

So, it’s been an interesting week for technology users to say the least.

First, we get the announcement that many were expecting regarding the latest iPhone, the 4S from Apple. No redesign outwardly, but inside is a processor faster than before, a new, improved camera and a whole host of other lovely features courtesy of iOS 5. It came with the usual Apple backlash, that after a 16 month wait this wasn’t good enough etc etc, but in reality, what would a redesign do? A bigger screen would cause a massive headache for app developers who would be forced to resize their wares, and the build quality and design of the iPhone 4 was always one that would stand the test of time. The technological changes are easily a big enough leap to keep the device ahead of the game in the mobile market and the phone has since become the most pre-ordered of Apple’s handsets.

Then came more news from Cupertino – that the founder and revolutioniser of the tech world, Steve Jobs, had died aged only 56. We’d all known that he’d been ill for some time but the news still shocked the globe. Never before had we seen such a figurehead in the relatively young computing and technology world and one who had been so visible at product launches and speeches across the planet. Jobs truly was a man of the people, and one who had an idea and the desire to make something of his life that would change millions of others’ lives forever. And he succeeded.

After such a massive blow, this week Apple seemed to have been dealt a boost, after Samsung claimed they held back the announcement of their new handset, the Nexus Prime as a mark of respect for Jobs’ passing. More likely is that they simply aren’t ready to unleash this Ice Cream Sandwich Android OS beast yet, but they truly are the main rival to Apple’s monopoly as proven by their Mobile of the Year award at the T3 Awards this week.

Another major player, RIM, have also now handed Apple a big advantage with the now-global failure of many BlackBerry services including the rioter’s favourite BlackBerry Messenger. Initially confined just to a few regions, the server issue now appears to have surfaced Stateside and if people needed convincing about the imminent iPhone 4S, then this may be the proof they were looking for.

But then came iOS5. Launching two days before the handset on which it comes as standard, the operating system has seen numerous problems as millions attempt to download it and install it on their i-devices. The ‘3200 error’ is trending on Twitter and rather than having some great new features to play with this morning, users are instead left with iPhones in various states of app-deletion and recovery mode loops.

Of course, this is purely symptomatic of Apple and their success. Which other company would see this level of excitement over the release of an Operating System? No-one. The hype around iOS5 is warranted as it pretty much changes the entire way people will use their iPhones. This is proof that Apple have almost single-handedly made the impenetrable accessible and turned technology into that which can be used by anyone from grandchild to great grandparent.

And for that, I think we have one man to thank. Rest in peace Mr Jobs.

Apple – Have They Done Some Wrong?

So, as Mr Sod and his law would guarantee, as soon as I wax lyrical about Apple, I get hit – big time. My iTunes account has been hacked.

I got sent an email receipt for about £7 or so. Straight away I knew that wasn’t me – I tend to only use iTunes for music storage and syncing, rather than buying anything, so immediately I realised that someone had access to my iTunes account and potentially my bank details.

A lot of people panic and start blubbing at the first sign of Internet fraud, but although I wasn’t best pleased, I reasoned that I take enough precautions with my online use that this shouldn’t be a massive widespread issue and that whatever had happened could be resolved, albeit with some amount of hassle to me.

I reset my iTunes password as well as any other website accounts that used similar passwords and tried to find a contact number for Apple. This is where they suddenly become less user friendly than usual. By putting all their efforts into design and in-store experience they are somewhat lacking in the direct contact routes in times such as this. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate why they do it – I can only imagine the number of calls from Grandma Joan they would get saying “oooh lovey, my Internet machine’s been infected by one of thems flu virus thingies” if the number was more up front, but I did actually NEED to speak to them. After resorting to Google searches around the same kind of thing, it appeared that ad-hoc iTunes gift card purchases were the most common Apple fraud. But what had I experienced? Some rogue downloads of Music From The OC Volume III. Typical, I can’t even get a hacker with decent taste or decency.

Anyway, eventually I tracked down a link to an Apple web form and dropped them a line. To be fair, the autoresponse gave all the right noises, telling me I’d hear back soon.

Sure enough, the next morning, a very personal (although obviously templated in parts) email came through from Sarah who was going to personally deal with my issue, and had already reunded the £7, no questions asked. Whether or not it really is someone called Sarah helping me, or if it’s a former brickie called Kev from Sunderland, it doesn’t really matter, it’s that personal touch that is missing from so many other companies that matters.

Anyway, I then checked my iTunes purchases through the software itself. Uh oh, another four sets of purchases totalling £25 each. Starting to get a little bit more concerned, I was re-assured by Sarah’s email, and simply sent her the additional fraudulent orders.

Hopefully this will all get resolved quickly and I won’t have to trouble my bank for a new card. Certainly, what could’ve really put me off Apple has so far made me like them even more. Simple things, done nicely. Why can’t all companies be like this?

The Power of the Internet

It always amuses me when people believe whatever they put on the web shouldn’t be used against them (I’m off ill from work, but I’ve just put on Facebook that I’ve been on holiday to Ibiza!) and can’t believe that people are so lax with their personal information online.

Having said that, whilst doing one of my frequent vanity searches, I came across this, which I can’t even remember writing. I’ve probably got a fair few web profiles out there but I admit it’s probably only Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that I keep up to date.

Whatever did happen to Friends Reunited?!?!