Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Philip Geddes’

Hacking Away at the Truth

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd March, 2012

As Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, declared in Oxford this evening, 2011 was an extraordinary year for his newspaper. It published huge extracts from the Wikileaks files, exposing elements of US Foreign Policy that astonished even longstanding hard-bitten hacks like myself. And later the true extent of illicit practices carried out by journalists from the News of the World and other parts of the Murdoch media empire became clear. That story is still rumbling on, as Lord Leveson chairs an Inquiry that has been hearing great quantities of testimony from witnesses about the level of corruption in the relationship between some of the media and the Police, as well as the widespread nature of phone-hacking. Delivering the 2012 Philip Geddes lecture — named after a young graduate from my alma mater St Edmund Hall, who became a journalist and was blown up by an IRA bomb in Harrods — Alan Rusbridger said that maybe as many as 5,800 people had had their phones hacked. Some of the more famous ones have, of course, extracted large sums in damages from News International. But it was probably the revelation that someone had even hacked the mobile phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler that really brought the opprobrium of the general public down on the heads of some of Murdoch’s senior employees. It was brave of the Guardian to persist in its inquiries, at a time when no other media were touching the story and Rusbridger himself was visited by both Met Commissioner John Stephenson and Yates of the Yard, who told him there was no substance to allegations and advised him to back off. As Rusbridger self-deprecatingly admitted, he does not look like a heroic figure, in the Ben Bradlee mould; one friend accurately, if unflatteringly, described him as resembling Harry Potter’s lonely uncle. But now the fruits of the Guardian’s hard work — and in particular of several indefatigable investigative journalists — have paid off. There are bound to be yet more scandalous revelations, and the Prime Minister David Cameron must be kicking himself for having chosen some unfortunate friends. But one positive thing that may come out of all this, Rusbridger argued, would be the creation of a press regulatory body with teeth. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has proved to be totally ineffectual. A new body could be called something like the Press and Media Standards Commission, Rusbridger suggested. And one of the first things it should review is what that fickle phrase ‘in the public interest’ means.

Link: www.geddesprize.co.uk

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Science and Citizens

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th February, 2011

After the young journalist Philip Geddes was killed by an IRA bomb at Harrod’s department store in 1983, an award scheme for aspirant journos was set up in his memory and in recent years there has been an annual lecture at his alma mater — and mine — St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Previous years have seen some of the most glittering names in political and foreign affairs journalism take the podium, but this evening the speaker was Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief of Nature, who covered a very different area of media when he gave a illustrated talk on ‘Scientists and Citizens: Help and Hindrance from New Media’. The main thrust of Dr Campbell’s argument was the way that the dissemination and discussion of scientific articles and papers has changed with the development of blogs, comments, twitter and more. He focussed particularly on two areas of great contention, namely climate change and vaccine scares, both issues that have generated heated scientific argument as well as political grandstanding from opposing positions. Many scientists are still reluctant to get involved in the new media, he said, but they are becoming increasingly important, as are online platforms for publication.

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Rugger Buggers, Rower Throwers and Hacks

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 8th November, 2008

st-edmund-hall  After a busy day of London engagements yesterday, I was able to board a much-delayed Oxford Tube bus for this year’s Philip Geddes Memorial function at my old college, St Edmund Hall, Oxford. The speaker at the lecture on ‘Whither journalism? The future of the press and new media’ was Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times, who had some tart things to say about bloggers (sigh). I guess most of us in the business have concerns about issues of responsibility, the lack of editorial control and the anonymity of much blogging, though personally I feel the pluses outweigh the minuses. At dinner afterwards, I found myself sitting between Lionel and my fellow Aularian, Mark Field MP (Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster), while opposite was Sir Trevor McDonald, whose son is currently an undergraduate at the college. The Principal of Teddy Hall, Mike Mingos, deserves much credit for carving a niche for journalism at the college, of which the annual lecture is an important feature. Hackery had almost no academic status at Oxford when I was an undergraduate there, and I was viewed as being a very strange creature for having spent what would these days be called a gap year before going up to university reporting on the war in Vietnam.

Philip Geddes was a Teddy Hall graduate of some promise who worked briefly at the London Evening Standard and the Daily Express. In 1983, he was in Harrods in Knightsbridge when the store was evacuated in a bomb scare; he stayed to investigate and was killed by the blast of an explosive left by the IRA. The following year, a prize was established in his memory — actually two: £1000 for the most promising student journalist at Oxford University and a £500 award for a student at St Edmund Hall.

Leaving last night’s dinner, we were greeted by the familar sound of carousing in the buttery in the old quad. The admission of women (there were none in my day) does not seem to have dampened the spirits of this very sporty college. ‘Rugger Buggers’ were the hearties of 40 years ago, but now, reportedly, they are matched by ‘rower throwers’ — rowers who throw up after drinking too much beer. Plus ca change.

Link: www.seh.ox.ac.uk

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