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September 1, 2005
August 2, 2005
July 27, 2005
From Across the Pond by Lananh Nguyen
Lananh Nguyen is a freelance reporter news assistant for Dow Jones Newswires in London. She has worked for the Associated Press, BBC, KNTV, WGBH and various local newspapers. A Political Science graduate from Tufts University, she also studied International Relations at the London School of Economics. She recently completed a journalism qualification from the British National Council for the Training of Journalists.

Bits and Bobs

As the "silly season" of British journalism comes to a close in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, here is a compilation of several stories that I've been following recently:

BBC Radio 4 program "From Our Own Correspondent," celebrates its 50th anniversary

From Our Own Correspondent Turns 50
The exemplary BBC Radio 4 program "From Our Own Correspondent," celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The program, broadcast on the UK's equivalent of National Public Radio, features dispatches from foreign correspondents' personal perspectives.
FooC reporters reflect on their experiences and in doing so they exemplify what people love about foreign correspondents - their glamour and mystique.
Reporting from exotic locations, correspondents are allowed to stray away from the headlines and write colorful pieces that contextualize and deepen our understanding of the main story.
The BBC's leading foreign correspondent John Simpson, wrote in The Guardian, "You don't lose the detail in FooC: It luxuriates there in full, florid complexity."
According to its website, FooC correspondents enjoy writing for it because "after a busy day in the field covering a big news story, it can often be cathartic for the correspondent to sit down, compose his or her thoughts, and start writing."
It can be pretty cathartic to listen, too.
Listen to From Our Own Correspondent

Michael Buerk

Michael Buerk Says Men Are Just Sperm Donors

Veteran BBC newsreader Michael Buerk sparked up the silly season in journalism by telling Radio Times that men have been reduced to "sperm donors" in British broadcasting.
Buerk also said, "The traits that have traditionally been associated with men - reticence, stoicism, single-mindedness - have been marginalized," so men have had to adapt by becoming more like women. His examples of feminized males: David Beckham and Tim Henman.
Eve Pollard, Hon. President of the non-profit Women in Journalism, said, "To be fair to Michael Buerk, he did argue that it is women's thinking, mainly their ability to be in touch with their emotions, that has changed the culture from the old stoic, stiff-upper-lip male view. I don't think even he would say that women are running the world."
Buerk also referred to several high-ranking BBC positions filled by women as evidence that women were in the drivers' seat there, deciding what people see and hear.
Pollard cites statistics: one woman to every 10 men in corporate boardrooms and only four women editing national newspapers out of 20. These data show that women haven't gained equality yet. Not even close. Beyond that, she notes that there are many cultures around the world in which women's voices aren't dominant. They're practically unheard.
Pollard said: "The truth is that in some areas women's views are on the rise. But often even this isn't true and it is men that are still taking the decisions but often they get it wrong because they think they know what women want."
Buerk is currently an anchor on BBC World, and is known for his reporting from the 1984 famine in Ethiopia.

To view some of the chatter, ridicule and humor.
Read Michael Buerk's comments
A serious response by Anna Ford
A silly response by Tim Dowling
A serio-comic response by Zoe Williams

Former BBC Head Delivers McTaggart Lecture

Lord John Birt

Lord John Birt, former Director General of the BBC under Margaret Thatcher, delivered a McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television festival two weeks ago that distinctly underwhelmed his audience.
The annual McTaggart speech is typically delivered by a high profile television executive, providing a snapshot of the broadcast industry with predictions and policy recommendations for the industry's future.
Birt, who made massive internal reforms at the BBC during the 1990s, was expected to give a powerhouse lecture. He provided a strong description of the challenges confronting public service broadcasting in terms of funding, technology and content.
But commentators say that Birt's analysis of these problems was accompanied by inadequate, nebulous solutions.
In terms of funding, Birt advocated the BBC sharing some of its public funding with Channel 4, another public service broadcaster which doesn't receive subsidies. He also advocated better drama, educational and news content that is less dumbed-down. These recommendations are hardly controversial.
Some speculated that his new role as a special "blue skies" advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair was responsible for the middle-of-the-road speech. Others said that Birt's lackluster address was evidence of his mellowing.
Despite its lack of forward-looking ideas, the lecture presents a comprehensive picture of British broadcasting today, by one of its most influential figures. It's worth checking out.

Link to MacTaggart lecture
The Guardian's take on the lecture