Friday, September 30, 2005


One of the buzz phrases in the news business right now is user-generated content -- or UGC.

On July 7th, the day of the London bombings, the BBC received 20,000 e-mails, 1000 photos and 3000 text messages from ordinary people, many of whom were caught up in the attacks.

Photos and video clips captured on mobile phones were used on a main television news bulletin for the first time -- and many eyes were opened up to the potential power of citizen journalism.

Until now, all this content has been sent in without much thought to its commercial value -- but that could be about to change.

Scoopt is a photo agency which promises to "bridge the gap between amateur photographer and picture desk" by selling newsworthy snaps to the press and splitting the proceeds 50/50.

The public's very quickly going to learn that there's money to be made if you're in the right place at the right time. The person who filmed Concorde crashing made just a few hundred pounds because his footage was bought out-right -- and then re-licenced and sold around the world for tens of thousands.

Coke snorting celebrities and misbehaving b-listers beware.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Reopening this posting, former BBC correspondent Martin Bell's comments (registration required) touch on many of the same issues.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The second article about Martine Wright, who lost both her legs above the knee in the London bombings, is here.

I read two very different war stories while on holiday in Greece (and no, I don't just read books about war, honest).

My colleague David Loyn has just published his account of the Frontline TV news agency.

Frontline captured some of the most compelling images of the 1990s. In the days before handheld satellite phones and portable uplinks, Frontline's cameramen went to extraordinary lengths to get their pictures out to the wider world.

Many of them were killed in the process (read Frontline founder Vaughan Smith's version of events here.)

David's book is a rip-roaring tale of adventure -- and I'm not just saying that because I get a mention in it.

Still, I have some issues with the way the book glamourises a way of life and a professional culture that led to so many fatalities.

I have similar issues with Kevin Sites' In the Hot Zone, which has just launched on Yahoo. The project's USP is that Sites' assignments are dangerous first and foremost and editorially relevant a distant second -- whereas surely it should be the other way around.

Perhaps my judgement is coloured by the fact that Sites (who is trumpeted by Yahoo as one of the world's most respected war correspondents,) makes his first stop is in Somalia, where my fellow producer Kate Peyton lost her life last year.

"In the Hot Zone" turns conflict reporting into stamp collecting. It aims to "cover every armed conflict in the world within one year." Why? And at what cost? Real insight comes from investing time and effort in a country, not rushing from one continent to the next, snapping away like a Japanese tourist outside Buckingham Palace.

I just hope the quality of the journalism Sites produces on his odyssey lives up to the distasteful showboating of "One man. One year. A world of conflict."

Glamourising life in a war zone isn't a criticism that can be levelled at War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres.

Ayres' persona as a bemused hack stumbling around the battlefield seems slightly disingenuous given that he was shortlisted for a major foreign reporting award for his work in Iraq.

Even so, his self-deprecating account is a refreshing antidote to the conveyor belt of war porn currently landing on the shelves.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

81 miles, 6 hours, 1 very sore arse.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Back in the UK...and very pleased that all the moblogging seemed to work while I was away.

Normal service will resume over the next few days, once I've waded through a huge pile of dirty clothes, a slightly smaller pile of wedding cards and presents and completed tomorrow's 85-mile Oxford to Cambridge bike ride (so long as it's not raining.)

However, in the meantime I wanted to flag up an article that grabbed my attention today.

If you want to get some insight into what it's like to lose one, or more, limbs, read the Guardian's profile of Martine Wright.

Martine is putting her life back together after losing both her legs above the knee in the 7/7 London bombings.

Hers is a harrowing story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Enjoying the perfect Greek honeymoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mr and Mrs Hughes on honeymoon

Friday, September 16, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play


AA.jpg, originally uploaded by StuartDHughes.

We did it!

We did it!, originally uploaded by StuartDHughes.

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused the US military of failing to fully investigate the killing of journalists by its forces in Iraq and to implement its own recommendations to improve media safety.

The CPJ claims that several of the 13 cases of media workers killed in Iraq suggest indifference by U.S. soldiers to the presence of civilians, including members of the press.

The Pentagon has dismissed the report.

A spokesman said: "The U.S. military investigates every credible report of a journalist's death in which U.S. forces may have been involved. To suggest otherwise simply does not reflect the facts."
Although I work across radio and TV, wireless will always be my first love.

The medium has an intimacy and an immediacy that television just can't match.

It's always heartening, therefore, to see a really worthwhile radio project taking off.

One such initiative is Kamp 95.3FM, a low power station which has just gone on air to serve Hurricane Katrina evacuees still living in the Houston Astrodome.

The hurdles the station faced in getting on air seems to sum up the bureaucracy and inefficiency that has plagued the whole Katrina relief effort.

Still, Kamp FM is now broadcasting, albeit belatedly, and I wish it every success.
For reasons I can't explain, the closer I get to my wedding day, the more relaxed I become.

A cynic may say it's the feeling of acceptance that comes over a condemned man who's resigned to his fate.

I prefer to look on it as proof of my conviction that I'm doing the right thing.

More than anything else, Aileen and I want Friday to be as relaxed and informal as possible and because of this the planning has been fairly painless.

The only moment of tension came a couple of days ago, when I was gripped by a wave of panic at the realisation of what we're about to do.

That moment soon passed, though, and now I'm thoroughly looking forward to the big day.

With luck, you'll be able to follow the day right here. I've made some service upgrades and I'm hoping to post a few audioblogs and pictures via Flickr when I'm not gazing into the eyes of my beautiful new bride.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


In this age of overpaid and overpampered sports stars, who are afraid to enjoy so much as half a shandy for fear of incurring the wrath of "the gaffer," lets raise a glass for Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff.

The front page of the first edition of today's Evening Standard carries a picture of a bleary-eyed Flintoff, fag in one hand and pint of lager in the other.

The paper reports that the Ashes Man of the Series was still knocking back the booze at a central London hotel when most people were heading off to work.

Watching the England team's victory parade, I fear Freddie could topple from the upper deck of the open top bus at any moment.

Andrew Flintoff -- Cricketer, national icon, Lancastrian drunk. We salute you.
AP reports that the US Army will decide later this year whether to begin producing the Spider "networked munition" -- ie landmine -- system.

Military officials say the system answers criticisms about traditional mines because they are designed to self-destruct after a set period of time.

But as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, "smart" mines may be preferable than mines that last for decades, but that's not to say they're an acceptable method of defence.

"Smart" mines will still pose risks for civilians, there will still be new mine victims, and the clearance task will be just as time-consuming and costly.

Few news stories have given me as much pleasure in recent days as the reports that curly-haired car cock Jeremy Clarkson was hit in the face with a custard pie while collecting an honorary degree.

The tight-jeaned twat came close to inciting violence in a recent "humorous" Sun column, in which he warned cyclists:

"Do not pull up at junctions in front of a line of traffic. Because if I'm behind you, I will set off at normal speed and you will be crushed under my wheels.

"Do not, ever, swear at or curse people in cars or trucks. You are a guest on roads that are paid for by motorists so if we cut you up, shut up."

Warm greetings from cyclists everywhere to you Jeremy, and to all the other lemmings queueing in their cars at petrol stations up and down the country for a few litres of overpriced unleaded.

We'll be waving at you when you conk out at the side of the road because the pumps have run dry.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The LA Times reports that Yahoo has hired Kevin Sites to produce multimedia content across video, audio and text from troublespots around the world.

Sites, regular readers will recall, blogged from the same part of Iraq as me during the war and went on to cause controversy when he filmed a US Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi in Falluja last year.

One of the constant criticisms I hear from interactive journalists in my organisation is how difficult it is to educate some hacks from radio and TV backgrounds about the changing media landscape of blogs, podcasts, citizen journalism, and user generated content.

Some correspondents still feel their main duty is to produce a package for the main evening news bulletin. They just can't understand why we need to interact more with our audiences because they've never had to do it before.

Yahoo is rapidly gaining ground and market share as a news provider -- and the Kevin Sites project is the clearest sign yet of its growing maturity.

The traditional news providers would do well to look over their shoulders, before young upstarts like Yahoo start breathing down their necks.

Oh, and if any of Yahoo's rivals want to sign me up as a rival to Sites, you know the e-mail address.
Congratulations to England's cricketers on regaining the most underwhelming trophy in world sport -- The Ashes.

18 years after their last series win, England finally get to lift something that looks more like a battered wooden eggcup than the prize for two months of effort.

Now the Kolanka Cup for polo, on the other hand, that's a real trophy.

Standing six feet tall, it can hold four and a half gallons of champagne.

Beats a poxy thimble full of ashes any day of the week.
The weather forecast is looking promising, all the suppliers are ready to go -- but still the wedding gods are conspiring against me.

Plans for a rolling protest along the M4 and threats of refinery blockades are setting my nerves on edge as I count down the days.

Good job I've been in training -- the bike may yet be needed to get me to the barn on time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm not the only person organising sponsored events at the moment.

Supporters of the Justice For James Miller campaign are planning to climb Mount Meru in Tanzania next month.

Cameraman James Miller was shot dead while walking towards an Israeli APC in the Gaza strip in 2003.

The Israeli lieutenant who shot James walked free after a disciplinary hearing. Miller's supporters are now trying to raise funds to press for a judicial review of the decision not to prosecute, and for a civil action for damages against the IDF.

More details on the sponsored climb here.
Blogging has been light this week for one, perhaps excusable, reason.

A week from today we'll be exchanging vows and Miss Aileen Meldrum will become Mrs Stuart Hughes.

Neither of us can quite believe it's finally going to happen. An event that's been a distant prospect for so long is now just days away.

I'm treating the preparations as I would a foreign assignment, making lists of all the jobs I need to do before the big day, checking and then double checking everything.

Clothing, rings, venue, catering, entertainment -- all the main elemnts are taken care of. The small stuff can take care of itself.

We're both surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing.

Our main wish is for the day to be as informal and fun as possible -- and that's not going to happen if we're both wound up in advance like clock springs.

So if Kate Winslet or Angelina Jolie are reading this -- you've got a week to come forward. After that, you're both out of luck.
A lesson in how to write captions -- known in the business as "astons" -- from Sky News.

Monday, September 05, 2005

My colleague Dan Lak has been to some real shitholes during his career.

Yet even he has been shocked by what he has seen in the southern United States over the past week.

As Dan reflects for "From Our Own Correspondent":

"There which this crisis is worse than many I have seen in the developing world.

"In India, where I spent many years covering natural disasters, there is a greater sense of resilience and urgency.

"It did not take long for huge field hospitals and vast camps of toilets and clean water tanks to be set up in southern India for example, after the tsunami hit there last year, whereas here in Mississippi, the authorities are still begging people to boil their water and watch where they go to the toilet, lest they give or receive some water-borne disease.

"And politicians in India, often cursed by their constituents for flocking to disasters to show their concern, compare rather well with a US president whose first big gesture after Katrina's damage became evident is to cut a five-week vacation short by two days to give the matter his full attention."

When the developing world is judged to have done better than the United States in dealing with a humanitarian crisis you know something's gone seriously wrong.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Finally, six days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, US authorities at last seem to be gaining the upper hand.

In the days ahead we're going to hear the likes of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff attempting to spin the disaster away.

But let's not be distracted.

Let's not forget the images of pitiful and desperately poor African-Americans begging for help.

Let's not forget the picture of President Bush strumming away on a guitar on August 30 - even as officials predicted Hurricane Katrina's death toll would run into the hundreds.

Let's not forget the impassioned interview by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as he blasted the slow pace of the relief effort.

Let's not forget the divide between rich and poor in the most prosperous nation on earth that has been exposed in the most shocking way over the last week.

And let's not forget how the world's only remaining superpower failed its own people in their hour of need.
I put my voice to this week's Radio 4 Appeal in aid of MAG, which was broadcast for the first time this morning.

Let's hope it brings a healthy response.

Death Valley team mate Craig Summers and I put some miles in this morning on the London to Windsor bike ride.

A well-organised and well-marshalled jaunt through 37 miles of beautiful Surrey countryside -- although I should have known better than to wear my Welsh Dragon cycling shirt. Taunts of "one nil, one nil" rang out all along the route.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus -- Etched on the Statue of Liberty

"...the magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans."
President Bush, 3rd September 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Bewildered armies of hungry people begging for food and water, dead bodies washed up on the streets and, with every passing hour, the rising threat of widespread civil unrest.

This is not Liberia, Somalia or Banda Aceh.

This is New Orleans in September 2005.

Even New Orleans' emergency chief, Terry Ebbert, has branded the response to Hurricane Katrina's aftermath as a national disgrace.

Once the shock and concern over the wretched stranded souls eases, the anger will turn towards the White House and President Bush's diffident response to the emergency.

The anti-war lobby will attack him for sending troops to prop up Iraq, while leaving the Homeland relief effort exposed and under-resourced.

The civil rights lobby will attack him for failing to bring aid to New Orleans' poor, dispossessed African Americans.

The environmental lobby will blame him for failing to accept the threat of natural catastrophe posed by global warming.

President Bush needs to take control of the emergency immediately, before New Orleans explodes into violence.
BBC Wales reports that "1500 police and security officials are protecting the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport" for the EU Foreign Ministers informal meeting.

1498 of those police officers are badly briefed and totally unprepared.

This morning it took me an hour and three quarters, and three different buses, to travel the third of a mile from the press pick up area to the media centre.

The police on duty had no idea where the press centre was, or whether we were allowed in, even though we had all the right credentials and the instructions were laid out clearly in the media pack.

Other journalists were sent on wild goose chases across Newport to non-existent accreditation offices.

I've spent the morning apologising to journalists from a dozen European countries for the inefficiency of my country's police.

I'm embarrassed to be Welsh.