Thursday, October 27, 2005


Why does this newspaper article look familiar?

Perhaps because it's been lifted word for word from the press release I sent out on Monday.
In the hustle and bustle of London life I often yearn for a simpler, less complicated life.

I suggested to Aileen the other evening that we could create a fantasy of rural living by pitching a tent in our back garden and moving in there.

But Hugh Sawyer has gone much, much further.

As the Observer recently reported, Sawyer is attempting to live in a ditch in an Oxfordshire forest for a year -- and is blogging the experience.

And while today may be the warmest October 27th on record, Winter is still setting in and life's getting tougher for the hardy Ditch Monkey.

"Will my resolve last? Will I come to love getting up in the dark to a cold wet world, putting on cold wet clothes and trudging to work?" he asked in a recent posting.

Stay strong, Ditch Monkey!
The Irish government has just launched the Simon Cumbers Media Challenge Fund.

It's designed to help Irish journalists making programmes or writing articles on international development issues and has been named in honour of Simon, who was killed in Saudi Arabia last year.

It's a fitting tribute.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Reopening this posting, I e-mailed Garry Trudeau's "people" to thank them for the signed book.

The following e-mail just dropped into my inbox.

Dear Stuart --
Good luck with the rehab and your return to the front-line. I'm sure your mother thinks you're crazy, but I admire your resilience!
Garry Trudeau

Monday, October 24, 2005

Congratulations to Sky News on its glossy new look.

A new set, new haircuts and a video wall the size of Telford are the major changes in Sky's revamp.

Sky may have the edge aesthetically -- and is hard to beat on home news stories -- but their shortcomings are exposed when news breaks around the world.

Our Baghdad bureau was on air within minutes of this afternoon's explosions near the Palestine Hotel, while our world affairs correspondents added context and analysis.

Sky News was left struggling.
Blogging's been light recently because I've been preoccupied with final preparations for my cycle across Death Valley.

A week today I'll be flying to California with the team to hook up with our American support crew.

Aside from a few last minute arrangements we're in pretty good shape for the trip.

After months of planning I just want to get on my bike and get going.

If you haven't donated to the project yet, you can do so here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rory Carroll has been released unharmed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My thoughts are with the Guardian's Rory Carroll tonight.

Carroll, who's the same age as me, has been kidnapped in Baghdad.

The one ray of hope is that Carroll is believed to have been seized by the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr.

Last year, the Sunday Telegraph's James Brandon was freed unharmed a day after being kidnapped.

Let's hope the same happens in this case.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

7/7 survivor Garri Holness is raising the bar for bizarre post-amputation achievement.

Today's Evening Standard (not published online) reveals that:

"...his Christmas single, a love song called Something I Wanna Tell You, is to be released in December.

" accompanying video has been refer to Garri falling in love with a girl who doesn't know he's got a prosthetic leg."


I'm looking into releasing a spoiler Christmas single called "What Do You Mean You Don't Give a Shit?"

The accompanying video will refer to me breaking up with a girl because she knows I've got a prosthetic leg but isn't sufficiently impressed by my triumph over adversity.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

For the last year or so I've been following the Doonesbury character BD as he recovers from an above knee amputation following an RPG attack in Iraq.

BD's leg popped up in the cartoon strip again this week -- and his whole story has just been collected in a book.

Last year, my friend Jo bought me a print of one of the first of BD's post-amputation strips, which I've framed and hung in my study.

Now, Jo has gone one better.

With the chutzpah possessed only by a World Affairs Producer, she wrote to Gary Trudeau and told him my story.

To my amazement and delight he replied with a signed copy of the new book.

It reads "To Stuart -- An Inspiration for BD! Good luck and all best, Gary Trudeau. Sept 1 '05. NY"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Reopening this posting, the Online Journalism Review looks at whether mobile phone snappers can really hope to make money from their photos -- and whether they're just another way for newsdesks to cut costs.
Anyone who still doubts that radio is a far more evocative medium that television should listen to The High Snows of Ladakh.

I listened to Chris Brown's travelogue on my iPod while cycling to work this morning and was immediately transported from drizzly west London to the splendour of the High Himalayas.

Brown spent six months living and travelling with nomadic Kharnak yak herders. His documentary is a world away what we do in daily news, where we parachute in large teams with hundreds of kilos of gear and try to get them on air as quickly as possible.

It's one man on a yak with a minidisc recorder -- and that's not something you get to hear very often.

When a disaster takes place somewhere in the world, the aid industry shifts into high gear.

I use the word industry on purpose.

Since the South Asian earthquake struck the newsdesk has been indundated with press releases from charities offering interviews with their spokespeople, trips on their aid flights and filming opportunities at their projects.

Every single one of these organisations is doing vital, life-saving work.

But one thing I've learned through my involvement with MAG is that the voluntary sector is a cut-throat world and charities are as focused on financial considerations as they are on humanitarian ones.

It's a simple equation. Media coverage + increased visability = more donations.

The days of the good intentioned amateur are over -- and the corporatisation of good causes upsets people like former Greenpeace activist John Castel.

At its best, this more businesslike approach can tap into new sources of funding which can be used to save more lives.

But as the Red cross recently noted in its annual Disasters Report, at its worst it can lead to turf wars between rival agencies, with charities failing to communicate, duplicating effort and competing for profile -- all while people around them die.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Could salamanders hold the prospect of new limbs for amputees?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A lesbian former nun, a stammering teen heart throb and a Portuguese transsexual have all had their shot at reality TV stardom -- and tonight people with disabilities were finally given their shot at 15 minutes of television celebrity.

In Beyond Boundaries a team of 11 people with varying physical disabilities face the challenge of crossing Nicaragua from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean.

The team features not one, not two, but three leg amputees as well as two upper limb amps.

It also includes screaming drama queen Charlie who must tick more diversity boxes than any other person in the history of television by being black and deaf and gay. How's that for minority representation?

Naturally, I'm rooting for below knee amputee Glenn, whose stump is the colour of a post box despite the liberal use of that kitbag essential for active amps everywhere -- the compeed blister plaster.

Beyond Boundaries is already provoking debate over its representation of disabled people, with some critics objecting to the "inspirational cripples heroically overcoming their physical limitations" stereotypes.

But perhaps the critics should relax.

The reality TV genre reduces every other section of society down to crude two-dimensional stereotypes for the purpose of mass public entertainment -- so why should people with disabilities be any different?
A thorny editorial issue is currently being debated in the newsroom.

Most people are understandably shocked by the devastation and loss of life caused by the South Asia earthquake.

But anecdotal evidence suggests there's a significant minority of people who are less sympathetic.

In our phone-ins and e-mail and text message correspondence, a sentiment which keeps cropping up is "why should we care about people who hate the west" and, at its most extreme, "that's 30,000 fewer terrorists in the world."

No one would claim these views represent mainstream opinion -- and fringe groups often try to hijack the news agenda through co-ordinated letter writing campaigns.

So should a public broadcaster -- funded by licence fee payers who are being asked to swallow above inflation rises -- ignore the views (however objectionable) of a sizeable number of people who, after all, pay our wages?

There are no easy answers.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

This and this posting have fed into an op-ed in today's LA Times by Xeni Jardin.

I spoke to Xeni last week and she quotes me in the piece voicing reservations over "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone."

I'm sure to get royally flamed for my comments, but they needed to be said.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I smell the whiff of guerilla marketing in this "story."
BNI has exclusive pictures of American aid supplies arriving to try to avert starvation in Niger.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This is currently the newsroom's must-visit website.

Sorry girls, he's married.
I've been to a number of meetings over the past week and half with the BBC's new head of television news, Peter Horrocks.

Peter's vision for the future of the department is accurately represented here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And lo, the official wedding photos have been released onto an unsuspecting public.
It's exciting times in the world of digital newsgathering (or at least it is if you're a sad anorak like me.)

Some of my radio colleagues have begun gathering and editing interviews on PDAs using the Luci software package and sending them from wifi hotspots via FTP. It's an incredibly fast, flexible and cost effective way to work.

More exciting still, though, is the new BGAN network currently being rolled out by Inmarsat.

The system promises internet connection at speeds of up to half a megabit via satellite from virtually any spot on the planet.

What this means for broadcasters is that in the very near future we'll be able to digitally compress pictures -- either live or pre-recorded -- and send them (at a fraction of the cost of traditional uplinks) at speeds that were unimaginable just a few years ago...whether we're halfway up the Hindu Kush or at the top of Mount Everest.

The days of dragging huge, heavy and expensive satellite dishes around the world could soon be numbered.
Freed New York Times journalist Judith Miller is back at her desk, and is now doubt once again doing what she does best -- namely, ringing up Ahmed Chalabi and writing bollocks.
Who'll be the first to spot a press headline which says "It's Goodnight From Him"?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lynn Bradach, a friend of this blog who lost her son Travis in Iraq, features in a new TV advert by the Gold Star Families for Peace.

Watch the ad here.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A quarter of a century ago, cancer sufferer and amputee Terry Fox ran 3339 miles across Canada.

Today in Hyde Park, the British Terry Fox run took place -- and as a fellow amputee it was the one 10k I didn't want to miss.

Terry must have been smiling on me this morning because even though I'm only just getting back into training after the honeymoon I knocked a minute and a half off my 10k PB, which now stands at 52:02.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Reopening this posting, I've been reminded of another, far more important reason to object to Kevin Sites' new project for Yahoo.

Recently Yahoo -- which through "In the Hot Zone" is trying to cast itself as a pioneer of uncensored news -- provided information that helped the Chinese authorities convict a journalist for leaking state secrets.

Yahoo provided records showing that Shi Tao used a computer at his workplace to access his Yahoo e-mail account. The company's evidence helped secure a ten year jail sentence.

The company provided evidence that contributed to Shi’s arrest and conviction for activities that did not threaten China’s national security, but merely represented the exercise of his right to free expression and to criticise the government, as protected by China’s own constitution.

Reporters Without Borders note that Yahoo has signed the "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry" -- in effect agreeing to restrict the free flow of information in Chinese markets.

Yahoo's response to the case was that of a multinational corporation with its eyes on the bottom line, not a newsgathering organisation dedicated to defending free speech:

"Just like any other global company, Yahoo must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based," Yahoo said.

Sites should, at the very least, make a public statement supporting the unconditional release of a journalist sent to prison thanks to the actions of his employer.