Blogging your way into the workforce

Ever since the Boston Globe suggested that blogging is ‘essential’ in getting the job you want Irish bloggers have been putting the idea to the test. Tom Raftery is putting himself on the market to blog readers to see if his skills can be taken advantage of through blog-publicity alone. Piaras takes a cautious approach and suggests that while blogging has been everything but a waste of time for him one day soon it may take a backseat to a more beneficial tactic.

Blogging for me has always been a hobby but it has great potential for someone hoping to get into journalism like myself; with that in mind blogging for me would never be what creates opportunities, it is more something that can work in your favour when the chances to appear before you.
On the topic of developing my career, blogging has so far played a substantial role and I expect that to continue but in the same vein my blog has never directly resulted in me getting work. The successes I’ve had so far in journalism have all come from me suggesting ideas and submitting articles, my blog comes into the mix after this.

One example being the first article I had published in a national newspaper; after submitting the article to the features editor of The Irish Times one issue proved to be a stumbling block; as I’m a complete unknown how could the newspaper be sure that I was indeed Adam Maguire and not just the person interviewed in the article having a conversation with myself? Going by the statmeter details, shortly after I sent in the article my name was googled and this site was found. My blog served as part of the evidence toward proving I was Adam Maguire and helped me to gain the trust of someone who had never heard of me before and had little to lose by turning my article down. On top of that it meant that people within the newspaper got to read more of my work, for better or for worse.
In other instances my blog has been visited by people from national newspapers for different reasons and even when articles I submitted were rejected or even ignored I could take solace in the fact that next time they may know a lot more about me, and sometimes that’s half the battle.

I can’t imagine a time when I get a commission based on my blog alone, but it could always happen. Until then I’m happy for my blog to be a place of research for any prospective employers who want to read up a little bit more about me. Besides, if ever there is a time that someone reads an article of mine and wants to find out more (for whatever reason they may have), I know that a google of my name will bring them where they want to go.

Downloads set to be included in Irish charts (SBP – 23th April 2006)

The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) is aiming to include download sales in its weekly singles chart from this summer.

The news comes just weeks after the British singles chart saw the first-ever number one from download sales alone.

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley has spent three weeks at the top spot there although it was only released on CD two weeks ago.

The British singles charts have included downloads in their calculations since last April. Clive Leacy, secretary of IRMA, said that the association was currently conducting tests using sample data to ensure that the new format could be incorporated into the system flawlessly.

The above is taken from my article on the topic in todays Sunday Business Post.
It’s good news for the download market in Ireland, which is going from strength to strength but at the same time the move by IRMA was inevitable as single sales have been going through hard times over the last few years for many reasons, with downloads likely to take an even more important role as time goes by. One figure of interest that got to me too late for inclusion in the piece was that online downloads now account for around 40% of the British singles charts, I wonder if the same will happen this time next year on our shores.

Read the rest of this article at thepost.ie

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10,000 Days leaked

For those of you who don’t already know about it 10,000 Days, the upcoming Tool album has leaked two weeks before the official release.

Like all pre-release leaks it has been swiftly followed by a debate on fansites and music forums the internet over. However, a band like Tool offers an interesting new spin on the debate over the morals of the illegal download. The argument against is no longer “by downloading you are taking money the band have earned after five years crafting a new release” it is instead “by downloading you aren’t getting the full experience that they spent five years crafting”. In the same breath the argument for is no longer “they make enough money anyway” or “I just want to sample them so I know I like them before I spend my money” it is instead “I want to hear it because I’ve been waiting for years, of course I’ll still buy it when it comes out”. Anyone who has a copy of Lateralus on CD or even Vinyl will know exactly why that is; owning a Tool album is a very different thing to having the songs from the album itself.

The band Tool are in such a unique position that they are world famous but underground, popular enough to gain a healthy income but not too popular that they suffer from ‘Nirvana Syndrome’ (where every angsty teenager looking for something to cling onto wears their hoodies and claims loyalty until death). Their fanbase is either committed or newly converted, either way fans either go in headfirst and wrap themselves in everything about each release (design detail, music, lyrics, meanings etc.) or else they dip their toe and get bored after a short period of time.
On May 1st I will be heading to my local record shop to pick up the physical release, by the sounds of the rumours going around it’s going to be even more elaborate than the last and with the help of Alex Grey I’m keeping mind open as to what that means.

The discussion of conversations in a modern Ireland

Bertie Ahern has challenged the people of Ireland to have a national conversation on what it means to be Irish in 2006, the idea being that out of it will come a unified sense of nationhood, an agreement on our past and a direction for our future but such a debate is flawed from the beginning. Ireland has at never point been in agreement about what it means to be a citizen; is it the language you speak, the place you were born in or the money you have?

Sunder Katwala, from the unique perspective of a half-Irish, half-Indian man born and raised in Britain has suggested a more important debate; a historical one.

History is what happened, and what has made us the nations we are. It is also what we choose to believe about it. The Hindu nationalist or the Sinn Feiner can choose to edit out the complexity and connections, and return to a purer past… An alternative approach makes us products of our histories, and of the mutually defining contacts between them, but not prisoners of what we inherit. At its best, this can root patriotisms which are the more secure for not needing to falsify their own pasts. These can, in turn, provide the foundations for a secure and rooted internationalism.

In this day and age, as Gerry Adams claims to be making an attempt to reach out to Unionists such a debate is vital. Irish people need to take their rose-tinted glasses off; for example saying the 1916 Rising was a failure which angered the people of Dublin more than rouse them is not to destroy its significance, it could agreed that the rising was an event doomed to failure but based on ideals that few can reject. Both sides of the political divide need to push the debate forward; we cannot change history, as much as we might try. Many parts of Irish history (and British history in Ireland) are not as glorious as some would like to believe and none of it need define the way we live our lives today.

When blogging bites back

The Register has picked up on an interesting case of the past coming back to haunt blogger Marc Fleury, owner of company “JBoss” which was recently bought up by Red Hat, making Fleury an executive at the open source giant.

A comment on his blog, dug up from September ’04, shows Fleury unleash a torrent of abuse at what he saw as the “open source wannabee” and “girly man” of Red Hat.

$350m seems to have helped him change his mind, but no cleansing of the blog could escape the cache; the original post can be found here.
It’s worth remembering that in this digital age what you say is always available to public scrutiny, even if it is years down the line. For most people that won’t be a problem, but it’s certianly worth remembering when you’re penning a vicious assault on someone or something that may come back to haunt you in the future. That’s not to discourage honesty in blogging, it’s just worth remembering at all times. If you’re in an industry that’s always changing, you might need to think twice about what you’re saying to ensure your words are reflective of your opinions.
Of course in his defence Fleury could have a valid reason for changing his mind over the last two years, one that doesn’t involve big money. Companies change, people change and the world changes; you can’t expect someone’s opinion one year to be the same the next and it would be wrong to criticise without giving them a chance to explain their change of heart.

IRMA give us a fool proof method to avoid piracy

I’ve recently been browsing around IRMA.ie doing some research and I stumbled across this little gem on the Piracy page:

Watch out for gangsters

So there you have it; a strong message to all music fans out there.
Don’t be fooled into believing that you can get legal, low priced music in Ireland, that’s just what the gangsters and terrorists want you to think.

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Digital TV remains on the starting blocks (SBP – 9th April 2006)

The development of digital television in this country remains clouded in uncertainty.The tender process for the Government Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) trial is due to conclude by the end of April, with the pilot programme on track for an autumn 2006 launch.But broadcasting representatives have said that a mixture of caution amongst the networks and a lack of political progress since the Broadcasting Act of 2001 have left RTE, TV3 and TG4 unable to develop plans for new services and ideas.

In todays Sunday Business Post I take a look at the slow-moving process that is Irish DTT; it was an extremely interesting piece to work on. Originally the piece was to be a round-up of all Irish broadcasters (including those whom only exist on Cable/digital at present) intentions towards the future DTT service. When it became quite clear that the big three were currently playing a waiting game the focus shifted.

As it stands only TV3 are willing to make any firm commitment on new services for DTT, and even that was a basic statement of intention. DTT is at least two years away from a nationwide launch so there’s still time to change this, as the piece notes however, it’s not the broadcasters that are dragging their feet.

Read the entire article at thepost.ie

Would RTÉ “News 24″ work?

In 1999 RTÉ published proposals for a DTT system that they would spearhead (similar to the role the BBC took in the creation of Freeview in the UK). As part of the plans RTÉ would create four new channels; one giving coverage to the Oireachtas, one for children, one for educational programming and a rolling-news channel.

The 1999 plans collapsed some time after and only now is Ireland beginning to make progress on its DTT ambitions again. After speaking to Anne O’Connor (Special Advisor to the Director General at RTÉ) it appears that the original plans of the national broadcaster have shifted substantially; tomorrow’s Sunday Business Post should have more on the matter for those interested, I’ll link to it once it’s online. While Anne stated that RTÉ weren’t ready to publish their plans at present, it did seem to me that a dedicated news channel is less likely than it was before. In her words “the landscape has changed since 1999… there are other rolling-news services around now that weren’t there before”.

That’s not to say that RTÉ News 24 won’t happen, there’s every possibility that it will launch alongside the national DTT network (which is expected some time after 2008). RTÉ must, however, act on the behalf of the licence fee payers; would such a service really benefit enough viewers to justify the cost? Of the four propsed channels from 1999 the news service would be the most expensive, at least in my humble opinion. The Irish Oireachtas already records and streams everything, all RTÉ would need to do is pick up on the feed and rebroadcast it; perhaps a nightly or weekly review programme would accompany the service but this is only a slight extension on the existing “Week In Politics” show currently in RTÉ One. A childrens channel wouldn’t be a huge leap from the existing weekday broadcasts of RTÉ Two either; An example being Monday, where childrens programming broadcasts from 6:35 in the morning until half five in the evening (with the following two hours dedicated to teen-friendly television). As it stands “The Den” already broadcasts as a standalone channel on the NTL platform; to the best of my knowledge it’s no more than a simulcast to put RTÉ kids programming amongst the bona-fide children’s channels. A modest studio, two hyper presenters and some sticky-back plastic could help make the leap to a fully fledged channel. The fact that Childrens channels don’t usually broadcast after six-eight in the evening makes things even easier.
An educational channel could be more of a challenge, but at the same time programming similar to the Channel 4 schools broadcasts couldn’t be seriously expensive and such programming could enlist the help of various schools, colleges and universities in their development.

A news channel for Ireland, done properly, would be superb. To be done properly it would need to follow suit of the BBC rather than Sky; original programming is a must, constant and repetitive rolling news is a mistake. Another issue is the news itself; does enough happen in Ireland to make the broadcasts unique enough from the British and international variant? Running a channel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, employing additional presenters, researchers, producers and journalists (among other things) would add a big strain to the RTÉ news/current affairs budget, it’s impossible to say at this point if such a strain would be viable and what effect it would have on the licence fee. There are other options, perhaps an hourly news update which would be available on RTÉ Interactive.

A rolling news channel would be something I’d like to see in Ireland, and in my opinion RTÉ would be the people to do it. At the same time I know it would almost certainly come with a big licence fee increase and it may not be value for money for the Irish population; how many people would actually watch it? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

exposure of the ‘Fake sheikh’: Right or Wrong?

Mazher Mahmood (better known as the Fake Sheikh) calls what he does genuine investigative journalism and says that revealing his identity will put his life and the lives of his family in danger due to the convictions his investigations have ensured in the past. A judgement on the issue, all relating to George Galloway’s decision to expose the journalist after he tried to doop the Respect MP, decided that only his income was at risk from his identity being made public.

Looking through the list on the Wikipedia, Mahmood’s career stinks of tabloid pointlessness; entraping celebrities to expose their drug habits or extramarital affairs can hardly be described as integral and honest work. At the same time there is no denying that some of his work has actually unveiled serious crime.

However, as was proved by the recent Sven-Goran Eriksson affair, his main role is to make those in the public eye look stupid or to unveil a darker side of someone that has done their best to be seen as innocent or honest up until then.

Paul Williams, a well known Irish investigative journalist has exposed much about the criminal underworld in Ireland and lived to tell the tale. Of course, a better known Irish example is Veronica Guerin, who paid the ultimate price for her work but hers and the work of Williams can be considered to be truer to the term ‘investigative journalism’, it focuses on getting contacts and sources and finding out the truth; it isn’t about imposing yourself into a situation and manipulating it into an interesting story. This very difference is what has led to criticisms of the Mahmood, for instance in his 1999 drug revelation relating to actor John Alford which many describe as entrapment.

It is fair to say that a journalist should never make the news, they should just report it. It is also fair to say that in reporting a story a journalist should tell the public what is going on in that part of the world they live in, rather than create a controversy, arguably under conditions that would not have existed in the real world, just to entertain. That is not to say that Williams is never the story rather than the reporter of a story, and of course Guerin couldn’t help but become the focus of many news pieces and features after her death.
It is fair to say that by pretending to be someone he is not, and using that misleading pretense to reveal wrongdoing, trivial or otherwise, Mahmood is always leaving himself vulnerable to the actions of his victims, or would-be victims. It is also worth noting that under Irish law entrapment and the use of recording equipment on unwitting victims makes much of his evidence generally inadmissable in court; I would assume that serious instances are different, but I cannot be sure. For that matter, how much good is his work likely to do from a legal point of view?
Perhaps now that Galloway has exercised his right to freedom of expression, and has done similar to the sheikh as he has been doing to celebrities and others for years, Mahmood will hang up his robes and start looking for genuine contacts.

For those of you unfamiliar with the News of the Worlds infamous Fake Sheikh, the Wikipedia has an article detailing his biggest investigations to date, the BBC also has a piece on his career.