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The Future for Newspapers; Citizen Reporting in Mumbai; Another Side of War

Aired December 5, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, your weekly look at the news and how the media covers it.
Coming up, news as it's happened. Citizen journalists and bloggers help to shape coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. Stop the presses, the economy takes its toll on the print media. We ask what the future holds for newspapers. And from the front lines to the hospital wards, photographer David Cotterrell documents a rarely seen side of war.

First, the media and the terror attacks in Mumbai. Images were beamed around the world within minutes, but it was the citizen journalists, people snatching their own video and pictures of the unfolding drama, that challenged mainstream news coverage. Bloggers, too, were exchanging firsthand information the short message site Twitter and images on the photo sharing service Flicker.

Citizen journalists aren't bound by rules and restrictions facing the traditional media. So is there a danger of spreading misinformation and inaccuracy? To look at that and the broader media's response to the attacks in India, I'm joined from Mumbai via broadband by media consultant Roy Wadia. From Washington, Gaurav Misha. He was blogging on the attacks and is now looking into the role of the citizen journalist in telling the story. And here in the studio is Vijay Dutt, the London bureau chief of the "Hindustan Times.

First of all, Roy Wadia in Mumbai, has there been much discussion, if any, at all in India about the roles of traditional media played in the events of last week?

ROY WADIA, MEDIA CONSULTANT: There has been actually. There was great debate that's now started as to whether the TV channels were actually harming the commando operations or helping us. And the jury is out that it seems that there is some, shall we say, felt recommendation on the part of some of the TV channels that they may have spoken too soon, too fast sometimes, and actually endangered the lives of the hostages by saying things that weren't quite accurate or by trying to actually contact people trapped inside the buildings.

And so, at this time, there is talk that the media will be getting together to try to hammer out a code of ethics, if you will, for such situations in the future. SWEENEY: Let me bring in Gaurav Mishra here, who is a blogger himself in Washington, among other things. And you have been tracking the role of citizen journalism, particularly since last week. What have you learned about the blogging world and blogging community in India?

GAURAV MISHRA, CITIZEN JOURNALIST: The online community in India is very small. Less than 5 percent people in India have online access. I would also like to say that the Web 2.0 community came of age in terms of crisis reporting a few years back during the tsunami when we did not have Twitter, but people sent text messages to friends who had access computers and who had access to Internet. And these people then transcribed these text messages onto blogs and wikis.

Now with the advent of Twitter, and the maturity of Twitter in India, this has become more visible. I think there was not much original journalistic reporting happening during the Mumbai terror attack. But some of the first pictures to come out of Bombay were posted on Flicker. Some of the first news items available to the Western audience on the Mumbai attack was on Twitter again. And - but beyond that, very few people actually went out and took videos or photographs or wrote first hand accounts of what was happening. So the big story's not a mainstream media was this new media story.

The big story is that thousands of people express their shock and sadness and surprise at the anger on Twitter. And they tried to make sense of what was being reported in the mainstream media, as well as on blogs. And although there was a lot of misreporting even on Twitter, like it was - there was misreporting on mainstream media, I think some people did a very good job of making sense of what was happening by taking sources, by asking questions about where people are getting their information from.

And in the end, I think, citizen journalism did play a very important role in covering the Mumbai terror attack.

SWEENEY: Vijay Dutt of "The Hindustan Times," are you in favor of citizen journalism? I mean, it's a fact of life, but are you in favor of the kind of information that disseminates?

VIJAY DUTT, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES: I think I agree with Gaurav (INAUDIBLE). The exchanges on that were more sometime on a personal level. They wanted to know about friends there in Bombay and things like that. They did not go there, as I said, to take in video shots. They were more exchanging, more into exchanging information of what they were hearing on the TV, on the radio.

So it - they were in fact trying to reach a balanced report about what is going on. I don't think bloggers did that. But what bloggers have done now after the terror attack that they have really exposed the - both the TV and the print media, more the TV, television.

SWEENEY: In what way do you believe?

DUTT: About you know, the way they either help or hindered. There is a debate going on in India now. This news broadcasters association is now meeting to decide a code of conduct.


DUTT: .as to how to report in future such events.

SWEENEY: Roy Wadia, has there been any suggestion in India at all that the live constant 24 hour break in coverage of what took place, the attacks last week, may have actually helped the security forces, rather than the terrorists?

WADIA: No, actually, I've seen it the other way around that the live coverage, the non stop live coverage and the attempts by those doing the coverage to contact people trapped inside may have actually hindered the security forces.

Having said that, I've worked for years as a broadcaster myself. And I know that this is the job of television channels to provide pictures to be upstaged and to send out the latest information.

I think stepping back a bit over here, what happened and what contributed to some of the chaos is that the authorities didn't seem to have their crisis communications act together, especially in the first 24 to 36 hours. I think they should have started providing updates, news conferences.


WADIA: .even if they did have too much information. And the fact is that actually created a news vacuum, which was then filled by speculation and you know, this sort of stuff that we saw in the first.

SWEENEY: Gaurav Mishra, may I come to you in Washington and ask you about again the online community as opposed to what we were seeing on the broadcast media. I mean, you, as I was mentioning before, have been tracking what has been taking place online. And do you believe that Mumbaikers on the Internet can form a movement for something different as a result of what took place last week?

MISHRA: The same thing during right now. Yes, there are many, many initiatives online right now on Facebook, on blogs, so on in terms of online petitions of trying to organize people who are online to work towards either expressing solidarity with those who died and those who fought against the Mumbai terror attack, or to think of some constructive solutions out of it.

But the general sentiment right now is very negative online. SWEENEY: And Vijay Dutt, you said your newspaper had been writing about whether the media has helped or hindered what took place last week. I mean, what conclusion did you come to?

DUTT: Well, it is the duty of the media to keep people informed, but they must realize sensitive issues. But you must not give reaction time to the terrorists to act on the information that you are relaying on the television.

SWEENEY: We must leave it there. Vijay Dutt, Gaurav Mishra, Roy Wadia, thank you all very much indeed.

For months, the media has been reporting on the global credit crunch. And now, news outlets themselves are feeling the pinch, too. Newspapers in particular are being hit by declining revenues and job cuts. Is it all doom and gloom? We'll find out.


TIME STAMP: 0440:54

SWEENEY: Welcome back. Read all about it, newspapers like other media outlets are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. Staff have been cut, titles slashed, advertising revenue is down, and circulation levels of many publications are falling.

According to one media organization, the U.S. newspaper sector lost an estimated 12,500 jobs in the first 10 months of this year. And circulation levels in the U.S. are now at the same level as 1945.

But according to the World Association of Newspapers, we still like to read our news in printed form. It says more than 1.7 billion people read a newspaper each day. And 530 million buy a paper daily. While sales of paid for newspapers climbed by more than 2.5 percent worldwide last year.

So is the writing on the wall after all? I want to bring in professor emeritus Phillip Meyer of the University of North Carolina. In Paris, Timothy Balding, the CEO of the World Association of Newspapers. And here in London is journalism professor with City University, a former newspaper editor and now media commentator Roy Greenslade.

First of all, to Paris, Timothy Balding, why so optimistic about the printed newspaper at a time when many people are predicting its demise?

TIMOTHY BALDING, CEO, WORLD ASSOCIATION OF NEWSPAPERS: Well, I don't think it's a question of optimism or pessimism. I just like to give a reality check to those who would condemn newspapers to death. In 80 percent of the world's countries, the world isn't just the U.S. and Great Britain, in 80 percent, 8-0 of the world's countries last year, newspapers increased their circulations. Of course, they're going through a transition period towards multimedia companies, but their core products still generate on average 95 percent of their profits. And a lot of people prefer readings newspapers still in print.

SWEENEY: Do we have any idea of the demographic of the average reader?

BALDING: It's split across age ranges. Young people never were the great readers of newspapers in most countries. They generally started reading in their mid 20s or their - the early 30s when they constituted families and had children. So it's spread across all ranges. But I mean, if you take one figure, for example, a very wired country like Sweden, one of the most wired in the world, has 88 percent of adults read a newspaper in print everyday. So newspapers are proving incredibly resilient.

But at the same time, they're increasing their audiences even places - in places like the United States. In the United States last year, newspapers increased their audiences by 8 percent when you combined print and online. So newspapers will move online, are moving online as the audience wishes to receive its news that way by Internet.

SWEENEY: Philip Mayer in North Carolina, what is your view of the state of the newspaper industry as we head into a recession?

PHILLIP MEYER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: There's a long term secular decline that will not change. And overlaying the recession on top that is causing some newspaper companies to go into crisis mode right now. And the - that will change, but the long term decline will not change.

In the United States, basically, the newspaper readers are aging out. Each generation reads less than the generation before. And as old readers die off, they're being replaced by young people who have been socialized to different kinds of media.

As to counting the online readers, along with those who read the print product, it's kind of an apples and oranges things because print readership in this country at least is traditionally measured by average daily readership. And the online metrics that I've seen are based on monthly access, not average daily readership. I think if you made an honest comparison, you would find that newspaper readership is not growing in the United States.

SWEENEY: So Roy Greenslade, it would appear that new media is the enemy. Is it?

ROY GREENSLADE, PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERSITY/MEDIA COMMENTATOR: Well, it can be the handmaiden, which is Timothy Balding's point. They can work together. But I think we've got to look at a trend here, as Phillip Meyer says. I mean, the trend, the long term trend of sales of newspapers in advanced countries is down. And at the same time, we can see that the trend for online is going up. And they will become a point at which one will overtake the other.

But the important point here is about business models. It's not that people don't like newspapers. It's the case that the revenue advertising and sales revenue is going down so dramatically that many of the leading media companies in Britain and in the United States are in crisis.

SWEENEY: So is that what's driving it, rather than core content advertising and sales revenue?

GREENSLADE: Well, look, what you have consistent need of is a business model. You can't have the journalism. You can't have the quality and the quantity of journalism unless there's money to pay the journalists and budgets for editorial and so on. And those budgets are being squeezed more and more.

And it's just come at the moment when you need to invest more in your online products to ensure that you're going to improve the quality there and gain the readership. So I think that's the real crisis point that you've got to a cyclical and a structural decline at the same time as you require more investment.

SWEENEY: Let me go back to you, professor emeritus if I may in North Carolina. I mean, I read yes - recently rather, in "The New York Times" an article by Maureen Dowd, which spoke about how a newspaper, a local newspaper in Pasadena, California is outsourcing the coverage of Pasadena to India. Is that a phenomenon? Or is it something that is actually regularly happening in the U.S. now?

MEYER: You know, the next thing that's going to happen is I'll be outsourcing my haircuts to India. No, I don't take that very seriously. You can't edit from a distance. You have to have somebody with the knowledge of a local situation to write and edit it. But for the kind of coverage that they have, which is simply hunting and gathering, going to a meeting, writing down what's said, and putting it in the paper, surely you could do that from India. But you can't do the journalism that we need from India.

SWEENEY: And Timothy Balding in Paris, when we talk about new business models, is it the same across the board for newspapers across the world, or are there different situations and scenarios which will affect, impact on the kind of business model that a newspaper must adapt to?

BALDING: I would say it's pretty much the same throughout the world. Of course, the pressure is much less if you're in India where your circulations are growing by about 10 percent a year. So the pressure to find success in that transition towards the multimedia company is less intense than it might be in the U.K. and the United States.

But I agree completely with Roy Greenslade's analysis of the tremendous problem and difficulty at the moment, which is, as he said, cyclical and structural fall in advertising revenues. But this is not only hitting newspapers. I think all media with fragmentation with multiple platforms now for receiving news and information, multiple platforms for presenting advertising where now the consumer is king, he can pick and choose um, all media have this pressure.

SWEENEY: And Roy Greenslade is there an argument to be made that perhaps print media have adapted far better to new technology than broadcast media?

GREENSLADE: No, I mean, I think that's very patchy indeed. What's so interesting about newspapers is that some of them have done extraordinarily well, but some of them have been very slow to do it. And what we're seeing is start ups of companies that had nothing to do with old traditional media at all. The biggest of them all, Google, for a start.

But also, we're seeing great experiments in the States with websites that had no previous experience in producing newspapers, who are doing really important things in terms of investigative journalism. Propublica, TPM, talking points memo, and one or two other smaller experiments, which are really, I think, attempting to say look, we didn't actually need this great big media organization, a big newspaper. We can do it from a relatively small amount of people.

I think we are going to see fewer and fewer journalists, but the ones that will be left will be highly skilled and will work in a different way, most importantly, with their audiences or the people we formally called an audience, with them in participation.

SWEENEY: Well, there's room for a lot more discussion, but unfortunately, we have to leave it there. And I want to thank you all very much indeed. Professor Emeritus Phillip Meyer in North Carolina, Timothy Balding in Paris, and here in the studio, Professor Roy Greenslade.

Now documenting the reality of war in an unconventional manner. Last year, artist David Cotterrell spent time photographing a military hospital in Afghanistan. His work is on show in London. And CNN takes a tour when we return.


TIME STAMP: 0452:14

SWEENEY: Welcome back. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but as one artist discovered, sound can challenge perceptions. Last year, David Cotterrell went to Afghanistan to observe military medical staff in action. What he came back with is a disturbing account of the cost of war. Cotterrell's work is the focus of the new exhibition in London. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson recently met the artist.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are we looking at here?

DAVID COTTERRELL, ARTIST: We're inside a Hercules. It's a C130, which is being fitted or is being equipped to take medical evacuations.

ROBERTSON: We feel like we're inside the C130. What were you trying to achieve?

COTTERRELL: I think we're used to seeing photographs. And some - in some form. We're used to seeing moving images. And we have an acceptance of how to deal with that and also how to separate ourselves from it.

This installation is an attempt to try and through the peripheral vision, through the sound, to ask you maybe to forget your conventional distance from an image and consider maybe that this could be part of your environment as well.

ROBERTSON: And do you think that an exhibit like this will challenge those perceptions of other people successfully?

COTTERRELL: It's - it adds a view which you wouldn't normally see, which may contradict or complement the traditional views that we see of the conflict, of the drama and the - in a way the excitement or the bravado of war.

ROBERTSON: What are some of the traumas that you saw because you spent time in the operating room where casualties were coming in from the battlefield. What did you see there?

COTTERRELL: You - I suppose what hits you first is the frequency of injury that in 20 minutes of my first briefing, I was expecting a kind of gentle lead in for some reason into the experience, but within 20 minutes, the first helicopters were arriving with wounded. You see people coming in with mine strikes, with injuries from shrapnel, from rifle wounds, grenades, rocket propelled grenades. What I saw was there are soldiers arriving covered in dust and filth. They have been brought straight from a battle which is still going on. I saw people coming in with chest wounds and you begin to recognize the ash man chest seals. Kind of a strange adhesive device which has a fluttering kind of appendage to it, which allows the air to escape from the chest cavity in a collapsed lung.

You begin to recognize the amount of blood that's been lost because fill dressing is containing up to a liter of water, of blood. And you begin to understand how doctors are able to view incredibly quickly the level of intensity of the wounds. Patients arrive calm. They have sedated themselves by administering morphine. They may have spent several hours in the battlefield before they've been brought back. Or they may have been brought back seconds from the fire fight.

They don't come in screaming. They come in calm and talking and negotiating with the doctors about what they feel that they allow - they want the doctors to do for them. And.

ROBERTSON: What sort of things did you hear?

COTTERRELL: I heard soldiers in a way kind of deciding - trying to insist that they wouldn't give permission for amputations or to.

ROBERTSON: To have their leg cut off, for example.

COTTERRELL: Yes. And so, in a way, kind of trying to get clarity from the doctor to explain to them what - how serious their injury may be. I suppose the shock was that in contemporary warfare, the way in which warfare's been portrayed, maybe since the Gulf War 1, we begin to think of war as being separate from individual human bodies. And we think of it more in terms of technology.

I mean, the great shock was seeing the effect of hard objects on soft bodies.

ROBERTSON: It sounds as if the whole experience has actually had an incredibly profound effect on you as well?

COTTERRELL: Well I came back with this feeling that war, like every other human experience, is vastly complex. It rides on the moral judgments of individuals. It relies on the complexity of context, which is probably impossible to capture in a moment, even as an eye witness. And I felt it more appropriate for me to somehow describe the confusion, rather than attempting to find a summary or a simple response.

So I came back feeling less clear about my comments about saying whether war is justifiable or not in this area, even though I'd seen more of it than the rest of my life. I came back feeling, in a way, it was appropriate to try and describe the confusion as well as the clarity.


SWEENEY: Artist and photographer David Cotterrell speaking there to Nic Robertson.

Well, don't forget to drop by our website. Log on to to see show highlights. You can also check out our archive, take part in the quick vote, and read the blog. The address

And that is all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.