Posted by: benk1988 | December 29, 2009

Veteran Journalist Shines New Light on Ripper

Over the years newspapers have been responsible for many so called moral panics; it has brought down politicians and caused nations to go to war. However in a recent investigation by veteran journalist Kelvin Mackenzie it has come to light that one of the most notorious headlines and titles in criminal history is in fact a media fabrication. The legendary Jack the Ripper.

During a recent programme broadcast on Sky the former Sun editor examined the media’s role in the police investigation to catch the perpetrator of the most horrific and brutal murders in British history. However their ‘help’ was not always in the interests of the public. The emergence of a new paper desperate for sales meant that a massive story was needed. In late 19th Century London literacy was rocketing and a new paper searching out its niche The Star. It was clear an entirely new consumer market was opening up, and The Star wanted to print stories that involved them, the lower classes.

So the story goes that when an alcoholic prostitute was murdered in the East-End that the Star suddenly saw an opportunity. This sort of murder was not rare and often went completely unreported in the more prestigious Times but this was exactly the sort of stuff that Star editor Thomas P O’Connor wanted. The story ran and ran and at first sales rocketed however after a while these began to lessen and O’Connor was concerned that this ‘new journalism’ was going to fail before it had really begun. So he started to bend the truth, linking the murder of Mary Ann Nichols with two other utterly unrelated and entirely different murders. So different that we do not even remember the names of the women that were involved.

However the Star did not have to wait long for another grisly murder and Mackenzie actually postulates that the press coverage that the Ripper received was causing him to pursue other victims. With the circulation on the rise again the paper and others like it were keen to keep the Ripper in the headlines and began to spread unfounded rumours regarding the identity of the killer, including headlines damning, Jews, doctors and the aristocracy. This was fantastic journalism, targeting the class enemies of the lower class and meant that sales stayed high. O’Connor did not seem to care whether what he was reporting was true or not as long as circulation stayed high.

Through some clever investigative work by Mackenzie he uncovered the ‘Dear Boss’ letter. This macabre missive taunted the police and gave some bloody and gruesome insights into the killings. Delivered to the Central News Agency, an organisation that circulated news around the world, it was signed for the first time ‘Jack the Ripper’. This was a very curious document. Written very neatly and with care and attention it did not strike as the work of a deranged mass murder and automatically raised suspicion with Mackenzie. He was suspicious firstly due to the fact that not many people new of the existence of the Central News Agency except for journalists, secondly the curious writing style and thirdly the fact that this letter had arrived a month after the second murder when it appeared the Ripper may well be done. Having examined the records of The Star a letter emerged from the owner to the editor at the time claiming that the efforts of a ‘Mr Best’ to mislead the paper should have resulted in the termination of his employment earlier. Having consulted hand writing experts it became clear that Mr Best who was working for the Star at the time had written the ‘Dear Boss’ letter and thus given birth to the name ‘Jack the Ripper.’

Two more murders were committed before the letter was reported so it can not be argued that Best caused the Ripper to strike again however it now means that the identity of the killer is even more unclear as one piece of key evidence is essentially a forgery.

A statue of Star editor O’Connell looks proudly over Fleet Street in London, over the spiritual home of British journalism. Although he was very liberal with the truth his paper gave birth to what we see now as modern tabloid journalism and brought the news, admittedly somewhat misleadingly, to the mass populous. Could it be argued that their coverage caused the Ripper to kill again and in even more brutal ways? Yes it could, however this could be said of all subsequent mass murders and rapists. We can not live in a society where the media are prevented from reporting crime as that would surely be the bigger injustice and failure of the people. One thing is certain that The Star’s reporting of the murders has gone down in infamy, not for the clever journalism or the insightful investigating but due to a forgery from one journalist writing a disturbing letter. This letter gave us a name to put to the murderer whose identity we may never know. Since then many other serial killers have been assigned the nickname, the Yorkshire Ripper, the Camden Ripper and most recently a series of killings with worryingly similar methods in around Norwich carried out by the Norfolk Ripper.

With another piece of evidence discredited will we ever know who was Jack the Ripper?

Posted by: benk1988 | December 12, 2009



The final live bulletin of WINOL was clearly the best that we have done. We had two exclusives on the programme and both of them would not have looked out of place on South Today or in the Daily Echo. We really took a great leap in terms of the look of the programme, having used a backdrop for the first time and finally hitting the deadline of 5pm. All these points coupled with the fact that the studio was not recording audio until an hour before going live everyone rose to the occasion brilliantly well and pulled together as a really well working news room.

Monday’s news meeting brought forward what I originally thought was a fairly week line up of stories and I began to worry that the news content would again let us down. The poll that we had been running on the site was the lead story as, firstly it was an exclusive and secondly it was highly relevant to our target audience, little did we know how this story would turn out. The other stories were somewhat less relevant to our target so I was somewhat concerned.

I spent my time on Monday really ploughing into the promotional work as although out hits had gone up the previous week I really wanted to ensure that our last week was even better. Unfortunately the Student Union were unable to award us any BOP tickets for Date With Fate competition. This, I felt, was a bit of a failure on my part, although their reasoning was that they could not be seen to endorse an independent part of the University, I still felt that perhaps I could have tackled this issue earlier in the WINOL run. So I then focussed on ensuring that as many people as possible were aware of the last bulletin.

As the week went on it became clear that Maritn Tod the Liberal Democrat candidate for Winchester had contacted all his supporters in an effort to fluctuate the Liberal’s vote in our online poll. This was a real breakthrough for us and set us on the road to the best story I have been part of since doing this course. The fact that we caught a potential MP attempting to prejudice a student ran poll really pushed this story to the forfront of the news room activity. Stu who was reporting on this quickly contacted the Labour and Conservative candidates and ensured we had some brilliantly hard hitting questions which we could confront Tod with. The head of the University Politics Department was then lined up as a studio guest and this was quickly becoming a big news event. Further to this a fire broke out in the Stanmore housing estates. This would have been a story on its own, however we managed to get an exclusive interview with a student who had helped the resident of the property until the emergency services arrived. These two stories transformed our bulletin and suddenly gave us two exclusives that we could build the rest of the package around.

Due to the quality of the two packages it was decided on the Wednesday that I would approach the Daily Echo to see if they were interested in the stories in exchange for a quote and plug for our website. I was nervous about this as I had never really approached a paper like this before. It was even more difficult as I had to try and get the Editor, Andrew Nappier, to agree to give us coverage without telling him exactly what the story was. He was not very keen to talk to me and seemed to be slightly offended that we may have a story that his paper had not got. Having spoken to him I said I would discuss matters with my news editor and lecturers and get back to him. I was instructed to give little away and that if he didn’t want our exclusives then we should not sell ourselves short to give them to him. In the end he really didn’t seem happy a student was talking to him he therefore decided that he would watch our bulletin at five and if he was interested he would be in touch.

The BBC however were more interested and I have sent over all the relevant information and material to them for possible use on South Today. This was a really good experience for me and something I will be able to use later in my career.

In the debrief on Monday it was decided that in an attempt to ensure we got the bulletin uploaded at 5 we would move the recording forward to 3, this put more pressure on the team and exacerbated the audio problems in the studio. However everyone rose to the occasion brilliantly and the deadlines were all hit this week for the first time ever.

This week really felt the culmination of so much hard work and everything fell into place. I really pushed the promotional work including launching an award campaign for the student involved in the Stanmore fire. The circulation figures were up on last week and I am really pleased about this.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 30, 2009

The dawn of pay-per-click news

Everything has its price, almost everything it seems is a commodity to be bought and sold. News is no exception. With the dawn of Sky News came a much bigger and more intimidating rival to the BBC. ITV News was left looking lost as Murdoch’s millions began buying up all the latest technology and quickly established satellite TV as a major player on the news scene. However it would now seem that this duopoly between Sky and BBC is facing a new threat, an online threat. Now for the first ever time news sites are charging to readers to access their content. Is this the next step to new media capitalism or a feeble attempt to garner higher profit margins in a struggling industry.

The Johnstone Press is the first organisation to request their readers to pay to access their stories. If they do not wish to do this they are directed to buy hard copies of their newspapers. The £5 fee for a three-month subscription will permit readers access to, the Worksop Guardian, the Ripley and Heanor News, the Whitby Gazette and the Northumberland Gazette. The trial also includes a couple of papers in Scotland.

The attempt to force readers to pay for content has been mooted by media-mogul Rupert Murdoch, however he is yet to show his hand with regards to how he would attract people to pay for his Sky based content compared to just going to the BBC that is already paid for through the license fee. Although with regard to regional news this may be slightly more realistic. With the standard regional paper costing between 30-40p the consumer would only have to buy 13 papers to make the investment of £5 financially viable. However this is only the case as there will be few other regional news providers offering free access to information.

This is just a trial, but if successful it may become permanent and more and more news corporations will be looking to secure their futures in the cut throat world of new media.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 16, 2009

The Time Has Come To Re-Test Drivers


A 70-year old man has died today after crashing his car into some railings outside a college in Winchester. It is unclear whether his death was as a direct relation to the crash or whether he suffered from some unrelated medical condition that took his life however, it does raise the question of whether or not people should have to resit their driving test once they hit a certain age.

I am unaware of the causes of the crash and fully acknowledge that more accidents are caused by the under-25s than anyone else and for all i know this gentleman may have been a fantastic driver. However it does seem odd to me that as people get older and their reactions start to slow there is no effort made by the state to ensure that they are still competent to drive. In many collisions involving older drivers it has been clear that the slow reactions of the drivers, regardless of age, have had an effect. Therefore surely anyone, regardless of age, should be re-tested if their eye sight and reactions begin to slow. The chances of them being more of a danger to themselves and other road users is undeniable and a time will surely come when the DVLA will decide re-testing of certain groups of society is a necessity.

This is not ageism and i stress that the gentleman involved in today’s accident may be entirely innocent of any bad driving and may have, for example, swerved to avoid an animal. But perhaps the time has come that some solid research is conducted so that we know once and for all whether re-testing will help protect road users.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 16, 2009

New Zealand Whiskey Plans Raise Archeological Questions

The news that the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust plans to dig up whiskey buried by Ernest Shackleton raises a key question about the future of archaeology and its standing in today’s society.The two bottles were buried under a hut used by the polar explorer during his unsuccessful bid to reach the magnetic south pole at the start of the 20th Century. Plans have now been made to use special tools to cut through the ice that now encases the crate in an attempt to restore the whiskey to its original condition. Although there is no intention to sample the drink the question has to be asked, why bother?

Things like this are little colourful dots in the canvas of national culture. I am sure that they efforts by the Antarctic Heritage are noble and that they do not wish to offend anyone or disrupt the national history of New Zealand. But this takes away some of the mystique and will take away from the uniqueness of the trip that ended with Shackleton being forced to turn back. That is not to say that it is only New Zealand where this is an issue. By an extension of this argument though you could say that all forms of archaeological are wrong. Therefore we would have no Tutankhamun or Terracotta Soldiers. However this misses the point.

The large important discoveries are of such significance that they have to be removed from their site in order for us to properly understand their significance. This is not the same in the case of Shackleton’s booze and as such it should be left alone to continue being an interesting side note in the history of polar exploration.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 15, 2009

The True Cause That Is Afghanistan

Another week roles past and more lives are lost. More men and women of our armed forces are killed at the hands of the Taliban and more families lives are ruined. The media will exclaim, ‘too much!’ the Tories that ‘we have had enough,’ and the public will cry ‘bring our boys home.’ It is tragic.

It is tragic that the country that raised these brave men and women are betraying their memory by claiming that the cause that they fight for is, for want of a better term, pointless. The fact remains, whether it is a nice one or not, that these brave people were soldiers, they signed up and were trained to fight on the front line. That is not to take anything away from their sacrifice or their selflessness, however let us remember why we are in the gulf. Perhaps less Iraq but certainly in the case of Afghanistan, the people, the law abiding, peace seeking mass populous were robbed of any and all freedoms. Denied the right to express feelings, women denied the right to an education and children denied the right to play in the street. Is this a nice war? No of course not, but what wars are?

We have just remembered as a nation the sacrifice that many millions of this country’s brave men made in defiance of tyranny and oppression. They laid down their lives to give me the right to write this today, they laid down their lives so that people could feel safe from censorship and not have to worry that they would be kidnapped in the middle of the night never to be seen again. Yet now it appears we do not care for this. We have forgotten as we take it for granted. The men and women fighting in the gulf are fighting for exactly the same reasons. Ok perhaps not on the same scale but does it make a difference if 100 people are denied freedom as opposed to a million, does it make a difference if one woman is told she can not attend school as opposed to a thousand? It makes no difference what so ever, an injustice remains an injustice and a just cause remains a just cause.

This doesn’t make the burden any easier to bear, it doesn’t make it any easier for a mother to accept a folded flag in exchange for her sons life, but it does matter. It may be a war of political aspirations and personal gain for those in office but do you honestly think it is for those bleeding in the battle field. They still see the children that have never had a street safe enough to play in and talk to the farmers forced to grow opium as opposed to wheat to feed his family with.

800,000 British souls were ended or wounded in WWII and the current death toll in Afghanistan stands at 223, admittedly there is a clear and obvious difference yet the cause remains the same. For those that argue Hitler wanted to wipe out an entire religion as opposed to the Taliban ‘merely’ wanting to domiante a region, do you not think they would do the same, were they in a position to pursue this goal? The fact is whether we like it or not, brave British boys and girls have been sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom for hundreds of years and they will continue to do so. Each life lost is a new tragedy, not just because it traumatises a home but because that loss was needed in the first place, that a death is necessary to show the world that the way it treats each other is important.

Confucious once said ‘In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.’ This is very true with the wars we are fighting today. Whether or not you agree with the fact that Britain, America and their allies are in the gulf the fact remains that for the average civilian their they are more free now than perhaps they have ever been, yes there is still trouble and yes people are still dying but that is the sacrifice that has to be made in the pursuit of freedom and it is one that British men and women have always been prepared to make, no matter what the cost.

This nation has too long a history of imposing its feelings and authority over other states and now we are having to address it. It is not easy, it is often awful and normally tragic if such a juxta-position can exist but one thing it is, is right and just.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 15, 2009

Week 2 Winol Round-Up

With week two of WINOL complete I feel that it was a vast improvement on last week. Right from the outset this week’s production had a better atmosphere and this started right from the news meeting on Monday. With last week’s news conference slightly low on stories, I was concerned that we would face similar issues this week. However the number of stories and the fact that we already had stories in the can, impressed me and made the whole episode seem somewhat more relaxed. The news meeting was conducted in a far more structured manner this week and seemed to be completed far quicker despite the fact that there were a lot more people in attendance. This meant that the news team could focus more on chasing up stories they had and editing material they had already gathered and less on looking for new stories. This lead in turn to a far more efficient team and news room. My one reservation from the news meeting however was the deadlines set on packages. It seemed clear to me that some of the deadlines set were clearly never going to be met and this is something that I really think needs addressing. Even if a buffer is built in so missing the deadline is not the end of the world, it is bad practise and we need to ensure that the deadlines set are completely concrete. Going into Tuesday the newsroom seemed fairly quiet and as of that time there were no major problems forseen. The only concern was the fact that we would be recording our two packages to lead the bulletin at 11am on Wednesday due to the nature of the pieces. This meant that we would need to get the teams back to the news room and edit in time to hand over to the production department before the bulletin at 4pm. With regards to my own role in the team I feel that I had a very productive week. I have logged the website as a registered business in several local web based directories. Further to this I contacted SU President Jimmy Weighell about a potential live broadcast and arranged a meeting about that on Tuesday. The meeting went well and I got a clear indication of how relations between the Student Union and WINOL would work this year. He didn’t think a live broadcast from BOP would be workable due to the usual drunken goings on associated with BOP however did feel that a broadcast of the Children in Need activities on Friday would work. I am still waiting to hear back from Jimmy with more news. Further to this the newspapers began being delivered to the University this week so we now get papers, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I also began looking at promotional material and banners for the first live broadcast. However I am doubtful that the University will pay for us to get a banner made even though the prices were lower than I anticipated. The ongoing problem with the loan counter remains as they seem reluctant to permit us to use the TV studio even when it is not in use. Not only this but they seem to feel that we are rude to ask, this is an issue that needs to be addressed as is the current problem with getting access to a camera. However short of buying more equipment I do not see how this issue could be resolved. On Wednesday the news room was obviously a hive of activity and slowly but surely everything began slotting into place. This was mainly due to the fact that the packages were ready far earlier this week than last. With the exception of the two Armistice Day pieces that were being edited till 3pm due to the fact that they could only be filmed that day, everything else was ready to go. This is not to say that it all went smoothly, we again had issues with the script and running order and the dressing of the set definetly has to be addressed. Save for a few individual mistakes the bulletin went well, far better than last week. There are still many things we need to improve on, obviously, however I am very pleased with the improvement. Going in to this week’s bulletin the work is going to be even harder, the website has been transferred over to and the bulletin will be going out at 5 on Wednesday regardless of how it looks. It’s going to involve a lot of hard work but i’m confident we can produce a good news programme.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 10, 2009

The Cynicism of Man

I don’t know whether it is the on set of the colder weather or the ever increasing years of my life but i have finally come to the decision that humanity is inherently bad. Having completed my Government and Politics A level several years ago now i know that the basic understanding is that left-wing liberals believe in the goodness of humanity compared to the right-wing ethos that the masses are constanty looking to get one up on each other and get ahead.

Having seen a fair amount of years come and years go now i have reached the opinion that mankind is inherently bad. I have reached this decision for many reasons however it is not with exceptions and reservations. Firstly when i say bad i do not mean that everyone wants to go around murdering each other but i do believe that the majority of people would cause a stranger a small harm if it improved their lives. If you asked a hundred people if they would question £500 suddenly appearing in their bank accounts the portion that said yes i would argue are being dishonest as even if they suspect it must be owed to someone else they would not want to enquire for risk of losing it.

This is not to say that mankind is always selfish, small mercies, so to speak, are often evident, people donate organs and blood and many give money to charity. However how many of these people genuinely do it for the good of others and not for the feeling of self satisfaction they garner from it. This raises the question is there such an action as entirely selfless deed. Surely all things that one does even in an unselfish manner would give the instigator the feeling of having done something right, therefore removing the unselfishness of the act.

Perhaps i am just getting old or perhaps it’s my cynicism arising from my constant desire to read the news and watch news programmes. Or on the other hand perhaps as im growing up the rose-tinted glasses handed out to everyone at birth are slipping from my frowning face.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 10, 2009

More Job Cuts At British Banks

Lloyds have announced today that they are going to cut a further 5,000 jobs, not the top brass or those collecting their massive Christmas bonuses, no it’s those that are seen as supplementary to requirement. Admittedly, some 2,400 of those jobs will be temporary staff but those are the age brackets and backgrounds that have been hit hardest by the rocketing numbers of unemployment. With the number of those seeking worker higher than in most peoples living memory the news of yet more cuts is certainly not going to be a welcome one with Christmas just round the corner.

Considering the fact that 43% of the Lloyds group is owned by the taxpayers many of them will feel betrayed knowing that many of the big bosses of the bank will be collecting ludicrous end of year sweeteners. All the various sectors are being effected with 940 jobs going from their insurance arm.

So, many more people will be searching the job columns now and even more will be concerned at the risk to their own jobs with the holiday season approaching and stockings needing filling.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 10, 2009

Time For a Change to Libel Law

Two leading campaign groups have today called for the complete upheavel of current libel laws amid growing concerns that freedom of speech is becoming ever more endangered. Both the Index of Censorship and the English PEN are challenging many facets of the current restrictions and have set out new ideas to address the growing trend in foreign celebrities coming to London to sue due to the nature of our censorship. 


Capping libel damages at £10,000 and making an apology the chief remedy
Shifting the burden of proof so claimants have to demonstrate damage
Preventing cases from being heard in London unless 10% of copies of the offending publication are circulated in England
Stopping large and medium-sized companies from being able to launch libel actions unless they can prove malicious falsehood
Making some internet comments exempt as part of efforts to reflect the arrival of the world wide web
Establishing a libel tribunal, along the lines of employment tribunals, as an alternative to expensive full court trials
Reducing the prohibitive cost of  
Strengthening the public interest defence and expanding the definition of fair comment.
If these recommendations were put into effect it would revolutionise modern journalism. Each of these points would mean that no longer would writers have to worry about causing the slightest offence and they would be immune from prosecution unless the claimant could actually prove that damage has been caused. Take today for example, Peter Andre has been awarded ‘substantial’ damages in London’s High Court against Now Magazine after claims he wasn’t ‘a loving father’. How can this be justified when both his estranged wife, Jordan and the former pop star have courted the media constantly since they met on reality TV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  

Yes admittedly he does not appear to me to be a particularly bad father and it can not be nice to read that about yourself but what actually physical damage has he suffered? What justification does he have for receiving financial compensation? Unless he means to donate this money to charity and unless these laws change many celebrities will continue to see these ‘awards’ as another income and will continue to paw through the pages of every publication looking for the slightest insult on which to base a claim of libel.


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