Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 12 March 2019

The latest developments in media and technology, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.

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Sankha Guha, Magenta De Vine, Rough Guides
Sankha Guha, Magenta De Vine, Rough Guides

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.

Why oh why?

The past couple of days have obviously seen a major aviation story dominate the news headlines and TV news.

Each time this happen there is the recurring question of why do the same contributors always appear on the BBC, Sky News and other media outlets?

A combination of cuts to newsroom budgets and the growth of 24 hour news means there are fewer specialist correspondents employed by broadcasters. The skill demanded of TV news presenters and reporters today is the ability to present “open ended” coverage of any story. They are generalists not specialists, and they need to be able to call on contributors.

Like any industry, it’s not what you know but you know. It was no coincidence that ten years or so ago Virgin Atlantic could get easy coverage on BBC News because its then Director of Communications had previously worked for the corporation.

Regular contributors are also very familiar with the studio environment and broadcast media. They know they have a very limited amount of time on air and must get straight to the point. They know during an interview not to look directly in to the studio camera like a scared rabbit and not to bang their hand on the desk. They know to give the presenter pointers on what questions to ask before the interview when the cameras aren’t running.

There may be other experts on hand. But they may not be willing to make themselves available at very short notice to travel to inconvenient locations (Sky News studios are in Osterley) for what are very modest appearance fees. Put simply, they could be earning a lot more money doing other things. And they simply may not perform well on what is a very superficial medium.

Thus, it’s easy for a researcher working in a high pressure newsroom environment to pick up the phone to someone they know who will be both available and reliable rather than try someone who is untested and risk the wrath of an editor and the viewers.

Rough Guides Remembered

A large part of television today is influenced a short-lived programme called “Network 7” that ran on Channel 4 for just two series in the late 1980s.

Dubbed “a channel within a channel” the two hour programme that had the mantra “News is Entertainment. Entertainment is News.” It featured short bite-sized features, frenetic camera work and ever changing graphics were a near permanent presence on screen.

One of its co-creators Janet Street-Porter was recruited by the BBC to revamp its youth output. Janet took two of Network 7’s reporters, Magenta De Vine (known for her trademark sunglasses) and Sankha Guha, with her. One of Janet’s creations was “The Rough Guide..”

With sometimes awkward juxtaposition, it featured both serious and light insights on its featured destinations from the perspective of its residents for independent travellers. At the time this was genuinely groundbreaking television. Previously travel shows featured what were effectively heavily mannered infomercials on package holidays.

Magenta De Vine sadly passed away last week at the young age of 61.

Also of note this week:

How the internet travels across the oceans. (New York Times)

US Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren calls for the breakup of major US technology companies. (Washington Post)

How Twitter wants to change the way we tweet. (Recode)

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