Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Gutenberg, Caxton and the origins of printing - Journalism Now

In the year 1436 German inventor Johannes Gutenberg began inventing the printing press; it was complete in 1440. This machine, although requiring many tweaks over the years, remained the principal means of printing until the late twentieth century. Gutenberg had created the first machine that could print using movable type: each character is cast upon a separate piece of metal, therefore giving the availability to move the lettering around.

     Before Gutenberg's invention woodblock printing was used; this took a lot longer as the lettering was carved by hand. It was also extremely costly as the wood would have a short life span, so the lettering would have to be reproduced on a large scale.
     Early productions from the printing press were slips of paper sold by the Catholic Church to remit temporal punishments in purgatory for sins committed. This is what was known as a mass-produced indulgence but though only the wealthy could afford it, it was done on a large scale. In 1450 Gutenberg entered into a partnership with Johan Fust and legal documents suggest this is when he began producing the Bible. Fust entered into this partnership as Gutenberg was finding it difficult to fund the printing press - something Fust would be able to help with.

     All seemed to be going well, until 1455 when Fust sued Gutenberg winning possession of all the equipment and the almost completed version of the Bible -- this was completed in 1456. One year after the production of the Bible, Fust and former assistant to Gutenberg, Peter Schoffer, published the Mainz Psalter which featured red and blue text; this Psalter was also the first book to have the printer's trademark and imprint along with the date of publication.

      At this point it is clear to see the impact that Gutenberg's invention had on the advancement for printing. People were now able to read the Bible and not only saw publications as a reminder of the past, but also as a sign for the future.

     Even though Gutenberg had lost his invention to Fust, he was not finished. He created the new printer's outfit which was a set of small types with round, cursive handwriting an invention which really took off after Gutenberg's death in 1468. One of the most influential printers was a man called William Caxton. He was an Englishman who was the first to bring the print press to England (1476) and was arguably the best printer of his day. It can be said that Caxton was the important figure for printing in England and was therefore instrumental in getting English scholars heard around the world.

     The print press houses were so common that by 1499 more than 2500 European cities had one; also by this time 15 million books had been produced, which is a staggering amount. Obviously, the more books that were produced, the cheaper they became. And this, in turn, meant that wider groups of the public were able to enjoy them.
     Gutenberg's invention has proved extremely important to the growth of the media today. Such things such as propaganda have relied heavily on the print press; the 'Turkenkalender' was the one of the original works of the printing press and was propaganda against the Turks. It can be inferred that if Gutenberg had not invented the printing press, propaganda such as motivational signs during the World Wars would not have been able to have such a great affect. It also resulted in an increase in censorship, which was a sign that it was felt by those in authority to be dangerous and challenging to their position. This link is a six part documentary to the invention of the printing press. I found it very helpful, and interesting.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Media Law and Ethics - Week 5 - Secrets/Confidentiality

In this week's 'Media Law' lecture we discussed the three areas of the rights people have to keep secrets. The three main areas were state secrets, commercial secrets and the invasion of ones privacy (human rights).

The revealing of a state secret can range from anything such as accidentaly publishing a picture of a military building, to revealing the identity of an MI5 spy. Any building can be protected by The Official Secrets Act; if caught filming these buildings without any form of permission, you could run the risk of being in serious trouble. Even though this is the case, the building in question would have to display a clear sign indicating this, and if not, then you run no such risk.

Each person has the right to be sure that anything told in confidence will not be reported or disclosed to a third party. One of the best examples of this is a doctor-patient confidentiality. If a doctor decided that he/she wanted to tell somebody about a particular patient's condition without permission then this is judged as a breach of confidence, for which the doctor would be in serious trouble. Something like this is an example of a commercial secret. On the other hand, if the person telling the secret tells it to a brother/sister or boyfriend/girlfriend, the situation changes; there is judged to be no absoloute confidence in family members, and as a result there is no reasonable expectation for them to keep the secret. In order for us to know that the secret information is genuine it must have four things: quality of confidence, told in the correct circumstance (so not blurted out at a party in front of hundreds of people), no premission to reveal and it must cause actual detriment to the person.

One of the most famous cases to come out of the privacy law is that of Max Mosley. He had been accused by the News Of The World of taking part in a 'sick Nazi orgy' with prostitutes. At the time everyone expected Mosley to be fighting a losing battle as it was believed that he had no reasonable expectation for the prostitute not to reveal this. Mosley however was awarded a staggering amount of money in damages for the defamatory comments. For an overview of the full story visit

The invasion of somebodys privacy is the third aspect to consider: one of the main ways we can explain this is in that of taking photographs (still or motion). For example, if one was to secretly take photos of somebody in their home and publish these photos, they would be in clear breach of this Human Rights Act. A main area that is being affected by these privacy laws is that or the workplace. Employers however, have a way around having employees tell secrets about the workplace or any dis-functionalities it may have. These are called 'gagging clauses': these are set out in the contracts of employment stating that if the employee reveals any work secret, they can be fired on the spot. This could inevitably work as a way around the beloved public interest law. A good case is that of Graham Pink, who in 1990 went to a newspaper and revealed NHS inadequacies in caring for the elderly; consequently Pink was dismissed for 'breaching confidentiality.' This behaviour is known as 'whistle-blowing', and many people have suffered the same fate as Pink. A good website for research on 'whistle-blowing' is .

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Red ball leaves Liverpool red faced!

So there I was watching Match Of The Day, when I witnessed one of the strangest goals in the Premier League match at The Stadium Of Light between Sunderland and Liverpool. A fifth minute strike which can only be described as a 'freak', hit a beach ball, that ironically a Liverpool fan had thrown onto the pitch. In doing this the ball left Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina totally flat footed and somewhat confused as he watched the ball (the real one) hit the back of the net.

At the time there did not seem to be much complaint or controversy about the goal, however post match interviews with referees and players seemed to change this. I share Darren Bent's opinion that if the ball was on the edge of Reina's six yard box, and was bothering him that much then he should have moved it himself, which he failed to do. However, former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher, believes the referee should have intervened to remove the beach ball, or instead of allowing the goal, forced a drop ball.

The arguments over this matter will rage on for years to come, but the simple truth of the matter is that Liverpool quite frankly did not deserve anything out of the game anyway, so to have robbed Sunderland of a historic win for something as bizarre as this, would have been a huge injustice. Even Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believed 'he could have no complaints about the result'.

'Starsuckers' - a way to make money?

Something that has recently caught my attention has been the infamous starsuckers hoax which has been played on many un-suspecting tabloid newspapers. Chris Atkins and other documentary makers have been inventing somewhat funny stories about well known celebrities and feeding them to some of the UK's best selling newspapers.

This seems like a great laugh in itself, however the thing that really gets me explaining this to other people over and over again is that it is a great way to make some serious money! For example Chris Atkins explained that he was 'promised' £600 from a story sold to 'The Sun', that the Girls Aloud singer, Sarah Harding, was in fact the owner of many quantum physics books. It is simply amazing that something as simple as that can earn you £600 in less than half an hour; in which the same time, most people would earn a mere £3!

Atkins did explain however that it was not his aim to mak money, rather to 'test the theory that tabloid editors publish celbrity stories with scant regard for the truth'. He does also go on to say that it would have taken a minimal amount of time for these editors to fact-check these stories, so in my opinion it shows sheer idleness. On the other hand, it is stories like this that have made newspapers such as 'The Sun' so popular.

So, if any stereotypically poor students want a way of making some quick, hard cash, all you need is a 'phone number, a (fake) name, a funny story which is also not too offensive (so a story they do not have to fact check.).

Also, the Starsuckers the movie is in cinemas on the 30th October.