Spying on carers risks damaging the trust we need to raise standards

Finding care for frail parents in their declining years has just been recognised as one of the most stressful decisions we will ever have to make. According to a new Care Quality Commission survey, it is more stressful than getting married or divorced or choosing children’s schooling. Central in this stress is the fear that carers might not just be inadequate but cruel – understandable given recent court cases exposing extreme abuse in care homes. But is the solution to use secret cameras to monitor carers? Or would this exacerbate stress by adding further distrust and creating a surveillance mentality towards work that essentially depends on good and trusting human relations?

While falling short of actually recommending that relatives should install surveillance cameras, the CQC is nevertheless endorsing their use by issuing guidelines for relatives considering such action. Andrea Sutcliffe, the watchdog’s chief inspector of adult social care, acknowledges that this is controversial. Some people, she says, will think of her as the “devil incarnate”, but she defends the guidelines as guidance for those who choose this route.

I certainly don’t think these suggestions are diabolic: they are a legitimate response to heart-breaking cases, like that of 79-year-old dementia sufferer Gladys Wright, whose abuse at the hands of “carer” Daniel Baynes was exposed by a secret camera; and it’s not as if surveillance in public spaces isn’t now routine. But nor can I embrace the move either.

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Bucket Lists show people love Nature but don’t protect it

The ‘bucket list’ is a staple of contemporary publishing. There are books about “the top 100 wines you must drink”, “the 100 cities you should visit” or “the 100 walks you should do”. Most bucket lists are simply “100 things to do before you die”. So prevalent is this activity now that there’s a master bucket list website where everyone can post a list.

What’s striking is how frequently these lists are to do with Nature. The places most often chosen are those regarded as having extreme natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, the Giant’s Causeway. The ‘sights’ also invariably include amazing natural phenomena: the Northern Lights, a meteor shower, a full moon (preferably during a full-moon party in Thailand), a total eclipse, an active volcano. Many experiences involve exposing yourself to the power of Nature, such as white water rafting, “floating in the Dead Sea” or “showering under a waterfall”. Some express a desire for close encounters with other species: swimming with dolphins, whale watching, riding an elephant, going on a safari, seeing the mountain gorillas, or, more dubiously, “hugging a koala bear” or “cuddling a tiger cub

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Me, Me, Me: The Rise and Rise of Autobiographical Journalism

First appeared in The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism , edited by Stuart Allan, Routledge 2010

The growth of autobiographical, ‘confessional’ journalism is one of the most striking elements in contemporary journalism. This is journalism given over to the intimate details of writers’ personal and emotional lives. Some articles are ‘one-offs’, writers talking about particular events in their lives. Some are barely distinguishable from diaries or blogs, ongoing accounts of the writers’ daily existence. Some are ongoing but focused on problems in the writer’s life, such as divorce or cancer. No subject is off-limit nor are there many limits to the intimacies which writers are now prepared to share. Thirty years ago such columns were almost non-existent, especially in serious newspapers. Now they are a staple element of features sections and weekend supplements, even recognised as a distinctive genre. “This genre” writes Bendorf is “a flexible form of personal essay” which “is a way to share life’s defining events and relationships in a form that connects with your readers.” Where has the phenomenon of autobiographical, confessional journalism come from? Why has it taken hold in a practice whose professional values were previously more concerned with providing a record of events, with objectivity and impartiality? Indeed not only why has it taken hold but why has it become so prevalent? Is this evidence of journalistic dumbing-down?

Read the full article.

Me, Me, Me, Autobiographical Journalism


This article appeared in Journalism ,  October 2010   vol. 11  no. 5  , Sage

While coverage of the environment generally has increased in the national media, some subjects remain difficult to place. One such subject is endangered species and threats to their survival, in particular, loss of habitat. This article is about the reporting of one highly endangered European species, the Iberian lynx, in the UK national press. It exposes the news values determining which stories get into the press. The article also explores the role of individual journalists and environmental campaign groups in getting coverage and the persistence, invention and manoeuvring which leads to innovation in news values.

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The Missing Lynx




This article appeared in Journalism Practice, April 2010 (Vol 4 – No 2), Sage

Confessional Journalism has become a staple of contemporary journalism, either in the form of first person real life experiences (often ghosted by journalists) or regular columns by journalists detailing  intimate details of their lives. The form is now  recognised as a distinct genre but what has not received attention, except as an internal debate within journalism itself, are the consequences for journalism and journalists themselves of this form of writing. There is mounting evidence that editors are exerting pressure towards this type of writing, favouring particular types of writers. This article investigates the compelling ethical implications for  writers and their subjects within the genre and argues that these implications are producing distinctive journalistic responses and strategies. Read the full article.

Journalism Ethics and Confessional Journalism


Loneliness is not a bug with a technological solution

Helping elderly people to use the internet is a good idea. But let’s not mistake broadband connections for social ones.

In the UK, four out of 10 over-65s do not have internet access. At a time when so much of our lives is conducted online – the payment of bills, access to information – that should be a real source of concern about potential social exclusion.

But does this mean that by widening internet access, elderly people will feel more socially connected? Or, even, more radically, as a new report suggests, could this be a solution for loneliness in old age?

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Why Envy is toxic

Posted on April 25, 2014 by Ros Coward0 Comments


A very wise friend who was also a psychotherapist had just listened to my litany of complaints about a female colleague.  I was bothered by how little interest she took in things I had done, how little acknowledgement of my  work, and most of all by her constant put downs and snide remarks  about activities I was involved with. ‘Envy’ said my friend.  ‘Classic envious behaviour.  She doesn’t want you to have anything and what you have got she wants to spoil .’

It was obvious that  the two of us might be competitive.   We were in the same area of work, both trying to publish in the same outlets with children roughly the same age who had taken remarkably similar pathways. And while competitiveness is nothing to be proud of in such a situation – after all we could just become best friends with similar interests – nor is it that unusual, especially in an unsupportive work environment. But as my psychotherapist friend pointed out, envy is  different from competitiveness .Competitiveness, at its worse, might entail  flaunting your latest news and achievements, showing off, or trying to have or be the best.  But envy is  destructive. Envy isn’t just about trying to go one better. Envy is a grudge-bearing emotion, arising from wanting to spoil what the other person has or enjoys,  including any good feelings they might have about their achievements. .

Read the full article on the new website: welldoing.org


Flight MH370: our morbid fascination is with the people, not the mystery

XXA rescue mission for the relatives is now as urgent as for those on board the missing plane.

Two weeks into the search for the missing Malaysian jet, the manager of the agency co-ordinating the search for debris has raised a hope that those on board might still be alive. “We want to find these objects because they might be the best lead to where we might find people to be rescued,” he said. The effect of these words on the relatives, most of whom are still waiting in hotels, is painful to imagine. While the general public exchange amazed theories about the mystery, the relatives’ situation is the nearest one can imagine to a living hell.

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After Leveson: a wider lens on privacy

Fascination with people’s lives is natural, and journalism has changed. We need a more nuanced debate on press intrusion.

Does William and Kate’s baby actually exist? You could be forgiven for wondering, given how few times George has actually been seen: he wasn’t there again for the Sandringham Christmas walkabout. With only two public appearances, and one family snap, he may be the least-seen royal baby of the photographic era. Presumably he is occasionally pushed outside the gates of the Middleton family home, but there are no paparazzi to snap him. These are post-Leveson days and there has been no greater beneficiary than the royal family, around whose privacy the press now gently treads.

George’s invisibility is in startling contrast to the coverage of William and Harry’s early years. By the mid-80s, tabloids were eagerly snapping away and speculating on everything they saw: whether or not Diana was breastfeeding, and who the nannies and playdates were. Diana played along, often co-operating with the press to allow casual and intimate photos.

Committed republicans probably welcome this invisibility: the less we hear about this boring family the better. But invisibility and mystique in fact serve monarchist causes far more effectively than public scrutiny.

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