Inside Out – February 07

Two years ago, CBS News introduced its “Public Eye” forum as part of its re-launched and revamped website. One of the publicity grabbing things it did was to shoot video of a CBS News editorial meeting and post it on the website. The notion was that the public could then see for itself how the news bosses at CBS and the programme producers decided what stories were considered and chosen for the Evening News, as well as for other CBS programmes on air and online.

But CBS News did this, to my knowledge, only one time because it became clear that like all newsroom discussions, the process is messy. Rather than revealing an admirable transparency, the web-casting of the meeting raised troubling questions about the intellectual quality of the discussion and the breadth of sources for story ideas.

Keeping that in mind, we at the Frontline Club don’t intend to shoot video of our twice monthly (often raucous) editorial meetings. If not for the civil and cultured presence of Club Chairman Graham Greene, these meetings would, as they still often do (lubricated by some fine wine) become even more argumentative.

Cramped around one of the small Club tables are Gavin MacFadyen who heads the Centre for Investigative Journalism and helps shape the Frontline Confidential series, Duncan Furey, coordinator of IWPR’s Uganda project and a consultant for the Frontline Club, Ron McCullagh, the head of Insight News Television and myself in my role as Forum Chairman. From the Club are Pranvera Smith (about to give birth as I write this) the Club Manager, Lydia El-Khouri, sharing Club duties with her work at the Media Diversity Institute, and Marina Calland and Kavita Sharma who manage the programme.

It is this editorial meeting that tries to identify what issues, newsmakers, and themes ought to be showcased at the Frontline. There’s often heated discussion about whether we’re jumping on editorial bandwagons and neglecting unpopular issues that aren’t getting proper media exposure. We’re also conscious that we must uphold our charitable mandate. Judging by the attendance at our screenings and most events, we are (collectively) getting it mostly right, and also thanks to the hard work and long hours put in by the Smiths, Lydia, Marina, and Kavita, we have put the Frontline Club on the London media map.

But we’re all too self-critical to rest on our laurels. If you think that we could do better, let us know. But be specific: tell us what else we ought to be spotlighting and what journalists and presenters you’d like to see appearing at the Frontline Club and chairing our events. Indeed, if you’d like to sit in on a meeting and argue for a particular story, let us know.