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Read this: Reporting when there's no journalist in the room

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Reporting when there's no journalist in …

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hi I'm dancing and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello G7 summit the NATO summit Putin and Biden the world's biggest leaders have been face to face in a series of meetings this week.

These are some of the most intensely scrutinise you can imagine and you will have to imagine them because of course Nobody from the press was allowed in the room.

So how easy is it for journalist who specialise in reporting on diplomacy to the fact from the spin in fact do the politicians even want them there unless of course it's to snap them posing Grundy on the beach in those ubiquitous family photos well.

Let me introduce my wonderful panel.

Patrick rental is diplomatic editor at the Guardian near me O'Leary is you at correspondent for the Irish Times with Mumtaz is senior France

Steven erlanger is the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and currently cheese diplomatic correspondent at the New York Times Stephen you've been covering this week's international diplomacy from your base muscles.

Are you the only journalist left in the City now? He is here to the problem.

Is that it is made it very hard, so if you want to go bansang around you you need to have a whole separate knows all of the tests.

I can have to worry about quarantine and we have a lot of people on the plane and so on that we had someone in London to cover quote Hall Moscow and I was here in Brussels so there are some people here are some people that you've been very busy near me see you've managed to get some of the some it's in general over the past year most of the events in Brussels have been

And they really would use to contact between journalists and the top leadership and also things like the delegations that countries are allowed to bring with them.

So it's been a bit different rather than being gathered together in press rooms and press the cities for everybody's got their laptops and someone a lot of the summer's you actually in your own card in your apartment at covering it from and coordinating over the phone with people and sometimes following a resume or dipping in our life stream.

I'm so it's quite a different frozen Constable as well now, but where are you now after a long few days on the road and very little sleep.

I'll be back in your in bed now.

I'm Patrick you with as well.

I hear the 90s.

Our train journey to Cornwall and then you said in a press room which is more than 50 minutes drive from where the actual leaders and you're very much one step removed very much.

It's been a frustrating year for us when I was hoping maybe you can this week to have gone to Tehran for the Iran presidential and then it just can't you complicated with certificates and timelines.

It's been a frustrating time is Tom Wayne Media editor at The Economist and Tom let's start with you and with a big Media story of the week the launch of GB news.

I'm sure you've been watching it Andrew Neil on this program.

So it was going to offer a statement to view television well, what have you made of it? So far is probably more used to writing stories about news organisations going bankrupt and having to lay offaly journalist rather than you.

Starting it makes a nice change to have it new linear TV channel.

I think so far mean that the quality maybe is a bit and even you know they've got some very experienced journalist Andrew Neil some less experienced the budget.

They have is very very low.

I mean that line to spend at 2025 £1000000 a year which would sustain the BBC for a 3 days, so people been saying looks a little bit cheap and places and is cheap bedding and Shoestring but it's quite big and it's best we'd they might be happy with that something quite good so far right they've beaten in the BBC news channel, but we have to seeing some companies pull that advertising from the channel.

So what's what's the general reaction din? I think we need to wait a few weeks? I mean first week eating problems more people turning in perhaps and the will and future weeks.

Just to get a sense of what it's like.

So let's wait and see but I think the advertising thing is potentially going to be a problem.

Has there been lots of comparisons with Fox News in the States which is very commercially successful, but fox makes most of its many activities that charges cable networks carrying the channel TV news attributes and so it relies almost entirely on advertising for its income and so if advertising start to lose interest and that's going to be a big problem.

Also this week a parade of BBC director appeared at the dcms select committee.

They were being grilled on white odorless Martin Bashir wasn't fired back in 1997 when he was found to have lied about faking documents and they were also asked about why he was rehired by the BBC in 2016 Tom do you think the BBC is now able to put this issue to one side and focus on different potentially bigger challenges ahead of the same.

It was more MPs get a chance to needle BBC which one even enjoy more chances for BBC2 travel again over the story which was hideous blender.

I kinda felt you know that there are other things going on at I think when people look back in future at this year and last year.

It was the year when Disney the biggest Hollywood studio came into Direct competition with the first and I think they're a big questions about what the role is for a public broadcaster like the BBC in this world is completely new world of globalised streaming and I think people wonder why it was the parliament and the price was spending so much of their time talking about you had a Princess Diana interview or whether or not the BBC should the lyrics to Rule Britannia or whatever I hope they can move on I mean now.

Let's turn back to the world of diplomacy because it's been a mammoth fortnite of Summits and presidential but despite the massive photos doing around this sort of action always takes place away from the eyes of the press so Steven erlanger.

Give me the nuts and bolts of your job for the New York Times

Find out what's happened when you're stuck on the other side of the door.

You'll also find out by not sitting around at the Summit itself and phoning people great advantage of the mobile phone.

It has revolutionized diplomatic reporting in the old days.

You couldn't reach people now.

You can reach them even when they're in the actual meeting so that's a big hole.

You're looking always for interlocutors and you're looking for the people who get breached by the people who are in the room and and that takes a lot of pre-planning takes a lot of relationships that takes building up Trust it's not something you can do in a minute.

Not too well and you can always come and look at the communicators and you can post them and obviously there's news about who's making a blender and who's doing well and he's eating properly and obviously what the boss says you know whether the boss.

Where were the prime minister of this matters, but I mean the real heart of these things is actually in the people men and women were preparing the briefing the bosses and those of the people that you need to get a hold up.

I like that the grey of people are actually people in the human Kind of the least important that the one the ones outside that know what's going to best yes and sometimes thought you would tell you there's a lot of spin around this sort of stuff.

So you hear phrases like a robust exchange of views or they had a Frank discussion how how do you cut through that when you know you were there? How do you get to the to the actual a lot of those phrases that are familiar or codes for what happened that you know Frank exchange of these usually means that was a bit testy.

Yeah, I think Alex

Said it was the really important work goes in in the months and maybe years before the meeting actually happens because at the moment when the news breaks that isn't the time when someone who doesn't know you was ASDA call or text.

They have to have those existing relationships and in place long before and also the relationships of trust and understanding about where does people are coming from and what the angle is and that will help you to evaluate.

You know what you find out and being physically present or as close to the meeting as possible is useful for things like picking up on the atmosphere something like that.

You know that can tell you a lot and then also what's really important about it is when you do have access to the leaders having the opportunity to honestly ask them questions will sometimes the hesitation and inability to answer question just catching them off guard somewhere will tell you when I forgot about what happened as well and the issue with.

Play stomach and going more behind closed doors and covered is that controlled the circumstances in the environment is about the axis of the more pressure can be put on to play nice and if you really restrict the number of it's just a chosen six or something like that then does journalist.

Do you know are under pressure to ask questions they're friendly so they're asked again and it's really important to have broad access having said that like I say really important journalism is done away from the location is done remotely on the phone to people that swear a lot of the week goes back taking his forces and original stuff comes from I'm glad you mentioned that we will be will touch on that later.

I mean but you you say a lot of the work goes in the months and months before Stephen is being a diplomatic jealous of bit like being an actual diplomat.

How do you call space sources on both sides in a where it isn't because you

You have more agency in your area of responsibility is wider and it's actually you have more ability to move in and out.

I'm probably have more access to the buses still no part of it is the power of our institutions.

I mean I work for a very important newspaper.

So everyone wants to spin asked in a certain way.

Can you confirm that sorry sorry sorry for the New York House could you say they had a massive blazing? Yeah, because sometimes political and diplomatic guilty of this too because they will also repeat Frank exchange of views or I definitely think we can encourage to and that's partly because we're powerful paper melon alright.

You always say that United States was the indispensable country.

Can I would say there yes madam secretary, but where are the indispensable newspaper and and then she would grimace but it was true.

They actually had to talk to her.

So they like this boy didn't like us very important to me in diplomatic recording not to be so close to people that they take you for granted sometimes.

You really have to kick them to remind on your job is not their job emerge you watching them and not just leaving everything that's actually said to you.

I think it's very important for your own credibility as a diplomatic for to have your own use mysterious and to be considered cold and sympathetic but not easy we can b.

I mean essential these people aren't your friends, but you're having to cultivate a very trusting relationship with them when you've won Pulitzer Prize for your for your work on Russia how easy to do.

Find that you know binding sources within the Kremlin well, I was in Russia very nice time.

I first actually work with Maggie Thatcher in 85 power, but I I live there for for the New York Times with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Beginning first four years of on the outside when the place was really open talk to people it's much harder now.

I mean I think it's really really difficult now then you could I mean it's like covering Palestine people would talk to you then use their names are not worried about to now.

It's a much harsher redeem and talking to journalists skin have much worse consequences, so I think it's much harder now.

It was then I feel very lucky to have been able to wonder the former Soviet Union when was so chaotic and in some ways free.

Talking about wondering wondering the world and cultivating sources Patrick winter and you both travel down to the G7 from it in Sunny Cornwall but Patrick how close.

Did you actually get to the action?

well, if you mean by the action the actual women which the 7 L + European Union rally meeting I was as I said earlier roughly 55 minutes driveway and you're watching quite quite a lot on television and you're trying to pick up moods from the very short slots of camera you get for a bilateral mean that I see you're a long way away, but you have to use the phone is before and you have to contact people who are in a large number of different delegations and event like this as

Just speaking to the BRITs be trying to speak to as many as possible and then there's this moment on sunday, car crash of News when the communicate comes out.

She's incredibly long you then get every leader having a press conference almost simultaneously and you got about an hour and a half to sort of digested.

All that's a lot of hanging about and then suddenly have to move very quickly, but that's true.

Lots of journalism.

It's hanging around and then it's sort of your on speed adjustments at that point still worth going then still worth turning up with hard of any statute was really about the idea the multilateralism is back.

You need a gender's about what to do about China and how was Boris doing in.

How are you getting on and sorry Boris Johnson was doing etc, but the kernel of it was that this was the first physical summer this is the arrival of Dubai in Europe and this is the return of multilateralism after trump that was really want this event was about it was the fact it was happening.

I guess I mean near me and Stephen touch upon this earlier, but that's all groundwork in the preparation that goes into it into the month before some it like this, but how how much journalism can you actually do once you're there because you are there are essentially two to ask questions and find out answers you can actually do a journalism, but it also means you have to be hustling the entire time and when I mean hustling you also need to be harassing sometime some of the people that you know for example.

I did get to go to.

Where is the meeting which was as Patrick the same 55 minutes drive away, but that's because you know I had been talking to the folks the French president is about wanting to be there at the top of the bilateral meeting between president and president Biden and those thoughts are very scarce and there's a lot of competition get one of them and get that we were about 4 on the front side and why do you want to be there for the body language to pick up on some things that perhaps aren't on camera especially for an important first meeting is the first time that president and president and also when you finally get there.

Do you do actually get maybe like a couple of minutes with one of the important advisors.

We're going to be a basically the person who's going to be able to respond to your questions and it's good for them to see you.

For you to say hello and so you have to do that and then you said a whole lot of time on your phone a whole lot of time lots of frustration and I have to say just in the G7 if I met you know this was supposed to be in this is supposed to be the meaning of the richest democracies in the world and obviously going to democracy.

You know the role of journalists in the future of journalism the access information is extremely important.

I thought it was quite a bizarre decision on the side of the British hosts to decide to basically Park the journalist so far away.

We were Cross from the normal access should be getting it didn't seem like the best.

You know the best example or message to be sending come back as because I think we've got a clip of the meeting you talking about between b and m Akram where you were trying to ask a question alongside other pool reporters at the end of a photo opportunity.

Let's play it now for the bird.

44 NATO and Soraya support, thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you with a US official telling you all to move on and showing your way, so you you like you said you had have very very pushy.

Just even get there in the beginning because I've always been told that I have a voice that carries and kind of your my voice and the person who's speaking in French because I cover French president never trying to get into response to Boris Johnson coming out of this Northern Ireland protocol, and I couldn't hear me like Heroes me.

We usually counting on that and the American football reporters were just all screaming at the same time to get Biden to respond and yes, it is like that and in the engine we got a

Online out of a metal saying yes definitely America is that in the multilateral fold and of course very very quickly and you know well done the house stage managed is something like the G7 summit but actually once you're in front of them as you can hear that that wasn't stage manager like they expect us to be shouting question and we will do our best to you and you're well.

I mean I didn't give you the space to ask this question of the relationship.

You know this is not we're not busy as you were saying at the Beginning we are not friends in relationship sometimes.

It's relationship that gets really to be quite quite difficult but you know that's that's her job we asking questions and they are you responding.

Patrick there's been a bit of controversy about Boris Johnson's final press conference with some people questioning why only 8 journalists and only 24 and journalist that were allowed to the press briefing did they have someone there we did and my colleague Heather Stewart went and she actually left at 10 in the morning.

She spent time on the road and then she was in a holding pen for a spin shoes in the room where the press conference was to be held and she was given the very last question at the end and I think he took about 8 also questions that I remember the everyone wanted in the UK press pack wanted to ask about what was happening over here because it's going to be the announcement coming up.

So they will try to choose something else about that.

Labour trying to get into this story around sausages some police is Hackney so many people dying outsiders you please call going by 4 anyway the so there's two genders they finally did allow some foreign journalists broader questions, but it's notable that the climate was pretty tight and biting himself.

I think 30 minute press conference in in corsa that managed to confuse Libya and Syria computer me in the process as to why is somebody taking interest in Libya like a bomber at Pittsburgh Kidby hippie, lasting sort of 45 minutes start with and then about an hour and 15-minute questions questions from anywhere around the floor was very open but you know we are in a stupid period and I think Jonas collectively got to make sure we come out of it and we don't let politician.

Use this sort of window to try and permanently change the is it just covered always there sort of a global had a president for for shutting down access to do what you want to say.

I just wanted to say one thing on this G7 this was supposed to be the big w on the world stage of global Britain after brexit in the Host Prime Minister decided to only allow journalists were based in London so even the journalist who works for international media or people were based in London they decided to restricted that way it really makes me wonder about what does Google look like and is that the right way to do it? I remember beerus at the G73 years ago without mackerel you took an hour answering questions and they were people that room was packed and journeys from all over the world as one should in that situation, so that's

Still puzzling to me about this G71 your question about you know whether they're using coded as as a excuse really to keep I said yes 100-percent that has been the case for your now.

It has been extremely difficult and recovered is like a godsend excuse for the officials who don't really want to talk to the media to say well meet you because you know covered and actually there are different ways to get around it.

You know there are encrypted apps that people can use if they really wanted to talk to you and I think it's going to be very important for us to be stupid.

Hope their feet to the fire in make sure that we go back to the way we used to operate before covered Steven zoom press conferences are a scandal and a nightmare and Brussels in particular uses them to make sure that you can't follow.

Question you know the bill meet and I'll talk to you when I take three questions are four questions and you can follow it up.

It's really really annoying and it really needs to talk because I think it's cos it's the grading for all of us and it actually for them.

They should understand this for plates counterproductive.

Let's just have a look at some of those policies that came out from from that summer Tom Wainwright Media editor for The Economist let me bring you in the GC put out a statement saying that they had agreed some reforms to take on the Tech Giants so the role of Silicon Valley is something we talk about a lot on the media.

Show are we now going to see the G7 Nations taking on the might of a Facebook or a Google

That's about more than just a text that's an attempt to try and get all multinationals to try and pay bit more tax and I think that something has been brewing for sometime.

I mean you can trace that you know the financial crisis.

I think them people been wondering if there's more than can be done and it was early this year.

I think Janet yellen said that America didn't wasn't so kind of race to the bottom and I think that the conclusion of that so it goes I think that's all big multinationals which have been using tax laws to in some cases avoid being very much tax at all, but I think more broadly yeah, but there is a bit more of a willingness and you going to really take on somebody's text them so we saw last year during the election.

It was funny they both Republicans and the Democrats were criticizing social networks the question of free speech opposite points of View and so they have to try manage this now.

It's Stephen what policies are when it comes to the

Especially Silicon Valley Giants but he's also a controlling person to I mean why is having them so now babies having them everyday which is good, but I mean his his proposal of a minimum corporate tax and I think very popular and a very progressive unusual.

I think people should take it seriously.

Thank you very much for that.

That's it for today.

Thank you so much for all my guests Patrick winter diplomatic editor at the Guardian Amy O'Leary you at correspondent for the Irish Times Steven erlanger chief diplomatic correspondent at the New York Times Vermont has senior France correspondence at politico Tom Wainwright Media at The Economist the media show will be back sometime next week.

Thank you for listening.

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