Monday, 23 July 2012

Joshua Rozenberg

"Just don't call me Doctor" said Joshua Rozenberg, as I congratulated him on his second honorary doctorate this week, this latest one from Nottingham Law School

Joshua is undoubtedly the country's most high profile commentator on law, known by many as the voice of the BBC's Law In Action on Radio 4 (which he launched in 1984). Not only does he also write regularly for The Guardian and The Law Society Gazette, and previously for The Daily Telegraph, he is an Oxford Law graduate and the only journalist to be listed in The Times' independently-judged list of the UK's most influential lawyers. He can often be seen or heard on radio and TV as a legal pundit, commenting on a wide range of legal developments and stories.

As you would expect, we have known Joshua for many years. He has chaired a number of round table client events for us on discussion subjects as diverse as "The Brave New World of Legal Services", "Commercial Risk" and "Piracy on The High Seas". This man is one of the most diligent chairmen I have ever come across, planning meticulously before each event, even to the extent of asking for bullet-point opinions from all participants ahead so he can draw out interesting points from the most shy and retiring of the people there. No wonder he always gets so much out of the folk he interviews. 

So I asked him: what does it feel like to be given not just one, but two honorary doctorates. He told me "Of course I'm honoured by this kind gesture from Nottingham Law School. But as I said to the roomful of law students at this week's graduation ceremony: honorary degrees are good fun, but it's the things you work for that are worth having." Joshua is modest to the last.

Joshua and I were bemoaning the fact that the broadsheets generally have far less appetite for proper, dedicated legal coverage than they used to.  "The print editions of most newspapers in the UK now devote less space than they have done in the past to coverage of demanding subjects such as international relations, science, politics and the law," he says.  With the exception of business-related stories, such coverage as remains tends to be at the lighter end of the market: parliamentary sketches, for example, rather than the detailed accounts of debates that the newspapers used to carry.  Law has suffered from the same change in approach.  And the reason is not hard to see: selling newspapers in a declining market requires them to have the broadest possible appeal.

"But although a newspaper such as The Daily Telegraph sees no need to have a full-time legal correspondent, others such as The Times and The Guardian carry extensive coverage online.  The Guardian law page in particular draws on a number of different resources to provide extensive coverage of legal developments.  This combined with the authoritative law blogs provided by law firms, chambers and legal publishers is the future of legal journalism, enhanced by free access to judgments and proceedings in Parliament." 

And of course we still have Joshua to keep us updated on legal developments.  He's part of legal journalism's heritage, he keeps us up to date and well informed today (he deserves an honour for this alone), and he is undoubtedly part of legal journalism's future.  Set yourself up to follow him on twitter and get regular legal updates from the great man to your phone.

Our lovable big brother Boris Johnson is trying to help all of us plan around Olympics chaos. But his public information announcements on Tube and bus routes have had a mixed response since their launch at the start of July. Some of us love them, finding Boris's approach fresh and funny.  Others are unhappy his voice is everywhere and drawing comparisons with George Orwell's 1984.   

The thinking behind the campaign is simply that Boris is worried Londoners will use the Olympics as an excuse 'to pull a sickie'.  He has said this on record. Check out this choice report in The Huffington Post of the speech where he urged Londoners to avoid the temptation to 'Work From Home' which he says can only mean one thing: - 'basically sitting, wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again'. Not quite my experience I have to say, but for a politician you have to love his style of delivery: a (very cheesy) breath of fresh air.

Never thought 'jet stream' would become part of my daily vocabulary, but I'm definitely developing a depth of expertise in this scientific phenomenon I never knew I wanted. In the UK our collective heart skips a bit whenever we hear "the Jet Stream is on the move", promising a return to more appropriate Summer weather (Yes, it is Summer. Did you forget?)

As a person I'm not normally that easily given over to pessimism, but even I can't help suspecting this promise of a heatwave and a hot Olympics is a cynical PR ploy to make sure the expected thousands of overseas visitors don't change their minds at the last minute and cancel their flights. But then... the sun is out as I write this...  I can feel the optimism returning...

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