Philippa Thomas Online

Life and leadership coaching


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American reading – any recommendations?

My favourite thing about the holidays is the chance to sink deep down into fiction. I’ve just turned the final page of a big, emotional, multilayered historical novel by author Ethan Canin about American politics and family, and I really feel I’ve been inhabiting that world. A work called “America, America” was always going to be ambitious wasn’t it! It’s great reading for a political junkie like me, as it weaves together a fictional community with all the real events of the presidential primary campaign of 1972. It also reminds me of another novel that kept me thinking long after I put it aside – “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve just realised they were published within months of each other in 2008; intriguing to have a male and female narrator to compare. Anyone else with recommendations for big novels about American politics, let me know!

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Dear Father Christmas

One of the delights of the Nieman year is READING. I have a higgledy piggledy stack of books by my bed – on Iran, on Obama, on the cello, on food – and joy of joys here is a stack of new recommendations from the Economist. I’ve read Game Change, the Cello Suites, and the Imperfectionist so far. Wonder if I can learn to sleep less?


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Very good news for BBC viewers in the United States

I’ve been reporting in the US and about the US for the BBC since 1997, and never fail to find enthusiasm for the brand. Viewers here watch us on PBS, they watch us on BBC America, and appreciative listeners find us on NPR across the United States. And now I see on Paid Content UK that the BBC is rolling with the times to offer access by subscription on iPad as well. I think it’s a great move. Especially at a time when we need to shore up support for our public service model, and look beyond the pockets of the British taxpayer.

A final word from Paid Content: ” The upshot is, it could unlock a future for the BBC in the online age as a significant global online operator. ”


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So I don’t know you and you don’t know me…

One of the challenges of a journalism fellowship like this is the sneaking feeling that someone else, somewhere else, is following the same leads. It really worried me when I was putting together my project proposal on social media and citizen journalism a year ago. Now as I struggle to curb my addiction to clicking on twitter links, I’m loving the landscape of crowd-sourcing. Yes there’s a big issue with translating the ideal to the real world of competitive reporting, and a danger of suffocating original thought with sheer volume overload. But I am at last thinking less JOURNALISM fellowship and more journalism FELLOWSHIP.

Which is a very roundabout way of saying that Ive just found the Blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and some really sparky ideas like this from current fellow Joy Mayer. Joy I may have to email you…


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I feel like I’m five again

I’m sitting in class at the Nieman Foundation learning from Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab how to write in HTML, the basics of websites, blogging and so on. I’ve been blogging for family and friends for years but how have I managed so long as a journalist in such ignorance?! I think I’ve always assumed there’s a separate tribe which “knows” about these things, and I am too old/witless to be part of it. Time to change huh?


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So here we are….

I’ve broadcast for twenty years, blogged for three, tweeted for less than one. (@BBCPhilippaT since you ask).   I’m pretty nervous about starting an “official” blog, but it’s about time. 

This is prompted by the Harvard Kennedy School, more specifically Nicco Mele’s course on Digital Media, Power and Politics. Assignment One, build a blog, and START WRITING!

So much of this will revolve around the conversations I’m having as a (lucky, lucky) Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard this year.  From  July 2011 I’ll continue as a working broadcaster for BBC News. Hopefully with a lot more thinking done, having indulged in a lot more talk about what it means to be a journalist today.

Feel free to comment. Feel free to criticize. No abuse please. It’s a myth that journos have thick skins.

Cheers! P