Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newsquest and GMG lost the plot

Newsquest is allowing the BNP to take huge banner adverts on its websites (paid for by who, I wonder?)

GMG's contempt for local readers has ruined the Accrington Observer, according to (former) readers. Local flavour sucked out on 'cost' grounds. The cost of what? The editor's gone asll well.

With Newsquest now gone Accrington's without a locally based newspaper. 250k funding needed for a 'proper' startup. Email me

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Twitter 0 Mainstream media 1 (AET)

So, I followed my first ever big piece of breaking news via Twitter yesterday. Ok, I used Facebook too. And found out about the whole thing through the comparitively 'two cans tied to a piece of string' technology of MSN Messenger.

The momentous even, of course, was the great South Lakes Earthquake of 2009. Lorne Greene is already signed on for the movie, apparently.

So, within moments - well, instantly c/o messenger, I knew there had been shaking rooms across western Lancashire. Twitter and Facebook were full of 'ouch did you feel that?' messages and speculation that there'd been an earthquake.

All interesting stuff. But no facts. It could have been a tremor, it could have been Heysham Nuclear Power Station going boom (an event which may be more likely in future), even an outbreak of Poltergeist activity.

But it wasn't until 20 minutes or so later that any facts emerged. The Blackpool Gazette told me it was an earthquake, as confirmed by the British Geological Survey; the Lancaster Guardian revealed it was magnitude 3.7, while the Morecambe Visitor told me it was centred on Ulverston.

Interestingly, the BBC was late on the scene. So much for the 'menacing threat' of their local news services.

So while Twitter, Facebook and the rest added colour, it was mainstream media who provided the facts. Another victory for the 'dead tree press.'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Revelling in misery - Greenslade goes way, way too far

Posted this earlier in response to this nonsense by Prof Roy Greenslade, a semi-answer to this piece of news about the Guardian Media Group's deeply disturbing behaviour in Manchester.

Offensive, snobbish, ignorant, mealy-mouthed bullshit Roy. Seems like a hand-wringing excercise in not criticising one's own employer after the rape of the highly profitable Greater Manchester weeklies in order to keep Guardian staff in cappucinos and maintain the Titanic-sized disaster that is Channel M (for merde), one of the most criminal acts in the history of British regional journalism, and I'm fairly sure that rumbling is the sound of CP Scott turning in his grave.

The free newspapers (use of the term 'freesheets' tells its own stories) which are being closed, normally after years of being subtllely undermined by their owners, ARE the good ones. They were set up in what had, for years, bee one-horse towns. They offered an option to advertisers who had for years struggled with cartel pricing and limited availability from the established papers. More importantly they offered a voice for people who couldn't get a word in edgeways as the local paid-for became the voice of the establishment, with editors who would rather have an agreeable beer with the council leader or local MP rather than hold them to account.

The journalism could rarely be considered crusading, but it was often lighter-hewed, more involving and more people-focused than the alternative. Incredibly hard-working, motivated staff who've been battered for years by a drip-drip-drip of cutbacks and office closures now find the door slammed in their faces.

Ironically, the really harmful, low-quality freesheets, the ones owned by established newspapers and used as a defensive weapon against undercutting competitors, are thriving more than ever. A whole slew of new launches over the last couple of years under names like 'Community News' and 'Weekender' offer content which has already appeared in the 'main' paper and a second tier of defensive freesheet. Advertisers are conned into paying over the odds for packages - but the smarter ones just take the cheap option in the hope of being spotted at the bottom of the cat litter tray. And, while in theory they require no editorial control (because the content's recycled, innit) their production does place a strain on newsrooms, especially newsdesks and the perennial cutback victims on the subs desk.

Ironically this is the very failed model the Guardian Media Group has chosen for its Manchester papers, some of which have a history stretching back more than a century.

And what of the people of Accrington, who now see their local weekly moved to central Manchester only a couple of years after their local daily, the Lancashire Telegraph, recalled staff to its bunker in Blackburn?

But there is a solution. If every one of the Guardianistas earning more than £50k a year took a 20 per cent pay cut they could save more than a few jobs. So the people of, say, Stockport, could enjoy reading their local newspaper, the one they've enjoyed since 1889, rather than recycled MEN garbage.

So how about it? Time to reinforce your egalitarian principles chaps. If not, I hope you choke on your lattes.
Thing is, Greenslade's often right, has a sound reputation and history in journalism. He's also a wind-up merchant. But this is no time for wind ups.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

We've got a bigger problem now

Time, I think, for a rewrite of one of the greatest politicial songs of all time. Could you imagine Jello Biafra belting this baby out?

I used to be mayor of a small town
I always smile
And never get down
Soon I will be president....

Obama power will soon go away
I will be Fuhrer one day
I will command all of you
Your kids will slaughter moose in school
Your kids will slaughter moose in school

Sarah Palin Uber Alles
Sarah Palin Uber Alles
Uber Alles
Sarah Palin
Uber Alles Sarah Palin

God says I'll control you
100 per cent moose stew
You will snowmobile for the master race
Forget abortion if your daughter gets raped!


Close your eyes, can't happen here
You've got nothing left to fear
The god squad can't come back you say
But for your rape kit you must pay
But for your rape kit you must pay!

Never forget 2004
Knock, knock on the White House door
It's the Karl Rove secret police
And they've won, so forget about peace!


Christian right can't get enough of this tramp
I'l like an Oval-shaped base camp
Don't worry I'm as pretty as a flower
We'll get drilling' as soon as I'm in power

Choke on all that greenhouse gas
Big oil's plan already hatched
McCain must have been advised by a clown
When he picked the mayor of a small town
When he picked the mayor of a small town!


And here's the original

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CentreRight gets it so wrong

ConservativeHome is quite simply the most useful blog on the British political scene, regardless of your views. Its in depth, incisive coverage has contributed much to that party's revival. But it's getting it so wrong with its CentreRight strand, which has become a cheerleader for the most despicable aspects of America's neocon excesses. There's even a post about loving Sarah Palin, and you can't get much more wrong than that. Worst of all is this despicable exercise in racism and sexism disguised as a political point - and a cackhanded point at best. Ok, it's not their video and if you tilt your head at just the right angle you may be able to see an ounce of humour in it. But it's a poor choice and brings all the things people hated about the Tories in the 80s and 90s sharply back into focus. You expect the frothing-at-the-mouth idiot brigade (viz, Melanie Phillips) to turn into an expat Fox News but when you've got a dyed-in-the-wool Tory like the inimitable Boris Johnson realising that Obama is exactly what America and the world needs right now you'd hope Tim Montogmerie and his people might wise up, or at least reign in the silliness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shit headlines are really annoying - and potentially dangerous

The Daily Telegraph - once the best newspaper in Britain, despite its odious politics and odious owner. Then the Barclay brothers moved in and started hacking away, helped by some over-zealous young henchmen from The Mail. I suppose when you cut corners you end up with headlines that don't make sense; take today's

Homeowner told to take down fence he repaired due to planning laws

Surprisingly not about a homeowner who repaired a fence due to planning laws and was subsequently forced to take it down. A little comma goes a long way. In the old days I'm sure the sub-editor would have been taken out and shot for such an error. We'll see how long it takes whichever techno whizz-kid put this up to realise his mistake. The Telegraph has recently been culling its sub-editors and, according to the blog of Justin Williams, who seems to be the chief apologist for the Telegraph's multi-meejah revolution, the whole position is due to be replaced by computers who can check libels, put garbled copy into style, come up with a witty and incisive headline and wipe the editor's arse while they're at it. Presumably this is just the kind of mistake they should be avoiding, then.

But it's not nearly as (potentially) serious as the cock-up at another newspaper which is axing staff, The Mirror.

Sarah Palin found guilty of abusing power while Alaska governor

No she wasn't 'found guilty' of anything - nor charged with anything. She's undoubtedly a slimy waste of humanity, an insult to her gender, an associate of terrorists, a scumbag who charges women who've been raped for the privilege then tells them they can't abort their kids. Lovely woman. But not a criminal - not yet anyway. This is the result of an investigation, it isn't a finding of guilt. Even the most wet-behind-the-ears sub would pick that up. The pimply teenage web geek in charge of upholding the reputation of one of Britain's greatest and most famous newspapers obviously didn't. But would Justin Williams' sub-bot? We wait with baited breath...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Northern exposure

Where to start with the cobblers from the chinless Tory wonders of Policy Exchange who today announced that the North will be shut down and we'll all move to three million new homes sandwiched in between Oxford, Cambridge and London approximately a week after David Cameron wins the next election.

The author admits himself that the report might be viewed as 'barmy' and also admitted on Up North telly (in colour! with Gordon Burns!) tonight that he hasn't been to Liverpool in years (but had visited Preston, which might be a clue as to where his jaundiced view of this part of the world comes from).

But there are endless examples of thinking the unthinkable becoming reality - see Joseph, Sir Keith.

So we need alternatives - try this for a three point plan for the North;

1)Decent transport links. Two hours from Manchester to Euston puts it in commute distance - and why not? Metropolitan job, realistic cost of living - ideal
2) Move every Government job - except those which require regular face to face contact with people outside Government - to the regions. Within a year.
3) Move Parliament. Have at least one session of Parliament outside London every year. Ambitious? Yes, but it can be done

But will it? See Spooks Code 9 for the answer!