September 2003 Archives
September 30, 2003
Finally. For years I've wanted broadsheet content in a tabloid format. Several papers have dipped their toes in the water by doing tabloid format second sections, but The Independent has gone the whole hog and launched a tabloid sized edition of the paper, with all the content of the traditional format. It's still selling the broadsheet version, too, and you can only get the tabloid version within the M25, but it's a start. The broadsheet format is deeply inconvenient to read at anything but a desk. The art of commuter origami, where one folds one's paper again and again to make it readable on a crowded train is much in evidence every morning. Why has it taken so long for an upmarket paper to venture into the tabloid format? Snobbery.
For readers not familiar with the UK newspaper market, it has four tiers. The bottom feeders are tabloids like the Star and the Sport, which are essentially pictures of semi-naked women with the occasional new story hidden under a breast. The next step up are the mass marker tabloids - The Sun and The Mirror - which are low-brow and sensationalist. Then, there's the middle-market, middle-aged and middle-brow papers, the Daily Mail and the Express. These are the papers of the affluent and comfortable middle class. Then, finally, you have the broadsheets or "qualities": The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent.
Many broadsheet readers are snobby about the tabloid format, simply because it's associated with more downmarket content. That's one of the reasons that the other papers have held off doing it. However, The Indy, as the lowest-selling of the quality dailies, doesn't have much to lose and plenty to gain. The fact that it's restricting distribution to the Greater London area initially suggest that the publisher knows the most enthusiasm audience well - the beleaguered London commuter. How long, I wonder, before other broadsheets follow the Indy's lead?
September 26, 2003
I've just had my first comment spam. Finally, I've made it.
I've deleted the message, though. Those who are undersized in that department should just work on their other pleasure-giving skills.
September 25, 2003
Patrick Crozier outlines his manifesto for becoming London Mayor on Samizdata.
David Sucher on City Comforts Blog makes a rather baffling assertation that house prices aren't too high in the minds of the owners. Speaking as a London property owner, I'd just like to say "property prices are too high".
Sucher says this:
It's an interesting approach except for one little thing: few who currently own property would agree that "Property is too expensive." Quite the contrary. Assuming that Londoners and Seattleites have similar values, which judging by the British blogs I read, they do --- I suspect that most property-owners think values (not "prices," thank you) are "about right" if not a tad low.
Iain Murray does his normal spot-on job of identifying the key fact in a story, by highlighting the news that the number of admin staff in the NHS has risen faster than the number of medical staff under Labour, published in The Telegraph today.
I have some experience of the NHS because someone I know very well works for it. (I'm being intentionally vague, as I don't have their permission to give details.) I am full of admiration for front line medical staff in the NHS, who do a fantastic job for little money in the face of increasing public stupidity, hostility and probably several other things ending with "idity". I have no time at all for the proliferating and self-replicating breed we call the NHS manager, whom seem to exist solely to further their own positions, careers, financial bounty and sense of self-importance. These people are slowly bleeding our cash out of the heath services we need.
Now, I'm sure there are good, efficient and committed NHS managers out there, but they're in the minority. The rest, like far too many professional managers, put money before people and spend more time justifying their own existence than actually helping the front line staff. This is the fallacy that most managers subscribe to: that they exist to tell others what to do. No. They exist to make life easier for the people who are actually doing the work. It's a pity that they've forgotten this.
Mr Blair, please stop giving my money to these parasites.
The Guardian's Online Blog continues to be one of my favourite reads over coffee in the morning. Partially, I read it for the technology news, but mostly I read it for the comments. Take this recent post by well-known Mac-sceptic Jack Schofield. Based on Jack's use of the word "eventually" in reference to technology finding its way into Macs, Charles Arthur, who writes for The Independent, leaped into the comments section to defend Apple. Jack responded predictably. Go, check it out.
IT journalists, don't you love 'em?
September 24, 2003
This article is a bit like reading an obituary for someone you thought died years ago:
September 18, 2003
Both of my regular readers have probably noticed how quiet I've been of late. The reason is simple: I've been pretty damn busy getting the first issue of GRID done. We should finally go to press tomorrow. Hurrah!
If you're all very lucky and well-behaved, I'll get back to blogging over the weekend. In the meantime, those looking for interesting thoughts on the built environment might like to check out Brian's post here. Those looking for something on journalism might like to read Mr Pollard's response to one of The Guardian's frequent snark attacks.
Back to the page proofs...
September 17, 2003
September 15, 2003
September 14, 2003
September 7, 2003
September 6, 2003
September 4, 2003
Oliver Kamm has made an excellent post about loose use of language in journalism.
I'm not going to comment on whether I recognise this in myself or my colleagues...
September 3, 2003
Why are we so ashamed to be British? Is it some form of post-colonial guilt? Do we still agonise about the empire-building activities of our great, great grandparents? Are we just influenced by the fact that the extreme right has done its level best to claim the Union flag for itself? Is it that we never had a clear enough idea of what it meant to be British that once the movie clichés faded into nostalgia, we lost our cultural compass?
No matter. The Government has now decided for us what it means to be British and, much to my surprise, it has made a pretty fair stab at it.:
New immigrants to the UK will have to pass a quiz on what it means to be British and the knowledge needed to thrive in this nation. The guidelines include issues like British history since 1945, sexual equality and understanding of representative, parliamentary democracy. all good stuff. All excellent stuff, in fact. It's just a pity that so many existing British citizens don't understand it.
My wife grew up in one of the worst estates in Bristol and possibly the country. How she got there is a long story and not mine to tell. However, visiting her childhood home has opened my eyes to an area of society I knew nothing about before that point. People tell you that widespread dole scrounging is a myth, that all people want to work given the chance. This is not true. These people exist.
You can argue about the reasons they exist. Some would say laziness, others the lack of opportunity. Still others might say the failure of the education system or the demotivating effect of the welfare state. I suspect that there's no one reason and that the explanation varies from person to person.
Yet, there is a point of commonality. The majority of the people on this estate understand society in the simplest form — obligations to family and neighbours — but fail to understand the mechanism of society in the broader sense. Take the money they survive on. To them , it comes from the government, which can afford it. The government, and its members they see on TV and in the tabloids, is a wealthy thing, available to be milked. Hell, it's their right to have the money. The link to the taxpayer is broken. They don't see that their money is my money and possibly your money. That's a failure of our education system, a failure to teach people how society on a national scales functions, a part of what it is to be British today. This intellectual disconnect is visible at all levels of society, it's just most evident amongst those who rely on the state for their existence.
I think these questions of Britishness — and the implicit training to function in our society — are a good thing. I just begin to wonder if we've failed many of our own existing citizens in this regard.
September 2, 2003
This story amuses me intensely, even though I know it shouldn't:
I'm one of those people who thinks that insensitive use of mobile phones is one of the banes of modern life. I sit on trains, enduring the sound of people screeching inanities at people they're due to see in half an hour at a louder volume than they'd use to talk to the person sitting next to them. I walk down the street and see people paying more attention to their friends elsewhere than those they are actually with. I sit, doing interviews for the magazine, and ponder how rude it is to take a call on a mobile in the middle of a meeting. As for those who use their mobiles in public toilets... How I long for a pocket mobile hone jammer with which I could bring their anti-social socialising to an abrupt end.
However, what these hoteliers are doing is wrong and illegal. They have been milking travellers with extortionate phone charges for decades and are panicking now that the easy revenue stream this offered is drying up. Mobile phone are great boons to people who have to travel, who want to stay in touch with friends and family and who have broken down by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I very rarely condone the breaking of the law in any circumstances.
None of this changes my delight at the thought of the obsessive mobile phone user suddenly caught without his beloved toy unexpectedly.