January 2004 Archives
January 29, 2004
January 28, 2004
Full Hutton details here.
So, the BBC is in trouble, standing accused of poor journalism and worse management. The Sun faces serious repercussions from its decision to publish the leak of the report this morning.
We have some mild criticism of the Ministry of Defence for its handling of the release of Dr Kelly's name to the public, so we may yet see Hoon falling on his sword. I suspect we'll see a whole raft of people throwing themselves on their sabres in the BBC.
I think there are two really significant things to come out of this. The first is the way our national press behaves. British journalism has taken on an increasingly free-wheeling and risk-taking style of late, with quote of dubious veracity, stories of dubious provability and an increasing tendency to let political bias colour the reporting of news. A bout of self-examination may be a very good thing indeed.
Even more interesting is the finding that the 45 minutes intelligence only came in between the two drafts of the dossier, was from a "reliable" source and was approved by the heads of the security and intelligence services, who turned down some suggestions for changes from Number 10.
One thing that has depressed me for months is the way that elements of the media and of the public will shift their ground and make assuming to win their point in the debate over the war. Now debate over an issue as serious as war is a good thing; a vital thing in a functioning democracy. It is not a game, though, a debate to be won or lost, it's an exercise in testing that what we do collectively, as nations, is right and the best thing we could have done. The more we ignore the facts to make our case, the more we jeopardise that conclusion.
There are lives at stake here. Lives of Iraqis. Lives of British servicemen, and those from the US and from other contries who have now commited troops into Iraq. Live of Government scientists, like the respected scientist driven to kill himself in Oxfordshire woods. Let's bring the level of the debate up to the level of consequence, shall we?
....and it looks like the BBC is in real trouble. He has called Andrew Gilligan's report "unfounded", and that it was that broadcast which drew Dr Kelly into the controversy. Criticism of the Government has been very mild so far.
The statement continues.
I've been dropping by Blorgy, partly to bask in the fact my entry keeps jumping back into the top 5 and partly because I enjoy the feeling of total disbelief every time it happens. However, I mainly go in the hope of finding good new blogs to read and finally it happened: Wherever You Are is a work of quiet genius, which I'll be reading regularly.
January 27, 2004
A discussion else-blog about the use of aggregators to read blogs got me thinking about headline-writing. It's something we devote a lot of time and brain-power to in the magazine world. It's our first and best chance to "sell" the feature to the reader, and so it needs to be informative, interesting and, if possible, entertaining. Doing all three is pretty hard work.
However, for some people who read blogs in aggregators, all they see is the headline. They have to decide if they should read the piece sole based on the limited information given in those few words. I wonder how important good headline-writing skills will be in the ever expanding blogosphere? If more and more people shun the daily surf for a good aggregator (like NetNewsWire or Sharpreader), it could be that the good headline writers will prosper, while others will struggle.
January 26, 2004
January 25, 2004
Somebody submitted my post about pop and sexuality (below) to blorgy.com. At the time of writing, it's the most popular article, rating 4.33 stars out of five. Admittedly, that's only from three votes, but pleasing none the less.
January 23, 2004
Hayes Davidson and John Maclean
|I appear to have some explaining to do. This cultural chap made an aside about a comment I made on a post he made on Samizdata. (With me so far?) To summarise: he was delighted that London Bridge Tower (pictured) had gained planning permission and therefore was going to be built. I pointed out that just gaining planning permission isn't enough to get something built. What did I mean by that?
Well, there are a number of things a big office scheme needs to get built. The land? Check. The design? Check? The planning permission? Check. The money? Ah, well now. Office schemes like this are built as investments, the cost of their construction justified by the revenue stream generated through tenants leasing space in the building. At the moment, the Sellar Property Group has no tenants lined up for the building, which is a little out of the traditional office core for the City.
Sellar told our online news service that he needs 40 to 50% of the building prelet before he starts on site and even then, and the preparation work needed means that construction can't start before 2005 at the earliest. So, the building may be in the home straight, there's a hurdle to be overcome yet.
January 22, 2004
This is almost unbelievable:
BBC NEWS | Politics | Panorama prompts war probe calls
Why? Because it's the BBC reporting on a BBC programme about the BBC-triggered "dodgy dossier" crisis.
Words fail me.
The gist of the article is that selling artists through their blatant sex appeal only works in happy times. In periods, like the moment, when people are feeling threatened, politically or economically, they seek refuge in less obvious sexuality. It's an interesting and well argued theory but, I think, wrong. Take a look at these covers:
In many ways, they're remarkably similar. The same neutral background, a pretty equal amount of flesh on display and similar curved body poses. Yet Beyonce is considered to be one of the hot artists of the moment and Britney is seen as a fading pop princess. Both a marketing themselves visually in the same way. There must be another reason for their relative success levels, surely? Take a look at these two shots:
On the left we have Christina Aguilera, pop princess turned strumpet singer, and on the right we have Jewel, folk singer turned semi-sexy songstress. Sean postulates that, based on the article, Jewel has made a mistake switching to a sexier image in the current climate. She certainly doesn't look comfortable in that leather skirt. However, Christina returned from a relatively lengthy career absence with a new, raunchy image and has troubled the chart repeatedly with her presence. Clearly just gaining a more sexy image isn't enough to destroy your sales. Has Jewel's image change attracted more listeners? Probably. I'll be honest, I'd never heard of her until I caught sight of the cover of her latest album. I'm male, so I looked, then listened, then bought.
So, let's look at our four ladies:
Christina started clean-cut, went away and came back raunchy Jewel started obscure, and became (somewhat) sexy Beyonce has always been sexy, even in the early Destiny's Child albums (in outfits designed by her mother....) Britney started off relatively clean cut (for the pop industry) and has become progressively more raunchy as time goes on.I'd suggest that Britney's problems sales-wise were more to do with a paucity of good songs, a constant public presences and her increasingly bizarre personal life than any image change. You can survive many image changes but a run of weak songs will throttle your career. Aussie pop poppet Kylie has proved both of those points in her career.
The article's second point is that the success of musicians like Norah Jones and Alicia Keys can be put down to the public growing disenchanted with clothes-lite attitude of the other pop stars. Well, no. I suspect it might have something to do with the steadily ageing population of CD buyers. As the traditional music buyers - kids and teenagers - pile more of their pocket money into games, DVDs and mobile phone, the music industry has suffered. Meanwhile, those of us in 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have been used to buying music since we were kids and continue to do so, sometimes in our local supermarkets. More mature and skilled artists like Norah Jones and Alicia Keys appeal to the older customer, while still maintaining some credibility with the more serious-minded youngsters.
Artists have always marketed themselves on sex appeal. Who can deny that Elvis's success was partially attributable to the female record-buying public? I don't think that this oddly puritanical attempt to claim that sex appeal is over as a marketing tool really makes much sense when you look at all the figures. The financial figures that is. Get your mind out of the gutter. There are certainly risks in changing your image. Jewel may well have alienated some of her traditional fanbase, while Pink has certainly undermined her own appeal. But is it inherently a destructive move in uncertain times? No, I don't think so.
January 19, 2004
Well, the Lord Black developments did happen too late for the Media Gurdian, although they were splashed all over the front page of the main paper.
January 18, 2004
The Monday edition of The Guardian (liberal leftie newspaper, lightly dusted with political correctness) is bought by most journalists, whatever their political persuasion, simply because its Media Guardian section has the best job adverts in the business.
Part of me is very curious to see if Lord Black's sale of his stake in The Telegraph (right-wing, conservative newspaper) will make tomorrow's edition of Media Guardian. I certainly wouldn't put it past Black to save the news up until he knew the paper just couldn't cover it, just to spite those on the opposite end of the political spectrum from him.
Ah, that was quick. Lord Black is no longer the largest shareholder in the company that owns the Telegraph. He's been bought out by the frighteningly rich Barclay Brothers, a pair to which the adjective "reclusive" clings with desperate ferocity. They turned around the Ritz. Let's see what they can do for the newspaper:
I've often maintained that proprietor/newspaper relationships are nowhere near as simple as most people would like to think they are. This rather proved the point:
Poor old Lord Black...
January 16, 2004
Geoff Hoon will not be resigning. Sure, a man died because he was forced to give up his body armour. Sure, this was because the MoD ordered their supplies too late, despite the fact that everyone knew that we were going to war months before we did.
Of course he won't be resigning now.
Tony needs him to resign in two weeks after the Hutton report.
January 15, 2004
January 11, 2004
January 10, 2004
One of the reasons I love being a magazine journalist is that I'm particularly fascinated by the interaction of words and pictures. Perhaps I'm a little like Alice in that....
Anyway, Slate has published an interesting article, a photo essay really, about fashion photography in magazines, which is well worth a read:
In many ways, I think the article applies to photography in magazines generally. The industry is still too accepting of mediocre illustrations and photography in general. Really good magazine illustration should both stand up as a work of art in its own right and as an informative part of the article. If it's not communicating a message, it's just there to beautify the page, and that's a missed opportunity. If it's not something that works as a work of art, it's not attracting the reader's attention. I've been really blessed to be working with great art people on both Estates Gazette and GRID which allow me to pursue that ideal. Too many magazines only seem to care about the words. They're not enough on their own.
January 9, 2004
Anyone who has ever had a friend comment on their music collection in a less than favourable fashion will find this article balm for their troubled soul:
Well said, sir.
January 8, 2004
The Today programme woke me this morning with the level of frightening revelation that sent me scurrying for the newspapers. It wasn't a sleep-addled hallucination. It was a piece of really bad news from Westminster about new powers for the Government in "times of crisis". This is horrifying. How much more authoritarian would the Blair government like to get?
Dan knows iPod lust and well he might. I foresee one of those little beauties in Lorna's future, one way or another.
January 7, 2004
Some excellent advice from Mysterium Tremendum:
If you're going to be railing against the poor state of public education, the poor quality of teachers, and the general stupidity of the average student/teacher/school district/etc, at least: a) run spell check on your rant before posting it and b) make sure the words you're using are real words.The same goes for those slinging mud at journalists, I'd say...
January 3, 2004
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Go on, you know you want to.
Boy, it didn't take long for the politicians to start backing away from the people's law. The MP who said he'd put the legislation forward is trying to wriggle out of it, and Prescott says that it would encourage vigalantes. Vigilantes who sit at home, hoping that criminals would break in, presumably. Seems like rather a dull way to be a vigilante to me. Frankly, I think having a government who is more concerned with the rights of the law-abusing than the law-abiding is likely to promote vigilantes, but what does my opinion count? I'm not a politician.
Read the article and despair:
BBC NEWS | Politics | Martin backers' law bid 'to fail'
Writers of fiction, or those who aspire to do so, might find this article very interesting:
January 2, 2004
Well, I've just upgraded to MovableType version 2.65. Hopefully everything will be working, but do let me know if you come across a problem.
BBC Radio 4's Today programme is the agenda-setting morning broadcast in the UK. most people in any position of power here make it their first listen in the morning. This year the show's producers hit of the wheeze of asking the listeners to propose a law, which a tame MP, Stephen Pound MP, would put before Parliment.
The people chose a law to allow people to defend themselves with whatever force they deem necessary within their own homes:
(This is largely the result of the Tony Martin case.) Given the constant claims that the BBC is left-biased and attempting to distort the public's opinion to their agenda, this result gives me great hope for the British public. They say an Englishman's home is his castle. People still seem to believe that this is true.
Let's be clear here: I can't think of any sensible reason why the law should be forcing people whose homes have been invaded against their will should be made to think "is this appropriate?" before taking an action against the intruders. When the law values the rights of the criminal over the law-abiding victim, the law is truly an ass. Let's hope our politicians actually take note of this decision, rather than ignoring the will of the people again, and condemning our democracy to further decline.
January 1, 2004
I've often felt that the whole New Year thing was something of a fraud. So, the planet has orbited around the sun exactly once since an arbitrary date. And?
People view it as a time for renewal, for change. They see it as a new chance to explore new avenues. Irrational, isn't it? I've paid the holiday less and less attention in the last few years, and this New Year passed with nothing more than a really good party.
In other words, no re-launch here. Expect this blog to carry on much as before this year. Sporadic, interesting mainly to me, slightly incoherent. It's the way I like it.