Recently in Media Category

The medium is the massage.

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nationalistrealism.jpgTwice this week we've found out more about the SNP's attitude to broadcasting. First, as the Scottish Government, they paid STV £150,000 of taxpayers' money to promote the Homecoming tartan-fest "for the benefit of the Government". 

I have some sympathy for their concerns here, and the BBC's interpretations of balance are often pretty hard to justify. For instance, "Adolf Brent" had been an MEP for less than six months before getting his Question Time invite, but despite Green MSPs having been elected to Holyrood for more than ten years none of my colleagues have ever been asked on.

Furthermore, there's no question that these debates will skew matters in favour of the three largest Westminster parties, even if they aren't shown in Scotland, given that the papers and news reports will be full of it. Nick "Anonymous" Clegg will get a stature he doesn't deserve in particular.

But the SNP response to the outcome of the debates debate is unacceptable. They're taking a single decision and using it as the basis for threatening the licence fee. Forget saving 6 Music and the Asian Network: it looks now like the whole of public service broadcasting in Scotland wouldn't be safe in their hands.

It's petty, it's childish, it's unprincipled, and it's bad politics.Taken together, these two stories suggest an SNP leadership which supports the Berlusconi model: the broadcasters should serve the incumbents, not the public.

In defence of the West Wing.

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bartlett.pngMy friends over at Bright Green Scotland have decided to take the West Wing to the mat because it creates, we're told, "a particular type of politics. And that type of politics is poisonous." 

The grave sin cited is triangulation, the tacking between left and right which Bill Clinton popularised for the Democrats and which Obama is currently reviving. I'm sure I can't have been the only one who thought Hope wouldn't mean restarting America's nuclear programme, halted over 30 years ago after the Three Mile Island disaster.

Democrats triangulate, this is true, and it's both deplorable and possibly inevitable in one of the world's most majoritarian electoral systems. 

Republicans, conversely, have grown better and better at governing without compromise: did "W" listen to Democratic concerns on the Hill about the Patriot Act or other such obscenties?

Even on Obama, the case for the defence can be made. Obama's flawed and watered down healthcare reforms passed by just 215 votes to 210 last year: both Josh Lyman or Rahm Emanuel would be right to regard this as about the narrowest acceptable margin for error. Would it have been better to let a true public option go down in flames? Perhaps, but it's hardly a clearcut decision.

Curiously, and it's impossible to do this without spoilers, nowhere in the piece is there any actual critique of the Bartlet administration's policies. The reality, the imaginary reality, is that Bartlet sticks very close to a whole range of true liberal flagship positions, several of which are to the left of Obama's Presidency. Bartlet's sound on gays in the military and speaks out against the homophobia of the quasi-Biblical right, he risks American lives on a genuine effort to achieve Middle East peace (rather than a bogus "surge" in Afghanistan), they take on "clean coal", his administration tries to get a nuclear test-ban treaty through, campaigns to preserve the estate tax on the richest, etc etc.

President Bartlet doesn't follow the recent Democrat pattern. Sure, sometimes he accepts less than he wants because the numbers aren't there in Congress, as Obama has done - but something over nothing is hardly cause for such excoriation.

The real target here should be actual Democrats, not the fictional West Wing. It has its cheesy moments (did I mention it's American TV?), but it gives people a genuinely inspiring view of politics driven by progressive impulses to improve people's lives. Sure, it's more centrist and more militarist than I would like, but by American standards Bartlet would truly have been a radical leftist.

Peter's critique of the show also includes the following: "Every time someone talks about how their party would bring 'good governance', you see the influence of the West Wing." If someone can explain how this is a bad thing to campaign for I'll be delighted. I look at Westminster's corrupt pork-barrel house-flipping politics and think good governance has never been so urgent.

Finally, I never wanted to be Josh. His judgement was pretty poor throughout, not least for letting Amy Gardner slip through his fingers.

Hail the Caledonian Mercury.

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caledonianmercurylogo.pngSomewhat earlier than planned, the Caledonian Mercury today joined Scotland's media firmament as a proper online newspaper. It's got everything a good newspaper needs, notably a proper chunk of Rab McNeil (or is that Robert?) and Hamish Macdonell writing off the Greens' prospects in Budget negotiations. At the risk of being slightly churlish that was the day we secured £10m for marine renewables through Stage 1.

The Mercury's editor, Stewart Kirkpatrick, was once in charge of the old (and superior) Scotsman website. He explained in August why someone should do what he's just done, and in January he went into a bit more detail on AllmediaScotland.

It's a brave move, even with the low costs associated with being only sparingly in print, and I'm sure everyone will wish them well. Even perhaps those who buy their ink in barrels. Tune in again at 5am for the Mercury's Monday exclusives.

Who's local?

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The North East's paper of record is undoubtedly the Press and Journal. It sells more copies in Scotland than the Mirror, the Times and the Telegraph put together. They have run pretty balanced coverage of the Trump development of recent times, but this weekend they decided to take sides. The sides available are as follows:

Left, Molly Forbes, 85, local resident, who doesn't want to get evicted from her home. Right, Donald Trump, 63, alleged billionaire from New York, who wants to evict her.

74% of Scots oppose these evictions, and just 13% support them. Yet the P&J has decided now to give only Mr Trump's side of the story. He's more local than some of the campaigners, such as those who are from Aberdeenshire but live in Glasgow. Even the P&J might have to concede Trump's not quite as local than Molly, though. Welcome, again, to Royston Vasey.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the P&J's excellent team of journalists have had this forced upon them from elsewhere: their instincts will hardly be to side with the remote and powerful against the local and vulnerable. 

The paper hasn't yet printed any letters in response, although one would imagine they've been sent in, but it has for now allowed comments on those articles. One notable contribution turns the editorial around as follows (as noted above, I do disagree about the paper's prior record on this story):

"DONALD Trump's plans to build his golf course, hotel and housing complex at Menie Links, near Aberdeen, have been created and manipulated at every turn by the vociferous and very active Trump International Golf Links group. It has operated under a cloak of pseudo-concern for the area and cultivated the impression that it is concerned with the welfare and jobs of ordinary people and a sustainable future for Aberdeenshire. Now we know differently. 

The group is orchestrated and financed by people whose home and work is largely well away from the north-east of Scotland. Its co-ordinator, though quoting his Scottish roots at every turn, now chooses to live in America, while its legal advisers, website designers and several leading executives also hail from far away. It relies on cash injections from its patron, a well-known and often-named millionaire financier, and vocal and thoroughly biased support from its poodles in the local "news" media. 

It now becomes crystal clear why TIGL was so coy about its real plans, and its credibility is comprehensively blown apart. It is only right that those whose quality of life will be directly affected by Donald Trump's plans should have their say on the development, however, constant opposition and innuendo has been orchestrated against them by TIGL, who have little interest in the area other than making money out of it. Indeed, there is more than a hint of suspicion that many of its executives are those who will attach themselves to any money-making cause, regardless of its location and regardless of the wishes of the people it seeks to deprive of their homes. This newspaper has forthrightly failed to give a balanced voice to all those who have wished to become involved in genuine debate about Donald Trump's plans. That courtesy was extended to TIGL in the belief that it was bona fide group of businessmen seeking to benefit Aberdeenshire. Today, it has been found out." 

Plaid testicles.

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spquaich.jpgTomorrow night the Holyrood hacks, formerly known as the Lawnmarket, will attend Scotland's most scurrilous awards ceremony, the famous Tartan Bollocks. The Bollocks in question are awarded as a quaich for the most gloriously inaccurate political journalism of the previous year. 

Here's a full list of the winners (losers?) over the ten years of the Bollocks.

1999: Carlos Alba and Dave King, for an SNP leadership challenge that never materialised.

2000: Angus MacLeod, for claiming Robin Cook would be the next First Minister.

2001: Hamish Macdonell, for predicting Murdo Fraser would take over from David McLetchie (note, this was two years before Murdo entered Parliament, and four years before Annabel in fact took over).

2002: Douglas Fraser, then at the Sunday Herald, claimed the Tories were on the verge of coalition with Labour.

2003: Magnus Gardham and the Record mocked up the wind turbines destined for Holyrood's roof. Or not destined, as it turned out.

2004: Jason Allardyce, for a piece about where terrorists would plant their mortars on the Crags to hit Parliament. Contained a handy print-out and keep guide.

2005: Campbell Gunn, of the Sunday Post, won for two pieces, one predicting David McLetchie's job was safe just before he resigned, and the other claiming the canteen was about to ban pies. Quite the contrary: it's one of the only items on the menu here every single day, as Frank McAveety knows to his cost.

2006: Mark Smith got the black spot for a tale of SSP shenanigans including the burning of a wicker Tommy. Turns out it was largely true, although I don't know which bits. Mark has my sympathy.

2007: Paul Hutcheon took the prize for a confident prediction that a Labour MP was about to defect to the SNP. Apparently the defence was that the article itself alarmed the would-be defector, but if one's own article makes itself untrue simply by being published...

2008: Andy Nicoll, whose excellent book you can buy here, had stories on consecutive days which claimed "Wendy bounces Gordon into referendum" and then "Gordon bounces Wendy into referendum". It's not up there with some of the Bollocks from the past, but it seems pretty likely that one of those stories couldn't be true.

The overwhelming theme is, incidentally, predictions. I understand the argument that journalists need to go out on a limb and read the tea-leaves, but it's no wonder that's a bit of a precarious task. My prediction is that tomorrow night's winner will, again, have made a prediction that simply can't be stood up. 

Update: My prediction-prediction appears to have been right. Lorraine Davidson of the Times won for this piece, full of prognostications that never happened. A new prize for the "best" blogpost from a journalist's blog was also awarded, with Brian Taylor picking up the Wardog Memorial Trophy for this piece.

Update again: Here's the 2010 winner. 2011 approaches..
- note: this post is the result of a bet I lost with David Maddox last week. My real view is [redacted].

When I pick up a paper I look for two simple things. A good breadth of straight news, and some incisive comment, ideally from various political perspectives. Sometimes I'll also take a look at the back page to see who's gubbed Hearts most recently.

And the news is all there in the Scotsman, from the ultra-local to the international, all played with a straight bat. 

The politics, which as you might expect is the section I watch most closely, is scrupulously balanced. If you think you can decipher who the team vote for in the privacy of the polling station, you'd better rely on a lucky guess. The remaining cybernats disagree, but even quoting Holyrood's largest opposition party in a news story makes you a Unionist stooge in this crowd's eyes.

As for the comment, it certainly covers the whole range. At one end you have the exceptional pairing of Joyce McMillan and Lesley Riddoch: for all the latter is missed from the radio, her new free rein perhaps suits even better. At the other end: Gerald Warner. I originally thought he was a parody of the Kirk Elder type, and I was astonished to find out he's real. I remember him saying in 2004 that democracy had failed us, and that we should therefore vote for something else in that year's Euros. This is the kind of stuff I still prefer to read for laughs where possible.

The Scotsman clearly gets blogging, too. The Steamie started as the best collaborative media blog in Scotland, it evolved to allow me and four other compadres some partisan access, and then expanded again to include candidates for the recent Glasgow North East byelection. Elections may or may not be contested primarily online one day, but when the UK General and Scottish General elections are concluded in little over eighteen months it seems likely the Scotsman will have hosted much of the best of Scotland's online political debate.

So, Scotsman journalists, don't listen to the cybernat loonies. You're doing a fine job, despite the pressure to deliver ever more in ever less time. These are tough times for the industry, but Scotland and Edinburgh both need a good independent local paper: you're it.

To illustrate how short of evidence the critics are, I give you this extract from the paper's Wikipedia page:
"The last decade or so has seen the paper replaced by The Herald as the pre-eminent Scottish quality newspaper in terms of readership. [citation needed]"

Citation needed indeed.

Note to Johnston Press, though. If you put up the paywall around the Scotsman, as you have today with the Carrick Gazette and the Southern Reporter, you'll throttle that which makes the paper valuable, and cut your journalists and commentators off from the debate. 

The partial paywall already does that to some Scotsman opinion pieces. Whatever trickle of cash that move has brought in, it has kept that part of your content out of the online discussion and reduced the paper's reach accordingly. You let the cybernats rant below the news stories, but prevent the bloggers even linking to the entirety of a comment piece. All wrong.

The company's still making a decent profit, and if you want to protect it there's plenty of scope for other sorts of innovation. I know I'm in no position to criticise, but a more readable and functional website might be a start.

Finally, if you have to put some of your comment behind the paywall, how about Gerald Warner instead of Lesley and Joyce?

The great backgammon challenge.

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gammonboard.jpgDavid Maddox is at it again on the Steamie, denigrating backgammon as "a random throw of a dice". Actually, it could hardly be a more appropriate training for politics. Henry Thoreau said: 

"All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it."

Indeed, and a bet is called for. So here's the challenge. David: let's play seven games of backgammon, and if you win I'll write three hundred words here about why the Scotsman is the country's best newspaper. 

If I win, I'll need three hundred words on why one might consider voting Green. They can go on the Steamie, here as a guest post, or even in the actual Scotsman if you wish, and I'd be happy for you to explain that you don't mean it, you just lost a bet.

Tell you what, let's say you won the first game before we start. The board's in the cupboard behind me. Bring it on.

Update: Wonderful. The challenge has been accepted. See the comments.

We've arrived. Last night on Rush's radio show he had a go at us over golf balls (even if Patrick was described as "a US lawmaker"). I kid you not. You can listen to the craziness below - the golf item is from 11 minutes 45 seconds, with Patrick quoted from about 14 minutes 10 seconds.

The time I debated Nick Griffin.

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Thumbnail image for peakoil.jpgIn 2005 Mark Ballard and I went to a conference at the Chamber Street museum on the topic of peak oil. It was very informative, full of oil industry professionals as well as the renewables crowd, chaired by a BBC journalist and very alarming.

Coming out of one session Mark saw a familiar face in the crowd - the man at the centre of today's media storm, Nick Griffin. 

He had a false name and organisation on his badge (the latter was something like "Verity", but not "Veritas", I don't recall exactly), but there's no mistaking him for anyone else, not even any of the "comedy" Nazis from Allo Allo

If you're ever unsure it's him, the glass eye is the dead giveaway. It is a replacement for the one he claims he lost when he left live ammunition on a bonfire, and it always looks over your shoulder, as if he's awaiting reinforcements. 

We made our way over and engaged him in conversation, just because it seems wrong to let a fascist just stand there unchallenged. It was not a polite conversation. 

I raised two vile BNP policies, one on deporting non-British born citizens and one on providing guns to all over-18s. Effectively, he'd be telling some British citizens that their parents, also British citizens, have to be sent back to countries they may have not seen for decades, then he'd give the younger generation guns. Did he have other plans to trigger a race war? Cue some bluster and counter-assertion.

He also denied he was a racist, but a breath later said he'd obviously not let his children marry a non-white person. He then went into a massive rant about the evil Americans which I'm not planning to air here, and I ended calling him a revolting fascist.

I'm not proud of this encounter, although I'm glad there was a crowd around us, not least because the boot boy over his shoulder turned out to be a member of Combat 18 with a history of (no, you'll never believe this) racially motivated violence.

I discovered that a smarter environmentalist from the audience had also approached him later. He played dumb and just asked Griffin about his interest in the issue of peak oil.

The answer was telling - the public turn to the right when faced with economic hard times and social dislocation, he said, and the end of the easy oil economy would put him into Downing Street during the 2020s.

The consequences of imminent oil depletion are grave even before you look at the politics of it, and I've done my best with Green colleagues to raise the issue and the need to give a serious response. Preparing for the next oil price spike and the end of cheap energy will require much the same policy shift as is required to tackle climate change, so there's every reason just to get on with it. 

Those of us in mainstream parties put a lot of time and effort knocking the neo-nazi BNP, and for understandable reasons. Fine, but it'd be a lot more constructive to work together on zero-carbon energy and coincidentally make Nick Griffin's grim fantasy even more unlikely.

Keeping a sense of proportion.

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AdamBoulton.jpgI'd planned to ignore the Sky-promoted debates debate. Any actual head-to-heads will be of interest, but the usual squalling about who gets to be in it is pretty tiresome. And yet..

A classic of the genre today sees the Maximum Eck scoring the front page of the Sunday Herald (judging by the website) for a footstamping press release.

"Alex Salmond wants on the telly more" really isn't news, no more than "SNP support independence" should be. SNP HQ will have been delighted with the story, however petty it may make them look to the outside world. That is, until they got to Adam Boulton's line at the bottom:

"There are genuine concerns about making sure the other parties are represented - the Greens, SNP, BNP, UKIP."

Chess vs backgammon vs cricket.

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brokenwicket.jpgI've come under fire in The Steamie for the most peculiar reason: my attitude to chess. David Maddox blogged earlier today about my love of other board games, including an allegation that I have a game with nuclear war as an objective. That's almost true. I've actually got two, Confrontation and War on Terror. And I'm looking for a third.

He's a backgammon player, which I regard as the finest board game ever invented, and I'm certainly looking forward to beating him, ideally for money. But I cop it over chess. He disapprovingly cites my comment that: 

"Chess is a limited game which can be won simply by processing further into the future than your opponent."

I stand by this: computers now surpass humans precisely for this reason. Peter Hankins says:

".. the conquest of chess does represent a victory of sorts for mere processing power .."

The historical intertwining of chess and politics Maddox sets out is thereafter is fascinating, though, and he's right to say that strategy on the chessboard no doubt has parallels with politics.

I suspect neither backgammon nor chess is his real love, though. That has to be cricket - see how regularly he and Tom Peterkin defend the sport on the Steamie.

With that in mind I dare not step into the crease to criticise this ancient game. For instance, I would certainly be reluctant to associate myself with the comments of Gerrard Hoffnung, who once asked "what's that game, you know, the one where twenty-two men fall asleep on a lawn?"
f4jsantas.jpgLast night, with the heads of the four other parties' press teams here in Holyrood, I did a presentation and Q&A for the Chartered Institute of PR and an audience of about fifty. 

Although the others on the panel are my direct competition both for stories and within stories, we actually all get on well, and I thought the panel operated as a pretty good team.

However, it was all Chatham House rules, which prevents me from retelling entertaining stories about the career of Ramsay Jones, the Tories' head of media here. I can say his advice was excellent, and he's also the author of one of the best media comments ever. When Fathers4Justice piled up the Santas on Holyrood's roof, he gave following the line (roughly) "Whatever the rights and wrongs of their case, it's inappropriate to give kids the impression there's more than one Santa."

Those same Chatham House rules also prevent me from embarrassing one of the PR agencies who came along. Suffice it to say (and this is within the rules*) it's not the best way to win friends in this bit of Parliament to come up afterwards and try to pick a fight over a project your company has worked for and which we don't support. 

The kicker - at the end of that conversation, to try to build some bridges, I said "do let me know if any of your clients do anything sustainable that we might take an interest in", but in a moment of honesty I was told no, none of them do. Can't say I was surprised.

* "When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed."
rockymountain.jpgWhen Rupert Murdoch proposed charging for access to News International websites, there were predictions that a stampede of other titles would join in. 

Obviously the smart thing to do for anyone considering taking this approach is to see what it does to Rupert's bottom line, but many are going beyond waiting and seeing.

The Telegraph, for instance, have described it as "a gift to the competition", and if you can think of a more direct competitor to the Times than the Telegraph, do tell. 

The Guardian's heading in the opposite direction: they just took down the last paywall, although that was only around the crossword. A members' club, something they are considering, is not the same beast. The question is this: can you read the paper online or not?

There are somewhat more plausible moves to charge afoot in the States, but the bottom line remains that it'd be a cartel, and there'll be more opportunities in undermining a cartel than there are in taking part. 

Imagine all the UK broadsheets join a paywall conglomerate apart from the Guardian or the Telegraph. Which paper will you read online? Which familiar commentators will you choose when you're buying a paper copy for the train? Who gets blogged about? Which proprietor has influence, which remember is what most people own newspapers for?

If you really want to know what's happening, the best guide is the Kübler-Ross model, which set out the five stages of grief. I shall lazily point you to the Wikipedia page. Here are the stages, as they apply to the newspaper industry:

1. Denial - "This can't be happening, not to me, I have a three-hundred-year-old business model." (c. 2002 - 2004)
2. Anger - "Who is to blame? Is it Craiglist or those pesky bloggers?" (c. 2005 to 2009)
3. Bargaining - "I'll try paywalls again if it gives me a few more years." (right now)
4. Depression - "This industry's going to die. What's the point?" (when the Murdoch experiment fails, probably within a year from when it's brought in)
5. Acceptance - "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."

I'm not sure what the model is for the last phase, and I desperately hope it still includes as much good journalism and commentary as possible. But I'm convinced that Clay Shirky's more likely right about this than Tom Harris or the more thoughtful Doctor Vee.

Previously here:
lesleyriddoch.jpgFor my money, Lesley Riddoch has long been about the best thing on Scottish radio, and if GMS were ever to go in the direction of the Today Programme, she'd be an obvious choice to present it. When her eponymous Show ended in December 2004, there was an outcry, but then she was back on air with Riddoch Questions, made by her own production company. 

Now that's ending too, with this week's programme to be the last. As if that wasn't reason enough to tune in one more time (as usual, Radio Scotland, Friday at 1.15pm), the panel will be discussing how Scotland can meet its new 42% target for carbon reductions, and Patrick's likely to be on the show. Last week's show is here until then.

I'm sure the BBC's top brass have their reasons for ending it, but I still object. Her various programmes have been best in class for years now, and this move will leave a dirty great hole in their schedule. A rethink here would be very welcome.
The BBC website's environment correspondent keeps a well-informed and well-written blog, which I commend to you, especially on conservation matters. Having said that, I couldn't agree with the conclusion of this piece: Does climate cloud the bigger picture?

In it, he looks at the relationships between some key environmental threats, including climate change, to ask if our priorities are wrong. There's an (unannotated) version of this chart to illustrate the links as he sees them: 

The centre of it all, for Richard, is population growth, the third rail of environmental campaigns for decades. As a simple mathematical fact, humanity's environmental footprint can be considered as a per capita impact multiplied by the population, but that tells us so little, not least because of local differences and local opportunities.

Scotland could, for instance, have a much lower environmental impact by putting science first on fisheries, not the SNP's short-termism. This country could actually start to lead on climate change if Ministers delivered a universal insulation programme, or if they funded better public transport instead of all their motorway building projects. We could be facing a lower level of habitat loss if Ministers hadn't backed Trump in Aberdeenshire. 

None of those changes would require a draconian population policy, but I also disagree with Charles Moore on this: choosing to have a smaller family is certainly anything but irresponsible.

Dog bites man.

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tugakiltthanksjeff.jpgMany of the papers today had a PA story about the Nats calling for more powers to be devolved. Here's one example: SNP tell Jim Murphy: We want more powers for Holyrood now.

Why on earth is this newsworthy? It's all they ever do. Alex Salmond wakes up calling for more powers, even as he then refuses to use the ones we have already, and he goes to bed cursing Westminster for not devolving the power to eat all the fish today. His dreams no doubt regularly feature him winning a big tug-of-war with Jim Murphy over the border.

If anyone who can find a senior Nat saying they're happy with the devolved settlement, then that's a story. Until then, how about a bit more coverage of, I dunno, maybe the biggest crisis facing humanity, something which Holyrood will actually vote on this week

The Daily Mail vs the internet.

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It's hard to be tolerant of newspaper websites with click-to-vote polls on them. They're even less accurate than (say) Big Brother voting. Even using the word "poll" is dishonest, given how easily they can be rigged. 

So when the Daily Mail asked their readers whether the NHS should allow gipsies to jump the queue, based on some spittle-flecked Littlejohn rant, the internet intervened, through Twitter and Facebook. Cue this result:

That'll make it a touch harder for Littlejohn or others to use the "results" as supporting evidence for future racist diatribes. I hadn't intended to vote multiple times, incidentally, but it wouldn't let me see the results without at least trying to. Inevitably, the whole thing got taken down

The most spectacular and determined instance of "poll"-rigging remains April's 4chan vs Time Magazine smackdown. Read here for more.

No news is bad news.

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monkeypaper.jpgI've become increasingly concerned about the risk to journalism posed by the slow death of the dead-trees-and-adverts model.

The New York Times has a fascinating graphic on the problem here, part of that paper's web efforts, which are extraordinary but don't currently seem to be halting their own decline, as that shows.

There's more in the magnificent Nation, including some controversial ideas on government support. I'm not convinced but it's certainly worth a read.

This isn't some academic concern, nor is it just because I have a lot of friends who work in the media. Increasing evidence is coming out about the substantial real-world costs of these failures. Stumbling and Mumbling quotes a research exercise done into the demise of the Cincinatti Post (via Slugger):

".. fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell."

There's your democratic deficit right there. Worried now?

Not quite a sultan.

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The Sunday Herald also ran short pieces on political satire yesterday by the parties' press officers, including one from me. It's not often we go head-to-head, nor work under our own names, but this was all a bit of fun to mark the release of In The Loop. Not at all competitive, though the headline was "generous".

Here's a wee set of video clips from those I cited:
That Was The Week That Was (includes some edgy civil rights stuff)
Yes Minister (how planning's really done)
House of Cards (an Urquhart monologue which the Brownites might not like)
Thick of It (some quality Tucker)
Wernher von Braun (the immortal Tom Lehrer)
Mark Thomas (does a number on the arms trade)
Jon Stewart (the recent feud with Jim Cramer)

Also, anyone wishing to leave marks out of ten for the original articles may do so in the comments. No favouritism please.

Liberal conference reviewed.

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liberalpartyconference.jpgThis unsolicited summary of Liberal conference (left) arrived from a journalist friend who shall remain nameless:

"Their conference - or more accurately lack of it - was truly a thing to behold, like some Taoist riddle about the enormity of nothingness."

It did strike me as odd that they would spend a weekend talking about how we shouldn't be talking about independence. Perhaps that's also some kind of kōan.

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