Media: March 2009 Archives

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.

A sense of perspective.

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desertskull.jpgLast week, Parliament backed a report on the National Planning Framework 2, which will exempt a list of "national projects" from planning objections. Top of this list is the superlatively unnecessary additional Forth Road Bridge, now defined by Parliament as necessary. The Liberals joined the SNP to vote it through, while the Tories joined us in voting against, I believe simply because the final text on energy wasn't nuclear enough. 

Although we Greens remain the only party in Parliament opposed to this project and to the airport expansions also being rammed through as part of the same process, I'd have thought this decision by Parliament would be newsworthy. Nope. Just one local story from the P&J.

Yesterday, Stewart Stevenson, Minister for More Of Everything, got grilled by Patrick's Committee on the Climate Change Bill, and according to PA, was "clueless". Did his hours being put on the spot get covered in the media? Nope. There's a bit of PA copy, then the previous mentions are all about him taking credit for new roads.

The policy debate gets ignored, even as scientists meeting in Copenhagen warn of even more radical acidification of the seas, and even greater sea level rises. Is it just me, or is the disconnect here absolutely terrifying?

No more buggy whips.

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romancarriage.jpgIt's usually painful for employees and owners when industries become obsolete. Exceptions include the pyramid-makers - the slaves were no doubt relieved when that particular trend came to a halt. 

As the current economic crisis deepens, it's putting more and more categories of business under threat, and many sectors are still feeling the impact of the internet on their old business models. 

A friend of mine is fond of the metaphor of the buggy whip manufacturers who got put out of work by the arrival of the car industry - as the demand for horse-drawn carriages fell, they failed to diversify. No-one cried for them, least of all the horses.

Now the wheel of fortune has turned and the car industry itself is in trouble across the globe. Demand is falling, bailouts are being demanded, and bankruptcy looms large. Their desperate measures to survive seem doomed, and their efforts to get off fossil fuels and into electric seem so tokenistic.

Newspapers are another matter, though, although the comparison isn't new. Today's ABCs, the circulation gospel, show every publication in Scotland down apart from the Times and Sunday Times. They shouldn't feel smug, though. Last time I looked it was only the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph who held their own, and everyone's trendline is downwards. Collectively, just looking at the dailies, they lost just short of 108,000 readers in the last year, presumably mostly to the web.

In America, papers are closing left and right. Here there have been job cuts at the Guardian, the Independent, the Sunday Mail and the Record, the Sunday Herald and the Herald, and others. At the local end, there's been a net loss of 42 papers across the UK, but no major nationals have folded here. Yet.

The Scottish Government and COSLA are doing their bit to hasten the end. They're advertising online, instead of in the papers, and saving £10m doing so. As a taxpayer, I'm obviously happy to see Government save money, and searching online is easier for many than remembering to get the Friday papers. 

However, the newspapers aren't just advertising sheets. I don't want to see the Scotsman collapse just to be replaced by Craigslist. The advertising sections fund actual journalism, investigation and news-gathering (and yes, the mere reprinting of press releases too). 

Part of the problem with making the case for journalists is that they often share last place with politicians in polls about who the public trust, at least prior to the bankers' collective fall from grace. Despite their many failings, though, journalists provide a real public good, holding public figures to account and shedding light on malpractice.

Bloggers won't fill the gap, either, as David Simon (originator of The Wire) found out when he investigated a fatal shooting by the Baltimore police:

"Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

"I didn't trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that's the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it."

If the slow-motion demise of the newspaper industry doesn't alarm you, you don't understand it. If the papers are to have a future it seems unlikely it's in print rather than online, but we'll be poorer and more vulnerable if they don't find some kind of viable business model to turn to.

Update: As Cities Go From Two Papers to One, Talk of Zero (NYT, Bugmenot to bypass registration)

On not subbing.

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At the end of last month AllmediaScotland reported that the Record and the Sunday Mail would be merging their editorial operations. A spokesman for Trinity Mirror was quoted as follows:

"The current, five step editorial process - from reporter to newsdesk to designer to sub to revise - has remained largely unchanged for decades. This will be replaced with a new, three-step process - content creation, multimedia desk, page finishing - driven by simplified workflows and supported by cutting-edge technology."

Now, I've never run a newspaper, and I'm sure they know what they're doing, but the five steps in the original process are all clear and practical, whereas the three new steps sounded like either jargon or euphemisms, with some key bits missing. 

Presumably "page finishing" is meant to include sub-editing, but it could just be demoting proper subbing to mere spell-checking. Which might lead to more of this:


Scottish Press Awards.

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newspaper.jpgMike at AMS has the shortlists today. There are too many categories for me to make predictions all the way through, but here goes for a few. 

Scoop of the year: I think Gerri Peev will be hard to beat. Her story about an Obama aide describing Hillary as a monster went round the world.

Columnist of the year: From the shortlist, I'd vote for Joan McAlpine, both for style and for resisting party lines, even on the numerous occasions I don't agree with her.

Political journalist of the year: Heaven forbid that someone in my line of work should pick and choose from the luminaries on that list. 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Media category from March 2009.

Media: February 2009 is the previous archive.

Media: April 2009 is the next archive.