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How Not To Close A News Organisation

Posted 6th November 2016

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“We are open for business.”

— David Hencke, Exaro ‘Head of News’, 18th July 2016

“We are absolutely devastated. We were going ahead with plans and had only just put up a story the previous day, with a lot more in the pipeline, and suddenly we are told it’s closed just like that.”

— David Hencke, Exaro ‘Head of News’, 21st July 2016

This article is not the story of Exaro – the investigative news site set up in 2011 to, in their own words, “hold power to account”. That story heavily involves Exaro’s investigations of paedophilia and child abuse, and that’s a topic on which I have precisely no insight on whatsoever – either the investigations themselves, Exaro’s conduct during them, or the official police investigations. There are many people who are far more qualified to discuss those matters. I mean literally qualified, with actual qualifications. There is nothing I could ever add to those discussions.

Still, what I want to talk about is something which does impact on the aftermath of those investigations. Whether you think Exaro’s conduct was exemplary, reprehensible, or some complex line between the two, the fact now remains: aside from the usual rescue from the Wayback Machine, there is no primary evidence of those investigations left online. It has all disappeared.

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Digital Spy, there

Posted 23rd October 2016

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Yeah, yeah, putting the boot into Digital Spy is a fairly pointless thing to do, really. But it’s 3am, I’m bored, and they’ve mildly annoyed me, so what are you going to do?

Over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fan site I contribute to when I’m not sulking because I hate Red Dwarfa quite extraordinary thread has popped up. Short version: there are lyrics to the opening theme, nobody fucking knew about it until now, you can hear them most clearly 14 seconds into this video, we’re all gibbering wrecks because of this, and Darrell is our new lord and saviour.

Long version: read the thread. It’s worth it. Seriously.

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The New Journalism

Posted 3rd July 2016

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Boing Boing’s entire article:

“This inquisitive fellow was unable to keep his hands off a delicate museum piece hanging from the wall at the National Watch & Clock Museum. After breaking it, he lost interest and walked away, leaving his companion to clean up the mess.”

Description on the video, posted directly by the museum itself:

“This is why we beg and plead with our visitors to please refrain from touching objects in museums. The couple did notify Museum staff immediately.”

A few points:

Still, aside from that, excellent work Boing Boing.

Oh, and did I mention that the writer of the piece works as a Research Director?

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The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Read About 9/11

Posted 24th August 2015

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The A.V. Club, “Fans discover Friends deleted an airport security subplot after 9/11″:

“For a show set in New York City in the late ’90s and early 2000s, it’s odd how little Friends ever touched on the events of September 11. In fact, the show never once commented on the tragic occasion, with the closest mention coming from an “FDNY” shirt Joey wore in later seasons. And yet recently, Friends fans uncovered a deleted subplot from an eighth season episode that actually dealt with airport security that was cut from a post-9/11 episode. Of course, it had nothing to do with the then-recently upgraded TSA practices; it just happened to be a bomb joke in an airport.”

OK, so let’s take a look at that video. Firstly: “Uploaded on Feb 6, 2007”. Slightly stretches the definition of “recent” in this context, doesn’t it? As in: the video was actually uploaded far closer to 9/11 than to today. Five and a half years on from 9/11; eight and a half years ago from now.

Secondly… what’s all this “fans” thing? That video – official opening scrolltext and all – is clearly an extra on a DVD release. So it’s less a “fans uncovered” thing, and more “production tells everyone ages ago in an officially licensed commercial product”. Sure, glancing around, it seems the video has gone viral recently – but pretending that this is new is just inaccurate.

Thirdly: embedding a video which purely rips off an extra from a DVD release makes me feel rather queasy. True, I did it on this G&T article – but it’s hardly the main focus of the article, and I did a load of pimping of the DVDs before I felt comfortable with it. The video in the A.V. Club article is really the main content of the piece, and it’s not attributed correctly anyway. Bleugh.

Despite my “hilarious” headline: of course none of this is the most important stuff in the world. And yet… it does point towards a major problem with some of the writing of this kind of material online: the pretence that everything has to be new, now, current. There’s an interesting article to be written about how material from 2007 suddenly goes viral, and the author steadfastly refuses to take it.

This article misrepresents when the material was released, and where the material came from. Two very important facts, waylaid in the attempt to make the story seem exciting and new. That’s just rubbish.

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How Journalism Works Part #274952

Posted 10th July 2015

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So, a new series of The Brittas Empire is apparently in development.

The Mirror:

“The show ran for 53 episodes from 1991 to 1997 and regularly attracted nearly 10 million viewers.”

Mail Online:

“During its six-year run, some 53 episodes of the show were broadcast.”

The Express:

“At the height of its success, The Brittas Empire would draw an estimated 10 million viewers for the BBC, running for 53 episodes between 1991 and 1997.”

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Posted 10th June 2015

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Having spent yesterday praising a blog about television, today I thought I’d slag one off instead. Always a dangerous game when in the past you’ve published things like the top post on this page, but never let it be said that I am not courageous.

On one of my random click-anywhere-and-see-what-happens jaunts on which I waste most of my life, I came across Mouthbox, a “TV reviews & media blog”. Oooh, a a review of House of Fools – I’ll give that a read. I disagree with most of it – especially the part about being “protected from the truth”, also quoted below – but that’s not the point of this post. The part I want to concentrate on is the second half of the following sentence:

“Reeves and Mortimer also have enough friends in high places at the Beeb to be protected from the truth, and a second series has probably already been commissioned despite the glaring problems with this pilot.”

Which is a very odd thing to write, as this piece was published in March 2015… in the middle of the show’s second series.

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Scottish referendum: how irritating blogs covered newspapers covering broadcast media covering results

Posted 19th September 2014

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Today, the Guardian posted the following story: Scottish referendum: how broadcast media covered results. Regarding ITV’s coverage, we simply get the following:

“ITV’s Scotland Decides averaged 400,000 and a 5.5% share over the same period.”

This, however, is not how the article read earlier today. The above paragraph originally read as follows:

“ITV’s Scotland Decides averaged 400,000 and a 5.5% share over the same period, also for two simulcast editions – STV’s version for Scottish viewers fronted by Bernard Ponsonby and Aasmah Mir, with ITV News’s programme for the rest of the UK, anchored by Alastair Stewart.”

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Bad Journalism Part #8274982

Posted 9th February 2014

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I just read two articles. Two articles about two entirely different subjects. Oddly enough, however, they both managed to annoy me in exactly the same way. (Incidentally, congratulations – you’ve just managed to find the only site on the internet to tie together Mrs Brown’s Boys and Flappy Bird.)

Firstly, Rachel Cooke interviewing BBC director of television Danny Cohen:

“Would he explain to me the success of Mrs Brown’s Boys, watched by 9.4 million on Christmas Day? “Yes. There are huge numbers of people – and I’m one – who love studio-based sitcoms. The joy in the room!” Again, I peer at him, trying to work out if he’s being sincere. Oh, Lord. I think he is.”

Secondly, Patrick O’Rourke on Flappy Bird. He starts off with an interesting question:

“After about 10 minutes, I came to the realization Flappy Bird is an absolutely horrible video game and began to wonder why it’s so extremely popular.”

Somehow manages to contradict himself within two sentences:

“It’s Flappy Bird’s simplicity that makes it so addictive. What I don’t understand is how people genuinely seem to be enjoying playing Flappy Bird.”

And then just gives up:

“So do yourself a favour and stop playing Flappy Bird; it sucks.”

Now, what I think about the two topics is irrelevant. (For the record, I really like Flappy Bird, and haven’t seen enough Mrs Brown’s Boys to be able to judge.) What irritates me is the acknowledgement of how successful they both are… and a complete lack of engagement on behalf of the writer as to why.

In the case of Mrs Brown’s Boys, I genuinely don’t understand the interviewer’s response to Danny Cohen’s statement. Which bit is she disagreeing with? That people like studio-based sitcoms? That Cohen specifically likes studio sitcoms? The bit about the “joy in the room”? Or does she think he ducked the specific question and just spoke in generalities, and that’s what she’s perturbed by? It’s not clear at all. It’s just a dig from someone who doesn’t like the show, expecting the reader to happily go along with it without a single further thought.

The Flappy Bird article is even worse. It claims to be a piece where someone who hates the game genuinely tries to find out what people love about it… and yet the writer makes little effort to actually figure it out. The point of the article having now completely disappeared, instead he throws out an order from on-high to tell people to stop playing the game. I would hope that last part at least has some level of irony attached, but it’s still pointless. The entire article is ridiculous.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that just because something’s popular, you have to like it. You hate something popular, you should write articles in deep and penetrating detail saying exactly what you don’t like about it. (God knows I have.) What annoys me about these two articles is that both specifically bring up the fact that something they hate is popular… and then refuse to engage with any potential answers as to why. Instead, they prefer to sit back and sneer.

My suggestion: have a go. Listen. Engage. Think about why people might like something you don’t. You don’t have to suddenly agree that something is brilliant – but at least have the discussion. You’re more likely to come up with something that’s actually worth saying.

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