Category Archives: Media

Arts 2.0: Twitterstorms and social media stats

My latest Arts 2.0 column for The Stage is online today, reflecting on an eruption of comments on Twitter following agent Stuart Piper’s piece of Wednesday mentioning that some producers are informing themselves of performers’ online footprint.

My first draft of this was absolutely fuming at the sheer stupidity of some people on Twitter. I took most of that out, so that the column could focus on the issues rather than weigh in and get things kicked up again. Of course that does mean that the page views for my column will be rather lower…

Doctor Who Magazine: Sarah Jane Companion, volume 3

Blogged elsewhere: Doctor Who Magazine’s Sarah Jane special

Over on TV Today on The Stage website, I’ve taken the opportunity to write about Doctor Who Magazine’s latest special edition, covering the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Due to Elisabeth Sladen’s death, production was halted at a critical point in the series’ history: the production team were asking all sort of questions about where the show would go in its following year. Circumstances would mean they would never get round to answering those questions – but that gives TV historians a unique opportunity…

The Stage: When the story has to stop

Which witch hunt?

I’m not a great fan of Channel 4′s 10 O’Clock Live, which all too often aims low (last night’s sketch of ‘Abu Qatada’s Cribs’ was typically weak). Conversely, though, when it hits the right note, it really gets it right.

Also last night, newspaper columnist and TV presenter Charlie Brooker gave a poetic rant about all the various groups which The Sun has railed about, and now which make associate editor Trevor Kavanagh’s claims that its journalists are now being subject to a ‘witch hunt’ all the more hypocritical.

Copies popped up on YouTube instantly, only to be taken straight down again by Channel 4 claiming copyright on the clip. And quite right, too.

The clip in question is available on Channel 4′s own site, and they’ve made it available to embed in other people’s websites:

It’s a genius piece of writing. If Brooker was the author as well as the performer, then all credit to him: if not, though, whoever did write the piece deserves their place in the spotlight.

iOS Newsstand gives Future an e-publishing boost

The Association of Online Publishers reports that Future Publishing’s titles racked up over 2 millions Apple Newsstand downloads in the first four days of iOS 5′s release.

Future launched more than 50 titles on Newsstand when it launched on Thursday 13 October, making it the most prolific publisher in the space. The mix of free, paid-for and premium products has attracted north of two million downloads, and represents consumer spending well in excess of normal monthly revenues.

Future UK CEO Mark Wood says: “Future had sold more digital editions in the past four days through Apple’s Newsstand than in a normal month. It’s clear that Newsstand creates an amazing opportunity for publishers – and I’m committed to continue driving our brands through this great new distribution channel.

“We plan to include more sampler issues in every magazine container in coming weeks, as well as uploading high price-point bookazines and premium one-shot titles.”

Newsstand’s presentation style certainly makes electronic editions of magazines feel much more integrated into iOS in ways that iBooks, which originated the “bookshelf”-style look and feel Newsstand uses, does not. And despite the gnashing of teeth regarding Apple’s commission level and the lack of personal information publishers can receive about subscribers, the revenue implications should be more than welcome.

Steve Jobs: “Death is Life’s best invention”

Steve Jobs: “Death is Life’s best invention”

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar, in his Stanford University commencement address in June 2005:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

How the Daily Mail selectively quotes in order to lie about attitudes to gay people

From today’s Daily Mail:

Most people still oppose gay marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, a Government report revealed yesterday.

More than half believe homosexual marriages should not be allowed and two thirds think the adoption of children by same-sex couples should not have become legal nine years ago.

Unfortunately for the Mail, perhaps, the Office for National Statistics’ Population Trends Autumn 2011 is available to the public. And within the section concerned, Civil Partnerships Five Years On, we see that the information around which the Mail has hooked its “Look, look, Britain’s as homophobic as we’ve been telling you” hat comes from two 2006 Eurobarometer survey questions, included for cross-Europe comparison but not collated by the ONS:

Eurobarometer is run by TNS Opinion and Social on behalf of the European Commission. In 2006 two questions were asked to around a thousand respondents from each of the EU25 countries25. Given the small sample sizes for each country the results can only be indicative of the main differences and general ordering of countries.

(My emphasis.) So the ONS explicitly warns against using the Eurobarometer survey results in the way that the Mail has done.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Just as we shouldn’t be surprised that the Mail has ignored other statistical information within the same report that shows that the proportion of the population that believes same-sex relationships to be wrong is substantially smaller than the proportion which doesn’t.

Update: Ruminations of an Englishman examines the original Eurobarometer and finds that while 45% disapproved of gay marriage, 46% actually agreed…

Meanwhile, the Pink Paper swallows the Daily Mail’s spin hook, line and sinker. They should be ashamed.

How to interview almost anybody for fun and profit

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After last week’s posts about the deception, plagiarism and Wikipedia editing conducted by Johann Hari (see Johann Hari’s apology is a “lesson in cynicism” and And another quote about Johann Hari), it’s beneficial perhaps to remember that the vast majority of journalists aren’t actually venal, immoral, plagiarists and phone-hackers.

Jason Arnopp has been interviewing people for so long that he reckons he’s amassed over 1,000 subjects in his 23-year career. And now he’s decided to write his own, self-published ebook full of interview technique tips.

Thankfully (because he’s a mate and it would be really embarrassing if it was awful) it’s good. Really good.

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How to interview almost anybody for fun and profit5Scott Matthewman2011-09-27 12:32:49

After last week’s posts about the deception, plagiarism and Wikipedia editing conducted by Johann Hari (see Johann Hari’s apology is a “less…

The myth of the racist children

ANTI-BULLYING RULE THAT BRANDS CHILDREN RACIST” screamed the Express, who always assumes its readers can’t cope with headlines in mixed case (and, indeed, that SEO is about repeating the same keywords over and over in a URL…)

‘Racists’ aged THREE: Toddlers among thousands of children accused of bigotry after name-calling” said the Daily Mail.

The Evening Standard followed with “Children as young as three should be reported for ‘racism’, Government-funded group claims“, and the Telegraph added to the pile with “Children as young as four reprimanded for racist behaviour“.

The general gist was the same in each case, despite the differing levels of hysterics in the headlines. By recording incidents of racist behaviour, children would be branded for life if they uttered anything which the teachers might consider to be racist or homophobic.

But wouldn’t you know it? There’s not all that much in truth in the way the papers have covered the story.

From Show Racism the Red Card, the organisation campaigning against racism in football and society:

It is vital to understand that the recording and reporting of racist incidents by schools is NOTHING to do with labelling or punishing children. It is ludicrous to suggest that future employers will be turning away candidates because they uttered a racist word at nursery. Baseless stories such as these are simply scaremongering and continue to erode belief in the value of recording racist incidents.

Recording racist incidents means that schools are able to identify patterns; do incidents rise in response to particular local or national events? Are the incidents all of a particular nature or between specific groups of young people?

It helps schools to identify whether any strategies that they have put in place are having an effect and to identify whether there are any specific training needs for staff or pupils.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it creates a school environment where young people know that they will be taken seriously, where all young people feel valued and where racism and discrimination are not accepted. It is beneficial for the Local Authority to collect this information, so that they can gain a better understanding of issues within schools and offer relevant help and support.

Of course, if children grow up with respect for themselves and each other, they’ll end up as adults who are far less likely to fall for the tabloid papers’ catalogue of hatred and self-pity that they rely upon for newsstand sales and website page views. So maybe there’s some self-interest in their misrepresentation of this story?

And another quote about Johann Hari

If you go to interview someone who is famous or important or witty or wise (as opposed to a member of the public swept up in a news event) and they say only boring or incoherent things, it is mostly your fault.

From The Economist’s Bagehot’s Notebook. Continuing:

If you come away with gems, you know it, and may call your editor to say: “It went really well, he gave me some really great quotes.” If you come away with a notebook full of mush, you are not allowed to go to another interview conducted by someone else who was given better quotes and take them without attribution. If you do, that is stealing.

For me, Johann Hari’s behaviour on Wikipedia – using a made-up persona to accuse journalists with whom he’d fallen out of homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc., while tidying up his own to paint him in a more positive light, is even more damning than his contempible disregard for basic common sense when it comes to interview technique.

That’s why, when the Independent’s new editor, Chris Blackhurst, says that there’s “no doubting [Mr Hari's] talent as a columnist and we are hoping to see him back in the not too distant future,” my thoughts are (a) there bloody well ought to be doubts, and (b) the only reason you hope he’ll be back will be because of his notoriety value rather than his quality or unimpeachable reputation.

If he does ever return to national newspaper journalism, Johann Hari will have joined the ranks of Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips and the like: employed not because the newspaper believes they are examplars of journalistic excellence, but because their appalling, unethical behaviour will sell newspapers/website page impressions by virtue of their freak-show nature.

Call me idealistic, but I don’t think that’s how newspaper editors should select their content.

Johann Hari’s apology is a “lesson in cynicism”

At heart is not Hari’s lack of journalistic education – as his new editor claimed ludicrously last night on Newsnight – but his very low opinion of journalism. You don’t stuff up your interviews with quotes from elsewhere and then pass them off as your own work unless you think that no-one will notice or care. You don’t pinch someone’s name to attack critics on Wikipedia unless you imagine colleagues are stupid. Ease of career passage has bequeathed Hari nothing but contempt and cynicism. His ‘apology’ is a lesson in cynicism.

Madame Arcati on Johann Hari’s admission that he plagiarised quotes for his interviews, and also used the pseudonym of “David Rose” to maliciously edit the Wikipedia page of other journalists he had fallen out with and attempted to edit his own to make it more positive. (For more background, see Jack of Kent’s blog post).