Monthly Archives: January 2010

The journalist’s voice, and the blogger’s voice

A fantastic read on the past and present of journalism by Terry McDermott at the CJR, with some fascinating thoughts on the voice of old journalism compared to the voice of the blogging age. Here’s an extract:

I hated the conventions that bound daily journalism, the stilted, odd language in which it was written as well as the contrived structures into which that odd language was shaped. The common newspaper style is so heavily codified you need a Berlitz course to interpret it. More than formal, the style is abstract and artificial. I once (on the very first day at a new job) got into a frighteningly intense argument with a city editor who had objected to my use of the word “slumbered” to describe the behavior of two political candidates during a debate. They didn’t really sleep through it, did they? he asked. Of course not, I said. I meant it figuratively, not literally. We don’t use figurative language here, he told me. Then he changed the word to “lumbered.”

That was one benighted guy, but the problem was nearly universal. Until recently, you couldn’t escape it. Now you can. The advent of the Web and the proliferation of smart, aggressive bloggers around the globe have torn journalism loose from its hinges. The hounds have been unleashed.

While disliking it intensely, it is easy to forget there was a reason for the soporific style of newspaper writing. Newspapers were actually trying to do something good. They recognized that they held powerful, uncontested positions as conveyors of news to their communities. After much coaxing, they took it upon themselves to shed their partisan pasts and don a cloak of social responsibility—a practice that they called objectivity. They did it in part to sell papers—they thought if they made fewer people angry they would have more readers—but mainly they did it because they thought it was the right thing to do. [Read the rest…]

My failed bid for West Ham

Last Friday, in the midst of great confusion surrounding the imminent takeover of West Ham, I decided to enter the race.

Yesterday, a source close to Straumur, the beleaguered bank who owned West Ham, admitted to the Guardian that I had in fact been the only other bidder in competition with David Sullivan and David Gold – although a few quid got lost in the exchange:

After ensuring it had won itself a job lot of positive publicity Intermarket Group’s bid for West Ham United foundered over a lack of funds, just as this column said it would in October. Tony Fernandes, too, could not on his own raise the cash required for a purchase so it meant Straumur was left with only two bids that contained verifiable proof of funding. David Gold and David Sullivan won the day with their injection of £30m-£35m of new money yesterday. The only other bid was submitted by an enterprising fan offering a grand total of £351. But at least he provided bank details to show the money was really there. [Guardian]

Apparently West Ham chairman and Straumur director Andrew Bernhardt didn’t see the funny side, and refused to process the bid.

Either way, I’m slightly gutted that my first ever takeover bid didn’t get off the ground. That said, only 50% of the club was sold. If at first you don’t succeed….

As US publishers prepare for the collective jump, UK publishers sling mud

Across the pond, a very unlikely detente is emerging. Faced with industrial armageddon, the publishing world seems to be dabbling in collectivism.

First was the announcement of the (so-far nameless) digital magazine consortium involving the five biggest magazine publishers in the US:

“Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp and Time Inc are making it formal: the five publishers are equity partners in a new digital publishing venture with grand designs. They want nothing less than to develop open standards for cross-platform e-reader technology, advertising and digital sales – and they’re going to put their brands behind it. Together, the company says the five represent an unduplicated audience of 144.6 million.” [PaidContent]

In short, they are banding together to fight the same fight. The enemy is industry decline, and their enemy’s enemy is their friend. The timing is right too, as very soon they might have a brand new weapon – the ridiculously hyped Apple tablet. Rather than squabbling over price wars for potentially revolutionary new content, they are deciding instead to set collective standards. Rather like a union, one could say. Or, indeed, a cartel.
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Beyond the feature: Egypt in sound, colour and video

This weekend I had a feature on Bedouin lodges in Sinai as the lead piece in the Guardian travel section. As I’ve done with other printed stories (like myNYT piece on Caribbean camping), I wanted to add a little extra on here – to complete the picture a little. The images, video and audio are in three parts…
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Let’s all pay the Swedish licence fee

A fantastic viral from Swedish advertising agency DRAFTFCB thanking Swedes for paying their licence fee. Click on the image below to see my version. Click here to make your own.

Angola: The richest poor country in the world…. and the Chinese connection

Image: manbeastextraordinaire on Flickr / Some rights reserved

Somewhat predictably, I’ve become a little obsessed with the Cup of African Nations in Angola. The tournament was preceded by tragedy, as the Togo team bus was ambushed in Cabinda province, resulting in the deaths of three members of the team party. 48 hours later the football began, with an astonishing 4-4 draw between Angola and Mali; Mali scoring four times in the last 11 minutes. And just like that, the janus-faced character of Africa was once again displayed to the world – the political chaos; and then the extraordinary vitality.

But rumbling beneath the headline-grabbing events is an equally complex tale. Having emerged from civil war in 2002 (crudely put, a Cold War proxy conflict split between those who owned the oil and those who owned the diamonds) Angola is one of the world’s fastest growing economies – In 2007, its GDP grew by 23%, and this year it will hit £50bn, putting it on a par with some middle-ranking Latin American and Asian countries. However, it also boasts the inglorious title of the world’s seventh most corrupt state, in which three quarters of the population earn under $1 a day. [Stats from GQ piece, below]

And lookie here… where is the majority of Angola’s investment coming from? China, stupid.

Anyone interested in the complexities of African economics, and the brutally indiscriminate scope of Chinese foreign investment, will be interested to read the following articles.
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Downtown Las Vegas

My new Video Break for the Guardian, on Downtown Vegas, where the lights are brighter and the slots looser:
Vodpod videos no longer available.