Archive for February, 2011

Have metaphors reached a stalemate?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Zawiyah: Not a metaphor for a stalemate

Over at, foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont writes:

Zawiyah – 30 miles from the capital – is a metaphor for Libya’s current stalemate, which could itself end at any moment.

That ubiquitous, all-seeing gadfly Tim Worstall picks him (or rather, the Guardian’s subs) up on the use of “metaphor“:

Err, no. Zawiyah is not a metaphor for the current stalemate, it is an example of the current stalemate.

Well yes, Tim, and I’d go further: “Stalemate” is the wrong metaphor in the first place, since it signals the end of the game. No further move is possible, other than one which would put you in check. As in the old spiritual Rock-a My Soul, it’s so high, you can’t get over it, so low, you can’t get under it, so wide, you can’t get round it.

“Stand-off”, “deadlock” or “impasse” were really the words Mr Beaumont was groping for, since they each imply that some further action is possible, even if not probable. You can go round an impasse, as MacArthur did at Inchon, or smash a deadlock, or retreat and regroup from a stand-off. None of these are possible with a stalemate.

Which set me thinking about a thoughtful article in this week’s Spiked, The political use and abuse of metaphor, an interview with author James Geary by Patrick Hayes. Talking about the “explosion of metaphors” in the media about the economic crisis and, more currently, in events in Arab world, Hayes asks: Has metaphor replaced thought in modern political – and by extension, journalistic – discourse? In other words, have metaphors become so prevalent, so over-used, that we end up talking about the metaphor, rather than the actual underlying facts that gave rise to it?

Read more…

Steven Davies: Place your bets

February 28, 2011 1 comment

With England wicketkeeper Steven Davies coming out as gay in today’s Telegraph, bookies have announced the following odds on well-known media pundits reviving the old Oscar Wilde gag about never playing cricket because “it requires one to assume such indecent postures”:

  • Jan Moir 1-1
  • Jeremy Clarkson 7-2
  • Andy Gray and/or Richard Keys 6-4
  • David Aaronovitch 9-2
  • Melanie Phillips 11-4
  • Johann Hari 20-1
  • William Rees-Mogg 2/1
  • Stephen Fry 1-1000

I’ll get my coat…



Staff axe swings at Newsquest London (again)

February 25, 2011 2 comments
Kingston Guardian

Redundancies on the way: Frontline Casualties, indeed

The cuts go on at Newsquest London.

It has sent the following to its employees:


Due to the worsening trading conditions the company will now accept requests for voluntary redundancy. These requests must be made in writing and be sent to the HR department by Monday February 28 at 5pm. All requests will then be reviewed. Final decisions will be at the management’s discretion.

(h/t) FleetStreetBlues

That’s an incredibly short time for staff to volunteer to step up on to the scaffold: company boss Roger Mills only made the announcement on Thursday.

NQ London publishes a range of titles in south-west London, including the paid-for titles Surrey Comet and Richmond & Twickenham Times, the freebie Guardian series and their related websites. The News Shopper series of free weeklies, based in Petts Wood, south-east London, also comes under the all-seeing aegis of group editor Andy Parkes.

Recently, the south-west branch of operations, formerly based in the less-than-salubrious surrounds of beautiful, downtown North Cheam,  has been split, with the Surrey Comet and related Kingston and Elmbridge Guardians team moving in with the Richmond & Twickenham Times at its Twickenham base and the rest of the operations nestling down with Reed Business Information in The Quadrant, Sutton – neatly completing circle begun in 1995, when a management buy-out team formed Newsquest and bought Reed Regional Newspapers from Reed Elsevier.

Unecol House

Unecol House: Still haunted by subs

Oddly, though, the news, sports and leisure subs team have been left alone in Newsquest London’s half of Unecol House, North Cheam, even though everyone else – newsdesks, advertising, planners and production – has up and moved elsewhere, and even though the inevitable technical teething problems means the subs have to use their own mobile phones and, on at least one occasion, lack of an IT connection means news editors have had to drive over from Sutton to view their own pages.

After a swathe of redundancies in 2009, last year saw the axing of some south-west London titles (the Hounslow & Brentford Times, the Chiswick) and cuts in pagination and distribution in others, as well as the closure of the national NQ final salary pension scheme. There have been further savage cuts in editorial pagination recently.

The Press Gazette has more on the latest redundancies here.

UPDATE Feb 26: FSB has the NUJ response here.

FURTHER UPDATE: Although the number of redundancies NQ London is after hasn’t been revealed, a source tells me staff are being told the cuts will be based on a “skills matrix” rather than “last in, first out”. Which has left staff with a worrying weekend wondering where exactly they fit in the “skills matrix” before deciding on Monday whether to take the blue pill or the red pill…

Friday on my mind

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Things seen and heard during my week to help you fill in those minutes till you hit the pub.

“A Terminator Cabbage Patch Doll”: Want to know more? Click on Scary robots.

Gaddafi: A life in fashion; Something for the weekend for Fido; Euclid moment: If planets orbited the Earth; Great buildings in crystal; Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner’s catfight on the cobbles; Christchurch earthquake hits lecture on Land Law (great soundbite at end); Who owns the sun? This woman, apparently; the 10 most violent video games; For those who have everything: the pimped out Mini Cooper gaming chair; North Korea in pictures; Scary robots; Laurie Anderson should have had this for O Superman; Stunning underwater photography; World’s scariest hike.

Categories: Friday on my mind

Gaddafi unites the nation: Official

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Odd spelling of Gaddafi

Someone's not following the Style Guide

The on-going crisis in Libya has highlighted one hitherto little-known fact: the country is almost totally united in thinking the correct spelling of the Libyan mad dog dictator’s surname is “Gaddafi”.

An exclusive survey by pollsters One-Man-And-His-iMac for Louse & Flea reveals that of the major UK news outlets, from the Guardian to the Telegraph and the Daily Mail to the Daily Mash, only the Economist breaks the consensus by opting for “Qaddafi”.

There is also overwhelming support for the spelling of his first name as “Muammar”, apart from the Financial Times, which chooses “Muammer”, and the Sun, which appears to believe it’s “Colonel”.

A spokesman for the not-for-profit-but-mostly-for-drinking-really UK Association of Sub-editors and Web Content Wonks welcomed the findings that there was widespread agreement about what is widely agreed to be a tricky spelling. “It’s hard enough just getting the name of the fucking country right,” he said.

Oversea, chaos reigns over the spelling of the mad dog’s name, which may threaten chances of a united response to the continuing crisis. Of the major newswires, AP opts for “Moammar Gadhafi”, Reuters, Bloomberg and Aljazeera for “Muammar Gaddafi”, the Press Association for Muammer Gaddafi” and AFP for “Moamer Kadhafi” (but they’re French, so whaddya expect?).

Some commentators have said President Barack Obama’s dithering response to unfolding events might be because, while the Wall Street Journal opts for “Moammar Gadhafi”, the Washington Post goes for “Moammar Gaddafi”, the LA Times for “Moammer Kadafi” and the New York Times for “Muammar el-Qaddafi”.

One analyst (me) said: “Maybe Obama’s confused by all these which of all these people with similar sounding but orthographically dissimilar names is actually in charge and he’s getting Hillary to draw up contingency plans according to whether one or the other, or all, are toppled.”

The inevitable split in the EU is also signalled by Der Spiegel choosing “Moamer Gadhafi”, Le Figaro for “Moammar Kadhafi”, Corriere Della Sera for “Muammar Gheddafi”, De Telegraaf “Muammar Kaddafi” and El Pais “Muamar el Gadafi”.

One commentator (me, again) said Turkey’s dreams of joining the EU may or may not be harmed by the fact that while the country’s leading newspaper Zaman uses “Muammer Kaddafi”, the EU’s own website, Europa, uses “Mohamar Kadhafi”.

In Russia, Pravda decrees “Muammar Gadhafi” while Catholics worldwide are urged to use “Muammar Gheddafi” by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore.

A spokesman for leading journalist online resource Wikipedia said: “Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (Arabic: معمر القذافي‎ Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī).”

Christchurch earthquake Pt 2

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Further to yesterday’s post about the Christchurch earthquake, and to prove to several detractors that I’m not a grizzled old dead tree media lumberjack who doesn’t get the hang of this cutting-edge brave new world of net journalism, I point you to this excellent use of the web to tell a simple story stunningly well. And hey, kids, it’s interactive! (Which is more than the Guardianblog was…)

Categories: journalism, The Guardian

The Guardian Newsblog and the Death of Journalism

February 22, 2011 36 comments
Guardian newsblog Christchurch earthquake

Roll 'em: The Guardian's newsblog

It is about 1pm GMT and I have been surfing the UK web news sites looking for info about the latest disaster to afflict my homeland: the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand.

Most of the newspaper and TV sites have treated the story in the traditional way: the “inverted triangle”, with the intro giving the essential what, where, when information, then crafting the story with more expository material of gradually lessening importance. It’s how I learnt to structure a hard news story all those years ago when I first started out in this craft and it’s the tried and tested way that’s served journalism well for over 100 years now.

For some reason, the Guardian website has decided the old way is no good. Its coverage of the story is in the form of a newsblog. We get the who, what, where information as brief bullet points at the top, with the eye-catching photo of the now spire-less Christchurch Cathedral, but what follows has absolutely no structure at all.

It’s a mish-mash of baffling tweets, irrelevant musings from the Guardian’s comments, contact details for those who want to find out about loved ones or make donations (including one from the New Zealand Red Cross, who actually says it doesn’t want donations just yet, and another from the Auckland University Students’ Union, the relevance of which escapes me), musings from a boffin at that world renowned centre of earthquake research, Bristol University, and speculation on how the tragedy might affect the Rugby World Cup, due to kick-off in NZ in seven months’ time. Scattered meagrely throughout, like sixpences in a Christmas pudding, are bits of what you and I might call “hard news”.

Read more…

Is this OK?

February 18, 2011 2 comments

OK magazineThe BBC magazine has an article about the origins of OK by Allan Metcalfe who, extraordinarily, has managed to squeeze a whole book out of this useful and ubiquitous abbreviation (not Desmond’s ridiculous sleb magazine).

As an analysis, it’s rather undercooked. Metcalfe ponders:

But what makes OK so useful that we incorporate it into so many conversations? It’s not that it was needed to “fill a gap” in any language. Before 1839, English speakers had “yes”, “good”, “fine”, “excellent”, “satisfactory”, and “all right”.

Well, so they did. And they used all of them, even though the shades of meaning between many of them are so slight that even a mantis shrimp would have difficulty discerning them. In a language as promiscuously acquisitive as English, having to “fill a gap” is hardly any kind of criterion for whether a word is adopted or not.

Nonetheless, having posited an non-existent criterion, Metcalfe rushes in to fill it: Read more…

Categories: BBC, fad words Tags:

And he wants the Koh-i-Noor back

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

According to The Times, Mark Zuckerman is “the social networking moghul“.

Maybe this is the preferred spelling of “mogul” for a business or entertainment tycoon in the Times style guide. I dunno, because it’s now lurking behind the Murdoch ₱a¥wa££.

Neither the Guardian nor the Telegraph style guides mention any difference between “mogul” and “Moghul”, but the OED does.

Update: Just found out how to access The Times Style Guide. Confusingly, it says:

Mogul (not Mughal) for the empire and art

Makes no reference to “Moghul”, or what to use for a business or entertainment tycoon. Or a bumpy bit on a piste. Or indeed how you would describe bumping into, say, Shah Jahan and Samuel Goldwyn on a bumpy bit of a piste.

Categories: The Times, Uncategorized

Normal service is resumed again (really)

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Following the disruption of moving house,I thought I was all ready to get blogging again. What I didn’t factor in was that my new flat’s web access was via Tiscali (or DorkDork, as I believe they call themselves now). To say that DorkDork’s broadband service is as useful as tits on a bull is to seriously libel bulls and, indeed, tits. When the server wasn’t in a snitch (and it usually was), the speed was so slooooow I may as well have been using an old 56k dial-up modem.

Having lost several blog posts and on-line job applications when the server connection suddenly dropped midway through, I finally decided enough’s enough and persuaded the powers-that-be (ie, the landlord) to take up Virgin’s introductory offer. Which he has. So the tenants get fast and reliable wireless broadband speeds and he gets more TV channels than he ever got on his old clapped-out OnDigital box (I didn’t know they existed any more).

So the Louse is itchin’ and the Flea is jumpin’ once more.