Archive for December, 2011

Book of the Year 2011: The Invention of Murder

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Keen-eyed readers will have noticed I’ve given the blog a make-over and have added a new section of book reviews, called Scribble, scribble, scribble, which can be accessed here or from the link at the top of this page.

The first entry is my book of the year, Judith Flander’s excellent The Invention of Murder. Published at the beginning of the year, it was thus forgotten by the time most  “literary critics” –  whose memory spans would flatter a goldfish – came to write their interminable “Books of the Year” column which add much misery to the nation at this time of the year.

If you have been given a book token, or have a spare tenner or so to spare, I highly recommend this book. I’ve read it three time this year. I shall read it again.

I sincerely hope Judith Flanders writes a follow-up, covering murders in the 20th century.

Keep Calm and Womble On

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The Leveson hearing continues to Bore On for Britain, with live coverage on both BBC News 24 and Sky News, for heaven’s sake. As if anyone apart from Guido Fawkes and the usual politico-journo junkie suspects are really interested in watching minute-by-minute coverage from that sweaty oak-panelled room in the Royal Courts of Justice, where the testimony can hardly be heard above the ticking of the lawyers’ taximeters.

I’ve taken up watching Russia Today and Al-Jazeera to get my afternoon’s news fix. At least you get an idea that something important is happening outside in the real world.

It’s not as though we haven’t been here before. Whatever Leveson decides, we know what’s going to happen. Indeed, I’ve tried to interest Laurence Rees in a blockbuster TV series, tentatively titled The Calcutt Committee: A Lesson From History, but so far he’s not answered a single one of my emails. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t bring Nazis into it in a meaningful way.

Still, it’s good to see Fleet Street’s Finest have got their heads down and are still digging up the Stories That Really Matter:

W T Stead, eat yer heart out. Now this is a scoop!

Full story here.

Christopher Booker’s J’accuse de nos jours

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple BetrayalAs the BBC positively, almost childishly, revels in the washing of the tabloids’ dirty linen at the Leveson inquiry, its own dirty deeds have come under the spotlight.

And this time it’s about something more important than sleb’ lives being made uncomfortable and/or having their peccadilloes highlighted by phone hacking and the paps.

It’s about the Beeb’s wilful connivance with what may well prove the biggest, most costly, scam of this or any past century.

From the dogged Christopher Booker comes this report from Nigel Lawson’s/Benny Peiser’s Global Warming Policy Foundation. It is -in the finest and most honourable tradition of polemical journalism – a j’accuse, and it is aimed firmly at the heart of the BBC.

It is, I think, important: it’s about how the BBC – second perhaps only to the NHS as the country’s most beloved taxpayer-funded institution – lied, dissembled and distorted to push a political line contrary to explicit instructions in its much-trumpeted Royal Charter.

It deserves wide distribution. You can download it from here:

Read it and weep. And then go and pay your inflated winter energy bills – inflated partly because the BBC relentlessly pushed this line.

And then ponder deeply about the licence fee you stump up for annually.

When good subbing is essential, Part 96…

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

When you’re writing a scoop about educational standards…, 08/12/11

Nonsense, nonsense and thrice nonsense

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I quite like Fleet Street Blues: it’s published some of my stuff in the past and it’s generally on top of what’s going on in the print press world. But I can’t forgive its churnalistic response to the latest Harmanesque Guardian nonsense about sex bias in the national press:


Forgive me if I’ve rudely awoken you by returning here after reading all that turgid, statistical onania. Here is how Fleet Street Blues interprets it, with a lovely chart brought to you in full Adobe Illustrator technicolor:

Guardian's male-female national media chart

Oooh-er, missus! Seems you're dropping behind!

I’ve noticed that FSB, bless him, is a sucker for graphics – the shinier the better (we all know what to get him for Christmas), and he writes:

Overall though, if the methodology is right – and we have no reason to think it isn’t – then the chart above seems pretty conclusive. Fleet Street is still very much a man’s world.

If the methodology is right...If the methodology is right…?

Well, no, the methodology is plainly not right. You only need to take a second or two to see that it isn’t.

1) Whyfore the critereon of a byline – generally given only to the lead story of a national newspaper page and rarely to downpage stories – be an indication of anything other than that was the person who wrote the strongest story for that particular place at that particular time? The news editor (more of which later) plainly decided was the strongest story and should be the lead. I would defy Kira Cochrane or FSB to argue against that decision, on a basis of sex discrimination, at that place and at that time it was made. Within deadline, please.

2) I can’t help but get the feeling that the original survey concentrates on the news, news comment and sports pages of national papers. Ms Cochrane and FSB do not seem to stray into the arts pages. This surprises me as far as Ms Cochrane is concerned, though not FSB , since he always struck me as a supporter of one of the more struggling football clubs, and in which the papers’ inside-page mires his interest more probably lies. But if Ms Cochrane is going to claim that the national papers’ Arts pages are regularly given over to a male hegemony, then I say  it is a sylvan pond into which she, and her intern researchers, have yet to dip their painted toes. They will find many other females doing likewise – though not all to their political liking, of course. There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to painted toenails, as the bishop said to Marilyn Monroe. There’s a lesson there, if only we knew what it was.

3) Nothing appears in a newspaper – or a newspaper blog – without going through about three or four people. You know that FSB. How many of those people are female? The news editors, the sub-editors, the deputy editors, proofreaders – need I go on? None of them are accounted for in Cochrane’s analysis.

The worst thing about these Harmanesque “equality” analyses is that they ignore women doing essential things that are below whatever line the surveyors claim is the one that matters, as though they don’t matter. They also ignore men, those who also are doing essential things, who are also below that line. They apparently don’t count either. We – who occasionally do get the bylines – know they do, FSB.

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