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Topical

In which we are overtaken by events


It’s nice to be topical, even if it is entirely by accident. Earlier, I complained about the rather unbalanced media coverage following the recent hit-and-run deaths of Sam Riddell and Troy Atkinson. Three or four hours after I published that post, the BBC briefly announced that the city magistrates have remanded someone to await trial for Troy’s death.

It’s good news that the hunt for his alleged killer has barely taken a couple of days longer than it took the police to find Hannah Saaf. It was probably a trickier job, too; unlike the Riddell/Saaf case, the chap in question wasn’t the registered keeper of the car. He’s not the man police arrested shortly after the incident, and he’s also been charged with taking the car without permission. It’s quite possible, to be fair, that the police kept the Atkinson/Ahmed case out of the media for investigative reasons; it was presumably thought to be in their interest to broadcast pictures of Hannah Saaf far and wide in the hope that somebody would spot her.*

There’s still something about the relative treatment of the cases in the media, though, which leaves a slightly nasty taste in my mouth. The police might have now brought both cases to the same stage, in roughly the same time; but one of those stories has been all over the media in the past few weeks, and the other has been hardly mentioned. This isn’t any sort of class war: it’s just a comment on the type of people who have easy access to the media. If you want to get your story out there, you need to have either a good publicist or a story that fits the media’s mould.

* which they did, although she hadn’t actually got that far out of Bristol

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Oversized and overpublicised

In which we get annoyed by the media and press releases


The other day, various news media carried the story that Ryanair, the world’s most controversial airline, was planning to charge fat people extra. Because that was, apparently, what its customers wanted. They’d been polling and everything.

Personally, I was surprised they hadn’t done it earlier. After all, they’ve already charged the physically disabled extra, so one more act of discrimination is hardly a surprise. It’s a small step, too, from charging per pound of luggage to charging per pound of flesh. I’ve never flown with them; and, because of policies like this, I’m never going to, so I don’t particularly care what they try to charge people. At least, until the day that other airlines start to think: “well, Ryanair can get away with it, why don’t we?”

What annoyed me, though, was the media’s reaction to what is, as yet, nothing more than a press release and a publicity stunt. The Guardian said as much in its article linked above; the rest of the media didn’t seem to care. BBC News was inviting people to phone in and text with their reactions; I wanted to say: “why are you giving them the publicity?” It’s nothing but cheap advertising for a firm who doesn’t really deserve it.

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Journalistic accuracy

In which the news needs its facts checking


Long-term readers might remember that, back in the mists of time, I upset some busy bees at the Grimsby Telegraph after describing that newspaper as “rather news-thin”. Which, indeed, it is: they don’t have much news in it, because they don’t have the reporters or the money to research much news. I kept meaning to take a random copy, take it apart, and break down its content into “quality” and “filler” – the latter being things like the letters pages, readers’ photos, TV listings, local sports reports* and so on; but, not living anywhere that I can get hold of a copy easily, it has been put on the back burner.

I was gratified to see, though, that its stablemate the Bristol Evening Post may have similar issues. Certainly, job cuts at both the Grimsby Telegraph and the Evening Post were making the news recently; and I’ve since noticed that the Evening Post no longer seems to pay as much attention to the accuracy of what it prints.

On Monday afternoon, a story appeared on their website, concerning a street fight in Bedminster the night before; your average local news story really. Five people were injured, and police closed the street** to search for evidence. As the Evening Post said:

The street has now reopened

Which it has. Unfortunately for the Evening Post, that story is dated 15:35, Monday. In the real world, at 5pm, everything was still cordoned off, as CSI Bedminster’s finest were still going about their jobs: white suits, facemasks and all. Oops.

Earlier in the day the police had said that they’d probably have tidied everything up by lunch-time. Clearly the Post staffer responsible for that story had heard as much, assumed that “probably” meant “definitely”, and didn’t have chance to check their facts before going to press. Which is understandable, given that it’s a small point, and the Evening Post has to get a paper out every afternoon however few reporters it has left. It makes me wonder though; if they don’t check small details like this, what else gets printed unchecked?

“It’s just like you reviewing things you haven’t seen or read,” said K, when we talked about it later.

“You’ve got a point,” I admitted.

“You should be writing reviews for them, then!” she said. Now there’s an idea.

* Most of which, especially if they appear without a byline, are essentially press-releases from the teams involved.

** Here’s a factoid for trivia fans: the street in question is part of the longest road entirely in England.

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Private life

In which we spare a thought for Mrs Max Mosley


In the news today: the Max Mosley trial continues. Note for readers from the future: he enjoyed a BDSM session with a group of women, who have been described widely as “prostitutes” by the media. He had these regularly, and so wasn’t expecting that one day in spring, one of them would pop a video camera down her cleavage and sell the footage to the News Of The World. Oops. So he’s suing for exemplary damages – in other words, he doesn’t just want recompense, he wants retribution.

I have to say, though, that I don’t think he deserved much sympathy. Not because he’s rich and powerful. Not because of who his father was, or because he has his own murky right-wing past. I don’t think his sex life deserves to be exposed because he has a prominent job: what he gets up to in the bedroom should have no effect on how well he can carry out his job. What does give me a moral twinge, though, is that he’s apparently been hiding his sex life from his wife for almost their entire marriage. According to his statements in court: he’s been involved in the BDSM scene, safely and without exposure, for 45 years – in other words, since his early 20s, when he was a law student active in far-right politics. However, at the same time, he said, his wife had no idea of his kinky inclination until the NotW revealed all. Mosley married in 1960, around the age of 20; from what he’s said, he must have been getting his kicks from the BDSM scene since the early years of his marriage, going behind his wife’s back for decades.

Mrs Mosley is, apparently, devastated by Max’s exposure in the press. I can imagine. It’s a lot to take in. I can’t think to imagine how she feels.

Everyone’s entitled to keep their life private from the general public – but I’m not so sure that they’re entitled to keep it private from their partner quite to that extent. It’s common, though – especially online – for men to approach the BDSM scene with an “I have these urges but I can’t tell my wife” attitude. In the general scene – what you might call the non-professional side – they usually get advised not to go behind their partner’s back; but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the money in the pro-dominatrix market comes from this sort of chap.* Mosley is, on the one hand, a sign that such men can get along happily for years** so long as the press isn’t likely to be interested in them. The BDSM community might frown on you if you want to go behind your wife’s back, but they will generally consider it to be your own business if you do. On the other hand: he’s also a sign that you can’t necessarily keep something quiet forever. When your partner does find out, you only have yourself to blame.

* For one thing: although the pro-dominatrix market is saturated, prices are still rather high, partly because although there are endless swarms of pro-dominatrixes around very few of them are very good at what they do, and partly because being a good pro-dominatrix can be pricy, just to stay stocked up with all the silly PVC clothes that the customers are paying to drool over. It’s only the well-off men who can afford to hire one regularly, and they’re more likely than average to be settled with a partner.

** assuming they can afford it. A Mosley-ish session would probably have cost him somewhere between one and two thousand quid a time, at a rough guess.

Update, July 9th: my rough guess there was somewhat on the low side. According to the report in today’s Guardian, Mosley was paying £500 to each participant. That’s about £100 per hour, or £2500 for the whole session. He also paid the rent on the flat where it took place.

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Pride

In which we note the Grimsby Telegraph’s latest marketing campaign


The rather news-thin Grimsby Telegraph newspaper has decided to jump on a fish-marketing bandwagon and declare today to be Great Grimsby Day. A day to be proud of the Grimsby area! Its scenic mudflats! Its thriving heroin-injecting scene! The active support for boxing and extreme wrestling seen in the town centre every Saturday night! The wide range of chain-based shopping opportunities, and the picturesquely decaying industrial areas. Be proud, people!

It’s a good thing, I suppose, that they didn’t get it confused with National Fetish Day, which – equally arbitrarily – was yesterday. I hate to think what would have happened. There’s not much of a fetish scene in Grimsby, after all; a couple of the regulars in the Lloyds Arms and that’s about it.* I can quite easily imagine the Grimsby Telegraph’s staffers not understanding what the word means.

* I’m exaggerating, slightly. There’s more like four, plus a couple more people who drink elsewhere.

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Recent search requests

In which we wonder what people are searching for


More things, around the interwebs, that people have been looking for…

the deirdres are a rather good band from Derby – see here, and also here.
photo enlargement 99p – it does sound like a bit of a bargain rate. Unless, of course, you want to enlarge a photo of 99p, which is possible too.
unexplained black moods aren’t very nice, but if they’re that unexplained I’m not sure there’s very much you can do.
emo kids handcuffs – I have a lovely picture in my head, now, of emo kids handcuffed to street furniture in all their hang-outs – outside the art gallery in Exchange Square in Glasgow; outside the Corn Exchange* in Leeds, and so on. I wholeheartedly endorse this idea. Come on, people, together we can make it a reality.
triangle sidings are the London Underground sidings in South Kensington, in the basement of the Cromwell Road Sainsburys, where the air terminal used to be. More information, and photos, here.
chocolate coins left at doorstep – I don’t remember ever mentioning this, or anything of the sort. But if anyone does want to leave some chocolate coins on my doorstep, then, please, feel free to!
cara page journalist. Cara Page was, the last I heard, writing for the Daily Record. She’s infamous – at least in certain circles – for writing “exposés” about the sex lives of fairly boring and ordinary people, such as a charity shop worker from Peebles. None of it is “newsworthy” in any conventional sense of the word, but tabloid editors still strongly believe that a bit of Carry On-style tame muckiness sells papers. Sadly, that’s all I know about her. And that, I think, is probably enough search requests for now.

* Now there’s a name that’s always puzzled me a little. “Hello, my dear sir, I’d like to swap this corn, if you may. For … erm … some different corn?”

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Density

In which we double-check Heather Mills’s numbers


I’m not one to care about celebrities, and so I don’t write celebrity stories on here. So think of this, instead, as a maths story.

Heather Mills-McCartney. You know who I mean: the famous amputee who will soon be rich enough that she won’t ever have to work again, thanks to her upcoming divorce. You’ve also probably heard about her going mad on telly a few days ago. In which she said, specifically, that she’s been hounded by the tabloids for 18 months, and had 4,400 abusive articles published about her.

Let’s just assume for a minute that she’s implying all of those articles appeared in that 18-month period. That’s about 550 days.* Or, in other words, 8 newspaper articles per day. In Britain there are 5 papers that are definitely tabloids, plus another couple that are, well, rather mad and right-wing. If she was only referring to British papers, then she’s claiming that every “tabloid” newspaper** had an article about her every single day, and that all of those articles were abusive. Now that really would be obsessive.

I’m not exactly surprised that her PR agent resigned very quickly. He was probably sitting, with his head in his hands, moaning softly to himself. “Heather! Heather! Don’t you realise how much work I did, to get all that lot published!”

* I’m assuming she didn’t mean 18 months to the day

** It’s a difficult term now there are a couple of serious newspapers that are tabloid-sized. I’m being charitable to The Times here, you understand

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Voter Participation

In which there is still nobody worth voting for


About a year ago,* I wrote about local elections, and why I wasn’t going to bother voting. I didn’t think it was a particularly good post myself, but it was good enough for the Guardian to quote it, so more people probably read that post (or that part of that post) than anything else I’ve ever put on the site.

Well, this year, I’m going to vote anyway, even though I have no idea who the candidates are, or what they are standing for. In fact, I’m not really sure why at all, other than a vague feeling that, you know, really, I should make the most of my rights. As I said last year, though, we get the politicians we deserve. I might not have managed to set up the Symbolic Forest Party in the last twelve months, but I’m going to go out and vote for someone today, and then (if they get in) I’m going to see what they do. I’m going to keep an eye on them and see what good (or otherwise) my voting has actually done.

* in fact it was a year ago tomorrow – I used a bad Star Wars related pun in the post title

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Diplomacy

In which people are caught in compromising situations


Diplomat Of The Week award goes to the Israeli Ambassador to El Salvador, who, as you’ve probably heard by now, was found tied up and ball-gagged* by the local police. Note to the Daily Record: it is arguably in the public interest to report on the sex lives of ambassadors and other top diplomats. Charity shop volunteers: not quite the same.

* The Guardian’s sub-editor on that article seems not to understand how a ball gag** works

** NSFW link, if you hadn’t guessed

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Outing

In which we watch the media trying to whip up a storm in a second-hand teacup


You probably won’t have read this nasty story in yesterday’s Daily Record, exposing the sex life of someone who isn’t famous and wasn’t doing any harm to anyone. Not many people will have read it, because out of the population of the country not many do read the Record.* That’s not the point, really.

As I said, it’s a nasty story, about a normal, average member of the public, who enjoys kinky sex. There is nothing to justify publishing her full details in the way the paper did. Moreover, it throws a lot of light on the social conservatism of tabloid papers in general – the faux-shock that a young wife would behave that way, would want to behave that way. The only consolation is that few people ever pay attention to anything journalists say.**

The Daily Record presumably think, though, that this sort of story sells papers, especially local or regional papers. And in an effort to sell papers, they’ve let themselves be used. I don’t know NR myself, but I know several people who do know her, some people who don’t like her very much, and I know there are a few people who don’t like her very much at all. I can’t imagine that anyone I know personally would have exposed her to the press, but clearly someone, who knows her well, has done. And in all probability that person, whoever they are, does exactly the same kind of things that she does, and would be treated in exactly the same way if Cara Page Of The Daily Record had come across them first. I don’t know anything about the sex lives of the Daily Record staff, but whoever initially sent them this “story” is very likely a very nasty hypocrite.

* It seems to be widely available in England now, a lot more than, say, ten years ago.

** and they’re mostly other journalists, at that.

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