Lowering The Standard of British Journalism

May 30, 2018

For the few years a long time ago in the 1960s when I was a Tube-riding office worker, enduring the forty-minute commute each way, I read a lot of newspapers; my evening solace was the London Evening Standard . It was the right size for a cramped transit car, a tabloid, but with 60 or 70 pages of solid material. I read a ton of theatre, movie, and book reviews, nearly always completed the cryptic crossword, and kept in touch with sports and business. I was very fond of it, and it was one of the things I missed when I came to Canada in the 1970s.

These days, I read online a couple of British papers every day, but I haven’t looked at an online edition of the Standard for a long time. I vaguely remember being disconcerted by the appointment as the Evening Standard’s editor of George Osborne who had been Finance Minister throughout the socialism for the rich, austerity for the poor years of David Cameron’s bitter regime.  But then I forgot about it.

Until this morning that  is, when I found this incredibly detailed article confirming that Osborne’s business model for the Standard is selling PR as news for a price.  The Standard

“has agreed a £3 million deal with six leading commercial companies, including Google and Uber, promising them “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage … The project, called London 2020, is being directed by Osborne. It effectively sweeps away the conventional ethical divide between news and advertising inside the Standard…

As part of the sales pitch at the Evening Standard’s West London offices, would-be partners were told to expect campaigns that will “generate numerous news stories, comment pieces and high-profile backers”.

London 2020 involves six “themed projects” running for two years. These include politicised initiatives on clean air, plastic pollution, schools and workplace tech and a project designed to address London’s housing crisis. The six 2020 “partners” have each paid half a million pounds to head projects that will be sold to Standard readers as “improving London for the benefit of all.”

According to one insider: “What was being offered was clear – theatrically constructed news, showing everything good being done. “

Not everyone was buying into this scheme. “Some companies, including Starbucks, walked away from the Evening Standard’s pitch, rejecting the offer of paying to boost their reputations through tailored news and comment.” Starbuck’s executive was very clear in his rejection: ”

“Buying positive news coverage is PR death…something you might do in Saudi Arabia, but not here. This wasn’t right for us. We do engage in advertorial [a hybrid mix of advertising and editorial] but that’s just marketing. We don’t need to buy our reputation.”

This is a long read, but well worthwhile.

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Darkest Hour

February 12, 2018

Darkest Hour is up for best picture and best lead actor at the Oscars in a few weeks. The always worthwhile Creative Review has an interesting article on the visual effects used to create sets perfect for the period.

Worth a read.


There Was Life Before TV Or Movies

January 13, 2018

None of us today — at least none of us in the industrialised north and south — can remember a time when there wasn’t either the TV or the movies to give us animated entertainment.  But life before us wasn’t dull or without its own mechanical delights.

The always interesting Low-tech Magazine has a fascinating series of articles covering the Panorama, the Stereoscope, the Magic Lantern, and the Peep Show.

stereoscope

Well worth the time.


Mid-Binges Report

November 19, 2017

I have finally joined the 21st century — or at least a part of it: I have been binge-watching on Netflix.

I am completely hooked on “Scott & Bailey“, a British cop show that is brutal in its telling of procedurals, but which allows me to understand life as it is today in Manchester as the characters’ personal lives weave in and out of the murders and other serious crimes they have to deal with.  Series five is currently airing on TV. Over the last ten days I have completed the first two seasons, 14 shows, each as good as the previous. I am looking forward to starting series 3 later today.

When I’m not watching “Scott & Bailey“, the chances are I am binge-reading the entire collection of Jo Nesbo Norwegian detective mysteries. I am currently working my way through “The Redbreast,” the third of the Harry Hole series. Harry Hole is an alcoholic and often deranged senior detective based in Oslo. An outsider. A rough diamond. A brilliant detective. A lot of cliches and stereotypes that Nesbo creatively manages to use to create a very interesting background against which the crimes are committed and solved.  I have four more volumes stacked up on the table beside me.

Not a bad way to  spend rainy days.


Oscars Schmoscars!

March 1, 2017

It is hard to express in words just how bored and angry I am with the fuss over the ending of the Oscars. Bored perhaps isn’t the word; disgusted is better.

Someone handed someone a wrong card; the mistake was noticed and corrected immediately; no-one died, no-one was injured, no-one lost money. It was a boring error ending four hours of different boredom that has led to literally thousands of hours of television around the world and seemingly endless columns of print. I bet that compared to the famine in Sudan, say, or the latest atrocities in Syria, this dumbass envelope has received 1,000 times the coverage or more.

A great many people have wasted a great deal of time, energy, and resources on something that is absolutely meaningless. And that shows what a screwed-up celebrity-obsessed world we live in where such resources can be wasted on such trivia while Canadian First Nations and Flint Michiganders (let alone those in the less developed world) don’t even have real water to drink.

Bread and circuses.


Not Quite Such Fantastic Beasts

November 25, 2016

The ever-loving and I went out on a date tonight, to go see “Fantastic Beasts and Where You Can Find Them.” I enjoyed going out, but the film was rather disappointing. This is fantasy, but even decent fantasy has to have fewer plot holes than this, and I say this as a Rowling fan.

The film was made, so far as I could tell, simply an excuse to do three things: (a) make more money; (b) set up a new franchise to make even more money; and (c) to exploit basic destruction urges with CGI and other visual and special effects. Some of the effects were interesting; most were run of the mill. Very disappointing. There is however a very understated and well done morph of Colin Farrell into Johnny Depp at the very end.

I said above that I “enjoyed” going out, which I did. But I also have to wonder whether I will go out to the movies ever again. There was no audience atmosphere — laughs, gasps, cheers, etc — and so the point of seeing the thing with a crowd was lost. And even with paying the old geezers’ rate for tickets, the show, some concession food, and a cab ride home cost about $60. There are a lot more ways to get two hours entertainment these days without spending $60 and having to leave the comforts of home on a rainy night.

I won’t even mention the 45 minutes of commercials and silly games that one is obliged to sit through. Nor will I mention the fact that, though I was probably one of the deafest people in the theatre, I thought the sound was so loud my dentures rattled. Nor that I really don’t care for Eddy Redmayne.

It’ll be a while before I do that again.


R.I.P. Gene Wilder

August 29, 2016

gene-wilder-split

The now-late Gene Wilder was one of the comic geniuses of my youth. He will be missed.

In 1980 or thereabouts, I had a perm and thus curly hair. I was in an expensive restaurant with someone one day, and I noticed that a young lad of about 10 years at another table was eyeing me eagerly.  As time went on, I caught him pointing in my direction as he passionately pleaded with his Mom for something.  Eventually, carrying a small book with him and watched closely by the adults there, the kid slid down from his table and walked tentatively over to me.

“Can I have your autograph, Mr Gene Wilder, please?”

I was surprised, but hurried whispers between my companion and I about childhood disappointment led me to agree; and I signed his book as “Gene Wilder”.  The kid was delighted and rushed eagerly and noisily back to his people. I nodded to them, smiled, and went on with my day.  Looking back, I am still glad I did it.