Anti-northern bias: the Guardian speaks

Posted on July 19th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

The Guardian is on great form today. This piece laments the lack of ‘positive European journalism relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.

I wonder why that is?

It couldn’t be the state-induced famines, could it? Or their electoral system?

The concentration camps don’t help either, I suppose. Nor do the executions.

Still, at least Pyongyang can count on the comrades at Guardian towers to redress the balance.

Staggering on at the Guardian

Posted on July 19th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

A piece in today’s Press Gazette carried this barbed (but entirely accurate) comment from New Statesman editor editor Jason Cowley on the Guardian’s … er … business model:

‘I could get 4m users a day if we were losing £40m a year and had 650 journalists.’

Yes. Exactly.

Investigating journalism

Posted on June 20th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

Here’s an interesting piece of investigative journalism (video) that investigates journalism.

In fact, it investigates Guardian journalism, or, at least, Guardian finances.

It’s got some good footage of the Guardian’s shiny new building.

Just the outside, though.

They wouldn’t allow any filming inside.

Guardian compares finance executives to paedophiles

Posted on June 18th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

I reproduce below the intro to a blog post on the Guardian’s Joris Luyendijk banking blog:

A psychologist compares the ‘twisted minds’ of some executives to those of paedophiles he has tried to treat in the past

I’ve long regarded much of the Guardian as beyond parody. Its Comment is Free site in particular seems to be dedicated to testing to destruction the notion that anyone can publish anything on the internet.

But the above is more than beyond parody; it’s beneath contempt.

Skopje: progress report

Posted on May 16th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

We had a useful (and pleasurable) meeting with our colleagues from Macedonia on May 1, and we were able to make some good progress with the project.

School director Zaneta Trajkoska and senior lecturer Snezana Trpevska came over for a short visit, and they filled in a lot of the blanks for us.

We’re connected on Facebook and on Twitter, which might help the process – though I think we all want to run this project by the book and make sure everything is copied into university systems for the record. We have email accounts on their network, which is a great help for this.

Zaneta and Snezana were very helpful on the technical issues, and gave us a short briefing on the students.

The students
We’ll have 19 students on the team, and they’re all journalists with varying experience.

  • They’re aged between 26 and 40;
  • Most have journalism degrees, but the team will also incude business, marketing and literature graduates.
  • They come from a range of backgrounds, so we should have representatives from all (or most) of the communities in Macedonia.

First step
As a first step, we need to find out more about our students. We’re asking them to do a short survey about their background and experience to get an idea of how much technical support they’ll need. We also want to get to know them as much as we can in a short time. It’s important to try to get as close as we can to the same relationship we have with our Lincoln students.

Tech issues: computer says  …  yes
These are just about solved. We’re going with the system in Skopje. We’ve all been given accounts to access their intranet, and we’re using WizIq to deliver the course.

We’ve excellent ICT support from both sides. A test run on May 9 was a bit rough at the edges, but everyone was confident it would be much smoother on the night. We’ve arranged another test for May 16, so more to follow on this.

Management structure
We’ve run along fairly smoothly, but it’s obviously a bit ad hoc, given that it’s a first for us, and that the schedule is very tight.

For future reference, we might think about a clearer split between technical, curriculum and admin tasks. UNESCO is involved in funding the project, so there is some fairly onerous bureaucracy, and we’ll have to look at how the workload panned out.

We also need to think about balancing email overload with making sure everyone knows everything they need to know.

All that having been said, I quite like the overlaps. It isn’t that confusing; and it does mean you get oversight of your task, and input from colleagues.

We tend to break up into small teams for particular tasks anyway, and we’ve been able to support each other as needed. I’d much prefer to stay at this end of the formality spectrum. It seems more in line with this type of project.

Skopje scopes up

Posted on April 27th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

The Skopje project has expanded somewhat. The first series of lectures will be augmented by another round in September, which will be delivered by the head of the LSJ, Professor John Tulloch, and Professors Brian Winston and Richard Keeble.

We also now know a little more about our students. We don’t have any names or profiles yet, but we do know they are all working journalists. This is excellent for us – I’m sure we’re hoping to learn a lot from them about the media landscape in the Balkans, and it will be good to have them as colleagues.

The timetable is now pretty much set up. I’ll try to sort out a calendar next week.

Technical issues
The technical issues are still a little in the air, but we have made progress.Some of our colleagues from our network service (ICT) have come on board. They’ve given us some excellent advice, and they’ve highlighted some resources and systems we might use.

They’ve also helped us focus on the detailed questions we need to ask our colleagues in Skopje.

To sum up:

  • we have a videoconferencing set-up called Lifesize installed at three sites in Lincoln.
  • our colleagues from Macedonia have sent us a helpful presentation on Wiziq, the virtual classroom system they use, and they seemed to think we can hook up to that and use it for our lectures.
  • it turns out that we use Sharepoint for our intranet at Lincoln, which is helpful if that forms part of the project.
  • we’ve more or less dropped the idea of using open-source software and social media to deliver the lectures.
  • Skype is very much a fall-back for this round, though we’ll almost certainly use it for the next round. The colleagues involved then are unlikely to be on-site.
  • we still need to nail down all the connection details – what they need, what we need, what’s compatible, etc.

We’re meeting our Macedonian colleagues next week, when they’re over for a three-day visit, and the plan is to sort out as many of those details as we can then, and to pass on questions for those we can’t.

More later …



Facebook gobbles up Instagram

Posted on April 10th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

Facebook has eaten Instagram. What does it mean?

It’s probably helpful to think about fishing here.

Instagram is a small, nippy data-fishing fleet whose nets are bulging.

Facebook is a data-trawler, with huge factory ships cruising the oceans, scooping up data by the kiloton.

Obviously, they now have the capacity to scoop up rival fleets as well.

Quota … unquota
One day, of course, the data oceans will run dry, and the ships will just be floating rust-buckets, spending most of their time in port, and subject to data quotas (because by then, naturally, the state will regulate everything data-ish.

And the real business will then take centre stage: data processing, data storage and data monitoring.

So … if you want to know the future of data – it’s a combination of Grimsby and GCHQ.

I’d get off the grid now if I were you.

Gay marriage: an ex cathedra utterance from the Guardian

Posted on April 8th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

I’m indebted to Spiked Online for drawing my attention to this quote from one of the Guardianista faithful. I must confess that I missed it first time round. Mea culpa.

‘There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgement of subtleties and cultural differences. Same-sex marriage is not one of those. There is a right answer.’

Holy writ, you might say.

Style guides

Posted on March 20th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

This is a quick response to a question from a student about style guides.

It’s just a ist of the ones I’d say were the most useful and/or interesting.

Style Guides

Yahoo! Style Guide
(excellent guide to writing for the web; covers everything from basic grammar to tips on SEO.)

Reuters Handbook of Journalism
(searchable; section headings)

The Economist Style Guide
(section headings)
Clunky page, but this is my favourite. I’d recommend buying the book.

Financial Times Lexicon

The Times Style and Usage Guide
(section headings; alphabetical links)

Telegraph Style Book
(section headings and alphabetical links)

Guardian online style guide
(alphabetical links)

BBC style guide
(useful for broadcasters and writers)

QuarkXPress vs InDesign

Posted on March 20th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

We’re having the QuarkXPress vs InDesign debate at the LSJ. It’s been rumbling under the surface for a while, and it finally broke out after our recent (successful) accreditation visit from the Periodical Training Council (PTC).

Quick summary: QuarkXPress was launched in 1987 as the professional print design and layout tool and quickly became the market leader. There’s no doubt it deserved its position. It was powerful and flexible, and could do everything from flyers to books.

But it got such a grip on the market that it became a de facto monopoly. And, as all monopolies tend to do, it got bloated, dozy, smug and expensive.

Then along came Adobe InDesign, which had a better UI, seamless integration with other Adobe apps, and was …cheaper. It was marketed as a Quark-killer, and it could well end up doing just that. Quark’s market share is now 25%. It’s a minor player.

My view:

  • The PTC recommends InDesign.
  • The students want to learn InDesign.
  • The industry uses InDesign.

Sorry, Quark. Game over. Goodnight. Thanks for playing.

We have to make sure we don’t get hooked on InDesign as we were on QuarkXPress. It’s dangerous to get fixated on an application. All applications decay. Stick with them, and you’ll decay as well.

Adobe’s market lead will make it like Quark (bloated, dozy, smug and expensive). In fact, this MacUser post argues that’s happening already.

An app for that
And as we speak, there’s probably someone out there writing an app that will cost a tenner and do the job just as well.

Whereupon someone else will write an app that costs a fiver…

So, we should focus on what we teach and what the industry is using. But we should never get locked into one way of doing things, into using one tool. There are lots of tools out there. We should try them all.

Mao Mao
As Mao Tse-tung might have said if he’d been in the journalism business, and not gone on to have such a successful career in mass slaughter: “Let a hundred applications blossom, a hundred lines of code contend”.

(Bit tasteless. Might cut that.)