Rejoice! – Oh no, better not…

Once the news of the birth of the royal baby broke last night, it didn’t take long for the miserable folks to come out of the woodwork. Because people are dying or fleeing in Syria. Because thousands of babies are born in the United Kingdom each day, many of whom may grow up in poverty. Which is all true, but does that mean no one should be allowed to rejoice the birth of a baby who may grow up to become king one day?

If the monarchy is the problem, let’s have a referendum tomorrow, and if a majority of the people prefers the republic we’ll go ahead with that and this newborn baby will indeed be no more special than any other. There will still be babies born to grow up in poverty, though. Just like Carl Froome won the Tour de France the other day, yet there are still homeless people sleeping in shop doorways, so I hope you didn’t celebrate. And Andy Murray won Wimbledon, but there are still people having to escape wars into far-away refugee camps, so let’s not rejoice. When the British & Irish Lions won the 2013 Tour the other day, while millions of people were (and are) out of work, don’t tell me you had a party after that victory. Let’s not even begin to plan festivities if (or should I say when) England’s cricketers win the Ashes shortly, because there are still people relying on foodbanks, don’t you know.

So let’s not ever be joyous, ever, shall we, over something that doesn’t matter, something that doesn’t profoundly changes people’s life, okay? Apparently, that’s what some people think, judging by their comments online. And while my previous paragraph here may sound ridiculous, nothing was quite as ridiculous as the responses I got from those people when I confronted the unpleasantness of them lashing out at the birth of a baby: I’ve been called a stupid wench (mirror here), shallow, dim (mirror here)… but no one’s come up with a solid reason about what’s so wrong about people being happy about something, even while bad things happen elsewhere.

I am not even asking people to become royalist or patriotist, hell, I’m not even British. All I’m saying is, that in the perspective of all that’s bad, wrong and horrible on this planet… there may still be things worth celebrating, and people damn well should be happy about those if they feel like it! If that’s not allowed, let’s take the few old TVs attached to generators away from the slums, so people there wallow in their misery a bit more and harder, rather than watch sports on the blower. Let’s not treat ourselves to dinners restaurants while there are people starving. Let’s not buy each other presents when that money is better spent on foodbank donations. Is that the way we want things to go? Really?

For all the misery in this world, good things still happen, and however menial or unimportant those events might seem to others, what’s so bad about people rejoicing for a moment, if only to take their minds off everything that doesn’t look like or smell of roses, be it in their own lives or those of the world population at large?

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Disagreeing with Jeff Jarvis

Jeff Jarvis is a journalist. And not just any journalist, but a highly acclaimed one. And he is a published author. Moreover, Jeff Jarvis is a professor who teaches other journalists-to-be. So when Jeff Jarvis writes about journalism, and journalism takes your interest, you sit up and take notice.

Me? I am not a journalist, don’t claim to be one, never even studied journalism. All I do is amateurishly blog about everything and anything, including things I bump into in press and media; one topic I relatively often blog about on my Tumblr account is what I call jourNOTism: this is when people who can claim to be journalists because they are (directly or indirectly) on the payroll of a (big-name) newspaper, bloggers (often wrongfully) claiming to be ‘(citizen) journalists’ or ‘editors’ or the like, or (glorified) blogs claiming to be ‘news sites’ or ‘magazines’ or whatever, publish stuff that – to me – does NOT constitute journalism.

I am never short of inspiration, as there are plenty of jourNOTists about, but bills that need paying mean I am merely short of time to convert every piece into a comment online, letter to the editor or blog post.

Yet when Jeff Jarvis wrote a blog titled “There are no journalists” I disagreed so strongly I could not keep it to myself. Which is, I suppose, arrogant and big-headed on my part, but I posted my views anyway:

There are those who call themselves journalists because they got a degree alluding to that and made it onto the payroll of a big-name newspaper, yet source “stories” about cats doing funny things from Reddit and dogs reacting funnily to eating limes from YouTube. That’s informing society, alright, but it’s not journalism.

Then there are proper journalists who don’t sit and wait for there to be ‘government transparency’ (there never has been and never will be any), but research, dig deep, discover, ask difficult questions, and share what they find with the public, thus informing the public of things they may otherwise never have known but are worthy and important to know about. That’s journalism.

Doing away with the job title ‘journalist’ altogether merely aids the dilution of a vocation already in visible decline. Informing society of what celeb X tweeted about issue Y serves what greater purpose exactly? I’d happily take away the title ‘journalist’ from any paid hack who brings the world that non-news.

But I’d never want to take the name ‘journalist’ from those who discover important issues hidden from plain sight (fraud, corruption, etc), those who ask our government representatives difficult questions, those who challenge popular publicly-held beliefs by relaying valid stories and (opposing) views that go deeper and far beyond than what was already in the public domain (such as a celebrity’s tweets).

I don’t know what you teach your students in ‘entrepreneurial journalism’ but I’d teach them that cute cat stories sourced from Reddit generate traffic easily, so from an entrepreneurial perspective (selling advertising space) they’re a relatively easy route to income – but they don’t constitute journalism, and therefore those publishing won’t be journalists.

Those in pursuit of giving the world quality journalism may not be able monetize their efforts quite so easily (advertisers generally don’t want their cheery adverts next to stories of dying babies; besides, they know that their ads will be viewed by a lot more people if next to a salacious celeb story rather than a well-researched scientific article about a possible cure found for a rare disease) – but they will be proper journalists.

Disagreeing with Jeff Jarvis isn’t my finest moment – he is somebody, I am nobody – but I felt compelled to respond. It was nothing personal. It never is.

Broken news

As previously posted on Tumblr

Let’s have a look at today’s New York Post, shall we?

Oh my God! That’s horrible! I am glad you posted about that today – so when did this happen?

Two years ago? Rrright… thanks for informing me about this, erm… breaking *cough* news…

Okay, I get it, we’re spoilt, news breaks every second and gets around the (digital) world so fast you might miss it if you blink. It doesn’t mean that stories that take a little while longer to get published lack newsworthiness or relevance. But TWO YEARS… how does that makes sene in any newsroom or on any editor’s desk? And not just with the story’s initial publishers, but also with the pretend-journo who then regurgitated the story on another website?

(See also this previous post addressing a similarly baffling, repetitive regurgitation of outdated (non-)news.)

Not by a Long way…

(As previously posted on Tumblr.)

Terrible headlines like these do draw attention – well… my attention, anyway. You may have spotted it yourself, as the article carrying this atrocious headline appears to have been syndicated all around the web.

Personally I thoroughly dislike comparisons drawn this way – “person X is nation Y’s person Z…” …Errr, no. They’re not. People are who they are, not someone else, even if they’re actually trying to be.

Which brings me to my second point and that is that I am always very weary of the origin of any such comparison. Blame the media if you wish, but personally I tend to suspect that these poor comparisons usually originate from the entourage of the person subjected to such a comparison (e.g. an agent or representative or whomever trying to ‘market’ the person concerned), or from that person’s ambitions or other sentiments expressed at some point (based on which a journalist might write a headline like the one in the article pictured), or possibly even from the person himself/herself.

Now I am not saying any of that is the case here; I am merely expressing my suspicions based on my experiences and aided by the bits that I linked to in the previous paragraph.

Bottom line: I would be totally fine if Josie Long had come out expressing, for instance, that she would love to emulate the kind of work (and success) in the UK that Lena Dunham has accomplished in the US. But even then that wouldn’t have justified drawing a comparison like the one in the above headline. She is not Lena Dunham, and Lena Dunham isn’t her.

Any self-respecting writer or editor (critic Bruce Dessau? Editor Sarah Sands?) should – in my opinion – steer well clear from poor, incorrect (and generally lazy) comparisons such as these.

But I do also point the finger at those subjected to such comparisons: even if they had no hand in making them up (which I personally don’t believe, but that aside), they and their entourages do get to review copy based on interviews they’ve given before publication (not with current affairs comments that have to be published straight away, but certainly with feature articles like the one highlighted here).

Perhaps Josie Long still hasn’t quite figured out where or how to position herself ‘in her market’ (like her recent appearance on Have I Got News For You, which was errr… awkward… to say the least, and not just in my opinion) or she is being advised poorly by her agent or whoever it was who got her booked onto that show and allowed the above headline to go through.

Time capsules?

As previously posted on Tumblr

This picture of a Paris apartment, along with its accompanying story, keeps turning up. Which is not terrible if it’s done by every-day social media users or unpaid amateur bloggers like myself, but when paid hacks start regurgitating it with headlines including words like “revealed” or “new”… that bothers me. To put it more bluntly: it bothers me when people get paid for (online) bullsh!ttery, and that’s when I post about my annoyance online.

A quick Google Image search instantly reveals that this picture and story have been going around since October 2010, that’s coming up to three years ago.

The first wave of publicity seems to have followed publication in The Telegraph (image here).

Then around a year ago, a blogger picked up on it (image here) – which I don’t necessarily object to; I mean, I don’t like it if people don’t date their stuff appropriately, but let’s consider bloggers are amateurs like myself and don’t get paid for their content).

Then yesterday, roughly a year after that blog post and nearly three years since the Telegraph article, the Daily Mail featured the story (image here) (which is not surprising from tabloid trash but still… a bit silly).

Imagine my surprise when today, ‘serious’ newspaper The Independent published the same pictures and story with a headline “Revealed: Eerie new images… etc” (mirror here) – surely that’s embarrassing to say the least?

I get it, the Paris apartment left untouched for 70 years harbouring a treasure trove of art and antiques makes for an intriguing story with beautiful pictures to accompany it. But for paid staff at commercial businesses to recycle something this way… that’s journotism to me.