Monday, 23 February 2009


I'm pleased to read that Jade Goody sees more in life than money. It's good to hear that the former Big Brother contestant, dying of cancer, has found God. At her wedding she said she was "praying for a miracle"; she wants her sons to be baptised as Christians so they can "keep in touch in the future"; and she has started to go to church and reading the Bible which "really helps".

For someone who has drug-abusing parents, lost a baby and been physically abused, it's great that she finally now seems to have turned her own life around before she dies. So if her ill-health has prompted an increase in cervical cancer tests, shouldn't her Christian faith prompt an increase in people going to church [eg in Whitby, right!]? Maybe I'm being a bit optimistic, but she really would have made an impact then - and wouldn't go down as the worst portrayal of an Essex girl in history (they're not all that bad).


Subeditors are very important human beings in a newsroom, yet it seems media commentator Roy Greenslade is leading a crusade against them. I wonder how bad newspapers would really be if you took out the person who checks for mistakes and corrects copy. The amount of factual errors in the nationals is actually quite low, contrary to common belief, but there's far more in the local papers which have less resources, less time and less money to avoid mistakes.

I work as news editor on the University of Sheffield student newspaper, Forge Press, and often have to go through copy from our journalists with a variety of boxes to tick. For example, ensuring that it's not libellous, it has no typos, it's stylistically accurate and that it's factually correct. I've still got much to learn as a journalist, but if I'm subbing copy by other students, then surely the further you go up in the journalistic food chain there will still be many problems that have to be 'subbed' out. Without subeditors, quality journalism in this country will go down the pan, as if there are mistakes in abundance throughout a paper, people simply won't buy newspapers. And you can't trust a journalist to check their own work as they often get very protective about it...


I've recently been introduced to the wonderful world of swing dance by a friend, and found it's great fun - like a whole new lease of life! I did modern dance until I was about 15 years old but back in my early childhood I did more ballet, tap and jazz. Being a tenor saxophonist it's often me playing jazz, but it was nice to have the chance to actually try dancing to it, and I was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed myself.

I think dance is a very underrated way of keeping fit, as whilst I go to the gym to do rowing three/four times a week, it's much more fun learning some steps on the floor. And indeed the government seem to think the same, as a pilot scheme is being launched where children at 26 schools will be taught ballroom to fight obesity across the country. A good idea indeed. However I still watch in awe at those who've been dancing much longer than me, and hoping that one day I will make the grade! Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Twitter, Twitter, Twitter - it's the phrase on everyone's lips, the next Facebook, a social revolution etc. Stephen Fry and Andy Murray are on there, to name a few celebrities, but the idea is essentially that you post short status updates to tell people what you're doing. I may be mistaken, but I thought this was precisely the point of Facebook updates!

Why would I want to pay 10p a message to tell everyone what I'm doing every hour when I could do it for free by going online a few times every day instead? It beats me, and to be honest my Facebook status updates are usually a shameless plug for my blog, a comment about the sad downfall of Southend or Newcastle United, or my opinion on the news - so not really what I'm doing at that moment.

But although the idea you can follow celebrities around sounds interesting and it's quite cool that I'm snooping on John Cleese and various Guardian journalists, I just think it has limited appeal as it's a poor imitation of Facebook without the bonuses of walls, videos and photos. I could even do my blog on Facebook if I wanted! By combining everything under one roof, you have a much more straightforward outcome.

I own a PDA, DAB radio, FM/AM radio, camera, camcorder, mp3 player, USB pen drive, laptop and various other accessories. Put this all together (with high quality) in a mobile phone and we have lift-off. Until this technology becomes widely affordable, we will continue to use individual gadgets - and it's the same concept for the web. This is how Google plan to dominate the world, as they aim to make it the website for everything. Putting it all together, what have you got? Convergence, my friend. Facebook has a good chance of world dominance too if it can get this right.

The '25 Random Facts About Me' craze has been sweeping across social networking sites, and even Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (right) has found time to compile a list. As you would think, this is a game where you list random facts about yourself - and amongst Clegg's 25, you can discover that he has eaten fried bees in China and always consumes biscuits before fruit. How interesting. However instead of listing my own, I thought you would find it far more interesting for me to list the best five from my friends. They shall remain nameless for privacy purposes, but maybe this excercise is about as pointless as playing the real game anyway...
"4. I can write with my feet" (professional musician)

"16. For the last 3 months of 2008 there was an owl in my freezer" (magazine journalist)

"8. I have been air lifted to hospital from a horse ridding accident where I was knocked unconscious and broke a few bones - my shoulder still pops in and out of joint to this day" (Sheffield Wednesday fan)

But my favourite of all from a marketing executive:

"1. Erm"

What does that tell you?! I don't think he'd score high marks for that in any meeting...

I must recount my epic journey last night, as I'm still getting over it! I was on holiday with the family in Nayland, Suffolk, and mum was driving me to Bury St Edmunds to get the last train back to Sheffield (19:00). However I didn't quite plan the timing very well and ended up missing the train by two minutes. Uh oh.
We decided therefore to drive to Peterborough, where my next connection would be waiting, on the advice of the Bury station manager that it would take about an hour. So we sped up the A14/A1 (not above 70mph of course!) and I made it onto the station platform with two minutes to spare. Phew. Then I found out my ticket was first-class, when I'd actually paid a standard fare. So it wasn't all bad, but I nearly didn't make it back to Sheffield at all! Apologies to mum though, as a trip that should've lasted 1h30m ended up taking 4h30m. As I said on Facebook (not Twitter), she's probably the best female driver in the world :)

Monday, 9 February 2009


Bonuses for bankers have been hitting the headlines this week, and as the son of a banker I feel I've got something to say on this. Barclays are expected to pay out over £600m in bonuses whereas £1bn is going to be given by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable [right] said: "The government must freeze all bonus payments for employees of semi-nationalised banks and ensure that the pay details of those earning over £100,000 a year are published." He's right. Barclays can do what they like, as normal tax payers own nothing of the bank - but RBS are now effectively owned by everyone, so it's not right that a bank that underperformed so badly in 2008 should still pay out extremely high sums to those who caused the problems in the first place.

But there are some employees who actually made money for RBS by trading well in the stock markets and currency exchanges, so there is some argument that they should be rewarded for their good efforts. In the recent BBC2 show Million Dollar Traders, where eight amateurs were shown how to make profits from share trading, some of them did very well and showed it wasn't that hard to succeed. But it's easy to lose lots of money on the markets, and I feel sorry for those RBS employees and customers who put faith in their bank by investing in its shares, and are now faced with a 90%-plus loss. It's the fault of RBS employees themselves to some extend, regardless of exposure to American sub-prime debt, that their bank is failing - so they should take some responsibility.

So if the bank is part-owned by the taxpayer, employees should only get bonuses if they performed well, as that is effectively the taxpayer rewarding them for good work. If the bank is not state-owned in any form, then they can pay whatever bonuses they want, as there is less accountability in that they don't have to report to every single person paying tax. Plus there's no need for victimisation of bankers, as although many working-class northerners might be laughing at the collapse of the south's industry; that's exactly what happened to the mines in the 1980s. They didn't recover. Banks will, eventually...


And now for something completely different. It's National Chip Week at the moment, which should be seen as a great excuse to visit your local chippy. There's an exceptionally good late-night takeaway in Sheffield called the Broomhill Friary [right] - it's Sean Bean's favourite fish and chip shop in the world (although his nephew Dan runs it, so he does have a vested interest!). See: for more. I often visit it after a night out, and can sometimes find myself dreaming about the wonderful greasy meals they offer - but the BBC has reported that the smells which attract me to this wonderful food are: butterscotch, cocoa, onion, flowers, cheese and ironing boards. Now that is random. But who cares when they taste great?


It's been a tumultuous day in the Premier League, with Chelsea sacking Luiz Felipe Scolari and Portsmouth letting go of Tony Adams. Clearly the two major factors behind this were Southend taking Scolari's boys to a replay, soon after Adams had let midfielder Jean-Francois Christophe join the Shrimpers! It all goes to show that everything comes back to Southend United Football Club - the only world football club holding a 100% record against Manchester United, the record-holders of the fewest draws in a Football League season (three) and the fastest-ever debut goal (Freddy Eastwood in seven seconds). My beloved Shrimpers, you are my true love, as I give up Valentine's Day this weekend to watch you play Tranmere Rovers...

Monday, 2 February 2009


Work experience is a subject which has interested me for some time, as I've had so many great opportunities to get behind the scenes at a variety of media companies. But it's not that easy to get in, especially in journalism - and I was pleased to see this highlighted last month by Johann Hari, who said:

"When you get to work today, will your coffee be fetched by an unpaid intern? Have you wrangled a work experience placement for your own child? Does your business rest on this bottom-layer of the unpaid and unmerited? Then you are part of a scam – one that disfigures and damages Britain." (Johann Hari, The Independent, 13/1/2009)

Strong words from a journalist, but he's right - it is a scam. I've lived in Sheffield for enough time to know that not everyone lives close to London and has parents who can fund travel expenses for a placement. I've heard reports of students spending £300 on accommodation for 1 week at the BBC, and even sleeping under the desks of a European wires office to avoid spending anything on a hotel (right)! Whilst I've worked at Sky News, BBC Sport, The People, LBC, Heart 106.2, Southend Echo, BBC News, The Week, Premier Christian Radio and BBC Essex (with placements coming up at Classic FM, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times), I know that others are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job because they simply haven't made the contacts, and so I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've already had, and long may they continue!

But what does this say for the poor black child on the East End estate? There's every chance he could write better journalism than me, as it's a skill you can learn and develop - which is why I'm studying for a degree in the subject! If only there was a more level playing field and placements were more clearly advertised. Alan Milburn is certainly working on the former, to try and give those from disadvantage backgrounds a good chance, and The Guardian offers bursaries and placements to try and combat the problem. But work experience is here to stay, and it will always be about who you know. Only since last Easter have I applied for placements directly - the rest before then were all through backdoor contacts. It is unfair, but are those who get the placements not representative of those who end up working there? Rarely have I worked for a media company that wasn't full of middle-class white people, and so it will probably continue.


Whenever it snows in this country, everything seems to shut down - trains, schools and roads - but surely we should be better prepared? Russians get these conditions in Moscow on a daily basis but it doesn't seem to upset their transport infrastructure. But it's been panic stations today around the country. At least I wasn't positioned on an M4 bridge like one unlucky journalist this morning doing a travel update - although I bet the reporter positioned inside the warm Highways Agency offices in Birmingham was the envy of every roving hack at Sky News today!


Absolute Radio has nosedived in the Rajar figures this week, losing around 20% of its audience. On the converse, Classic FM added over 150,000 new listeners, so it's not all bad news in the radio industry. Surely with more people out of a job at the moment, there'll be more people twiddling their thumbs - so why not twiddle your thumbs to Mozart?! Many of my friends are embarrassed to admit they listen to this station while they work, which shows it still struggles with brand strength in a young market, although at least they didn't scrap a hugely well-known name like Virgin and give journalists a great way to describe the latest viewing figures - Absolute Rubbish. Ah well, at least the programme controllers are trying to sound more down with the kids...