pulp and pith … current affairs blog

Archive for January 2009

The website of Ipswich’s daily evening paper, the Evening Star, is currently running a poll. It asks:

picture of poll taken from the Evening star website, www.eveningstar24.co.uk

Steve Wright is the ex-forklift truck driver of London Road, Ipswich who in February 2008 was convicted of the murders of five sex workers: Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell, and Annette Nicholls, who worked in the town’s red light district. On February 24, 2009, his leave to appeal application will be heard by High Court judges.

I took this screencap at 6.45pm today. I was surprised by the results of the poll. Surely, I thought, most Star readers are capable of separating the man – who has been found guilty of subjecting five vulnerable women to appalling, unspeakable acts that resulted in their loss of life; and the house – walls, a roof, some furniture, and not much else.

However strongly people feel about Steve Wright, destroying the house he once lived in would not achieve anything. This poll asks a purely hypothetical question, but the fact that the majority have reacted in a visceral, instinctive way to it suggests that people are still coming to terms with what happened.

If it is gut-wrenching for the average Ipswich resident, imagine how those who knew and loved the five young woman whose lives were taken are feeling.

Even the most no-nonsense sort of person would think twice before renting Steve Wright’s old house, but personally I’m glad it will be occupied again. I think that the people of Ipswich, and Suffolk, should bear the place like it bears the memory of Steve Wright’s actions: by trying to make some good come of it, impossible as that may seem.

I am trying to get a Twitter widget to show up in my blog’s sidebar, but so far no dice. Maybe WordPress is not Twitter-friendly. I will keep experimenting. The Flash one doesn’t appear at all, and the HTML one only displays the title and the ‘Follow me’ link. Bah.

Speaking of Twitter, a post at the Online Journalism Blog (click!), suggesting 10 Twitter users student journos would benefit from following, has inadvertently introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of Twitter stats.

Twitter is a new found land, and intrepid folk are sticking their little flags into it left right and centre. There’s a buzz around Twitter precisely because it’s just the beginning and people want to be in the thick of it, watching it evolve – either that or people are licking their lips, anticipating ill omens and implosions.

If you are minded to harness the information Twitter picks up about you as you micr0-blog, let some program or other crunch your numbers. The results will be packaged into pleasing graph, list or number form, which you can use to compare yourself to fellow Twitterers.

What are you waiting for? Go find out just how high your Twitter profile is! Exactly how popular you are! What day of the week you are most likely to Tweet on! Roll up, roll up!

If nothing else it keeps you on your toes.

The first one I tried was Twitter Grader, which is “a free tool for measuring your marketing mojo”.

It’s pretty simple. You type in your Twitter username, it thinks for a bit, and then it chunders out your grade, which is a mark out of 100. Yesterday I scored a pathetic 31/100, today I got 41/100, mainly because I commented on the Online Journalism Blog post mentioned above.

The best way to use Twitter Grader is to revisit the site over a period of time. That way you are able to see how your grade changes as you build your online presence. If you’re a stats nerd, you could even plot a graph. Time in the x, grade in the y: nifty.

The Twitter Grader site also lists the top 15 most elite Twitterers in any given location. However, location merely means the place a person has typed into their Twitter profile, not real-time location.

Tweet Stats is more wide-ranging, as it lets you see what Twittery habits you keep.

For example, did you know that I have never used Twitter on a Thursday between 4pm and 9pm? How fascinating is that?

You probably don’t care. That’s fine. But I think that these colourful graphs and word clouds and silly little transparent squares are a great tool for anyone keen to evaluate how they use Twitter and identify areas they could improve on.

The stats have shown me that I’m not a very conversational Twitterer. I rarely aim comments at others. That’s something I need to work on. You’d think shyness wouldn’t work on the internet!

As I don’t have a funky enough phone or PDA to use any of the mobile device Twitter apps out there, my rambling evaluation must end. The next blog post will be shorter, I think.

Say, what do you think of Twitter stats? Did I miss out any essential number crunchers? Fill me in.

The people are clamouring for everything and anything Obama. Ask Isabel Toledo, J. Crew, or the breeders of whatever variety of dog Sasha and Malia choose as their pet.

Those heady days of attending rallies, sleeping in ‘yes we can’ t-shirts, sobbing in parks and being felt up by Inauguration Day police are over, and members of the public are beginning to feel disconnected from the man they now call President.

Endorsing Brand Obama is a way of bringing a touch of Obama magic into our lives. It’s stupid to think that stuff the Obamas have worn, used, or stood in close proximity to will all of a sudden make people as successful, respected and admired as they are. But these are stupid times, and many of us are feeling low, rotten, and vulnerable to acts of irrational impulsiveness.

And so the cash floweth, because owning an Obama object is a simple, uncomplicated way of aligning yourself with the brand, far simpler than speculating over what might happen to prisoners currently held in Guantanamo or waiting to see what will happen when the President’s envoy arrives in the Middle East.

The Obamas have undeniable influence, and so far they have deployed it with care. The carefully planned choices they have made have caused the press to rave about them all the more. However, I’m not sure how the kids will deal with knowing that everything they touch will probably turn into sparkle dust. It must be horrendous to have to think before doing something as straightforward as buying a burger or choosing a pair of shoes to wear.

I guess that this is evidence of the extraordinary feelings that Barack Obama inspires in the American people and those of us who support from abroad. We are all consumers, and our emotions manifest themselves in a desire to lavish money on things associated with them. How depressing.

Way back in June 2007, the BBC told us it had commissioned a report which had found that it needed to be more impartial.

Over the weekend, the BBC took the decision not to broadcast a Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for the people of Gaza, a decision which was eventually (after some dallying) copied by Sky.

Why? Because they both want to be seen as being impartial. In their view, showing an appeal for aid to help those suffering in Gaza would have threatened the way people perceived their coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is likely to remain on our screens and in the papers for many years to come.

When you report the news, you need people to trust what you say and value the information you provide. ‘Hard’ news is a product, and accuracy, credibility, objectivity and speed sells. You cannot be seen taking backhanders or skewing the news to favour a political party or organisation, because the audience will not take you seriously.

However, I fail to see how broadcasting the DEC’s Gazan aid appeal would have compromised the journalistic integrity of the BBC or Sky. I can’t help but feel that all their bleating about impartiality was a smokescreen, concealing the real reason they chose not to screen the appeal.

You simply don’t confuse the actions of a person raising awareness of a humanitarian crisis with the actions of a person supporting a terrorist organisation. (Unless you are Hamas.)

Aid appeals aren’t news, and though the situations that bring about the need for aid tend to be political, suffering people are beyond politics. You see a man with no clothes. You give him clothes. End of.

Though the BBC’s and Sky’s efforts to bring people impartial, fair and balanced news to us from the Middle East must continue, they should not close their eyes to news that they fear might make them seem biased. Gazan casualties of the most recent episode of this bloody, chaotic battle outnumber Israeli casualties. The Gazan people are in dire need of aid, teetering on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, while the Israeli people are not teetering on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Because Israel and Palestine are in conflict, saying that could imply certain things about the political situation, but you can’t shy away from the facts, even if they make uncomfortable reading or raise complicated questions.

Impartiality in this instance is an excuse to disengage from the knotty, tortuous progress of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

More?

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC – The Editors’ Blog: BBC and the Gaza appeal

Martin Bell – Comment Is Free: The BBC – A Crisis Of Confidence?

The DEC: Gaza Crisis Appeal