Saturday, October 11, 2008

BBC Bollocks

The trouble with sensationalist headlines is that they can create false assumptions among readers. Take this screamer, which was posted earlier today on the BBC News website:

Iran Celebrates Global Meltdown

For much of the day, this was among the most-read stories on the BBC site, and with good reason. It's eye-catching and evocative, conjuring up images of an evil dictators rubbing his hands with glee and ululating minions dancing in the street as piles of now-useless dollar bills go up in flames. It certainly doesn't do much to counterbalance the country's image as a founder member of the Axis of Evil...

And yet.

Click through to the story itself, and you'll find a rather different image. Yes, there's a cleric publicly relishing the downfall of the US economy. But the rest of the article is all about the inner workings of the Tehran Stock Exchange and Iranian economic policy.

The problem is, of course, that most people can't be bothered to trawl through a turgid 1,000-word piece on the Iranian banking system, and instead are much more likely to form their opinions based on the headline alone. And the headline, in this case, is completely misleading. To say nothing of the questions it raises about bias and subjectivity in journalism.

I had expected more of the BBC, which is supposedly a bastion of serious journalism and which is also partly behind a bill sent to me in the post this week asking for A HUNDRED AND FORTY QUID to maintain their supposedly impeccable standards. Harrumph.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

And so, the end is near

Tribune will close by the end of the month unless somebody steps in to buy it. Gauche has more details here. It seems that the trade unions have finally decided to pull the plug on Tribune, after several years of fractious support. Whether an independent publishers will decide to buy the title at the last minute is anyone's guess, although given the current state of the banking system, much depends on whether anyone can come up with enough credit to buy it. More in-depth ruminations this evening - for now, suffice it to say that my thoughts are with those whose jobs could very well be lost by the end of the month.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nine Lives

Guess who's back
Back again
Mandy's back!
Tell a friend...

Well well well. Eleven years, three parliaments and two sackings later, Peter Mandelson is to be welcomed back to Westminster for a third ride on the gravy train. At least that's what it must seem like for him. I can't work out whether this is a move of desperation or genius on El Gordo's part, but I'm leaning heavily toward the former. What on earth was Brown thinking? Peter Mandelson has been appointed Business Secretary, and the obvious answer is that he's had top-notch training by spending the last four years as the EU's Trade Commissioner.

And yet.

The tokenism and showmanship currently dominating US politics has obviously made its way across the pond, for what other possible justification could Brown have for bringing back someone he despises back into the heart of his own cabinet? Pa Broon isn't exactly famous for reaching out to his arch-rivals in the Blairite camp. And I can't believe that there isn't anyone else in the country better qualified for the Business Secretary role than someone who's been kicked out of cabinet over shady dealings, not once but twice.

By inviting Mandy back to Westminster, Brown will presumably be hoping to recapture some of the public enthusiasm for Labour following their '97 election victory (although picking a character viewed so controversially does seem a bit blinkered at best). The one part of the plan that does have a whiff of genius is that Mandelson will effectively be gagged. Gone are the days when he could fire off a piece for the Mirror or Times, laying into Gordon. For a start, Blair is out of office, but the real difference is that Labour are no longer operating from a position of safety. More cabinet dissent now will only serve to hasten their demise, and Mandy will need to toe the line if he wants to keep his job. Unless, of course, he's secretly planning to offer his services to the Tories once Cameron takes the top job! Nothing surprises me these days.