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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Comment is Free

Posted by Ed on April 5, 2006

The Guardian, long my favourite British daily, just got even better. They’ve expanded their comment and analysis section with the addition of a new blog, Comment is Free.

It is a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read.

The articles seem to be generating quite a lot of comment so far, much of ot interesting and insightful. Of course, there are times when it degenerates into a slanging match (particularly where Israel/Palestine is concerned), but that’s to be expected. The opinions are diverse (with I think more than 100 contributors) and the writing is sharp and provocative and well worth a read.

Not only that, it also features a photoblog by Dan Chung and Steve Bell’s If.


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Open Source Radio

Posted by Ed on March 11, 2006

Browsing amongst the NPR podcasts on iTunes the other day, I stumbled across this little gem. Open Source Radio produces radio shows based on suggestions and input from the listeners via a blog. I’ve only listened to a few shows (its a full hour every day), but the quality has been surprisingly good. Recent shows have included Economic Hitmen, Civil War in Iraq?, and The al-Jazeera Effect. The shows have featured well-informed guests and have been very well balanced. Subscribe to it in iTunes here.

Every time we agree on a new idea that we think can sustain a full hour of talking, we post it to the blog. Usually this is just a paragraph — a piece of truth and two unanswered questions — to help us as we frantically call and Google around to find the people who talk well and have something to say.

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Ricky Gervais Podcast

Posted by Ed on December 8, 2005

This is great. Office-star Ricky Gervais and pals podcasting via The Guardian. 30 minutes of complete nonsense – what more could you want?

A half-hour of all-new drivel from Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. You can listen whenever and wherever you want as these weekly shows are offered as handy iPod-friendly digital files for up to four weeks after they’re first posted.

Posted in General, Media | Leave a Comment »

One for the sceptics

Posted by Ed on November 26, 2005

Are you tired of media distortions, exaggerations and general misunderstandings about science, as I am? Then, you’ll love this one. Bad Science is Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column keeping a watch for all the misinformation the media put out there in their quest to out-sensationalise each other to the top of the sales rankings.

All your favourite scare stories are covered, from MMR to MRSA to atomic tomatoes. And, of course, the Daily Mail deservedly takes a lot of flak.

Posted in Media, Science | 1 Comment »

Banksy in Palestine

Posted by Ed on August 23, 2005

banksy Just came across this one. I hadn’t heard of him before but it seems Banksy is one of Britain’s most (in)famous graffiti artists and he’s been up to his tricks again, this time in Palestine.

He’s been busy decorating Israel’s illegal wall, in what he describes as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.

Anyway, some nice images. See more here.

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Ken and The Standard

Posted by Ed on February 22, 2005

Charl is exasperated by the hubbub surrounding Ken Livingstone‘s row with the London Evening Standard, while I am amused. That the row happened should come as no surprise. Ken is a lefty of the old school, a socialist worker, a Trot, and a mouthy git as well. And The Standard, like its sister paper The Daily Mail, is the standard-bearer of the old right, little Englanders who feel that the Tories are the natural party of government, and liberals and feminists and foreigners have no place there.

So let’s not forget the context in this. The context isn’t just some random party and a random hack trying to get a quick quote. This was a party to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Chris Smith coming out as the first gay MP, thrown by Ken Livingstone, as a long-time supporter of gay rights. And the hack was from the Standard, of the Daily Mail Group. Those papers have an equally long (or longer) history of homophobia, racism, misogyny and xenophobia. And Ken has been the victim of their hate for twenty years.

So yes, he was rude to the guy. He made a poorly thought-through remark about concentration camp guards. That does not make him anti-semitic, and his record on anti-racism speaks for itself. His bluntness is part of his charm, and in no small part the reason he was elected. So it’s really nobody’s business but his whether he apologises or not. If a hack from the Standard or The Mail accosted me at a party, I’d tell them to piss off as well.

Finally, it appears the Standards Board for England is to investigate the matter. This board has the power to ban members for up to five years
if it feels that a member’s behaviour has “fallen short of the required standards”. And that would be a far greater offence than Ken’s little outburst.

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Four more years…

Posted by Ed on January 20, 2005

On the day of the presidential inauguration, headline of the day goes to the Guardian:

World fears new Bush era.

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Control Room

Posted by Ed on July 20, 2004

Last night I saw Control Room, a behind the scenes look at the Al-Jazeera television network. The film’s director was born and raised in Egypt, but moved to the US in 1990 to attend Harvard University. The film focuses on differences in reporting between Al Jazeera and, mostly, US networks, of events still fresh in our minds such as US troops entering Baghdad, Jessica Lynch, the felling of the statue and shows us to what extent our ‘news’ is manipulated. It exposes the hypocrisy of Rumsfeld in his cries that Al Jazeera is just a mouthpiece for Bin Laden, and shows us that the people of Al Jazeera are just ordinary people trying to do their jobs as best they can.

Many of the characters portayed in the film are vehemently against the war, and deeply angry, but few are anti-American. One of the most revealing moments for me was when one of the film’s central characters, Hassan Ibrahim, is asked what he thinks will check the US overexertion of its might. He replies that he has absolute faith in the US constitution and the US people.

I’ve also seen Farhenheit 9/11, and Michael Moore has his place, certainly, as a counter-weight to the stream of right-wing views we’re subjected to, but Control Room is a far superior film to Fahrenheit 9/11. It looks at length at one aspect of the war, where Fahrenheit glosses over too many. It also avoids the sensationalist and confrontational style of Moore, and leaves the viewer to form his or her own opinion. It is an intelligent and moving film, and deserves to be widely seen.

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Risk assessment and the media

Posted by Ed on September 26, 2003

The BMJ has a very interesting article about risk assessment in the context of the MMR vaccine, vCJD and road accidents. The author analyses parental perception of risk and observes (unsurprisingly) that it bears little resemblance to actual risk.

Road transport crashes are perceptible risks, the low risk of vCJD is an expert assessment, and the link between autism and MMR is, if anything, virtual. Parents seem to neglect the easily perceptible risk, to reject the expert assessment, and to amplify the virtual risk.

It may seem from this that the public has misunderstood the risk assessment, with the help of misleading information from the media (this has been discussed before on this weblog: here and here). The author dismisses this, however, claiming that ‘it would be a mistake to suppose that the media led the public’.

Instead the author claims that parents are being entirely rational and merely assessing relative risk, or risk:benefit ratio. That is to say: its easy to reject the MMR vaccine with its perceived risk and rely on ‘the compliance of the majority in order to secure the benefit of herd immunity for their child’ (apparent risk of harm from MMR outweighs potential benefit); to simply avoid eating ‘mechanically recovered meat’ in the case of vCJD (no risk from not eating meat); or justify taking your child everywhere in the car despite the inherent high risks (‘In 2002 there were 34 689 casualties from road crashes in Great Britain, of whom 4596 received serious injuries or were killed’) because

it is interpreted as a way of protecting them from greater dangers on the streets from other road users and abduction by strangers.

I’m sure all of this is true and the majority of parents are entirely rational, but despite that I still believe the media did and does lead the public. After all, what is the real risk of being ‘abducted by strangers’, compared to the other risk which it is being used to justify?

See The Observer’s report about the perceptions and realities related to crime.

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A question of style

Posted by Ed on September 5, 2003

Following Charl’s rant the other day about begging the question, and previous discussions on the correct placement of apostrophes, I decided to check the style guides. My favourite is, of course, the Guardian’s, for its political correctness:

Use positive language about disability, avoiding outdated terms that stereotype or stigmatise. Terms to avoid, with acceptable alternatives in brackets, include victim of, crippled by, suffering from, afflicted by (prefer person who has, person with); wheelchair bound, in a wheelchair (wheelchair user); invalid (disabled person); mentally handicapped, backward, retarded, slow (person with a learning disability); the disabled, the handicapped, the blind, the deaf (disabled people, blind people, deaf people); deaf and dumb (deaf and speech-impaired, hearing and speech-impaired).

The Economist also has a guide, which reflects its preference for plain speaking:

Avoid, where possible, euphemisms and circumlocutions promoted by interest-groups. In most contexts the hearing-impaired are simply deaf.

The BBC has also introduced a guide for its journalists, which can be found here.

There remains only one question to answer now. How many faux-pas have I just made?

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