Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm Bart: long time reader, first time writer...

First thing in the morning when I get to work, I read the papers - all of them. Knowing what the media says is a big part of my job. I browse the business pages, take a slight interest in the main news and read only about the sports and teams I like. My attention is primarily focused on one area and one group: Joe Public and their letters to the Editor.

My old boss once said to me that as you are working in a field where your job is to influence how the public perceives an issue, you need to know what they are thinking. Furthermore, what you read in most papers is dressed up information as news. My mind goes back to a second-year university class: Advanced Communication Techniques. A statistic that still sits in my mind is that what you read in the business pages and news pages, is 90% and 60% respectively derived from a source with a vested interest. That’s to say that the majority of what people read in a newspaper is ‘placed’, ‘pitched’, ‘sold in’, ‘offered exclusively’, ‘embargo offered’ or ‘leaked’ by people like me. And for those of you that know me well, there’s fuck all chance you would believe what I tell you. Investigative journalists might argue that they track down, double check and trust their sources when writing a story - but the original idea to write on an issue came from somewhere...and someone.

Sport, letters and the obituaries are all you can really rely on for truth. The only reason sport isn’t affected to a great level is that the action takes place right in front of millions of people and it’s pretty hard to spin that…but we’ll try.

Two team mates get in a fight on the field due to having massive egos: A spokesperson said: “XX and XX are two passionate players that love the club dearly, and sometimes this passion boils over.”

Player obviously still drunk/drugged from the night before: Sources (usually the club leaks a false story) revealed that XX was suffering from dehydration and a slight stomach virus.

Here's where some people usually go down the 'oh no, but I read the editorial section so that I can get an educated opinion'. Well, I've got news for you - the editorial opinion, not the words but the slant, is dictated by the publishers of the newspaper and not by the journo writing it. Do you really think that The Times would ever write a piece praising an FT initiative, or a Rupert Murdoch paper criticising News Corps movements in trying to gobble up Yahoo! Sure it may make the the try-hard intelligensia feel better that they can waffle on verbatim about an issue that they read in the opinion section of Saturday's paper, feeling that they have an informed opinion (well at least copying someone's) little realising that there are greater economics/politics at play, but it ain't the truth.

Mum, Ron - how is Leonie?

But the letters page is where you can get some truth. The problem is that people who write in to the letters page usually just want to see there name in print (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Trev??) and the editor just wants to get some banter going. This can lead to some comedic value, but mainly you worry about people’s sanity. Let’s go with this story that appeared on Monday afternoon:

Plot fired for perfoming 320mph ‘fly-by’ with landing gear up

Captain Ian Wilkinson performed a "fly-by" manoeuvre to entertain VIP passengers on the maiden flight of the 230-ton Boeing 777-300ER just 28 feet above the runway at 320mph.

But 55-year-old Captain Wilkinson was fired from his £250,000-a-year job with the Cathay Pacific airline after footage of the incident was posted on websites including YouTube.

A spokesman for Cathay Pacific said that the fly-by had been approved by air traffic controllers in Seattle after a call from the pilot but not by the airline, which was the reason Captain Wilkinson had been sacked.

An airline insider said: "He is a very senior captain nearing the end of a highly-distinguished career but he seems to have thrown it all away for a moment of madness."

Now here comes the fun - letters time!!!

What a hectic modern world it is when you get sacked for having a bit of harmless fun. I was once taken for a trip in a friends four seater light aircraft; we buzzed the control tower on a fly-past over the airfield at low level. Nobody moaned.
Dr Bent, UK

Friend’s four-seater light aircraft compared to a £100 million, 230-ton Boeing 777? Not too sure if they really are comparable. Are you a doctor like Dr Seuss or Dr Pepper is a doctor?

Why was he supposed to have his landing gear down at over 324mph?
Frederick, London

Ha – thanks Fred – my faith in humanity has been restored!!

He’s an idiot. I never want to fly with him.
Richard, Workington

And then you go and take it away, Dick. Which part of he was fired close to retirement are you struggling to get?
Tadick doesn’t know what he’s talking about – ‘stressed by ground effect pressure’. What rubbish. It is unlikely that U/C could be lowered at that speed anyway. Trouble with this sort of incident is all armchair experts come out of the woodwork.
Peter, Inverness

Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E, Peter?

The flex on the wings in picture 3 looks worrying to me.
Louise, Rochdale

Louise – you’re not only observant, you’re a poet too. Claps for you. Cival Aviation Authority should not even bother looking for a black box if a plane goes down; just ask you. You’ll even entertain them with verse.

Good luck to the two pilots. With their experience there would be minimum risk.
Dr Spittle, Kent

Are they just handing doctorates out now?

Safety is paramount
James, Stoke-on-Trent

You’re a thinker.

Thank goodness it didn’t go wrong. Everyone would certainly be condemning him then.
Alana, Berkshire

You and James should have kids.

Could he try it again, this time with all the members of this Labour government and special guest Tony Blair?
Anne, North Yorkshire

There’s always one that wants to bring it back to politics, isn’t there?

What a shame we can’t sack our Prime Minister for the far larger lapses of judgement he makes every day!
Phil, Winchester

Make it two.

He is a very senior captain nearing the end of a highly-distinguished career. Nice cheap way to get rid of a guy that was goin g to have a great pension and benefits. Well done Cathay.
Peter, Sussex

Oohh, I like Peter. Pay attention folks. I’ll put the house on it that Peter works as a press flack for an opposing airline and is planting a story/idea to fire up the media. God knows it’s what I would have done.

He knows the aircraft very well and would have known exactly what he was doing.
Sally, Norfolk

Let me explain ‘maiden flight’ of the 777-300ER to you Sally…

I have done similar low approaches. But not in a large commercial jet.
Anon, Great Britain

So you really have don’t similar low approaches at all have you?
And with a name like Anon, why aren’t you rapping somewhere. In fact call yourself Dr Dre and you can hang around with the other doctors who have commented on this page. Dr Bent has done similar approaches in a four-seater - you two should meet up!

That’s nothing. The pilot of Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon managed to fly at 450mph, 11 feet from the ground, while avoiding dozens of lamp posts or not digging the wig tips in to the lawn outside – now that’s amazing.
Dave, Kewick

Sounded funnier in your head didn’t it, Dave?

Much ado about nothing? Try it at 27 feet at Heathrow – now there’s news.
Mike, UK

Pay attention Dave, that’s how it should have been done.

Boys and their toys.
Name withheld

The person who doesn’t feel the need to promote themselves is the person with the best comment - kudos to you withheld!

So see, while you were drearily reading the story, you have been missing all the fun on the letter page. Funnier than the jokes section, more entertaining than the sports page, more factual than the news section and more puzzling trying to figure out the real meaning of what is being said than the crosswords...

Bartholomew, London

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Oops I did it again

What a weekend. The sun was shining, people were cheery - it truly was a glorious Saturday... as I bounded out of bed at 1pm. Then came Monday. Winter was back and London proved itself to be the schizophrenic bitch we all know it as.

But now there is hope in sight. That little glimmer of summer is just over that foggy horizon waiting to burst forth. If you recall last winter, I informed you all of this disease called SAD (seasonal affected disorder) or something like that. Basically it gets light at 8am and dark by 4pm, so the resulting lack of vitamin D, cold weather and everyone feeling like they want to hibernate, makes you feel depressed. Last year I went home for January, so it wasn’t too bad, but this year was a little harder. But hey, it's not all bad - at least I’m not everyone’s favourite car crash…

Britney Spears – what the fuck are you on about? I completely disagree when people start saying ‘it’s the media’s fault’, ‘why don’t they leave her alone’, ‘they’re only exacerbating the situation’. Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

The media didn’t ask her to marry trailer trash and pop out two kids with hunky, dory ‘hey look at me I’m from the south’ names like Billy-Ray-Jo or Kyle-Yeeeha-Chad, or whatever the yokel they are. Neither did they say:

"Hey Britney, flash your privates when getting out of the car – no one will pick up on that!” Nor did they say: “Hey Britney, shave your head!”

Then again someone probably did tell her to make sure the collars and cuffs matched…

Britney's decent into weirdness has to have some sort of scientific explanation, and I think I've cracked it:



Good so far, all good.



Did we learn anything here? That's right - Red Bull makes you do silly things. Fuck, the only thing left now to save her is for Angelina Jolie to adopt her as her next under-privileged child - she'll probably eat better.

Second – don’t give me this ‘I wish they left her alone’. She makes more than you by opening her mouth and singing a verse for four seconds than you do in a week. Google her name and it comes up with 77,700,000 mentions. Google mine and it comes out 231,000 (including this gem here - yes, I was a child actor). So admit it – you love seeing her lose it.

Third - you people that say ‘poor her’. Bah - if you’re being hounded by paparazzi, what’s the worst thing you can do? That’s right – start dating a photographer. My sympathy ends when that level of stupidity is employed!

The one group I feel for the most in this whole debacle are the late night talk show hosts. This stuff is comedy gold…shame all the writers are on a writers strike! Well... one isn’t. That’s the guy who updates Britney’s facebook status – busiest man alive:

Britney is confused (updated 1 minute ago)
Britney is in hospital (updated 56 seconds ago)
Britney wants fried chicken and grits (updated 52 seconds ago)
Britney something something (updated 50 seconds ago)…and so on.