Andyfalk’s Weblog

May 14, 2008

Do we take news on the web seriously enough?

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyfalk @ 9:35 pm
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I’m sure we all know about the “Most Popular” section on news websites. The place to go when you want to check out what everyone else is finding most interesting in the news. The BBC News website has a separate sub-section for the top five “Most Read”, “Most Emailed” and “Most Watched/Listened” stories currently on their site. And most news sites will have something similar for their readers to check out.

So what do we expect to find topping these lists? Would it be the most tragic story? The one which talks about the growing global economic crisis, perhaps? Well, no. It is very much more probably that the story will be the one most likely to have you chuckling into your monitor.

Probably the most famous internet news story ever is that of the Sudanese man who had sex with a goat and was then forced to marry it as punishment. Heard of it? Well, if you’re a regular on internet news websites it should ring a bell. It has topped the list of BBC’s Most Popular on several occasions over the last few years – even after it has gone way pass being described as “news”. In fact, even the reporting of the death of the goat made it to the top of lists.

It seems that when it comes to looking at news stories on the internet, the funniest, weirdest, or most disgusting stories are the ones that get the hits. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have sat for hours trawling through the Metro weird section finding the most improbable stories. They never fail to make me laugh. Take, for instance, the story of student who was suspended from an American university for wearing a pirate outfit as part of his “religion”. Since it was published it has been commented on 311 times. Pretty impressive for a news story and something that not many more serious issues could ever hope for.

There is no doubt that the zanier the story, the higher up the Most Popular lists it will make it. As I write, one of the BBC’s Most Emailed stories has the headline “Dr Who fan in knitted puppet row“. While on Times Online’s Most Read the number one story’s headline reads “Chinese bloggers cook up quake conspiracies” – rather than concentrating on the disasterous side of the earthquake in China – surfers have chosen to click on to a more off-the-wall side to the tragedy.

Overall, it seems that news on the web may be a far less serious affair than it is in the papers. And if it is providing the much needed hits that website editors crave then I would expect this trend to continue. I say bring it on!

May 12, 2008

Cherie Blair’s autobiography

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyfalk @ 9:52 pm
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Cherie Blair has hit the headlines across the UK after the latest release in her serialised autobiography ‘Speaking For Myself’ published in The Times and The Sun.

She has revealed details about her miscarriage which, she says, was treated by her husband and the former Prime Minister Tony Blair as a PR crisis as well as claiming that the current PM’s wife, Sarah Brown, has enjoyed greater popularity because of a PR campaign organised by Downing Street. These claims have been vehemently denied and Cherie has, once more, been turned on as more vindictive than victim in the press.

Daily Mirror columnist Sue Carroll is leading the charge today describing Cherie as “money-grubbing, back-stabbing and self-obsessed”. Libby Purves of Times Online continues the onslaught by describing her as “self-serving, smug, and opportunistic” amongst other things.

Such criticism was always likely to be meted out to a woman who had seeked to protect the privacy of her family while in the public eye but who now conveniently feels it is the right time to reveal all, while happily pocketing a cool million pounds as a result.

One of the biggest gripes in the press has been her revelation that Leo did in fact have the MMR vaccine – something eluded to in an article in the Daily Mail. At the time, amid press speculation, she had refused to confirm or deny it citing family privacy as her main motivation. Now, for Cherie, there seems to be no problem. Why…we wonder.

Guardian columnist Mark Seddon explains that this current trend of sniping former colleagues from the relative safety of an autobiography is damaging an already crumbling Labour party. John Prescott has had his say among others. It seems that party politics are becoming more and more of a soap opera.

So Cherie is not the only one who is sticking the knife in but she will probably carry the greatest burden for the back-biting and this she can be given little sympathy for. She never sought to maintain a positive relationship with the press while she was at No. 10 and the way she has reacted to criticism down the years has made her a prime target for the papers.

April 25, 2008

The Olympics as a medium for change

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyfalk @ 6:25 pm
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Sport has never been shy of controversy and the Olympic Games is no exception to this. The media have been widely covering the Olympic torch protests over China’s perceived abuses of human rights in Tibet in recent weeks. The protests have had an impact all over the world with every newspaper having a say.

But is the coverage helping to wake China up to international feeling and encouraging them to address the problems in Tibet or harming the athletes that will be competing in Beijing?

This question was asked by a Texan news website – http://www.baylor.edu/lariat/news.php?action=story&story=50684 – which found that the athletes undoubtedly suffer the effects of a negative image for the Olympics.

As the article states: “It’s like refusing to go to an art show because the gallery owner partakes in some shady deals with business partners. Sure, the owner will be short the money he put in for the show, but the artists are the ones who are truly affected.”

Of course, people will rightly argument that these issues cannot just be swept under the carpet, but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. There is a danger that if the media becomes too concentrated on the issue of Tibet then the great spectacle of the games will be damaged irreparably.

A recent article in the Miami Herald has said that the Olympics should not be boycotted because although they are being held in China they belong to the international community. Therefore, to make China the centre of everything to do with the games would be wrong.

This is a good point and should encourage sponsors – who are reportedly under pressure to pull their financial backing – and fans alike that the Olympics are ultimately a great sporting event. Although they can act as a highlighter for political misdemeanors, they should ultimately be an arena for the thousands of athletes to show off their skill and endurance.

Let’s hope that when the opening ceremony begins on August 8 that the sport pages and fans will be talking about the prospects of a great Olympics and can leave the politics to the politicians.

November 30, 2007

Mobile phone + [insert] = £££

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyfalk @ 1:56 pm
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As Abraham Simpson once said: “A fax machine is nothing but a waffle iron with a phone attached!” This seems to be the way nowadays. Fit as many different technologies into one item as possible for the users convenience. I’m sure putting a waffle iron and phone together isn’t far off in the horizon but for now we have to make-do with Apple’s newest fusion – the iPhone.

Its release has been heralded as another technological advancement. It’s an innovation in the world of science – a phone, that is also an iPod. How inspirational.

The Mirror describes it as “the most eagerly awaited gadget in history” – possibly a better invention than the wheel, at this stage we cannot tell – and implores you to get in line if you want one for a snip of a deal at just £269. The hype knows no bounds.

Once upon a time, phones were used to make phone calls…that was it. Unbelievable to some, but true. Next you could text, then there was internet capabilities and video messaging. Now you can store all your music on your phone. True, not a new concept but one which could spell the beginning of the end for the mp3 player in its pitiful mono-functional state.

The phone is, I have realised, the Swiss army knife for the youth of today. You can hear the question being posed at the meetings of phone companies across the globe – “What else can we add to a phone to make it better?” A fork maybe, or a pair of miniature scissors. I await the day when a group of boy scouts in the woods remove their flints from their phones to light a fire or slide out a knife with which to open a can of beans.

The BBC Website performed a review of the iPhone checking out all of the phone’s functionalities. The phone, as Ian McKenzie tells us, “undoubtedly looks lovely”, but guess what? He couldn’t make any phone calls because that bit wasn’t working. Just incredible!

It makes you wonder what is next for the world of technology. Whatever happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that this is not the last technology to be stuffed into the packaging of another.

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