Thursday, November 24, 2011
But Twitter is a gift to hacks and others following events without the time to actually devote to listening to the witnesses. The Inquiry chairman has allowed tweets and also there's an annexe where the journalists can sit, watch and use their smartphones (and actually write their pieces) to their hearts content. Put these contributors in a twitterlist, open it in tweetdeck, and basically you'll end up with a live text feed of evidence - very useful.
No collection of links would be right without pointing out that the Inquiry itself has a helpful website which among other things lists the forthcoming witnesses. And I post this list with the usual caveat that it can't be complete; if you've been missed out drop me a tweet (@hendopolis) and I'll add you in.
The broadcasters have deployed in force. Ross Hawkins, more usually a political correspondent, is there for the BBC's News Channel and Peter Hunt watches it for the Corporation's various radio news and sequence outlets.
Sky are also there. Jim Old is their fixer and tweets about upcoming witnesses,and Mark White is a great provider of colour who pointed out this evening that after describing to the hearing the frightening effect of photographers, JK Rowling found her car being pursued up the street by yes, more snappers. Daisy McAndrew of ITN is also there at times, and has tweeted today how gripping she's finding it. Understatement of the year; our newsroom, usually a cauldron of sound, was definitely on mute as the McCann's described their treatment after their daughter's disappearance.
David Batty of the Guardian is a good follow, as is the paper's Lisa O Carroll and Jonathan Haynes. I think Ben Fenton of the FT is there sometimes judging by his output.
As well as the BBC's live page beta the Telegraph runs a live blog on its frontpage as does the Guardian. Other notables include Giles Dilnot, and Index on Censorship who seem to be live-tweeting it. There must be more. I'll add them as I find them.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The curtain raiser to the days of anarchy we've all just witnessed was of course Tottenham which blew up when we were in Kent visiting some friends. I watched what was happening on Twitter, and had a look at the initial news pictures. For what it's worth I now think one of the most significant things about Tottenham as far as the overall policing picture was concerned was what happened next door in Wood Green where a lot of looting went on unopposed for some hours.
Certainly what transpired in Brixton the following evening was definitely more about Wood Green style looting than anger against the police. I was turning in at around eleven on Sunday when I saw on my twitter feed that something was afoot there, so I took my iphone and ventured into the streets.
I'm still trying to make sense of what I saw. First, in central Brixton, deployed around Coldharbour Lane, I found about a hundred and fifty police officers sealing some streets. These were a 'hard core' of public order trained officers with riot equipment, and a larger number of uniformed officers who chatted when I ID'd. They had been deployed to meet with some trouble that had happened directly after the Brixton Splash festival, and were clearly apprehensive. The usual resources the Met can deploy along with riot equipped officers weren't there. No horses, no dogs and the chopper wasn't in evidence. One officer said to another that "we're stretched across the Met" and I started to realise that it was now kicking off across London. They were forming into lines, and were clearly expecting Tottenham style confrontation. What they got was Wood Green.
I watched as a line of worried police in normal uniforms stretched across one end of a side street - then they heard something on their radio and ran fifty metres to the other end. There were no locals to be seen. It was as if they were waiting for a battle but it simply wasn't going to come.
To cut a long story short I wandered out onto Brixton Road, where all the shops are - and here there were no police at all. It was about midnight and H&M had already been looted, and I think the Footlocker might already have been torched. There were loads of older kids running around and cycling about with masks on their faces. But there was no massive angry mob - really a couple of hundred or so people, if that. They'd form into a group suddenly - then disperse just as fast.
I saw one kid in a bikers helmet attack the McDonalds windows with a pole. Up the road a bit a woman had grabbed a chair and was smashing the windows of Morleys the department store, which has been in Brixton through thick and thin. The windows and door of the KFC was smashed and the till was in the middle of the pavement outside. I saw a member of staff still inside who looked at a total loss. The H&M was ransacked, with people shouting at each other to get something. But there was no rhyme or reason to it, clothes were just left up and down the street. I watched as one girl struggled with a bin liner full of stuff not thirty feet from the line of riot police watching in a line across Coldharbour Lane. Some sort of collective madness had descended.
I heard one character say to another that Curry's was next and people began to stream up the road towards it. The atmosphere was odd, like Guy Fawkes night gone wrong. I saw two guys try to pick up some girls. When I got to Curry's which is in a kind of mini retail park with a neighbouring Halfords (not robbed when I was watching - I'm still trying to work out why) the shop was being attacked by about thirty people intent on getting through the steel doors. There were no police in sight. People were bringing up storage wheelie bins from around the back of the building - it had an semi - organized feel.
Rain began to fall and I decided I'd pushed my luck as far as I was going to that night. I toddled off home along reasonably quiet streets, seeing small groups of youths emerging from a nearby estate already wearing hoods and masks - clearly the weather wasn't going to put them off.
What followed was some of the busiest days I've ever had on a newsdesk and it began to dawn on me how privileged I am to work with the people I do - night after night they were putting themselves out there, doing the coverage, with not a single whinge.
When Manchester, Salford, West Brom and Birmingham all kicked off simultaneously on Tuesday evening I gave up trying to work out why things were happening, and to be honest I still don't have the sociology or even the politics to rationally account for the things we've all seen. It's easy to guess the causes, much harder to really know.
Friday, July 29, 2011
So here's my list of tweeters who are particularly good to follow on this story, which comes with the usual caveat that no twitter list can be definitive...
Editor Alan Rusbridger; and his deputy Ian Katz. Guardian Politics is also useful, Patrick Wintour is the political editor. There's also media editor Dan Sabbagh, and reporter Josh Halliday. Web editor Jonathan Haynes is well worth your clickage, while the Sultans of this story are investigations editor David Leigh and his special correspondent Nick Davies - who gets a lot of the credit for keeping on keeping on.
Providing not so much news-tweets so much as pungent tabloid comment via both her feed and her blog, Fleet Street Fox is essential. But she has just got a well deserved book deal, so we might be hearing less from her. Guido Fawkes is also key, as is Dizzy Thinks. Danny Finkelstein of the Times often makes useful observations. Keir Simmons of ITV works hard on the story as does Andy Davies at Channel Four. I'm not quite sure who Bernard Cole is or who he works for, but he says interesting things on this issue. The story is now across the Atlantic and Michael Wolff, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair is a great follow. My colleague Robert Peston continues to break stories on phone hacking, as does the BBC's Jon Manel. The view from inside Wapping is represented by, among others, the Sun's Political Team.
In no particular order, I follow Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East who has become the Murdoch's tormenter in chief..Louise Mensch and Therese Coffey are his colleagues on the Culture and Media select committee. She has just had to apologise to the ubiquitous Piers Morgan for misquoting an article about phone hacking. Jeremy Hunt has a twitter feed, but he's been quiet of late. His department, The DCMS tweets more frequently as does Number 10. Others worth a look are Sara Payne's Phoenix Chief Advocates and Hayley Barlow, the publicist who was until recently working for the News of the World.
Not exhaustive, and I promise I'll update this entry as the saga unfolds.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Another old lady emerged from a house nearby. I asked her who had lived in the burnt out shell.
"I don't think Mrs Wells have would have wanted her name published." she said.
I wrote down "Mrs Wells" in my notebook.
"You fiend" hissed the neighbour.
Actually I don't think I used the name in the end.
I think I had a fit of conscience.
But this week I kept remembering the neighbour. She was certainly being critical of me, but if I wasn't much mistaken, there was a tinge of pleasure in the way she expressed it. I was a fiend. And that's the way I thought about the News of the World. They were fiends. And wicked. And week in and week out three million of us bought the paper. I was one of them, from time to time.
I have to be honest. I loved some of the stories the NotW came up with. Nobody was sacred.(Maybe that was the problem). There was an amazing never-ending parade of exclusives. They'd started before I was born. That iconic shot of Christine Keeler sitting naked on a chair at the height of the Profumo affair? The NotW. Jeffrey Archer and an envelope full of money for a woman he'd never slept with? Them. And of course there was the fabulous fake Sheikh himself, investigator Mazher Mahmood, whose gleeful exploits among the greedy and gullible surely earned himself a secure place in the heart of anyone who considers themselves a hack.
Their methods and targets were the very worst, now we know. And looking back it did strike me as a tad odd the way people's criminal records would pop up in their journalism. And they seemed to know all sorts of amazing things about very private people. Over the years I did also notice that police raids, really sexy ones with proper villains being foiled by brave armed officers, did have a curious habit of occurring in front of a Wapping snapper.
They were drawing journalistic holy water from a magic well, or so it seemed to me. There was obviously always a dark side to the operation, but nobody felt like pointing it out. Other hacks were a bit scared of their operators, they were so mean and slick. Phone hacking, well that was bad, cheating and illegal, but who cared except Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller? Until this week when it all came to bits under the scrutiny of the Guardian. When I heard the Milly Dowler and UK war dead families allegations it was clear to me that the paper was finished. Who on earth can have thought, for a second, that intruding on those poor people was a good idea? The paper, which often seemed dangerously comfortable in the shadows, had finally lost its way.
Will I miss the News of the World? Yes, quite a bit if I'm frank. I'm afraid it's easily the most interesting of the Sunday red-tops. Footballers will rejoice as the market for kiss and tells has just received a mortal blow. On the other hand some great sports reporting has just gone out of the window.
It's the last one this weekend. I'll buy it and keep it to show to kids in years hence. This was a newspaper, I'll explain. But they had to shut it, in the end.
Update: @langrabbie points out the iconic Keeler photo wasn't for the NOTW, which is true, although the paper did buy her story for £23,000. The truth behind the pictureis revealed on the V&A website.
Friday, May 27, 2011
I like the twitter-tradition of Follow Friday but it lacks a little something in terms of explaining the context of the why and wherefore of a recommendation. The police are interesting people to follow currently because two things are happening - the command level are waking up to twitter as a way of publicising their force achievements and crime initiatives, and the grassroots cop and their representatives are finding it a way to express reservations (sometimes very serious reservations) about the way things are going on the ground. So these are the Boys/Girls in Blue who I follow, and of course I'm very open to other suggestions.
I wish twitter had been around when I was a local reporter at Radio Manchester and Granada because there are lots of local story tips now being dropped by the cops. Falling in to the this category is @Co11MetPolice which flags up things of interest, I also like @GMPGorton in east Manchester - which I know from experience can be a challenging area for the law. WestYorksPolice actually puts job adverts up. DCC_StuartHyde a self confessed pie eating man-mountain Deputy Chief Constable in Cumbria is also good value.
Other police tweet and blog under a cover of anonymity, and very illuminating this is at times like these. @TheCustodySgt is one such; he manages a thirty cell suite and a thriving twitter account. He opens up a gateway to lots of cops who also tweet, which I leave you to explore. Don't miss @PCWibble. He does a fizzing tweet-feed and also check out the blog belonging to InspGadgetBlogs.I also follow Spartancop and very good value he is.
The Police Fed and ACPO are also running accounts. Have a gander at polisee - she's involved with policy at the Federation, RimonSeed is also there, olliecattermole is an ACPO tweeter. I shouldn't forget the middle management: policesupers
Journalists who follow the cops are also very good value. @RoamingRoyston is Deputy Editor of the Police Review, and he's got lots to say.
I've just scratched the surface, but the point is they're out there and well worth adding if you're into that sort of thing. Fellow hacks are welcome to loot my list.
Monday, May 16, 2011
He wrote as follows:
I think I'm some sort of dinosaur, because I feel that although it's clear Twitter has many qualities there is no way it's a replacement for longer forms of financed reporting, in which there's a proper investment into training, the development of veracity and the cultivation of trust.
Twitter - let me deal with it now as a "community" - actually abandons standards many journalists are brought up to hold dear, as we've seen in the last few days with the ridiculous and libellous stories about two BBC presenters and the full scale challenge to the rule of law as followed by the rest of the media. I like to tweet, and I get a lot out of it - stories, thoughts, even friends.
But Twitter is nothing more advanced than a high tech rumour mill. It doesn't replace sending trained and resourced correspondents to places, as Dave, in fairness, admitted in his blog post. It can't replace the kind of journalism that requires even a modicum of fact checking and investigation. It's a magnificent communication and referral tool, but it can't go far in replacing journalism. If somehow mainstream journalism withers as a result of people claiming it's a panacea to the rest of our ills, well we shall all be hugely the poorer.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
And added to that was a kind of professional resentment about the Londonisation of the media's priorities. Journalists in Manchester were under the bitter impresson that London's priorities didn't include making the most of stories from the provinces, but this would turn into resentment when for example the Manchester Air Disaster happened and a cadre of London hacks arrived to cover it.
And for years I was miserable in London and went 'home' virtually every weekend. To me, for ages, it seemed to be imploding under the stress of simply being Britain's capital city. Smelly and chaotic, to me it just didn't seem to function properly as a place to live.
But gradually I grew into it, or adjusted to it, and now it seems absurd to go back to Manchester at every opportunity. And these days it seems mad to me that Manchester doesn't have a really swift public transport system that links virtually everywhere with everywhere else with a minimum of hassle. Or a proper river in the middle of it. Or a parliament and a selection of really top rate art galleries, etc etc.
So against the grain, I've become Londonised. But did I have to be? Ultimately I've lived or worked almost everywhere in Britain at some point or another. Shouldn't I just be a citizen of the UK and feel comfy wherever I land up? Well, I think I draw the line at Warrington.
Divided into lanes it's really the perfect environment for some serious swimming, which unfortunately I'm not capable of. Still, my neoprene clad frame can manage around twenty lengths before I have to drag myself out, spent, to the amusement of the lifeguard staff.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Before I kick off about what I believe is some quite lazy thinking, I should show my hand. I am an unabashed fan of Apple; the iphone and ipad have between them changed my life. The invention that makes them both so essential is the internet of course, the truly revolutionary influence in all our lives, but Apples machines have made the net startlingly relevant and above all, helpful.
No more hunting around for a number for a taxi when you're a bit drunk at a party. The Yell app will find the nearest firm. Wondering what the weather will be like on Wednesday? The Met office app will show you straightaway. Trying to organise a revolution in an arab state? There's a few apps for that. And so on, ad infinitum.
So I couldn't do without my iphone, now I'm happily living life with it. Which is where the location function comes in. The iphone and ipad now have a free account with 'mobile me'. A lot of apple iphone owners don't know about it, but it is absolutely essential (and easy) to set up.
Simply put when you log on it shows a map of the world and your phone is there on it, and so is your ipad. If you should lose your phone, or have it taken off you, there it will be. You can lock it, erase it and even send the person who has it a message. With mobile me you have pretty much lost your last phone. You need never worry about the data being compromised; you can blank your phone with a mouse click.
Presumably the location tracker is for that, because in all the years I've owned an iphone the targeted ads and marketing that privacy campaigners are fussed about have never appeared on either of my devices.
Privacy is as privacy does. I see the criticism that the tracking facility can cut both ways but who would take a tracking phone to a sensitive meeting, or even use a mobile phone to arrange anything confidential? Governments of various hues can be assumed to listen to all mobile communications. The existence of the NSA's giant eavesdropping computer called Echelon has been worrying the EU for years. Surely facial recognition software allied to CCTV is a much greater threat to the privacy and liberty of ordinary citizens than any number of iphones.
If I want to go off the Cupertino grid, I can turn the iphone off and dump it in the desk drawer. Sadly that doesn't apply to the many other cameras and computers that can now track us in our daily lives.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I've wanted to write about lots of things in the past few weeks but haven't had the opportunity to simply sit and update things. Watching Manchester City beat Manchester United in the FA cup semi final has to be one of the highlights of this or any year. The following day I was on a train (see a theme here?) and lots of Manchester United fans got on, among them a little boy in full replica Utd kit. He looked utterly miserable. Is this character forming? Is one of the central lessons of growing up how to lose? My heart went out to him.
I've also been on a brief trip to Portugal which was superb. I haven't enjoyed a city break so much in years; the Portugese are tremendously welcoming but you have to put up with wildcat strikes and stoppages in the transport system - in other words it's just like home.
After a few days in Lisbon we were heading into the countryside near Porto and made the mistake of using the trains at a weekend. We were sat in a small village waiting for a connection when a rail worker ambled out and told us the train drivers had just decided to have a strike. We all laughed about it.
"It's just to annoy people." he explained, and who could disagree, it certainly did the trick.
The government finally resigned when we were there, a tremendously worrying period has only just begun for the Portugese. It's a very cheap country to visit by the way, a welcome contrast to Ireland where pizzas now cost £53 apparently.
I keep reading articles which claim the 'fizz' has somehow gone out of blogging. It's certainly true that the hype has moved to twitter and facebook, but I think blogging still has an old school internet cred. I shall keep doing it; having finished my stint at BBC Online I've been missing the creativity of melding writing and pictures.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
I've been a dedicated viewer of Jamie Oliver's new reality show about schools. The premise is the producers recruit twenty kids who left school with no qualifications to speak of, then expose them to teaching from some of the best people in the country. So Jamie teaches them Home Economics, Dr David Starkey (of whom more later) does History, and so on. The only professional teacher is the head, who is cast in a supervising role.
Virtually none of the things teachers tell me about in their experiences is in the show. People can teach in the way they like and what they choose, rather than conform to lesson plans with learning and curriculum objectives set by government. OFSTED is not a factor, naturally. So a dream school is exactly what this is, there can be no other school like it in the country.
The teenagers, some excluded for "behavioural issues", misbehave in a really epic way. They talk when the teachers are speaking and their attention wanders to the point of rudeness. Actually it's what these people are - they're just rude, in a basic sense that implies they don't even know they're being insulting. And they don't seem to have stop buttons. A fight nearly broke out in politics (teacher, Alastair Campbell) over someone's sexual identity.
Starkey made a bad mistake during his first history lesson when he abandoned teaching and dared suggest a pupil was fat. The lad is overweight, but then of course Starkey had lost his authority and the lesson degenerated into name-calling. Starkey flounced for a bit but was talked back by Jamie Oliver. I didn't have a lot of time for Starkey, who cultivates his own special brand of rudeness, but I have less now. The programme shows how he can give it but not take it, which is illuminating about Starkey but not about education in any real sense.
Nevertheless some critics have been shocked by the way the argument from the teaching pro in the "school"was that Starkey had to apologise. I seem to remember teachers being incredibly rude to me and others at school and the lesson you were learning was to take it. But in the event both student and teacher apologised to one another, respect was re-established and Starkey did better in his second lesson at holding their attention. Perhaps we should respect the "respect agenda".
The teaching is on surer ground when largely bogus claims of creativity are entertained. The brilliant fashion photographer Ian Rankin took pictures of the kids, which some of them then cut up. Funnily enough there were no fashion photography classes at their previous schools. Jazzie B (Soul 2 Soul) did the music class. Jazzie B did not tolerate misbehaviour and the class was a big success. Jamie's Home Economic class seemed to go down well, but I am deeply suspicious of the editing in these things. Unfortunately there are very few jobs available in cutting up pictures of yourself, unless you're Picasso or Lady Gaga. Rolf Harris taught Art. I wish Rolf had taught me Art. Some of the kids did amazing pictures, but Rolf seemed tortured that somehow he had missed the mark.
In just the way Location Location is not really about property so much as the people buying it, Jamie's Dream School is really about the people in this odd situation. Will any of these kids re-enter education, this time prepared to knuckle down, get some real qualifications and compete in today's frightening job market? It seems unlikely. I reckon some will conclude its better to stay home and compete on the Playstation.
I watched all this in the week I stuck my own toe back in education, heading down to Hayes secondary school to mentor 12 year-olds doing BBC School Report. I went on two days and talked to two hour-long classes. The children were immaculately behaved and were obviously interested - I didn't get through my presentation on either occasion because there were so many good questions that sidetracked us into great discussions. The teachers I met were motivated and seemed highly professional. The whole feel of the place was of a set-up aimed at getting the best from everyone. I don't know how representative Hayes is of the average establishment, but it all seemed a long way from "Jamie's Dream School". At the end of one class they all wrote little notes on Post Its about how much they'd enjoyed it. Reader, I'm a hard man at times, but I nearly cried.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I was thrilled to see the Cameron-Clegg administration bow to the inevitable this week and send for a cat to police Number 10. The sighting of vermin at our most prestigious address can't be a good thing for the country's image. (Insert your political rat joke here). A grateful nation must hope Larry is successful in his mission of making the outside of Number 10 a safe place to do pieces to camera once again.
There was an unmistakable air of self confidence about Larry as he was unloaded by his handlers. The photographs of him on the stairs show a cat with a degree of chutzpah, not to mention his pre-emptive strike on ITV News correspondent Lucy Manning. But there are things the Camerons should know about their new friend.
First, the vast majority of cats are accomplished benefit scroungers. They will always choose the path of least resistance and Downing Street looks as if it has a number of excellent places to get some shut-eye. I suspect Larry may not be a fan of volunteering, and like one of Downing Street's former bosses, cats as a species do not really recognise society.
But secondly, should Larry feel an urge to make a living and actually nail a couple of rats the Camerons should expect a visitor in the wee hours bearing a gift. This gift may infact be only wounded. We can only hope Dave and Sam have a strong stomach, and perhaps a shovel should be issued to the Number 10 copper to extinguish any rat-resistance and dispose of any bodies.
Third, and this is crucial, getting on with cats requires both bribery and an eye on your furniture. I suggest Whiskas treats and the installation of a scratching mat on the cabinet room wall. You can get them from Lidl, Prime Minister, if you're passing.
Bonne chance Larry!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Lagged behind everyone else because I couldn't stop taking pictures of the delicate sunlight amid the trees. I love it when the warmth tempts out the life from the plants and you can hear the birds chirping away in the woods.
Stopped for a pint in the Puttenham village pub "The Good Intent". I can recommend the steakburger and chips, as well as the Otter Ale.
Friday, January 21, 2011
This morning I saw one with a dog on his lap. At the next lights I saw another reading the paper (it was the Times, since you ask).
And then a white van overtook me doing at least fifty and went through a red light.
Made me think.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Being terminally disorganised I was cheered to find out from Wirefresh that Microsoft are releasing Onenote, a handy little app for the iphone. It's a list maker on steroids that could mean I never forget to buy my yoghurt again. And it's free (for a limited time). Even better.
Well, I was pleased until I found that the release was restricted to the US only. If you go to the British app store it's never been heard of. Why on earth do companies do this? And why don't they say so upfront rather than wasting everyone's time? The cock-up produced this interchange on the Microsoft blog:
- 18 Jan 2011 1:15 PM
@Andy: The product team confirms that this is currently only available in the U.S. App Store on iTunes. I'll try to find out what our international plans are, but right now I don't have any info about that — my apologies. Thank you for visiting our blog.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The British film director Peter Yates died this week. He directed among many other things Bullitt which contains the classic car chase which all other movie car chases have to be judged by. The whole movie is superb, arguably the Casablanca of thrillers. Steve McQueen, who insisted on doing the driving in the chase sequences, smoulders his way through the film with Jacqueline Bissett as his to die for girlfriend. There's also a saucy jazz based score by Lalo Shifrin but Yates doesnt plaster the film with music and isn't afraid to have moments of silence and pauses, which you don't get in todays frenetic Hollywood offerings. Think I'll pop the DVD on this evening and raise a glass to a class director.
Monday, January 03, 2011
UPDATE It's Chris and Alice Carter, of course. You don't ever stop being a Horobin though, in reality.