Statutory Notices for the 21st Century

When, in the opening pages of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the people of Earth protest about the planned demolition of their planet, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz replies:

There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

Continue reading Statutory Notices for the 21st Century

Unbacked: to the future

I’ve done quite a few bits now on Contributoria (an experimental sort-of-crowd-funded journalism experiment from The Guardian). It’s an interesting place, a pretty eclectic collection of writing that people are getting paid for. The deal is if you get enough people to back you with the fake money of Contributoria points in month 1 then you get commissioned and if you turn in your article by the end of month 2 it gets published on the first day of month 3 — and then GMG send you a cheque that’s linked to the number of points people gave you.

After a run of hits I failed to make my target for January for an article I pitched about the futurology of Back to the Future: Part II. In a way it might be a good thing. I hadn’t anticipated quite how many other people would roll out articles about this. I mean, there are a lot of articles about the technology of BTTF’s 2015 kicking around. The only shame is most of them are pretty crap and, because Contributoria goes out first thing on the first of the month, I’d have been first. So how would mine have been different? Well I’m pretty lucky to work in a building full of clever people who know stuff about things and I was going to interview them to find out how close we are, really, to hover boards, flying cars, and, er, fax machines. So far all I’ve seen is shitty listicles. Talking of which, this month I’m working on a shitty listicle for a Contributoria piece. That’s where the money is folks.

Oh, journalism.

Help Me Investigate: the social practices of investigative journalism

Last week I attended the 2010 conference of the International Association of Media & Communication Research where amongst other things I gave a paper, Help Me Investigate: the social practices of investigative journalism.

Taking all of your ideas and presenting them in less than 15 minutes is pretty hard going when you’re used to having captive audiences in lecture rooms for up to an hour, so I was delighted that several people wanted to read the full paper and get some more detail from me. So here it is, my full paper.

Some folk I know will be a little put off by these 8,000+ words, so if you’re not used to reading academic work, the best plan is to read the abstract, then the conclusion and then work your way through the detail. You can also catch a pithy version of one of the themes over at Interactive Cultures.  This is draft work at the moment. Following a pep talk from Paul Long (my BCU colleague – Reader in Cultural Studies at Birmingham School of Media) yesterday, I’ll be honing this down for publication over the rest of the summer.

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The meek shall inherit the earth?

Well, as Monty Python pointed out, the meek have had a hell of a time*. 

I had a thought last night about newspaper pay walls. It’s a very lazy thought, and I’m jumping to conclusions (hence why this is on my personal blog and not or

It’s a jump to conclusions matt! – If you don’t get this you need to watch Mike Judge’s movie ‘Office Space’ – the image is CC licensed

The conclusion I’m jumping to is about the meek. Or more specifically, readers of The Guardian. Looks like they get to inherit the earth pretty soon, and it’s all thanks to Rupert Murdoch. Well, I say the earth, that’s a bit strong. But the meek will get to win the battle for ideas, and The Guardian will represent the mainstream common sense thinking of the UK. Here’s how we can jump to that conclusion in three easy steps:

  1. News Corporation has its sights fixed on putting all of their content behind a paywall, and are intent on dragging the rest of the industry in behind them (see this and so many other blogs on the subject or just read James Murdoch’s speech to the Edinburgh TV Festival).
  2. The Guardian will not put their online content behind a pay wall. In the 30th August 2009 Media Talk podcast from The Guardian a hung over (she hints she’s still tipsy) Emily Bell is asked outright about putting content behind a paywall and she answers quite strongly: “No, it’s a stupid idea!” (11:45 in)
  3. News Corporation’s sudden thrust towards paid content flies in the face of the other great media business ideology of our time (and by our time I mean, this summer): Free. Everyone’s been talking about Free for a number of years, and Chris Anderson has distilled all that thought into a book called Free where he says “Free” nearly every other word (and if you listen to the free Free audiobook, you can hear him pronounce the capital letter every time he says it!). 

If you’re Andersonian in thought, then the logical end point of a free to consumer Guardian and BBC versus a charge to consumer everything else will be that the only voices being heard are The Guardian and The BBCDo you remember the Yes Minister speech on who reads which newspapers? If you don’t remind yourself of what they said:

If Anderson’s right, and if News Corp and Guardian Media stick to their guns that speech will be a lot shorter:

“The Guardian is read by everybody, and the rest of the media companies closed”

Even though a meek Britain fits my personal worldview and politics quite nicely, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with pluralism committing hara-kiri so spectacularly. 
If you want a more thoughtful discussion on this, try my colleague Paul Bradshaw’s blog: here’s his take on paywalls.


* The cheesmakers are also quite blessed see: