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Crap journalism

I’ve been muttering under my breath recently about the generally poor standard of writing I’ve been noting in pieces I end up subbing, both at the Guardian and at the Sunday Telegraph. I’m not about to come over all misty-eyed for some long-gone golden age of journalism, because there almost certainly wasn’t one.

However, when an email from this outfit saying pretty much what the link says, lands in my inbox suggesting that I might like to subscribe, I start to understand how the internet, which can be a powerful tool for good journalism and research, can also be a vector for really bad journalism.

For those who haven’t got the time or inclination to click the link, Intelligrate Media offers to deliver to me press releases and pre-written copy that I can cut and paste from (their words, not mine), edit or abridge at will.

I’m flabbergasted. Anyone in a hurry, or lazy, or who simply doesn’t have the intellectual or journalistic wherewithal, can use this and pass it off as journalism. It’s not: it’s what Nick Davies of the Guardian defined in his book, Flat Earth News as “churnalism”, ie the witless, brainless repeating of press releases and pretending it’s news.

I’d go further than that: it’s corrosive of decent journalism and if busy/inexperienced/desperate people subscribe to that kind of service, well, it undermines all of us in journalism. I often find myself defending my profession when people say “the papers are full of lies”. I point out the high standards demanded by, for example, the tabloids, before they run with a story about some Z-list celeb’s private life. We can discuss the ethics of that another time; suffice to say at this point that if you’re the reporter writing a piece about Joe Big Brother’s liking for white powder and prostitutes, preferably at the same time, you’d damn well better have several signed affadavits from people who’ve personally flogged Joe Big Brother the white powder and one or three of the commercial-sector companions.

So perhaps it’s “services” (I’d prefer “disservices”) such as Intelligrate Media that’s undermining the quality of writing I’m seeing. There are other reasons, too, but crap like that undermines us all.


I love being a bit thinner. I’ve been laying off carbs for the past few months. The motivator was going on holiday to Spain with a bunch of my mates for a wedding; I was going to be sharing a villa with (among others) not one but two ex-boyfriends, plus three of the women in the villa are 10 years or more younger than I am. Not that anyone would point and laugh, they’re an excellent bunch of people, and the two exes are both really good friends, but still, it was time to shift the stone or so that had crept on over the past year or so.

Lizzy – the partner of one of the exes who was going to be in the villa, and who is a little bit older than I am – and I decided to share food diaries, and that’s been an excellent tool for me. Writing down what you eat focuses you on where you’re going wrong and what you’re doing right.

Anyway, I’m now a shade under eight and a half stone (that’s about 53kg or 118lbs), and I’m about a UK size 8 (US size 4); sometimes a 6 on the bottom, sometimes a 10 on top.

I hope it will stay off. I have pretty much reconfigured how I eat – and probably more importantly, how I shop and organise my meals. I make a point of planning my evening meals and shopping accordingly. That means that I don’t come home tired and hungry and end up diving into M&S and buying pasta or simply eating toast. If I know I’m going to be late from work, I make something the evening before that will feed me again the next day, precisely to avoid the tired-and-hungry syndrome. My repertoire isn’t hugely wide but it’s varied enough.

For me, the rules are simple. No stodge (or very rarely, anyway). That means no bread, no pasta, no rice, no biscuits, no puddings. Lots of meat, some eggs, a fair bit of dairy, veg, salad and loads of fruit. I’m big on apples at the moment, particularly crunchy jazz or pink lady apples. It helps that I don’t drink. The aim is simply to keep my sugar intake pretty low, and to make sure that my sugar comes from fruit, not fattening stuff like cakes. I also don’t really eat processed meals.

I haven’t turned into some kind of health nut – I’m perfectly happy to go out for a curry occasionally; and the reason I don’t drink is not through any kind of puritanism. I suffer from migraine and alcohol pretty much inevitably these days sets one off. It’s not worth it for me.

I’m still a sloth. You will not find me in the gym, nor am I likely to be yomping o’er hill and dale. I’m quite capable of staying out all night dancing. But I am a lot more careful about what I eat. And it feels good.

How’s it going?

Getting SBS 08/Exchange 07 up and running is slower than I thought and some of the stuff you have to do is quite scary if you’re not a confident network guru. For a start, SBS 08 takes over DHCP management from the router.

I’ve got a Thomson TG585v7 provided by Be, which is my ISP. It’s been a fantastic little router when using it in a completely bogstandard way, but the configuration pages are somewhat obtuse. It took me a while to find out how to turn off DHCP so that the server could take over managing it, and in the process both the server and my Vista box, both of which are connected to the router by Ethernet, lost connection to teh interwebz. Bizarrely, though, my MacBook Air, which connects wirelessly (as it’s so damn minimal it eschews useful things like an Ethernet port) remained online.

So having run the internet connection wizard (and at one point I got so annoyed with the bizarre connectivity that I reset the router) I then went for the next step, which is configuring my domain. I already own and I’ve had it registered with Domain Bank for years. That’s an American-based registrar that offers a straightforward interface for tricksy stuff like DNS management and which also has excellent customer support.

However, SBS 08 requires that domains are registered with one of its partners – and I was only offered three choices. I decided to go with GoDaddy cos, er, well, I’d heard of it. It’s got an eyemeltingly ugly website and I’ve spent a good couple of hours poking around working out the procedure for transferring my domain. It’s cost me nearly £20 to register there for two years: that’s about par for the course and I was only a month or so off needing to renew the registration anyway. And that includes paying to have my personal information hidden on my whois registration.

However, transferring domains is a pain. I had to faff about getting authorisation codes sent from both Domain Bank and GoDaddy to authorise the transfer and the status page is now telling me it could take up to five days for the transfer to take place.

Having sorted that out, SBS then announced that it couldn’t open the ports it needed on my router. As noted above, the config pages on my router are pretty shit. They look pretty but once you need to do something advanced it’s difficult to drill down to the settings you need. Opening ports is reasonably straightforward on a Netgear or a DLink router; less so on the BeBox. Anyway, I seem to have achieved it.

And I’m leaving it there for this evening. I’ve now got to leave the server on as it’s managing my DHCP, but it’s whisper-quiet: just as well as it’s living in my conservatory.

Progress report

Grrr. Having reported the 4GB of RAM on POST, the server then decided after all that it couldn’t see it and sulked, refusing to install SBS after the initial OS install. So off with the side again to make double-triple sure the sticks are properly seated. Second time lucky, and so far I’ve given my network a name and created my administrator account, and I’m back to watching computer paint dry as it installs updates. This is of course a good thing as it means it’s also managed to connect to the internet.

More later. For those interested; I’m well aware that this is kind of esoteric.

Liveblogging the geeky project

God, I love Crucial and Royal Mail sometimes. Ordered the 4GB of Ram needed for my server yesterday; the postman delivered it this morning.

I know it’s not rocket science to whack a bit of Ram on a motherboard, but it’s always slightly scary to take the side off a computer and expose its guts. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” springs to mind. However, the project, to get a server with Exchange up and running at home in order to do my own email hosting, couldn’t proceed without the Ram.

So right now I’m doing the geek equivalent of watching paint dry: installing an operating system. More later.

This blogging lark – it’s Web 2.0, innit?

I only finally got this up and running today, but I’m already discovering that it’s not Web 1.0 at all: it’s not just broadcasting to a profound indifference. It’s social, it’s Web 2.0. I tweeted that I was doing this blog and added a list of some my favourite Twitterers plus a blogroll of links and suddenly this blog is part of my social network. Twittermates, most of whom I don’t know in person, have kindly reciprocated with a link to here on their blogs; Dennis aka FartSandwich posted a lovely thoughtful comment.

Great stuff, say I: I love Facebook, Twitter et al. If this is part of that paradigm of connecting, that’s brilliant.