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Date

Mon - 18.12.2017


Frederick Alliott

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In his valedictory speech after 23 years in the UK House of Commons, the Labour MP Chris Mullin pithily assessed the current era of consumerism, globalization and technological advance with the laconic observation that ‘I continue to doubt that there is a long term future for an economy based on shopping’. Indeed, it often appears that the end function of much-lauded technological innovation is merely to grease the wheels of consumer expenditure: recent years have elicited much comment on how Internet shopping transcends the stressful physicality of the high street, facilitating the sedentary nirvana of click-click-click-buy. Easy, you might think; but there are those whose business plans and entire future strategy depends on making it even easier. And much of this current thinking rests on one universal unchallengeable truth: there is nothing easier than sitting on the sofa and watching an episode of Friends.

Sure, we’ve all been there: the ritual sacrifice of productivity offered up every weekday in the form of the perennial afternoon double-bill (I’m looking at you, E4), the easy humour of Chandler and Joey lending a welcome sense of structure to the empty days of the young and the unemployed. But where is this going, you may well ask – why Friends? The answer being that that is where the concept of TV commerce, or ‘T-commerce’, was first mooted when the celebrated NBC sitcom was at its zenith in 1990s America. The sheer popularity of the programme led technologists to promote the notion of viewers clicking a ‘buy’ button on their remote controls as they watched, purchasing anything from quirky salt-and-pepper shakers to Jennifer Aniston’s sweatwear. It is only now, however, that such technology is ready to be formally introduced, in the form of a full suite of TV apps from Fox Broadcasting Company branded FOX NOW.

Fox has teamed up with American Express to deliver a new ‘T-commerce’ platform that allows consumers to shop in real time while watching, initially at least, the show New Girls. ‘Every episode of some shows will have some merchandise associated with it, and the app will make it available for purchase,’ said Hardie Tankersley, Fox's vice president of platforms and innovation. In commercializing entertainment, therefore, old notions of ‘product placement’ are taken to their logical nth degree, as the small screen morphs into a kind of Grand Bazaar; a limitless shopping mall where momentary impulses and passing whims may be instantly gratified. Interactive Argos catalogues masquerading as situation comedies: pity the parents of small children around the festive season.

Fox has made it plain that these new technologies go hand in hand with greater audience participation and interaction in its television output. ‘Fox has, by far, the most socially engaged audience of any broadcast network’, said David Wertheimer, President of Digital for Fox Broadcasting Company, ‘so we’ve built these FOX NOW apps with the goal of extending that experience’. Such is, of course, the perfect opportunity to connect buyers and sellers at the precise moment demand is created. ‘T-commerce’ is thus a venture full of dichotomy and paradox: featuring products both randomly situated and inherently structured, the whole enterprise fuses simultaneously the glamour of TV celebrity and the arbitrariness of a jumble sale – television as the last word in bric-a-brac. Such a development, however, leaves no doubt that TV remains an enormous source of potential revenue; since a majority of consumers still make purchasing decisions based on advertisements they see on television, introducing a way to buy the advertised products effortlessly could be a huge opportunity.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-14 20:00

‘By golly, it’s political, this Leveson business’. So says Quentin Letts, prolific freelance journalist writing for the Press Gazette, and it’s difficult to disagree with him. The delay in publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the culture, practices and ethics of the British press has exposed a vacuum into which the various vested and political interests of core participants have been aired, and Letts seems to speak for much of Fleet Street when he says that the British Establishment, in its response to the phone-hacking scandal, ‘has over-reacted like a coach party of goosed mother superiors’.

Evidently, his is also a political opinion, with Letts a card-carrying member of the ‘do-nothing’ party. Such an attitude is unsurprising: what is notable is the extent to which whole media organizations are flagrantly jockeying, lobbying and positioning, actively attempting to influence the landscape of the media in the aftermath of the inquiry. 

It is worth documenting and collating some of these interventions, for together they illustrate both a sense of near-unanimity and an undercurrent of defiance. ‘Every day the Sun turns away stories that are in the public interest because of the 2010 Bribery Act. With no public interest defence we cannot talk to whistleblowers who want compensation for the risk they are taking,’ says Brian Flynn, investigations editor of the Sun. Kirsty Walker, employed by the Daily Mail for seven years, revealed in a Spectator article that the ‘menacing post-Leveson culture in which journalists are already forced to operate’ was one reason for her recent departure from the paper.

And it’s not just the tabloid hacks, originally the villains of this saga, who are feeling the heat. High-minded editorials from broadsheet newspapers carry essentially the same message: that the statutory underpinning of press practices spells the beginning of the end for independent journalism. The Daily Telegraph quotes the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who observed in a speech that ‘in a country governed by the rule of law, the independence of the press is a constitutional necessity’; the Sunday Times thunders regularly about the need for self-regulation unmediated by the legislature; and Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, writes that ‘already I as an editor am getting MPs and ministers calling me up to order that I discipline writers who displease them or take articles down in a way that they wouldn’t have even a year ago.’

It is undoubtedly true that there has been a sea change in the way that the press has conducted itself since last year's shocking revelations. As the Guardian’s Professor Roy Greenslade observed in his testimony to Leveson, ‘kiss and tell’ stories have virtually disappeared since inquiry was set up last July. Some, of course, would advance such a fact as a force for good, a welcome blow to the scurrility and sordid excesses of modern celebrity culture. Yet the message of the Telegraph’s editorial opinion, that ‘to over-regulate the many in order to curb the excesses of a few is to risk losing everything’, must be heard, and listened to. The relentless opining and positioning from some quarters of the press may be premature, but it stems from genuine anxiety about censorship, the effects of which can in some areas already be discerned, and must not be allowed to spread. 

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-13 19:33

As CVs go, it’s certainly unconventional. As Dr Rowan Williams, outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury and self-proclaimed ‘hairy lefty’, toddles off to ruminate in Cambridge quadrangles, his successor appears to be cut from quite a different clerical cloth. The Bishop of Durham and archbishop-elect, Justin Welby, ought to have grimacing Guardian leader writers sharpening their pencils with relish: for, with apologies to Lady Bracknell, to be an old Etonian is unfortunate, but to be an ex-oil executive as well looks like carelessness. 

One can perhaps rationalize the change of direction signaled by the Crown Appointments Commission in what is a demonstrably risky nomination – Bishop Welby has been in his post for less than a year, a mere 20 years since he was first ordained. Much of the criticism of Archbishop Williams centered on his air of donnish fuzziness, particularly when it came to his dealings with the media. An undoubtedly clever man, his intellectualism often clouded that which it sought to clarify, a failing magnified by the emphatically unequivocal positions adopted by modernisers and traditionalists in clashes over women bishops and homosexual priests. The job is, of course, (along with perhaps director-general of the BBC and manager of the England football team) one of the very worst in Britain, and Welby will inherit the laughably difficult task of holding together a communion that includes liberal English clergymen who want to anoint gays and West African churches who would rather execute them. Clearly, though, the Church of England needs a voice; and the media provides the modern day pulpit from which to preach.

In his advice to his successor as Primate of All England, Dr Williams borrowed the theologian Karl Barth’s formulation that the next inhabitant of Lambeth Palace should be one who preaches ‘with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other’. Both the title of Welby’s dissertation at theological school, ‘Can Companies Sin?’, and his answer – a resounding yes – provide insightful context regarding both his vertiginous promotion and his appointment on the new Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards looking into the Libor fixing scandal. In an era of crisis littered with similar collisions between capitalism and theology – epitomized last year in the juxtaposition of the Occupy movement and St Paul’s Cathedral – the truth of Sir Humphrey Appleby’s statement that ‘nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics’ seems readily apparent.

For the bishops really do want to talk about politics, and for that the media is paramount. While conventional opinion states that the presence of the 26 Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords is an anomalous anachronism, the role of newspapers as alternative pulpits has if anything increased. Dr Williams, in his guest editorship of the New Statesman last year, commented apropos the Coalition’s reforms that, ‘with remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted’. Lord Carey, Williams’ predecessor at Canterbury, is currently leading the charge against gay marriage from the pages of the Daily Telegraph; and Giles Fraser, the leftist former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, resigned in the wake of the Occupy protests in order to become – you guessed it – a journalist for the Guardian, better to advance the cause of capitalistic reform.

The obvious paradox, therefore, is that Welby must have a voice, but not a voice that’s too right wing, or too left wing, or that might split his congregation in two; yet a direction of travel is nonetheless required. Fraser and Carey, in the examples mentioned, offer alternate routes; needless to say, the two cordially loathe each other, the former criticizing the latter’s interventions as having ‘all the intellectual subtlety of Jason Statham trying out ballet’. What Welby does bring, however, is specific and relevant competencies from the world of finance and the City, instead of ideological baggage from either the Thatcherite tradition or the Socialist Workers Party. Significantly, he has 11 years of actual corporate experience to which the ethics of Christianity might subsequently be applied.

The lesson from Williams’ tenure is that the Archbishop of Canterbury must show active leadership. But for one who must lead an increasingly divided flock, the sunlit uplands are littered with political potholes. Jesus was not a reactionary; neither, as Malcolm Muggeridge observed, was he the Labour MP for Galilee North. Lord Carey began an article on banking in the Daily Mail earlier this year with the words: ‘You might think it ill-behoves a retired Archbishop to comment on economic matters about which I have no expertise, but…’ It seems to have occurred to the appointments committee that, if their new man is expected to have a media voice in this new media age, it might be an idea to have someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-08 18:26

A £1bn sale of the Financial Times is under active consideration, Bloomberg said today – only for the story to be immediately denied by its owner. 

Pearson, the FTSE 100 media group, issued a statement in response to the article saying that, though ‘not in the habit of responding to rumours, speculation or reports about our portfolio’, it was obliged to point out that ‘this particular Bloomberg story is wrong.’ Dame Majorie Scardino, the outgoing chief executive of Pearson, once said famously that the FT would be sold ‘over my dead body’ but her impending departure from the company in January lends added credence to the report, as does the fact that the story comes just weeks after Pearson agreed to merge Penguin with Bertelsmann’s Random House in a deal to create the largest book publisher in the US and the UK. 

The Bloomberg report suggests the sale would come in order to prioritize its faster-growing education business, with anonymous sources touting the rather arbitrary figure of £1 billion. Whilst speculation at this stage is comprised largely of such back-of-the-envelope calculations, it is clear that Britain’s flagship daily financial newspaper might attract some high-profile potential buyers were it to be put up for sale. Michael Bloomberg, the owner of the Bloomberg media group, David Thomson, of Thomson Reuters, and Rupert Murdoch, the boss of News Corporation, have all been mentioned in the light of a possible acquisition.

‘We have said many times that the FT is a valued and valuable part of Pearson,’ the company insisted last night. Such protestations will do little to quell speculation that such a sale might well be in the offing, and in the very near future to boot.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-07 17:46

‘Post-truth politics’. The expression has an undeniable ring to it. Fusing a modish anti-politics sentiment with pleasingly Orwellian overtones, the phrase has come to symbolize the pessimism and contempt that has permeated much of the media commentary during the lead-up to today’s Presidential election. Orwell himself said that in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act; whether or not the 2012 campaign ought to be castigated as being especially mendacious, the central role of websites such as FactCheck and PolitiFact suggests an urge to scythe through the dense undergrowth of shrill partisanship in search of something that is empirically, verifiably, irreducibly ‘true’. 

Idealistic, to be sure, but not easy. Quite apart from the fact that since time immemorial politics has been an unscrupulous game played by the usual ragbag of idealists, rogues and egomaniacs, the whole question of political ‘truth’ is notoriously nebulous – and by no means a modern phenomenon. ‘There seem to me to be very few facts, at least ascertainable facts, in politics’, according to nineteenth-century PM Sir Robert Peel, the force of which is immediately apparent when one tries to engage with any political argument. The Columbia Journalism Review gives some latter-day examples: ‘We will have to raise taxes to keep Medicare solvent.’ ‘Teachers’ unions are a major obstacle to improving our education system.’ ‘Reinstituting Glass-Steagall would prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.’ Though seemingly clear-cut, these are contentious statements that are fundamentally subject to debate; while it is occasionally possible to identify some egregious out-and-out lie, the truth is often less satisfying, and more complex, than the adversarial confrontations on the stump might suggest. 

That is not to say that politicians don’t lie: they do, frequently, whether it be in the form of misrepresentation, exaggeration, omission or deliberate distortion. What has changed, though, is less to do with the nature of politics or those who practice it, and far more about the speed and ease with which information may be accessed and communication facilitated by a large sections of the populace. The greatest compliment that can be paid to the Internet is that it enfranchises those who may have been previously excluded from the democratic process. More savvy, skeptical and worldly-wise than their downtrodden predecessors, and far less trusting and deferential to authority, the modern electorate doesn’t take any crap from anyone any more. It is easy, therefore, to see how popular media narratives such as ‘post-truth’ might subsequently gain significant traction. As such, sites like FactCheck must pursue ‘the truth’ in the best traditions of prosecutorial investigative journalism, but at the same time be realistic about the necessarily slippery and intangible nature of political ‘facts’. As The New York Times’s David Leonhardt put it in an interview, is for the ‘analysis of the legitimacy of political claims’ to be ‘at the core of what we do’. The core principles of journalism, like those of politics, don’t really change; it is simply the practicalities and the process of achieving its aims that must continually evolve.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-06 18:54

‘No man is an island, entire of itself’, wrote the poet Donne, a sentiment which, albeit in a more prosaic form, might be said to encapsulate the social media policy of most American news corporations in the run-up to tomorrow’s Presidential election. Never before has the coverage of polling day itself, let alone the result, been so hotly anticipated, and many of the larger news organizations have attempted to codify in advance their social media strategy for the big day – chief amongst which seems to be the guiding principle that, in the words of the Associated Press, ‘people view all of us as speaking for the AP’. In their online presence on Twitter and Facebook, therefore, journalists must locate a delicate balance between their dual roles as individual and representative, as both personality and employee. Whilst social media so often acts as the shot of adrenaline reviving the groggy and often lifeless body politic, such a fusion of individuality with a larger collaborative responsibility is nonetheless fraught with danger for professional journalists.

To that end, a memo sent to all staff from the Associated Press’ Standards and Social Media Editor Eric Carvin reads thus: “If AP has not called a particular state or race, it’s because we have specifically decided not to, based on the expertise and data we have spent years developing. Therefore, we strongly discourage AP staffers from posting, tweeting or retweeting others’ calls […] If we tweet another organization’s call, we may imply that we endorse the other organization’s decision. At worst, we may deceive the public by spreading bad information." The upshot being that, with apologies to the poet, if the bell of bad information tolls, Carvin is damned if it’ll toll for him too.

Indeed, some have been even more prescriptive when it comes to identifying codes of conduct for social media activity, particularly on Twitter. The website Poynter has published a list of ‘6 social media mistakes to avoid this Election day’, which range from specific advice on how to spot fake photographs to more intangible rules of thumb, including the disconcertingly nebulous section titled ‘misinterpreting social media sentiment’. Clearly, the fact that people are able to construct their own bespoke media ‘experience’ (for want of a better term) on such a platform engenders a far more proactive, participatory attitude which seeks rather than waits. With such mass involvement, the potential likelihood for errors, fakes and mischievous falsities is, as seen in the case of Hurricane Sandy, greatly increased, forcing the denizens of such sites to consider more carefully the validity and accuracy of information gleaned in the heat of a 24/7 news cycle.

It will, in short, be fascinating to witness sites such as Twitter and Facebook responding to tomorrow's deluge of critical information in such a short space of time. Network executives all cited the old journalism chestnut that ‘it’s better to be right than first’ when Brian Stelter asked them about their plans for calling races Tuesday night. Nevertheless, it seems certain that, despite protestations of caution, such self-correcting functions that social media is said to possess will need to be at their zenith if news organizations, as well as lay citizens, are able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-05 19:12

It is ironic that a political pundit famed for innovative statistical rigour should be decried bitterly in some quarters as a partisan propagandist. Such, however, is the fate of Nate Silver, voguish election specialist and author of The New York Times blog ‘FiveThirtyEight’. As the two US presidential hopefuls turn into the electoral Tattenham corner ready for next week’s home straight, one might be forgiven for assuming the race is far from run; Obama might lead by a length, so the media consensus runs, but a late surge of momentum from Mitt Romney means that all bets are off.

Oh no, says Silver – who, to the consternation of Republican strategists, has been saying so for some time. His current headline projections, calculated using various algorithmic weighting techniques based on polling from swing states, gives the President an 80.9 percent chance of victory (up 7.8 percent since 25 October), compared to his challenger’s 19.1 percent (down 7.8 percent since 25 October). Such baldly emphatic figures purporting to forecast what is generally regarded as an innately fickle and unpredictable contest are, to some, thrillingly bold and unconventional; to others they are merely infuriating. Add to this the fact that he has expressed a personal preference for Obama in the past, has never given Romney anything higher than a 41 percent chance of winning (on 2 June), and one week before the election gives him a one-in-five chance, even as the polls show him almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent – well, it's enough to make any devotee of the GOP ask through gritted teeth just who this nerdy liberal upstart thinks he is.

To which Silver can, for one, point to his track record. He first came to prominence during the 2008 election, where he transferred skills learnt in the statistical analysis of Major League Baseball players to the Presidential race, correctly predicting the outcome of 49 out of 50 states. Nevertheless, his status for many is still that of the smart-alec college kid who got lucky; a lefty hack who hides his political prejudices behind the mask of dispassionate mathematics. At times, this must feels like persecution, and one can occasionally detect a note of self-defensive ‘Silver contra mundum’ in his public utterances. As he told Charlie Rose, ‘I think I get a lot of grief because I frustrate narratives that are told by pundits and journalists that don't have a lot of grounding in objective reality’.

This attitude is perhaps epitomized by the exchange yesterday on Twitter with MSNBC presenter Joe Scarborough, host of the network’s ‘Morning Joe’ program. The latter had been one of the more outspoken critics of the Silver method, stating pointedly that ‘anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.’ Silver responded with the following tweet: ‘@JoeNBC: If you think it's a toss-up, let's bet. If Obama wins, you donate $1,000 to the American Red Cross. If Romney wins, I do. Deal?’

Now, depending on your outlook, this is either misplaced arrogance or a commendable case of putting your money where your mouth is. Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times’ public editor, made clear her misgivings about such a wager: in a blogpost, she noted that ‘when he came to work at the Times, Mr. Silver gained a lot more visibility and the credibility associated with a prominent institution. But he lost something, too: the right to act like a free agent with responsibilities to nobody’s standards but his own.’

In her criticism, however, Sullivan hits upon what seems to be the crux of the matter, the reason why Silver’s prominence has proved a controversial feature of the campaign: what Mark Coddington identifies as ‘an issue of epistemology’. Ultimately, Silver is absolutely ‘a free agent’, despite his association with the NYT: for his conclusions are drawn not on the basis of cliquey insider knowledge, but on numbers that are there for all to see. Coddington again: ‘where political journalists’ information is privileged, his is public, coming from poll results that all the rest of us see, too.’ In subverting traditional subjective journalistic methods that merely aspire to a condition of factual objectivity in favour of a nakedly empirical objectivity that claims to be the real thing, Silver has delivered a sharp wake-up call to the media establishment.

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-11-02 18:47

Disaster tends to catch New Yorkers at their best, and the reaction to Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught on America’s East Coast is no exception. Stories of courage and altruism abound – even from the unlikeliest of sources. Inevitably, however, there is the exception that proves the rule, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was in the murkier backwaters of Twitter that mendacity and rank skullduggery did their best to sully the pure waters of civic solidarity. Shashank Tripathia, a hedge fund manager and sometime Republican activist, made it his mission to anonymously propagate noisy misinformation about the storm under the Twitter handle ‘@comfortablysmug’, spiking emergency communications with malicious and seemingly pointless untruths. Many of his tweets, such as ‘BREAKING: Confirmed flooding on NYSE. The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water’, were repeated unchallenged by CNN and other mainstream broadcasters before being finally repudiated, and were received with obvious anxiety and alarm.

Instinctively, one wonders (at the same time as wondering precisely what kind of childhood trauma this sad little man must surely have experienced) what can be done about it. Such a case fits almost exactly the famous example of the circumstances in which free speech might not apply, given by Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919, of ‘shouting Fire in a crowded theatre’, and might thus be thought fit for censure. Indeed, there are those who are already calling for Tripathia to face prosecution, though precisely for what even his detractors are unsure. As Ken Paulson, a lawyer and former USA Today editor at the First Amendment Centre, notes: ‘lies are constitutionally protected except in very rare exceptions. Someone recklessly tweeting is beyond the reach of the law except in rare exceptions’.

But if the deregulated universality of Twitter creates such new problems, it is more often than not the source of their own resolution. As is clear in this case, the punitive consequences for such a user are no less real for being collective, informal, and dispensed without recourse to legal hierarchy. After all, his identity was exposed, he lost his job, was forced to issue a groveling public apology, and is subsequently the subject of countless excoriating blogposts all over the internet. One can see why Twitter has been compared to a self-cleaning oven in the way that it self-corrects (and indeed self-censors) in response to bad information; judgment and even punishment on Twitter is characterized by collective majority verdict, encouraging what must be seen as a healthy skepticism coupled with an instinctive need for corroboration and confirmation. Such a phenomenon can appear a little medieval at times, however. Commentators expressing controversial opinions which counter the prevailing bien-pensant consensus often refer to Twitter as a 'baying mob' which can be overwhelming, bullying, overly-censorious and quick to condemn.

Nevertheless, the sheer immediacy of Twitter means that fact checks, corrections and updates are rarely not forthcoming. While the format is occasionally compromised by arbitrariness or a mob mentality, it is more often vindicated by being informative, instantaneous, and – as is apparent in this case – perhaps the truest and most effective form of self-regulation. 

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-10-31 18:12

‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors’, remarks Plato in Book I of The Republic – and that was in fifth-century Athens, the cradle of democracy, political freedom and western culture. One feels that his diagnosis of the present miasma of dysfunction, corruption and post-modernistic nihilism at the heart of Greek governance may have elaborated on that aphorism somewhat. 

Indeed, the headline of an article in today’s Guardian by the recently arrested journalist Kostas Vaxevanis makes a similar point. In publishing the names of over 2,000 wealthy Greeks alleged to have Swiss bank accounts, Vaxevanis attracted censure from authorities who seem more concerned with the prosecution of journalists than with suspected tax dodgers and money launderers. The standoff coincides with a strike due to start today over the suspension of two popular television presenters after they criticized a government official, in what together amounts to a significant assault on freedom of expression by a political class who appear to either comprise or be in thrall to the moneyed elite.

Dimitris Trimis, head of the Athens Newspaper Editors Union, asserted that the present crisis was unprecedented. ‘This is a matter of democracy,’ Trimis said. ‘The government feels insecure. The only way it feels it can convince society of its policies is to try to manipulate the media through coercion.

‘This is true of both state television and in the private sector of the media where there has been a large number of lost jobs and wage cuts and so it has become easier to manipulate in the interests of the government and the economic elite.’

The list, published by Vaxevanis’s magazine Hot Doc, was originally supplied to the Greek government in 2010 by the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde (now head of the International Monetary Fund) which went ignored before it was later leaked. Vaxevanis can take solace from the widespread publicity and support his case has engendered subsequent to his arrest; a crowd of 250 people, mostly journalists, attended his court appearance, and the trial has received widespread international comment and condemnation. However the episode is resolved, it represents yet another retrograde step in a country that is coming apart at the seams; yet another chapter to add to those recently headed ‘sovereign debt crisis’, ‘mass civil unrest’ and ‘rise of the neo-Nazis’.

‘I was doing my job in the name of the public interest,' Vaxevanis is quoted as saying. ‘Journalism is revealing the truth when everyone else is trying to hide it.’ In consciously or not appropriating Orwell’s famous definition of journalism – ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’ – he both sets the benchmark high and forecasts a long and treacherous road ahead. George Papaconstantinou, the former finance minister in office at the time the list first came to light, has since added that this particular document signals merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of Greek tax evasion. Investigative journalism, it would seem, has plenty of dark alleys to explore, and Greece's ruling class must not be allowed to obstruct their elucidation.

Source: Guardian

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-10-30 18:43

An innovative new online platform combining games, news forums and long-form journalism launched on Wednesday in an industry comparable to Hollywood in terms of its social and economic impact. Vox Media’s long awaited new website, Polygon, finally went live this week, representing a significant advance in what is still an embryonic synthesis between video games and traditional journalistic methods. ‘Video games have always been defined by change,’ says editor in chief Christopher Grant, ‘and right now we’re living in the middle of the most rapid change in video game history with mobile gaming, social gaming and web gaming’.

The site is primarily a source for video game news and reviews, but will contain more unorthodox features focusing on the developers and players hitherto unaccustomed to the limelight. ‘A lot of what we have is brands,’ Managing Director Justin McElroy said. ‘What we’re hoping to do is by turning the camera a little more on the people, people can realize who is making these things and follow them.' 

The site’s new stand-alone incarnation follows eight months’ temporary accommodation on the URL of corporate sibling The Verge. Grant, the former editor of popular blog Joystiq, cites his motivation in launching the site as being a conspicuous lack of mature or thoughtful journalism delineating this burgeoning, endlessly creative industry. As McElroy points out: ‘so many reviews to this point have been reviews of products indistinguishable from a review of a vacuum you’d read on Amazon’. The creation of a centralized platform, therefore, is an important addition to serious online journalism concerning commercial products in which large sums of money have been invested. Considering, too, that the audience for video games news is growing more and more diverse – as Jeff John Roberts notes, ‘a Polygon reader is more likely to be a young woman or a 39 year old lawyer than a couch-ridden burnout’ – such a development can only add to what is already an ever expanding plurality in the online press.

Sources: Poynter.org, Polygon.com, TheVerge.com, Editorsweblog.org, PaidContent.org

Author

Frederick Alliott

Date

2012-10-26 13:05

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