Friday Reading S08E10

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Martin Belam, covering journalism, media and technology, and other interesting nerdy things. It is also available as an email newsletter. Sign up here.

We lost Deborah Orr. Suzanne probably wrote the greatest thing about her.

It was the anniversary of the Aberfan disaster this week. This is one of the best and most moving news interactives ever made.

“Getting constantly dragged on Twitter by competitors for not linking is a common source of stress for many reporters, especially those who came from other publications—and so is taking heat for decisions you had nothing to do with.”

“At the Times, a Hesitance to Hyperlink” – Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai and Jason Koebler

Cash bonuses for page views. In 2019. No wonder this read by Daniel Tovrov about Newsweek is about why the publication is in such an editorial mess. And what a sub-heading: “No one working at Newsweek can tell me why it still exists”

“The dutiful compliance of the police—first chasing after Facebook property that Facebook employees left around the community as litter, then standing down when told by Facebook that the culprit was part of a special, protected class—is a minor instantiation of a broader issue: Just how intertwined Facebook and local police have become.”

“How Facebook Bought a Police Force” – Sarah Emerson, Motherboard

I don’t trust YouTube in my house because of the recommendation engine. I can show my six year old something from the official Pokémon channel, and then everything it suggests to play next is sensationalised unofficial Pokémon commentary or bootleg cartoons from Christ-knows-where and I’ve no idea if the content is safe for a six year old. Penn State political scientists are here trying to debunk the common perception that YouTube is a radicalisation tool. “Maybe It’s Not YouTube’s Algorithm That Radicalizes People” by Paris Martineau.

Of course, if you put this article up on YouTube, the following video would probably be “Eight times Penn State political scientists tried to replace the great white race” or something, so I’ll keep my judgement reserved. Interesting read though.

“‘They’re doing this badly on purpose’: Why the Tories’ latest online social media ads look so ugly” – Chris Stokel-Walker

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google declined to release data on the online spread of footage of the shooting in Halle, Germany, despite pledging greater transparency as part of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “Christchurch Call”.

It looks like we are heading into election territory in the UK and our processes around digital election spending and advertising are still wholly unfit for purpose. “Facebook reveals preparations for UK election”.

Meanwhile here’s CNN Business reporter Donie O’Sullivan on how “Russian trolls are back. And they’re here to meddle with 2020” [CONTENT WARNING: Features unnecessary auto-playing embedded video *hand_gesture.gif*]

Worth watching that AOC vs Zuck exchange in full.


“I am not one for hyperbole but possibly the biggest development in UK media diversity was announced on Monday 21 October and nobody noticed.”

“A Victory! BBC agree to fund BAME journalism in same way it funds local newspapers” – Marcus Ryder, Black on White TV

This is great from Marcus, pointing out that now the BBC is accepting that it needs to use local journalism funds to increase under-representation, it means pressure can be put on other broadcasters and media funds to do the same. As he puts it:

“For a long time campaigners for BAME media diversity have pointed out that attempts to increase regional diversity have been backed by real money and real jobs. While efforts to increase BAME diversity have usually been in the shape of mentoring schemes, more training, or onscreen initiatives…There is also the natural tension that increases in regional diversity to areas outside London can be detrimental to the BAME community that is heavily concentrated in London.”

Here’s Charlotte Tobitt from the Press Gazette on the same story.

Ofcom did their annual report into the BBC – here’s my colleague Jim digging into some of it: “BBC at risk of losing young audiences, according to Ofcom”. One key point:

“Younger viewers are twice as likely to watch BBC programmes on Netflix than on the BBC’s own iPlayer service, suggesting they may not know that popular shows such as Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders were created using licence fee money.”

This is very true in my house, where Netflix is very much the place to go for “cool stuff”, and I get groans and howls if I put on the iPlayer app, or even worse, go to the live TV guide. That’s a sure sign the kids are about to have daddy’s boring sport or politics inflicted on them.

Read the full Ofcom annual report into the BBC.

This is cool. “BBC News launches ‘dark web’ Tor mirror” to help people get to the website even in places where authorities are trying to restrict access to news.


“Pr0n stars and other sex workers are furious that Instagram continues to take down their accounts with confusing guidelines and explanations — and despite a summer meeting where actors’ union representatives and platform officials tried to hammer out their differences.”

“Pr0n stars vs. Instagram: Inside the battle to remain on the platform” – Otillia Steadman, BuzzFeed News

“The teens don’t want to love TikTok” – could have been an amazing piece if it actually included the opinions of any, say, I don’t know, actual teens. Appears to have been written by a grumpy old sod going “Urgh the kids today” having done no research. Don’t click on it. I just wanted to be rude about it. Be the newsletter goose I was always destined to be.

Deanna Ting at Digiday at least spoke to some people who actually use TikTok: “What publishers like BuzzFeed, Hearst and Vice are learning from being on TikTok”.

“Building a diverse design team in challenging circumstances” – Dean Vipond

“Man charged after ‘malicious emails’ sent to fire chief after brigade dropped Fireman Sam as mascot” – imagine being such an utter dick as to get into trouble with the police over this.


Taking cues from the US culture war, a well-funded, well-organised anti-abortion movement is digging in and setting up in the UK – despite the recent legal shift over abortion in Northern Ireland.

They are having to replace the memorial sign to 14 year old lynching victim Emmett Till yet again. Here’s a reminder of how ProPublica tracked down the last lot of racist fucks to shoot it through with bullets.

“Xu would be the first to tell you that he’s more of a troll at heart than political rebel, and he’s become a target of the state for reasons that are much more fitting of his personality: He likes to talk shit, and he likes to fight.”

“He Never Intended To Become A Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters” – Lauren Teixeira

I realise there are complicated ethical concerns and you would need to design a system very carefully because of the potential for abuse, but I fully support the right to end your own life: “Paralympic gold medalist Marieke Vervoort ends her life in Belgium”


Hodder & Stoughton are looking for a Publicity Assistant.

Jess Evans is fund-raising to create a magazine targeted at working class women who want to break into journalism.

Immediate Media are looking for a Senior Writer for Top Of The Pops Magazine (and also across other mags)

Eleanor Langford has made a useful list of “Every email newsletter budding journos should know about”. We’ll just quickly gloss over the fact that it doesn’t feature this one.

Nicola Slawson has launched The Single Supplement, because single women deserve a newsletter of their own.

Wellcome are looking for a social media officer.

If you are the kind of person saying “I’m going to refuse Brexit 50p coins in change and demand a different coin” then you are the person being a dick to whoever is working behind the till, and it inconveniences the govmt not one jot. So don’t do that, thanks.

This is an absolutely pitch-perfect parody of a certain type of piece that is in vogue at the moment from Jenny Jaffe: “My Mean Weird Friend Wasn’t Very Nice”. Well, I think it is a parody anyway. I did Google “DJ Alphie Pizz” just to check.

“The problem is that Westwood reportedly lost the game’s source code years before the studio shut down. That combined with the game’s unique technology meant that recreating and re-releasing the game has proven to be an incredibly daunting task. The fan community has managed to reverse engineer the original game, and get it to run on their custom software.”

“Blade Runner: long-lost PC game rebuilt by fans” – Matthew Byrd

Air Force finally retires 8-inch floppies from missile launch control system.

“Let Me Explain This Hilarious eCycling Scandal To You” – by Patrick Redford and it is hilarious because it’s not saying the guy cheated in the race, but he is accused of cheating in order to grind the upgrades needed to compete in the race.

I can accept that I have on occasion looked down at myself making squad spreadsheets while I’m playing Championship Manager and thought “Woah! What has gone on here? Is this still…fun?” but here’s a long essay from a person arguing that playing video games is ‘work’ and consequently taking no joy from Untitled Goose Game. It is one of the wrongest articles ever written. If you cannot take joy from tying a small fictional boy’s shoe-laces together so he trips up and breaks his glasses, all the while honking as a horrible goose, what even is the point of living?

“Don’t Play the Goose Game – Untitled Goose Game is fun. The problem is, all games are also work” – Ian Bogost

Also watch this and let it infect your mind as an earworm forever: “Goose On The Loose – Untitled Goose Game Rap”

Twitter account recommendation of the week: Poppy® Watch/@giantpoppywatch – Spotting poppy enforcement, hypocrisy and general poppy madness out and about in the wild.

Related: You can donate to the British Legion here, and here is the debunking Facebook post you need every time you see your racist boomer uncle saying you can’t even sell poppies in England now because of ‘them’.

Just a lovely anecdote from Wreckless Eric about Elton John.

It’s like a long shaggy dog story and a McGuffin all mixed into one, but great fun: “How not to interview the Butthole Surfers” – Expletive Undeleted

This year’s Delia Derbyshire Day honours the 50th anniversary of White Noise’s An Electric Storm album. There are also workshops, talks and live performances, so get tickets now, for 23 November 2019 in Manchester and 30 November in London.

The Anchoress has launched a podcast tackling loss – “from lost albums and marriages to baby loss, lost possessions, and the death of loved ones”.

I make electronic music about the paranormal. I’ll be supporting Agent Side Grinder in Dalston. You could come and watch me if you wanted. It will look a bit like this. But with a nervous looking middle-aged man standing in front occasionally jabbing buttons. And it is next week, so I’m going to have to come up with a new final paragraph for S08E11.