Friday Reading S08E13

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.



On Monday BBC Breakfast managed to play out an archive clip of Boris Johnson at the cenotaph rather than footage of Sunday’s service. Proof, it was claimed, that the BBC was helping to massage his image because he’d looked scruffier in 2019 than he did in 2016. The most viral early tweets about it claimed the 2016 footage had been ‘cut into’ the 2019 footage. BBC producers on the interwebs said that what had happened was an archive package had been uploaded to the Jupiter video editing system for use before the service. It had been played out by mistake. The presence of Tim Farron in the clip, conveniently ignored by all the people claiming it was 2019 footage interfered with, suggests cock-up over conspiracy. But dear god it is exhausting. An absolute howler for sure. Whenever you go home from one of those shifts you are always thinking “WHY OH WHY OH WHY DID I FUCK THE STORY PEOPLE ARE GONNA TIN-FOIL HAT OVER. NOBODY WOULD HAVE CARED IF I’D GOT THE NAME OF THE SKATEBOARDING DUCK WRONG”.

Three points from all this:

1) People on all sides love a social media conspiracy theory.

2) BBC News has managed to massively erode trust in it over the last few years with its coverage of Corbyn in particular, which is making it more vulnerable on this kind of issue.

3) Applying Occam’s Razor to individual cock-ups is fine, but it doesn’t address the structural issue of media coverage disparity of our two main political parties. Let’s be honest, footage of any Labour front-bencher as drunk as Boris Johnson appeared to be while giving a speech in Northern Ireland where he didn’t seem to be able to explain his own Brexit deal would have lead to days of days of howls that they were unfit for office. Diane Abbott can’t even have a quiet tinny on a train.

Urgh. “Bosses at Vice and The Fader Ignored Sexual Misconduct, Employees Allege, Until Women on Twitter Began Exposing It”

“We all know what Facebook will say; spoiler: ‘Muh, duh, guh, it’s a bug. We sorry.'”

“Facebook is secretly using your iPhone’s camera as you scroll your feed” – Mix

It happened on my phone which reminded me that the app doesn’t need any access to my camera – and of course they said it was a bug. So sad it keeps happening to them. Really unlucky bunch.

People have been sharing a spreadsheet of anonymised US journalism salaries. Here’s a similar resource for the UK.

Worth reading this thread on the Twitters about reporting on the suicide of a young woman, and amen to the conclusion by ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg: “We’re in big trouble if we climb the journalism ladder, forget how hard it was to climb, and also roll our eyes at those now trying to climb — while occasionally slipping — a much more treacherous and wobbly ladder.”

This was in response to widespread media criticism and snark aimed at the Northwestern Student Newspaper after it apologized for publishing photos of a public protest and attempting to contact students involved via the student directory. Despite the wide mockery, it is worth noting the statement from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications dean, Charles Whitaker, who said:

“I understand why The Daily editors felt the need to issue their mea culpa. They were beat into submission by the vitriol and relentless public shaming they have been subjected to since the Sessions stories appeared. I think it is a testament to their sensitivity and sense of community responsibility that they convinced themselves that an apology would affect a measure of community healing.”

An Arizona Republican dickwad inserted hidden Epstein conspiracy theories into a series of tweets about Trump’s impeachment the other day so Gizmodo inserted a message into their report about it in a similar style. That’s the spirit.

As one of only seven middle-aged white men in the Western hemisphere not to have my own podcast, this doesn’t apply to me, but Andy Dickinson with a genius idea here: “Quick Tip: HITT for your podcasts and live video”

If you’ve got coding chops, here’s how to make one of those animated bar chart races. Just don’t use rubbish and inaccurate data on it or I will track you down and end you.


“As World of Warcraft Classic neared, one response I saw on social media, over and over, was tangible anxiety, with the mere discussion of World of Warcraft sending some people to a dark place…Another person told me about introducing World of Warcraft to their father, trying to find bonding time between a parent and two sons. The father became hopelessly enthralled, creating and running five characters at once, and stopped paying attention to work or taking care of themselves. Every second of free time was devoted to the game. Soon, they all stopped talking to one another. A year later, he passed away. The relationship deteriorated for many reasons beyond World of Warcraft, but when they saw news about Classic, their heart sank.”

“‘World of Warcraft’ Changed Video Games and Wrecked Lives” – Patrick Klepek

Lovely bit of “Correlation does not equal causation, but…” work here from Steve Pickering: “Fish, chips and Brexit: Restaurant diversity and UK constituency voting patterns in the 2016 EU referendum”. Essentially the greater proportion of fish and chip restaurants in a constituency, the more likely it was to vote for Brexit.

“Like many others, I have spent the week reading about and listening to analysis in the wake of Ana Kriégel’s murder. I presumed and indeed expected that someone else would state the blindingly obvious, but as yet they haven’t. So here I am. I will say it. Ana Kriégel was murdered by boys because she was a girl.”

“Ana Kriégel was murdered by boys because she was a girl – It’s hard for many to accept gender-based violence is a real problem in Ireland” – Orla Muldoon

“It was very distressing for Fiona because she had to keep saying goodbye to everybody. We had to say goodbye to her but she had to keep saying goodbye to all of us and that must have been awful for her. Absolutely dreadful. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. To see somebody suffer. It was torture. Her illness was traumatic enough and how she coped with it was amazing.”

Susan describes the death of her daughter Fiona, who died in a hospice when she was 31. We really need to reform the rules around assisted dying and suffering. Nobody would put a beloved pet through this. Why do we put people through it?


The Guardian is looking for a Visual Projects Editor to produce innovative and impactful interactive journalism.

There are still tickets available for the next news:rewired conference in London. Here’s the agenda for the day.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism are hiring a senior investigative reporter.

Jorge Arango does a newsletter about “responsible design, systems thinking, information architecture, and other topics of interest to folks seeking to thrive in complex information environments”. Sign up here.


The hateful fuckers who have been running a hate campaign against my local and heavily pregnant MP Stella Creasy are now standing for parliament against her, begging the question if it is ok to put an ‘x’ in one box and also put ‘fuck these fucking hateful fucks right out of my home town’ in another box. And judging by the hateful fuckers’ leaflets they not only want to roll women’s rights back the Middle Ages, they also want to roll back the way you spell Walthamstow to the Middle Ages as well. At least it’s consistent I guess.

Hateful fuckers

Incidentally Walthamstow was in the Domesday Book as ‘Wilcumstowe’ which means 1) a “welcoming place” and 2) has got ‘cum’ in it, so you can see why we ditched it.

TfL published some tables about Tube Capacity and they are amazing – they also remind me why I love that my hours are roughly 8:30am to 4:30pm at the moment meaning I miss the worst of both rush hours.

M’learned former colleague Conrad Quilty-Harper has been extolling the virtues of maintaining a blog still in the year of our lord twenty-hundred and nineteen. Here’s “39 interesting things he learned in 2019 (so far)”, and “12 of the smartest history TikToks”

Talking of history, this is great if you haven’t been following the debate in history circles about whether to still use the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’. What do you mean you haven’t been following that debate? G’ah. Anyways – read this from Charles West: “Reflections on the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ debate”

“But historians should also, and I would argue above all, point out that the past is not an instruction manual or a model for the present. Whatever your reading of it, early medieval history was a very long time ago: it is or ought to be largely irrelevant for contemporary political issues, whether in England or America or anywhere else. The main problem with 21st-century fascists pretending to be medieval Anglo-Saxons or Vikings is not that they have misread Bede or Gildas: it is that they are fascists.”

Poppycock! (Slight return) – both Jonn Elledge and David Squires were good on the ritual over-egging of the poppy pudding. Elledge with words – “The further we get from VE Day, the stranger Remembrance Day becomes” and David Squires with pictures and one of the best Mark Francois jokes of all time.

Feral hogs! (Slight return)

This guy is a hero: “My face became a meme”. Discovered he’d become a meme – let it lead to him living his best life.

This guy is also a hero: “The man who changed the world of sports mascots forever”

“One of his players famously said that 90% of people hate LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the other 10% just don’t know him. I’d always made fun of him because he was a kind of a portly guy, he was bow-legged and pigeon-toed – which is almost physically impossible. So I would go behind him and try to walk like him. I’d stick my belly out and the fans just went crazy. I would constantly make fun of him. Everything he did…one night he just had enough and came running out and he tried to beat the pi$$ out of me. And he really was beating the pi$$ out of me. Then he said in the newspaper the next day that the Phanatic’s violence is not good for kids.”

Twitter account recommendation of the week: @fesshole – Anonymous confessions. Often crude. But occasional works of absolute genius – for example “Back in the days before digital, I would patrol Trafalgar Sq in my lunch hour, offering to take pictures for tourists with their own cameras. I would always take 3 or 4 for them, encouraging different poses, and deliberately cut their heads off in each one.”

You can confess here – and read the unfiltered submissions here.

Enjoyable and surprisingly difficult: “The All-Star Twitter Popularity Contest” – basically asking you to guess who has the most followers out of a selection of obscure and faded celebrities.

“With the inclusion of the Gothic tale ‘Schabraco’ in its second issue, the magazine ‘The Lady’s Monthly Museum’ attracted immediate controversy and letters questioning the publication’s morality and suitability for young ladies. Despite – or perhaps because of – the outcry surrounding ‘Schabraco’, the magazine went on to be an extremely popular and significant outlet of Gothic fiction for the next thirty years.”

Now being collected into an anthology edited by Jennie MacDonald – “Schabraco and other Gothic tales from The Lady’s Monthly Museum, 1798-1828”

This article about some young people watching “Heathers” for the first time, 30 years after it came out, works on an incredible number of different levels.

“It should be noted that when The Fall brought ‘The Classical’ back into their live set in 2002, Smith left the offending line out, showing that in the new millennium the times they were a changing for everyone… even The Fall.”

Hey there fuckface. Another fascinating and thoughtful delve into just exactly what Mark E Smith meant in that brutal The Classical opening lyric. “No Obligatory Excuse: Is ‘The Classical’ By The Fall Racist?”

Many years ago in a former life I made a brand new 25 minute piece of music to accompany the Waltham Forest fireworks display. This is not it. This instead is what they played this year, a 25 minute mix where everything has a link to London’s Borough of Culture by Mighty Atom – it includes Blur, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, The Cure and Bauhuas as well as obvs East 17: “Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture Mix”

I make electronic music about the paranormal. I’ve got a slot at Headroom in November, so you could come and see me doing it live in Shoreditch. I’m also releasing a new video every week up until Christmas – here’s this week’s effort. Inspired partly by watching Chernobyl, and partly by discovering that there was a whole ASMR sub-genre where goths pretend they are whispering curses and spells at you: “Dust Magics”.