Friday Reading S11E17

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 now in its eleventh season. Sign up here.

“An open letter to The Sunday Times to publish an apology for anti-Asian racism” – Susie Lau and ESEA Sisters

“I want to be able to say I stay in journalism because I believe in the power of the fourth estate. And that I know that the business model will eventually work itself out because democracy will always need journalism. It’s earnest and it’s all true, but I also can’t in good faith pretend that’s the only reason. If I’m really honest with myself, I rattle around in this broken industry because I like being able to call myself a journalist. It’s a huge part of my identity – it’s what makes me, me.”

“Am I still a journalist?” – Anna Codrea-Rado

Ooooooof. As somebody who has suddenly lost jobs or roles or whole departments I felt this deep in my soul, even as someone who up until a couple of years ago still defensively called themselves “a designer and journalist” cos I wasn’t sure I’d quite done enough yet to merit the j-word on its own.

If you missed it, NFL club LA Raiders got pilloried for a crass tweet in the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict that was in support of racial justice but came across – to put it mildly – abysmally. It sparked some debate about the role of social media managers and I felt all this essay about it viscerally too…

“I am absolutely guilty of dunking on the vague idea of the social media intern who just happily types away whatever stupid shit they think, and also guilty of insulting the vague idea of the ‘committee of brands’ that post callously about things they don’t understand. The truth is more brutal – the manager’s post lays out the reality of the situation, that oftentimes the actual thing being tweeted isn’t something that is in control of the person tweeting, going through layers of asinine approval from people who are disconnected from both the process and the actual thing they want to tweet about. Social media managers are in a position where they can only really give counsel – to quote the post, ‘no matter how much you prove yourself, it doesn’t matter if leadership thinks they know better.'”

“The Raiders, Social Media Managers And The Vortex of The Internet’s Hate” – Where’s Your Ed At

“‘That picture hijacked my life,’ says Mary Ann, now 65. ‘And 50 years later, I still haven’t really moved on. Are you doing this on your own?’ she asks. I’m freelancing, I tell her. Is that what she means? No, she wants to know if I’m working with a political party. Or law enforcement. ‘When you’ve lived the life I have,’ she says, ‘you still worry that maybe people are after you.’ She also tells me she’s researched me before agreeing to speak. ‘I’m a little FBI-ish myself, in a renegade way,’ she says.”

“The Girl in the Kent State Photo” – Patricia McCormick

“As the protagonist of reality you don’t expect that you’re ever going to die” by Luke O’Neil looks good but is subscriber only so YMMV.

“We used to visit our historic landmarks; now we must swear allegiance to them. We are not meant to study and scrutinise a figure such as Winston Churchill; he is now an icon who must be protected from blasphemers. Britain’s statues are now symbols of national anxiety: each one a sort of concrete voodoo doll, which if pricked will cause the whole country to bleed.”

“Compulsory worship of national symbols is the sure sign of a culture in decline” – Nesrine Malik

The grifting Free Speech Union came out in favour of the Tokyo Olympics banning people from taking the knee in demonstrations of solidarity with Black Lives Matter this summer, because of course they did, because the Free Speech Union only actually believe in consequence-free speech for white upper class kids to be able to use racial slurs and discuss eugenics at Oxbridge debating societies. What a scam.

I’ve never been able to forget this 2012 interview by Gary Younge with John Carlos about what it is actually like to make a protest for racial justice at an Olympics:

“Look at the picture and you’ll see that while Smith’s arm is raised long and erect, Carlos has his slightly bent at the elbow. ‘I wanted to make sure, in case someone rushed us, I could throw down a hammer punch,’ he writes. ‘We had just received so many threats leading up to that point, I refused to be defenceless at that moment of truth.’

It was also a moment of silence. ‘You could have heard a frog piss on cotton. There’s something awful about hearing 50,000 people go silent, like being in the eye of a hurricane.’

And then came the storm. First boos. Then insults and worse. People throwing things and screaming racist abuse. ‘N______ need to go back to Africa!’ and, ‘I can’t believe this is how you n______ treat us after we let you run in our games.'”

Occasionally I am moved to observe that in the last decade Labour has managed to lose two general elections while fielding an uncharismatic centrist candidate and lose two general elections while fielding a more left-wing candidate and there don’t seem to be many signs of that record changing in the near future. Jonn Elledge here suggests that it’s not really the politics that is making the difference anyway – it is age.

“We’ve seen a big increase in the share of the population going to university, which means a big increase in the share of the population leaving their home towns at 18, moving to London at 21, then never moving home. Roll the tape forward a couple of decades and you get the situation we’re in now – where Labour is piling up more and more votes in safe seats like Manchester Central or Hackney South, but solid Labour towns are turning Tory because they’re increasingly dominated by older people who, the data suggests, are more likely to vote Conservative.”

“It’s the demographics, stupid” – Jonn Elledge

Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. My Sarah Jane.

It doesn’t seem possible that it is ten years since we lost the wonderful Elisabeth Sladen. Here’s something I wrote in 2013 about how and why I loved her so much growing up, and still do: My Sarah Jane.

A difficult read on the unimaginable:

“I still suffer horrible flashbacks to her death. Those terrible intimate moments I will never describe. 30%-45% of parents of a child with cancer suffer from PTSD from the ordeal. I don’t know the numbers if your child dies, but I imagine it’s even worse.”


I LOLd and then I cried because it was true:

“Over the course of my life, I have wasted thousands of pounds to sit in the wet and the cold, with barely edible stadium food, mostly to watch my team underperform. No wonder owners disregard us. Our judgment is utterly flawed.”

“Fans 1, Owners 0: but don’t be fooled” – Robert Shrimsley, FT


Of course the whole thing has collapsed now, and I’ve got no animosity with fans of clubs involved in the European Super League™️ – you didn’t choose this path. But whatever happens now, even if they come back into the fold of a restructured UCL™️, they’ll always be the twelve clubs that wanted to pull the ladder up behind them. The cursed 12 that every neutral fan will always abhor. Pick City or United to support in a derby? Or Arsenal or Tottenham? A pox on all their houses. Inter were my Italian team. No more.


“People are breeding digital horses and spending real money” – Jacob Feldman

Digital things are fun, it’s just turning them into earth-burning NFTs and then sinking a load of cash into them that I don’t quite get.

New from Joel LOLby:

“When asked if they would be adhering to new relaxed-but-still-distanced socialising rules, 91% of respondents’ assuredly said they would. When asked if they trusted other people to abide by the same rules, 67% said they didn’t. This is Britain in a statistic. I know how to behave correctly, but I can see from watching you very closely that you do not.”

“Lockdown has allowed British people to indulge their curtain-twitching vices – If you’re not going out having a beer in the sun, you’re probably at home tutting really loudly about those who do” – Joel Golby

The beginning of a long list of things that I now remember that I did not miss during lockdown:

  1. Some rando on a nearby pub table idly scrolling through YouTube with their phone volume on full blast
  2. Wasps

Flashback essay from Annie Zaleski to 40 years ago when Duran Duran released what I’ve always considered to be their slightly underwhelming second single “Careless Memories”.

The first signs from Clint Mansell’s new soundtrack to folk horror movie “In The Earth” has exactly the vibes that sentence conveys.

“I was pretty fed up anyway and miserable, but I was trying to write these pop songs, so it was a bit happy-sad, a bittersweet kind of thing. But the isolation, the fact I wasn’t distracted, was perhaps the best thing that happened.”

“Jane Weaver, stepping out of the ‘drone zone’ and into some shimmering pop” – Cath Holland

Will Butler from Arcade Fire with some big thoughts here on returning to live music post-pandemic. Two stand out:

“The crowd needs tension to experience release. But now I have no desire to make tension. I want people to feel safe and comfortable.”


“I have another concern that’s hard to shake. After this pandemic year, I’m more aware of the responsibility I have not only to the people who buy tickets, but to the driver making deliveries to the show and to the family of the woman working arena concessions, people who really don’t care about what I’m doing onstage.”

I am returning to live music post-pandemic tonight, with my first gig since March 2020 that isn’t either in my garden, front room, office, or bedroom. I’m heading to Cambridge to take part in this Covid-secure live stream which you can watch for free on your laptops from 8pm.