Monthly Archives: December 2009

Another raging internet victory?!

Is the Christmas number one win by Rage against the Machine (RATM) a satisfying victory for anti-capitalism? Another achievement derived from the internet?

On the surface, Yes, of course. At first glance, the facebook group bidding to topple powerful, smug Simon Cowell off his safe number one spot was a little glimmer of hope for us all. Finally we have made a stand and decided to buy what we actually want to buy, we are no longer mindless zombies, purchasing whatever we are told to.  I was very pleased, and refreshed to see that finally people where challenging Cowell, who has essentially spoon-fed us our Christmas number ones for the past four years.

I was just about to hop on to i-tunes and make a purchase, do my bit for free will and all that…. when I was informed that, in fact, I would actually just be buying into the same Simon Cowell monopoly: Same old bank account – different song and cover.

Bubble burst. It was all to good to be true after all.

You see,  RATM – as anti capitalist as they claim to be, are actually owned by Sony, who also own rights to Simon Cowell’s artists… so the exciting battle between the powerful Cowell machine and a rebellious punk band, was simply Sony versus Sony, which equals a big fat cheque for the record company for hitting not only the number one but also the number two spot this Christmas. So even more money pouring into Cowell’s pockets whilst  the public walk around happy, thinking they’ve achieved a victory when in reality…they haven’t.

I was still pleased to see the X-Factor winner pipped at the post (sorry Joe). At least we can rest in the knowledge that the charts aren’t completely predictable! But whose to say the whole chart ‘race’ was just one big illusion, a big publicity stunt backed by Cowell?… (It is, after all very fitting, the the lines in the X-factor single, The Climb “Always going to be an uphill battle, Sometimes you going to have to lose,” describe exactly the situation poor young Joe found himself in this week. But hey! this could just be all one big coincidence). What does it all matter to Cowell who, with RATM under his label wins both ways? RATG = money and Joe McElderry = Money. Same difference to Cowell, surely?

Sadly, this kind of thing is highly likely in the world we live in today, where only a few big players make the gains. This exact same thing happened when I tried to boycott Nestle. Simple enough, you would think? Just stop buying Kit-Kats and such products that have a Nestle logo glaring back at you. In fact it’s very hard to achieve complete Nestle celibacy. The company have bought out so many companies it’s a very hard task indeed. Even if I manage to spend the rest of my life not touching another bar of  chocolate I could easily get caught out buuy investing in a Maybelline mascara for example, which is actually part of the Nestle family but sneakily appears to be completely separate. So I have to pretty much boycott half the contents of sainsburys if I want my money to stay out of the wrong hands.

So, next time we have a musical revolution, let’s do our research. For a true victory against Cowell and co. we need a band that has absolutely no ties to Sony or Mr moneybags. The internet campaign did prove one thing, however- we can rely on the public to get off their bums and act when they feel strongly about something. Maybe next year we can take our ‘people power’ and  use the internet to secure a real victory against the big guys – unless they’ve got us completely cornered?


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CAR: Don’t just swallow, chew on your facts

The truth is out there, but not necessarily on a plate.

The prospect of CAR – computer assisted reporting, totally frazzled my little brain.

CAR is a far cry from just typing in a name into a search engine. This is nitty-gritty investigative, mathematical stuff.  CAR is about requesting information that we are all entitled to know about – such as The Freedom of Information Act, and then (after probably a long wait) taking the data away and analysing it.

CAR can include all sorts of  programmes such as Excel, SPSS… and for those journos who are good with numbers this is a great way to unravel exciting stories, and challenge information we may otherwise take for granted.

Quinn, 1999. “CAR refers to the tools and techniques to help you think up story ideas. It’s about using tools and techniques to the breadth, depth and quality of reporting”.

Many Journalists have made break-throughs using CAR; Heather Brook, who helped to break the M.Ps expenses scandal, Elena Egawhary, and Stephen Grey.

(fancy slide show for those not in the know)

Okaaaaaaay. So I’m way out of my depth here, (SPSS was never my forte I have to admit). BUT I realised that even if you’re not the worlds greatest maths whizz, (ahem). CAR methods can really draw your attention to something that Journalists sometimes ignore: analysing data and fact. This should be carried out every time you research a story. You need to do this, otherwise you will just find yourself regurgitating something that might not necessarily be accurate, or true.

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Climate change – accepting the reality as a journalist

The United Nations Climate change conference, and the current buzz around it, brings home a comment made by a recent lecturer we had, Mark Brayne, about the state of the world we live in.

Although the purpose of Brayne’s talk was more geared around trauma and the psychology behind the reporting I was really hit hard by something he said: The human race might not survive to the end of this century.

I don’t know if this struck a cord with anyone else but it sure did for me. I’ve always been concerned about climate change and what we can do. However, I was quite shocked by the way Brayne delivered such a serious, depressing message in such a blunt manner, this made me realise that maybe chucking empty bottles into a separate bin isn’t quite enough. We all need to wake up and smell the carbon emissions.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Talking to Richard Tait, (the director of CJS and BBC  trust trustee), I came to realise that the state of our world is truly scary. But it’s happening. Hiding away won’t get us anywhere, so we as journalists (and just as people) need to buck up and face up to it. This situation kind of mirrors what we’ve been learning all year in our online lectures – journalists have to accept the change in media technology if they want to survive. It’s the same with the environment: it’s happening and it’s happening fast, so we need to be prepared.  As people we need to start to try and change our behaviour, and as journalists we need to get ourselves prepared for potential disasters so that we can be ready to go out there and tell the story to the world.

For a long time, no one really thought about climate change. From the 80s it was brought into the public eye but with a big debate over whether it was a natural cycle or a man made catastrophe. Now there has been a lot more weight added to the side that climate change is the real deal. The next stage is to accept this, because we have just crept out of the deliberating stage we are a bit behind. We need to speed up our reaction to our rapidly changing world.

In my view not enough people have been scared into this truth. More people like Brayne need to be going out there and giving people the harsh realities of the future. Because we’re going to be reporting on far more heart-breaking ‘natural’ disasters as we head into the decades to come.

“My position is that journalists need to recognise that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that climate change is taking place and it is man made.” says Tait. “Certainly the broadcasters need to continue to cover the arguments of the  climate change sceptics when appropriate, but not on the basis that scientific opinion is equally split on the issue.”

Because we have just crept out of the deliberating stage we are a bit behind. We need to speed up our reaction to this reality. Otherwise we won’t be able to keep up with the crazy way our world is responding to our carelessness. It’s a bleak view but we need to prepare for covering more floods, more storms, more deaths. Hiding or turning away just won’t get us anywhere. Let’s hope people have it in them to care.

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Putting Cardiff on a car diet

Cut back on cars, not just carbs this New Year.

Cardiff Council plan to introduce car clubs to the city, as part of their strategy to cut down the numbers of cars on the roads.

This is part of Cardiff’s wider Sustainable Travel Plan which, if all goes well, will be implemented in other parts of Wales. The Council has already developed green alternatives that aim to cut down on cars, such as park and ride schemes, improving cycling facilities, and a drive to work car share scheme. They also plan to launch a new car club next year, to encourage people to rent out a vehicle instead of owning their own.

Hopefully the public will be inspired to take up a car diet for their New Years resolution. Less cars will mean a reduction in problems such as traffic, parking and of course the big greasy beast that is pollution, making the city a more sustainable and enjoyable place to live.

Cardiff’s sustainable travel plan:

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Transport Minister says, “Commuter levels in and around Cardiff have increased significantly over the past few years. This is an exciting opportunity to develop and implement a range of innovative transport solutions which will benefit the 210,000 people who travel into the city on a daily basis.”

Executive Minister for Transport, Delme Bowen expands on car sharing and car club schemes:

Car Clubs

Cardiff Council is currently in the process of awarding a contract for an operator to run a car club in Cardiff. It is hoped that car clubs will encourage residents to rent instead of buying their own vehicle.  “A car club, along with car sharing, helps to promote choice and the greater use of sustainable modes of travel.” say Cardiff Council.

Car clubs follow a model that has been around since the 1970s in Europe, and is now used in many cities all over the world.

Car clubs are new to Cardiff, but they have been implemented overseas since the 1970s.

Scientific studies and customer surveys have provided substantial evidence that car clubs can help cut down on toxic output. More Options for Energy Efficient Mobility through Car Sharing (MOMO) have provided a paper bursting with the advantages of car hire.

The club scheme does not only yield green benefits – it is also hugely cost-effective for users. People will cut down on the high annual cost of tax and insurance, with the car company responsible for overall maintenance.

“The car sharing scheme is part of the answer to dealing with Cardiff’s congestion problem and provides people living in Cardiff with another option for how they go about their daily business.” says Gwenllian Lansdown, a Plyd Cymru Councillor who backed an 100-strong signature petition last year, urging the city council to support such a car club scheme. “This scheme has proved successful in other cities across the globe and I look forward to it starting in Cardiff” says Landsdown.

Car clubs will reduce congestion in the city.

A chosen car company will operate their rental service on behalf of the Council. If the scheme is successful, the contract will be renewed. Richard Drew, the South West Manager of City Car Club, is currently responsible for the plans in Cardiff. “We’ve been informed that we’ve been the most successful bidder but they haven’t made a final decision to say that we’re definitely going to go ahead yet” he explains.

The clubs would be aimed at people who would consider buying a second car, or those who are not completely dependent on having one. Users would pay a one off membership fee of around £75 and then they would pay around £3 an hour for car hire.

“If all goes well, we’re looking to start  the early part of spring next

Feedback has been positive towards car sharing and car clubs.

year.” says Drew. Before then, the company will need to decide where to base their cars. Drew explains, “what we’d be looking for in the first instance is people that know the area well that can suggest places where there’s real issues with parking.”

So how is the public responding to the Council’s Sustainable travel plan? “Feedback has been good so far, and car sharing generally is increasing. In Cardiff County Council alone there’s 18,000 people both recycling and car sharing. That’s looking good.” says Delme Bowen.

It looks like car slimming plans are running smoothly. Let’s hope the city won’t crash diet but will maintain a regular slimming regime, with healthy portions of sharing and regular car club rental.

Extreme car sharing:

Hitchhike to Romania.

How many people can you fit into a Smart car?

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