Sep 072017
 

Old Susannah returns, less feeling her age than feeling her rage. By Suzanne Kelly.

I wish we could ask the late Ian Bell, award-winning Scottish columnist who died in his late 50s, what he’d think of an award in his name that excluded anyone over 30.

Awards and prizes are a great help for upcoming journalists who need to be acknowledged and employed. The NUJ which is involved in this award with Bell’s family, have decided that young writers need encouragement. Over 30? You need not apply.

Not everyone who emerges from a degree course or NCTJ training is under 30. Many people decide to change their careers by choice or force.

Aberdeen has seen 60,000 oil industry jobs go in the latest downturn. Anyone who loves Scotland as Bell did will be concerned for the future of these people, more than a few of whom are older than 30 or, believe it or not, some are even older. 

Many people take up journalism after spending decades watching politicians and stories come and go. Older people have personally experienced more of how the political pendulum swings and have seen more scandals, triumphs and failures than their younger writing counterparts. Serious journalism students of all ages will of course read deeply into historic issues and great writers. 

Sadly, I’ve met fellow students who don’t for instance have any idea who the late great Paul Foot was.

William Faulkner said:

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

It seems the organisers of this Ian Bell award have prioritised these three traits for us.

Faulkner left out the fact writers need to earn money though, and that is a major factor as to why writers apply for awards. Any journalist going for awards who does so just for the temporary food, praise and trophies these dog and pony shows provide for the ego is not going to get far (unless they are related to someone famous in this world where nepotism extends through every sector from music and the arts through to the Oval Office).

The NUJ is part of the problem in this situation. If this were a completely private prize, then the organisers are free to stipulate that the contestants must all have blue eyes, wear Ancient Weathered MacKay and have been born in Edinburgh in 1988 if it pleases them. But when the National Union of Journalists proudly promotes a competition that excludes a sector of society over a trait they have no control over such as their age, it is discrimination.

Substitute ‘under 30’ in the competition literature for ‘black’ ‘straight’ ‘white’ ‘French’ ‘gay’ ‘over 6′ tall’ – if you need the discriminatory nature of this award spelled out to you, and you will begin to see why this is so very wrong. It’s a union and it’s saying only those under 30 need apply. Is this behaving like a responsible, equitable union?

Sectors of our culture and the media are obsessed with youth. In some sectors happily this is changing. Modelling agencies specialising in older talents realise we have a growing older population.

Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers

If an industry based on outward appearance acknowledges that older people have a great deal to contribute and are to be hired and rewarded, why on earth is a sector based on the mind’s ability to synthesise and create excluding such a rich seam of talent?

What would Bell, who was born in 1956, say about excluding people who are younger than he was when he passed for an award in his name?

His passion for Scotland – is this something he felt only the young could share? The family and the NUJ have indicated that young people may be more likely to write in Bell’s style. They are welcome to explain if that means those under 30 are sharper, better writers, more concerned with issues, and better than their older counterparts trying to break into journalism. We should be told.

The NUJ reps replied fairly swiftly to early complaints about this ageist competition. They have been asked to supply a statement on their position on ageism but have not done so yet. When they do, it will be published here.

The deadline is 15 November. Doubtless a dinner will be held for the finalists, a happy winner will make a speech, and everyone will go home after a feeding and watering, some with new job leads. Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers. Sadly that includes family members who should know better, and the NUJ, which has really compromised itself this time.

There seem to be many awards for writers under 25 or under 30. Many of these are for specific disciplines. This is not discriminatory; it makes sense to look for the best people in specialised fields. What does not make sense is telling people over 25 or 30 that it is acceptable to exclude them. The message is clear: you are not valued if you are not young. 

The NUJ and Bell’s family are applauded for commemorating a great writer. It is however a pity how they decided to do this while shutting the door on so many others.

On a personal note:

This week I found out I passed my NCTJ exams and am now qualified to write. I’ve been writing for many years about Scottish issues from cases of corruption, ineptitude, conflicts of interest, Trump’s involvement, environmental issues, animal welfare, people abused by ATOS and the system.

I’m 56. If continuing to fight against discrimination puts me at odds with a union I’ve just joined so be it.

The people who inspired me to get involved with Aberdeen Voice (an independent, not-for-profit apolitical online publication) were all over 40. We happily took submissions from people in their teens through to pensioners. Am I wrong to expect the same level of integrity and inclusiveness in the NUJ as I do from Aberdeen Voice? It would seem so. 

If this essay seems like sour grapes, it is not myself I am thinking of any more than when I’ve tried to champion Menie resident, ATOS-persecuted people, pensioners and others discriminated against. I am possibly better placed than other upcoming older journalists to find that important first job than many of them are – this kind of bias makes me fear for their futures. 

This is about a union’s responsibility to all of its members, to fighting ageism and treating it as seriously as I would any other form of discrimination. This is about hundreds of older writers who should be considered for this and other prizes. There are forces that would turn journalism into a workplace for young people only – there is a national I know of that unofficially only hires those under 25.

Youth is a wonderful thing. It is also just a bit coincidental that you can pay younger people less than older people in some situations. If your news source seems to be dumbing down, you might want to look at its inclusiveness policies – if any.

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Nov 252016
 

As the Aberdeen Press & Journal gets into the festive spirit by announcing on its front cover today that ‘there ain’t no sanity clause’ and it’s dangerous to encourage children to believe in him, Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly marvels at Damian Bate’s organ yet again, and how it has seized the spirit of good will with its attack on Father Christmas.

DictionaryAt this time of year, it’s important to realise how lucky we are, and to think of those who are less fortunate, who suffer, who are abused.

Imagine spending your days in a no-hope situation. A tyrant forces you to do things against your better nature. You are humiliated on a daily basis, and people openly laugh at what you are doing.

Let’s take a moment then and pause. We have our problems. We might have money and health worries. It’s freezing cold.

But at least we don’t have to write for the Press & Journal and Evening Express under Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates.

Some poor soul had to write the infamous ‘TRAITORS!’ article back in the early days of Trump’s planning campaign depicting councillors who dared to vote against the unprecedented Trump golf plans.

Some idealistic young thing who years ago dreamed of a career in journalism now takes orders to write articles praising Damian’s wife’s forays into running a 5 star resort (or is that 6 diamonds – as Turnip awarded himself a few years back?). Imagine the overpriced coffee, the clunky ‘temporary’ clubhouse where the invented ‘Trump family crest’* asserts itself on every piece of furniture, paper serviette and presumably loo roll too.

And you have to submit copy saying it’s fabulous.

While you are instructed to write yet another review of MacLeod House and its beautiful concrete fountain, all around you local writers are firing off Freedom of Information requests, digging into Companies House files, and uncovering stories which actually constitute investigative journalism while you try to find 250 words about why the chicken supreme is worth £40 per head, all the while ignoring the giant plaque staring at you through the clubhouse windows proclaiming that you are on the world’s largest sand dune system.

You might like to say something about this being a blatantly untrue fabrication – but you don’t really dare to do so.

At least you get paid for it. Rather like those girls around the harbour. At least they don’t have to put their name to their handiwork. And quite understandably, many of the AJL articles go without anyone claiming a byline.

santa-with-traumatised-children-creepy-santa-comAnd now this week one of you was handed an arcane, clearly deliberately provocative piece from two academics who believe perpetuating the Santa Claus fable is akin to child abuse. ‘Give me a front page story on Bad Santa’ Damian or one of his minions told you.

And you did it, didn’t you?

Did you care this angle has been done before? Was what you were going to bring to the argument so brilliant you didn’t care? Maybe you were happy to get away from Trump for a little, or you were happy to try and forget the real news stories in our area that a reporter would want to cover – Marischal Square and its genesis, who is linked to who in the curious companies Sir Ian Wood and others still keep afloat even though (theoretically) the Union Terrace Gardens parking lot scheme (for that was all it really was) is dead in the water.

Maybe you don’t want to think about the fact your newspaper (for lack of a better word) will soon need to metaphorically tug its forelock at the city council: what other newspaper would even remotely consider taking a free rent from a city council? Can you even keep track of the number of city council stories and dealings that should have been investigated by the local printed press?

No, you are now going to Google elves, Santa, and present your findings on the new throwaway theory Santa is Bad Santa. Someone else is going to look into Muse, Trump, Inspired, fraud inside the council, etc. etc. But not you or your fellow Aberdeen Journals writers.

And Result! Good for you!

The Facebook P&J page has hundreds of hits on this story. Of course most of them are ridiculing the fact your boss put this on the paper’s front cover, and some are angry that young children will see this and dissolve into tears – thus spoiling photoshoots for your next ‘adorable tot’ competition. Hits matter on Facebook to your boss – even if the paper is not exactly flying off the shelf. You may well put this into your cuttings book – another front page story for you.

At least it beats the brains out of having to type for the umpteenth time ‘breathe fresh life into the beating heart of the city’ and such. How do you breathe into a heart anyway?  How fast can you as an Evening Express reporter type the phrase ‘vibrant and dynamic?’ Do they pay you for the word much as some other professionals are paid by the hour?  I’ve always wondered.

Maybe someday they’ll give a Pulitzer for incisive, pithy front page stories about the Tooth Fairy’s negative psychological impact on children. Perhaps that brilliant headline your paper used when a young man was missing ‘search called off due to unforeseen circumstances’ about a no-show psychic should have received more acclaim – how the family must have laughed! But not today.

Just maybe your Father Christmas article will lead to bigger and better – there is no shortage of crackpot experts with degrees who write ridiculous papers to get noticed – not that the attack on the Santa belief wasn’t a serious, scholarly work. You’ll find them – or Damian will find them and tell you to write up an op ed. Can a piece about the Loch Ness Monster be that far off now? I guess we all aspire to something.

perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing

So, many of us who contribute to Aberdeen Voice will keep doing the work you’re too busy to do. We’ll keep revealing that despite Trump’s declarations to the contrary, he was definitely seeking compulsory purchase orders against his neighbours. That was an AV scoop, and it doesn’t seem you picked up on that.

Guess it didn’t have the gravitas a piece on the Easter Bunny will do when you write it.

We revealed the literally cozy relationship between the P&J and Trump International Golf Links Scotland. We found out how much money from the public purse was spent promoting the risible UTG project. Did you like looking at those lurid images of the ridiculous ramps arching over an impossible landscape of trees and open air theatre month after month?

You’ve gone all out to help the council (usually).  Remember the Evening Express story designed to lend creedence to the city’s plans for killing the Tullos Hill Deer?  The deer were going to be killed to plant trees on Tullos despite public outcry to just leave the hill, wildflower meadow and deer alone.  The trees aren’t growing, but the deer are dead.  Your paper helpfully announced ‘Two Deer Found Dead Ahead of Cull’ – implying the poor creatures needed to be culled for their own good.  Then I found out it was fully two years before the cull was proposed that the deer were found dead of unknown cause.  Your paper never did cover my story that deer had clearly been slaughtered in the Gramps – severed limbs were found.  The preposterous claim Ranger Talboys made was that the deer must have been killed somewhere else, then the poachers marched up two different hills to deposit the limbs.  I guess there wasn’t room for any of this as well as another review of MacLeod House.  The ‘cost-neutral’ tree scheme Peter Leonard of ACC forced on the taxpayer has now cost a five-figure sum – obviously that’s not newsworthy to Damian.

As I write, it’s nearly 6pm – knocking off time for you, or perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing. Does it bother you to read Monbiot, Rob Edwards, people who care about corruption, the environment, the threat Trump poses to world stability – or are you genuinely content writing about the latest P&J sponsored award show held at the AECC and who won a golden cabbage or whatever it is given out that helps generate advertising revenue and PR for your stable of publications?

From the rest of us, we feel sorry for you. It’s not news you’re writing. It’s not investigative journalism your paper offers as a norm. You are sucking up to your advertisers (remember when a certain diminutive housebuilder reportedly threatened to pull his advertising if you ever wrote a critical piece on him again? I do). The press should serve as a check and balance on the council; in the P&J’s case, the council’s cheques for ads total £200,000 a year, and press you into service.

Adios to ideals; to dreams of reporting and investigating, or choosing what stories to follow. The rest of us feel your shame, and we pity you. This has taken enough of your time though, and you will likely have a beautiful tot or beautiful bride layout to work on.

Some of us managed to believe (or half believe) the Santa Claus/Father Christmas mythology without it turning us into megalomaniacal would-be fascist dictators, preening newspaper editors whose Facebook page consists of a series of selfies and little else, or a woman in a job over her head who will do anything for money, however much that means swallowing racism, sexism and nationalism – just hypothetical examples of personality disorders, mind you.

I am very thankful. Thankful I am never going to work for you or those you serve.

STOP PRESS:  Be sure to take your children to Santa’s Grotto at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland; if you’re going to scar the offspring for life, do it somewhere where they know about great big men with odd hair promising lots of gifts to people who do what they are told to do (even if those gifts never materialise). A tenner a tyke.

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Aug 042016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over recent events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Dictionary

The answers to the world’s problems have been right under our noses all this time. Not until we elected Teresa May to run UK plc did we find out there were so many ways to solve the world’s problems. Between May and Donald Trump – who has some very interesting means of making America and the whole world Great Again – I think we’re on the brink of world peace. More on that later, but get the champagne ready.

Firstly, apologies for the late running of this service. I’ve been on a journalism course in London for a few days, then I went on holiday.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism threw its annual summer school, which was for the most part very interesting.

There were some people from Bristol who started a newspaper and are selling shares in it. It’s a whole year old and a whole new way to get local communities involved in news. To Fred Wilkinson – maybe we should try something like that in Aberdeen? Just a thought.

Anyway the highlight of the summer school was the Panama Papers. The men who received the Panama Papers leak and brought it to the world, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, gave a talk.

It was kind of boring though – unless you’re interested in minor details like who is really running the world, who’s funding wars and drug production, which countries are starving their citizens while their elite are buying London penthouses, and what companies launder dirty money.

If you for some reason do care about money flowing through a German law firm in Panama to oppressive regimes, shady billionaires and known criminals, and care about this leak which saw prime ministers (Iceland) resign, further FIFA scandal, Putin and his money-moving pals named, this may be of some passing interest.

Obermaier and Obermayer must be pretty lazy journalists; they’ve not even read all the information leaked to them, and instead are just letting anyone look into the leaked documents here.  It’s as if they wanted to share information or something.  Coming in at 11.5 million documents spanning 40 years and still growing, it might take a few more weeks for them to read everything.

Why bother with dusty old shell companies and billions of pounds when you could be out there looking for a Pokemon Squirtle? For one thing, the Panama Papers database shows there is more than just beauty, glamour and wit to be found in Manhattan’s Trump Towers.

Someone operates out of Donald Drumpf’s building a wee company called Concord International Investments. This has a wee related company, Concord Consultant Services Ltd. This small enterprise, operating from the British Virgin Islands, has some interesting directors. There’s Sheik Aly Hafiz Wahba (apparently a Saudi minister), and, er. the Isis Investment Group.

The Concord lot are tied into a company called Barfield which operates down under.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit.

Its registered address is shared with a whole host of interesting nominee companies.

I could go on – and will do if I can ever unravel it all.

But I think we can agree on one thing: even if Mr Drumpf is not directly involved in any of these companies operating out of his building (let’s face it, you might not even know who operates out of your flagship premises if you’re a mere real estate moghul), it shows that there is no bias against people from other cultures in the Trump world. Well done Mr T.

‘What do any of these companies and people do?’ you might ask. I’m sure they must do something more than transfer money around from place to place (and let’s face it, that’s hard work itself as we all know). If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. So, hunt your Pokemon by all means. Perhaps someone out there however might like to spend some time chasing down the rich and powerful using the Panama Papers leak. Just a thought.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit. It must be getting more important and popular, as there are more TV-related science programmes on now.

Did you know some people think the world is even more than 6,000 years old? I read this week that the woolly mammoths might have died from thirst. It seems when the climate was changing, their drinking water supplies started to dwindle and get contaminated by all the critters trying to get water. They all competed for the dwindling water, trampling the existing resources such as food plants into the ground, and there were too many of them to eat and drink in a world which was changing.

I mean, it’s kind of interesting to read about that kind of stuff I guess – but it’s not as if we can really learn much which is useful to us now about overpopulation in a species using up its food and other resources to the point of no return. And that brings me back to how the world’s been saved and why we should be grateful.

Climate Change: (Old English proper compound noun) Outdated fashionable notion the earth, biodiversity, and life in general were under threat of some kind

Climate Change Problem Solved! Result!

Not even a month into her stewardship of the United Kingdom, Teresa May has in one fell (very fell) swoop fixed the climate change problem: she closed the former ‘Department for Energy and Climate Change’. 

we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’

Sensibly, it’s now part of the much more important new entity ‘Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’.

I can’t tell you how happy I am.

Simple solutions to complex problems. Worried about Cimate Change? Answer: sweep it under the rug – or at least into another department which acknowledges business and energy are more important than the climate changing.

There are a few climate change denier deniers out there. They’ve had some hurtful words for our new PM such as:

“Stephen Devlin, an environmental economist at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said the department’s abolition was a terrible move by our new Prime Minister”.

He said it appeared to signal “a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government”.

“Tackling climate change is an era-defining challenge that must direct and determine what industries we develop, what transport infrastructure we construct, how we manage our land and what our diets look like. It requires a central co-ordinated strategy; if we leave it to the afterthoughts of other departments we will fail,” he said.

“This reshuffle risks dropping climate change from the policy agenda altogether – a staggering act of negligence for which we will all pay the price.”
– http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-department-killed-off-by-theresa-may

But don’t let the alarmists worry you. It’s not as if there is any history of our Conservatives appeasing businesses, and if climate change were lucrative – sorry – important, we’d probably get round to doing something about it.

Instead we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’. This is great, because it means more jobs. Furthermore, the article has over 800 comments from people calling climate change denier deniers ‘weirdos, cranks and lefties’ – so that’s any scientific or environmental campaigners’ told.

If you happen to look at statistics that show the world is warming at the same time our fossil fuel consumption is increasing, that the Maldives risk flooding (as many other places), that there are freak storm systems defying known patterns, then just remember – the world changes a lot, there are other things to think about (Pokemon, celebrity baking on ice). If there were a problem, Teresa May would be on it. So – rejoice! Problem solved.

Terrorism: (Modern international noun) The belief that violence and shock are the best means to win arguments, gain power and destroy opposition.

Terrorism – that’s so yesterday. We’re going to elect Donald Trump president, and he’s already itching to know why we just haven’t nuked the terrorists. With an incisive mind like that, should the unthinkable happen and he loses the election, we could always put him out as a diplomat. After all, talking tough is the only thing that’s respected, and we must stop being weak. Nothing says tough like dropping a nuclear bomb or two.

Once we let President Drumpf nuke a few of the terrorist strongholds (London, Paris, Tehran, Nigeria, Palestine, New York, Germany), then people will start behaving. No longer will we have people willing to die to exert control over the freedoms and behaviours of others. No, by then we’ll all be ruled by the Trump convention mentality and will conform if we know what’s good for us.

Women will stop all this feminist nonsense and realise the fulfilment they can have as being ‘a great piece of ass’ as Trump would say. Mexicans will dutifully stay put, and happily earn their pesos by sewing Trump neckties. The Chinese will stop ‘raping America’ economically and realise America is Great Again. Trump’s right: we’ve over 7,000 nuclear weapons and we’ve not used a single one. That’s hardly making good economic sense, is it?

The source for this claim is MSNBC news personality Joe Scarborough:

“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump,” Scarborough said.

“And three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons — three times he asked. At one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?’”

The Trump camp dismisses this as untrue. Scarborough fair? Not to Trump supporters.

Time Magazine also disputes the claim Trump asked about using nukes. In a recent piece it suggested that he doesn’t want to use them. Here’s a quote:

“I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody… I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody,” he said, adding that he would be “amazingly calm under pressure.” Still, Trump told the magazine he wouldn’t get rid of the nuclear weapons because “other people have them” and are “unfortunately gaining more and more.” “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them,” he added.” 

Well, if Trump says it’s ‘highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely’ that he’d ever nuke another country, that’s good enough for me. After all, he has proven time and again he’s a man of his word. If he does drop a bomb, we can not only be sure that the act will dissuade any further terrorism – we can be sure it will be the biggest, best, strongest, most respected bomb in the world.

With a Trump White House ensuring world peace by nuking some bad guys, and climate change abolished by Teresa May, I think a celebration is in order. I’ll either be in BrewDog having one or two, or in an underground bunker stockpiling water and Monsanto vegetable seeds.

Next week? If we are still here, more Panama Papers and local news.

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Feb 112016
 

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly tackles timely topics in the Granite City. From Marischal College to the hallowed halls of the Town House, it’s all one big love-in this Valentine’s Day.

DictionaryTally Ho! It’s Valentine’s Day (almost). Love is in the air! It may be hard to sniff out over the smell of pyromaniacs burning the gramps down, or the smell of marine diesel at the harbour (you know, the thick black stuff that you can taste in your throat, which the Harbour Board says isn’t as bad for you as car exhaust or plutonium).

But love is all around. I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes… it must be love. Or it’s arthritis and the gout.

Before a few love-laden definitions, the Highlands & Islands Press Awards Ball took place on 5 February.

All of the best reporters and public relations press release writers (is there a difference?) were there in their finery.

It must have been a particularly glamorous, vibrant, dynamic evening, as according to the headline it was,

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL AND LUCID OCCASION AT HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS PRESS BALL AND MEDIA AWARDS” 

Successful AND Lucid occasion. And I didn’t even know occasions could be lucid, I thought that applied to people. I guess they meant the great and the good were lucid. I’m sure some of them were just as lucid as ever, and as lucid as their prose. It must have been great for the public relations professionals to be able to drink alongside the journalists who print their press releases; that won’t be something they do every day, will it?

Among the literati glitterati in attendance were Damian and Sarah Bates, Aberdeenshire’s own high-flying power couple; our own Kardashian and Kayne.

Alas! Old Susannah’s invitation to the ball didn’t manage to arrive on time. Lots of great journalistic achievements were rewarded. Rightly so the reportage on the increased frequency with which Highland police now carry guns on routine patrols and calls. This was in truth a great bit of work.

I guess no one else is bothered that public relations firms are now on even footing as reporters. These PR gurus slavishly work on the writing element of being a journalist, freeing up a writer’s time for more important pursuits. I did try, but somehow I couldn’t find any categories for campaigning journalist on the awards list; guess that kind of thing doesn’t rate as well as the ability to cut and paste a press release into an article.

The list of sponsors looked more like the collection of institutions on my ‘To Investigate’ list (with the exception of the National Union of Journalists). This night to remember was sponsored by Diageo; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; the National Union of Journalists; Lucid PR, Events and Marketing; Highland Opportunity and Bord na Gaidhlig.

When not trying to turn the Highlands into launching pads for satellites, Highlands and Islands Enterprise wants to make sure area businesses are respecting the environment and adhering to some kind of moral code. Highlands & Islands scrape by on somewhere above £61 million a year to come up with schemes like that; I can well see what they were doing trying to enforce principles at this gathering. H&I might do well to start on its moral crusade by having a word with fellow sponsor, Diageo.

It must have been nice to see Diageo handing out awards to people who won them, instead of trying to doctor the results. BrewDog fans will remember well when Diageo tried to fix the results of a competition so BrewDog would have lost when it actually had won. Alas! Diageo were rumbled. (BrewDog’s revenge is at hand btw).

Having Diageo drinks flow at the Ball must have been a nice touch. Highlands & Islands must be very proud of the big fish in attendance, Aberdeen Journals Ltd. Their unflaggingly independent investigative journalism has turned out very well indeed for Donald Trump, advertiser, and employer of P&J’s editor in chief’s wife, Sarah ‘Face of Aberdeen’ Malone Bates. She too graced the awards I’m told.

Clearly a press awards ceremony is the right place for unelected quangos, publicity firms, and others who are similarly reproach. I guess that falls outside of the H&I accountability; corporate responsibility, corporate sponsorship, and forelock tugging is the new journalism.

You might enviously think this is the award ceremony and the in crowd to be in with; you’d of course be right. But for those that didn’t make the shortlist for a Highlands & Islands Press Award, there are lesser awards out there. The Paul Foot Awards are Private Eye’s celebration of those who actually get their hands dirty and investigate news, not regurgitate press releases. Winners have looked into all forms of bribery and corruption from Fifa to Saudi Arms sales.

Aberdeen Voice editor Fred Wilkinson didn’t take any of my calls on the night of the Highlands and Islands Press Award gala. I can’t help but wonder whether he went there on his own.

Oh well, there’s always next year. Who knows? Old Susannah might stumble on something worthy of notice by her journalistic betters before the next award ceremony.

And now for some lovely definitions.

May to December Romance: (Compound English noun) when a couple have a large age gap but are still in love.

I’m sure some of the high profile May to December couples have wonderful marriages, I guess not all of them can be as romantic as Jerry Hall marrying the Dirty Digger, or Damian and Sarah – or even Donald and Melania. Here’s a cautionary tale of broken hearts and dreams. And no one could possibly have predicted the outcome of this sad tale.

Little Claire met the Mr Darcy of her dreams in Mr Forrester, her teacher. This was ages ago in Torry. And the happy couple (minus the blessings of the girl’s parents who were being real mean, and treating their child like a child) sailed away into the sunset to begin married life. Mind,that was after the police investigated, charities condemned him, and she proved her maturity by running away from home.

A children’s charity called the wedding an ‘aberration’ and said it went against ‘moral codes of not only his profession, but of society’ I guess they just didn’t recognise real true love when they saw it. I’m sure that he always had her best interests at the forefront of his words and deeds. Ah, young love.

Alas! Perhaps Claire’s endearing young charms faded from view. Anyway, they split up, after having a few children. Apparently, she’s not crazy about him any more. No wild weekends with mates in Ibiza for Claire; no fun road trips; no partying. But she was a grown up – so the couple claimed – knowing exactly what she was doing. Sure she did.

If only there had been a Named Person scheme running then! She could have told her appointed teacher that a teacher was her husband to be, and that she was a grown up. Then the school could have thrown them a bash, and hopefully got her parents into trouble for being mean and objecting.

While not-so-little-now Claire puts her life back together, what of the father of her children? Mr Forrester is now happily ensconced at Auchenblae Primary School on the Parent Teacher Association. Will he teach again?  Will he be a Named Person? Why ever not? Wouldn’t you want him questioning your daughter about how happy or otherwise she is? PS – he apparently cheated on his first wife with – a school girl.  He was being supervised after that while teaching in Kincorth – that worked out well.

I’m just as pleased the authorities decided a prosecution wasn’t in anyone’s interest, otherwise Forrester wouldn’t have been free to be a Named Person – and we need as many people experienced with young people in the NP role as we can get. Perhaps soon he will find love again. My guess is she’ll be 16.

As to the school who hired him and the prosecution which decided there was nothing going on in the public interest? Let’s hope that just because history repeated his cheating on his first wife with a young girl, and then marrying and leaving a young girl, there is nothing in the prurient suspicion he has a thing for young girls. Heaven forfend.

Sometimes an unhappy ending is unforeseeable, just like it was for Claire. Such is this next case.

Hippocratic Oath: (from Ancient Greek) A code of ethics governing how ethical medical practitioners interact with patients.

Poor George Osborne; he had it all – beloved Cabinet member, part of the most popular British Government ever, and all-round nice guy. Alas! A patient has tarnished the Osborne silver. A woman mistook his brother Dr Adam Osborne’s professional interest in her for a two-year affair. I’m sure the good doctor was just displaying good bedside manner.

Of his breaking off the affair by text, well, a busy man sometimes has to be a bit firm, even with vulnerable people in their care.

Old Susannah just wonders how long it will take for the poor doctor’s broken heart to mend, and for him to get appointed to a nice cushy government post. This could take days; even weeks. I am sure you are as upset for Adam as I am.

There is a valuable lesson here for those pesky junior doctors who are threatening to strike for decent pay and wages. Don’t go into medicine unless you have a wealthy family and a trust fund to fall back on, just in case you are the victim of an injustice like Adam was. As to dating patients, consider that just one of the perks.

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Apr 102015
 

By Duncan Harley.

vomiting_times

In an unprecedented piece of vitriolic pre-election political propaganda, the Sunday Times (April 5th) has headlined on Nicola Sturgeon’s shoe collection and her sisters job as a phlebotomist. The Header on page 14 reads “Destined to be Queen of Scots”– who famously got her head chopped off -alongside an image of the Scotland’s First Minister waving to the cameras in Glasgow.

In the background, smiling folk take photographs and a few hold up protest banners suggesting the scrapping of Trident.

Everyone, and I include the assembled press, is smiling but there is no suggestion of a light hearted wee joke in the Times article by columnist Gillian Bowditch.

Seemingly Ms Sturgeon can’t drive, has a huge collection of shoes and is a hopeless cook. She watches “City Freedom” whatever that is and likes Annie Lennox – don’t we all?

Monstrously the First Minister dropped three dress sizes during the Scottish Referendum and her father Robin was a working class electrician.

The article compares Scotland to some “Dodgy regimes in warmer climes”, a clear reference to the de-stabilising of that Arab Spring by the US and the Western Powers.

Seemingly Nicola was “politicised” by nationalists and “like Margaret Thatcher can get by on five hours sleep a night”. This despite MS Bowditch’s assertion that Ms Sturgeon “hated everything that she (Thatcher) stood for.”

Getting it both ways is the prerogative of the stupid.

With comments suggesting that Sturgeon’s sister was a phlebotomist and quotes from “One SNP councillor” saying that – and he has known her for years – “Whatever she wants, she get’s. They don’t call her Nasty Nicky for nothing. Don’t stand in her way or you’ll regret it” there is at least some vitriol in the Times piece.

So who is this Gillian Bowditch lady?

A quick check on Google reveals 13 people in the UK with the name Gillian Bowditch and advises digital searchers to click to find personal data about all thirteen.

Which one could she be?

A skint dark skinned but nice stripper from Penge perhaps, a hot dogging housewife from down under town Stroud’s red light district or a digitally challenged cross dressing midget Elvis impersonator from Motherwell West? Who can tell.

Seemingly however the real Gillian may well be a tabloid journalist who penned an article about a “Gay contender for mayor expecting baby with lesbians” in the Times of January 18th 2015.

The text reads something like:

“IVAN MASSOW, the gay entrepreneur hoping to succeed Boris Johnson as London mayor, is having a baby with a lesbian couple and plans for the child to divide his or her time equally between two households.”

““Having a child is something I really wanted to do for so long and if I don’t do it now, my chance is over. There is never a right time in anyone’s life. It’s one of these things I just have to do,” said Massow, 47, whose baby is due in August.

“Over the past year, the businessman, estimated to be worth £40m, received offers from lesbian friends to have his child, but decided to turn to a co-parenting website.”

To read the full article on-line the Times asks for money and many will feel that it is money spent unwisely.

As for the original printed article about Nicola, apart from a very few library copies, it’s where it should be – in landfill.

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Jan 162015
 

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Duncan Harley shares his thoughts.

paris_008It rained in Paris last week. The average temperature was around 7°C with occasional sunshine.

The RER, Batobus and the Paris Metro ran much as usual. Tourists came and tourists went. The city went to work, and at the end of the day the citizens went home to eat, greet and prepare for work the next day.

Then of course the offices of Charlie Hebdo were assaulted, overnight the profession of satirist became dangerous and the citizens of Paris became frontline troops in a war involving terror.

There are those in the Muslim world who maintain that the attacks in France are a justified response to an assault on Islam. Fortunately those folk are in an extreme minority. Most condemn the assault on liberty.

The Paris murders are just that. Murders carried out by a bunch of criminally obsessive killers intent on self-imposed martyrdom.

In the long game they may have hoped to achieve something beyond notoriety, but in the short game all they have done is made a complete fool of Islam.

Unlike Christianity, Islam has no idols to view. The Prophet cannot be seen even in death. In a way of course, that makes complete sense given the sometimes awful images of a blond Christian Christ on the cross and a Caucasian Jesus in pristine cream robes fishing on the Lake of Galilee.

As for the virgin birth, well that is also a joke. Mary might well have been innocent of having sexual relations with God but, in the big scheme of things, someone impregnated her and anyone who says otherwise, to my mind, is simply a dreamer.

We in the West can write about the above without fear of assassination. At least we think we can.

So what happened in Paris?

The French have always taken care to exploit the folk in their colonies. Algeria features high on the list: used as cannon fodder in the 1939–1945 war, France’s colonial troops were used and abused by the colonial powers. The survivors were then deprived of military pension rights in the wake of Algerian independence. Many blame this old colonial attitude for the outrages of this week.

Moslems in France are second-class citizens. Underdogs deprived of respect, they feel marginalized and forgotten. In reality the French, in common with the citizens of many European countries, disrespect Jews, Eastern Europeans and on occasion even the English.

What happened in Paris is three-fold.

  • Firstly, some disenfranchised dreamers looked inward and imagined that mass murder was a way forward.
  • Some satirists died.
  • A million folk met at the Place de la République.

No matter what your beliefs, the killing of the messenger is a poor political idea. If this is the true face of Islam, then God help us all. If this is an isolated incident borne of hate, then we must address the issues. Otherwise, we should respect our neighbours’ needs and beliefs.

The murder of the journalists and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo has unleashed a black dog throughout Europe.

Let’s hope that the mongrel can be contained.

© Duncan Harley – All rights reserved.

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Sep 262014
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Dictionary

Tally Ho! For a city with no beating heart and collapsed lungs awaiting a granite web transplant, Aberdeen is somehow managing to hold its own on the cultural front. The Techfest 2014 events are very impressive and are still ongoing. Aberdeen gets ready to welcome Billy Connolly next week; if the city isn’t rolling out the red carpets, it should be.

The Big Yin will be at the music hall; tickets sold out instantly. Post referendum, this will be quite a show. That underused shady green garden is going to have an Oktoberfest. It’s all happening.

Referendum fallout is everywhere, and shows no signs of abating. Both Yes and No camps still cry foul; queens are accused of purring; political parties are accused of breaking their promises, something I can assure worried readers will never happen.

Two years on, and Aberdeen’s own referendum on Union Terrace Gardens show no sign of abating, either. The P&J, Tom Smith, ACSEF and Sir Ian Wood are still banging on about how a granite web is the city’s only salvation and how it must be built over our only existing city centre green space (coincidentally owned by you and I, and worth tens of millions).

The canals of Venice. The Eiffel Tower.The Taj Mahal. The granite web to nowhere. Yes, that would have worked. These tenacious people of course have no selfish interests as they campaign on and on and on.

In the news this week are various movements – various ‘isms’. Women are bleating on about wanting rights. Campaigning journalists closer to home are drumming up support for their advertisers’ projects – sorry – important local causes. Time for a look at some of these ‘isms’.

Feminism: (Modern English movement) – belief that women and men should have equal opportunities, equal rights and equal pay.

Well, I am just a weak, helpless female, so I got one of my male colleagues to explain to me what’s wrong with this feminism business. Apparently, it’s all about unshaven women who want to look like men, or something like that. It’s just too complex for me.

On the other hand, I did some research. You will be surprised to learn that there may indeed be instances where there is a small amount of discrimination.

For reasons known only to herself, actress Emma Watson – actress and academic scholar is trying to tell us that feminism isn’t a dirty word. For some reason, she thinks that women are not treated as well as men. I wonder why she’d come to such a wild conclusion; she’s probably just looking for headlines.

Of course Watson may object to a few inconsequential facts. Women around the world do not earn as much money as male contemporaries for the same work. Women are being forced into marriage around the globe including here in the UK. There is also the small matter that in the western world, a mere one in 4 women can expect to experience some form of sexual abuse or violence.

Women are being trafficked against their will to be used as prostitutes. Police routinely ignore women’s pleas for help with domestic violence, and yet another woman in the UK was killed by a stalker the police had been warned about many, many times before.

That ought to prove that women aren’t subject to exploitation

In short, I’ve no idea why Emma thinks that campaigning for equal treatment of women in society is something we need to do. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if she turned her efforts to something worthwhile, like backing the Aberdeen City Garden Project?

To disprove Watson’s case, some charming, anonymous people have started a countdown online as to when they plan to release nude photos of her. That ought to prove that women aren’t subject to exploitation to everyone’s satisfaction. Releasing any photos will also put her back in her place, intimidate her, and then we girls can forget all this silly feminist stuff.

For further examples of the fair treatment the fair sex gets, the 25/9 P&J carries a tale we can all have a good laugh along with.

Offshore worker Andrew Thomas has unfairly been put on the sex offenders’ register for a whole year, and will have to do some community service. He was just being a lad after all when he snuck into his female offshore co-worker’s room, set up a phone to spy on her, and saved photos of her changing and washing. It’s even funnier because he pretended to be her pal.

Any red-blooded offshore worker would have done the same. Spoilsport Kerry McKnockiter doesn’t get that this was just good fun, and somehow feels she’s been violated. Go figure. At the same time, a man who grew something called ‘marijuana’ at his home has rightly been locked up for 12 months, a splendidly fair sentence, and a great use of taxpayer money. Good on us.

As to this equal pay business that feminists want resolved, what do you need money for once you’ve got a husband, hopefully the richest one you could snare? I’d recommend pretty young girls enter beauty contests – look at the great catch Sarah ‘Face Of Aberdeen’ Malone landed when Damian Bates married the lucky girl?

Still, some women insist on working, taking jobs away from our boys. It’s only right that girls don’t get the same money as men do; after all, they’re not as strong or as smart as men are. All public sector pay was meant to be levelled out years back; this is still in progress. In fact, Torry was once asked to sell huge tracts of land it controlled to help Aberdeen City level out its pay issues.

If Old Susannah recalls correctly (remember, I’m just an old woman) – the city made a fine job of equalising pay – by lowering the salaries of some men, rather than raising women’s pay. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. More on all this here. Of course pay and pension are still wee problems (well, if you’re a girl anyway) today. All I can say is ‘calm down dear, it’s only your living wage.

We’ve had wimmin academics heckled, threatened with rape and other forms of violence.

It couldn’t be that the ‘writers’ are slavishly regurgitating whatever press releases it gets

I guess when you have extremist feminists like Caroline Criado-Perez (a foreigner, note) who wanted Jane Austin put on a bank note, then trying to frighten the weaker sex is a good strategy to get them in line.Perhaps a nice cup of tea and a pat on the head is all that these feminist type ladies and Emma Watson need.

That, and perhaps a box of chocolates and a new hat.

Yellow Journalism: The use of sensationalism, bias, and exaggeration in order to attract and/or influence readers.

“There are no concrete plans to breathe new life into the heart of Aberdeen – two years after the city Garden Project was controversially scrapped.”

– So wrote the P&J’s Dawn Morrison this week for the P&J’s Wednesday cover story, dramatically illustrated with an ornate gold picture frame with nothing inside of it. I’m sure this factual, un-emotive opening sentence will have us girls weeping into our ice-cream tubs.

I’m equally sure that, coincidentally of course, some of the P&J’s biggest advertisers do indeed have concrete plans for Union Terrace Gardens.

Well, perhaps granite-clad concrete is what they want, but there are some people who just want that green space taken over, which will magically put the business rates in the area within the reach of local shopkeepers, will reduce the unfair advantages multinational competitors have over homegrown businesses (buying power, advertising, brand recognition, and of course the use of cheap if not slave labour abroad to create projects).

It’s also very reassuring that all P&J writers, off their own bats of course, use the exact same description for Aberdeen – breathing new life into it, its beating heart, etc. etc.

It couldn’t be that the ‘writers’ are slavishly regurgitating whatever press releases or directives they get. It wouldn’t be like helmsman Damian Bates to dictate to his minions what to write, what not to write about (Anthony Baxter and his Trump-related documentaries for instance) or how to write it.

A google search on ‘breath new life’, ‘heart’, ‘Aberdeen’ and ‘Ian Wood’ will give you all the breathing, beating and throbbing you could ever hope for. It’s just amazing everyone uses the same metaphors – not that these stirring words and phrases are getting at all tedious or worn out, mind you. This whole business may have started with Sir Ian himself; and a regular breath of fresh air he is, too.

The P&J is a bastion for free thinking, freely-writing intrepid investigative journalists whose high ideals lead to balanced articles such as this empty picture frame one. Some might think that such a blatant piece of editorial belongs tucked away inside the issue, but that’s another matter. Some also think that the press shouldn’t exist to serve its advertisers’ interests or indeed the financial interests of the people who edit the news. But that is, I suppose, nit-picking.

Alas, that’s all there is time for this week; I feel the need to shop coming on, and my weakly female constitution can’t possibly continue without a new pair of shoes to cheer me up. More next week.

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Nov 282013
 

Jack Webster book coverVoice’s David Innes reviews Jack Webster’s autobiography A Final Grain Of Truth.

There was almost a sense of finality about this volume when I picked it up. ‘A final grain’, Jack? It’s as if the author’s preparing for leaving us.

All is well with Maud’s kenspeckle writer though.

The closing chapter, in summarising how lucky he feels to have experienced an active and fulfilling life, ends with optimism.

Webster isn’t ready to bow out yet.

The previous two volumes of A Grain Of Truth were well-received and sold very well.

The final part revisits several of the life-changing and life-enhancing chapters, this time to reflect more on the writer’s Buchan upbringing and how that has influenced his colourful career, most notably as a features writer in the Scottish Daily Express and in the freelance career which followed.

Maud is frequently his mirror, and more than once his North East background and down-to-earth approach has allowed him access to closely-guarded inner sanctums of the famous, most notably the reclusive estranged widow of author Alistair MacLean. That, of course, leads to a dinner and a revelation about Wallis Simpson…

Webster’s memoir also demonstrates that he has an eye and nose for a story and was frequently willing to take a chance to get it, enabled by editors whose faith he earned by delivering insightful copy almost without fail. It is sobering to realise that his successes were delivered before the internet and mobile devices became commonplace journalistic tools.

A Final Grain Of Truth also gives Webster an opportunity to give his take on modern life.

Born in 1931, his passions are the personalities, especially in cinema, theatre and sport, whose work he admired as a youth and young man. He was lucky enough to spend time with many of them. Even if several of these names are unfamiliar to those of succeeding generations, Webster’s enthusiasm has one tapping into Google to find out more.

Buchan is known for its conservatism and Webster is very much a son of the region. His parting shots include views on Royalty, trade unionism and Margaret Thatcher which will not please everyone, yet epitomise his honesty and hame-draughtitness.

JACK WEBSTER – A Final Grain Of Truth: My Autobiography

Black & White Publishing
ISBN 9781 84502 710 0
278pp
£17.99

 

 

 

Oct 242013
 

Jack Webster book coverBy David Innes.

The imminent clock change signals the approach of winter, with its darkness, greyness, drizzle, sleet, and dangerously-slippery leaves when walking or cycling.

Then there’s the misery of snow, frost and ice, not to mention the obtrusive overkill of that big commercial event six days before we enter 2014.

Christmas, for that is what I’m alluding to, does however allow book fanatics to indulge their habit.

Whatever your taste, pitch black evenings provide ideal conditions for reading, with inhospitable weather rattling the panes and the chimney can, and the TV cold in the corner due to the lack of anything worth watching.

My list for Santa is already at the rough draft stage with Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Biography sitting in pole position.

The end of year festival also encourages publishers to launch titles, to catch the Christmas market and also, one hopes, to encourage us away from the fridge, the internet and the pub.

Our friends at Black & White Publishing have sent us a review copy of Maud loon Jack Webster’s A Final Grain of Truth, a further autobiographical account of his eventful journalistic career. It’s currently being digested and we’ll carry a review in Voice soon.

The author will be signing copies on

  • Saturday 26th October at 13:00 in Waterstone’s, Union Bridge, Aberdeen, and
  • Saturday 2nd November at 13:00 in WH Smith, St Nicholas Centre, Aberdeen.

Also in from Black & White is Bob Jeffrey’s intriguing Peterhead: The inside story of Scotland’s toughest prison. That’ll be reviewed in Voice too.

Bob Jeffrey will be signing copies on

  • Saturday 30th November at 13:30pm in Waterstones, Union Bridge, Aberdeen.
May 312013
 

By Duncan Harley.

After the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last week, the media were swamped with images, news and comment about the
event.

It was of course a tragedy, and there is no getting away from that.

The backlash against the Muslims of the UK is also a tragedy, and there is no getting away from that either.

The men who killed the poor soldier had seemingly seized on Anders Breivik’s concept of attempting to bring about change through the shock of terrorist acts against random victims. Breivik, who of course famously boasted of being an ultranationalist, murdered his victims in a very public spectacle and on a scale almost unheard of since the atrocities perpetrated by the fascists during the 1940s.

He calculated, wrongly as it turned out, that his actions would be the spark which would bring about a mass revolt against what he called multiculturalism in Norway. Breivik wanted to be seen as sane, so that his actions wouldn’t be dismissed as those of a lunatic. He said that he acted out of “necessity” to prevent the “Islamization” of his country.

He got that wrong, since his actions in murdering 77 men and women simply horrified the world and led to many in Europe questioning the apparent leniency of the 21-year sentence imposed on him by a Norwegian court.

Breivik continues to make headlines by disseminating his ideas from his prison cell and has recently tried to register a political association which lists amongst its aims the “democratic fascist seizure of power in Norway” and the establishment of an independent state.

An abiding and powerful image from his trial is of Breivik in the dock, with one arm raised in a neo-fascist salute reminiscent of those, hopefully long gone, days of National Socialism. The harnessing of the power of the image for propaganda value is of course nothing new.

In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte, who was at that time a mere general in the French army, invaded North Africa, landing near Alexandria in early July and entering Cairo on the 24th of that month.

He took with him a group of artists who had the task not only of recording the Egyptian artefacts and buildings which they came across, but also of portraying Napoleon’s victories and conquests in the Nile Delta and at the Battle of the Pyramids.

Ultimately, the campaign came to grief and some revisionist historians might even consider it a complete disaster.

The French fleet was utterly destroyed by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay, and a combination of local resistance from the Mamelukes plus the intervention by the British meant that the French adventure in Egypt was virtually over by September
1801.

Not one to boast about failure however, Bonaparte returned to France with his war paintings and diaries portraying great and heroic victories. These were very well received, and by 1804 he was able to crown himself Emperor of all France. The rest is history as they say.

The advent of the portable camera in the early part of the 19th Century enabled the propagandists of the world to use images in much more powerful ways. Instead of heroic paintings of charging soldiers or victorious generals on horseback, images could for the first time reflect reality. The American Civil War, the Crimean War and the Boer War were amongst the first photo-documented conflicts.

Although the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson is often credited as being the first photojournalist, this is almost certainly not the case. His images are sharp, his composition is tight: however, somewhat like Napoleon Bonaparte, his marketing skills may have led some folk to this rather dubious conclusion.

Roger Fenton photographed the Crimean battlefields in 1853 long before Cartier-Bresson was even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes. Balaclava, Lord Raglan and the Light Brigade were amongst Fenton’s subjects as he toured the battlefields with his horse drawn “photographic van”.

Mathew Brady photographed the American Civil War. At the beginning of that war, in 1861, Brady organised his employees into groups, in order to spread them across the war zones, and provided them with horse drawn carriages. These were in fact rolling darkrooms, needed to develop the photographic plates into pictures.

Almost killed by shell fire at the Battle of Bull Run, Brady through his many paid assistants took thousands of photos of American Civil War scenes. Much of the popular understanding of the Civil War comes from these photos.

The photojournalist is not quite dead, although many have indeed died getting that shot

The Boer Wars, known in Afrikaans as the Vryheidsoorloë, or literally “freedom wars”, were two wars fought during 1880–1881 and 1899–1902 by the British Empire against the Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic.

There are literally thousands of images taken during the wars by dozens of photographers, including a few of Winston Churchill in his pre-glory days.

Things have changed in recent years however. The boundaries between the professionals and the amateurs have become blurred. Anyone with a few dollars and a strong shutter finger can record events. Facebook, YouTube and Flickr will host most images and comments. Sky News, Al Jeezera and the BBC encourage the sending-in of anything remotely newsworthy in the hope of a scoop.

The photojournalist is not quite dead, although many have indeed died getting that shot. These days though, everyone is a taker of images. The mobile phone and social media allow news, comment and images to span the world in seconds. All of us are now citizen photojournalists and when the issues with smart phone image quality are solved, as indeed they will be, there will be little need for the professional.

However who today has made the connection between extreme events and the use of social media via the “smart” phone, which can make us all promoters of the extremist elements in our midst? The Woolwich terrorists, if that indeed is what they are, are indebted to folk like Steve Jobs and that man from Microsoft.

The images on the front of the tabloids and the footage streamed into our living rooms following the murder of Drummer Rigby were not taken by professional photographers. The news teams missed the event. In fact they were not even invited. The killers of Drummer Rigby made sure of that.

They knew only too well that passers-by and onlookers could and would record the event and broadcast footage and comment around the world within minutes of it happening.

The propaganda victory for the killers is of course that we saw it all as it happened. There were a few heroic folk who intervened, of course. But at the end of the day, the good citizen photojournalists of Woolwich played right into the plans of the terrorists and took some nice snaps of the event.

Sources

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