Friday, February 29, 2008

Drudge report blows royal soldiering secret

Some headlines say the ginger-haired royal warrior better known for action at London's nightclubs has neutralized 30 Taliban during the past ten weeks; yet already Britain's 3rd in line to the throne is being pulled out of action now that some donkey let the word out.

An American website, the Drudge Report, broke a news blackout yesterday by revealing that Prince Harry has been serving in Afghanistan for more than two months, Terri Judd reports

To the fury of the Ministry of Defence and condemnation from the head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the website announced a "world exclusive" and proclaimed: "They're calling him 'Harry the Hero!".

The article brought to an end an agreement with the media that the Prince's deployment to Helmand be kept quiet in the interests of his safety and that of the soldiers with him.

The decision to send Prince Harry, 23, to Afghanistan under a cloak of secrecy came after the furore that followed the revelation of his proposed deployment to Iraq. Much to the Prince's frustration, General Dannatt announced in May last year that it would be too risky, fearing the Prince and his comrades in the Household Cavalry would become top priority targets for insurgents.

Immediately, officers decided the only way the third-in-line to the throne could continue to do his duty without creating an additional security risk was to send him secretly, calling on the media to co-operate in a news blackout.

By July, editors of key newspapers and broadcasting organisations were sounded out to see if such assistance would be forthcoming. Without dissent, all agreed that it was the only sensible and safe solution.

In December, days before Cornet Wales – as the Prince is known in The Blues and Royals – deployed to Helmand, editors met MoD officials and signed an understanding setting out the terms of the news blackout. While not a legally binding document, it was a statement of faith from the British press.

It is thought the source for the Drudge Report article was a story printed last month in an Australian women's magazine, New Idea. The Drudge Report is most famous for breaking the Monica Lewinsky scandal after Newsweek decided not to publish the story.

At 3.30pm yesterday the MoD received a call, confirming fears that a foreign news organisation would break the silence. A decision was taken to make a formal statement confirming the Prince had been in Afghanistan.

"I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us. This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number of overseas outlets, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations," General Dannatt said.

"The editors took the commendable attitude to restrain their coverage. I would like to thank them for that."

Like his brother, Prince Harry had trained to be a troop leader of a group of four to six Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicles. He considered leaving the Army when told it was too dangerous for him to go to Iraq but accepted an offer to retrain as a battlefield air controller.

The Queen broke the news to her grandson that he was being sent to Afghanistan, a decision she strongly supported. Except for the media, only close family and friends and as few as 15 MoD officials were told in advance.

Deployed on 14 December, he spent time at the Forward Operating Bases Dwyer and Delhi in a Taliban-infiltrated area to the far south of the province, working with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles. Although the Prince's work involved regular radio contact with pilots from several countries, they knew him only by his call sign.

He has since left Garmsir to work in another part of Helmand province, details of which cannot be reported for security reasons.

In interviews, the Prince said he was not missing the luxuries of home and was enjoying "just mucking in as one of the lads", adding: "It's very nice to be a normal person for once, I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Go Gogarty. Young Max's blog takes a hike. By popular demand.

Many of the 15 million rather discerning readers of each month are prone to airing their views via the comment page. Whew. There was a collective nose-holding at a faux-amateurish and possibly nepotistic blog written by the spawn of a professional travel writer and PR buff who often files for the esteemed Guardian. The response to the Valentine's Day initial post by this North London wanna-be traveller shocked the editors with its vitriol. And presumably this, more than the prospect of seeing scary India on his own before hitting the beaches of Goa,set Max "kinda shitting himself". Oh dear. Many of the more poisonous barbs were deleted,and his dear Dad weighed in for the family honour, but it's instructive to see the backlash against this privileged young chap.
It's not that bloggers aren't journos. But they are expected to have something worthwhile and preferably original to say. After all, the presigious George Polk prize was just awarded to Josh Marshall, a blogger, for his Talking Points Memo!
Many regulars accused the Guardian of indulging in a thinly-veiled attempt to get more free copy when the editor invited more backpackers to send in their own blogs.
After thousands of comments, Max's blog took a hike. According to the Guardian:
The message was transmitted swiftly, sometimes eloquently, sometimes wittily. His travel diary was extinguished. As an expression of mob will, it was very efficient. But that does not mean it was fair.

The skilled journalist Hilary Macaskill trawled through the comments and assembled some that touched on old media vs new media misperceptions.

Here is a post from 'traveleditor' on the day the blog came out:

Some of you have mentioned that you'd like to be given the chance to
write about your travels. We're always looking for good writers, so
feel free to drop us a line at

The next day the final paragraph of his response read:

One thing that came out of yesterday's posts was that you want to
hear a lot more from real people rather than journalists, so I'm
going to be putting up a lot more readers' recommendations and
writing. I hope you like it. I'm sure you'll let me know.

Here are some of the things people said in response to that:

February 15 11:44
Surely the one thing to come out of yesterday's posts is that
'citizen journalism' and 'user-generated content' is generally
bollocks, and people much prefer things done by professionals, rather
than well-connected amateurs?
So the opposite of what you're saying.

February 15 12:28
And no, sod "real people". I want to read people who can write and
have something to say.

February 15 13:16
I'm a little confused by the definition of "real people" as compared
to "journalists". Surely if Max was paid for the piece then surely
that makes him a "journalist" as well, albeit one that is just
starting out on his career.
Indeed, even if Max's piece was bad - which is was - I hope that he
was paid. As a travel writer and editor myself, I know how hard it is
to get a foothold in the "industry" with or without connections, and
to make a living from it. If national newspapers start making use of
"real people's" writing without paying for it, then it will become
even harder for those of us struggling to pay the rent from our
I also think that most of the complaints not so much aimed at Max
himself, but the Guardian's travel editors who chose to commission
such a poorly written piece. It seems to me that with the ever
increasing "blog" nature of the Guardian website as a whole quality
is becoming secondary to quantity. For most of us I think it is fair
to say that we would rather a travel section - indeed the Guardian
website in general - that features fewer articles, well written and
paid for at a fair rate that reflects the talent of the writers and
that has something genuinely interesting to say, as opposed to the
"will this do?" nature of many of the pieces that can be found within
the blog sections.

February 15 12:47
It's just saturating the industry with mediocrity when we should be
encouraging the best.

February 15 12:51
RE: people wanting to read articles by "real people" rather than
This comment confused me, on several points.
1) Is Max, then, a "journalist"? He's a "real person" surely (if you
insist on these two categories for people). I think it's pretty clear
wherever Max falls - that is not what people want to read. I
personally am all for reading about the experiences and
recommendations and laughs and disasters and drunken, debauched
adventures of Joe Average (or Joe Trustfund, even) but only on merit.
Only if they can actually write an interesting, informative and
captivating article. I'd sooner read fifty well-written and
appropriate articles by the same journalist than one badly-written,
grossly-inappropriate article by a civilian (arf arf) such as the one
we were gifted with yesterday.
2) That is, of course, unless the logic behind welcoming more 'real
people' pieces is so you can whitewash over this gargantuan fuck up
by publishing yet more articles of this calibre. Quality is relative,
of course. If so, I beseech you once more to stick to journalists who
have credibility and talent. Forget about "keepin' it real" which
seems to be The Guardian's mission statement of late. I think your
readers would be more appreciative of "keepin' it high quality and

February 15 13:10
"One thing that came out of yesterday's posts was that you want to
hear a lot more from real people rather than journalists"
No, I want to read more good journalism, not middle class kids on
work experience writing about their holidays,

February 15 13:50
Could the Guardian please pay a little more attention to quality and
a little less to filling up the interweb?

February 15 14:05
Hell no, the last thing we need is more "real" people writing
articles. Reality television has been the worst thing to hit
entertainment since TV was invented. Let's not lead journalism down
the same path.
I want balanced, insightful, fully researched & well written
commentary by experienced, professional journalists. I don't want to
hear opinions from a teenage trustafarian or a middle-aged housewife
from Hull and if I did, there are millions of blogs that I could
trawl for such a waste of bandwidth.

February 15 14:20
On to more serious matters. Look, Mr Grauniad editor. You run a
newspaper. Newspapers should be written by journalists, who are by
the way, "real people."
The difference is that journos' job is to write, and to find
something to write about.
Do you think Shakespeare's plays would have benefited from any Tom,
Dick or Hamlet chipping in from amidst the groundlings with a scene
or two? Would Catch 22 be any better if it was penned by my postie in
his lunch hour?...
Really. What *are* standards coming to? Any pretence that this
"citizen journalism" scam is anything more than attempts to undermine
writers' pay and job security for cost-cutting reasons is DEEPLY
God save us from newspapers trying to be all things to all people. If
we want to read boring tripe by unexceptional people, we have the
internet now. Not to mention the comments section of the Guardian.

February 15 14:21
Going on funded gap year, getting trashed and having a lot of fun -
Writing about it online so friends and family can read about it -
One of the most reputable newspapers of this century posting it on
their website - Completely Unacceptable.

February 15 15:21
The real question is - would the Guardian dare publish this in
newspaper format? It's rhetorical. I don't think the website should
become a resting place for sub-standard writing and writers. Nor do I
think it should serve as a training ground for (as far as I can tell)
fairly talentless writers to hone their "skills".
Not good enough, basically... that applies to both the standard of
journalism (I use the word loosely) and editorial standard.
I suppose I'm in the target age range for this type of article (20).
The logic behind my Guardian readership is that I will be well-
informed, inspired and engaged by what is written. It's precisely why
I advoid weblogs dripping with teenage cliches. I'm very
disappointed, to say the least.

February 15 15:21
"One thing that came out of yesterday's posts was that you want to
hear a lot more from real people rather than journalists, .."
Can you quote please? I don't remember anyone saying that. The
implication here is that Max is a journalist and we would rather hear
from someone who is out-there, living-life. Quite the opposite. We
would rather hear from someone who writes for a living, because there
is a greater chance that it won't damage our eyes just to read it.
Lastly, can I just point out that there is no conspiracy here to
decide to gang up on a random "writer" for no reason. The comments
Max's article (and this one) have received have been posted by
genuinely angry, disgusted readers who didn't expect to be assaulted
by such rubbish on The Guardian's website. You appear to be sitting
in the corner with your fingers in your ears proclaiming that you're
right and we're wrong. Maybe you should consider the possibility that
the massive volume of independent, unconnected, impartial opinions on
this article actually have a point.

February 15 16:05
Dear Andy
Here is a response to your intensely patronising final statement, as
taken from some chap on one of the sure-to-be-many Max-loathing
Facebook groups:
''The response from the travel editor is interesting. Rather than
reflecting on why people found Max's column so horrible, he seems to
think that the criticism is due to people wanting to read stories by
"real people", not "journalists". So, that means he's going to try
and take the paper even further down the road of user-generated
content, citizen journalism, and other utterly fucking meaningless
buzzwords that only serve to produce terrible, terrible journalism.
The exact system that produced Max.''
Read. Take notes. Learn.

February 15 16:43
What a can of worms and poor journalistic judgement this has been.
Having read the original blog and comments my main question is:
Travel editor: Do you think the content of the website should be far
below that of the newspaper?
Surely that can be the only reason you'd let Max's blog slip through
the editorial net.

February 15 18:06
"One thing that came out of yesterday's posts was that you want to
hear a lot more from real people rather than journalists, so I'm
going to be putting up a lot more readers' recommendations and writing."
It seems to me that, if anything, what people have been objecting to
is the arbitrary choice of one "real person" over any of the other
several hundred thousand candidates. Surely the nature of the
complaint makes clear that competent journalists have one great
advantage over "real people", viz, they write reliably interesting
and entertaining copy which will not provoke the derision of the
entire internet community. What this site should be providing is
quality writing, not the gormless witterings of its readers.

February 15 18:08
What's simultaneously so marvellous and so awful about this story is
what a paradigm it is for so much. For how the interweb can explode a
little story so quickly. For how much hatred there towards a
perceived middle class London coterie who run the media. For how un-
selfaware that coterie is about their own status. For how much
funnier cruel stuff is than all that serious nonsense. For how easy
it is to be vitriolic when blogging. And so on and so on....
The real issue here, as others have pointed out, is with the travel
eds. I don't think it honestly occurs to you - and when I say 'you',
I mean London based journos on the nationals - just how often, how
incessantly and how forcefully we are fed the stories of the lives of
a small subsection of London society, how we can't open a paper or
magazine without hearing their bleating, self-important voices
complaining about their nannies, discussing whether it's OK to wear a
mini skirt round the Portobello Road if you're over 40, and yes, just
what their kids did on their gap years. It's so dispiriting and
depressing to find that there is LESS of a cross section of a society
represented in the acres of newsprint that there were 30 years ago.
Like university education, the clock is turning back from the brave
years of working class kids taking a step up. Unis are more middle
class than ever and so are newspapers....
Sure, it's not his fault he's a painful archetype, but by god,
Guardian, didn't any of you recognise this as an article that was
going to get SLAUGHTERED by us mere provincial mortals? No, you
didn't, because you too, stuffed to the gills with your Marinas and
Cartner-Morleys, you just took it as read that he'd be accepted as
the voice of youth. That's how out of touch you are.
Yes, this whole thing has gone OTT, but don't blame your readership
for biting back for being so consistently and systematically excluded
from your version of who the world consists of - and giving an
article like that space instead. You got found out. Good.

February 15 18:08
This is yet another failure of this type of internet-based newspaper.
It's either got to be ultra high quality, or it's 'let a thousand
flowers bloom'. There's no middle ground. The failure of the latter
approach is there for all to see, and while there are a good few
thousand of us sat here at work passing the time, it's going to leapt
on, hard.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yes We Can Obama Song by

Why pay on-air rates for political ads when YouTube gets more than 3 million hits for free? Eloquence certainly is a change..

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Casualwear for the urban Feral Beast?

Always-alert Asia correspondent Vaudine England emailed The Beast from Hong Kong with sartorial tips: "I was delighted to find an ad for a t-shirt displaying "feral beast" in large letters behind what might be a garden fence. This 100 percent cotton t-shirt will only be available in large sizes "to accommodate those media egos". The shirt, designed by the hack John Curran for sveltecelt and modelled above by his cover-bitch Labrador, was featured last autumn on the Axe-Grinder Blog, posted on the UK Press Gazette website. The same blog was offering feral beast masks to journos in a competition last summer.

CBS journalists missing in Basra, Iraq

Two journalists working for the American network CBS are believed to have been abducted in southern Iraq, the BBC reports.

Police and witnesses said they were seized from a hotel in the city of Basra by at least eight gunmen.

CBS released a statement saying the two were missing and that efforts were under way to find them.

The network did not name the journalists and it requested that others refrain from speculating on their identities.

"CBS News has been in touch with their families and asks that their privacy be respected," the statement added.

The journalists were taken from the Sultan Palace Hotel, police and witnesses said.

A member of staff was quoted as saying the gunmen had arrived at the hotel earlier in the day and inquired about who was staying there. They are said to have returned later in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Other reports say the group were masked and carrying machine-guns.

The disappearance of the journalists comes amid continuing concern about the dangers faced by media staff in Iraq. International media watchdogs report dozens of journalists killed each year since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern at the fate of the two.

"Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists and the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history," it said.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Welcome to Palestine"- M Rees tosses aside Time

This is the result when an ex-hack turns to writing a series of tales about a Palestinian private dick and needs to promote them. He tosses away a Time magazine, the same way that rag had tossed him aside a year or so ago. This Welshman's still bitter, but mockingly so.

"Tsunami Tuesday" term is tasteless

"Tsunami Tuesday?" Just Say No!

Steve Outing, on, backs up Columbia University's Sree Sreenivasan: It would be egregiously insensitive for political reporters and bloggers to continue to propagate the offensive term "Tsunami Tuesday" to describe next Tuesday's multi-state primary elections -- when a "wave" of voters are expected turn out across the U.S. As Sreenivasan reports, the offensive term is already gaining widespread use in headlines and on newscasts and talk shows.
Let's face it, plenty of journalists do act like sheep on these type of things. Indeed, maybe it's already too late to stop this misguided train. (Yeah, I know, that was a mixed metaphor -- but you know what I mean.) But even if you've used the term, you can stop now.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wasn't just another "news event," but one of the deadliest disasters of all time.
Am I being overly sensitive? I don't think so. The Asian tsunami of December 2004 claimed over 200,000 lives. Making light of it and comparing that immense tragedy to a political event is incredibly insensitive and offensive. Yet already mainstream media has embraced it.

I'm persuaded by a couple of Sreenivasan's examples of similar phrases we wouldn't use: "Would we call Giuliani's drop in the polls his 'Ground Zero Plummet'?" and "We'd never say, 'Rudy's campaign fell like the twin towers.'"

Tsunami Tuesday? ... Just Don't Do It.