Archive | December, 2021

Happy Chriftmafs

21 Dec

The Tribune celebrated a birthday recently – not a milestone one, but still a pretty impressive number (it’s quite venerable, the Tribune). To celebrate, we reproduced an advert from its launch in the 1790s, and it’s striking how the stated mission then still resonates today, two centuries later.

Unbiaffed by Prejudice? Yef. Uninfluenced by Party? Abfolutely. Whofe Object is Truth, and the Diffemination of Every Species of Knowledge? How can you doubt it? (20 BEST POTATO RECIPES – FROM SAAG ALOO TO PERFECT CHIPS – FREE INSIDE!) Difpatched from London early on Sunday Morning? Give or take. (“Is there late football? I said is there late football? Well, that gives us at least 20 more minutes, doesn’t it? So we can we look for a better picture? We must have a better picture than this. Ask pics if they’re coming through yet. Look, it’s ‘news’. Some ‘news’ has happened and we’re a ‘newspaper’, so I was thinking we ought to try to get it in…”). Delivered in every Part of Great Britain with the utmoft Expedition? Well, see above. (“Whoever told you 7.20 for first wants shooting. We’ll have nothing for Scotland if you miss the trucks, and they may have to run long on the third at Manchester, in which case it’ll be fourth edition central London only and no slips, I don’t care if Elvis comes back to life, once the plate’s on that’s it, and we’ll have to talk about this on Tuesday because it’s SLIDING and we can’t HAVE IT.”)

Heaven knows what it must have been like trying to produce a national newspaper before there were railways, especially on the sabbath, and with the threat the mail coach might be waylaid by highwaymen just outside Finchley. Launching on 4 December, too – just in time to catch the Christmas advertising rush, although presumably they missed out an issue, as I can’t imagine that, three weeks after the inaugural paper, they published on Christmas Day. (This is one of the many unlooked-for benefits of working for a Sunday newspaper: every seven years, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday and, as all the newsagents are shut, you can have the whole of the previous week off.)

In fact, that’s going to happen next year: now there’s a cheery festive thought. On which note, may the blog take the opportunity to wish everyone an early happy Christmas, a freedom from all alphabetical viral variants and a lot more of what may conduce to the Happinefs of Society in the new year.


Who, what, why, when, wherever

7 Dec

For a second, I thought we’d done it – I thought we’d found the first anglosphere news story that gives you no clue whatsoever about where it happened.

Comedian Celeste Barber, nationality unspecified, has made fun of influencer Adelina Lazarova, nationality unspecified, in a parody video following a storm over Barber’s mocking of model Emily Ratajkowski, nationality unspecified. And where did all this happen? That remains unspecified.

Lazarova was being mocked for backflipping out of a convertible Lamborghini in high heels on social media, and Ratajkowski was being teased over a seductive bikini videoclip, so the real answer to the question “where did this happen” is, of course, “on the internet”. Nonetheless, we have a Russian-born, Emirates-based influencer doing gymnastics (in New York, as it happens) and a British-born American model famous for her globetrotting, and finally we seem to be floating free in the borderless kingdom of online news …

Except that there are still one or two clues to bring us back to earth. That “copping” in the headline: that’s redolent of a certain southern-hemisphere flavour of English. And further down, it is reported that Barber is about to tour Australia. Why would that be of interest to anyone except people living in … ah, yes. A closer squint at the byline, in Mail Online’s pale, self-effacing font, confirms it: “By Caleb Taylor for Daily Mail Australia”. The reason that Barber’s location isn’t stated in the piece is not because it doesn’t matter any more – “hey, a story’s a story!” – but because she doesn’t need to be identified to an Australian audience. This is a case of the Mail trying to sound Australian, not trying to sound stateless.

But still, with regard to the Five W’s of reporting, this is the first anglosphere news piece I’ve seen that doesn’t make any explicit effort to answer the question “where?”. Indeed, if there hadn’t been a passing reference to Lazarova’s showing-off taking place in the US, there wouldn’t have been a geographical locator anywhere in the text. And, you might argue, in cases like this there doesn’t need to be: if the news (OK, “news”) happens on Instagram, then it happens everywhere at once. The mainstream media is hesitantly becoming stateless, expanding into markets bounded only by language, but social media doesn’t even have that constraint: you can sign up to all three protagonists’ accounts in a home-country native version of the app wherever you are. The only thing that may hold you back after that is the captions to Lazarova’s selfies, which are frequently in Cyrillic.