Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A meme for the middle aged

Here's an example of what you might call an Internet meme that landed in my inbox recently. It appealed to the Grumpy Old Man that shares residence with my inner child!

Thought I'd pass it on to you. According to Darren Barefoot, that's what you do with memes.


First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a van - loose - was always great fun.

We drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We played with worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out any eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And YOU are one of them!


The author continues with a plea to keep the meme going.
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?

Filed under:
meme     Internet meme     Darren Barefoot     blogging     viral

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How to earn the trust of viewers...

Let’s add this to the resources – a transcript of Jeremy Paxman’s speech to the Annual International Television Festival.

You’d expect him to ask incisive questions – that’s his job. And he does, this time directing them to his own profession. They are not the sort of questions that he should have to ask more than once. For example:
‘Is there something rotten in the state of television, some systemic sickness, that renders it inherently dishonest?’

'What is television for?'

The questions hang in the air. Who should answer them? Step forward Channel 4 Chief, Andy Duncan who claimed two years ago that we can trust television. In the wake of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticism of television, his speech included the interesting claim that:
Big Brother winners are all role models in their way … because in the final analysis viewers choose people whose values they identify with and admire.

That’s a bit like Rupert Murdoch’s claim in an earlier MacTaggart Lecture that public service equals meeting market demand:
Anybody who, within the law of the land, provides a service which the public wants at a price it can afford is providing a public service.*

What does ITV Head, Michael Grade think? I’ve already referred to his recent speech to the Royal Television Society on precisely this question of honest television. He reminded delegates of their responsibility to maintain the trust of viewers, precisely because of the medium’s potential to betray that trust:
Television is an intimate, narrative medium. Its programmes - both fact and fiction - tell stories that inform and shape people’s knowledge and their views of the world around them.

How about BBC Director General, Mark Thompson? He is now requiring every programme maker to take part in training sessions on trust. He countered suggestions that this is an over-reaction in last Friday’s Guardian but also made a distinction between trusting the news and trusting the hype:
we find ourselves wrestling with the aftermath, not of an intricate piece of investigative journalism, but of a competition the first prize of which was a hoodie last worn by Sharon Osbourne's dog. Not of a serious editorial error in the actual BBC programme about the Queen - but of an error in a publicity tape.

What is at stake here is not public trust in a particular broadcasting organisation, but in television itself as a product and a professional practice – and not just TV journalism but all forms of television. Without wishing to repeat my argument that television is inherently an illusion and artificial construction of reality, it does pain me to admit that there may be some merit in Rupert Murdoch’s slightly rhetorical point:
For 50 years British television has operated on the assumption that the people could not be trusted to watch what they wanted to watch, so that it had to be controlled by like-minded people who knew what was good for us.*

Perhaps the best way for broadcasters to win back public trust is to trust the public.

But I would add this as a rider. Murdoch sees the free market as the mechanism to achieve this, rather than a ‘narrow √©lite, which controls British television’. Unfortunately this argument confuses popularity with quality, i.e. if ratings are high the programme must be good! Yeah right.

Instead I would make this plea to the industry: trust the public, yes, but also please credit us with some intelligence!’

* ‘Freedom in Publishing’, James McTaggart Memorial Lecture, London: News Corporation Ltd., 1989, p.4

trust    Jeremy Paxman    McTaggart Lecture     Andy Duncan    Channel 4   
Big Brother    Rupert Murdoch    Michael Grade    ITV    Mark Thompson    BBC    public service broadcasting    broadcast journalism   

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Could Channel 4 Give Your Mortgage Cancer?

The excellent Strive Notes blog was quicker off the mark than me, but I must alert Screaming Headline readers to this article in Monday's Guardian.

As preparations become more feverish for the new semester of teaching, among other things, a module called Journalism in Context, I found Peter Cole's article a potentially useful resource with its characterisation of the Express and the Mail and their reflection (reinforcement?) of the values of 'Middle England'.

Coincidentally, Caroline Wilson alerted me to another link which provides a fun distraction with its random generation of Daily Mail headlines - offering further insight into the values of Britain's second biggest selling daily.

Guardian    Daily Mail    Daily Express    middle England    Peter Cole   

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sorry - you didn't get through this time...

I’m catching up again. Since my last post, television’s use of premium phone lines has been high on the news agenda. Indeed the revelations have been rocking the nation since Richard and Judy’s Channel 4 show hit the headlines in February for its You Say We Pay scam.

Not only have Channel 4, GMTV and Five found themselves in trouble – corruption has been discovered deep in the core of public service broadcasting, providing a golden opportunity for organisations who are not fans of the BBC to make life awkward for Aunty.

In the righteous environment of radio phone-ins and newspaper comment columns, it is very difficult to sustain the argument that fakery is (and always has been) a fact of life in broadcasting. But it is. It’s the nature of the beast. That presenter might appear to be looking and smiling at you but she is actually reading an autocue. That undercover documentary might be uncovering extremist views allegedly expressed by preachers in a mosque, but it’s been edited.

Just as the Big Brother house has no function in life other than to be a setting for a TV show (demonstrating the concept of ‘reality television’ as an oxymoron), just as radio phone-in discussions themselves are astro-turfed by callers who fail to announce their allegiances to vested interests and lobby groups, so the phone-in competition constitutes an ephemeral, postmodern phenomenon, borne of the need of broadcasters to convince themselves that they have an audience but of little value to most audience members themselves.

I witnessed competition fakery myself back in the 70s. I was a guest on a music radio show whose part-time presenter only had an hour to set up his programme and check his mail to see if anyone had entered the previous week’s competition. It was a usually bit of promotion – the prize would be something like free tickets to a concert by some artist desperate to summon up an audience.

On this occasion, no-one had entered. But rather then explode the myth of broadcasting as one big happy communal activity with everyone giving the radio 100% attention, the presenter chose not to announce this impressive display of apathy. ‘Give me the name of a long road round here with lots of houses’, he asked me, off air. He then announced the winner of last week’s competition as a Mr Smith of that road (no door number, of course!).

I’d completely forgotten this incident until recently when the Blue Peter expos√© hit the headlines – not the fake competitor but the news that the original Petra had died as a puppy and had been replaced by a look-alike. It brought home the illusory quality of television and radio as environments that provide perfect breeding grounds for mass deception. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d superglued the duck to the skateboard.

Of course, it becomes a more serious issue when people pay premium rates for phone-in competitions after the winners have already been decided. The only surprise for me when this started to dominate the news agenda was that there were any genuine winners at all. I’d always assumed that ‘Mrs Bloggs of Bletchley’ was a fictitious figure and that anyone who actually phoned a TV show in the middle of the night in the hope of winning £250 for recognising that France is a foreign country beginning with F deserves to be ripped off.

ITV boss, Michael Grade believes that viewers’ trust is the most precious commodity of television. As unlicensed digital broadcasting provides a platform for a ragbag of tastes and ideologies, integrity becomes even more vital for the bona fide broadcaster. A bit like religion, broadcasting only works if enough people have faith.

Richard and Judy    Channel 4    GMTV    Channel Five    BBC   
premium rate phone-in    Big Brother    astroturfing    Blue Peter     Michael Grade