Freebie of the week: Good Times, Bad Times


The lovely Eleanor Riches at Acorn Independent Press writes: 

“I was wondering if you might be interested to see the new edition of Good Times Bad Times by Harold Evans. A pioneer of investigative journalism, Harold worked his way through the ranks of student journalism, through regional papers, before becoming editor of The Times. A proper veteran of print journalism, Harold was stunned by the political manoeuvrings and shady deals he would become party to there.”

Why, yes Eleanor – that would be fabulous. And here it is in the post this morning. I’ll get right on it – as soon as I’ve got to grips with my new OU maths course…

More from the blurb:

“Evans crossed swords with Rupert Murdoch, and discovered the sinister inner workings of his empire. Almost two decades prior to the hacking scandal, Harold Evans smelt the rat that broke all over the papers earlier this year.

“This fascinating story of the grisly details behind News Corp is available for the first time as an e-book, with a fully updated preface from the author, who sat mere inches away from his former employer when the custard pie hit. I’m sure this would be of great interest to your readers.”

I am too – let’s hope I can crack calculus quickly.


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Latest delivery from OU science: Scientific Investigations – and a nice coaster

Oh – and some litmus paper. I guess you can’t download that from the Internet…


Sent from my iPhone

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Weekend video: Newport State of Mind

No matter how many times I see this, I love it. “Twinned with Guangxi province in China, there’s no province finer” – beats the crap out of the original. And Amy Winehouse…

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Investigating stone circles on the Gower Peninsula

Some keen detective work



Somehow I think she’s lost interest…

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Google’s “real-time hack”

The tech world is abuzz with the news that there is a not-so secret URL hack to change a normal Google search string into a near-live search. 

Which is exciting because it makes a Google search like Twitter! And we know how much the media loves Twitter. 

Trouble is, the reports all seem to rely on users being able to access a ‘search options’ link on the Google homepage, and then limit searches to the past day. Once you’ve done that you can start tweaking the web address to narrow down your search window.

For whatever reason (UK user? Mac user?) I can’t seem to find this ‘search options’ link. 

However, on your behalf, and thanks to a useful post on ReadWriteWeb, I’ve tracked down the relevant URL, and here it is:,sbd:1&q=

It doesn’t click through – you’ll need to copy and paste. 

The crucial timing bit is the qdr:n1 

The “n” specifies minutes – the “1”, fairly obviously, specifies 1 of them. 

Change this to “s” to switch to seconds. Change the number directly after it to specify how many minutes or seconds you require. 

For a longer search, change the “n” to “d” for days. 

Then all you have to do is add your search string directly after the last “=” sign. If you’re looking for Freelance Unbound, you’d add freelance+unbound to the end of the URL…

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Murdoch good, BBC bad

Maybe not this time...

Maybe not this time...

For all his BBC connections, culture secretary Ben Bradshaw says the BBC has got too big for its boots and that News Corp boss James Murdoch raised “legitimate questions and […] genuine concerns” about its range and influence in his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival last month.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that the government will need all the media help it can get if it is to avoid being creamed in next year’s general election? It won’t get that from the BBC, after all – sometimes political neutrality can be so tiresome.

But, you know, somehow I doubt that even News Corp muscle could rescue New Labour this time around.

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Journalism: a trade, not a profession

Star responds to my enquiry about her media recession with an interesting viewpoint from the US. 

She says: 

I am seeing the profession of writing–and I do consider it a profession–being downgraded by digitization and outsourcing.

I’d disagree, in as much as I consider writing for the media or marketing (which is what we’re largely talking about here) a trade, rather than a profession.

What’s the difference? 

Well, you don’t (or shouldn’t) need a degree to practise a trade. Training, yes. Maybe vocational qualifications or some kind, especially if you’re operating heavy machinery or working with volatile chemicals. 

But journalism – or any kind of paid-for writing – doesn’t need even that. It certainly doesn’t need “professionalisation” in the sense of a university path towards qualification. (Especially given the poor match between what universities teach on journalism degrees and the requirements of the media industry.)

Why do many in the media talk about it as a profession? Mainly to try to shore up the crumbling walls of their career.

If you can professionalise a trade that is otherwise easy to enter, you can, with luck, stop people entering it. Following the law of supply and demand, fewer people in any line of work should mean higher pay for them. 

Unfortunately for this argument in the UK (and I assume in the US), a BA is now a de facto minimum standard of educational aspiration for non-underclass young people. 

This means a BA becomes much less useful as a professional filter. If around half your education leavers have one, it’s difficult to see how elitist it can be. And without elitism, it’s difficult to exclude new entrants to professions and so keep incomes up.

Oddly enough, journalism is seen as an easier degree option than, say, biochemistry, so that’ll push up student numbers. And it’s seen (rightly or wrongly) as a vocational degree that will be helpful in getting employment, which is why I suspect it’s taken the place of media studies as the soft degree of choice for some students.

The result? No real benefit for “professional” journalism in terms of keeping incomes up. But a massive downside in terms of student debt racked up by young people taking a journalism BA, with low prospects for a high income to compensate for it. 

Star underlines the horror of all this in her comment. She says: 

Writing is now “repurposing” (changing the words in someone else’s work to make it “original”) or else pulling 400 words out of your brain as authoritative. It’s educated typing, I guess. I saw an ad for 1000 articles–hey, a thousand bucks! Who could even type that much–that’s 5 novels’ worth.

Writing, and hence journalism, is valued less and less – by both the people who publish it and by those who consume it. Unlike plumbing, say, it’s a trade that people seem to be able to live without. 

Simply calling writing a profession won’t prevent it from being undermined and undervalued. At least calling it a trade makes it a bit easier to deal with psychologically.


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