A change of scene

I am no longer living in Brighton. I am currently enjoying a faintly nomadic existence, travelling between Surrey and Kent on a weekly basis. To reflect this, I am considering changing blog addresses. I have applied for jobs as far away as Inverness and Cork – it is high time I invested in a less geo-specific username.

Watch this space. I’d like to hear from anybody who has experience of this sort of thing – essentially a rebranding of personal social media.



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It has been a while. The last two months have involved considerable upheaval. I’m no longer based in Brighton so I’m considering changing my blog title to reflect this. While I mull the future of GoodMorningBrighton (which may become GoodMorningSutton, GoodMorningWorcester, or indeed GoodMorningInverness) here’s a pleasant verse from the first ever edition of Farmers Weekly:

Give fools their gold and knaves their power;

Let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall.

Who sows a field, or trains a flower,

Or plants a tree, is more than all.

How nice.

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Tomorrow I begin my four-day NCTJ exam campaign. Beginning with newswriting, I have approximately 80 hours in which to prove myself as a journalist and sub-editor.

Without these qualifications, it will be very difficult to persuade an editor that I’m safe on the British press. And I’m acutely aware of the importance of grades – a ‘c’ in media law might be a pass, but it isn’t going to fill an editor’s heart with optimism.

More immediately though, the newswriting exam tomorrow is impossible to revise for. Negative marking means that a single spelling error can bump your (otherwise perfect) story down to a fail, and none of us are too hopeful about a perfect story anyway thanks to a lukewarm reassurance from the lecturer that we ‘might pass’.

I haven’t made a blog post in a month and I’m very sorry. Goodmorningbrighton has lost its way (and is a good example of failed directional blogging) in that it was going to be about an alien in Brighton but quickly became yet another observational journalism blog. For the next few days I’ll concentrate on my exams, but then I’ll get back to updating it regularly and with perhaps a more coherent theme, especially if I end up leaving Brighton.

The job market looks quite lean. Regular browsers of Holdthefrontpage.co.uk and Gorkana will have seen the fluctuations in job availability and job type. The course I’ve been on has equipped me with subediting skills, so I’ll be looking at subbing positions as well as the traditional trainee reporter starting posts. It’s difficult to be optimistic, but tentative e-mails to editors and HR departments have been met with sceptical warmth.

Do you have a position available for a freshly qualified hack and enthusiastic news junkie? I can sub as well as write, on Quark and Indesign. Please get in touch and I’ll send you a CV.

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Three peers of the realm, £5bn in mystery finance, and the secretive Foundation X

David James, Baron James of Blackheath, made a peculiar speech to the House of Lords at 10:42pm this Monday.

For the last 20 weeks, he has been in liaison with Lord Sassoon, Lord Strathclyde, and a shadowy organisation he refers to only as ‘Foundation X’. Foundation X, it transpires, has big plans for what an anonymous City bank chairman calls “a major financial reconstruction”.

Lord James of Blackheath is the banker’s first port of call on account of his considerable experience in dealing with dubious finance. “I have had one of the biggest experiences in the laundering of terrorist money and funny money that anyone has had in the City,” he said to the House. “I have handled billions of pounds of terrorist money.”

Lord James has come to the conclusion that the organisation is genuine and wants to “make the United Kingdom one of the principal points that it will use to disseminate its extraordinarily great wealth into the world at this present moment, as part of an attempt to seek the recovery of the global economy.”

Anybody with a Hotmail account will recognise this sort of patter. The correspondence has not been via a Nigerian e-mail account, however – the shady Foundation X don’t want to speak to anyone other than a head of state. They need to have security clearance equal to that of the top six individuals on the planet, leaving Lord James, as he said, “between a rock and a hard place that were totally paranoid about each other.”

Foundation X wants to absorb Britain’s banks’ considerable woes with a cash injection of around £5bn, along with a £17bn transfer before Christmas if the Government fancies any help with schools, hospitals, or the Crossrail project. All they need is a phone call from somebody with sufficient superiority.

Foundation X’s large fortune is based on an amount of gold previously thought unfeasible – “more than the entire value of bullion that had ever been mined in the history of the world.” Lord James quietly dismissed the previously established figure as obsolete and told the House that the Vatican’s own gold reserves were greater than National Geographic’s out-of-date (and oft quoted) estimate.

Speculation will probably begin as to the identity of the mysterious Foundation X. Lord James has categorically denied that it is the Office of International Treasury Control (a secretive self-proclaimed “sovereign entity” that tried to buy MG Rover in 2005 under similar conditions, as well as Ecuador and then Fiji) as Hopi Sen suggests on his blog. Lord James presents whoever it is as a benevolent organisation genuinely offering Britain an interest-free cash injection that the government would have complete control over. “I’m convinced it’s bona fide,” he told ZDnet UK. “I’ve been working on this case for five months, and I’ve not found a single reason [to think otherwise].” The treasury are reluctant and are about to miss a fantastic opportunity, according to Lord James. “The problem is, the government has not carried through the checks that I want them to do and open up lines of enquiry.”

The deal looks sweet to the untrained eye, and even as a scam the proposal has soared to the highest echelons of government. Robert Colvile, comment editor at the Telegraph, seems to think the whole thing is an elaborate ruse. Have a look at Hansard here. What remains is for somebody senior to pick up the phone. As Lord James said: “We need to know what really is happening here. We must find out the truth of this situation.”

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First impressions

The i hit the news stands for the first time today, admid a flurry of speculation and the disgruntled rustling of style guides. Nobody is really sure how to print or even say the name of The Independent‘s new slimmer, cheaper alter-ego. A number of newsagent staff expressed their bewilderment at the name, contents, and target demographic of the i, and most seemed doubtful as to its longevity.

Inside the i, there’s nothing particularly interesting at all. The first page presents someting called the “news matrix”, which is fifteen news-in-brief paragraphs interspersed with useless statistics and a gratuitous photograph of Jeremy Clarkson, who has nothing to do with anything in the paper. There’s a very dumbed down introduction from the editor-in-chief Simon Kelner, but readers don’t encounter him until scanning over the “TV chef hate chart”, which (badly) outlines which famous chefs dislike each other. “See if you can make sense of our chef-on-chef hate-ogram” no full stop.

Only after absorbing this essential information does the reader learn more about the i‘s mission statement:

“…Brought to you by the award winning team at The Independent, it’s not only a news paper, but a new kind of paper, designed for people with busy, modern lives. Colourful and accessible, concise and intelligent, it’s your essential daily briefing. Packed with news, views, entertaintment, business and sport, but presented for rapid consumption, it’s the perfect way for an intelligent person to start the day – and at a much more affordable price than a cappucino.”

Once Simon has finished massaging the reader’s ego, he turns to page four which is an enormous Specsavers advert. Page five is mostly a photograph of estate agents’ signs on a street, but underneath is an actually alright article about mortgage lending, with a little graph and some analysis. Page six is a previously unseen photograph of Michael Jackson and a nib about a Ghanaian man becoming mayor of a small town in Slovenia. Page seven is an advert.

Four pages of slightly interesting news articles follow, written in simple language and outgunned at every corner by obtrusive adverts. There’s a piece speculating that Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie are homosexual lovers. Spongebob Squarepants, Peppermint Patty, Bugs Bunny and Smithers are also alleged to be gay.

The crowning moment in most readers’ decision not to buy the i again is Johann Hari’s vacuous comment on page thirteen. “I wept when Obama was elected. So why do I feel so let down now?” he whinges. The article is padded out with pedestrian opinion and finishes: “It’s long past time to put away your Obama T-shirt – that and take out your protest banner.” Hari apparently has expressed his displeasure in writing for a newspaper costing just 20p.

After two pages of celebrity guff we return to more comment in the form of Deborah Ross’ ‘If you ask me…’ column. She waffles harder than Hari, about tight shoes and a programme she likes on Channel 5.

Apart from a double page spread on how to think like a child (most of which is a photograph of a rubber duck) there’s absolutely nothing further to report until the crossword. The puzzles are entertaining, but they’re certainly not worth 20p by themselves, and nothing else in the paper is convincing, intelligent, or exclusive enough to merit actually paying for it.

The i, in essence, is not very good. There’s not very much news in it, there are too many adverts, and the comment is poor. Rather than being a slimmed down broadsheet (The Independent was always pretty bare anyway) it is a freesheet that you have to pay for. There’s no real place for it: Commuters read the Metro because it’s everywhere and has news in it, people with workable attention spans will buy the Times, Telegraph, or Guardian, and the tabloids cater for the hard-of-thinking. The i is much more like the Metro or the late thelondonpaper, in that it is mostly adverts. Unfortunately for the i, the Metro has more actual writing in it.

The i brings nothing new to our weekday mornings. It isn’t a “fasttrack to the zeitgeist”, as claimed on the Indy‘s website. It is a waffle-laced advert vehicle without the intelligence of a proper newspaper or even the basic information of a freesheet. I haven’t found a reason to buy this ‘newspaper’ yet. The i might only cost twenty pence, but that’s twenty pence too much.

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How can it be so cold in here.

At the moment, in Brighton, the temperature is minus two degrees celsius. Coldy-cold, I’m reliably told, is how cold it’s been today. I am acutely aware of how cold it is at this very moment for a couple of reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, my radiator has packed up. Whether this is a politically motivated activity or a simple electrical fault, I’ve yet to discover. The state of extreme temperature awareness has caused me to realise that I have absolutely no tools whatsoever, and even if I had tools there’s nowhere open that would sell fuses.

Secondly – and this is of great significance to the current way of thinking – my flat is horribly inefficient. It is single glazed, with elderly wooden frames supporting thin, freezing glass. On the back door there is perhaps the most environmentally unfriendly addition to a dwelling it is possible to make – a catflap. Until the catflap was installed, the inhabitants could safely switch on a heater knowing that the bulk of the warmth would stay within the confines of their home. Now, though, I switch on my heater knowing that I am effectively heating my garden and the rest of Brighton, via a 7′ x 7′ hole in the door of the property. That is when I have a heater of course – this evening I needn’t worry about the financial or environmental implications of poor insulation. Just the very real sensation of my extremities going numb, and the unfortunate predicament of being too cold to go to the lavatory.

(In other news: Does Brighton need a ferris wheel? More on that tomorrow!)

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While the pie itself was disappointing and unhealthy, the cardboard sleeve looks set to provide me with many days of use as a handy and stylish folder.

Don’t have a briefcase? Buy a readymeal! Talk about convenience food!

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