People aren’t grieving when retweeting celebrity comments

I’ve been reading about something called Celebrity Death Twitter Harvest, or the tendency for people to express collective sadness on social media when someone famous dies.

The recent death of Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn led The Guardian to ask today why celebs (or anyone who tweets) mark the passing of someone famous with such a tribute. Well, it contributes to the conversation taking place in the Twittersphere for a start. And it’s easier than buying flowers.

I’ve always thought some of the tweets seem insincere, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it to acknowledge the death of someone who has made an impact on my life. And doesn’t this go with the territory?

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Links I like 12.05.05

Reaction to the elected mayor vote in Bristol – various
Well done Bristol for bucking the national trend and voting decisively, if in small numbers, in favour of an elected mayor to lead the city from November. They were the only city to vote yes to the proposal following a pretty low-key campaign on the issue. The Centre for Cities has published some links on the issue, while the Bristol Post’s coverage of the result and early indication of who the runners and riders for Bristol’s first elected mayor has been well-informed, detailed and sharp, as good local journalism should be. Whether the result was an endorsement of the proposal or due to more negative factors is open to question, which The Guardian poses in its leader on the issue today. Having followed the debate, I’m sure many people voted yes because the current council leadership was against the idea. Anti politics and apathy were the biggest winners this week, but all is not lost. Hopefully a new way of doing things in Bristol will start to change that.

Elections – ‘We the council’ – Kevin Jump
‘Webist’ Jump provides insight into the information provided by council websites about this week’s local elections. He concludes that interest in the local elections is high and the correct information is available, but is not entirely useful and lacks focus on the needs of local users. A number of websites in the area I cover at work are included in the survey.

The policy behind the headlines

A new acronym hit the media today, with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (or NPPF), which doesn’t really trip off the tongue but has set them wagging all the same.

The new system, announced today, sets out proposals to simplify planning, which is seen by the Government as vital in creating sustainable and thriving communities in this country.

It was debated on the radio early this morning as I drove to Hampshire, and on the way home at the end of the day. And it has had a variety of reaction from the Conservative-supporting Telegraph, which has campaigned against elements of the changes, to The Guardian, which has been more sanguine today.

You can read the documents behind the headlines and make up your own mind about it.

Freedom of Information, or ‘freedom to fish’?

I’d like to share with you two views on our Freedom of Information legislation, which is the subject of some serious discussions about its future use.

The Guardian has today published a leader in defence of the Freedom of Information Act, saying that any proposed move to restrict its application would be ‘a retrograde step’.

This is in response to Parliamentary considerations on possible reform of the Act and mentions a report from the Ministry of Justice into the volume of requests dealt with by Government departments. It’s interesting that the leader states that the report suggests dealing with FoI requests is ‘increasingly onerous’, when no such language is used in the document.

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When ‘allegedly’ means ‘blatantly’ on social media

Social media users were quick today to judge this unpleasant tirade on a London tram – and who can blame them? It’s not clear what causes the rant from the woman with a child on her lap, but it seems that she was at it for long enough for a fellow passenger to film her and post the clip on YouTube.

Tens of thousands of views later, the woman is trending on Twitter and in the media spotlight after having been arrested by police investigating the incident.

The reaction to the outburst on social media contrasts with the way journalists have treated it, despite having access to the same material. Note the use of the word ‘allegedly’ in The Guardian’s report of the incident this morning, appearing to show restraint as a police investigation takes place in the background, even though anyone who sees the clip will surely come to a quick conclusion about what’s happened.

It highlights a key difference between news journalism and social media and the way they reflect on the world. In the news, the woman ‘allegedly’ makes racist comments because she has not yet been convicted of anything and newsdesks are mindful of Contempt of Court legislation. To those sitting in judgement on their laptops and iPhones, such phrases can make the old media seem flat-footed. How much more blatant can one get? Well, only time will tell.

Either way, most people agree it’s pretty disgraceful (if genuine) and will hope the police bring the case to a quick close.

Housing hits the headlines

The publication of the housing strategy has led to some interesting headlines over the weekend, which I thought I’d share below. Notwithstanding the complexity of the issues around housing in this country, it’s interesting to see how different media treat the same information. 

The Guardian played it straight on Friday with a piece setting out plans to use brownfield sites to deliver 450,000 new homes. It also highlighted a Government-backed mortgage scheme which would help first time buyers struggling to access finance get on the housing ladder.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, yesterday wrote of plans to double the right to buy discount offered to council house tenants, to up to 50% of the value of their home, with receipts being used to build replacements. 

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