Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's it like to work for The New Yorker?

Veteran journalist Dan Baum puts together an intriguing chronicle of his time as a New Yorker magazine staff writer (originally he 'Tweeted' it) over on his website.

Some gems:

must say, though, the office itself is a little creepy. I didn’t work there. I live in Colorado. But I’d visit 3-4X a year.

Everybody whispers.

It’s not exactly like being in a library; it’s more like being in a hospital room where somebody is dying.

Like someone’s dying, and everybody feels a little guilty about it.

There’s a weird tension to the place. If you raise your voice to normal level, heads pop up from cubicles.

And from around the stacks of review copies that lie everywhere like a graveyard of writers’ aspirations.

It always seemed strange. Making it to the New Yorker is an achievement. It is vastly prestigious, of course.

And the work is truly satisfying. Imagine putting out that magazine every week!

Yet nobody at the office seems very happy. The atmosphere is vastly strained.

I’d get back on the Times Square sidewalk after a visit and feel I needed to flap my arms.

Get some air into my lungs, maybe jog half a block. And I came to realize I had a really good job.

I could write for the New Yorker, but not have to be of the New Yorker.

Well worth reading the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Far Right politician admits lying about knife murders

The British National Party's only elected member of the Greater London Assembly, and a leading local councillor in the London borough of Barking, as admitted putting out "incorrect" (i.e. lying) statements about three (fictitious) knife murders in his borough -- action which could lead to his suspension.

The Guardian newspaper reports that the statements, made on a Youtube video filmed by the BNP's deputy chairman, were wrong and knowingly so, in a joint report from the GLA and Barking & Dagenham council.

The complaint against Barnbrook was first lodged last September after he claimed in an interview posted on YouTube and his own website that a girl had been murdered within the borough within the past three weeks. "We don't know who's done it. Her girlfriend was attacked inside an educational institute," Barnbrook said in the prerecorded interview in which he sought to highlight failings in tackling knife crime.

He also said that two weeks previously "there was another attack by knives on the streets of Barking and Dagenham where two people were murdered".

Barnbrook, who is one of twelve BNP councillors in Barking and Dagenham, said that he knew at the time that he made the statements that "there had been no fatalities in Barking and Dagenham", according to a report documenting the investigation into the complaint.

Barnbrook nevertheless refused to apologise for the statements "until knife crime is over".

The Metropolitan police confirmed that there had been no murders or incidents resulting in critical injuries requiring intensive care in the time period cited, and that murders in the area were actually decreasing.

The eternally-beige suited Barnbrook now faces a full hearing after the respective committees at the GLA and the London borough considered the investigation's report two weeks ago.

What never ceases to amaze me: the man on the street laments politicians for being corrupt, useless, etc etc, yet turns to the first -- COMPLETEY OBVIOUS -- carpet bagger coming along. Talk about being sheep ...

(As readers of this blog will know, I met Barnbrook several times during my reporting for both The Observer Magazine, covering the Mayoral elections for Yoosk.com and my new book).

Dangerous times for coverage of Israel

Dangerous times when the BBC lumbers to censure its highly-respected Middle Eastern editor, Jeremy Bowen. Shame on those pro-Zionist lobbyists who crow and allow no open debate on the Israeli-Palestinian question.

Even Jonathan Dimbleby the broadcaster has weighed into the affray, accusing the Beeb of kowtowing to pressures from outside.

Jeremy Bowen is justly regarded as one of the BBC’s most courageous, authoritative and thoughtful broadcasters; his hundreds of despatches and commentaries from various frontlines in the Middle East have been noted for their acuity and balance. Now, thanks to the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) — a body with the absolute and final authority of a latter-day Star Chamber — not only has Bowen’s hard-won reputation been sullied, but the BBC’s international status as the best source of trustworthy news in the world has been gratuitously — if unintentionally — undermined.

Not surprisingly, BBC journalists and news executives are aghast at the Trust’s blundering response to a series of complaints — from two individuals only — that, astonishingly, were given the full red-carpet treatment. Forget the here-today, gone-tomorrow headlines in the British media which gave the usual suspects in parts of the media yet another chance to bash the BBC. Far more disturbing is the impact of the ESC’s verdict on the BBC’s international reputation and on the morale of its staff in a news division which more than any other part of the corporation provides the BBC with its defining 21st century purpose.

Here here. The BBC is hoisted by its own ponderous petard, its procedures for fairness abused by those with fundamentalist views and who show almost contempt for its efforts to report accurately in very difficult circumstances.