BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 9, 2007 - September 15, 2007

10 Things

16:38 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Poverty costs British people £600 each per year, says the TUC.
More details

2. Israel has active neo-Nazis.
More details

3. Osama Bin Laden is known to fellow jihadists as Abu Abdullah.
More details

4. The Marquess of Blandford's real name is Charles Spencer-Churchill, although he is commonly known as Jamie Blandford.
More details

5. It takes police 25 minutes on average to fill in a stop-and-search form, according to chief inspector of constabulary Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

6. Telly Savalas was recruited to help promote Aberdeen as Europe's oil capital in 1980.
More details

7. A women's football match drew 53,000 spectators to Goodison Park, Liverpool, in 1920, a year before the sport was banned by the Football Association.

8. George Bush once locked Colin Powell out of a meeting for being late.

9. More than one in 10 (12%) of school absences are down to agreed family holidays .
More details

10. Older siblings stunt growth.
More details

Sources: 5 - Guardian (12 Sept); 7 - BBC Radio Five Live; 8 - Guardian (14 September)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Claudia Blair for this week's picture of 10 home-grown chillis.

Your Letters

16:15 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007

The article regarding the improvements to computer-synthesised voices says that "...Worrying scenarios envisaged by the researchers included a phone call, apparently from your bank manager, requesting you to confirm details of your account." Why is this worrying? How many people are on such good terms with their bank manager that they would recognise their voice on the phone?
James Johnson, Glasgow

Re McDonald's fined for bolt in meal. Brings a whole new meaning to "May contain nuts."
Adrian Jones, Edgware, UK

I really wish journalists wouldn't be so lazy by naming anything scandalous as "-GATE." We've had Diana-GATE, Squidgy-GATE, SPYGATE. I'm sure the reason the Watergate scandal was named this was because the Hotel was actually called the WaterGATE and not the WATER Hotel. I'd like to see the Monitor come up with a new improved word to replace "GATE." How about "SCANDAL"? Just a suggestion.
Ben, Bournemouth

As an ardent office layabout, I pride myself as a high achiever in 7 days 7 questions. Today I scored two. Should my boss be pleased?
Phil B-C, London

Waheeeey, actually got 0/7 for the 7 days quiz. Makes me feel better knowing I'm not a news-nerd.
Owen, Stevenage, Herts UK

In the spirit of the animals making news (Paper Monitor), perhaps we should start calling those cub reporters "Yogi".
Jennifer S, Des Moines, Iowa, US

"And this week's Most Predictable Allotting of Space goes jointly to the Daily Mail, Sun and Mirror who all manage to free up most of a page for picture of Sienna Miller... really not wearing much in the way of clothes."
You say that like it is a bad thing.
Karl Buckle, Nottingham

Kaz (Tuesday letters), I read the last Harry Potter book in nine or 10 hours, including toilet breaks and stopping for food. So my average reading speed for that book was in the region of 60 pages an hour.
Caroline, Nottingham, UK

Re Another orphan role for Radcliffe - was there some sort of competition to see how many times you could fit the term "boy wizard" into one article? Use a thesaurus, for crying out loud.
Sarah B, Southampton

Of course there'll be fewer 18-year-olds in 2020 (Random stat) - they'll all be 31 by then.
Jon Yates, Liverpool, UK

Now that the Random stat has matured into a fully fledged feature, you need some new BETA things to test. I was thinking, if the label of BETA allows you to publish content that is expected to be less than perfect, can you not introduce a Caption Competition (BETA) and also the BBC News Photographer of the Year (BETA)?
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

So older siblings stunt your growth. My two eldest girls are 5'10" & 5'11". Number three, a boy, is 6'2". Number four, also a boy, is currently 6'4" and at 17 still growing...
Research that.
Deborah Crumpton, Coleshill, Warwickshire

If something "begs the question" (Thursday letters), it doesn't prompt a question; rather it assumes to be true that which it seeks to prove.
Paul, London, UK

Ray (Thursday's letters), the answer would be "cocaine users 'getting younger'" I assume? And I've got one. It begs the question since when did Charles care about spiders' homes?
Louise, Surrey

My favourite comic

13:46 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007


dandy_comic203.gifThere's no doubt that comics ain't what they used to be. Beano, Whizzer and Chips, Eagle, Commando, Dan Dare, Buster, Bunty, Roy of the Rovers – just the titles are enough to evoke sepia-tinged childhood memories.

Most have gone the same way as Sweeny Toddler, Sid's Snake et al. And those that haven't – well, witness this explanation from the Dandy's editor Craig Graham last month about its latest incarnation, Dandy Xtreme.

"Following extensive research, we discovered The Dandy readers were struggling to schedule a weekly comic into their hectic lives. They just didn't have enough time. They're too busy gaming, surfing the net or watching TV, movies and DVDs… They required a guide, packed with the stuff kids need to know to stay in the loop - a lifestyle magazine attuned to their hectic lives, featuring all the latest trends, must-haves, must-sees and must-dos."

The Monitor is asking readers to think back to an era when the closest thing to media personalisation was those name tags your mum used to sew into your pullover the day before the start of term.

To coincide with the start of Comics Britannia on BBC Four, the Monitor is appealing to readers for their own nominations of their favourite comic.

Send no more than 100 words using the comments form below, explaining why your comic was the Korky Cat's whiskers. Any pictures can be e-mailed to and must be entitled "comics", with a description attached.

Update, day five: Misty
"Does anyone remember a weekly comic called Misty? It was based on the idea that not all girls liked fluffy stories and were more interested in gentle scares and fantasy. I had a full set under my bed until my mum spring-cleaned them. The magazine was eventually merged with something else (I think it was Diana - ponies and the like), perhaps considered more wholesome in the late 1970s."
Bec Smith

krazy203.gifUpdate, day four: Krazy
"Krazy was the best comic. Every week, it would subvert the normal comic format, with characters invading other stories, and some mad characters too! Who could forget The Krazy Gang, Pongo and the 12½p Buytonic Boy? Plus, there was the added bonus of the back-cover disguise, which could be anything from a towel to a fake mirror (or, for the April Fools issue, the front cover upside-down!). Brilliant!"
Steve Biggs

Update, day three: The Eagle
"I was brought up to read - in chronological order - Robin, Swift and finally The Eagle (published by the Dan Dare Corporation Ltd). These were deemed "educational" but still managed to feature tales of derring-do by such immortals as Dan Dare (spaceman) and Jeff Arnold (cowboy) - and had amazing centre-page cutaway illustrations of "how things work". But what my brother and I REALLY wanted to read were Beano, Dandy and Topper. My father was a dentist, so we used to sneak into his waiting room out-of-hours and feast our eyes on these forbidden fruits which were available for his lucky patients to read."
Phil Swinburne

Update, day two: Twinkle
"My favourite comic was Twinkle (published by DC Thomson), the comic 'specially for little girls' as the tagline would have it. The best strip was Nurse Nancy, a little girl who ran a hospital for toys with her granddad. The covers showed a blonde Twinkle getting up to all sorts of wholesome activities - snowman building, baking, sewing, dancing the Highland Fling and saying her prayers."
K Walker

Update, day one: Tiger
"I used to get the Dandy each week, but would take great pleasure in nicking my brother's Tiger for half-an-hour in the toilet. Who can forget all those sporting heroes - Billy's Boots, Johnny Cougar, Skid Solo? But my all-time favourite was Hot Shot Hamish - "Hoots mon, it's the hot shot!" went the cry almost every week as the rather portly Scotsman struck the ball so hard it burst the back of the net."

Paper Monitor

11:23 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In this era of the media taking itself to task for pulling the wool over the audience's eyes, it's time for Paper Monitor to shed some light on a longstanding journalistic fraud.

In stories about animals that behave in an amusing way, the animals always seem to have a witty name. At a wildlife sanctuary there's Derek the duck that thinks it's a human. At a cafe there's a Frosty the pigeon that got caught in the ice-cream machine. At the garage there's Clarkson the squirrel who lived in an engine.

Here's the deal. Sometimes the cub reporters who get these stories make up the names. Sometimes they do it with the agreement of the human protagonists. Sometimes not.

So it's hard not to be suspicious over a story about a hedgehog that survived a spin in the washing machine. In the Sun, the wildlife hospital says the creature has been named Lucky. But in the Daily Mirror, its name is Persil. Paper Monitor demands a Press Complaints Commission inquiry to find out the truth.

The Sun however is the comfortable winner of headline of the day for its take on the new footh-and-mouth disease outbreak.


And on page 29 the subs show they're on a roll with "SAT-NAIVE" for a story about the volume of gadgets like sat-navs that are left on display in cars to thieves.

And this week's Most Predictable Allotting of Space goes jointly to the Daily Mail, Sun and Mirror who all manage to free up most of a page for picture of Sienna Miller… really not wearing much in the way of clothes.

Random Stat

09:54 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007

There will be 14% fewer 18-year-olds in England by 2020, the government estimates.

Your Letters

15:32 UK time, Thursday, 13 September 2007

The stats around Facebook usage at work distort the facts. The fact is, people were already spending that much time goofing off on the internet each day while at work. Now they are just spending that time in one measurable place.
Ray Abruzzi, Brooklyn, NY, US

I'm a bit concerned about the headline Gorillas head race to extinction. I hadn't realised that it was a competition.
Pauline, Scotland

I see from the headline Cocaine users 'getting younger' that at last the secret ingredient in the fountain of youth has been discovered.
Kat Murphy, Coventry

That was my first though too. My second thought was "they really need to conduct more tests because the Rolling Stones are hardly the Peter Pans of rock".
Adam, London

I went on holiday during the school term because my parents could not get annual leave for any time in the summer holidays (Wednesday letters). At the time, my mum was in a team of eight and all had school-aged children. Company policy stated a maximum of two people could be on annual leave at the same time. Based on a six-week school holiday and parents going a fortnight each, this meant two workers couldn't go away during the school holidays.
Helen, Leicester

Here's a new, entirely non-competitive, game we might enjoy playing: I call it, "It begs the question...". I pose a question and your task is not to answer it, but to identify the headline that made me ask it. For example, yesterday's question might have been:
When did they become so suicidal?
The story that made me ask this question was: Gorillas head race to extinction.
So, today's question is:
Where can I get some?
Ray Lashley, Colchester, UK

Rory (Wednesday letters) asks what proportion of the beer-lovers surveyed were old enough to have experienced pubs in the 1970s in order to say they prefer today's boozers. Given that the survey was carried out by the Campaign for Real Ale, my guess is the majority of the respondents would be old enough to have legally drunk in pubs in the 1940s let alone the 1970s.
Ian, Winchester, UK

How very disappointing to see that Paper Monitor is in watching Heroes like the rest of us. I'd been imagining he/she as a party animal, out every night with Big Brother contestants.
Emma, London

So 23% of dads wake up when their new baby is crying. If you want mothers to breast-feed don't whine if the father - probably back at work - sleeps through the night. He's not much help in the circumstances. My healthy hunk of 22 was bottle-fed and I got up during the night more than my wife 'till he slept through
Andrew, London

I note that the random stat no longer says it's a beta feature. Amazingly fast to full production considering most of Google's offerings are still labelled beta years later.
Malcolm Owen, Swansea, UK

Paper Monitor

12:01 UK time, Thursday, 13 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

How do you know if you're cool? Is it strength in numbers, and does it matter if your champions are hot or not?

(This very question was addressed in Heroes last night, as the geeks and freaks of Union High School banded together to vote an ostracised cheerleader as homecoming queen over the "popular girl", proving the uncool masses can tip the scales in such a contest.)

The Guardian, Observer and the Independent will surely now subscribe to the notion that it's a numbers game, having topped the newspaper section of the CoolBrands list, with rankings compiled from a public poll and the opinions of a body known as the CoolBrands Council. Isn't there an adage that holds if you have to call yourself cool (or such like) then you are obviously not?

But ranked 166th, 207th and 223rd respectively - well short of, say, Google at number five or even Marvel Comics at 123rd - the papers still have a long way to go before they can hang out with the really cool kids.

So what is uncool about the rest of the papers? The Daily Mail knows its market too well to even try and so offers a free David Attenborough wildlife DVD that can be picked up from Tesco or WH Smith. Read between the lines for how cool that is.

The Daily Telegraph has an interview with a Jagger. Well they would, wouldn't they. T2 in the Times has more tips from Paul McKenna on how to get rich. Look into his eyes and know that he was never too cool for school. And the Daily Mirror gives J-Lo's Perspex sandals with black ankle socks the thumbs-up. Paper Monitor is no trendsetter but surely socks 'n' sandals should remain an arrestable fashion offence?

Meanwhile, another numbers game is being played out in the Times and the Telegraph. Each puts a gloating bar graph on its front page, trumpeting its triumph over the other in the latest ABC figures. How could this happen?

Look a little closer and the small print speaks for itself. The Times uses full-rate newspaper sales and unique users for its online version; the Telegraph opts for total newspaper circulation and monthly page impressions for its news website. None of these things are quite like the other.

And it's this tricksy use of numbers that proves why neither paper made the CoolBrands list. They have been outed as maths geeks.

Random stat

10:08 UK time, Thursday, 13 September 2007

Only 23% of fathers wake up when their baby cries, according to a survey by Mother & Baby magazine. The same survey found, 55% of dads “hardly ever or never” got up during the night to tend to their new baby, and enjoyed an average seven hours sleep a night in the first four months - against three-and-a-half hours for mums.

Your Letters

14:53 UK time, Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Regarding the article about mobile phones, would it be overly cynical of me to suggest the headline could have been "More Research Needed, say grant-hungry scintists"?
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

"Kenya wants Tsavo man-eaters back". Who, like me, was relieved to discover that the offending man-eaters Kenya want back are now dead?
Andrea, Scafati (Darkest Italy)

Regarding today's random stat, it would be helpful to know what percentage of beer-lovers are actually old enough to have experienced pubs in the 1970s. As someone who is (and certainly did), I'm firmly in the other 38%.
Rory, Sutton Coldfield UK

Damn you Sam from Leeds (Tuesday's letters). After yawning through the report on breakfast news, and again after seeing the headline on here, you've just set me off again. I'm evidently far too empathetic for my own good. Even worse, writing this message is making me yawn even more. Does that mean I have empathy with myself?
Andy Donovan, Sheffield

Steve (Tuesday's letters), a 'non-authorised' term-time holiday is actually where parents take their children on holiday so as to avoid the more expensive summer holiday periods. In effect it's the parents playing truant.
Laurece, London

Steve (Tuesday's letters), regarding the five million unauthorised school days off per year. So if we have about 15 million school age children, that means on average 1 in 3 has one day off a year. Chill out Grandad.
Jamie Campbell, Sheffield

Could the Monitor persuade the BBC News website to put dates on their list of most e-mailed stories? I keep getting caught by out-of-date stories. For example, "Russian 'sex day' to boost births" is recent, but "Jogging your way to saggy breasts" is February 2006 (I did read the rest of the stories as well).
Jo Edkins, Cambridge

Paper Monitor

11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 12 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Has anyone looked at the Daily Telegraph's front page recently? Talk about putting it out there. It has managed to squeeze on five stories - three of which have plugs for online content on them, plus [pause for breath] eight pictures, one large strapline, five promotional ads for feautres inside the paper - one of which includes a picture of legs that go all the way up to here - the FTSE and Dow Jones rates and one cartoon. The page is so busy it hurt Papaer Monitor's eyes. Has anyone told the paper that less is more? Obviously not.

The Daily Express works to such a mantra. Diana and/or Madeleine - that's its front page done and dusted for the next year or so. In fact, it's much of the inside put to bed as well. Today it devotes pages two, three, four and five to Madeleine. Keeping up the momentum will not be hard for a paper that has managed to get Diana onto at least one front page every week for what seems like the whole 10 years since she died.

Other than Madeleine, the only other face to get into every newspaper is that of Sybil - Downing Street's first cat for a decade. She makes it onto the front page of the Telegraph, but what doesn't, quite frankly. In the Independent she gets most of page five. For a nation of supposed animal lovers, this level of importance is entirely appropriate.

Talking of the Independent, is it trying to get us all sacked? With social networking sites being banned almost daily by more and more companies, part five of its how-to-master-your-pc-in-seven-days course is on, you've guessed it, social networking. But can you be sacked for just reading about how to do it?

Random stat

10:33 UK time, Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Sixty-two percent of beer-lovers think that today’s pubs are better than those in the 1970s, according to a survey by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Re: Contagious yawn 'sign of empathy'. How many of us yawned while reading this article because we wanted to convince ourselves we were really empathetic?
Sam, Leeds

100 novels in 100 days? Assume each novel is 400 pages and you spend 14 hours a day reading them. you're looking at nearly 30 pages an hour or 2 minutes per page. It's possible, although you may well get bedsores in the process. I'm not really sure it does justice to the writer though if the books are skim read though.
kaz, London

I scored 4/5 for the Metric quiz, but I thought it was a little unfair. There are seven base units, of which metre is admittedly one, but why not just put metre there instead?
Daniel Morgan, Kent, UK

Among today's more shocking statistics, we learn that more than 5 million days are lost by school children taking "unauthorised term-time holidays". Am I missing something, or this what we used to call 'truant'?
Steve, London

According to your Q&A on metric and imperial measures: "The Weights and Measures Act of 1963 abolished a set of measures that only historians would now recognise, including the drachm, scruple, minim, chaldron, quarter, rod, pole and perch." Does that mean that my local council are breaking the law then? I rent an allotment from them which is, according to my contract, 16 rods long.
Adam, London, UK

So the tabloids think Britney is fat? If she is paunchy then I am in big trouble.
Duncan, Oxford

Apparently, "233 million hours are lost every month as a result of employees 'wasting time' on social networking".
Yet no mention of all those wasting time at work reading that article...
Rob, Birmingham

Re: today's mini-quiz. Why are Japanese scientists researching which vegetables help memory loss? Surely finding something that combats forgetfulness would be more useful?
Martin, Newbury, UK

Paper Monitor

10:50 UK time, Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Page one headline from today's Times: "Will the McCanns lose their twins? See pages 6,7"

Page six from today's Times: "Child protection experts will now meet the couple to assess whether their twins, Amelie and Sean, are in any way at risk. Child welfare experts told the Times that involvement by the social services was inevitable and did not mean that the children would be taken into care."

Moving on… the Mirror is one of several papers to highlight the story of a size zero model who has been turned down by a "top London modelling agency" for being too thin. The "size zero" debate is sure to get a lot more coverage, with the independent Model Health Inquiry publishing its report on Friday and London Fashion Week next week.

On a similar tack, the Mail draws attention to Angelia Jolie's "knobbly" knees. Jolie "appears to have lost a drastic amount of weight since giving birth… in May last year".

So, are we all agreed that severe weight loss is a bad thing? Skinny/bony is worrying on a woman - curves are a reassuring sign of a healthy diet.

What then do the tabloids make of mother-of-two Britney Spears' comeback dance performance at the MTV awards?

"BRITNEY'S TUM-BACK" says the Mirror. "Star (belly) flops at relaunch". "Given Britney Spears' troubled lifestyle, attempting a comeback at a top awards show was going to take guts. And she showed them all right…"

The Mail settles for a more minimal "paunchy".

Finally, Paper Monitor apologises for overlooking an exclusive extract from Graeme Le Saux's new autobiography in yesterday's press. The ex-England player famous for reading the Guardian, addresses at some length the link between his choice of newspaper and taunts from other footballers about his sexuality.

"It gave substance to the gossip that I was homosexual: Guardian reader equals gay boy," says Le Saux.

Paper Monitor of course, is on the look out for a 12.1% rise in the Guardian's editorial standards to reflect its 10p price hike. An extract from Le Saux's biography might go some way to justifying the rise. Unfortunately, it was published in the Times.

Random Stat

10:36 UK time, Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A survey by a car insurance firm suggested 11% of drivers do not take to the wheel for two years or more after passing their test.

Your Letters

15:28 UK time, Monday, 10 September 2007

Regarding the article Could you read 100 novels in 100 days? Did anyone else find their reading speed accelerating towards the bottom? Or, like me, while thinking about reading faster, realising you'd been reading but not taking in the last few paragraphs, but refusing to 'backskip'?
Sara, Bristol, UK

I once read 100 books in one year. To be fair, I was single, unemployed and communicatively challenged (i.e. without net access). Nowadays I average 40 books a year (full-time job, relationship and all that). One hundred books in 100 days? I'd either have to be on a deserted island (with meals pre-prepared) or be reading nothing but utter trash.
Karina, Glasgow, UK

Regarding the recent Facebook controversy - perhaps these sites should be renamed social NOTworking?
Tom Calvert, Northiam, UK

I think you are being unfair to the Guardian. It is 18 months since it last increased its cover price. CPI is an innapropiate measure of inflation for anything other than interest rate setting and so you should use the RPI (currently at 4.8%). Compounding this we see that 7.3% of the price change is given by inflation and so only a 7% rise in other areas is required, which is easily covered by the increse in entries in the "corrections and clarifications" section.
Ian, Winchester, UK

Railway travel advice. Travelling out of London on Friday at 18:45, standing by the carraige door on a very crowded train. On stopping at Reading a woman passenger asked for help with a bag while boarding. The comment by the "railway operative" of "...don't travel on a Friday.." wasn't particularly helpful. But at least it gave the rest of us something to talk about as we stood for the rest of the journey.
Mark, Swindon

Keith, (Friday's letters) regarding "Daft burglar writes name on wall", wouldn't it be more interesting to write "Paper Monitor was here"? Then, to find out PM's true identity, we simply check who has been hauled up before the beak.
Leif, Aylesbury, Bucks

Paper Monitor

11:27 UK time, Monday, 10 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With the price of the Guardian rising a full 10p to 80p a pop from today, Paper Monitor is rather ruing its failure to purchase a copy of Saturday's Times, in which an intense looking Paul McKenna promised "I can make you rich" to anyone who happened to glance at the front page.

Given that inflation currently stands at 1.9%, how does the Guardian justify this 14% increase in price?

"While many news organisations are cutting staff and expenditure on reporting, the Guardian is committed to investing in… quality journalism."

Well lah-de-dah. Then again, if it's a question of shelling out 10p more or getting the same story twice (re at least one edition of today's Times, which prints "Fears over eating disorders prompt catwalk ban on younger models" on pages 22 and 26), the Guardian's argument seems to have some gumption.

But for the time being, Paper Monitor will be keeping a close watch on the paper, looking for consistent evidence of a 12.1% (allowing for inflation, you see) rise in editorial standards.

Such observations could be somewhat overlooked alongside the wall-to-wall Madeleine coverage in all today's papers, but there is room here and there for other stories, such as coverage of New York Fashion Week. And against the backdrop of slipping standards in quality journalism, it's heartening to see the normal rules of fashion journalism still apply. Plenty of pictures of glamorous, statuesque women and barely an unkind word of actual criticism from the assembled correspondents.

Oh dear, has Paper Monitor sacrificed its chances of an air kiss or two at next week's London Fashion Week?

Random stat

09:29 UK time, Monday, 10 September 2007

Our eyes are crossed for 8% of the time spent reading, according to a study by psychologists at Southampton University. Eye-tracking equipment revealed that when reading, both eyes focused on the same part of a sentence only slightly more than half of the time. More details.

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