BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 3, 2009 - May 9, 2009

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Monitor: A bumper crop of letters to compensate for yesterday's epistolary vacuum.

This works for yawning not sneezing - for sneezing it's putting your finger lengthways under your nose.
Katie Brice, Bristol, England

I was told a trick to stop a sneeze, and it has worked for me so far in life - bite your lower lip, fairly hard, when you feel that first nasal tingle, and you won't sneeze. Oh, and while we're at it, does anyone have a definitive, reliable cure for hiccoughs?
Mouse, Dorking/Farnham

I think Nia Griffiths may be getting mixed up with how to suck a boiled sweet. As for preventing a sneeze, my grandmother always told us to press a finger on the centre of our forehead and make a little circling action. Try it - it works.
Liz, Staffordshire

Oh come on. That headline really did promise so much more...
Tom K Hawkey, Nottingham, UK

What are the rules again on posting here? Obviously whatever we say has to appeal to perfectionists, but I forget what is frowned upon. I only say it because I was about to comment on a sports story and worried about the wrath that might ensue...
Tom Webb, Epsom, UK

Couldn't you have chosen another picture for the caption competition this week? There are those of us who find these plastinated corpses repellent. Sorry, but I couldn't even look at the picture. Or want to read the captions.
Patrick M, Singapore

Following the blogging and expenses fiascos, am I the only one who saw this headline, and thought that the government had yet another controversy to deal with?
Graeme, Dundee

"Pygmy hogs stand just 25cm-tall (10in) and weigh only 6-9kg (13-20lb)." Conveniently around the same length as a baguette.
Jon Barnes, Bridgend

Can we have a polite ripple of applause for Fiona Lambert of Asda for giving us the phrase "ladies that are blessed in the chest department"?
HB, London

Bird-brained nominative determinism for you.
Juliet G, London

Best headline I've seen in some time.
Jen, Oxford, UK

10 things we didn't know this time last week

15:27 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

lions_226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. There is a real place called Hicksville.
More details

2. Britain once sent an envoy with a quadruple-barrelled name to Moscow - Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurley Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.
More details

3. Sikhs do not have to wear motorcycle crash helmets.
More details (the Guardian)

4. Napoleon wrote chick-lit.
More details (the Guardian)

5. John Prescott's toilet seat broke twice.
More details

6. Tom Hanks watches Loose Women.
More details (Daily Mirror)

7. Youth hostelling was invented in Germany in 1912.
More details

8. The use of the word "rat" as an insult in English goes back at least until the 16th Century.
More details

9. Two main muscles are used for smiling - the zygomatic muscle turns the corner of the lips up and the orbicularis oculi crinkles the corners of the eyes.
More details

10. Birds are actually really rather clever.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Hamna Saeed, from Cardiff, for this picture of the lions in Longleat.

Caption Competition

14:45 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009


Winning entries in the now-returned Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week, German "plastinator" Gunther von Hagens poses with the jumping dancer exhibit in his Body Worlds touring exhibition.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. blogbuster
"Jackie Chan was regretting his choice of plastic surgeon for his tummy tuck."

5. jtotheglo
"Reasons to not play with piranhas #4."

4. Nick_Church
"The new range of novelty badges were seen as impractical at best."

3. JudgePix

2. Rob Falconer
"Well, it's a bit excessive - for a first offence, it's normally just a horse's head in your bed."

1. Dodie_James
"Icarus: The Musical"

Paper Monitor

11:39 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Nine pages. Nine broadsheet pages. That's a lot to devote to just one story, but what a story! An exclusive, 100% guaranteed to be followed up by every other media outlet in the land. It's time to be lavish with the column inches.

And that's just what the Daily Telegraph has done, having taken possession of the receipts submitted by MPs for their cleaners and gardeners, new tellies and tin openers.

Oh, the fun to be had. There are rag-outs of handwritten notes to the Fees Office:

  • Jack Straw's scrawled apology, "accountancy does not appear to be my strongest suit"
  • Andy Burnham's plea for a year-old claim to be approved, "otherwise I might be in line for a divorce!!"

burnhamsatwreathlaying.jpgThere are teasing photos galore:

  • Teeny tiny Hazel Blears astride her custom-built motorbike
  • And for house porn addicts, one of the achingly cool hotel in which she stayed while between second homes (guidebooks say "heaven will be a let-down after this", the paper notes)
  • Not only THAT full-length pic of Caroline Flint, but THIS full-length photo of Andy Burnham's wife (click here for more on this outfit). No shortage of bare thigh here.

And oh, the A-Z of bizarre claims for minor items:

  • C is for chocolate Santa, 59p, charged by a Welsh MP
  • E is for elephant lamps, two for £134.30, bought by a well-known Tory frontbencher
  • E is for elephant lamps, two for £134.30, bought by a well-known Tory frontbencher
  • I is for Ikea carrier bag, 5p, claimed by a Scottish MP
  • J is for jellied eels, £1.31, claimed by an Essex-based MP
  • L is for lavatory seat: one particularly heavyweight Labour MP bought two in the space of a year
  • P is for pizza wheel, £3, bought from a Bodum shop in Oxfordshire by a Tory backbencher
  • T is for Tampax, two packs at £1.11 each, claimed by a Conservative MP
  • V is for Vileda supermop, £4.99, claimed by a moustache-wearing Labour MP

It's gripping stuff and well done to the Telegraph for securing a story that every other paper would have sold their granny for. But a few observations...

1. They call it an "investigation". But didn't they just pay the highest price to whoever was selling it?

2. In the leader, it says "this is not, explicitly, a party political matter". Yet the focus, for today at least, is on the governing party.

3. It's widely assumed the Telegraph paid for this information - it won't say yes or no. What sort of receipt did it get from whoever sold it, and if there isn't one - as might be assumed, as whoever sold this wants to stay a secret source - then how do you get that past the Telegraph accounts department?

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:51 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

See the Quote of the Day every morning on the Magazine index.

"I've road-tested it and so has my right honourable friend and it doesn't work"

Llanelli MP Nia Griffiths has a plan to tackle swine flu. When you feel like sneezing, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and you'll stop it. There's just one problem, health secretary Alan Johnson thinks. It doesn't work.
More details (This is South Wales)

Weekly Bonus Question

09:39 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009


Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions should be sent using the COMMENTS link above. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is KING OLAV V OF NORWAY. The real question will be added below on Friday afternoon.

UPDATE: It's the monarch whose death in 1991 could lead to Cromer Town FC being evicted from their ground.

Web Monitor

15:18 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Hello again from Web Monitor, which has been clicking upon websites to give you the most interesting bits. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

Katy Perry• First off, singer Katy Perry has been telling Popeater that her new song has been inspired by her own fake wedding:

"We went to Vegas on a whim and we decided to get fake married. We took all the pictures with the minister, with the fake cake, in the fake chapel and got a fake marriage certificate. We went and bought a wedding dress and a suit at a thrift store, and scanned the pictures and the certificate to my family members, my manager at the time [and] totally freaked the s--- out of them. It was the most hilarious, stupid prank I've ever pulled."

But why?

Raw footage from inside the Liberty Sun, a US merchant ship carrying food aid to Kenya and attacked by pirates, has been posted on YouTube by Wired magazine. The journal of all things tech says the wider context of the video is a debate in the US about whether commercial ships can carry their own arms. Having watched the video, Web Monitor wonders whether they should also carry mic muffs.

• Is Nasa going all Nigella? It's sending a laboratory full of yeast into space today. Slate magazine looks at what's so great about yeast for scientists, and, disappointing it's not about making pizza bases in zero gravity. It turns out that not only are yeast cells like human cells, they are also flexible and safe to test on. Fancy.

• An old myth about hard times is that women buy more liptsick in a recession as a pick-me-up. Markteting Magazine has tut-tutted this as nonsense, finding that women prefer to spend the money on facewash. In fact, it's also debunked a host of other recession myths such as the fact that "staying is is the new going out" Wrong again. There's been an increase in cinema ticket sales and people aren't ditching branded products and charity giving is up.

• Following a list being released of Americans banned from the UK, Mental Floss magazine lists past US citizens banned from our isles. Reasons include support of Welsh miners and disbelief from the border controls when a tourist said they intended to spend the week in Gateshead. Perhaps Philip, late of the Apprentice, from neighbouring County Durham, could plough his energies into improving the town's image now that he has more time on his hands.

• Talking of which, how's this for a quote from the Apprentice's Lorraine:

"He's apologised to me for what he said about me and as far as I am concerned, that's the end of it."

...only it wasn't Lorraine, it was committed Conservative blogger Iain Dale trying to wrap up a long-running feud with Labour blogosphere foe Derek Draper. It comes as Drape, editor of LabourList, announced his resignation a month after a hullabaloo over some e-mails. Well there's nothing that bloggers love blogging about more than other bloggers, which is why Dale published the news that he got to break the news seven hours earlier than Derek Draper announced it. Still with me?
Dale then gave a bullet point list of site improvements.
Ahead of its time in many ways was Rap Log - a right-wing log of British news though the medium of rap (obviously).One rap was calling for Derek Draper's resignation back in February in the rap This Is Why. Derek had annoyed Rap Log for following him and the rest of Iain Dales followers, on Twitter. In the words of Rap Log:

"Stick your headphones on and get that sub-bass pumping... politics will never be the same..."

• At first it seemed like this advert for a furniture warehouse, is desperately trying to sell sofas based on their contribution to healthy race relations. Oh how we laughed at the ridiculous ad-men! Then, Gawker reveals that the advertisers knew what they were doing all along and are being tongue in cheek. Does it make it funnier? Judging by how we left things at Sterling Cooper on Tuesday night, it's the ad men who need something to chuckle about.

• If you're feeling a little under-valued by your peers, remember everyone gets criticism now and again, even Julie Andrews.
Cynical-C collects one-star Amazon reviews of classic movies, music, literature and Julie Andrews in his "You can't please everyone" series. On This is Spinal Tap a reviewer pointed out: "If you're going to make such an excellent documentary, why make it about a band that nobody has ever heard of?" Fair point.
On the Beatles album Abbey Road it was suggested: "Why do you need this when you have Pink?" When you put it like that...

Paper Monitor

12:09 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Another day, another play/film/musical/novel heralded as utterly prescient and entirely in keeping with the troubled times in which we live.

Mary Poppins has had the treatment. So, too, The Wizard of Oz, The Grapes of Wrath, It's a Wonderful Life and Wall Street.

Now it's the turn of Waiting for Godot, as it has pitched up on West End starring Professor Xavier/Captain Picard and Magneto/Gandalf as those doing the waiting.

The Times pens a wonderful leader recasting Beckett's play in a contemporary setting. So far, so very luvvy.

But their take is that it is like Labour's leadership tussle. (It could be *any* party's leadership tussle. An interminable wait, much commented upon. Yet not much happens and [spoiler alert] someone who will make all the difference never shows.)

The Times titles its rival version Waiting for Gordot, "in which the tramps are played by a pair of (yet to be firmly cast) Labour MPs speculating on whether Gordon Brown will step aside as party leader, whether it's worth waiting, and whether there is anything they can do to precipitate an end to the endless uncertainty."

The script need hardly change at all:
Estragon - I can't go on like this.
Vladimir - That's what you think.
Estragon - Well, shall we go?
Vladimir - Yes, let's go (they do not move).

And so on.

Meanwhile, it's R.I.P. to the South Bank Show, scuttled by ITV after some 35 years. Can you guess which paper stops all the clocks? It's the Daily Star!

Nah, just jerking your chain. It's the Daily Telegraph breaking out the black border on its front page. (The Star actually has Posh in her smalls and a very cross Didier Drogba on its cover.)

But what's this? It looks like theIndependent, its masthead says "The Independent", and it costs one whole pound, which is how much the Independent costs. But there is a footballer on the cover. A footballer! A sad-eyed footballer, but a footballer none the less.

Things really have changed since the dolphin poster fronts got kicked into touch (see past Paper Monitors).

And the Daily Mail tempts female readers - and those whose moobs need a little extra support - with a £2 off coupon for M&S bras, whatever their size. Scissors at the ready, Paper Monitor turns to page 46 as instructed... only the entire mid-section of the paper is missing. Who's half-inched it? Punorama is banned from the building after that incident with the wallcharts and the fold-up bike. Web Monitor looks a bit cheeky, and so does WBQ...

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:27 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

"Liverpool. What a name! That's worse than Hicksville" - Billy Joel, recalling how the US "went nuts" for the Beatles back in the day.

"I saw these four guys, working class guys, from a town called Liverpool," recalls the veteran singer, before going a bit off-piste about the city on the Mersey. Liverpudlians may not take too kindly to this comparison to the rocker's hometown, Hicksville, New York. The Monitor has always taken "Hicksville" to be a generic and none-too-flattering term for Smalltown, Anywhere. But has been proved wrong.
More details (The Times)

Your Letters

16:34 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

I think that Magazine Monitor needs to do some googling about HTML escape characters if he/she would like to leave the office in time to catch his/her train.

<a href="">Magazine Monitor</a>

Magazine Monitor
Cat, Leeds

In reference to Ian of Bristol (Tuesday letters), his question, and the answer, the correct way to write HTML code so that it looks like HTML code without acting like HTML code is the following:

<a href="url"&ls;Link text</a>

Essentially, replace any open tag sign with "& lt;" and any close tag sign with "& gt;" (Removing the spaces and quote marks of course: I was afraid that you may not be able to see the code for the code, if that's not too recursive!)
Joseph Macdonald, London

Use the following code (removing . after each text to be used for the link <.>
Graeme, Leicester England

Re Ian's letter and the response: you could write the instructions in a word processor, take a photo of the screen, print that out, scan it in, and put up the resulting image to show us how to do it? (Failing that, use &lt; for your <)
Andy , Horsham

See this for HTML instructions.
Candace, New Jersey, US

It seems strangely apt that the Monitor should feature a recalcitrant rodent on the 30th anniversary of Fawlty Towers' first broadcast.
Helene Parry, South Wales expat to Brentford

Richard Branson is "so proud" of his staff that he dresses in "disgustingly dirty clothes" and blacks out his teeth to prove it? Wouldn't doing something about their disgustingly dirty clothes and poor dental care do a bit more to show his pride? Just a thought.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

She is back again...
Caroline, Nottingham

In response to Maggie in Tuesday's letters, he's a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.
Phil, Guisborough

Web Monitor

15:57 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

We trawl the web to give you the most interesting bits. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

Bono • To start with, Bono's latest crusade - poetry. Bono will read a poem he wrote about Elvis on BBC Radio 4 on 13 May. In the meantime, Professor John Sutherland dissected the poem for the Guardian and got increasingly incensed by it:

"My hypothesis is that Bono wants to give the impression of a sculptor's chisel, carving out a definitive statue of his King and Saint. Does it work? I have my doubts."

If this puts you in the mood for a bit of poetry, try out the poetry archives, where poets read their own poems including recently crowned Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

Gordon Brown, Nick Robinson, mystery painting

• The prize for answering our question about the painting behind Nick Robinson's head on the Ten O'Clock news goes to David Clark in London. He rightly answered that it was Cedric Morris's painting of Angus Davidson. Unfortunately the prize is this link to more info on the painting courtesy of the Government Art Collection website, which David already knows about anyway. Hohum. All Web Monitor can give you is links - no vase or even a dictionary. We're not Countdown.

Swine flu advert • The next mystery waiting to be solved is: Who is the sneezing man on the Swine Flu adverts (right)? Send us the links to where you found it out. Here are a few leads for you - IMDB, a kind of yellow pages for film stars and Campaign Magazine is the insiders' guide to the advertising industry.

• If you feel you've missed out on the Twitter craze, here's the easiest way to keep up. The 100 most popular twits' tweets, or in English, what Stephen Fry is having for breakfast, follows the stars so you don't have to.

sharonandozzyosbourne126.jpg• In extra audio from a Radio 2 interview with Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, only available online, they were asked if they think they are soul mates. They didn't say no, but they didn't say yes either, going for a more pragmatic approach. Sharon answered with: "We've been a couple for 29 years, I don't have 29 years to invest in someone." Ozzy, thinking about the alternatives, said: "I don't understand what a guy of my age, 60, would have in common with a 19-year-old."

• Across the web people are declaring they're not scared of Swine Flu. Time magazine is claiming it has all been more a panic than pandemic and lists their top 10 panics which include salmonella ("If there's one panic that reoccurs like clockwork, it's salmonella"), and red dye ("artificial dyes are subject to some of the most bizarre fears and nastiest urban legends").
Meanwhile, the Urban Dictionary entered a new definition into their dictionary - swine flucation. The dictionary, always useful for decoding insults in YouTube comments, defines it as:

"The time spent not at school or work due to the closures caused by the Swine Flu scare."
One person who could write the urban dictionary is Mike Skinner, from the Streets, whose song "Swine flu, it's behind you" picks up on the theme of scaremongering.

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If nothing else comes of this swine flu outbreak, at least it has helped shed some light on where the mediarati chose to school their children - a "bog standard comp" it ain't.

News that the virus had spread to the private Alleyn's School (that's £13,437 a year to you, guv'nor) in Dulwich, south London, prompted a first-person piece in yesterday's Times by resident columnist Janice Turner, whose 13-year-old son is among those sent home after the school closed.

Well, that's one way of explaining to the editor why you can't be in the office.

Today yields a similar piece in the Sun, where GMTV's Andrew Castle tells how he is anxiously awaiting test results on his daughter, who is also a pupil.

Paper Monitor is keeping tabs across all media to see if there is a noticeable dip in output as parents wrestle with the demands of entertaining their quarantined children.

It's a little surprising that the Daily Telegraph can't stump up its own concerned parent/staff member, but the paper's commentator Liz Hunt does her best to make up for that with her observation that "the newspapers were full of parents kitted out in bank holiday Boden, summoned to Alleyn's to collect anti-viral drugs for their offspring over Earl Grey and chocolate biscuits. As they juggled the keys to their BMWs and 4x4s..." and so on.

However, letter writers to the Monitor may find themselves distracted from Castle's outpouring by the story that sits on the opposite page. Yes, nominative determinism (see example, here) has come to the national press, in the guise of Nicky WELFARE [that's the Sun's emboldening and capitalisation] who is on £60.40 Jobseeker's Allowance (and drinks 24 cans of lager a day).

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

"It's a collection of clichés and stock characters which I can't see as being anything other than a disaster" - 1974 letter from a BBC script editor, panning Fawlty Towers.

But the BBC changed its tune, and the show went out the following year. "It just shows you people have no idea what they're doing," says John Cleese, who wrote the hotel-set sitcom with his then wife Connie Booth.
More details (Daily Mirror)

Your Letters

18:17 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Re this story [at least, that's Monitor's assumption], is there a name, or even a mathematical formula, for the phenomenon whereby I, as a Londoner, even when I worked in the West End for years, have never once bumped into someone I know on Oxford Street, probably the most famous, and one of the busiest streets in the country, and yet I can be lost in Tokyo and bump into someone I actually know, also from London?
Rob, London, UK

Who's Kevin Bacon?
Maggie, London uk

In the rather sick case involving the killing and scalping of cats, is it poetic justice that sentencing was deferred?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK

Reading this made me realise how hard it is to keep up with politics these days. In my day, the Labour party used to be on the left.
Adam, London, UK

Re Web Monitor (Friday, 1 May), the picture behind Nick Robinson is by Cedric Morris, a portrait of Angus Davidson, a writer and publisher. Or possibly John Cleese.
David Clark, London, UK

Re this story, you know, I'm pretty sure that Goethe and Dukas got there ever so slightly before Walt Disney. Though I can only hope that Nick Cage will make use of his formidable acting talents in an epic end-scene battle with a dozen hippos in tutus.
Dan, Cambridge

Could somebody please tell me how to add a hyperlink to text; so I can link a story to a word. Thanks in advance
Ian, Bristol

Monitor: You don't have to include the html, but it sure would help Monitor get out the office on time for its train. The only problem is every time it tries to write the text for how to create a hyperlink, it just goes and creates a hyperlink, thereby defeating the purpose of the exercise. Any suggestions?

Web Monitor

16:19 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

We've been tirelessly searching the web to recommend the most interesting links for you right now. If you find something you think should be shared here, comment in the box to the right of this or recommend it to us on Delicious - we're called 'bbcwebmonitor'.

Richard Branson• Right, well, where to start a new week? How about with a millionaire who has taken to wearing a model as his coat...Richard Branson has been answering the public's questions for the Huffington Post. The most popular question, submitted and chosen by users of bookmarking site Digg, asked when money becomes immaterial:

"If you're lucky enough to have a few hundred thousand dollars in a bank account, that should be sufficient for your own personal needs and anything after that you have to put to good use."

The second most popular question was about a recent Italian Vogue photoshoot where a naked model clung on to Branson's back while kite-surfing:
"Being an English gentleman, I decided not to object...I'm a great believer in life in saying yes and not saying no and hopefully making people smile and having fun in life... I'm certainly not embarrassed about having a beautiful nude woman, one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, on my back."

• As the future of the Royal Mail is being debated in the UK, the US Postal Service is looking at a possible $9bn deficit this year. If only technology could find a way to deliver mail more cost effectively. Popular Mechanics looks at the different vehicles used to deliver mail in the US over the years. By far the most exciting is 1959's Missile mail, which never took off. Slightly slower is the mule mail through Arizona, which is still operating.

Lily AllenLily Allen revealed in an interview with DJ Annie Nightingale on Radio 1 that her turning point away from unruly child was on her first ever performance, in school assembly, where she said she made everyone cry, as she explained:
"No-one had ever seen me succeed at anything before apart from being disruptive."

Newsweek is predicting the possibility of video games eclipsing Hollywood's dominance in the entertainment industry. Here, they take us through the impressive graphics of biggest selling games, number one being Grand Theft Auto.

Emma ThompsonEmma Thompson talked in the Times about the problem of being a celebrity charity spokesman:

"It's a bit like being on a promenade, pulling around a great big bunch of multicoloured balloons - something inflated and distracting that follows me wherever I go. So, if I happen to be shouting about HIV or poverty or torture, I cannot blame people for asking themselves why I'm shouting about that when I'm clearly selling balloons."

• A college student interviewing Condoleezza Rice about torture and being posted onto YouTube is one of those moments when you realise how far we've come technologically in the past ten years. Rice answered the questions about Abu Ghraib:
"Unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11 you can not possibly imagine the dilemmas faced in trying to protect Americans."

Ari Melba from Personal Democracy Forum, a blog about technology in politics, was taken aback about this interview as he wrote what he thought it showed:
"...using YouTube and citizen media to scrutinize our leaders on the issues, not gaffes."

Paper Monitor

13:24 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sorry. It's the hardest word (eh, Silvio?). But how rare is it for a newspaper to run an entire advertising campaign apologising to millions of people for its perceived faults?
Unprecedented, says media commentator Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. While a sorry might be forthcoming over an error in a specific story - or for a series of untrue claims, such as the simultaneous apologies made to Madeleine McCann's parents - to beg pardon for one's general behaviour is another matter entirely.

A local London paper - recently bought by an ex-KGB man for £1, and with a new editor in the chair - today begins a charm offensive ahead of its relaunch on 11 May.

"SORRY" reads the Evening Standard banners plastered on buses and Tube carriages, apologising to Londoners for losing touch, taking them for granted, and being negative, complacent and predictable.

(Paper Monitor may appropriate one or two, for future deployment in the event of failing to get in sufficient teas, or misspelling a tweet, or arriving late due to non-specific travel delays.)

The campaign is the new editor's solution to that common problem - falling sales, lost readers - and seeks to make amends after market research showed just how all those potential readers out there view the paper. Ouch - the results must have made for an awkward newsroom debriefing. And the ex-editor, Veronica Wadley, may well flinch at the sight of any passing buses for the next few weeks.

Just how the relaunched paper will aim to be more positive remains to be seen. Its past incarnation was famously poisonous towards then-mayor Ken Livingstone. So will Boris Johnson suddenly find himself feted, local paper style?

Maybe not; but Greenslade reckons "Greig is determined to achieve a much more accommodating political and social tone than in Wadley's era."

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:17 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

"They wanted to call me Grandpa but Daddy is better, don't you think?" - Silvio Berlusconi, on why an 18-year-old model calls him Papi.

Cover your eyes, but watch through your fingers, as the Berlusconis embark on a very public bout of "he said, she said". Last week she complained about him recruiting showgirls as MEPs and attending a comely teenager's birthday party. On Saturday he demanded an apology. On Sunday she demanded a divorce. And on Monday he ruled out a reconciliation. It's like a Craig David song...
More details (Independent)

Your Letters

11:59 UK time, Monday, 4 May 2009

I am not happy with the pronunciation of LAMentable. I believe that correctly it has the emphasis on the first syllable. However, by the time the population has heard it incorrectly enough times as they have over the last few days, it will never be pronounced correctly again. The same happened to harrass.
Susie, Oxford

"Enterprise chief cash row probed".
Oh, so close.
Lee, Birmingham

You can prove anything with the right statistics. ("Ten things" No 7) "An outbreak of swine flu in 1976 killed one person but a vaccine for it killed 25". So? The death rates were in fact one in 200 flu sufferers, whilst the vaccination was fatal in 25 cases out of 40 million, which is one in 1.6 million). As one in 200 who caught the flu died, that vaccine must have saved thousands of lives, even if it didn't help 25 of them.
Tim, London

Here's a thought to ponder... More people were injured as a direct result of tea cosies in 2000 (two) than there were fatalities in the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak (one). (Sources: Rospa + BBC).
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Re: the headline on this story - I would have thought that missing an own goal was a good thing.
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

If the aeroplane flew over New York for a photo op, shouldn't there be a better picture you can use to illustrate it in your "Week in pictures"?
Nick, London

Paper Monitor

09:54 UK time, Monday, 4 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If you were to go the National Newspaper Library at Colindale in north London and look back at the fading and yellowed newsprint of papers from long ago, you would notice one major difference from today's titles.


Fine colour presses now allow high quality pictures. Papers can choose to define themselves by the front page picture as much as the headline.

So the front of today's Sun has a picture of an attractive young actress blowing a kiss as she enters a premiere. On the Daily Mirror, what could be more Mirror than a picture of a beaming Fern Britton. Is she beaming because the Mirror is revealing her "new diet secret" inside?

On the Daily Telegraph there is a warm, fuzzy oil painting. It's the Duchess of Cornwall. And if Camilla hits the Telegraph's target audience who could be more Daily Express than Felicity Kendal. All the better to salve the pain of readers upset by illegal immigrants.

The Daily Mail, never one to go for cheap titillation, has an image of 19-year-old Princess Eugenie in a bikini. In case that's not enough, there's another shot inside. It's enough to remind you of a row over another bikini photo - of Eugenie's sister Beatrice - and the Duchess of York's criticism of Allison Pearson for some veiled comments.


And on the Guardian, it's all about the story. But when wasn't it? Their main picture is of a doctor accused of accidentally causing the death of a patient.

Of course, pictures aren't the only thing you can use the modern presses for. There's also the blurb - the promotional box at the top of the paper, promising goodies inside.

This image from the Mail on Sunday shows the difficulty of achieving consistency even in this. One part of the blurb is telling people to Keep Calm and Carry On. The other is telling people how to get their hands on an anti-viral hygiene kit.

Make your mind up.

Monday's Quote of the Day

08:40 UK time, Monday, 4 May 2009

"Quite often the terminology used is 'showers', which to me implies wet and rain, when in actual case it is 'mainly dry'" - Danny Fullerton, of sunny Carrbridge, complains about misleading BBC forecasts.

You may think it's all a question of glass half-full, glass half-empty, but you'd be wrong. Carrbridge residents believe the BBC is habitually forecasting rain for the area, and failing to recognise the micro-climate there.
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