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My Top Ten moments of London 2012 so far…

Inspired by the Queen of Lib Dem blogging thoughts on the matter. I have decided to put together my top ten list of the Olympic Games so far. She says that boys running fast for a few seconds doesn’t do it for her. Maybe it is a man thing, a cave-man instinct to know who is the fastest person on the planet. It is like how many people describe Man v Food as a man thing…I suspect the 100m will rank highly for me but let’s go…

Well Caron and myself agree on the number one as the Queen’s acting debut in a scene with James Bond was kick-arse. I didn’t see it live as I had a visitor and he wasn’t interested in the opening ceremony but when I saw it I thought it was just amazing.

However the excellence of women athletes isn’t number two for me. Oh no. The Men’s 100m Final is still – and always has been – and always will be the grand-daddy of the whole games. The fact that NBC were not showing it live in the States was sheer madness as they were showing a pre-season NFL game instead but still the fastest person on Earth. Yes. There is a reason over 20million people watched it in the UK. I had Bolt losing until I saw him in his semi-final and then I was all in on Bolt and he didn’t disappoint. Awesome.

Thirdly words that will resonate with me and it should with us all, ‘I am proud to get a bronze, there is nothing to be embarrassed about,‘ – Becky Adlington after getting bronze in the 800m freestyle. Damn straight. I think that is something we all need to remember. Not being the best on a particular day doesn’t mean you are a failure. Not by a long shot. I was always a Becky Adlington fan but after that she went even further up in my estimations. Really impressed.

On to number four and this is a hard one because it was so painful but it was so gripping – in a horrific way. Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase taking silver in the lightweight double sculls final. First of all a seat broke in the boat but they were allowed to take part in the restart and then they led for the whole 2000m course apart from that final 50m and sadly that is the most important. The race was dramatic enough but their interview with Sir Steve Redgrave and John Inverdale was just heartbreaking but it is something that will stick in the mind for many years to come.

Next up I have to say that the infectiousness of Laura Trott. I’m a sucker for happy people as happy people make others happy but this girl has overcome serious physical issues to become a double Olympic Champion at just the age of 20. Serious talent but also someone with a seriously infectious personality.

We are on to number six and Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium. As the night start we knew Jessica Ennis was going to win Gold. We had high hopes for Mo Farah but Greg Rutherford came from nowhere to grab that Long Jump Gold. It made you proud to be British. It really did.

At number seven I’m going with Chad Le Clos’s Dad. We’d all be proud to have a kid win an Olympic Gold medal but boy was he proud. An exceptional interview made him the biggest star who wasn’t a member of the Royal Family who wasn’t actually an athlete of these games.

One of the men he beat was Michael Phelps and I personally have to mention him. I truly love the swimming and that and the athletics are my favourite part of the games. Phelps was truly great after he got that monkey off his back and a pleasure to watch one final time.

The whole cycling team needs to be mentioned so here they are at number nine. We tuned into the velodrome and basically we got to learn pretty damn quickly that Gold medals were in the offing. They were all terrific and so many Gold’s and World Record’s. Sir Chris Hoy finished it off but they were all out of this world.

Lastly the BBC’s reaction to Mo Farah winning Gold. That is quite simply what sport is all about.

Although ‘Here comes what his name’ comes close to being just as good.

I haven’t put in the coverage by the BBC yet because it needs a whole section of its own. From wonderful presenters (bar Gary Lineker) to having every single event live online or through the red button or on dedicated extra channels on Sky and Virgin to excellent commentary teams and pundits. I’m a Sky guy but the BBC still know how to cover sport. I might say that Sky have the better football and F1 talent but seriously the Beeb have nailed this.

Sue Barker is supreme, Clare Balding is wonderful (will she front Horse Racing on Channel 4?) Hazel Irvine is solid enough and Gabby Logan was underused in the highlights show. Lineker is clearly the weak link. He’s not even good at football presenting and he’s been doing that for nigh on two decades. Ian Thorpe, Michael Johnson, John McEnroe – the BBC still have fantastic pundits. They might all get handsomely paid but boy do they deliver.

The BBC is paid for by us but with the Olympics they are starting to pay some of that money back in the form of outstanding Olympic coverage.

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Helen Skelton quits twitter – begs the question ‘what is fair criticism?’

Blue Peter host Helen Skelton has quit twitter this week after what we assume is negative reaction to her part of the BBC Olympics coverage. The 29 year-old has been out and about in the Olympic Park doing vox-pop type segments that have to be honest not been great. Having done vox-pops I know how evil they are and whether it was her or just the vox-pop concept that I dislike – these pieces aren’t working.

Now we don’t know exactly what sparked her to leave the microblogging site. Whether she got some personal hate or just received criticism for her part of the coverage. She signed off just saying, “Turns out I don’t have very thick skin after all so I am closing my twitter account. Enjoy the games. Signing off, skelts x” which doesn’t really answer that question.

There is a distinct difference between legitimate criticism and personal insults. We don’t know the situation here. The abuse Tom Daley received was personal and vile and that just isn’t on. In this case though we are unclear of what sparked her decision to move on from twitter.

For example some might think that my first paragraph in this blog was unfair. Is it unfair to say that I don’t think someone is doing a very good job on TV? I have had people tell me that they don’t like my blog or my radio shows. Is that unfair or is that just personal opinion? Surely we are all still allowed opinions are we not?

Graham Linehan weighed in on the issue tweeting, “Another one down. This is why we can’t have nice things.” However he has said this not knowing exactly what spurred the TV presenter to leave twitter. Is twitter now a place where no negativity is allowed? If Nigel Farage tweeted that UKIP were the third party of British politics even though they don’t have an MP are we not allowed to ridicule him?

We don’t know the full story behind this. Miss Skelton has chosen not to divulge that information and that is her right. If she got personal abuse then no shock that she quit twitter. If she just got criticism then it is just one of those things and it is indeed her right to close twitter. If you have a thin skin and are on TV then twitter probably isn’t the place for you. Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Twitter can still have criticism but personal abuse is a different kettle of fish entirely. If we can’t criticise people then what is twitter going to do the next time Mark Lawrenson is heard doing a football commentary? Rightly or wrongly if you have a job in the public eye then you’ll get criticism. I remember once blogging about the Channel 4 athletics coverage and their lead commentator John Rawling read it and wasn’t happy. Now we all know Ortis stunk up the joint as lead presenter and was replaced after just a few days therefore vindicating my initial reaction to the announcement. Was that fair? Was that just?

Criticism is what it is and if you are involved in the entertainment industry that is part of the job description I’m afraid. It has always been the case it is just in this era people can read the criticism much easier than people discussing it down the pub. Personal abuse is not fair or just but I don’t see the problem with having an opinion or passing on comment. I don’t think you should ever message someone on twitter saying they weren’t very good or anything but if I tweeted for example – not to her but just a general tweet, “Really not loving these Helen Skelton look-ins on the Olympic Park.” then is that fair or foul?

You tell me…

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Lee Dixon joins ITV Sport

Days after Lee Dixon announced that he was leaving the BBC, ITV have released a press release confirming that he would be joining the channel. This happened on the same day that Gareth Southgate left his job at the FA meaning that Lee Dixon is in effect the replacement for Martin O’Neill who left ITV for the managers job at Sunderland in the middle of the last football season.

The pree release reads as follows:

ITV have announced that Lee Dixon has joined its pundit team covering the range of major football competitions broadcast by the channel.

The former Arsenal and England defender will be part of ITV’s on-screen panel led by presenter Adrian Chiles from the start of the 2012/2013 football season.

Dixon will offer insight and analysis throughout England’s World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign, as well as FA Cup, UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches.

Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “We are delighted that Lee is joining our team with his wealth of experience, knowledge and insight. His appointment follows our acclaimed Euro 2012 broadcasts and signals ITV Sport’s intention to continue to bring viewers top-quality coverage.”

An interesting move as Dixon is well thought of but the old boys network at the BBC limited his opportunities coupled with the lack of lack football on the channel until the 2014 World Cup. ITV have recently dropped to just one staff commentator so to move to three permanent pundits is a bit of a surprising move. Still we’ll see the best of Lee Dixon I expect with him reuniting with his old MOTD2 mate Adrian Chiles.

I have to admit I think the ITV football output is the best it has been for a while. I think Dixon and Keane will be a good combination even if I think Southgate is a bit meh. I am a huge Martin O’Neill guy so that is a loss but the BBC’s coverage has just got too stale. ITV is at least trying something new and I might be one of the few people knocking about who still enjoys Adrian Chiles.

Looks like Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson are set to dominate at the Beeb for a good while yet…

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Did I miss the memo that high school proms are newsworthy?

I am now three weeks into my self-imposed ‘I will buy and read the local newspaper – the Southend Echo every Monday-Friday’ commitment. I have to admit that the £6.75 I have spent on doing this hasn’t been the best £6.75 that I have ever spent but it has taken me back to being a journalist. One thing though has really stood out and that is they seem to have a photographer at every single local high school prom. When did the high school prom become newsworthy? Can someone enlighten me?

Now I know some of you will be thinking, ‘but Neil you are just jealous because you didn’t go to any of your high school discos or proms or anything social’ but you’d be wrong – I went to one. Hah! Although it wasn’t a prom or anything it was a big leaving VI form party in the park – or more accurately Sandown or Shanklin Rugby Club. I can’t remember which. Anyway as per usual I digress. I’m not jealous of either going to proms or having the local rag deciding it was newsworthy. I just think it is preposterous to have the gall to pretend it is even remotely newsworthy.

No doubt the local paper will say that it fills up space and no doubt people buy it to see their photos and to see them all but isn’t that the type of thing that Facebook and other forms of social media was invented for?

Here are a couple of photos from the last two days but in the 15 days of buying the local rag I’d say a good eight of them have had double page spreads from a high school prom.

high school prom southend
High School Prom Photo 1…
southend high school prom
High School Prom Photo 2…

I just don’t get it. Maybe I am just a grumpy old man. I know that the local rag will have quite a few non-stories in it. It isn’t easy finding enough news to fill up a newspaper every single day but prom photos?

The whole high school prom thing is also a bug-bear of mine. It is the Americanisation of our young people. More and more pressure is put on young people to have a good time at these things and make an impression. I read a story in a national newspaper the other day that two girls had waited too long to hire a limo for their prom that they went out a hired a helicopter instead. The helicopter cost them £500 to hire between them. I don’t think I even had £500 pocket money throughout my teenage years yet alone to spend on a helicopter trip to arrive at a prom in style.

Proms are essentially for the popular kids and it deeply harms the less popular kids self-worth. If you aren’t popular or you can’t afford a new dress or to arrive in style then people look down on you. Having the local newspaper photographer there doesn’t exactly help this.

I could bang on about it for hours but I’ll be good and won’t. It just really pisses me off. Not just the whole newsworthy issue but the prom culture itself. I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the costs in fact quite the opposite – I’m pretty darn sure the costs outweigh the benefits.

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The (well one of the) main problems with journalism these days…

I know most of you don’t care about the Penn State scandal but it has given us not only a chilling A-list story on child molestation alongside the Catholic Church but it has also given us a glimpse of how sports writers work these days. Being right has always been at the forefront of journalism with being first a hair’s breadth behind. These days though being the loudest voice in the room is by far the most important thing.

Let me just give you two prime examples. Stephen A. Smith is a well known writer and broadcaster in the United States who specialises in basketball. When asked on ESPN’s First Take programme whether Penn State should receive the death penalty he reiterated that it should – and not just the death penalty – it should get it for a minimum of five years. Got no problem with that as we all have opinions but then he went on to say the following, ‘I have only glossed over the Freeh Report but I’ve read what I needed to know.’ So he has just a strong opinion based on glossing over a report. That is enough for him to have an opinion. I know one man who I wouldn’t want on my jury…

The other example comes from Sally Jenkins who is one of the very best in the business, long time columnist for the Washington Post so she really isn’t any mug. She wrote a column last Thursday after the release of the Freeh Report where upon she felt comfortable enough to say that Joe Paterno was guilty of perjury and of being a liar. Ok again that is her opinion but she says this due to what is in the Freeh Report.

The Freeh Report was 267 pages long and took me the best part of four hours to read. The report was released at 9AM local and yet her scathing column was posted at 9:31AM local. She hadn’t read the Freeh Report when she wrote her column. She had written the column, then when the Freeh Report came out flicked to a section in the Freeh Report to check that her narrative hadn’t been blown and went for it.

When I was plodding my way through Journalism at university I got to the stage where I to be blunt felt so disillusioned with the whole profession that I pretty much decided not to pursue a career in the industry. From what I could see there were a lot of very lazy journalists about who liked the sound of their own voice far more than they did informing the public of what was going on. That is even more evident to me now not just through the Penn State story but about politicians, bankers, foreigners etc… – a newspaper has a narrative that they want to get across to the public and they’ll fit the facts around the narrative. Not only that but they’ll change the narrative depending on what the public want. The most important thing isn’t to be right or fair or balanced but to check most boxes in a focus group.

I find this scenario extremely depressing but it is what it is. I know I’m just another pointless voice in the world that in the interweb but I at least choose to be a pointless point that has no narrative. I write what I think even if it is against how I thought I thought. I don’t care if 99% of the people who read a specific blog disagree with what I wrote. I write this blog as a place where my own personal thoughts on issues can come out.

It is like journalism just without being told what to write. It is a type of liberation. Maybe I had a lucky escape from journalism as I’d no doubt be too much of a loose cannon. I have opinions and I won’t swallow them. I think people knew that and so instead of working in the fast-paced action world of news or sports here I am doing internet type stuff to pay the bills and write my blurb on the side.

Maybe things didn’t work out too badly on that front after all…

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Another bash of the Daily Mail. This time they talk about ‘flashy foreigners’ and ‘vulgarity’

Ah the Daily Mail. Source for some of my most sarcastic blogs. It is time for you to once more inspire my fingers to tip-tap on to my keyboard and write about how amazingly hilarious you are. Today though it is about a travel piece. The piece entitled My night in Hotel Vulgari: Daily Mail travel editor Mark Palmer gives his verdict on Britain’s most expensive hotel Bulgari caught my eye because of the introduction under the piece…

Benvenuti to the brand new Bulgari Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge, the most expensive place to stay in Britain – where the cheapest room comes in at around £850. The fact that the Bulgari is practically full every night (including the £14,400 penthouse suite) tells you everything you need to know about those pockets of modern Britain that have been turned into temples of vulgarity, attended by flashy foreigners who pay no taxes here but inflate the price of everything for the rest of us.

The words that got me were, ‘attended by flashy foreigners who pay no taxes here but inflate the price of everything for the rest of us.’ Ah yes those bloody foreigners. Always coming over here and spending their money in our vulgar hotels and not paying tax here. Well they do pay tax – VAT on everything they buy and think of all the people their vulgar money is used on employing people who do pay tax and how dare they come to the UK at all. Bloody foreigners. If we had complete closed borders then we could live in a blissful world where no-one is spending vulgar money.

The last country to close their borders and look totally inwardly was China I do believe and look what happened there. By ignoring the outside world they went from the most advanced civilization on the planet to being 100s of years behind. Yeah that didn’t exactly work out well did it? However I’m no history buff so I won’t go on about that – or the premise that all foreigners are evil – because that is so dumb its funny. The Daily Mail don’t like foreigners ok we get that. So lets look at the piece as a whole.

It reads basically as about 1,500 words which only says, ‘I am not jealous that I’m not as rich as those people. They are all foreigners and look like they hate life.’ That is basically it. He didn’t go into the review with an open mind. His narrative had already been written, which is pretty shoddy journalism in the extreme. He made a big stink about how much it cost but he knew how much it cost and heck he was on expenses anyway so that was a lot of horse expletive.

He ends though with this gem:

The manager hopes my wife and I will return soon. For our part, however, we hope the Bulgari packs up and takes most of its customers with it.

They hope the hotel packs up and people lose jobs. He doesn’t care about British people. He would clearly prefer more people on the dole than being employed by a foreign company. It is that kind of stupid messed-up thinking that is making people think we’d be better off out of the EU…

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Confirmation that The Sun’s politics people seemingly don’t know their arse from their elbow

Politicians. Yes those people. We all know about them and you’d expect the people that are paid to write about them ad nauseum would be able to tell a politician from someone who wasn’t a politician but seemingly those employed by The Sun to write about politics aren’t able to do such a thing. Before we get on to that though lets slag of The Sun a little bit more…

The Heroes and Villains of Westminster is one of the highlights of their political coverage. This week though the heroes of UK politics in the past week are the 12 MPs who pledged to vote against any vote to increase the price of petrol by 3p. Only one problem with this…it was a budget issue that was voted on months ago. There could never be a vote on this as it had already been voted on as part of the budget so these twelve heroes were basically not heroes at all. I could have pledged to have voted against any bill to increase petrol by 3p and been as much of a hero as I could’ve had as much influence on that subject as any of the twelve MPs.

Of course The Sun’s people knew this but that didn’t matter. All they cared about was their own spin on the story as they have been having a prominent campaign to keep the price of petrol down so this fit in well with their political spin and bias.

Now lets get on to the crux of the issue. The villain of the week was George Osbourne and that was no surprise and nothing to see here but wait – there is a footnote. What does the footnote say:

NOTE: In case you’re wondering, Barclays boss ‘Bob the Rob’ Diamond is sadly not a politician, or he would have beaten George to this unwanted accolade this week by a country mile.

So Bob Diamond had the villain of the week all sown up but the fact he isn’t a politician meant he wasn’t eligible. I’m sure he was gutted but that seems like a fair point in the ‘Heroes and Villains of Westminster’ section in the politics section of a newspaper but wait…who is that who won the villain of the week the previous week? Oh yes. It is that well known politician who masquerades as a comedian Jimmy Carr.

So Jimmy Carr is eligible but Bob Diamond isn’t because he isn’t a politician. I think it is fair to say that it doesn’t exactly add up. It seems as though they make up the rules as they go. The fact Jimmy Carr the previous week had been the biggest story is probably why they did it that way and if they want to have everyone eligible then fair do’s but how can a non-politician be eligible one week but not the next?

The Sun’s political team. They don’t know their arse from their elbow…

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In (quite) staunch defence of Adrian Chiles…

Anyone that knows me well enough to know that a career in the media industry will know a few truths about me; firstly that I once had a screen test for a TV company where upon I was told that it was the ‘best screen test they had ever had but that I didn’t have the face for it,’ they’ll also know that I prefer radio to TV and that writing is actually my least preferred medium. I like the pace of buzz of live action. They’ll also know that I have a few broadcast heroes and one of them is a very dull and grumpy Brummie. That man is now firmly in the marmite of TV presenters and in his case the prevalent winds are blowing towards the hate him category.

People of my age will remember what is was like being ill and off school. It was insanely boring. In 1994 though the BBC decided that they needed a lunchtime show on business and Working Lunch was born. The presenter was a relatively unknown man called Adrian Chiles and the rest as they say is history. Working Lunch was actually a very good programme and between Chiles and Adam Shaw it had a very good presenting duo.

For many years he happily fronted the show but then he started to get other gigs around the Beeb. He fronted the spin-off show to The Apprentice and then The One Show passed its trial run and became a staple part of the BBC’s Mon-Fri evening output as well as MOTD2. Chiles was a man on the move and everything was hunky-dory until the BBC decided that they wanted to tinker with The One Show and kick out Adrian on Friday’s because they wanted to appeal to a different audience. He left in a huff to ITV where he fronted the new breakfast show. It was never going to work as Chiles is not the type of guy you want to wake up to (no offence Adrian) but still there was The Adrian Chiles Show and the football.

I think he excels at both. He asks better questions of his pundits compared to his compatriots and whilst he may waffle a bit he shows genuine emotion whether it be happy or sad. In live sport I want a real person fronting everything and not someone with too much glaze on them which means real emotion doesn’t shine through. I see on twitter and social media so many people say hw awful he is but people like to complain. I have seen so many tweets about how awful Dermot O’Leary is presenting The X Factor so let me just say that in this era of social media it is so easy to slag off a famous person for anything.

Personally speaking I think Adrian genuinely does a bang up job or both presenting the show and portraying the mood of the public. Yes the adverts get in the way of his flow but such is life. Presenting on live television is not an easy gig and everyone thinks that they can do better. It really isn’t and I think people should lay off the Adrian hate. If they don’t want to join in the Adrian love-in then that is fair enough but just hating on him is not fair.

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