Posted by: benk1988 | November 9, 2009

The Personal Loss of Remembrance Day

There are certain events in the year that unite a nation. As the year draws to a close these events come round more and more regularly with the turning back of the clocks and the darkening of the nights the random explosions begin to ring out across the still night air. Bonfire night and Halloween signal the start of a couple of months of large national days. As the bonfires burn themselves out and the catherine wheels spin their last turn we move steadily towards Remembrance Day and the lonely poppies begin to appear adorning the breasts of the grateful. The old hunched over against the wind as they battle to complete their early Christmas shopping, the young that do not really know why they are wearing one but it’s exciting and the smattering of 20 somethings that have been raised properly to respect and remember.

Each year more names are added to the history books, more lost fathers, brothers, sisters, wives more souls pass on, their visage trapped permanently behind the glass, framed in pictures around the houses they once called home. The individual stories of loss are too many for me to talk about here, too many for me to do justice to and too many to really hit home. One that struck a real note with me while watching the goings on at the Cenotaph yesterday was of a young Welsh guardsman. His mother walked the woods around his child hood home explaining that this was his original battle ground, where he played at war as a child. His widow went onto explain that on the anniversary of his death she climbed the hill that overlooks her home and planted a Welsh flag proud and visible above the village. Every time someone walks up the hill and sits by the flag it brings her some relief, she knows that someone is thinking of her lost love and that brings her some level of relief. It makes it more personal for her, makes it more real.

This is the emotion that should be felt throughout the nation. Yes let’s remember the nations loss but on at 11am on Wednesday just think for a moment of the individual loss. Think of the daughter who has no father to walk her down the aisle, think of the wife whose bed is cold, think of the mother with no son to cook dinner for, think and keep thinking make sure it’s never forgotten.

Posted by: benk1988 | November 7, 2009

Week 1 WINOL Round-Up

The first week of production on the new Winchster News Online site is over and there are both good and bad points to examine. The news meeting on Monday was somewhat short of ideas for hard stories, at least for this week’s production as opposed to coming weeks. However under the careful stewardship of James Kenyon, a selection of stories was eventually hammered out. With the sport section providing a good number of varied reports, there was a good feel about the 1st news conference and I am optimistic that those that follow will be even more rewarding.

Earlier in the day we had been taken through Joomla and learned how to upload articles and for those that needed to edit, how to do so. This was very interesting and obviously essential to the running of the site. This meant that from that point onwards reporters and feature writers were able to upload articles to be edited and then published.

Having concluded our news conference under the watchful gaze of Angus Scott, the editors returned to the news room to liase with the features team. This meant that we were able to confirm with Chris Horrie what the stories were that we were going to work on and how it may pan out into a running order. With Alice Rimes, confirming the details of what her features team would be providing, we were hopeful of a high quality first dummy run.

Going into Tuesday many people were beginning to edit packages having filmed the previous day. Omar Mussa constructed a good looking feature on fashion and the newsroom was a hive of activity with the production team starting to get to grips with the site and the editing process. The news stories were written up on the news board and this means that everyone had a better idea of what was going into the package. Several members of the team however were only noticeable by their absence and this began to be a cause for concern for me. With the Deputy News Editor missing for the first news conference on Monday and many sub-editors unsure of how to use the software due to the fact that they missed the relevant lectures there was some concern as to the quality of the bulletin. However as the newsroom wound down on Tuesday I was confident in both the end production and my colleagues whose task it was to actually produce the packages in time for the production staff to actually edit and upload.

Wednesday, production day, deadline day and I was hoping that everyone would pull together to make the first dummy run as efficient as if it was the genuine article. The people that were in the newsroom I can not speak highly enough of. Considering some of the inexperience of some of the reporters and the fact that many people did not think that they should turn up as ‘it wasn’t their day’ we all pulled together as a team. The fact that News Editor, James, had to leave to follow up a story was the greatest cause for concern for the whole week for me. Due to the fact that some of his reporters had either left editing left or hadn’t come in at all he had no choice to go out chasing the damage caused by the previous day’s hurricane. This left the newsroom in the hands of myself and Production Editor, Rich Taylor. With the sports team being worked hard by Sports Editor, Mark Lovell and the features work assured by Alice Rimes, I remained confident that we would produce a good looking bulletin. With the studio unlocked and some of the more inexperienced second years not needed in the newsroom I should have assigned them to practice on the cameras and lighting as well as the gallery equipment. This is something that I will remember for next week.

With time ticking on we were working flat out to ensure that we would have a bulletin to run with. At this point the production team went into the studio and after a couple of hours frantic work on the script and final running order they were ready, although time constraints had prevented them from having a run through. Considering that Claire and Tom had never done any presenting before they did very well. James’s late arrival back in the newsroom and the hard work of the rest of the news team was not enough however as the two lead packages just missed out on making it into the bulletin.

However the team should not be down heartened at all. We worked very well and very hard, a little more input from certain people and more experience with both editing and filming will stand us in good stead going forward. There were a lot of positives to take from the first week. We all worked well together on the whole especially as we have never had to do anything like this before. The newsroom was relatively calm even when under pressure. The stories that we did get even if they didn’t quite make the deadline were of a good standard and perhaps most importantly, everyone helped each other, features staff were helping out the news team and the sports desk was lending a hand in the studio. This is what I feel it is all about ensuring that everyone pulls together, we stand or we fall as one. If the bulletin isn’t good due to poor news stories then it is not just the news team that fail. If dodgy lighting or camera work lets us down the sports team still have to suffer for it. So I think everyone should take heart from what was a good start and be prepared to lean on each other even more in the coming weeks.

A few points that need addressing this week are:


  1. Attendance – as Managing Editor I have already sent out an email regarding this, the simple fact of the matter is that if you expect a good grade you are in the newsroom from 9 till 6 on Wednesday, no excuses, end of debate. I have discussed this with Chris and Brian and this is the case.
  2. A better understanding of everyone’s location – I am going to gather contact details of every member of the team and therefore they will be contactable at all times. This should eliminate issues like the News Editor having to leave the newsroom on deadline day.
  3. Tighter and harder deadlines – the simple fact is if the production team do not have the packages by 2pm they are going to be rushed when they have to stack the Vts before we go live. I will discuss this in the editorial conference this week but I feel 2pm is suitable, fail to meet this deadline your package is cut, no debates. We can not run the risk of having black space again.
  4. Better use of people and time – I will ensure that people that are stood around doing nothing are given something to do even if it means watching someone edit so they get more experience on equipment.


On the whole I feel it went well and am looking forward to an even better bulletin this week.



Posted by: benk1988 | November 1, 2009

Johnson Gets it Right on Drug Decision

Whilst watching Sky News this morning i was shocked to discover that i actually agree with a decision taken by the current Government. The interview with Home Secretary Alan Johnson was regarding the recent dismissal of the head of Labour’s drug advisory board, Profesor David Nutt.

Since this decision was made, Dr Les King of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, has resigned in protest to Prof Nutt being denied his ‘freedom of speech’ so say the BBC. However this is entirely misleading and misrepresenting the point. The issue is not whether Prof Nutt is permitted to express his opinions or not, rather the fact that he has taken an opposing view to those people he is supposed to be advising and representative of.

Having spoken openly against the Government’s decision to upgrade cannabis to a Class B from a Class C and having claimed that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse, you can see why the Home Secretary felt this man was not a good representative of the Brown leadership.

Let’s just think about this for a moment. If the Government were to appoint a military expert to advise it on the deployment of our nuclear arsenal, would it then be ok for said expert to join the CND. No, of course not. If they were to appoint someone to discuss the problems of prolonged NHS waiting lists and this person then said that they didn’t think they actually existed then again there would be a problem. So what is the difference when the chief drug advisor attacks the decisions that the Government have made.

In reality the arguments as to whether it’s right or wrong to change drug classification will be somewhat lost now as the issue becomes more and more politicised but i do not think that we can blame the Government for sacking someone who has been attacking them publicly.

Oh and you may want to take a picture people because me agreeing with Governmental decisions does not happen very often.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 25, 2009

The Final Word on the BNP

Well it has been an interesting week in the political sphere, rarely has someone with such relatively low public support seen his face plastered over the front pages of nearly every paper, nearly every day. Nick Griffin will sure be happy with his week’s work, despite his somewhat stuttering performance on Question Time, which to be honest was a rather large anti-climax.

Having dominated the column inches, with various different newspaper commentators debating whether or not the leader had a right to be on the show, he then dominated the headlines during and after the programmes transmission. This has led, according to the BNP themselves, to  a 30% increase in interest in membership. The debate as to whether it was right to allow the MEP for the North East, is irrelevant now as it has happened, however the bottom line with regards to this is that if the BBC did not permit BNP representatives to attend such programmes, they would be in breach of their charter and could face legal action. End of story. Whether you like him or not, agree with him or not is utterly irrelevant and although of course people have the right to voice their opinions, there is no legitimate argument to prevent his appearance.

What seems far more worrying is the fact that on a day when the BBC studios faced probably their biggest ever threat from protesters, some still managed to gain access to the building and even got to the doors of where the programme would be filmed. This strikes me as very suspect and perhaps im just a cynic but i think it far more likely that the BBC was not too stringent on security, knowing that any breach would only further raise interest in the show, which saw record viewing figures.

As for the content of the programme itself, i found it largely disappointing. The media and politicians relentlessly hammer the BNP and other fringe parties for having no real policies, well where were the searching questions about the BNP’s NHS policy or GM foods? Instead of taking this chance to really scrutinise the motives and hopes of the far-right the hour was spent trying to trip him up and make him look stupid. Perhaps that worked to a certain degree, but so what, what has that actually achieved? If i was a member of Unite Against Fascism or one of the mad liberals standing outside that seem to believe that everyone should be free from oppression and have their own voice unless they are right-wing opinions, i would be very disappointed.

In the days that have followed the newspapers seem to competing to see who can say the most offensive things about Griffin and get away with it. He has become somewhat similar to Stalin and Hitler and far more hated that George Bush ever was. We will have to wait and see as to what the full fall out will be but i’m sure Griffin will not be too disappointed with his week’s work. Now perhaps we can move onto more pressing matters, like do i need to post my Christmas cards now to ensure they arrive in time.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 19, 2009

Peru Mine Protest Leads to High Court Case

The front page of today’s Guardian bore an awful picture showing protesters at a British mining company in Peru. Covered in bin bags, hands bound and allegedly tortured the demonstraters were kept hostage for three days. A high court case has now been brought against the British based Monterrico Metals amid allegations of sexual assault, torture and claims that inaction from the mining officials led to the death of 41 year old farmer Melanio Garcia.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 19, 2009

The BBC Faces Questions for Question Time Panel

The show hasn’t even begun yet the turmoil and complaints regarding the BNP’s inclusion in the BBC flagship programme, Question Time have come flooding in with Wales Secretary Peter Hain warning that the corporation could face legal action.

With the recent decision that they were ‘an unlawful body’ following questions regarding the membership policy of the far-right party, Hain has written a letter warning BBC Director General Mark Thompson that he may face legal problems by seemingly legitimising the party in the publics’ eyes. The invitation to BNP leader Nick Griffin was made in the wake of European Election success which saw his party claim two MEPs.

However Thompson has little choice in the matter. For the BBC this has nothing to do with whether or not the views and policies of Nick Griffin’s party are right or wrong, acceptable or disagreeable, they have to leave that decision to the licence fee payers, some of which will have voted in support of the BNP. The media does not exist to regulate the political world, it does not exist to tell people what to believe, it exists solely to inform and educate.

Having received 6% of the vote at the last round of elections what were the BBC expected to do? Ignore the party and ignore those people who voted for it? No, this is not possible and certainly not in keeping with impartiality and objectivity therefore to be fair the invitation was delivered and obviously Griffin accepted. For many people the appearance of the BNP on Question Time is disgusting and insulting however to those more switched on members of the community if the BNP are so ridiculous they should be pleased. Give ’em enough rope to hang themselves if they are so horrific.
In today’s Media Guardian other media agencies have rallied round to defend the BBC’s decision and offer support, Jon Snow of Channel 4 news says ‘Our view is that if they have elected representatives we have some obligation to interview them.’ (Media Guardian Page 1). The article goes on to quote the editor of ITV News and Nicky  Campbell from Radio 5 Live all agree with the legitimacy of the panel.

So the stage is set with Nick Griffin facing off against the Wales Secretary, Conservative and Lib Dem officials and a black author with controversy guaranteed.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 11, 2009

Obama’s Award Seems Somewhat Premature

Just days after being named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama has declared he will overturn policy regarding homosexuality in the American military.

Although some saw Obama as the obvious choice for the award many have asked, what has he actually achieved in the realms of world peace? Plain and simply very little. Speaking in Saturday’s  Times, Lech Walesa, the former Polish President who won the prize in 1983 was dismayed. He said ‘So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far.’ This is not to say that the President has not been campaigning to bring about a safer world but his efforts to this day have largely been in vain.

Despite the fact that three of the past six awards have been awarded to adversaries of the previous Bush administration, the award panel have now seen fit to award the American leader the £880,000 prize. The money will be donated to charity but we should actually look at Obama’s record before deciding whether the award is deserved. He has campaigned for the reduction of nuclear missiles, yet the exact same number remain, he has campaigned for peace and a clearer electoral process in Iran, yet a secret nuclear facility has just been found and claims of corruption surround the recent election. The problems in Israel persist and despite his inspirational speech in Cairo regarding cross faith co-operation little has been seen.

Admittedly the President’s abandonment of the controversial missile programme in Europe and the fresh talks with Russia have improved American standing in many countries and give a hint of understanding toward his selection for the award. Yet we must ask ourselves why Obama was nominated when all nominations had to be made within weeks of his inauguration when little or nothing had been achieved. It does seem somewhat of a paradox that when awarded the prize Obama is the leader of a nation embroiled in two separate wars, that is not to say whether the wars are right or wrong but question whether someone leading a waring country can be dubbed the most peaceful man in the world, who has done the most to try and achieve everlasting peace?

Why was Morgan Tsvangriai overlooked, he has campaigned for free elections in Zimbabwe while seeing his friends and allies brutally tortured and murdered. American Greg Mortenson is a US medic who has spent vast sums of his own money opening schools in Afghanistan for girls that are the victim of rape and there are many others however they perhaps do not have the celebrity status of the American leader.

Obama’s decision today to change the law relating to homosexuals in the Army maybe seen as a step to justify the award however it seems somewhat last minute as little had been heard of this idea before today.

This is not to say that the President does not deserve recognition, does not deserve praise and what he had achieved is truly staggering, he has changed the world forever by becoming the first black president. His attempts to set up a US style NHS and his efforts regarding CND and the Middle East crisis are truly admirable however until he has actually achieved these efforts the award seems almost laughable and utterly illogical.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 11, 2009

Brown to Face Expenses Scandal

Yesterday Gordon Brown said that the worst offenders of the MP expenses scandal ‘should be prosecuted.’ However it turns out that he well may have to look at prosecuting himself. The BBC claim that it is ‘highly likely’ that the Prime Minister will have to pay back money that he has wrongly claimed.

With sources at Whitehall saying that ‘the majority’ of MPs’ will have to pay back something or be asked for justification this is the last thing the Government wanted to hear. With several MPs’ already stepping down after the first round of scandals, perhaps come election time the public will make that decision for him, as this latest bit of news will only lessen his already low standing in the people’s eyes.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 10, 2009

The Gulf War in Jeopardy as TA Training Ceases

Reading in today’s Times  I was staggered to see a story relating to the ending of training for the Territorial Army. Drill based work at the various units up and down the country will cease, the compulsory two week summer training course will not be run and the weekend exercises will be shelved in a bid to cut about £20 million worth of costs.

This news comes when the TA is already below the required number. Today there should be about 39,000 soldiers ready for combat should they be required however those with the full and correct training only number 19,300. Now as a previous TA soldier I can confirm that the speed and accuracy in which training was delivered was somewhat unreliable, however the answer can not be to simply stop it altogether.

Instead perhaps the administration of The Land Force could look at actually running the organisation in a correct and efficient way. Despite leaving 103 Battalion of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers a few years ago, I continue to be sent pay slips and literature despite the fact that im no longer a member and thus no longer attend falicitating the need for payment. With the cessation of training comes the cessation of pay for those men and women that do make up the Reserve Army but do the administration intend to keep sending them all blank pay slips.

The turmoil that this could cause in Iraq and Afghanistan is incalculable as huge numbers of TA units have been involved since both wars inception.  With pledges coming from the Conservatives that they would address concerns regarding troop numbers and equipment many may be looking to the Government to be pledging more money to the armed forces not less in what is a clearly controversial topic.

Posted by: benk1988 | October 10, 2009

Seconds Out . . . Round Two of the MPs’ Expenses Wars

The duck house, the moat and the mortgages for properties that didn’t exist, we all remember the headlines that topped the entire British press for weeks regarding the bizarre world of the MPs’ expenses saga.  The media men could not believe their luck, it was as if Christmas had come early and this time Santa had been swapped for a Tory who thought his ducks needed somewhere to sleep at night and a Labour MP who argued that Southampton was too far away from London to commute.

The headlines wrote themselves and circulation for many papers were at an all time high. Yes, admittedly some pushed it too far and the stories became stagnant and old with rehashing of the same information creeping into copy. Quickly editors acted and began to push the few new breakthroughs further back into the dead pages of their respective papers.

However Murdoch and his fellow media moguls will be rubbing their hands with glee this morning amid the news that MPs’ are facing further investigation into their claims when they return from their summer break. Those that are under suspicion will be sent a letter from an official investigator and be expected to prove their claims were genuine and legitimate.

As Brown and his cabinet already scramble to distance themselves and claim that those responsible of the most heinous claims should be prosecuted, the hacks are waiting in the wings to see what new revelations will emerge when Parliament reconvenes.


What is permitted (courtes of BBC)

£24,000-a-year Additional Costs Allowance, which covers the running of MPs’ second homes

£22,193-a-year Incidental Expenses Provision, which pays for running an office

£10,400-a-year Communications Allowance, which funds websites, newsletters, stationery and postage

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