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Letter sent on Feb 19, 2016

Friday Reading S03E10

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from journalist and designer Martin Belam, covering media, technology and politics. And frequently Doctor Who and 80’s music too. Martin is Social & New Formats Editor for the Guardian in London.

“Fifteen years later, memes come and go much more quickly and in much greater quantities than the Y2K-era media ever anticipated. ‘Something weird is happening on the internet’ is still a news story, but it’s a given that something weird will happen on the internet every day, and that it will disappear just as rapidly. Back then, it took All Your Base years to spread and years to die — and it happened in a time before social media”

All Your Base Are Belong to Us’ Is 15 Years Old” — Jay Hathaway

Still can’t get over the time a couple of years back when I used an “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” pun in a headline and about a gazillion interweb noobs helpfully pointed out “the typo”

The nominations for The Society of Editors Press Awards in the UK and they featured a lot of men. A lot of men.

There’s now a “Words By Women” set of awards been set up as a response, with a bold opening statement I wholeheartedly approve of:

“As a group of young women journalists, we were disappointed — but not particularly surprised — to see the huge gender imbalance in the recent Press Awards shortlist. So we decided to create a space that will give a more diverse range of journalists recognition for their achievements. 21st March 2016 will be the first Words by Women Awards. It’s been created by women for women, and we hope it will change the way women are recognised within the media.”

They are holding their inaugural awards on March 21st.

I’ve crunched some numbers to show just how much the odds are stacked against women.

BuzzFeed News reporter Rossalyn Warren talks to First Draft news about her experience of reporting on one Syrian refugee trying to reach Europe who documented his journey in real-time to her via WhatsApp.

Trinity Mirror are intending to launch a new print newspaper. A bold and perhaps counter-intuitive move.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION KLAXON: I was on this week’s Guardian Tech Weekly podcast, talking about the future of mobile news apps, alongside colleagues Jonathan Haynes and Sarah Schmalbach, and Quartz’s Zach Seward.

Talking of which: Facebook Instant Articles for All!

Interestingly this is the kind of development which would used to have had me scrabbling around to work out how to make martinbelam.com compatible, but now I just assume that I’ll keep publishing here and Medium will solve the tech for me.

If you’ve never been quite sure what the hell people were talking about when they say data-driven journalism then this is one of the clearest explainers you’ll ever read on the topic by Sophie Warnes. You should also hire her if you need a data-driven reporter.

And this, also on data journalism, sees Eva Constantaras wondering why we can’t get cross-border value from all the tools and techniques that we’ve got lying around in newsrooms across the globe.

“The primary challenge lies in the assumption that the media is a public-service watchdog. Unfortunately, this role is not assumed, or understood, in much of the world. Instead, I see apathy and resignation in countries where corruption and scandal are often on the front page, but fleetingly. Neither the journalist writing the story nor the citizen reading the story expects that just because the problem is exposed, it will ever be fixed.”

I know that feeling in the UK too tbh.

My boss at the Guardian delivered this talk about games the other week…

“Fuck beating games, because we are so far beyond that concept that for the vast majority of games it makes about as much sense as beating Michaelangelo’s David does. Some games are made of mechanics, and if you’ve mastered a mechanic as much as you want to, then you can stop. Some games are made of stories, and if you’ve experienced as much of a story as you want to, then you can stop. You don’t owe games your time. If they’re hard and you love them and you want to throw yourself at them over and over again for hours on end: you can, and that’s OK. If they bore you or they fatigue you or they just don’t interest you: you are not obliged to continue. Even if you’re still in the tutorial. Especially if the tutorial is more than an hour long.”

Fuck complete” — Mary Hamilton

Look at this thing of beauty.

“The thing is, not every moral quandary lends itself well to the pursuit of compromise. With abortion, there are only two basic options: either terminating a foetus is an unconscionable act, or it isn’t. The unborn has a right to life that overrides the right of the mother to make decisions about her own body, or it doesn’t.”

Abortion opponents don’t really think it’s murder. They just want to judge women” — Abi Wilkinson

A grim triple set of reading if you are a Labour supporter, or just care about there being an effective opposition holding Government to account…

“[Nobody in the focus group] has heard of Jeremy Corbyn , which will surely be a blow to the leader who believes this scandalously-ignored slice of the electorate will propel him to Downing Street in 2020.”

Labour MP asked young women why they don’t vote — and they were brutally honest” — Ben Glaze

“The ecstatic Labour delegates sitting around me in the Brighton Centre listening to Jeremy Corbyn give his first party conference speech as leader were lovely people. But they were utterly deluded. All the research I’ve seen suggests that the party lost the 2015 election — something Corbyn neglected even to mention — because it wasn’t trusted on the economy, because its leader wasn’t seen as a credible candidate for Downing Street and because it was still seen as a soft touch on welfare and immigration. It will not win an election five years later by being even less determined to balance the books, by being led by someone who looks and sounds even less prime ministerial, and by being seen as an even softer touch on welfare and immigration.”

Labour can’t win with Jeremy Corbyn — but he’s not the one to blame” — Tim Bale

“The best conclusion from the evidence right now, however, is easy to summarise. Unless nothing changes radically, the best Labour can hope for in 2020 is another defeat that confines the Conservatives to only a very small majority, or in the absolute best case scenario limits them to forming a minority government that has to bargain with other parties to get its legislation through. Neither case currently seems particularly likely.”

Corbyn and the Labour Party — Historic polling comparisons highlight the party’s challenges ahead of 2020” — Glen O’Hara

“We often think of ‘chavs’ (to begrudgingly use such problematic terms for their efficacy as shorthand) as a distinctly UK phenomenon, when in reality they’re the local manifestations of a global one. Every country in Europe has its own colloquialism for this subsegment of working class youth: in France they’re called ‘racaille’. In Russia it’s ‘gopnik’. ‘Dizelaši’ in Serbia. They exist under various monikers all across the old Eastern bloc, and are even found way down in Australia in the form of ‘lads’ or ‘eshays’.”

The history of the tracksuit as a symbol of working class aggression that transcends national borders” — Aleks Eror

Enjoyable romp through a very niche area of collecting…

“What fuels people to drop the equivalent of six months of groceries on a single box of cereal? To answer that question, one must first get familiar with breakfast cereal’s trajectory from a lowly morning meal to an American pop culture icon.”

Inside the Sweet, Strange World of Cereal Box Collectors” — Whitney Filloon

I love a good conspiracy theory, me. Fascinated how, in the face of all the evidence that given a chance to fuck something up, humans will fuck something up, people believe these massively organised secret societies are somehow running all the things.

Conspiracy of the week I:

The conspiracy theorists who have taken over Poland — Jarosław Kaczyński has convinced Poland that it is threatened by a shadowy leftwing cabal” — Christian Davies

Conspiracy of the week II:

Did Obama Murder Antonin Scalia? The Conspiracy Theories, Explained” — Ashley Feinberg

This is a great essay about the history and future of batteries — what happens if we run out of lithium? It also starts with an amazing opening story:

“In the house, among a small yet influential audience and with a certain amount of dramatic flourish, Aldini inserted one metal rod into Foster’s lifeless mouth and another into his ear. Reports of what happened next would inspire Mary Shelley, who was only 5 years old at the time, to later write Frankenstein. At first, Foster’s jaws began to quiver. Then the adjoining muscles contorted, opening one of the dead man’s eyes. As electrical current continued to flow through his muscles, Foster’s right hand clenched into a fist, and his legs and thighs began to shake. Some of the bystanders recoiled, believing that he was in the process of being resurrected.”

How the shape of the Periodic Table came to Dmitri Mendeleev in a dream. Great story, but begs the question of why I only get dreams about making horrible glaring typos or crushing legal errors that lose me my job.

BONUS: Here I am working in a record shop in the late 90s. Who knew that building their website would end up here…

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from journalist and designer Martin Belam, covering media, technology and politics. And frequently Doctor Who and 80’s music too. Martin is Social & New Formats Editor for the Guardian in London.

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