SubScribe: February 2012 Google+

Monday, 27 February 2012

Hitting the roof






There is something  troubling about a cluster of 'foreigners are ripping us off' stories in the Telegraph of late.
Today's front page reports:

Almost 100 families are raking in enough housing benefit to fund a £1million mortgage, raising fresh doubts about the Government's cap, figures released yesterday show.

In fact, it could have said more than 100, since interest payments on a £1 million loan at 4% come out at £3,333 per month, and the Telegraph tells us that  that 130 families receive more than £1,000 per week. (Though if they wanted to pay off the mortgage,  as they headline says they could, they'd need another £750 a week to chip away at the capital over 25 years).
The stats have been released under the Freedom of Information Act, so we have to accept that details are going to be sketchy. The 100 in the intro all live in Kensington and Chelsea and receive up to £5,000 per month. On the face of it, it seems a heck of a lot of money. But we don't know who they are, what their circumstances are or why they are receiving this benefit. 
Lower down the story we are told about some Somalis whose cases were highlighted a couple of years ago, but we have no way of knowing whether they are among the people covered by the new statistics.
Also lower down the story, we learn that nearly five million people claim housing benefit, with 80% of them collecting less than £100 a week.
So why does that fact that a handful of people, rightly or wrongly, are being paid so much to put a roof over their head - raking it in, as the Telegraph so elegantly phrases it -  raise fresh doubts about the Government's cap?
Wouldn't you think that if you were outraged by these payments (to people you don't know and for reasons you don't know) that you would see it as an argument in favour of the proposed benefits cap? Indeed, the three people quoted in the story - the ministry, the shadow minister and a spokeswoman for the Taxpayers Alliance - all saw the figures as proof that the cap was needed.
The figures are certainly interesting and relevant, since the debate over the benefit cap is exercising people in all walks of society. The subject is worthy of deeper investigation - a proper look at who is getting what. But there is something about this story that leaves a nasty taste. That verb in the intro; the reference to the Somalis. It masquerades as straight reporting. But it isn't.

The same applies to the piece in Saturday's paper about a group of Gypsies who flew in and out of Britain to defraud the benefits system of  hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Romanians to repay £17.65 after £800,000 benefits fraud

read the headline, guaranteed to provoke outrage.
One woman was ordered to pay just £1 of £100,000 she had received through fraudulent benefit claims, and another £16.65 of £81,000.
The headline and the intro give the impression that this is the only punishment being imposed. But these women - and other members of their family - had been jailed last year for the offences; this was a confiscation hearing. And the point about confiscation hearings is that you can't force someone to give you what they haven't got. There is no point in making an order that will cost much more to enforce than it will return. The idea isn't to waste more of the country's money of wild goose chases.
So once again, the report leaves that taste in the mouth. How often do we read about how much other fraudsters are asked to repay? Rarely. 
The scam was cheeky, to put it mildly, the restitution order small enough to make the story valid and interesting. But if only the reporter had given us one paragraph at the end to say how much has been recovered in restitution hearings in the past year, for example, with perhaps the highest payment detailed, we'd have had a little more perspective.

And finally, another case of racism?
Geoff Stephens has lived in Britain for 27 years and used to work as a community warden in Kent. He has taken his colleagues to the European Court of Human Rights for racial abuse because they would greet him every morning by saying "G'day, sport". Yes, Mr Stephens is Australian. 
Mr Stephens quit his job because of depression. He says he grew tired of constant references to kangaroos and prawns on barbies.  He also claims that people were listening to his telephone calls (and we all know the trouble that can cause). 
So I know it's very naughty of me, but I couldn't help but smile halfway through the story when he was asked what he thought about the phone interception. 
His reply: "Strewth."


Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)





Thursday, 23 February 2012

Value added



Your starter for two:
6 queen scallops
good quality black pudding
a little oil for cooking

Slice black pudding into six rounds.
Heat oil in a shallow pan and fry black pudding for about five minutes on each side, put to one side on warmed plates
Reheat oil until it is smoking, flash fry scallops for a minute each side.
Put on top of black pudding rounds.

Serve with dill garnish and perhaps a carrot, pumpkin, pea or cauliflower puree (separate recipe) or scatter crispy bacon on top and drizzle with a mustard sauce
For a main course, double the quantities and serve with mashed potato and al dente vegetables


There are as many ways to prepare seared scallops with black pudding as there are cookery writers to invent them. So what a pity the Guardian didn't share one of them with us alongside the  jolly little piece about the rise of black pud by Helen Nugent which brightened the gloom yesterday. 
Factboxes bring life to a page, whether in print or digitally. They also bring in readers. We might kid ourselves that the witty heading or the important subject matter are what really count, but put a little coloured box on the page and that's where the eye goes first. With luck the brain will follow and read the story rather than just flick to the next page.
Factboxes are guaranteed to bring a groan to the newsroom. Reporters hate them because they see them trivial - why can't the space be used for more of my precious copy? News editors hate them because they take time to dream up and research, and  they know the reporter will whinge when asked to pitch in. Subs hate them because they're fiddly and the type commands will always throw up bugs. But readers love them - as we all do  when we haven't got to produce them.
They key to a good factbox or panel is that it must add a new dimension to the coverage; something people would talk about in the pub or over dinner. The Guardian story could just as easily have carried a panel of stats on how much black pudding is sold/eaten/exported etc a year and how that compares with 10, 20 or 50 years ago. Or it could have run some quotes from the unnamed celebrity chefs credited with inspiring this surge of interest. Most of all, with a light story, it needed to be fun, and ideally with a little icon or cutout picture.
For more serious issues, say a civil war in a far-off land of which we know little, a good bullet-point profile of the country - and a locator map - not only livens the page, but allows the writer to get on with the narrative instead of cluttering up the story with statistics. What should be included? Population certainly, GDP probably, but spare us the literacy rates for 16-year-olds unless the thrust of the story is that the inability to read is costing lives. Instead, give the reader a little snippet at the end. Go on, tell us the President is 5'2" and his wife 6'4" or that the Prime Minister plays the sax in an all-girls band.
It is often simple to hive off figures or background from a story, but that's cheating a bit. It's OK if the material naturally separates and makes it easier for the reader as well as the writer, but that is the on-deadline solution. Ideally, factboxes and panels should be relevant yet stand independently of the story.
But most of all, they should be useful - and that doesn't just mean informative; making the reader smile or say 'Gosh' is useful. Making the reader feel smart is also useful. In exam stories, a sample question is a must, but unless the point is that A levels are getting impossibly hard or GCSEs improbably easy, try to pitch the question so that it's challenging enough for the reader to have to think about it - and then feel pleased with herself for getting it right. 
Another approach is to try to make two numbers work together (as Private Eye does brilliantly) such as 

£399m 
RBS losses in 2010
£390m 
bonuses paid to RBS staff 2011 

(although beware of making a political point if you're supposed to be an independent newspaper)

The tabloids are  experts with the 20 things you never knew about...but be sure you don't run out of steam if you go down this route - and that the facts will genuinely come as a suprise.  She comes from Tottenham would not do if you were writing about that singer.

Perhaps the most important tip is to avoid copying out Wikipedia. Quite apart from accuracy concerns (it is spectacularly wrong on tax relief on mortgage interest), everyone can look there, so you're not bringing something fresh to the party. 
A starting point, certainly, but then it's all really a question of using your imagination. 
Good examples welcome.


Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)





Monday, 20 February 2012

Repetitive strain


Carla Bruni has a talent for reinventing herself. Her latest incarnation, of course, is as first lady of France, loyal wife to President Nic and devoted mother to baby Giulia.
Newspapers and broadcasters on both sides of the Channel have thrilled to every episode of the soap opera that took her from the catwalk via the arms of Mick Jagger to the Elysee Palace. But there's a small snag: her name. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is a bit of a mouthful and takes up the best part of a  line of text,  even in 8pt.
So having got it out of the way at first mention, the temptation for the reporter or sub is to find other ways to refer to her. The sidebar to the presidential campaign page lead in the Telegraph today takes that to extremes. 
In the space of seven pars, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy is described as the first lady... the former model... the pop singer... and the heiress... and as seeking to portray herself as new mother, doting spouse.. and woman of the people. Wonderwoman's name is used only once.
There are times when broadsheet folk yearn to be transported to a redtop that would permit the use of Carla, but if that's not an option, we just have to accept that her name is her name and use it.
It is possible that the Telegraph correspondent was seeking to portray Ms Bruni-Sarkozy as a woman of many parts -  or even taking a gentle dig at her-  but it seems more likely that he was trying to avoid repetition.
The fear of repetition leads not only to daft linguistic contortions but also to confusion. In the case of Ms Bruni-Sarkozy to introduce successive paragraphs with a new description causes the reader to pause,  if only momentarily, to wonder whether a fresh character has been introduced.

Most people seem to have got the message that 'said' is a perfectly good word that doesn't need to be turned into interjected or opined or declaimed or any other such nonsense, but the dread of repeating other words remains widespread. So much so that it has given rise to a game in one newsroom where subs are challenged to identify the word being avoided by using so-called elegant variation. 
Examples (yes, they  are real) include the popular yellow fruit...(banana), the familiar red roadside furniture...(postbox) and the large grey beast...(elephant).
Tom Pride of The Times has an extensive collection and it would be fun to compile one on this site, so all contributions are welcome. Thanks to  Richard Dixon for starting the ball rolling with custodians between the uprights (goalkeepers). It's  absurd - but then, most of the usual rules do not apply to sport. You do hear people in the pub talking sportalese.

Just to be perverse, back at the Telegraph our Carla correspondent also demonstrates that  sometimes a single repetition can jar, even in separate stories.
 In the main copy he writes 
Stuck with the nickname of "President of the rich", Mr Sarkozy is recasting himself as the underdog...
In the Carla sidebar, he tells us 
Communication experts remain sceptical that recasting the heiress into a "woman of the people" will help her husband...
A little recasting of one of them would not have gone amiss. 
Some commentators are never satisfied.

God cop, bad cop:
Still with the Telegraph, congratulations to the business sub for this simple  
head
Shopper numbers tail off without the tinsel factor
OK, so shopper numbers is a bit staid, but what a lovely turn of phrase at the end. We know exactly what it means without any festive jargon. There was no tinsel factor in the copy, so it was creative subbing at its best.
More examples welcome, as it would be nice to have a hall of fame to celebrate thoughtful headline writing.

Less creative was this effort in the Times iPad edition
Man trapped in car near Arctic Circle survives for 60 days by eating snow
A man trapped in his car just south of the Arctic Circle apparently survived for 60 days by eating snow.
A fascinating story. A good head? A good intro? Probably one, but not both. This is the sort of repetition that we do need to avoid.



Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)









Sunday, 19 February 2012

Relatively speaking




Two people drown.  We know their relationship, but not their names, and details of their lives are scant.

The Telegraph coverage ran thus:

Grandmother and boy drown feeding ducks
A grandmother and her six-year-old grandson drowned in a village pond while feeding ducks, police said last night.

The report goes on to say that the woman was 71, that she was a widow, and that a neighbour thought she was fond of ballet.
Not a lot to go on, perhaps, but enough to allow the writer and sub to have done better.
First the heading: Was she a woman who happened to be a grandmother? Was the boy her grandson or someone unrelated? Funnily enough, Boy and grandmother drown... would have made it clear.  The published version doesn't.
Then the intro: This time the relationship is hammered home too much. An obvious, but dull, variation would have been A woman and her six-year-old grandson...
We know she's a widow, so maybe that would have been a better opener? But perhaps we care more about the death of a child than that of the woman looking after him, so should he come first? 

Even in simple stories, we need to be aware that the way we express relationships implies some level of judgment. We carelessly write about 'a plumber and his wife' as though the woman were no more than an appendage.
The same applies if we start a story, for example,  A mother of four ... Maybe we are just using the one piece of information that saves us from A woman..., in which case fair enough. But unless motherhood is the prime reason for the woman being in the news, we should try to avoid it. How often do we start stories A father of four...?

Back to the village pond: The Times approached it thus:

Widow drowns with grandson in village lake
A boy of six and his 71-year-old grandmother have been found dead in a village lake.

The headline was double column, so the configuration was more restricted than the Telegraph's banner. 
But after that, it gets interesting. There is no doubt, looking at the pictures, that it was a lake rather than a pond, but that doesn't have the same ring. Is it stretching journalistic licence too far to go with pond? 
We also know the purpose of their outing only from what the police have surmised,  so  The Times plays it cautiously, waiting until the second par to say they were 'thought to have stopped to feed ducks'. Again, is that being too prissy or simple accuracy?
Unlike the Telegraph, The Times names the pair. It turns out that the grandmother is a retired nursery school teacher. I think I'd have liked to have known before the third par that this woman had professional experience of looking after  young children. It may add to our feelings of sympathy -  or the reverse  - but it is definitely relevant. I'd have made it the intro, thus:

A retired nursery teacher and her six-year-old grandson drowned while feeding ducks in a village lake yesterday.
Then the boy could have taken precedence in the heading...but the permutations are endless.


Meanwhile, two and a half cheers for the Telegraph's coverage of Dr Finella Brita-Babapulle's brush with the law:

Doctor waged gay smear 'war' on ex-husband after divorce cash row
A respected consultant haematologist subjected her former husband to a series of homosexual smears because she felt she was cheated out of £430,000 in their bitter divorce.

Hurrah, no dreaded 'female' or 'woman'. The reporter (presumably a casual as no named byline) gets it spot on with her profession up front, letting the 'her former husband' do the gender bit. We might question the need to say it was a 'bitter' divorce - most that end up in a criminal court are - but that's a quibble. 
Similarly, do we really need those quotes round 'war'. She's been convicted of harassment and she has challenged him in every court in the land, so it wouldn't have been too naughty to leave them off. 
But both head and intro were compelling enough to encourage the reader to  learn more. 

*image by Bobbie Peachey, http://webclipart.about.com


Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)










Saturday, 18 February 2012

Information overload


David Cameron is the Prime Minister. Ilfracombe is in North Devon. The Bowleven oil company is based in Edinburgh.  The Oxford Bible Commentary was edited in 2001 by John Barton and John Muddiman. The taxpayer owns 83% of RBS.  
Readers may be interested in any or all of these facts - but not necessarily in an opening paragraph. Who cares about the geography or history of the subject of a story before discovering what he, she or it has done?
Take this intro from the front page of The Guardian:

Teachers at Gateway primary school, in Marylebone, central London, have noticed that anxiety about the introduction of a new housing benefit cap is beginning to unsettle some pupils.

So what is most important here? The teachers? The specific primary school? Its exact location? Or the children? Why all those commas and geography before we get to the point?
There are, of course, many ways of telling a story...but how about this:

Children as young as eight are fretting that they might lose their homes if housing benefit is capped, teachers say. 
(The age and precise concerns were detailed lower in the story).

The key is to focus on what counts and get that message across before the reader falls asleep or turns the page. That doesn't preclude delayed drops and other such invitations to read on, but the fewer commas (and parentheses) there are in an intro, the easier it is to read.
And yes, this is an egg-sucking lesson, but some of us need it. Did your grandma actually know how to suck eggs? Mine didn't. Sometimes we have to go back to basics..
If it's vital to the understanding of the story, put it up top. If it's a detail that can wait, let it come in naturally later on. 

And then there's the exception that proves the rule. Take this glorious effort from Martin Fletcher in The Times
Chris Tappin seems an improbable criminal. Silver-haired, bespectacled and slightly deaf, the retired businessman lives in an elegant house in Orpington, heads the Kent Golf Union, representing the county's 95 clubs, plays bridge and dotes on his grandson.

From another pen that would probably have been too, too much information. But it is just brilliant.





Friday, 17 February 2012

Don't quote me



Who would have thought reporters could be such sentimental souls. They like to appear hard-bitten and ruthless. But show them a soundbite and they come over all cuddly and protective, immediately feeling the need to wrap these precious words in the security blanket of a pair of quotation marks. 

Wayne Rooney was "absolutely gutted" when he missed the last-minute penalty. 

Mrs Jones was "outraged" at the council's plans to set up a waste tip opposite her semi.

Subs are made of sterner stuff. It is our job to unwrap these random words, to let  them stand up for themselves and  show us what they're made of.
It's called reported speech.
If a reputable newspaper reports that the Governor of the Bank of England says  the Chancellor is making a pig's ear of the economy and that we're all destined for the poorhouse, you can be pretty sure that  that's what he said. The Governor chooses his phrases carefully and economics correspondents aren't in the habit of making his language more colourful. 

So rendering it:

The Chancellor is "making a pig's ear of the economy", and the country is "heading for the poorhouse", the Governor of the Bank of England said last night.

doesn't add a jot in terms of accuracy on the part of the writer - or understanding on the part of the reader. The punctuation just gets in the way.

So, in text, let's try to save the quotes for direct speech. 

Headlines, of course, are another matter. Some newspapers ban quotes in headings altogether, adopting the philosophy that they offer no legal protection and that it is generally apparent who is speaking. Others take a more cautious line, particularly where allegations are being made. There's a lot to be said for that. But all punctuation should be limited in headings. It's ugly and it generally interrupts the flow. 
So this is where you can get out that security blanket and wrap up individual words or phrases in quotes.

Lady Mayoress dances up the street naked with a carnation in her navel
is wonderful if you know it to be true.

Lady Mayoress 'danced up the street naked with a carnation in her navel'
is fine and safe if it's an allegation where the person making the claim is identified in the story.

Lady Mayoress 'danced up the street naked with a carnation in her navel', court told
is over-punctuated. If there's an attribution, you don't need the quotes. The comma will do.

It's called reported speech



Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Deadlier than the male



Truly lethal. The word 'female' can kill a sentence stone dead with never a backward glance. 
As an adjective, it is generally patronising; as a noun, it is contemptuous - copperspeak at its worst. 
Nearly a century after the Suffragettes and forty years after the sexual equality act, women are still seen as a strange species whose every achievement, however modest, has to be underscored with that deadly explanation.
 'The restaurant's female owner' writes a Times reporter. As opposed to the orang-utan owner or the Martian owner? 
The sentence didn't end there. It was completed with a comma and her name - which might have been the clue the reader needed. And even had the name not appeared at that point in the story, how about 'the woman who owns the restaurant'? Would the author have contemplated writing 'the restaurant's male owner'? Of course not. Indeed, we've even stopped (thank goodness) referring to 'male nurses'. 
It is sad, but too many journalists still mentally confine women to  particular roles and feel it vital to emphasise their gender in any story that deviates from the stereotype.  'A female doctor', 'a female bus driver' and so on.
Sometimes, of course, it's relevant -  as in the first woman on the moon or even the first woman prime minister. But  in most instances 'a doctor....' with  the woman's name or the pronoun 'she', high up in the story will do the job. 
and if, as a reader, it comes as a jolt to learn in the second par that the subject of the story is a woman, well shame on you for prejudging.
Tip for subs: try substituting the word 'black' for 'female'. if it feels wrong, change it.
Oh, and as for that Times report: hurrah for the sub who removed the offending adjective in the second edition.


Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Riding for a fall Does buying a ticket for a jolly day out at the races mean you are fair game for the snobs who sneer and snipe?

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)