Graduate advice

I had a letter from a graduate that was just so appalling – they invariably are – that I started to write to tell him. My wife said the criticism might be enough to push him over the edge so I stopped myself.

She’s probably right. But how is he ever to know that he is getting it so wrong? As his errors were similar to errors I see in these sorts of begging letters all the time I wondered if I should share the lessons. Of course I am an arrogant know-it-all, but this is what I would have sent: Continue reading

Fine for Leveson

Leveson

Leveson, wrong, wrong and then wrong again

The press were fascinated by Leveson today but the public were interested in the simultaneous event going on in court where SAS soldier Danny Nightingale was released – after a press campaign to free him. Hurrah for the press.

Leveson did not ask for examples of good journalism, only bad, so that’s all he got. The Leveson report is an example of biased research and reporting. A statutory regulator would fine him and demand a right of reply. Continue reading

Give me a break

X-ray showing broken bone

X-ray showing broken bone

This blog post is written using Dragon Dictate voice recognition software for Mac. On Sunday I broke my right arm just below the shoulder. Although I have insurance, it made more sense to try dictation software to see if I could continue working.

I’m sure with practice get faster, but it goes at this speed the whole time, I’m going to be unable to be productive. For example that last sentence I dictated with only one mistake–the software thought I said reductive instead of productive. Continue reading

The Last Post

Covers of Post Mga newspaper 1 September 2011 and magazine 8 September 2011

Post Mag redesign 1-8 September 2011

I recently completed 10 months as acting news editor of the insurance industry legend Post Magazine – so called because it was the first magazine ever sent by post. It has been going since 1840. I saw a lot of changes in those 10 months.

We switched format from newspaper to a smaller magazine design. Initially we could still put news on the front page but that was dropped in favour of a magazine cover each week. News stories inside were replaced with more analytical, heavier researched pieces. News went online. Continue reading

End of an era?

aol-money.jpgI stopped commissioning stories for AOL Money this week – Wednesday to be precise. I started commissioning the predecessor site Daily Finance in December 2009. Recently I worked on the design and build of the new site and the integration of DF and its sister title Walletpop into AOL Money.

It has been a labour of love. The old DF CMS tells me “You have written 312,078 words on 522 posts.” I’ve written a fair few thousands words for AOL Money too and I have commissioned millions more. I’ve known it was coming to and end, looked forward to it even, but I’m feeling a bit sad too. Continue reading

Commuter chaos

zebra-painted motorcycle on the Abbey Road zebra crossing

Whealie's zebra at Abbey Road

Commuting into central London for work creates contempt. I hate pedestrians, I hate cyclists, I hate motorcyclists, bus drivers, lorry drivers, taxis and white van man. I hate packed commuter trains, ticket inspectors, Oyster machines that don’t work and I hate Transport for London (TfL).

To really hate all these would cause me to explode. So I have realised that we all need to rub along a bit better. Pedestrians walk in the road, cyclists cross pavements, bikers block cycling lanes, car drivers target bikers, lorry drivers cannot see (or don’t care about) other road users. Get used to it. Continue reading

PA cannot SEO

headlien and story on Daily FinanceToday I had an extended row with PA about their omission of key words in a story about an anti-Asda advert from Tesco ruled “misleading” by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Here’s how the row progressed.

Our correspondence is listed in detail at the end but the main issue is that PA wrote a passive news intro (Tesco has had something done to it), without naming the source, and with a headline that omitted the allegations or the word advert. It was a lesson in how not to do journalism. Continue reading

More please, Sir

Article in teh Journalist called Freelance: the musicalAn email discussion with freelances today about stagnant rates prompted me to dig out an article I wrote more than a decade ago on how to get a rate rise – based on the musical Oliver. It appeared in The Journalist in December 1999. I have reproduced it below.

I was on the way to speak at the London Freelance Branch when I learned that Humphrey Evans was speaking on the same subject. I knew Humphrey would say the same as me, so I needed to say it differently A call to my musical-mad friend resulted in this presentation hastily written on the train. Continue reading

Different strokes

On 6 November 2010 I had a stroke – a mini stroke, a lacuna (or lacunar) stroke to be exact. I’m fine. I had no paralysis, no loss of strength, no loss of balance and I did not black out. I could hold a pen and write. In fact, I got back on my motorbike and rode for an hour.

I was in France, in Normandy, with some xrv.org.uk pals. We stopped for a coffee and, as I swung my right leg off the bike to stand up, something just didn’t feel right. It was as if I had a dead leg. My right hand then felt like it had pins and needle. I just thought I’d got cold and needed to warm up.

Rode back

After riding back to our farmhouse (La Basse Cour) – I had total control of the bike but could not feel the heated grips working on my right hand – I jumped in a hot bath to thaw out.

But the symptoms remained. And when I went to dry myself I realised the right side of my face was similarly tingly and lacking in sensation.

Travel insurance

The travel insurance company SOS International (on behalf of Chartis Insurance) organised for me to go to the university hospital at Caen, when I ended up for five days while they did a range of tests, including a CT scan, an MRI, a vascular scan of my main arteries and a heart check-up.

They then insisted on driving me in an ambulance all the way home, through the tunnel, delaying my departure by an extra night.

NHS resources

British doctors are repeating all the tests again, which will be great if they find something missed in France but seem a waste of scarce NHS resources if they don’t.

Imagine a little garlic-breathed French man in stripy shirt and black beret with onions round his neck telling an NHS doctor that all his work would been to be redone properly in France later. The NHS doctor would be furious.

I don’t have overly high blood pressure so I am not being treated for that (mine at worst appears to be about 140/92 and often more like 128/86). I am on aspirin to thin the blood. The hospital has sent blood samples for special tests in case there is some impurity that caused the stroke.

But they never know the cause of 25%.

I have been working very hard, so I intend to cut down on that. And the death of my nephew in July led to a lot of stress. Who knows if these things had an impact?

Ill abroad

The French hospital was great – very much like an NHS hospital with fantastic, committed, cheerful and helpful staff, and the occasional cock-up where you are left in a waiting room for hours on end with no information.

But being vegetarian was too much for them. Even a dietician seemed not to understanding of the concept or how to provide a balanced diet – Google it, for crying out loud.

Oh, and my travel insurance repatriated me but said it was not responsible for repatriating my vehicle. My breakdown insurance would have brought it back had it broken down. But a working vehicle with a broken driver falls between two policies. I believe my broker has been negligent.

New Media

Facebook and Twitter were a Godsend. Many work colleagues kept informed about me and kept me up to speed using Twitter, while Facebook enabled me to have conversations with many friends, all at once.

My rugby club, Charlton Park, picked up on my stroke via Facebook and put a notice on its website, which led to contact from old colleagues via LinkedIn and email.

Vodafone charged me about £10 a day for the data charges in France run up on my Blackberry. Oh, and French hospitals have none of those silly UK bans on using mobile phones. I had mine with me the whole time.

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