Three mini-master classes from traditional media to show the blogosphere how this journalism thingy is done

Wretched, pathetic bloggers! Most of them can’t be counted on to spell their own names right, let alone do anything remotely like fact-checking. Too much actual work! No sense of history. No understanding of – or attempt to understand – context, in their pseudo-journalism! How can they expect to be treated with the respect owed any halfway decent source of information without curbs on their typing and behaviour — vetting and supervision by editors, sub-editors, copy editors?


from Private Eye, (No: 1399, 21 August – 3 September), an item titled CORRECTION OF THE YEAR 1:

Our Magazine commemorative special ‘The reign never stops’ (last week) included a number of inaccuracies. The Queen acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, not February 8. She married the Duke of Edinburgh six years before her coronation, not four. Her eldest grandson is Peter Phillips, not Prince William. Her uncle, Edward VIII, was King when he abdicated, not Prince of Wales. The photograph of the Queen and Princess Anne at Balmoral shows them with Peter Phillips, not his sister Zara. The battleship HMS Vanguard was not converted into a royal yacht. It was temporarily adapted to take the royal family to South Africa in 1947 but reverted to normal service afterwards. We apologise for these errors.

The Sunday Times, 9 August 2015

… and on the facing page in the same issue, the arguably even more astounding CORRECTION OF THE YEAR 2 — from a sister newspaper:

Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as ‘the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years’. This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian’. We apologise for the error.

The Times, 11 August 2015

Rich newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, with their armies of text-massagers, are not the only large media operations to give one pause. Still, the following correction by a senior staffer at the world’s greatest, undefeated world-champion broadcasting organisation could be the nicest mea culpa we have ever read — but do pass the paper tissues, our eyes are streaming …

from the Eye’s Media News column, (No: 1400, 4-17 September 2015):

The BBC’s local news bulletin South East Today was out in force at Biggin Hill to cover the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 18 August, closing its show with footage of the day’s flypast of Spitfires and Hurricanes accompanied by suitably rousing martial music. Or rather, unsuitably rousing martial music.

‘You keenly spotted the music from the film Battle of Britain composed by Roy Goodwin which was a terrific soundtrack,’ programme editor Quentin Smith replied to a viewer who had emailed him about the programme. ‘Our team was asked for the Battle of Britain theme from the film and unfortunately took that to be the opening music to the film which, as you rightly point out, is the “Luftwaffe March”. I hope it did not spoil your enjoyment of the occasion too much.’

… About that first item, we’d say, howler of the year? More like a lifetime.






The Guardian wants to look like a Facebook extension, but the right model for a socially sensitive, reader-supported newspaper is either Private Eye or Tsū.co

-- postgutenberg[at], from a detail by MIL22

— postgutenberg[at], from a detail of a photograph by MIL22

Next week, editorial staff at the newspaper with one of the three most-visited English-language sites on the net will be offered the unusual chance to vote for their next editor-in-chief – even though that will be someone chosen from a different (overlapping) list by the paper’s board of overseers.

The voters will select from among just four candidates for the job — of a total of two dozen-odd applicants — who are brave enough not to rely simply on their qualifications, but submit in public to testing and demonstrating what support they can count on from rank-and-file staffers. The staff favourite is not guaranteed the job: the board of directors could pick an applicant from the longer list not running for election. More curiously yet, the voting is being organised from outside the newspaper, by Britain’s sterling, 108 year-old National Union of Journalists.

This hybrid, fuzzy, faintly Mad Hatter-ish path to the job — or not — has a precedent at The Guardian. Alan Rusbridger, the editor being replaced, who has served as the paper’s chief for two decades, was apparently appointed through an arcane weighing of skills vs. popularity with Guardianistas.

So, history is one reason why no one should read into this succession drama any implication that the paper is democratising its modus operandi. Some onlookers have also made the mistake of assuming that The Guardian is bowing to egalitarian net culture by urging readers to pay subscriptions to become ‘members’ of its organisation. Last year, two of these observers interpreted the scheme’s announcement, in exuberant messages to post-Gutenberg, as proof of the paper’s adoption of the proposal with which this blog began — that Guardian readers were going to be invited to become part-owners through subscriptions that would also be small financial stakes.

So far, that conclusion has been wrong – a realisation that, for some of us, borders on tragic. (See ‘Alan Rusbridger must please not let ‘Guardian membership’ mean bread-and-circuses, and prove that he is sincere about “mutualised” journalism,’, 18 September 2014.)

Why? Because we see small-scale reader-owners becoming passionately involved in the paper’s future economic survival — and creating a new economic model for running media — if their contributions of ideas, reactions, news and campaigning for favourite causes are given greater prominence in expanded comments sections. This will be especially true if what they supply is freed from censorship by Guardian moderators. Many of us can remember dozens of stimulating, irreverent, frequently dazzling ‘below-the-line’ contributors to readers’ discussions in the first year or two after this newspaper launched its online ‘Comment-is-Free’ section in 2006. We watched, nearly heartbroken, as most of them stopped reacting to above-the-line articles – or, as we often put it in those days, blogging in comments sections – from disgust with repressive moderators and moderation policies, which too often led to the banning of commenters we loved most. (See: ‘Why is The Guardian censoring debate about press reform and ignoring the Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of citizen journalism?‘,, 7 November 2011.)

Most traditional journalists, especially senior and long-fêted members of the profession – all around the world – still despise reader-blogger-commenters. They hate the competition. Having got too comfortable on pedestals on which they were seldom criticised or corrected, they were infuriated by the arrival of citizen-debaters. But a few of these, the most honest critics in so-called legacy journalism, are now reluctantly conceding that they could be mistaken in their classification of reader-commenters as either stupid, uneducated, or vicious trolls. We ourselves could be mistaken in perceiving any such concession – in an oblique form – in a couple of entries in the latest ‘From The Message Boards’ column of Private Eye, the paradoxical magazine written — and run — in the spirit of the net at its most impish and egalitarian, that has no online edition at all. (Issue No. 1385, 6 February – 19 February 2015)  For years, typical FTMB inventions have read like this:

wat about the yesterday’s chanel? theres no way them old nazi’s was filmed the day before :) lol! – Hatfield Gooner

What the Eye presented as representative of comments on newspaper web sites was so predictably buffoonish that it was one of its few sections not worth reading at all (unless you live for Benny Hill toilet jokes). But in the latest issue delivered to our letter box, we were astonished to find this toothsome morsel – which we hope is a sign of FTMB raising its game:

It was on ITV actually, but the BBC is equally culpable when it comes to distortion and inaccuracies. I will never forget the astonishment I felt when watching their film about Stephen Hawking, which (unlike Broadchurch [new crime mini-series being discussed in this FMTB column]) purported to be based on fact. In the opening scene, at Hawking’s 21st birthday party on 8 January 1963, the gramophone in the background is playing ‘Some Other Guy’ by The Big Three, a record not released until March that year. Had Hawking received an advance promotional copy? No, because the track hadn’t yet been recorded. One can only conclude that he had travelled back in time from the future, bringing a copy of the disc to prove his own later theories correct. – PCS 3042

Now, there’s a sendup of genius – a perfect specimen of a post by a high-precision-pedant-on-steroids, one class of reader-commenter post-Gutenberg treasured particularly, in the short-lived good old early days of the Guardian’s Comment-is-Free site. Once you had wept with delight over your introduction to PCS 3042, you found yourself stopping in at CiF all day long, hoping that she or he had returned to post again, in your absence.

So did other readers – and fans and sparring-partners of below-the-line marvels like PCS. That boosted site traffic for the best reasons. Instead, the Guardian’s over-zealous moderators have lashed its BTL contributors into such a pathetic, tame, conformist bunch that it does make perfect sense for the redesigned online version of the paper to look like an extension of bland, boring Facebook. Unbelievably, it has picked a blue-and-white colour scheme just like the social media giant’s for a site frame.

Facebook blueandwhite

With artists in London ready to throw themselves at its feet, why did The Guardian chosen to look like an extension of in its latest redesign?

With artists in London ready to throw themselves at its feet, why has The Guardian chosen to look like an extension of in its latest redesign?

Once, we would have scoured the Guardian’s comments sections to see which other readers had noticed this bizarre act of imitation — unless we mean, slavish homage to the $ power of almighty social media. But in this round of site design, the paper’s managers invited readers to submit their reactions to it not openly, on CiF, but in private messages to them. A shrewd move, indeed.

For three years, post-Gutenberg has been pointing out that Facebook, grown fat and sleek on selling minute details of its users’ lives, should rightly be co-owned by those users – who are entitled to shares in its profits. (See: ‘A better Facebook — or why cooperatives run on the web should work better than the old hippie kind,’, 14 February 2012.)

If the Guardian wanted to pull off a brilliant coup, it would use its new look as a Facebook acolyte to make its membership scheme more than the meaningless rich reader-patrons’ club that several other newspapers have also introduced.  The similarity in appearance could help to wean diehard Facebook users, subconsciously, from their devotion to being exploited by Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

As we have said wearily before, we fear that the Guardian’s leaders, even those still only in their forties – over-represented, as far as we can tell, in the candidates for the editor’s job – are too old to see what they need to do. Here is proof in a new social media site, Tsū.co – based in New York, despite its Japanese name, especially delicious in combination with its founder’s novelistic Eastern European identity. Conceived of — as we have concluded from sheer guesswork — in much younger minds, Tsū has its heart exactly where the Guardian’s should be. This is the email we received after we signed up:

Welcome to [ post-Gutenberg! ] !

It’s an honor to have you as a new member of this unique user-owned community. We have been working hard to build (pronounced ‘sue’) with the purpose of breaking the old rules of social publishing by creating a fair economic model where content creators’ ownership is respected, where they are fairly incentivized and where their content is protected.



Sebastian Sobczak

Founder, CEO at

PS: We’re also on mobile. Download the app now:

Somehow, Tsū’s arrival has been ignored completely in Guardian coverage of online news and media. Googling yielded a single story about it posted on a blog on the New York Times site last autumn — in ‘The Social Network That Pays You to Friend’ — but no NYT mention since. Decidedly odd, for a startup claiming to have 2 million users last month.

While Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for failing to share their profits with those who post on their platforms, Tsu pledges to do just that: It will give 90 percent of its ad revenue back to users.

Tsu’s philosophy is that “all content creators, which is basically every social user, should receive royalties for the commercial use of their image, likeness and work,” Mr. Sobczak told Op-Talk. “They essentially do all the work, they should get rewarded with the lion’s share.”

“What people don’t realize is how much value is created by these platforms on the backs of basically everybody’s networking,” he said.

Anna North on the Op-Talk blog of The New York Times, 27 October 2014 

How precisely will Tsū be sharing its profits? Through a complex but workable scheme, explained in detail here, in an excellent — by no means wholly laudatory — TechCrunch profile on 19 January by Sarah Perez:

Today, 10% of the total ad revenue goes to Tsu itself. Half of the remainder goes to Tsu’s content creators (users), and the other half goes to the network that brought in those content creators to the platform. That is, when User A invites User B, and then User B shares popular content, User A is compensated for that. The better a users’ network, or “family tree” in Tsu lingo, the more money you make.

How did we hear about it? From a chance mention by LCM, an immeasurably dear artist friend living somewhere deeply rural. She has a clone in a brainy relation, a high-ranking Silicon Valley entrepreneur swimming in the social media shark pond …

Readers, we don’t know exactly how we’ll get there. We are still studying the fine print about Tsū. But something Tsū-like is indisputably our future.

Gatekeepers I: in defence of Rachel Cusk — let cross-cultural flowers bloom in simultaneous international e-publishing

‘Brobdingnag o Lilliput’: the net has room for radically opposed perspectives and taste
in art and literature (see nearly invisible figures at base of shop windows).
Photograph by MIL22

Readers, all three of you, know that this blog could be one of the greatest fans Private Eye** has ever had – not just for its satire in direct descent from Jonathan Swift and other upholders of the grotesque tradition in English literature; not only for its unique compendium of whistleblowing about misused power and authority in Britain published every fortnight, but also for the futuristic modus operandi that makes these offerings possible.

This means that it is with excruciating reluctance that we at post-Gutenberg ask why the Eye keeps savaging the novelist and memoirist Rachel Cusk, who is capable of dystopian flights of prose of this calibre —

Summer came, clanging days of glaring sunshine in the seaside town where I live, the gulls screaming in the early dawn, a glittering agitation everywhere, the water a vista of smashed light. I could no longer sleep; my consciousness filled up with the lumber of dreams, of broken-edged sections of the past heaving and stirring in the undertow.

It reminded us of …

She listened … there was only the sound of the sea. … She saw the light again. With some irony in her interrogation, for when one woke at all, one’s relations changed, she looked at the steady light, the pitiless, the remorseless, which was so much her, yet so little her … but for all that she thought, watching it with fascination, hypnotized, as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight, she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea …

… lines by another good writer, about whom we’ll have a bit more to say in a moment.

The first passage is an extract from Cusk’s Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation, published this spring by Faber and Faber, today’s most prestigious literary imprint in Britain. With such a backer, she certainly did well with the gatekeepers in the sense in which the term is being used now – to refer to the old print media mafia of literary agents and editors deciding whose manuscripts will be lifted out of the slough of rejection, then promoted energetically, or left there to rot.

‘Gatekeeper’ could reasonably be used more widely, to include the reading public of a particular place either giving scribblers permission to think, feel and write in the ways that come most naturally to them – or attacking them or otherwise discouraging them from doing so.

That sanction has so far largely been denied to Rachel Cusk in Britain – for her divorce memoir. The Eye is far from her only excoriating mocker. Other British newspapers and innumerable citizen-commenters on reviews and articles about her have lambasted her eidetic, intelligent and ferociously self-critical account of this sad passage in her life. She has been denounced for solipsism, wallowing in dark emotions and imagery, and wrecking her own family’s privacy. For any objective witness to this battering – watching a long way from literary London – the last criticism is the most puzzling. Not once does she name her ex-husband or make it possible to identify him by his occupation, which has anyway changed since their divorce. Nor are her children easily identifiable, since they have no Christian names in her story, and presumably the surname of their father.

Yes, some of these facts can indeed be discovered online, but not by her choice – only, you suspect, because of the snippets of real life information extracted from her in publicity interviews on which book publishers insist, brooking no compromise.

You wonder why the anger about the baseless accusations of privacy invasion are never directed at ‘luvvie’ newspaper columnists, bloggers and social media networkers who never have to open the kimono, apparently delighted to live with it flapping high above their heads in a permanent hurricane of disclosure about themselves and their near and dear.

Cusk’s actual mistake was in violating the unwritten and unspoken rule for English writing in England – one that tends to make Americans uncomfortable. It decrees that sustained introspection and emotional intensity – when tending to chiaroscuro, if not outright melancholy – must be undercut by wit, poking fun at oneself, or some form of outrageousness like the scatological riffs and downright nastiness in some of Philip Larkin’s poetry. Admitting to admiring the lyrics of Leonard Cohen is asking to be sent to an aesthetic Siberia in most social circles. That makes no difference to those of us who marvel at the way sounds marry words in his contributions to music – even if we do believe the world’s greatest literary tradition to be English, inevitably: it shaped our taste.

But that is not the same as thinking that English aesthetic preferences should be used as a universal yardstick.

North America has crept into this scrap of wondering because Cusk’s writing style has partly been shaped by the years she spent there as a child. Her Mood Indigo prose in this memoir – I look forward to reading the others, and her novels – is strongly reminiscent of Joan Didion’s.

If Aftermath had been published simultaneously as an e-book in Britain and America – instead of in the UK alone – she would surely have elicited a more sympathetic or certainly, balanced, reaction from a cross-cultural audience. 

As sharp-eyed lit-critters have already guessed, the writer of the second extract quoted in this post is none other than Virginia Woolf – in To the Lighthouse. Much of her oeuvre consists of narcissistic, depressive, long-drawn-out exercises in introspection. Yet expert and non-expert British readers grant her genius status. Does a female writer have to be a victim of incest, and mentally ill, and finally, a suicide, to be allowed to say what she wants to as she sees most fit?

In a special editorial, no less, about Cusk, not long after Aftermath was published, The Guardian asked whether children can ‘really be counted as acceptable collateral damage in the self-styled vocation of the artist’ — without a substantiating word or phrase for the accusation. … Well! Should literary critics include in evaluations of the works of Virginia Woolf the question of whether it was right or fair that Leonard Woolf should have been obliged to interrupt his literary career, chronically, to serve as his wife’s psychiatric nurse? A nonsensical question, yes, but no more so than the one about damaging children.

The Guardian feels justified in lashing poor Rachel Cusk for writing a book that ‘plunges headfirst into the phenomenology of pain, which she wraps in a beautifying prose.’ Note the use of beautifying rather than beautiful – the compliment her sentences amply deserve – hinting that her writing so well must be reckoned another crime against decency; lipstick on a pig.

Time and the net will, we suspect, deliver the respect she deserves – for giving us, for instance:

We too came by car, along the motorway and then on smaller roads that took us through countryside and villages, little redbrick places that reminded me of the village where I used to visit my grandmother as a child. We lived in America then, and that English village, so damp and miniature-seeming, so full of twists and turns and cavities, constituted my education in the country of my parents, where soon I would come to live for good. In California I wasn’t quite sure who I was: large pieces of the jigsaw were missing, and it seemed that the missing pieces were here, in this rain-darkened place. I half-recognised them, the antiquity and the expressive weather, the hedgerows with their mysterious convoluted interiors, the sense of a solid provenance that underlay the surface movements of life like wood beneath the burnish: they were part of me and yet they lay outside me. … I was an onlooker, though I didn’t want to be. I wanted to live in the moment instead of always being lifted out of it into awareness, like a child lifted out of its warm bed half-asleep in the thick of night.

Brava! Rachel Cusk. Carry on scribbling, don’t let the Mini-Englander mentality get you down and in future, insist on simultaneous international publication.


** Feeling a bit low?  antidote: ‘Never too old’, a new love story by Dame Silvie Krin

The Kickstarter-kicking has begun: don’t let crowd-funding of pigs-in-pokes ruin the promise of micropayments

Looking for an image of a pig in a poke led to this preliminary sketch by Victor Juhasz, on his site showing visitors how he makes decisions about directing his delectable line.

This post-Gutenberg blog typically takes the giraffe-necked – that is, very long – view. It hardly expects instant gratification for recommendations about the future of publishing, or suggestions for its evolution. That made it both unsurprising and shocking to find the gist of these cautions about micropayments and crowd-funding prove justified in less than a month:

  • Could crowd-funding art with cash advances amassed from micropayments be less helpful than getting artists decent compensation from micropayments collected for finished work?
  • … [Artists] transferring the balance of cash-gathering sweat to work that has yet to be done is surely a bad idea …
  • There is some danger that disappointment with microfunding could lead to disenchantment with micropayments of every kind. That could delay the shift from conventional ways of selling art (through publishers, galleries and so on) to the liberating alternatives that new technological inventions have begun to bring us.

Only six months ago, Gizmodo, one of the most influential technology-watching sites on the web – it counted Steve Jobs among its avid readers – was raving about the prospects of online fundraising for new projects of every sort, from new-fangled gizmos like iPad stands to artistic schemes, inventions, and gigs. Its enthusiasm was concentrated on Kickstarter, the most prominent go-between for creators and the random collections of small-scale investors contributing to ‘crowd-funding’ creative toil:

10 November 2011

Kickstarter is full of awful, ill conceived, downright dumb ideas. So is the internet. So is the universe. But it’s also festooned with crazy-good thinking, ingenuity, and imagination. It’s fun and unfettered.


Kickstarter is the only viable place any average Jonny Internet can take a decent idea and stand a chance of making it real. No venture capital vampires, no hype …

The recommendations of old print media usually follow in Gizmodo’s wake, but in January, The Economist appeared to boast about leading the applause:

This newspaper has written about Kickstarter several times in the past two years, including an overview of how crowdfunding works after the firm had raised about $15m in its first year. At the time, it was unclear whether such crowdfunding (also called micropatronage) was a passing fad or a rising alternative to conventional starter financing for creative media.

Kickstarter’s performance in 2011 bolsters the latter case.

Though that ancient cosmopolite’s bible did mention the odd disappointment for both fund-seekers and micro-patrons, it has yet to regret its championship of crowd-funding. But for Gizmodo – far more closely in touch with thinking among the twentysomethings who dominate online innovation – it was time for sackcloth and ashes a fortnight ago. In a piece headed, ‘We’re done with Kickstarter,’ Gizmodo explained:

29 March 2012

We look at hundreds of products every week. Sometimes thousands. At first all of us were pretty stoked about Kickstarter, because it seemed like a genuine font of unfettered innovation—the hive mind coming up with products that we truly needed but had never even thought of before. And maybe it was. But it’s not anymore. It’s a sea of bad videos, bad renderings, and poorly made prototypes. Some might be good. Many are poorly made. And some are downright fraudulent, taking peoples’ money without delivering the promised rewards. This has happened to me.


Hopefully Kickstarter will evolve into something a little more trustworthy that we can feel comfortable sharing with you. Because in this game, a source you can’t trust is a source you can’t use.

In comments on its lamentation, readers railed at Gizmodo in posts like this one from @anamnet:

Giz introduced me to Kickstarter and now they are the first who’re sick of it. Makes them sound like a teenage girl who’s getting over a fad.

Actually, Gizmodo deserves to be congratulated for its forthright mea culpa. Next, it would be wonderful to find on that site a piece weighing all the reasons given here for preferring post-production micropayments – especially for artists and writers, starting with this one:

Seeking and accepting money in advance can constrain creativity. Anticipating prospective backers’ anxiety about squandering even small sums on inconsequential, pig-in-a-poke projects, artists are puffing up their planned works and divulging details of visions that have yet to meet the challenge of execution. How much room for creative manoeuvring and play – or simply changing their minds – will they have when, to reward their micro-investors’ trust, they feel that they must treat proposals as promises?

… Gizmodo’s helpful admission about reading the tea leaves incorrectly on crowd-funding is not just admirable in itself but made a salutary contrast, in my week’s reading, with an older publication’s delusion that it  comprehends what readers want in post-Gutenberg publishing. An extract from a mesmerising report in the latest Private Eye:

‘Last weekend we did something extraordinary.’ That was the verdict of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on his ‘Open Weekend’ … at which readers descended on the paper’s offices to gawp at [Guardian journalists].

Never mind that the newspaper is losing money galore. The bring-your-readers-to-work idea represented the way forward for ‘Open Journalism’ – apparently something to do with internet clouds, killer apps, crowd-sourcing and trouser-presses.

Many hacks in the building looked on the jamboree with jaundiced eyes […] but were assured that this is the way forward for Journalism 4.0 as the Guardian set off on its exciting transformation from newspaper to online events organiser.

Alas! The ‘new paradigm’ seems no more profitable than the old one. After totting up the figures, Grauniad beancounters have discovered that the self-styled ‘festival of readers and reasonableness’ – attended by 5,000 people paying between  £60 and £70 – made a net loss of £150,000.

Dear Grauniad, your ‘Open Weekend’ is surely the daftest idea anyone has heard for reshaping publishing. No, your sensible readers do not wish to crowd-fund your survival. Nor do they want to pay to peer at your writers, or throw peanuts through the bars of their cages. How about showing some glimmer of grasping what this post-Gutenberg revolution is really all about? See:

Wanted: a brave newspaper for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders … & … Why a keiretsu-cooperative is a gentle transition for old media — and how about saying, ‘an exaltation of bloggers’?