Police unhappy with Boris Johnson visit

West Yorkshire Police are far from happy about yesterday’s use of their trainee officers as a backdrop to a political message by Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister.

Viewers on live TV saw Mr Johnson say he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than seek an extension to Brexit, with a wall of student officers standing behind him in scenes reminiscent of US presidential addresses given in front of soldiers.

WYP chief constable condemns use of his student officers as a backdrop to a political speech that went well beyond the remit of talking about police recruitment. Photo credit: ITV

But in a statement published today by West Yorkshire Police, Chief Constable John Robins said: “It was the understanding of West Yorkshire Police that any involvement of our officers was solely about police officer recruitment. We had no prior knowledge that the speech would be broadened to other issues until it was delivered. read more

It’s our World Wide Web – reclaim it!

Today is the 30th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web. Just to be clear, as someone always brings this up, he didn’t invent the internet itself – that is best credited to Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn. However, the WWW has still undeniably changed my life and yours for the better over many years.

Tim Berners-Lee tweets "This is for everyone" live from the London 2012 Olympics ooening cermony.
“This is for everyone” – WWW creator Tim Berners-Lee, live at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony

That moment in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, where Tim Berners-Lee tweeted live to the world that “this is for everyone”, was to me one of the real highlights of that year. How I miss that time when we were still a cosmopolitan, inclusive, future-facing country. read more

No, Piers Morgan did NOT hack a dead girl’s phone

Almost everyone loves to hate Piers Morgan. And, to put it bluntly, the former tabloid newspaper editor turned TV presenter makes himself an easy target. From an epic tantrum over vegan sausage rolls to public sulking sessions at awards ceremonies, Piers does invite ridicule by coming across as a vain, thin-skinned manchild.

Piers Morgan sulking at the National Television Awards, January 2019.
Piers Morgan doesn’t take kindly to missing out on an award.

But the one barb that is most frequently aimed at him, particularly on Twitter, is something that he didn’t do: the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone when she was already dead. read more

Ex-Labour MPs and Panama: close but no cigar

The defection of seven backbench Labour MPs to form a new association calling itself “The Independent Group” has caused a few ripples in the mainstream media, albeit with a “funny tinged” faux pas. This isn’t a political blog so I won’t get into an analysis of the politics (although I’ll declare an interest here and say I’m a Labour member). What I will be addressing here are some of the myths that are already circulating about the group’s website and company registration.

A few internet sleuths have been looking up The Independent Group’s website domain registration, using a tool called Whois. They have discovered that details about the group’s website, theindependent.group, have been redacted and there is a mention of Panama. Understandably enough, particularly following the Panama Papers scandal that exposed industrial-scale tax evasion, people have assumed that The Independent Group have something big to hide. read more

Buyer beware – cheap deals can be costly

Cheap copywriters can cost you more. As with so many other purchases, money saved on buying the cheapest writers out there is often a false economy. You then end up having to shell out again to hire someone competent to get the work done properly. In other words: “Buy cheap, buy twice.”  The hidden costs can come to more than just rewriting bad copy too, especially if the writer hasn’t kept up to date with our ever-changing and increasingly complex media law.

Quality seldom comes cheap
Penny wise, pound foolish?

You may be able to find cheaper writers (although WYC rates are very competitive), but the hard-earned reputation of your brand could be at stake through sloppy content, your web presence could be harmed by out-of-date SEO practices like keyword stuffing, and an incompetent writer could even cause you costly lawyers’ bills.  

I would strongly recommend hiring writers that have worked in journalism, as journalists have a very solid grounding in all aspects of media law as well as the ability to write for a wide range of markets and customer profiles.

Too good to be true

Confession time here. Even people who consider themselves pretty canny can be a sucker for a ‘bargain’ when caught off guard. I had one such lapse last year, when I took out some cheap breakdown cover for a car I had just bought and didn’t fully trust for the long drive from Yorkshire to Somerset and back. I was working as stage crew at Glastonbury Festival, which is a much better experience than being a paying punter these days – but that’s another story.

“So why didn’t you just use the AA or RAC?” you might justifiably ask. I had used my insurer’s breakdown cover for several years, which was a much better deal than the mainstream breakdown services if you wanted the equivalent of the AA’s full ‘Relay’ service. But I had also changed my car insurer, as my previous insurer wasn’t matching the best quotes any more. Unfortunately, the new insurer’s breakdown cover was much more expensive than the previous company’s and, as I was taking a couple of weeks of unpaid holiday (one of the banes of being a freelancer), I was on the lookout for a cheap alternative.

You’re fired!

Enter Dynamo Cover Ltd (trading as RecoverCover), which I now know is led by former Apprentice contestant Alex Mills and run from a small business park unit in the seaside resort of Barry, South Wales. It seemed a very good deal on their website – for about £34, I could cover my humble Peugeot 206 for Roadside Assistance, National Recovery, Home Assist, Alternative Travel and Overnight Accommodation. Evidently it was a little too good to be true  the nearly three pages of exclusion clauses should have been a flashing neon warning sign. But the cover was only bought on a last-minute whim for peace of mind. Besides, for just £34, what could possibly go wrong?

Dynamo Cover HQ
Dynamo Cover’s HQ is a unit in this Barry business park. (Credit: Google Maps)

Unexpected item in credit card area

Fortunately I didn’t have any cause to use RecoverCover’s service, which is just as well as their Trustpilot ratings here and here are =&0=&. There are so many catches, excesses and get-out clauses that it’s hard to envisage anything that you are covered for. In my defence, I took out cover starting 16 June 2017 and the first of very many bad reviews didn’t appear until August 2017.

But the worst was yet to come. I had pretty much forgotten about this company until Saturday, 9 June 2018, when I received an email thanking me for renewing their cover (which I absolutely had not done), to start on 16 June 2018, and telling me £29.90 had been taken from my credit card.  I rang their hotline immediately to say that I had not authorised this payment or the renewal and I wanted my money refunding, but just heard a recorded message saying their office hours were Monday to Friday.

Know your rights

So I emailed them to say I had not authorised the renewal or the payment and immediately contacted my credit card provider to exercise my right to cancel the payment and any ‘Continuous Payment Authority’ claimed by RecoverCover. 

By Monday morning, RecoverCover had woken up.  Shannon, their customer sales manager, insisted that if the card provider issues a chargeback, they would still pursue me for this money for this “service” that I did not order and which in my opinion is not worth the pixels it is written on. In a later phone conversation with another employee called Chris, I was even told that I could still cancel the so-called “cover” but I would not get my money back(!) and there would be an =&1=& £6.99 cancellation fee for the privilege.

The dispute is still ongoing, so I won’t go into further details just yet, but I believe that consumer law is on my side and I will eventually get my money (plus costs) back, despite the best efforts of RecoverCover/Dynamo to hang on to it. The amounts involved are small, of course, but it’s the principle that matters and costs may escalate if it ends up in court.

So let this be a cautionary tale about false economies, whatever line of business you’re looking at. It will often cost you more in the long run. 

Oh, and if any former Apprentice contestants are reading this YOU’RE FIRED!

Bitcoin: will the bubble burst?

Bitcoin frenzy: human thumbs popping bubblewrap
Will the Bitcoin bubble burst or keep inflating?

Suddenly everyone is an expert on Bitcoin after the cryptocurrency surged past the $10,0000 mark this week, peaking at $11,000 before tumbling down to $9,442 at the time of writing. Not bad for a currency that started the year valued at $1,000.

Amid all the feeding frenzy, there is no shortage of advice by self-appointed experts on this cyberspace gold rush. There are essentially two camps – in the blue corner, we have the conventional market traders who are trash talking this upstart currency; while in the red, we have the Bitcoin traders who are keen to drum up new business. read more

Monroe refuses to celebrate Hopkins sacking

Of all the people who might be expected to have a view on outspoken columnist Katie Hopkins losing her Daily Mail column, the food blogger and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe would be high on many people’s lists.

But Monroe, who won a libel case against Hopkins in March 2017, has chosen to rise above the gloating that many other commentators have indulged in.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As a columnist paid to stir up controversy, Hopkins (a former Apprentice contestant) certainly made her employers at the Daily Mail and LBC rub their hands in glee at all the viral publicity that her outspoken views generated… until she went too far in a Twitter spat with Monroe. She accused Monroe of supporting the vandalism of a war memorial. This outraged Monroe as her father had served in the British Army, leading to the libel action.

But after winning a crushing victory in the High Court, followed by Hopkins losing her job at talk radio station LBC, Monroe was in no mood to gloat about the news that even the Daily Mail had now ditched Britain’s most famous professional troll “by mutual consent”.

It isn’t all down to compassion and piety, though. Monroe is wary of making a martyr of a right-wing populist contrarian who will only end up wearing her fall from mainstream media grace as a badge of honour in a more extreme publication such as Breitbart.

Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is buried

With a few honourable exceptions, such as the Channel 4 News team and The Guardian’s Nick Davies, much of the British corporate media has been reduced to churnalism and unchallenged repetition of government and corporate spin over the past couple of decades.

So the funeral of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in a car bombing while she was investigating corruption surrounding the Panama Papers, serves as a poignant reminder that there are still journalists out there who put their lives on the line to protect the public’s right to know what is going on in high places.

 

 

Now this is why you need good sub-editors

There are times when punctuation really matters – and this is one of them. Remembering to put a hyphen between “first” and “hand” would have saved this Kansas newspaper from a viral humiliation over Twitter.

The high school students in the story were participating in an event called Disability Mentoring Day to gain some first-hand knowledge of the world of work. Unfortunately, the subbing failure in this headline implied a rather less salubrious meaning.

The usual term in any case is “work experience” and there seems to be enough space for it to fit, so it’s even more puzzling that the headline was written in that way.

Maybe if newspapers hadn’t cut back on so many sub-editors over the past couple of decades to help pay for big dividends and executive bonuses, there wouldn’t be so many of these howlers in print now. Subs are more than just glorified spell-checkers.