Tag Archives: journalism

In search of a sub’s dinner

I’m a sub-editor. The pesky one that watches out for errant apostrophes and such,  occasionally writes a vaguely ok headline and sets herself up for a fall when it comes to blogging mistakes.

It means I work distinctly odd hours – usually 2ish to 10ish, or thereabouts. And, the main consequence for this blog – and my life –  is that it has made dinner, in its lovely hot winey form, virtually extinct, apart from on glorious Saturdays. (Ok. It’s not the world’s greatest hardship, by any stretch. But this is a food blog. I’m allowed to moan about fripperies. For the much  less trivial, read the wonderful Unemployed Hack).

Us subs, and general shifters, deal with said situation in ways varied and numerous. The sensible way, nutritionally, would be to have a proper old-fashioned hot dinner at lunchtime, and then sandwiches for tea. Sadly, this means I may well slump on to my desk in an overfed haze at about 3pm – not so good professionally.

Go Away I'm Proofing

Ideal sub's lunch receptacle

Option two. Eat an ordinary person’s lunch, make it through the shift on a mixture of crisps, fruit and biscuits purloined from kind colleagues, and cook a proper dinner when you get home. Aside from the fact this would mean treating my long-suffering flatmate to my untidy and noisy cooking at about 11pm, I feel guilty eating late AND it takes a lot of biscuits to make it from 2.30 til 11. Trust me.

Three. Pret. And such. Given half the chance – and a lot more money – my laziness would kick in and I would buy a lot of takeaway. But thriftiness says no.

Sadly option four – take food in and microwave it – isn’t possible as we are microwaveless at work. We have a canteen, but it’s understandably frowned upon to drip hot lasagne over the chief sub as you explain the fourth paragraph of your story with an hour to go before first edition.

Sausage pasta #1

Which leaves the cobbled together – and heavily tupperware reliant – option five. If I’m being good, I’ll make soup for a week (thank you, dear flatmate and your blender) so I have at least one vaguely hot meal a day for lunch, albeit eaten precariously as I try to dry my hair and do my make-up at the same time.

Similarly I’ll cook something dinnerish for the week, carefully box it up and eat it cold at work. Which is why I came to be pouring red wine into three days worth of sausage and tomato pasta sauce* at about 10 this morning.

Aside from the inherent risks of early morning alcoholism and eating dinner for breakfast, things that make a good hot meal aren’t always so good cold – and it’s sad to watch it cool down when you know it would have made a delicious dinner. And, frankly, I’m also all too frequently lured into option three by being disorganised and forgetting to make things.

The bit where I want to add creme fraiche and just have it on toast

So it’s my new mission to find recipes that serve as dinner, are delicious cold, can be made in quantity, don’t cost the earth and aren’t sandwiches (packed lunch for dinner is sometimes beautifully reminiscent of journeys and school trips, but not every day).

So. Up with my poor, neglected blog, and on to pastures new – in search of a sub’s dinner. All ideas greatly appreciated.

*I fear giving you a very studenty recipe for sausage pasta would be like teaching many grandmothers how to suck eggs. But I took a couple of nice photos, so I’ve popped them in. My only word on the subject is it’s nice to de-skin the sausages and make them into mini meatballs by coating them in chilli powder/paprika and flour, to keep them together and give them a nice crunchy coating, as in sausage pasta #1 above.  And add some red wine. Just try not to drink it in the morning.

Ta da! Every student's dream/nightmare

Balancing the Books – Rob Andrews

How much would you pay to read Charlie Brooker? AA Gill? Jan Moir?

Answers on a postcard. All right then. A tweet. According to a PCUK/Harris Poll, it’s slightly less than a Kit Kat, slightly more than a Freddo. But only very slightly.

25p a day. Or, more frighteningly, a tenner a year. Ten English pounds. Not for any old news site. No, for your favourite news site, the one to which you turn in a crisis, when Twitter seems to have gone mad over a single word or when your brain is frozen from temping and only columns can save you.

Tell that to a room full of journalism students and you’d think you would be lucky to get out alive. But Rob Andrews, UK Editor of paidcontent.org, escaped remarkably unscathed. Because, despite the heart-sinking figures, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon, light just glinting through the Rupert Murdoch-emblazoned bricks of the ever looming pay wall.

Yesterday Rob’s own site provided one, in the form of an advert for a new UK reporter, proving the near-extinct species, jobbus journalismus, may yet survive.

And there’s hope amidst those grim statistics, too. 48% of online users would be happy to pay for a subscription to a paper, as long as it came with the print edition. Which makes sense, really. To quote Rob, now we have let the genie out of the bottle, he’s going to be pretty hard to squeeze back in. Not only has online news always been free, it feels free. It’s a flibbertigibbet, transient and temporary. The message is clear – two pounds for a huge wodge of glossed-up tree is ok. Two pounds for some pixelated pictures and disappearing text isn’t.

But if print can be used to give its online cousin some financial wings, then there’s hope in both.

It is by no means the only answer though. There’s still another 50% who wouldn’t. And it doesn’t get to the bottom of the fundamental issue – how to turn the internet into wages.

Rob escaped stoning-through-shorthand-pads in another way, too – the sheer number of solutions on offer. Paid models are working in some areas because readers will pay for unique content – the Financial Times is a case in point. They’ll pay for extras too, like Times Culture+. And advertising could yet be resurrected – the internet makes it much more efficient, so ABCs and bulks are replaced by detailed statistics which allow for targeted ads.

The other theory is that of the docile lemming. If newspapers make us pay then, well, we will. It’s happened already with music – illegal downloading is beginning to wane, replaced by Spotify, iTunes and a myriad of ways to make us pay, albeit subtly.

But the BBC isn’t a pirated copy downloaded from Napster. As long as quality free sites remain, newspapers are going to face a tough job convincing people they are worth paying for.

They haven’t lost the battle yet though. As Rob said, we need to stop looking for short term ways of making money and look at long term, innovative solutions. The technology that is threatening newspapers could very well save the brand, if not the paper itself.

Ten years ago, not even the most technologically-minded Mystic Meg could have predicted this new media landscape. Paidcontent.org’s 2010 conference, announced yesterday, will attempt to make sense of the web’s murky tea leaves. Journalism isn’t dead. It just needs a bit of a facelift.

Sonnets, Storytelling and Chocolate Cake – Daniel Meadows

I sat down to write this about two hours ago, but I got distracted. I blame this, and this, and this.

All these videos are examples of digital storytelling from the Capture Wales project, led by Daniel Meadows, self-confessed hippy and one-time bus crusader, who spent 14 months in the 1970s touring the UK in his very own Free Photographic Omnibus, taking photos of ordinary people. In 2001, 25 years later, he tracked down the people in his photographs and concluded the stories contained in those frozen moments in time. Life models, go-go dancers, newly-divorced; all of life is in his photos.

A bit like this, anyway...

Which is why I winced when I wrote the phrase ‘examples of digital storytelling’. It’s too calculating, binary, impersonal, for these little snippets of life. Pictures may tell a thousand words, but the videos here go one better and  juxtapose great scripts with those pictures and create meaning in the gap.

Modern media prides itself on speed. Blogs and twitter make publication instantaneous. Facebook cocoons us in a mass of photos, our lives documented as we go. There are 2893 photos of this particular ugly mug on Facebook, four years told through images. It raises the frightening spectre of watching ourselves age gradually, thousands of then/now magazine features as the wrinkles accumulate.

Digital tales are the more human version of this constant media stream. Daniel compared them to sonnets; they may not quite be a work of art, but they are a calming antidote to twitter. A still moment, a worked through thought; to adopt yet another stretched food metaphor, they’re the homemade cake to a guiltily wolfed Mars Bar.

Thanks Mum...

Not everyone agreed – and I’ll concede it may not be the most journalism-focussed lecture we’ll have all year. But, frankly, that’s great. Amidst twittering and frittering on the internet, I think we needed to be reminded that good journalism comes back not only to stories, but to craft as well. 140 characters are all very well, but constant unfiltered blurting does not a sonnet – or a good article – make.*

It’s hugely oversaid but, to paraphrase the delectable Doctor (Joe can shoot me now) – we really are extraordinary, in the most ordinary ways, and the personal, intimate voice of digital storytelling allows everyone and anyone to express just that. And if you don’t believe me, watch Florence Alma Snoad in action.

*Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,/The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;/But then begins a journey in my head/To work my mind whe…. See. Strangled Shakespeare. Although to take off my pretentious English beret and put my tweeting hat back on, these are pretty good too.


But. To end this increasingly geeky post, I’ll give the last word to Dai Evans:

“Go out there and create… anything. Get off the couch and live a life.”