In case you hadn’t noticed, it rains in England. That’s what makes it a green and pleasant land. On Saturday morning, it rained a lot and the breakfast of cream cheese bagels and Yorkshire tea could not be enjoyed out in the garden. Life is tough when you are under the weather.
There are some who complain about rain which is rather like shouting at trees because they are big. Rain, however, grew the grain to make the bread, the grass that fed the cows and the leaves of Assam, Sri Lanka and Kenya that blended the brew that made Betty of Harrogate famous. Right now, there are a number of people in the Horn of Africa that would welcome a few drops of rain, let alone a bagel and a cup of char.
Strange then that our “local” rag, the Express & Star, should take umbrage at our “local” Walsall council tweeting about the rain. As Albert Hammond might have observed, guess it never rains in southern Wolverhampton. Daniel Wainwright, local government editor at the “local” fish and chip wrapper and cat litter substitute, seems to question council tax value for money when a tweet is published stating “rain, rain go away”. Given the Excess & Swastikas obsession with the weather, non-stories and irrelevance, this stance seems a little bit hypocritical and is further evidence of a dying press brought about by lazy journalism and complete ignorance of new media.
Regular readers of this humble blog might raise an eyebrow at the hippo rushing to the defence of Walsall council and its woeful web presence, but, unlike the E&S, Walsall council are at least making an effort. As the Wainwright piece went to press, the council web team were engaging with Twitter to ask how the dreadful website could be improved and even offered a preview of the work in progress and encouraged comments and suggestions. It is unclear if Mr Wainwright finds this exercise a “particularly good use of a communications officers time”. As with most of the content of his newspaper, Mr Wainwright and his feigned colic is unimportant and is the product of a fear of the unknown coupled with aggression towards potential competition.
There is a time-honoured shorthand in the press that indicates fabrication. When a piece contains the words “an insider said” or “sources close to”, you can bet your NUJ card that the quote was made up in the pub an hour earlier to give credence to whatever agenda is being peddled. Wainwright uses the old chestnut “a reader from Walsall wrote to me” to justify exposing, as any responsible journalist would, this scandalous waste of council tax money. His unnamed and articulate correspondent complains of paying tax to a council with “too much time on their hands”. It is interesting that outraged of Walsall has the time to write a letter to a Wolverhampton journalist to complain about what has offended him on a Walsall Twitter stream. When Walsall council offer trite, patronising and “anodyne” tweets, he could, as many of us do, offer an instant and acerbic 140 character reply. For the benefit of the E&S, the word “b*ll*cks” has eight characters.
The Wainwright piece suggests that the loathsome Eric Pickles might be interested in this outrageous weather storm engulfing local government and goes on to quote the equally loathsome Alastair Campbell and rambles somewhat incoherently about the power of Twitter and the closure of the News of the World. Earlier, another E&S columnist attempted to describe the entire phone hacking scandal as something of a storm in a tea cup in which “nobody died”. As yet, there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, but this avoids the fact that people, including a child, died during the illegality. The printed press, now in a desperate fight for survival, is attempting to take shelter from the deluge of disgust by attacking new forms of news dissemination.
Interestingly, both pieces in the E&S did not appear online and so any response, either in agreement or opposition, has to made via quill and parchment with no guarantee of acknowledgement. However, our own redoubtable YamYam was able to bring this guff to an audience that has long since stopped buying newspapers in favour of a more immediate and reliable source of news. The redundancy of talented, hard-working and honest journalists can never be a reason for celebration but with old media happily continuing to splash through puddles and swing around lamp posts in the carefree style of Gene Kelly, now under the watchful eye of NYPD`s finest and with the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, it doesn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 50 years since Bob Dylan recorded Hard Rain. Written in 1962 on the eve of the Cuban missile crisis, the chorus was long thought to be a prophecy of nuclear annihilation. Later in an interview, the author corrects this view. Dylan said:
“No, it’s not atomic rain, it’s just a hard rain. It isn’t the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that’s just gotta happen…In the last verse, when I say, `the pellets of poison are flooding the waters`, that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers.”
Almost 50 years have elapsed, but Mr Zimmerman’s blue-eyed son is finally being taken seriously.