Is blogging journalism?

The most contentious argument put forward at last night’s debate, Science in the Media: rude or ailing health?, was not about specifically about science, but focussed on the credibility of blogging.

Science Media Centre’s Fiona Fox asserted that blogging is not journalism – a comment which raised a few eyebrows in City University’s lecture theatre, where the debate was being held.

Quite rightly, The Economist’s Natasha Loder pointed out that blogging is a platform akin to television. Therefore, if somebody takes the time to investigate a story using journalistic skills and then publishes their findings on a blog, that blog is journalism.

But one audience member argued that many blogs were bias or not thoroughly investigated pieces of journalism, so how can the reader judge the credibility of a blog they are reading?

Even award-winning blogger Ed Yong said he has not always treated his blog stories with the same degree of scrutiny that he would an article he writes for a magazine – i.e. making a few calls to answer any lingering questions from a release. But he also argued that hyperlinks strengthen the validity of online articles because the reader can trace the roots of the story through links.

Like Yong, I don’t tend to investigate my blog stories with the same degree of scrutiny as I would in the newsroom and I was pleased to hear I wasn’t alone in feeling guilty about it. Perhaps it is due to the personal nature of a blog — my audience is mainly me.



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Siemens picks UK for offshore wind turbine plant

Siemens has announced it will create 700 jobs at a new UK factory making turbines for offshore wind farms, as a result of the Chancellor’s Budget 2010.

Siemens service workers at Sweden's Lillgrund offshore wind farm between Malmö and CopenhagenPhoto: SIEMENS

The UK arm of the German company said it will invest £80m in a factory on the coast of England, creating around 700 jobs, after the government last week provided £60m to develop port sites for offshore wind turbine manufacturers looking to locate to the UK.

Siemens has yet to decide where exactly the plant will be based, although it has narrowed its search to the North East and East coasts and is working with Regional Development Agencies to find the perfect site.

Siemens UK chief executive Andreas J. Goss said: “The UK government has created a stable framework to attract inward investment in renewables and offshore wind power in particular. The competition for land development, announced in the Budget last week, gives us confidence that the appropriate UK port infrastructure can be made available to support our production plans.”

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson welcomed the news and said the plans will confirm the UK as world leader in offshore wind.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband said: “This is a vote of confidence from one of the foremost companies in the offshore wind sector, looking to set up a base in the UK. More proof that we’re exploiting the great natural resource that we have and creating the right conditions to attract investment. Siemens’ investment will help create jobs and help us meet our renewable energy targets.”

Last week, GE announced a €110 million investment for a new offshore wind manufacturing plant in the UK, which the company believe will create up to 1900 jobs.

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UK government on the right track to bring offshore wind inward investment

The British government appears to be taking the right steps to secure inward investment from offshore wind turbine manufacturers.

Offshore wind turbine

A Siemens SWT-2.3-93 offshore wind turbine

Two innovative non-UK wind turbine companies, which received substantial government funding last year, have taken further steps in committing to UK manufacturing.

Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe this week signalled its intention to invest up to £100 million in a UK turbine research and development project in the UK, creating up to 200 highly skilled jobs, while last week, Clipper Windpower broke ground at a new turbine blade manufacturing plant in Newcastle, which is expected to create up to 500 jobs by 2020.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills plans to grant Mitsubishi up to a further £30 million to support its project. That money is in addition to a grant of £0.81 million  to Mitsubishi in December last year from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Environmental Transformation Fund.

Meanwhile, DECC awarded Clipper £2.5 milliion from ETF in December last year, on top of £4.4 million from the Low Carbon Energy Demonstration capital grants scheme in September.

The government is continuing to  invest in renewables innovation by announcing another call for proposals for £8 million from the ETF this week, this time specifically for smaller projects in the offshore wind supply chain.

The Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay said Mitsubishi’s announcement was a “massive vote of confidence” in the UK’s renewable sector.

“We are clearly now open for business and importantly we are now winning business.”

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Winchester: bitten by the recession?

Winchester’s bustling High Street shows little sign of a global economic crisis, but scratch beneath the surface and it is easy to see the effects of the recession.

Winchester High Street by neilalderney123

Winchester High Street by neilalderney123

Winchester is one of the most affluent districts in the United Kingdom, with some of Hampshire’s most expensive houses. But the average Hampshire house price dropped nearly £30,000 in the two years from October 2007 to October 2009, according to Land Registry statistics.

Even so, the October 2009 price remained nearly £38,000 higher than the England and Wales average.

Winchester Goadsby estate agent Mark Thomas said: “House prices haven’t changed much here because it is an affluent area, so there isn’t a lot of borrowing.”

As for jobs, Winchester’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percent lower than the national 5.5 percent average, but workers are still feeling the bite of an economic crisis.

Nearly double the number of people claimed job seekers allowance in Winchester in October this year (1,250) compared to October 2008 (667), according to the Government’s residence-based unemployment rates.

Unemployment hit young people particularly hard. According to Government wider ILO figures in October, unemployment among under 25s in Winchester was disproportionately high at 30%.

Winchester Liberal Democrat Prospective MP, Martin Tod said youth are the worst affected when companies freeze recruitment.

Redundancies have also hit the area. Regional employer Twinings is threatening to shed more than 100 jobs at its Andover factory.

The upmarket tea company plans to move the majority of production to Poland and China to retain profitability, even though it claims “to have been at the heart of London for more than 300 years.”

BAE Systems also recently announced redundancies across the UK as a result of reduced workloads. The cull includes the loss of 111 jobs at the nearby BAE electronics facility in Farnborough.

Neither have white-collar workers escaped redundancy. Hampshire County Council recently threatened to axe up to 35 computer service jobs at its Winchester headquarters to save £1 million by merging IT services . The council has already shed eight senior manager posts.

Winchester Cathedral is a UK tourist attraction. The building has 7th century origins, the grave of novelist Jane Austen and was a location for the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

Yet it has also felt the bite. The Diocese of Winchester recently announced up to £1.5m budget cuts for 2010 because the recession affected people’s ability to give generously. It could mean the loss of a number of clergy posts across the county.

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George Dillon: The Man Who Was Hamlet

George Dillon writes and stars in a one man-play for 1½ hours, which is quite a feat. It is more admirable that he performs his well-crafted story with skill.


The Man Who Was Hamlet argues that “the true” William Shakespeare was the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere.

Dillon performs de Vere’s biography through monologue, morphing with precision into the multitude of characters in his life.

But the weakest part of the play is Dillon’s refusal to explain the logistics behind the Shakespeare myth.

He implies de Vere somehow handed his theatrical works to a man he knew called William, with “an egg-shaped head.”

That he does not indicate how that happened causes unsatisfactory confusion rather than mystery as the play finishes.

In spite of the plot, Dillon is an expert and witty actor.

His use of monologue to tell the story is not egotistical but suits the earl’s bullish character. And Dillon held the audience’s attention throughout – bar one teenage texter in the front row.

Excellent lighting from director Denise Evans and Charlotte Glasson’s original music aided the performance.

Upcoming shows

15 Oct, Tunbridge Wells

12 Nov, Newbury


23 Jan, Aylesbury

24 Feb, Liverpool

25 Feb, Bishop’s Stortford

3 to 7 and 10 to 14 March, Bristol

16 March, Greenwich

25 and 26 March, Salford

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Jason Cook: Joy

jason cookJason Cook’s show Joy sounded a bit like a self-help seminar, with the idea that that laughter is the best medicine.

At the start, he told the audience to fuck off if they tended towards cynicism. Although I do, I didn’t let on and went in with an open mind.

From the outset he spoke at breakneck speed, and although his material wasn’t side-splittingly funny, his enthusiasm was infectious and most people left the show in good spirits.

The theme of Joy is finding the positive things in life, even when it seems nothing is going right. He took the audience from the general (ugly newborn babies) to the specific (the death of his father) and stuck to his brief – seeing the lighter side of tragic events.

The high-speed show also worked a treat because it left us very little time for reflection. Inevitably, a few jokes flopped, but he swiftly glided on to the next one before most of the audience noticed. And if we did notice, it was only because he pointed it out, an example of his reflective qualities.

With a MacBook and projector at his side, Cook took on the academic’s role. He embraced modern technology and led his seminar group into chuckles.

Jason Cook performed Joy at the Soho Theatre, Dean Street, London on 17-18 July 2009.

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Plea to help Laura Ling – private letter campaign from Charles and Lorraine Clayton

Laura Ling’s UK family have started a private letter campaign to the North Korean Government asking for her release

Laura Ling and Charles Clayton during Laura and Iain’s last visit to East Hendred, Oxon, UK

Laura Ling and Charles Clayton during Laura and Iain’s last visit to East Hendred, Oxon, UK

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog written by my cousin Iain Clayton, who’s wife Laura Ling has been sentenced to imprisonment in North Korea, with her colleague Euna Lee.

Now Iain’s brother Charles Clayton, who lives in the UK, has started a private letter campaign to generate a national and worldwide plea on behalf of the two women.

America has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and the Swedish Ambassador in North Korea has had limited communications with the two women. So Charles and his wife Lorraine sought advice on how to help through diplomatic channels in England. They were advised of ways to indirectly approach the North Korean government in a bid to help Laura and Euna.

They insist that the campaign does not seek not to offend nor blame the North Korean government, but to respectfully present the cases of Laura and Euna. They hope that the magnitude of the campaign will encourage the North Korean government to release the girls on humanitarian grounds.

Laura Ling and Iain Clayton during their last visit to the Uk

Laura Ling and Iain Clayton during their last visit to East Hendred

Laura is a journalist for Current TV (based in California). She had travelled to the Chinese/North Korean border to research the plight of female North Korean refugees. On March 17 Laura was placed under arrest by the North Korean authorities along with a colleague, Euna Lee. From June 4 to 8, Laura and Euna were tried for ‘hostile acts’ against the State and sentenced to 14 and 12 years respectively, hard labour in a North Korean labour camp.

“Laura and Euna are American citizens. As you can imagine, with North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, it could not be a worse time for this to happen. This issue is highly sensitive and therefore, activity by the families was initially very low key,”

Charles and Lorraine explained in an email.

“However, now that the girls have been sentenced we hope that the North Koreans will show clemency and send the girls home to their families, whom they have not seen for three months. Euna Lee has a four year old daughter at home. Laura and Iain are days away from their fifth wedding anniversary.”

How can you help?

Charles and Lorraine have asked for people to help them by drafting a letter to the ambassador. They have already written a letter,

which can be found here. You simply need to edit as appropriate to your circumstance.

You will notice the tone of the letter. They have asked that for this private letter campaign to have any chance of being effective in shortening the length of time Laura and Euna remain in detention it is important that this tone is maintained.

The letter should be sent by post, to:

HE The Ambassador of DPR Korea

Embassy of the DPR Korea

73 Gunnersbury Avenue

London W5 4LP

Thank you

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