Brighton journalist works: an obituary

Class of April 2012

A brilliant, funny, intelligent, diverse and incredibly outrageous group. Widely regarded as one of the greatest BJW classes of its generation.

Intro

Nearly five score days ago, 14 journalism students began a course that would impact their lives in so many ways. Little did we know what was in store for us.

My time at BJW has been one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have I further expanded my knowledge – bringing me one step closer to world domination – but also being introduced to some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and, I sincerely hope, to remain friends with for a long time – I can only hope the feeling is mutual.

Fact

Trying to pick out some highlights of our 14 week course is proving somewhat challenging, there are so many to choose from.

Every Shorthand lesson would degenerate into some giant form of in-your-end-o while drilling Marie’s passages. (Chortle) This was made even more hilarious by our brilliant teacher, Roxanne, and her interactions with Neil, our non-Cornish Cornishman. It’s a testament to Neil’s character that he didn’t snap after being asked to repeat himself on numerous occasions.

At the start of the course many of us, myself included, thought reaching 100 words a minute was an impossible task; requiring assembling a team of mighty heroes, legendary weapons and a stash of energy drinks and doughnuts to tackle this Herculean task.

We have a lot to thank Roxanne for. Not only for getting us to respectable speed in shorthand, but for being able to sleep easy knowing Caroline got an eye test – something she tells me she revised hard for – and as a result, now has to wear glasses.

I’m sure I didn’t help Peoples’ concentration in many situations, but some opportunities can’t be passed up.

Quote:

Roxanne- “How do you write arrange?”

Ben – “I think backwards.”

Me – “I always worried about you.”

 

The air conditioning battles waged by Natalie – who strangely managed to position herself near the air-con controls in every classroom.  These battles made the atmosphere so tense you could cut it like butter – provided it hadn’t melted first.

Christie’s endless noise. This isn’t a bad thing, I have to thank Christie for keeping me insane throughout reporting lessons. If I’d actually gotten into some kind of normality who knows what might have happened. If I see or hear the name Radston ever again I’m going to commandeer something big and dangerous and wipe it from the face of the Earth. Although at the rate the town is going, it seems inevitable.

Spending my 25th birthday in a Magistrates Court was another memorable experience as was buying tasty snacks for the group in celebration. Having Richard Lindfield, our charming Public Affairs tutor with a voice for radio, present me with a cake added to the pomp and ceremony of reaching quarter of a century. The fact that some people towards the end of the course asked when my birthday was ripped this feeling of grandeur from me faster than Catholic rabbits reproduce.

I’ll miss my daily pool games with Philip and the unstoppable Jimmy ‘the saint’ Cutler. I’ll also miss trying to solve the cryptic crossword with Phil. I have him to thank for giving me a starting point on these, though I fear I’ll never be able to solve a whole puzzle without his Kiwi accent to navigate me through this intellectual labyrinth.

Media Law was great was it not? Media Matt and his fantasies of what could occur over in ASDA car park.I’ll never forget: the three tests of public interest, three criteria for libel, four criteria for defamation, five for contempt of court and the partridge in a pear tree of numerous defenses to each aspect of media law. Any legal situation I come across in my journalism career – provided I get one – will be subjected to the ASDA car park test:

“Look, look. If you go over to ASDA car park and see two politicians performing a blouse busting, skirt rumpus act behind the recycling bins, what are you going to do? You’re going to take a picture are you not? And who owns the copyright of said picture?”

All this, of course, after the alarm bells have stopped ringing in my ears.

Closing statements

I am loath to close. There are many memories  that will be preserved in the dusty museum that is my mind – free admittance on Sundays. I’d like to say I have a photographic memory but I fear it needs developing. Perhaps I should write more while I can still remember but I’d rather continue the journey with my class mates and everyone’s favourite friend, alcohol.

Now I must don my safari hat and elephant gun and begin the job hunt once again. In the meantime, I intend to practice for the sofa jumping Olympics, something I feel isn’t getting enough coverage. I suppose I could continue giving Frisbee lessons to gypsy kids. On second thought no, just no.

“Look, look. All I can say is it’s been an absolute privilege”

 

It most certainly was. All the best folks. You all deserve it.

John

P.S. When is the reunion?

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Syrian military uses heavy weaponry in village of Trenseh

Syrian troops have killed at least 200 people in an attack on the village of Tremseh.

Russian Mi-24 Hind Helicopters

The number of dead is yet to be confirmed, due to the restrictions imposed on journalists by the regime.

However, the UN has confirmed that tanks, heavy artillery and attack helicopters were used in the attack, which has bought further  condemnation of the al-Assad regime from the US, UK and France.

Ban Ki Moon,  UN Secretary General, said the acts of violence: ” Cast serious doubts on President al-Assad’s recent expression of commitment to the six-point plan.”

Later in his statement, the Secretary General called on member states to take collective and decisive action, saying: “Inaction becomes a license for further massacres.”

As I’ve previously discussed; this action must take the form of military intervention as it is the only thing the Syrian regime seems to understand.

This leads to my second point; the Syrian regime continues to say armed terrorists are responsible for the violent killings. Is this the legacy of the War on Terror?

Will oppressive regimes label acts of violence against systematic state oppression as terrorism – a concept that hasn’t been clearly defined – in an attempt to justify their actions?

As the International Community continues to debate on the best course of action, the violence continues.

Recent intelligence suggests the Syrian military has moved chemical weapons, including cyanide and sarin, to the Homs region.

The fear now is how these assets will be used.

The regime could use the gas as a deterrent against any planned intervention as a counter-value target. In other words, if you intervene we’ll gas Homs.

If any action is to be taken; it must be taken swiftly and it must be taken now.

House of Lords Reform: A House Divided?

Coalition plans to reform the House of Lords took a blow today, after a timetable motion was withdrawn.

The news comes after a letter, signed by 70 Conservative backbenchers, stated the legislation would ‘pile a constitutional crisis on top of an economic crisis.’

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, said: “This bill is about fixing a flawed institution.”

The plans, proposed by the Liberal Democrats, would see the number of peers reduced from 826 to 450 of which 80% would be elected.

The remaining 20% would comprise appointed members, who would serve a 15 year non-renewable term.

The plans would also see the number of Church of England Bishops reduced from 26 to 12.

The issue of reforming the House of Lords will cause tension within the Coalition as well as amongst the Lib Dems and Labour, whose backbenchers also oppose the bill.

Reaching back through history, I am reminded of Lincoln’s 1858 speech in which he said:”A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Although Lincoln was talking about slavery, the link can be made between institutions that are no longer seen as appropriate in a modern democratic society.

The UK is one of two countries to have an unelected upper chamber, the other being Lesotho.

The arguments for the Lords are that they offer greater scrutiny, as they provide expert opinion on legislation, and they are part of Britain’s constitutional heritage.

The main problem facing a reformed House of Lords is who would have greater legitimacy?

If an elected second house were adopted then this would undermine the supremacy of the Commons and could lead to stalemate when legislation is put forward.

This then presents the problem of whether to have an upper chamber at all.

In his speech, Lincoln went on to say:

“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

The house is divided.

The three major parties in the Commons cannot agree without risking splits in their own parties, despite all of them having the issue in their manifestos.

The House of Lords issue could see the country asking about the political personality of Britain itself.

UK Citizenship Test: Welcome to Pub Quiz Britain

Migrants applying for passports to live in Britain will have to learn about Shakespeare, Brunel and the National Anthem as part of a remodelling of the citizenship test.

The proposed patriotic passport purchaser will see a move away from the official Life in the UK: A Journey to Citizenship handbook; which informs migrants about the Human Rights Act, benefit claiming and how to read a gas meter.

The current test comprises 24 questions about life in the UK; ranging from information about where to go for information about training opportunities, to how many parliamentary constituencies there are.

The test then has some rather obscure bits of ‘trivia’ such as when did married women get the right to divorce their husband and what proportion of people living in the UK in 2001 said they were Muslim.

(You can find a practice test here: http://www.ukcitizenshiptest.co.uk)

I sat the practice test and scored 15 out of 24 -the pass mark is 18.

Having sat the new citizenship test run by The Sun – scoring 100% – I find it puzzling as to why the Government is going to ask these questions to migrants when most Brits probably don’t know the answers themselves.

The paper asked 1000 people – demographics unknown – 10 questions about British history and culture in what I’ve dubbed the citiSUNship test.

The results showed 37% didn’t know the first line of God Save the Queen whilst a quarter didn’t know when the Battle of Hastings occurred.

But an amazing 95% knew who stole from the rich to give to the poor. (You can view the questions and results here: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4416600/37-dont-know-first-line-of-God-Save-the-Queen.html

Does this mean we should be exiled from the land until our general knowledge of British History is up to scratch?

Just because you don’t know who composed Pomp and Circumstance Military March No. 1, or Land of Hope and Glory as it’s better known, doesn’t make you any less British – if such a thing is possible. Neither does attaining an A grade in a GCSE about Nazi Germany make you a Nazi.  I wrote my dissertation on the American Civil War but this doesn’t make me an American or Abraham Lincoln – unfortunately.

Again this links back to why ask these questions in the first place? Especially when some people who are born and bred in this country cannot answer the questions themselves. (Personally, I think there should be an emphasis on this in schools as part of a balanced curriculum.)

I think if you are planning to move to another country you should learn about it first. Much like when you go abroad you should try to observe local customs – within reason-  and learn basic phrases out of respect to your ‘host.’

The British demographic has changed vastly over the last half century. The break-up of the Empire after World War II and the introduction of European laws on movement of people have seen it become a multi-cultural ‘melting pot’.

This influx poses a challenge to the host nation. A lack of resources to cope with an already ageing population and loss of jobs whilst  many fear a rise in Islamic immigrants will increase religious tensions with Britain’s traditional ‘Christian heritage’ – which itself is based on other forms of worship.

The Home Office stated to the BBC the test would help improve community cohesion and integration. I can imagine it now. Migrants from all over the world trying to initiate a conversation with something along  the lines of ‘So the Battle of Hastings was in 1066. What do you think about that?’

Who knows, migrants may put the England football team to shame with their recital of the national anthem.

These sorts of questions belong in two places: pub quizzes and school examinations. Not as a mandatory test to determine where you can begin a new life.