irI5H iNd3p3nD3N7 opts for text speak in housing market article

Today’s Irish Independent features the truly bizarre use of “txtspk” on two occasions in an article on declining consumer confidence in the Irish housing market.

The offending piece is here (free registration required), a screen grab of the two sentences is available here while I’m awaiting a copy of the print edition to scan (anyone who has one, I’d be much obliged if you could email a scan over – thanks!).

The follow are quotes of the lines in question:

And the housing market is set to bear the brunt of the new-found gloom, with the number of people who in10d to buy a house this year at its lowest level for a decade. (2nd paragraph)

and

Worried borrowers are now bat10ing down the hatches, with more of those who have a maturing SSIA choosing to save. (13th paragraph)

[my own emphasis added in both instances]

So what is the possible reasoning behind this? It’s hard to believe that the newspaper intentionally included these alterations as part of some editorial decision and while there is a case in highlighting the overt decline in quality of The Irish Independent’s content in recent years, there’s little to believe that it, or any other newspaper would resort to language and wording even lower down the intellectual scale than common slang.

Was it Charlie Weston’s doing? Unlikely. For a start, why on Earth would he or any journalist drop in two isolated pieces of text speak into an otherwise normal article, unless they were doing so in a feature on the issue of texting, modern language usage or the decline in spelling ability amongst young people etc.? In other words, there was no reason for it and no benefit in having it there.

Perhaps he just made an error? Well, even the most hardened texter would have different habits on a QWERTY keyboard than on a phone’s numberpad and one that uses a keyboard for a living (and probably has spell check) would surely find it more difficult to make such a mistake than overlook it. Couple this with the fact that his final text is passed by a number of eyes on the sub’s desk once he’s had his way with it, you’d come to realise that him missing such an obvious mistake is unlikely but many others (trained specifically to spot these things) doing the same afterwards is pretty implausible.

So what about the subs themselves? Could they have missed it, or made the mistake themselves? Again, they’re trained to spot these things and it’s hard to believe that they would somehow turn the right word into a completely mutated version of itself, or fail to spot numbers in the middle of letters… a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’, or a jumbled ‘a’ and ‘e’ is one thing, missing vowels and additional numbers is a completely different story.
So maybe it was intentionally put it in there as a shorthand with the intention of it being changed before printing… but that doesn’t make sense either. Why would it be put in as it was when (as a friend pointed out to me) both instances are only 1 character shorter than the correct version of their respective words? What kind of useless shorthand is that? And why would someone purposely make something incorrect in order to change it later? It’s unlikely that any of the people in the process weren’t sure of the correct spelling and left it wrong in the hope that someone else would correct it later (again, spell check and the fact that they’re straight-forward words), so that’s hard to believe also.

There’s only one explainable conclusion that I can come to and that’s that it was a joke by someone in there. Who knows? Maybe some sub decided to kick the Indo management in the nuts for their plans to make them all redundant in the near future. Or maybe it was someone’s last day and decided to have some fun while they still can.

Either that or the editing policy of Ireland’s biggest daily newspaper has fallen to pieces in a very obvious and public way. Let’s hope this doesn’t catch on.

Update: Looks like Una was on the ball well ahead of me this morning – also worth mentioning that it was brought to my attention by this thread on the News/Media forum of boards.ie

Great news from Dáil30

My podcasting project, Dáil30, has gotten its first major boost with an offer of support from Labour.

There’s a proper post about it here, but I thought I’d flag it here too. Many thanks to Labour and its press office – the show of support is greatly appreciated!

Potentially major changes in the Irish radio scene

There’s a significant media-war and ownership shake-up on the way for Irish radio, if yesterday’s Sunday Business Post and today’s Irish Times (subs required) are to be believed.

Apparently British media group Emap, which owns numerous outlets across Ireland and the UK, is gearing up to sell its Irish interests, namely Today FM, Dublin’s FM104 and Donegal’s Highland Radio.

With only two national radio licences available to the commercial sector at present (one of which is not even 100% national), Today FM is the obvious jewel in Emap’s Irish offerings and this is reflected in its valuation with the IT putting its value at €100 – €120 million – double the value of their two local stations combined.

The most obvious suitor to the Today FM licence is UTV Plc., which has slowly amassed a radio empire in Britain and Ireland which now out-performs its TV operations.

As it stands UTV is no shrinking violet when it comes to acquisitions and has made it quite clear that it hasn’t stopped its recent growth-spurt just yet.

Also the bulk of UTV’s radio operations are in Britain at the moment (19 licences – one national – compared to just 6 here), meaning there’s plenty of room for growth in the Irish market. Their Irish licences are all local too, covering Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Louth and Belfast – a national station on the roster would go some way to making UTV more than a minor player in the Irish market.
With all this in mind and considering the fact that the only other national commercial licence is owned by Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp, it would be bizarre for a media company with such huge ambitions to overlook a strongly branded and much-liked national station like Today FM.

But with Today FM fitting UTV’s ambition perfectly, It’s hard to tell if FM104 would be as appealing a purchase. For a start UTV already has a Dublin station, albeit one which largely seeks a different market to FM104. What is important, however, is that the youth and pop radio market in Dublin is extremely saturated already and has a far more fickle listenership. Considering that FM104 are vying for the same market as Spin 103.8 and 98FM (with national stations like Today and 2FM also popular with this audience), there’s far more potential for mass-migration of listeners from one side to another and far more potential for uncertainty.
While UTV is likely to dig deep for Today they’re certain to be more conservative with 104. Of course they’d be stupid not to show an interest as FM104 is currently so popular in its own market, but you can be sure they’ll be holding back for the right price.
In the area of other bidders, the IT suggests that Doughty Hanson, the private equity company behind TV3, are also possible contenders. It made a failed bid recently for the Midlands/North-East regional licence and seems keen to expand its Irish media beyond a single, UK import-reliant station.

The Irish Independent is the only paper to suggest Denis O’Brien as a potential bidder but The Sunday Business Post feels he won’t make a move, probably for the same reason the II highlights. If O’Brien bid for Today FM and was successful he could be forced to sell off one of his other radio assets – that asset would almost certainly be Newstalk and given his investment in the station over the years and its slow creep towards financial success he’s unlikely to walk away now. If he bid for FM104 and was successful he could stand to lose  either 98FM or Spin – again, unlikely. (The owners of The Irish Independent, it should be noted, are in the midst of a feud with Denis O’Brien who has slowly been buying up chunks of IN&M, sparking rumours of a takeover bid.)

There is no doubt that if Today FM comes on the market many will be interested. The usual suspects are already lining up in what could be a once in a lifetime chance to grab a national footing in the Irish market.

As far as the Donegal licence goes, it’s likely to be less exciting but equally interesting. It’s worth noting that unlikely contenders like The Irish Times and Thomas Crosbie Holdings have both taken part in local radio licence bids in recent times, so perhaps they could be eying up the smallest of the three products while everyone else gets distracted by the big names. Who knows?

Of course Ireland won, sure we always play better in March

This blog rarely (if ever) makes reference to sport, but for once I’ll break this trend and comment on the so-called sporting event that has just taken place in Croke Park.

The recently amended Rule 42 and the long abolished ban on GAA members playing foreign sports were both enacted as defence mechanisms for the Gaelic Athletics Association. The logic behind both rules was that the popularity of soccer and rugby was inversely proportionate to the popularity of Gaelic games. As such, the organisation did what it felt was necessary to discourage support of any nature for any sport that wasn’t of the Gaelic variety and so the likes of Rule 42 were brought into place.
Of course, the abolition of the foreign sports ban (which prohibited GAA members from even being a spectator at non-Gaelic sports) in the 1970s did not lead to any mass-migration from the GAA, in fact since the ban was lifted the organisation has gone from strength to strength (much to the joy of those who staked their reputations on having the rule removed in the first place).

Today the GAA management must be equally relieved.

Whatever fear of Gaelic sports being forever overshadowed by the might of soccer must have been quickly dispelled as thousands at Croke Park and around the country sat down to feast upon one of the most horrendous displays of the sport ever thought possible.

The Republic of Ireland were dreadful and Wales were even worse with both teams managing to capture the very essence of what makes a bad soccer game unbearable. The RoI, as they tend to do, made a solitary break relatively early, got a goal from it and then, or so it seemed at least, took their seats with the rest of the audience to watch the second half.

But was there a positive amongst the 90 minutes of negatives? Perhaps Robbie Keane’s yellow card, even though he didn’t really do anything for it. The way I see it there’s now no way that Staunton can play him and maybe, just maybe, he might realise after Wednesday’s match just how little he brings to the table.

I didn’t agree with Roy Keane’s rant on a Dublin bias in the FAI but I do agree with his point that some senior players are living off their past reputations. Robbie Keane is the single strongest example of this sickness with the RoI camp and from what I could see of his few attempts with the ball today (and in previous matches) he no longer has the nerve to be in the team, let alone lead it.

BiffSniff’s iPod Shuffle giveaway

I was planning on putting my idea forward for BiffSniff’s iPod Shuffle competition anyway, but the announcement of a second draw certainly encouraged me to do it sooner rather than later.

So here’s my version of events, I hope you like it (and if you haven’t put your own alternative up yet, why not?).

While I don’t want to go and explain the “joke”, this post by Damien should provide the context for the scenario, should it be needed.

Abusing a tragedy: A new low for Irish journalism

Towards the end of last week the Irish public was presented with a deeply tragic story, one of a woman whom had died during childbirth along with one of the two babies she was giving birth to. To further deepen the tragedy, the child that did survive birth was also in a critical condition, fighting for its life.

However sad a story this is, it is questionable if the media would have paid any attention to it were it not for the fact that the mother in question was a member of An Garda Siochana. From that the question can and should be asked; should a family be subjected to any (even the most respectful) media attention in such a difficult time based solely on the occupation of the deceased?

Irregardless of the right answer, it is the case that the story was deemed newsworthy in the eyes of the entire Irish media scene, a status most certainly boosted by the mother’s occupation if not based entirely on it.

But the coverage itself has not been very contentious- even the Garda Press Office accepted the reasoning behind it. Rather it is the link that two Sunday newspapers, one Irish and one British, made between this tragedy and another completely unrelated
one.

As you can read on the Sunday Independent website here, Ireland’s biggest Sunday newspaper deemed it newsworthy to tell the public that the husband of the deceased mother and child just happened to be the same Aidan McCabe (of the Gardaí Emergency Response Unit) who shot John Carthy in the Abbeylara siege. The other newspaper to cover the story, by the way, was the Irish Daily Mail on Sunday.

As the public reaction has noted, this is a complete non-story and a completely irresponsible one at that. There is no relevance between the previous actions of either Garda and this tragic occourance. Just as it doesn’t matter who McCabe or Corcoran arrested or when during their careers’, it doesn’t matter what either of them did in the line of duty before, particularly and specifically as last week’s incident happened to the two as private citizens (ie not as on-duty Gardaí).

In fact, even if Corcoran had died in the line of duty there would still be no relevance. The only reason there would be to bring this fact (of which McCabe was vindicated of any unprofessionalism or wrong-doing in the Barr Tribunal which followed) is if the same Garda ended up in the same kind of situation again, as unlikely as that probably is.

The Sunday Independent’s reaction to the public upset has been just as disgusting as the coverage in the first place. The newspaper’s editor, Aengus Fanning, defended their piece as “factually correct” and added that they didn’t intend to cause any upset – that said he has so far declined to apologise and remains unsure about doing so in the near future.

Fanning also said he was “not quite sure” who wrote the headline which featured on the article, which seems bizarre to say the least, and said he didn’t feel he had to answer questions about his newspaper’s production or the way the article was constructed.

At this point it should be pointed out that other major media outlets in Ireland knew who Aidan McCabe was in relation to Abbeylara, but declined to run the story out of respect to him in a very difficult time. I have heard directly that The Mirror and The Star both had the information and declined to run with it while apparently The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Times and The Sun also knew and decided there was nothing worth reporting in it. It can be assumed that other media outlets followed the same tact.
Indeed, with McCabe being named in the tribunal inquiry after the siege it would not be hard for anyone to make the connection, media outlet or otherwise.

As the newspaper’s editor Fanning is the one who should bear the responsibility for this. The fact that he OK’d this story and put it pride of place on the front page just highlights one of the reasons why The Sunday Independent has become so synonimous with down-market values – in some cases values lower than the trashiest of rags would dare to abide by.
Let’s not forget it was The Sunday Independent who claimed Liam Lawlor died while in a car with an underage prostitute in Moscow – the reality being that the female in the car was a 29 year old translator – one who is now suing the newspaper (and those that followed its lead) for libel.

At this stage even an apology would fall far short of what Fanning needs to do to rectify this situation and frankly he’s probably thinking “why should I? The paper continues to sell well, so the public obviously want it even if they don’t like to publicly admit it.”

Surely you can also bet he won’t be sacked by his superiors in IN&M from his position as editor of a strong-selling title just because he lacks a few morals.
With that in mind, perhaps it’s time the Irish public vote with their wallets and avoid The Sunday Independent until its editorial policy (and perhaps some of its team) is remedied and it becomes a reliable and reputable newspaper once more. After all, does anyone really think complaining on Joe Duffy one day and buying the latest issue on the next will really solve the problem at hand?

Some clever marketing by Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails, a band I’ve been a fan of for some time, are gearing up for the release of their next album, entitled ‘Year Zero‘.

Going back to the concept album format, Year Zero is apparently set in 2022, where the American administration has become totalitarian, the connection of church and state has been completed and the nation (and perhaps world?) has been suffering from a series of terrorist attacks which have culminated in the world almost “starting again” or even coming towards its final stage – hence the album title.

Just to add an even more bizarre edge to the story, sightings of a thing called The Presence, a hand coming from the sky, begin to get reported. Some believe it’s God enacting the rapture, others believe it’s the devil. The underground opposition to the Government’s control believe it to be a form of psychosis resulting from the intake of Parepin, a chemical put in the water supply to stop disease and safeguard against biological attacks.

It all seems extremely out there, especially compared to the real world concept of The Downward Spiral, but it’s not the story itself I’m impressed by, but rather the way it has been told so far.

The NINwiki gives the clearest and most up to date coverage of the whole thing, specifically this page, but I’ll give a very brief idea of what’s going on, and it’s nothing short of a viral marketer’s wet dream.

It all began with a tour t-shirt which had a website hidden within highlighted lettering on the back of it. From there a number of different websites have been found, from an underground discussion forum to the website of a new church to a ‘Missing persons’ type website set up after a terrorist attack at the 2009 Oscars.

Each site reveals more about the album’s plotline and offers clues to the next step of the process. On top of this, the toilets at a select number of gigs on the band’s current tour will have USB keys hidden in them. Each of these keys feature one of the upcoming album’s tracks, and often an image or file of some sort.

Each audio file found seems to end in a morse code message too – with one ending in a loud noise which, when run through a stereograph, shows the shape of The Presence.

It’s all pretty detailed and interesting, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come before the album is released – and maybe more after that (Reznor said Year Zero is part one of the overarching concept).

Besides the fact that five tracks of the album have been made available freely online by the band before the official release (check the myspace page, for example), it’s great to see some thought being put into music above and beyond the bare minimum. It doesn’t mean we’re going to hear a great album, but it shows they’re at least putting effort into it.
What must be most enjoyable for Reznor, however, is the response the whole thing has gotten. Nine Inch Nails is the type of band that has a strong, core following and they seem more than happy to play this game he’s leading them on. Overall, fair play to him for a) not being overly protective of his music and b) putting a little bit more effort into the release than many would.

Now, let’s hope the music is good too (although some of the tracks available so far sound great – and hopefully they’ll be improved within the context of the entire work too).

(Oh, I just spotted on the band’s performance page that they’re playing the Civic Centre in Wolverhampton – talk about a kick in the nuts for me. I spent 9 months of my life in that “city” and not one decent act turned up… I think Tori Amos or Fiona Apple played there the year before I went and now that I’m gone Nine Inch Nails decide to drop by. For the love of God, play Dublin!!!! It’s been 12 bloody years!)

That’s it for another year

The Irish blog community is wallowing in a collective hangover after last night’s festivities, which were very enjoyable.

Congratulations to all the winners – and to everyone involved in the event itself (especially Damien).

I did manage to put some faces to the names, and had good chats with a few of you, but maybe not as many as I had hoped. At times itt felt almost like some kind of speed-dating event – everyone wanted to chat to everyone else, so we were all wandering around introducing ourselves, chatting and then moving on to start the process again.

Same again next year, I hope, and after the initial ice has been broken for me I’ll certainly be doing my best to attend any other blogger’s night out in the near future.

So how did I do with my predictions? Well I got Best Photoblog, Best Arts and Culture Blog, Best Political Blog, Best Designed Blog, Best Sports/Recreation Blog, Best News/Current Affairs and Best Podcaster all right – in other words, don’t take any betting tips from me, ever.

Oh and one final thing – many slaps on the back to Bernie for handing the Best Contribution award over to Damien, who, as he said himself, really deserved it. So, can we call it “The Mulley” now?

Tonight’s the night

With coverage in The Irish Times and Metro and features on RTÉ News, RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2FM, Today FM amongst others, even the most committed of ludites must know that the 2nd annual Irish Blog Awards is on tonight in Dublin.

I was away last year and missed out on the festivities, but I’m all set for tonight and really looking forward to it. Before it all begins, a final “best of luck” to all the nominees; I’ve already made my predictions but that list doesn’t always reflect the ones I want to win!

This being the first blog event I’ve attended, I’m a little bit anxious* and extremely intrigued about how things will go. For me, the night will be a chance to put a few faces to the (pseudo)names, and have a more direct chat with people I’ve spoken to a hundred times before, but only online. I’m also hoping to catch up with the handful of bloggers I’ve actually met in person already, and give them a cheer should they win any of the awards they’re rightly nominated for!

The one thing I’m really not sure about – how the hell do I introduce myself at this kind of event? Do we get name tags?! I guess I’ll have to either ask the people I know to tell me who the others are, or just wander around aimlessly saying “I’m Adam, who are you?” all night.

Anyway – see you there!

* partly because I’m bringing my non-blogger girlfriend along with me. Given that I don’t know what to expect only God knows what she’ll make of it all!