Gawker and the ‘crude crunch of global litigation’

August 28, 2016

Gawker has joined the News of the World as road fill, cosmic particles or wherever it is that dead media go. Peter Preston of the Guardian (and one of its past editors) has written about its closure and his worries about the potential effect of legal busybodies on the media in print and online:

Hear the crude crunch of global litigation bent on obliteration, not arbitration. Trump issues writs as heedlessly as he massages statistics: 1,900 of them filed already. Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles. I know many readers here still see press freedom through a Murdoch prism. I know that Leveson’s followers hold his words as holy writ. But the internet – instantaneously, inevitably – gives news a different dimension. It isn’t just another great-and-good opportunity for the regulatory classes … we ought to care, deeply, about its fate.

When you find Private Eye and the world’s oldest English language magazine, The Spectator, on the same side against Leveson’s press regulation, that’s a big worry. Moneyed Silicon Valley, loud-mouthed celebrities, lawyers and their super-injunctions – a dark combination for press freedom.

Different Olympic numbers show Croatia and New Zealand joining Jamaica (and Yorkshire!) as star performers

August 22, 2016
Country  G S B Total/country/population
  46  37  38  121   US (324m)
  27  23  17  67   GB & NI (65m)
  26  18  26  70   China (1,382m)
  19  18  19  56   Russia (143m)
  17  10  15  42   Germany (81m)
  12  21  41   Japan (126m)
  10  18  14  42   France 65m)
  21   S. Korea (51m)
  12  28   Italy (60m)
10    11  10  29   Australia (24m)

Everyone’s raving about how well the GB team has done in the Olympics, but it’s a big country, both by population and level of development. It should do well. Playing with the table from the BBC Olympics website can show up the results on a different light. The UK population is 65 million – but, in fact, that only ranks 21st in the world; China comes top with 1.3 billion, followed by India, the US (324 million), Indonesia and Brazil (the host nation, which came in 13th by gold medals).

So, to come 2nd in Rio is really good by Britain’s population size. But, in terms of population, who are the runaway successes? Well, Jamaica is the one, whether by golds per head of population or overall medals, it’s first or second. Of course, Jamaica has Usain Bolt so it comes to mind as a small country that’s done well. But its great rival in the medals per head of population stakes was a surprise to me. Australia? No. Hungary? It’s up there, at number 4. It turns out that Croatia and New Zealand (that’ll makes the Aussies wince!)  join Jamaica in the top three, whether by golds or total medals.

Rank by golds Country Population Gold Silver Bronze Total Golds/100m pop
1 16 jamaica 2,803,362 6 3 2 11 214
2 17 croatia 4,225,001 5 3 2 10 118
3 19 NZ 4,565,185 4 9 5 18 88
4 12 hungary 9,821,318 8 3 4 15 82
5 11 Neths 16,979,729 8 7 4 19 47
6 18 cuba 11,392,889 5 2 4 11 44
7 2 GB 65,111,143 27 23 17 67 42
8 24 switzerland 8,379,477 3 2 2 7 36
9 10 australia 24,309,330 8 11 10 29 33
10 26 greece 10,919,459 3 1 2 6 28

By golds/head, Britain (7th, 65m pop.) is the only big country (in my definition, population over 50 million); and again is the only big representative  (7th) in terms of total medals/head. It seems Britain has been able to do in Olympic terms what it does so successfully with mobile phone chips, books, jet engines and Formula 1 cars.

Rank by golds Country Population (m) Gold Silver Bronze Total Medals/100m pop
1 19 NZ 4.5 4 9 5 18 394
2 16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 392
3 17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 237
4 12 hungary 9.8 8 3 4 15 153
5 10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 119
6 11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 112
7 2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 103
8 18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 97
9 22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 95
10 24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 84

Another potential measure is GDP per head – gross domestic product or the amount of goods a nation makes every year divided by its population. Here, the top five nations are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macau, Liechtenstein and Bermuda. All no-hopers at Rio – you’d have thought being rich would help you be good at sport because you can pay for the kit and training, but it looks like it just makes you lazy. The only top 10 medal country near the top by GDP is Australia (14th by GDP, 10th in Rio). The US comes in at 19 (1 at Rio); Germany 28 (5 at Rio), Britain at  39 (2 at Rio), New Zealand at 49, Croatia 83 and Jamaica 140. So there again, Jamaica, Croatia, Britain, New Zealand and Croatia are all punching well above their GDP weight.

One surprising statistic concerns the county of Yorkshire in England. It has a population of 5.4 million people, but Olympic athletes from there have won 5 golds and 14 medals overall at Rio (5/5/4). That would place Yorkshire 17th in the overall Olympics medals table, just below Jamaica but ahead of Croatia and New Zealand. In terms of golds/head (95), it would displace New Zealand in third place, and by medals/head (265) it would displace Croatia to take third place again. At the London Olympics, it would have come an incredible 12th had it been a separate country!

China is the massive loser given that it is such a massive country, but then it is down at 113 in GDP/head – but still well ahead of Jamaica.

So, there it is – the real Olympic stars are Jamaica, Croatia and New Zealand, with Britain the star among the big states.

bygolds Country pop (m) gold silver bronze total gold/100m pop medals/100m pop
1 US 324 46 37 38 121 14.19 37.33
2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 41.47 102.90
3 china 1,382 26 18 26 70 1.88 5.06
4 russia 143 19 18 19 56 13.25 39.04
5 Germany 81 17 10 15 42 21.07 52.06
6 japan 126 12 8 21 41 9.50 32.46
7 france 65 10 18 14 42 15.46 64.95
8 S korea 51 9 3 9 21 17.82 41.58
9 italy 60 8 12 8 28 13.38 46.82
10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 32.91 119.30
11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 47.12 111.90
12 hungary 10 8 3 4 15 81.46 152.73
13 brazil 210 7 6 6 19 3.34 9.07
14 spain 46 7 4 6 17 15.20 36.90
15 kenya 47 6 6 1 13 12.70 27.51
16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 214.03 392.39
17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 118.34 236.69
18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 43.89 96.55
19 nz 4.6 4 9 5 18 87.62 394.29
20 canada 36 4 3 15 22 11.02 60.63
21 uzbekistan 30, 4 2 7 13 13.20 42.90
22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 16.80 95.21
23 colombia 49 3 2 3 8 6.17 16.44
24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 35.80 83.54
25 iran 80 3 1 4 8 3.75 9.99
26 greece 11 3 1 2 6 27.47 54.95

It’s That Man Again’s Tommy Handley

July 31, 2016
1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

There’s a certain poignancy in this 1948 Strand cover of Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley signing autographs outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Handley was one of the most popular voices on the radio throughout the Second World War in It’s That Man Again, a series that took its title from a newspaper nickname for Hitler and was soon shortened, military style, to ITMA (pronounced ‘Itma’). The first pre-war series in 1939 was set in a pirate commercial radio station (what are the chances that this idea sowed a seed in the young minds of the people who would found Radio Caroline 20-odd years later?).

Once war broke out the setting was changed to the Office of Twerps and various changes were made throughout. Itma also introduced Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap and his catchphrase ‘I don’t mind if I do.’

Inside the Strand, a box credit box explains:

Robin Jaques made this study of Britain’s best-loved comedian as Tommy was ambushed by fans when leaving the B.B.C. headquarters of “Itma.” Autograph hunters are not permitted inside the hall of Broadcasting House, so they lie in wait over the road in Portland Place. And Tommy accepts it all with never-failing humour and kindliness. The tie tommy is wearing is his favourite. The colours are those of the famous writers’ and artists’ club, the Savage.

Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley in a BBC publicity shot from the ITMA series

ITMA’s Tommy Handley

The similarity with this BBC publicity photograph suggests that Jacques – one of the best illustators of the era, who also did covers for Radio Times, Punch and the Listener – might have used it as a reference for Handley’s face. His sister was actress Hattie Jacques, who appeared in Itma from 1947.

The February 1948 issue of the Strand will have been on sale in January that year, 12 months before the last broadcast of Itma on 6 January 1949. Handley died just three days later of a brain haemorrhage,a week . As a BBC Radio tribute to Handley puts it: ‘and with him died one of the most popular radio shows of the forties’.

>>More on the Strand magazine

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

OUP offers cut-price magazine history book

July 29, 2016

OUP revolutions from Grub Street - magazine history

Oxford University Press has a summer sale offering Cox and Mowatt’s Revolutions from Grub Street: A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain for a fiver off at £14.99 for the paperback. The hardback edition is half price at £18.75. OUP has several other titles covering magazines and literature, from literary theory to Playboy, a few of which are also in the sale.




Photo competition for a magazine cover

July 29, 2016

Summer of Print competition from Newspaper Club and Stack 3
Newspaper Club – the website that helps people make and print a newspaper – is launching a competition with Stack, the subscription service for independent magazines, on Monday. The idea is simple: they are inviting anyone to post an image they’d use for the cover of a publication about their summer. Tag it with #summerofprint on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win a £100 printing voucher for Newspaper Club and a year’s subscription to Stack. They’ve put up details of the competition.

You’ll also be able to follow progress on Pinterest.

Just the sort of prize to inspire anyone working on or thinking about their own magazine, or is just keen on getting a free year’s worth of independent magazines. If that’s you, look out for the August issue of Creative Review, which carries an article ‘How to make a mag’ by Danny Miller, co-founder of  Little White Lies and Weapons of Reason.  And, of course, Gym Class, the magazine about magazines.

Take a look at the Secrets of Magazine Design page and flick through the pages of covers for some inspiration on what makes a good cover pic. And there are several sites around where you can test your cover design idea, such as Canva.

The contest will run from 1 August until noon on 5 September. The winner will be announced on 7 September.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Tremulous author frustrated in finding Poyner’s verdict

July 22, 2016
Seafoxes band

The Seafoxes playing at Jamboree tonight – musical distraction from my worries

Aaaarrrggghhh. As I wrote last night, I went out to find a copy of August’s Creative Review to read Rick Poyner’s view on A History of British Magazine Design after a restless night. But the world is against me. No copies in yet at the newsagents in Borough High Street or WH Smith and around London Bridge.

So on I go past Tower Bridge to the Design Museum. Oh Woe. The museum has finally moved. You’d think Kensington needed another museum like a hole in the head. It’ll be sorely missed by me.

History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

So, on to Tate Modern. Guaranteed to find Creative Review there. But no. All the July copies are sold out too – as they were every else (you get the impression that Creative Review might have pulled back on its newsstand distribution too far).

But is wasn’t all bad, I ended up signing copies of British Magazine Design on sale at the Tate Modern bookshop with Amy and Richard, who were very helpful in trying to track down a copy of Creative Review. Rush down there now!

So my panic over Prof Poyner’s criticism continues … but a night at Jamboree to see the Seafoxes launch their new EP should at least take my mind off things!

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Tremulous author awaits verdict on his book

July 22, 2016
History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

Having started writing A History of British Magazine Design seven years ago and seen it published in May, you want people to tell you what they think of it (ie, how good it is!). And many friends and acquaintances have.

Then you wait to see if it will be reviewed. And wait… because it takes a couple of months before anything appears, apart from some newsy online items. Since then, there’s just been the Amazon ranking to watch – it bounces between about 25,000 and 350,000 (from the look of it, depending on a single copy being sold!). Now, a neighbour tells me, the first considered review has arrived, in August’s Creative Review, a special issue on starting out in the creative industry.

The review, ‘Britain in print’, is by critic and writer Rick Poynor, who made his name on Blueprint, was founding editor of Eye and is now visiting professor at the Royal College of Art. A true heavyweight in design commentary.

I look at an image of the review on the website. It’s a spread – that has to be good news? Gulp. Will he delve into the holes I know exist, or bombard me with others? Will he focus on the virtues or the vices? I’ve got butterflies. I knew I should have done more on the RCA and its Ark journal! And there are no Eye pages, but there are some from Blueprint, honest Rick!

But the JPEG text is too small to read and the article continues on to a third page. Now I’ve descended into panic … I’ll have to get a copy in the morning.

Website for car magazine collectors

July 18, 2016

John Avis has emailed me about his new website for collectors of car magazines. Here’s what he says:

I have created a website for magazine collectors that is a bit like a Wikipedia where the community can build an index of car magazines. Anyone can add and edit magazines including covers and contents, which are searchable. People can also flag magazines they have, want or are selling and I’ve also added a forum for members to discuss topics related to car and motorcycle magazine collecting.

When a member contributes to the website the earn reputation points which result in new privileges like becoming a site moderator, so they can then approve new member’s contributions amongst other things.

I have created the website because collecting magazines is my hobby, and I wanted to track my collection and be able to search for articles. I hoped there would be other people interested who would help build the index and find it useful themselves.

Car magazines are widely collected and many hold their value well, as recent posts about  Practical Motorist and Autocar showed. And my Cars page on Magforum has always been popular.

So, click the link and take a look at what  John’s Magazine Collector has to offer.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design



Fleet Street jokes

July 17, 2016

Fleet Street was a place full of humour, much of it reflecting the rivalry between groups of journalists, such as news editors, sub-editors and reporters. Here are some examples.

A reporter tells his news editor that, trying to interview a man, he has been tossed about three times, the last time with a broken nose. ‘Huh,’ says the news editor, ‘you go back and try again. He can’t frighten me.’

Can’t remember where I heard that, but the next two come from the Cornmarket/ Haymarket news weekly Topic, which ran a column by Morley Richards, a former senior editor on the Daily Express.

Arthur (‘Chris’) Christiansen [a famous Express editor in its mid-1950s heyday] to gathered sub-editors at a lunch in 1962: ‘You are all pit ponies. Why, one of you greeted me on this sunny day with “Good evening”.’ Topic, 28 April, 1962

And some darker humour still:

Reporter: ‘The chief sub has hanged himself.’
Editor: ‘Have you cut him down yet?’
Reporter: ‘No, he’s not dead yet.’
                                              Topic, 28 July 1962


Was Kitchener’s poster effective? Ask Winston Churchill

July 6, 2016
Churchill's Great War partwork from 1933

The third part of Churchill’s Great War partwork from 1933

There has been a theory promulgated by the Imperial War Museum and various writers that the iconic ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster was not very effective in driving recruitment in the First World War and some have even questioned its very existence. The British Library repeats the claims and describes it as an ‘advertisment’, a mistaken description that has been repeated by, among others, Wikipedia and in a concert programme from the London Symphony Orchestra.

One of the features of the book Kitchener wants You, which I wrote with Martyn Thatcher, is a timeline of images that track the poster’s use, and its many derivatives, over the past century. However, I did not come across any examples in the 1930s, until I found a copy of The Great War, a 1933 partwork by Winston Churchill that was published by George Newnes.

The Kitchener poster shown in the third part of Churchill's Great War partwork in 1933

The Kitchener poster shown in the third part of the Great War partwork in 1933

Page 132 of the third part, above, shows the poster with a credit to the Imperial War Museum. The caption reads:

Lord Kitchener’s recruiting campaign in 1914 was carried out with characteristic driving force. Every town and village up and down the country was placarded with posters urging men to join the colours for the duration of the war. The illustration above was reproduced from one of the most effective of all posters in use at that time.

So, Churchill’s partwork claims that it was ‘one of the most effective of all posters’. Kitchener wants You shows three photographs of the poster, in Liverpool, Chester and Ulster. There is a fourth image, from Cork in Ireland, thar also shows the poster on a wall.

So, Churchill reckons it was effective and there are at least four photographs of the poster in use. That should settle the argument.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design