Friday, October 28, 2005

nick has a blog

Er, can we add to the sidebar, please?
All right, I come not to praise Nick Cohen, but to ...
However, as is traditional, I'll start with the praise. Kudos to Nick for keeping comments open so far. And kudos to his readers for not (so far) descending into abuse of each other (what we on the interweb call ad hominems).
So, about that site. Tom, the webmaster, demurred from my description of Nick's site as a "blog." Well it looks very like a blog to me. Stephen Pollard and Boris Johnson are both journalists who republish their articles on the web in a blog format. Neither object (AFAIK) to the word "blog." So, Tom, it may look like a pile of old newspaper clippings to you, but to me (and, I fear, the rest of the world), it's a blog.
Now, this is somewhat off-topic, but I've meant to blog my own complaints about Jakob Nielsen's views on Weblog Usability. (Though PZ Myers says many good, that is, negative, things about it.) And here I'm struck by Nick's site. There's his portrait photo (a big deal for Nielsen) which if you look at it the right way, looks like a stack of the letter "V" starting with his shirt collar (rebelliously sans tie), then his chin, his mouth, his nose, and his hairline. But the photo is fine, it's better than Boris's or Stephen's (OK the latter has a caricature). It's the London skyline that interests me. Apart from the fact that it's inescapably phallic, what is it supposed to mean? I'm not sure which bridge that's from, but that's basically the skyline of the City. Now, Nick reports on many things, but he's not a City reporter. I know he's got to have something (I use the eyes of my cat), but why that? How does that represent his writing? I've lived in London. I know that vista (though the Glass Cock is new), but to me anyone who uses "London" to represent "the world" is parochial, and parochial in a way I object to. Something like 10% of the population of this country live in the capital, and the rest of us don't. If there is a disconnect between journalists and their readers, it's there as much as anywhere. Nick thinks he can snigger about Islington, and maybe he can. But only because the majority of Observer readers take Islington as meaning "scrounging brown-nosing London meeja bastards." The rest of us no more care about internecine London borough snobbery than we do about the victors in 14th century wars in central Africa. I don't care, and I used to live in Islington.
But back to Nielsen. Before he recommends an author picture, he recommends an author bio, Now for blogs, this is largely ignored. But for journalists, it matters. Nick is paid to deliver his opinions, and readers may want to know what qualifies him to give them. His biography says that he "does occasional pieces for many other publications, including ... New Humanist." Now I happen to know that Nick is deeply convinced humanist and secularist. As am I, so those are plusses to me. I suspect, from what I've read that he's always considered himself on the left (clearly left of the Labour Manifesto of almost every election he's been entitled to vote in, I suspect), but not a member of the party. Again, by me, that's fine. Sartre was against joining the Communist Party, and under his advice and my own personal slackness, I paid subs and went to Labour Party meetings very occasionally. (I'd liked to have joined the rival left parties, but they seemed to believe in stuff, which I generally considered a mistake: also, no fit women -- which was the deal-breaker.) But whether he is a member, or not a member, of the Labour Party makes a difference to how you read him. (Pretty Straight Guys was so disloyal that you have to suspect "not a member". But would Bob Marshall-Andrews have said anything different? And he's a Labour MP.) How old is he? Did he vote before Thatcher came to power? If so, who did he vote for in 1979? (Lots of former lefties, like Harold Pinter, voted for Mrs Thatch.) What's his education? (Harold Wilson had a first; Michael Foot a second -- there's a throwaway line about his family having second class minds in the biography I read. I prefer Foot, though Ben Pimlott made a very good case for Wilson.) His former employment? Has he ever been really poor? (I suspect pretty much yes.) OK, the last one would be too much detail, but his bio reads more like a bibliography (and Tom, you can get an Amazon account and then link; make money for both of you).
I am serious about this. If any columnist wants to give me the I-have-a-brain-the-size-of-a planet thing or I-have-contacts crap, I'm "Can I have a receipt, please?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll sort out the sidebar tomorrow. I think it's an idealised view of some sort; the gherkin isn't that close to St Paul's and you can't see the wobbly bridge.

The other thing I'd note about Nick's biog is that it lists him as a "columnist" for the Observer, but only an "occasional contributor" to the Standard, which isn't right; he has a weekly column with a picture byline.

10/28/2005 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BBC ran a very useful piece on establishing just what a "blog" is and their common characteristics. There's also some useful stuff at
The word blog is too often thrown around with little thought.

The most "blog" like element of is that we currently allow comments from readers. Otherwise, the site is an online archive of printed works, making the work of Nick Cohen available to read in one place, easily, when you want and without subscription charges. Nick's definitely interested--time permitting--in writing some pieces just for the site and, if he does, then we've probably got ourselves a blog ;)

As for the description in the biography; it was written by Nick himself and you may find it rather future-proof.

10/29/2005 03:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the picture of London--it's a nice, if not highly original image--we wanted something to work with when mocking the site and I had a rather nice camera and we like London scapes. Turns on, Nick rather likes the picture too. It's not a big issue though, so if you goes want it changed for a more directly linked graphic, I'd genuinely welcome suggestions!

And, finally, appreciate the Amazon idea, but the site is utterly non-commercial, so however welcome the trickle of amazon cash might be, it's not what we'd do. There's no great politics behind that, merely that we decided it was to be a simple way for people interested in reading about Nick, his articles and contact information to go. Its aims are consciously limited! I must write that book page! ;)

10/29/2005 03:26:00 AM  

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