Tuesday, 13 July 2010

It's not what you know...

There are many things in life that scare the hell out of me. Horror films, people with B.O and the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street to name just a few. But two online newspaper "columns" I've read during the last week have to top the lot. Both have been published on prestigious online newspaper sites. Both bring a whole new meaning to bad journalism.

A small part of me died when I read Richard Dennen's 'gay party animal' piece for the Evening Standard. And words cannot describe my reaction to sex-obsessed 51-year-old Julie Burchill's column for the Indy. I wouldn't know where to start in critiquing either article. It was clear from the offset neither writer has the ability to string a sentence together, never mind master the art of punctuation. In fact, the only journalistic talent on the page came from the readers themselves in the comments section.

Never in my life have I read such rubbish. Not even in my local free paper, which, to be fair, has printed some very questionable material. Having never heard of either writer, I googled them and found, to my horror, they are both successful journalists. Burchill in particular has had a very lucrative career - starting out aged 17 at the NME and moving steadily upwards to reach the dizzy heights of the Sunday Times. Dennen hasn't done too badly either, writing for Tatler - the magazine for the privileged social elite. Which leads me to wonder...is talentless the new talented?

I've since heard rumours that both pieces are spoofs; publicity stunts designed to attract as much traffic to each site as possible. If this is the case they've certainly been successful. Dennen's piece has attracted 65 reader comments, with Burchill receiving a staggering 111. With the average article drawing 1-2 comments they've kicked up a storm. 99% may be negative, but hey, don't they say any publicity is good publicity?

Spoof or not, there's no getting away from the fact these people can't write. Being an aspiring journalist myself it saddens me to see talentless writers getting the gig whilst others with genuine ability are thrown on the reject pile. The much-used phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" seems very applicable here. Richard Dennen's shameless name-dropping makes it clear one of his contacts got him a foot in the door. In fairness to Julie Burchill, she got into the NME off her own back, but now has an array of famous friends (and ex-husbands) in her phonebook who have no doubt helped her along the way.

Call me envious (and I am!) but I beg these two to find another profession before they're hunted down by an angry mob. Oh, and please give their columns to me...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Too many action films?

Men seem to have a strange obsession with action flicks. Take a muscle-bound vigilante who can save the world with just a sub-machine gun in hand and you've already whetted their appetite. Throw in a couple of sexy, scantily-clad woman and you've got their full attention. Add a little blood and gore alongside a few unnecessary explosions and you've got them pre-ordering the DVD.

The truth is, action films bring out the feral side of men; the side that makes them want to go and hunt a large beast before returning and mounting the nearest woman. Luckily for both the female and animal populations of the world, 99.9% of male action film fans would have to down a litre bottle of vodka and take 20 E's before they'd  consider emulating the behaviour of their hunky heroes. 

Unfortunately that still leaves 0.1% who fantasise about it when they're sober as a judge. And - even more terrifyingly - act upon their fantasies. 

Raoul Moat is the most recent example. The steroid-injecting fugitive has waged a one-man war against police since allegedly shooting three people five days ago. Claiming he won't stop until he's dead, Moat started a nation-wide manhunt after it was claimed he gunned down ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, her new boyfriend Chris Brown and a police officer in a jealous rage.

Only two days after being released from prison for assaulting his daughter, the bodybuilding ex-doorman got his hands on a sawn-off shotgun before tracking down his ex and her new man at a family party. He allegedly opened fire through a window, critically injuring Samantha, before shooting Chris in the head at point blank range. He is understood to have also shot local policeman David Rathband in the head after making his escape.

Chillingly, other inmates at Durham prison have claimed Moat boasted about carrying out the shootings on his release, after being dumped by Samantha for another man. He also wrote "watch and see what happens" on his Facebook page and claims to have made a 'hit list' of other victims. Five days later and he's still on the loose after committing an armed robbery, releasing two hostages, writing hate letters to police and making at least two abusive phone calls to detectives. 

This all sounds very familiar. The plot isn't too far removed from several late-night action films I've had the misfortune to sit through when there's nothing else on TV. Having two brothers, I've also noticed a certain similarity to the video games they used to play when we were teenagers. Worryingly, these films and computer games can glorify extreme violence - encouraging deranged types to carry out insane 'copycat' crimes. 

The Moat saga could very easily be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. The problem is...this isn't a game of Grand Theft Auto. This is real life. Innocent people are getting critically injured and killed. Residents across the whole of Northumbria are petrified to leave their homes, whilst those on his 'hit list' have been forced into hiding.

Sources close to Moat claim he'll continue his quest until he's killed in a showdown with cops; going out in shower of bullets. I only hope it doesn't come to that - he doesn't deserve the martyrdom it would bring. They should throw him in a maximum security cell for life instead; that would give him plenty of time to gather his thoughts and realise he's not Rambo...just a loser who watches a few too many Hollywood films.