I don't know this Ben Wyvis chap but I'm pretty sure I don't want to swap places with him...
To be fair to the Press & Journal they took it well after the mistake was pointed out.
Ed Miliband seems to have mistaken the leaders debates for a soon-to-be-bitterly-contested boxing match. Treating an interview on Sky News like a pre-fight press conference, Miliband sent a message to David Cameron, saying he'll take him on "any time, any place, anywhere".
It doesn't have to be in the TV studio, Ed's happy to go shirts-off in the back car park of the Red Lion.
Cameron is having none of it meanwhile. His PR team have put down their glasses of Premier Cru and wrapped their arms around him, screaming "Leave it Dave! It ain't worth it!".
And they're probably right.
Cameron seems to be counting on a win by default rather than knock-out in this election and his PR team will have realised turning up for these debates will do nothing to boost his popularity or his chances, while Miliband arguably has nothing left to lose and everything to win.
Cameron's preferred option certainly appears to be the relative safety of the group debate.
Meanwhile, Labour bruiser John Prescott went on Twitter to suggest Cameron is a chicken... or maybe a cock, it's not immediately clear:
And Miliband is also goading Cameron on Twitter. He even @-mentioned him and everything. Twit just got real...
And if the image of a bare-chested Ed Miliband and David Cameron squaring off in a pub car park while John Prescott hurls digital clip art at them isn't a troubling enough image, how about the headline on this Vine video from the BBC's Robin Brant:
And speaking of car parks, it wouldn't be an election without an MP's car being photographed in a disabled space - it's a text book PR own goal, made all the more easy to spot - and all the more easy for journalists to stand up - when the car is prominently decorated with the MP's name and face.
For more 'Election Watch', see:
Election Watch: The Express and Farage love-in
Election Watch: Clowns and a hybrid car crash
Election Watch: Byker gang targets Miliband
Election Watch: Tory balls and a little pink bus
Election Watch: It's going to be a long election
Today saw the end of the latest game of #ExpressBingo. It took 29 days for the Express to cycle through its 12 most popular subjects on its front page.
The rules of the game stated each story could only be ticked off once but for the record there were EIGHT weather stories on the front page during the 29 days it took to complete. There were SEVEN stories offering top tips for living longer and Alzheimer's was covered FIVE times and cured at least three times.
In total, stories from the bingo card appeared 42 times during the 29 day period. Here's how they divided up, in the clockwise order in which they first appeared during the game:
For a while it looked like it might all be over very quickly indeed. There was a hattrick on day one and the card was half-complete within four days and two thirds complete within seven, but with Kate Middleton on holiday and the Express seemingly struggling to come up with stories about Benefits, House Prices or Arthritis the game slowed. Here's how long we were kept waiting for each story to make its first appearance.
There were many people who asked why Diana wasn't on there. While it remains true she isn't the front page regular she once was on the Express, it should be noted there was, perhaps inevitably, one Diana story on the front page during the 29 days.
Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, addressed colleagues on Monday, and presented a picture of a national broadcaster at a "cross-roads" as it seeks to exploit the potential of new technology while facing charter review and calls from critics for it to be cut down to size.
The BBC has struck a more bullish note in recent times and Hall certainly spoke like somebody who knows the stakes are too high to let those with commercial or political scores to settle steer the debate unchallenged.
Hall said those who don’t support the BBC "should be transparent about their motivations, and honest about the consequences" - consequences which he believes would include the loss of balanced, impartial quality journalism, free from the influence of "shareholders, advertisers or any other paymasters".
"Take news," said Hall, taking aim at the journalistic output of unnamed rivals. "It's easy to find something on the internet that looks like a fact, that squawks like a fact but that isn't a fact. Central to our democracy is that we all proceed on the basis of shared information and don’t just make up our own."
Hall even went so far as to suggest "if we didn't have a BBC funded by a licence fee, such is the world we face, we'd have to invent it".
Of course such bullishness is both understandable and fairly predictable. Hall is defending his patch at a time when he may feel forces are conspiring against him. The general election this year may well return a government who would relish the opportunity to preside over the charter review.
Last week, parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee declared the licence fee was "becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain", though its suggestion of an unspecified levy on all households will have softened that prognosis somewhat. However, there were plenty of warning shots across the BBC's bows in the Committee report, including the suggestion the BBC should pull back from areas already well-served by commercial broadcasters.
This week, viewers of BBC2's Meet The Ukippers saw Nigel Farage claim it's all the fault of "tabloid newspapers" that people think UKIP is a racist party. Such a claim is disingenuous at best because it ignores the racism within UKIP which is clearly the source of that perception. It also belittles a cosy symbiosis between UKIP and the tabloids from which Farage has benefited far more than he has suffered. A number of tabloids have worked pretty hard to stir up exactly the kind of xenophobia UKIP have been capitalising upon.
Farage's unconvincing dismay about his treatment by UK tabloids is also a little ungrateful when you consider Richard Desmond, owner of two of those tabloids, the Express and the Daily Star, has reportedly backed UKIP to the tune of £300,000. Desmond also seems to have given Farage the unwavering support of the Daily Express including his own column in the paper - 'Farage on Friday'.
In October 2014, Desmond appointed UKIP peer Lord Stevens to be deputy chairman of Express newspapers. That followed a move the other way the previous year by the Express's political editor Patrick O'Flynn. At the time, Farage pointed out O'Flynn had "done a lot to support the UKIP cause" while writing for the Express. And if some of this week's coverage is anything to go by, the paper has certainly kept up the good work to such an extent that it may well have rebranded itself as a UKIP newsletter by the time May rolls around:
The Express was certainly fawning all over Farage on Saturday following his "barnstorming" speech to the party faithful at their spring conference in Margate. Saturday's front page set the tone, declaring "UKIP will have a famous victory in the general election".
"In a barnstorming conference speech, the UKIP leader set his sights on "lots of seats"," wrote the Express, giddy with excitement and repeating unsubstantiated claims and promises from Farage unquestioningly. The paper also reported this week on a poll (funded by UKIP donor Alan Bown) which gives Farage "a stunning" and "formidable" 11-point lead in South Thanet.
Pass the bucket.
One UKIP story which the Express has not reported is a piece of research from ComRes which suggested the number of voters who do believe UKIP is racist has increased, up to 44 per cent, while 47 per cent believe it is not a credible political party. Both figures are up over 10 per cent year-on-year.
But that's all the fault of the tabloids, of course.
A shared target market
This close relationship between UKIP and the Express makes a lot of sense. Not only do they share the same prejudices and politics but they are united by an over-reliance on the same narrow audience - right wing pensioners. According to YouGov, the profiles of their target market are very similar indeed:
For more Election Watch pieces, see:
When we come to look back on the general election campaign, this week may be remembered as the week the wheels came off for two of the parties hoping to break into the political mainstream in 2015.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett gave the election campaign's first real car crash interview on LBC on Tuesday (though being the Greens it was probably a hybrid car crash, so at least it had lower emissions than other political car crashes).
In the face of fairly friendly questioning from LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, Bennett fell apart. Ferrari presented Bennett with a green light opportunity to announce her party’s election promises and Bennett went about it with all the cool, calm composure of somebody falling down a flight of stairs.
Bennett's facts and figures sounded made up and certainly didn't add up. Her delivery was panicked and faltering. The low point - not easy to single out in one of the most horrible political interviews in living memory - was the briefest of moments, the intonation on a single word.
At one point Bennett mentioned a number "2.7", then paused... then paused a little longer... before adding "billion" with all the confidence of somebody who wasn't even sure if "billion" is a real word, let alone the word she was looking for.
Bennett tried to blame her abysmal performance on having a cold. Even the excuse was a bit rubbish. But she isn't alone in offering half-baked excuses to cover up for half-baked ideas and awful interviews. At the opposite end of the political and ethical spectrum, UKIP have a remarkable record of trying to blame their racist and homophobic outbursts on everything from tiredness to medication.
And UKIP were back in the spotlight this week at a time when the party's star has undoubtedly been on the wane. BBC2 programme Meet The Ukippers introduced us to the members and activists at the heart of the party.
During the programme we met an array of characters and heard many times how UKIP definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely isn't racist.
In fact Nigel Farage went to lengths to explain that this perception of UKIP being racist is all the fault of the media. And definitely not the fault of the UKIP members who say racist things.
At the centre of the programme was UKIP's South Thanet press officer, Liz Langton-Way, who actually seemed surprised to discover some UKIP members are racist.
It's always the ones you least expect, eh Liz.
The programme showed how Langton-Way, the proprietor of Thanet's first dog hotel, likes to surround herself with clowns (possibly explaining why she chose to work for UKIP). Her luckless task, she explained, was to ensure UKIP generates only positive headlines and keeps clear of scandal.
Her slick media operation certainly impressed one Twitter user:
Didn't used to take UKIP seriously but now I know they run everything from a dog hotel full of porcelain clowns I'm torn #MeetTheUkippers— GusTheFox (@GusTheFox) February 22, 2015
Remarkably, Langton-Way made her impossible job appear even more difficult than it surely should be. At one point she was sat on a sofa having a natter and stroking her dogs while a party member made a series of controversial comments on camera. It's hard to believe that was advice she found in the How To Be A Press Officer handbook. But Langton-Way certainly wasn't helped by party members such as Janice Atkinson MEP referring to an Asian constituent as a "Ting Tong".
UKIP councillor Rozanne Duncan also didn't help matters when discussing on camera the fact that she doesn't like "negroes". Duncan doesn't know why she doesn't like "negroes". She just doesn't like "them".
But she's definitely not racist. She was adamant about that, though not everybody was convinced:
What was so very UKIP about Rozanne's racism is the bafflement that anyone could possibly consider it racist #MeetTheUkippers— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) February 22, 2015
Then we met Martyn Heale, chairman of UKIP in Thanet South, who appeared utterly baffled as to why people would find his past membership of the National Front of interest.
"For Christ's sake, I was never a member of the Gestapo," said Heale, setting a remarkably low benchmark for what UKIP considers respectable.
Of course, not having been in the Gestapo isn't their only criteria. Heale pointed out he also "was not a member of the Stasi" and has never served any time in prison.
What a catch.
The troubles of the Green Party and UKIP alike will inevitably do little to deter their hard core of support.
If anything, the accusations of racism which follow UKIP wherever they go have probably been an effective recruitment tool for the party. Conversely, Green Party supporters are probably all too nice to be deterred by Bennett's abysmal performance or think any less of her because of it. Even now they are probably sending her some echinacea for her cold.
But damage will surely have been done to their chances of recruiting supporters outside their hard core - the floating voters who were hoping a challenger party might offer a credible alternative at the polls.
The Daily Mail and Sunday Times are trying hard to be appalled about the chocolate consumption of MPs. The Mail reports:
"MPs and ministers are preaching the public about the need to eat healthily while helping to chomp through 100,000 chocolate bars in Parliament every year... in the cafes, shops and bars in the Houses of Parliament."
But it should be pointed out many of those shops, cafe and bars are open to upwards of 5,000 employees working at the Houses of Parliament and some are also open to thousands of visitors entering the estate each day - not to mention dozens of journalists, some of whom look like they might know their way around a KitKat.
Yet the Mail seems to think this figure of 100,000 chocolate bars equates to some gross hypocrisy:
"David Cameron once railed against shops selling cheap chocolate at their checkouts...and just last week he suggested obese people should be refused out-of-work benefits."
And The Sunday Times has roped in somebody from the National Obesity Forum to say:
"This is no example to give the electorate. Members of parliament should lead by example."
But hang on a fudging moment. Let's imagine, for a minute, none of the visitors to the Houses of Parliament - even the journalists - have EVER bought a single chocolate bar during their visit and only the 5,000 or so employees, including David Cameron, have been buying them at a rate of 100,000 per year and consuming them themselves.
That still works out at an average of just 20 bars each per year, albeit counting only those bought and consumed at work. That's less than one every other week and around 10 per cent of the national average, according to figures from Datamonitor.
So I won't lie, I'm struggling to find room on the list of reasons to dislike MPs for their modest, below average chocolate consumption. If anything, I'd probably think a bit more of some of them if I thought for one minute they treated themselves to a KitKat every now and again. But I suspect many of them are saving themselves for the tax-payer subsidised champagne, lobster and caviar.
The Express managed to come up with not one, but two different cosmic doomsday scenarios on Saturday. First there was an alignment of the planets which promised "DOOM":
And then an "ASTEROID" threatened to rain down space plague on humanity:
In the case of the returning space plague, the Express informed us:
"The shocking revelation threatens to debunk one of the biggest chunks of British history and turn the world of science and academia on its head. And experts warn another collision with Earth could happen "at any moment" sparking an outbreak of disease capable of wiping out entire populations."
The Express has taken to running a number of ridiculous 'end of the world' type stories in recent times. They seem to be the natural progression from their increasingly apocalyptic weather predictions and fortunately have proven to be about about as reliable.
It seems the Telegraph is intent on ignoring the widely accepted best practice advice on what to do when in a hole.
Following an attack on the Guardian on Friday, the paper has now launched a shocking attack on News UK, publisher of The Times and The Sun, bringing up the tragic suicides of two News UK employees purely, it would seem, to score points about the commercial pressures within the company. The Telegraph includes this detail in an article which claims the lines have become blurred between News UK's editorial and commercial teams.
The Telegraph's attacks on its competitors follow the very public resignation of its chief political commentator Peter Oborne who made a series of allegations - strongly denied by the Telegraph - about the extent to which the paper had let commercial decisions cloud its own editorial judgement.
A number of competitors were quick to throw stones but whether they were doing so from the safe moral high ground or from inside a glass house, the Telegraph should have focused on its own reputation. Not least because trying to drag others into the mire only serves to reinforce the idea the Telegraph is in that mire already. If the playground taught us anything it's that a defence of 'but they did it too' is no defence at all.
The paper has made a series of increasingly poor decisions at a time when its editorial judgement is under the spotlight. First came a petulant leader column. Then a rather desperate attack on the Guardian. Now the Telegraph claims News UK's creative content director "said journalists...had to get their "hands dirty" in order to please advertisers". Those comments were apparently made during an on the record interview about 'native advertising' - the paid-for editorial-like content which sits alongside editorial. While a divisive subject which blurs the lines between advertising and editorial, it is still very different to what Oborne alleged the Telegraph was doing.
But trying to gain mileage out of deaths at a competitor represents an unfathomable low.
However wounded the Telegraph's pride was by Oborne's public resignation the damage the company is now inflicting upon its own reputation is arguably far worse.
The Telegraph has responded to claims its editorial coverage was influenced by advertisers by seeking some dirt to dish on its competitors. It appears rather than focus on its own reputation the Telegraph has taken the unusual decision to try to just drag others down too.
On Friday The Telegraph claimed the Guardian is now "facing questions" over claims it changed a story about Iraq, as a result of a stipulation from Apple that its advertising should not appear next to negative stories.
It's difficult to imagine anybody who gets drawn into this unseemly spat, whatever the truth, emerging with much credit.
This week, Ed Miliband has mainly been watching the scene in Byker Grove where PJ got shot in the face with a paintball.
Ed cracks a half-smile and mutters something about it being the least Ant deserves. Or is it Dec?
"Stop watching that and come to bed," says Justine from the top of the stairs. But Ed presses rewind and watches it again. And again.
Ed has been like this since loveable TV presenters Ant and Dec added their names to the list of Labour supporters disappointed at the party's apparent inability to find a leader capable of kicking a victory-shaped ball into an election-sized open goal.
Ant (he's the cheeky Geordie one) told The Times this week: "I feel we're both staunchly Labour and would vote Labour if we could, but I don't know what their philosophy is any more."
Dec (he's also the cheeky Geordie one) added: "I'm not sure I could picture [Ed Miliband] as prime minister."
Some journalists have been quick to question why Ant and Dec should be sharing their political insights at all.
Presumably the comments came about because a journalist at The Times asked them a question and they answered, expressing an opinion they're perfectly entitled to. That's pretty much how an interview should work and I'm surprised there are journalists who need that explaining.
It's obviously not up to Ant and Dec what The Times did with their answers.
The interview appears to have been set up to plug various TV series and the forthcoming Brit Awards which Ant and Dec are presenting. There's little to suggest Ant and Dec engineered the whole thing just so they could have a pop at Ed Miliband.
But however people might scoff and sneer, this isn't great news for Miliband. No matter how hard anybody tries to dismiss this, Ant and Dec enjoy the kind of popularity among the British public that politicians could only dream of.
When Myleene Klass got snooty about mansion tax and Sol Campbell did the same it was all pretty predictable, easily dismissed stuff. Rich people don't want to pay more tax. We get it.
But Ant and Dec are prime time. They even manage to get people to watch Saturday Night Take-Away and that's rubbish, so don't underestimate the power they wield.
Ed Miliband presses rewind. Just one more time before bed. Just one more time...
Also on TV this week was a spoof Channel 4 documentary which imagined what Britain could be like under a UKIP government. The fictional programme portrayed a Britain where UKIP's racism and isolationism had brought the country to the brink of economic and social ruin within just 100 days.
Nigel Farage was furious. He probably thinks he'd manage it in half that time.
Despite this fictional portrayal being the closest they will ever come to power, UKIP members and supporters were also up in arms, calling it a smear and forgetting there's nothing Channel 4 could ever throw at UKIP that would be any more ridiculous than the party manages to say or do itself.
The Telegraph has responded to allegations of bias towards major advertisers - most notably HSBC - saying in a remarkable leader article that it "makes no apology for the way in which it has covered the HSBC group".
The paper goes on to say it is "proud" of the way it has "combined journalism" with "commercial success".
However, much of the Telegraph's rather petulant response is reserved for its critics, specifically "the BBC, the Guardian and their ideological soulmates in the Labour Party".
"We will take no lectures about journalism from the likes of the BBC, the Guardian or the Times," declared the Telegraph, going on to suggest many of its rivals have a "deep-seated hostility to business".
Yet despite all this criticism of its rivals, the Telegraph claims, somewhat unconvincingly: "For the avoidance of any doubt, we have no regard for the opinions of rival media organisations."
Really? It's just you are kind of going on about them.
Peter Oborne, until today chief political commentator at the Telegraph, has left the paper claiming it has become too beholden to advertisers and too dumbed down.
It seems perceived bias in the paper's coverage of the HSBC scandal was the last straw for Oborne.
"The Telegraph's recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers," Oborne told website OpenDemocracy. "It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers. There is only one word to describe this situation: terrible."
As well as detailing his issues with the Telegraph's coverage of HSBC, Oborne claimed other major advertisers have also been given too easy a ride.
It must be said the Telegraph "utterly refutes any allegation" that editorial decisions have been swayed by who buys advertising.
In a stinging, 3,000 word parting shot, Oborne criticised the paper for dumbing down its coverage. He cited a mix up over "deer stalking" versus "deer hunting" and confusion over Prince Edward's proper title as examples.
"Stories seemed no longer judged by their importance, accuracy or appeal to those who actually bought the paper," wrote Oborne. "The more important measure appeared to be the number of online visits."
Oborne was particularly affronted by "a story about a woman with three breasts" which was published despite the paper allegedly knowing it to be false.
Oborne's wordy public resignation follows in the footsteps of Daily Star journalist Rich Peppiatt who, back in 2011, penned a public letter of resignation to proprietor Richard Desmond branding his newspaper "a cascade of shit".
Three things you can count on during the General Election campaign are PR gaffes, silly news stories and journalists travelling around the country using various modes of transport.
This week, those three collided as Channel 4's Michael Crick took a pink Cadillac on the road in search of Labour's little pink bus.
The little pink bus is touring the country as part of a campaign to get more women to vote.
Because women love pink.
And if that doesn't work, Labour has a plan B which involves sticking a ribbon on it and painting some puppies, unicorns and ponies on the side.
The decision to woo women with a pink bus certainly attracted a mix of criticism and derision this week and a level of media coverage that was probably disproportionate to whatever offence it really caused.
However, while some cried "patronising" and others cried "massive over-reaction" it does seem odd that nobody in Labour's hapless PR team could see how this would inevitably backfire at a time when the media knives are out for the party and everybody is looking to see the awkward and the ludicrous in all they do.
But undeterred by accusations of being patronising, Harman headed off in her little pink bus in search of some women to talk to in kitchens and supermarkets.
Inevitably some have suggested men are the real victims in all of this. Overlooked and forgotten about once more. So perhaps we should expect to see Ed Balls touring the country in a tank that plays the Match of the Day theme and fires out cans of lager.
Not to be outdone by Labour's little pink PR snafu, the Conservatives staged a glittering £15,000 per table PR horror show / fundraising ball this week where super rich party supporters were given the opportunity to get their credit cards out and ingratiate themselves with the Tory hierarchy.
This festival of fat-cattery included an auction where donors keen to curry favour could bid for lots such as a copy of the budget, signed by George Osborne.
Imagine waking up with a stinking hangover and the dread sense you did something really stupid last night, only to remember you paid a fortune for a copy of the budget, signed by George Osborne.
For most normal people there would be no coming back from that. Even once you’d destroyed the evidence by shredding it and burning the receipt and credit card bill and moved house and changed your name, the shame would never leave you. You'd never be able to see George Osborne on television without being wracked with a crippling sense of guilt and self-loathing.
"Why do you leave the room to go and sit in the kitchen sobbing whenever George Osborne comes on television?" a family member might ask, if that didn't actually seem a pretty reasonable reaction.
Or how about shoe shopping with Theresa May?
No me either.
But apparently that lot raised £17,500. That's right, somebody paid £17,500 to go shoe shopping with the Home Secretary though presumably they were more interested in ‘talking shop’ than talking shopping. After all, if they were just interested in shoe shopping they could have spent their £17,500 far more wisely.
£17,500 would buy a lot of shoes.
The auction is really a mechanism for packaging up large donations to the party while avoiding some of the ugliness of just handing over a wad of cash with a nod and a wink. As a fundraising exercise it was no doubt a massive success but from a PR point of view it will surely have served only to reinforce many voters' suspicions about the party.
It's almost as if they sat around brainstorming the worst possible idea for an event.
"What can we do to show people how little we care about what they think and how far removed our lives are from their dismal existence?"
"What about a £15,000 per table ball?"
"With an auction!"
"Where people shell out thousands for relatively worthless items, like tea with Julian Fellowes or some roast chicken with Michael Gove."
The Tory party gets to bank the cash, the donor gets to bank a favour and somebody gets to eat chicken with Michael Gove.
Not all the lots fell into the 'cash for companionship' with a cabinet minister bracket. There was an opportunity to shoot some pheasants (which was definitely not a typo, apparently), an opportunity to shoot some deer and also the chance to own a JCB digger for anybody whose gardener needs a bit of help with the weeding on the country estate. Bidders could also pay for the chance to kick a poor person down a flight of stairs, burn down a food bank or close a hospital of their choosing.
And finally, The Sun which has often led the criticism of Miliband and Co. last week dispatched a colleague to the foothills of the Himalayas after the Labour leader had joked that there may still be some "yak farmers in Nepal" who haven't yet seen the infamous photos of him fighting a losing battle against a bacon sandwich.
So The Sun put paid to that:
Newsquest's controversial plan to charge students to produce free content for their websites "devalues everything professional journalists do," according to one journalism lecturer.
Jo Wiltshire, who teaches journalism students at the University of Hertfordshire, told The Media Blog: "Asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio is sending out a message that the work of journalists and writers is worth less than nothing."
Other lecturers have also been quick to criticise Newsquest's plans today.
Beth Brewster, head of journalism at Kingston University, tweeted: "I advise my journalism students not to give away their skill, creativity and labour for free. Asking them to pay for bylines is outrageous."
"Newsquest should be paying the student writers," she added. "I can't believe anyone ever thought this plan was a good idea."
Another journalism lecturer told The Media Blog she is "fuming" at Newsquest's plans which she described as "unbelievable".
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is also unimpressed. Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ's general secretary, said in a statement:
"While Newsquest is sacking professional staff on its titles, it is charging journalist students for writing articles for them. The unpaid intern has become the scourge of the media profession - now Newsquest is asking for journalist students to actually pay for a by-line. The company’s cynicism beggars belief, and preys on young people desperate to get a break in a competitive industry. Where is the commitment to quality journalism? They should be providing journalist students with a meaningful work experience and if their articles are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for."
Some have said students don't have to take Newsquest up on its offer but in the hugely competitive world of journalism, as we have seen with unpaid internships, there will be those who probably will allow themselves to be exploited by the promise of a first foot on the career ladder. But exploiting free labour does nobody any good in the long term. It undermines the job security of professional journalists, closes doors to those who cannot afford to give their work away for free and inevitably damages the quality of journalism.
Wiltshire said: "In-demand industries such as the media have long been in a position where they can hold inexperienced young people to ransom. By pushing that even further, asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio, it is turning a dynamic and proud career choice into a vanity project for those whose families can bankroll it."
Newsquest, publisher of local papers around the UK, has hit upon a bit of a wheeze. It wants to charge students £120 to produce content for its newspaper websites, without pay.
The Guardian reports that colleges with journalism courses were contacted by Newsquest with "an exciting and unique chance to experience working for a local paper".
Apparently students would be getting the chance to "work" [there's that word again] "as journalists for an online newspaper" - just without the hassle of having to provide bank details and national insurance numbers, or be put on the payroll. And all it would cost students and colleges for this "exciting and unique" opportunity to work for free is a £100 registration fee and £20 per student.
The commitment would apparently be fairly light, just one unpaid article per month, over a period of eight months, at the end of which "all students who complete all eight articles, receive a letter of recognition from the editor".
Just think what you could buy with that.
Nothing. That’s what.
Good luck walking into a pub waving that piece of paper about on the last Friday of the month.
"I’ll have a pint of nothing and a couple packets of fuck-all please barman!"
"Coming right up! I’ll just need to see your letter of recognition from Newsquest."
According to Newsquest these letters of recognition – a sort of 'certificate of exploitation' - can be used "as a reference with their CVs". And that’s not all. Students will also get their name in an "award ceremony brochure" as well, though you'd search long and hard to find a landlord who will accept a brochure as a damage deposit for a flat, or a supermarket who will swap it for a week's groceries.
It’s going to be a very long election campaign.
There are 90 days to go and I'm already tiring of the meaningless soundbites and shameless photo opportunities. By about lunchtime on Monday I fully anticipate most of us will be thoroughly sick of everything being "weaponised" by politicians. Hospitals have already been "weaponised" and it looks like schools are heading the same way. Before we know it they'll be weaponising the armed forces and nuclear submarines and then where will we be.
Of course schools probably need to be weaponised if only to defend themselves against David Cameron who in one of the week’s more ridiculous soundbites declared "all-out war" on under-performing schools.
Sticking with the theme of Boots on the ground, sort of. The boss of the high street chemist this week launched a stinging attack on Ed Miliband and his plans to make the super rich pay a bit more/some tax (delete as applicable).
Funnily enough, Stefano Pessina found no shortage of support among multi-millionaire media owners keen to help him champion the cause of the 'tax efficient'.
Next up was former M&S boss turned Tory peer Stuart Rose who revealed the entirely unsurprising news that he doesn't want the opposition winning the next election. Hold the front page! Oh, they did...
Also picking a fight with Ed Miliband over taxes this week was former Arsenal and England footballer Sol Campbell. That’s right, Sol Campbell versus Ed Miliband. It’s exactly the sort of meeting of minds that literally nobody got interested in politics to witness. One is famous for scoring disallowed goals, the other is famous for scoring own goals.
Campbell, who joins Myleene Klass and Bill Oddie on the growing list of unlikely celebrities shaping political debate in Britain, apparently considers himself something of an expert on the mansion tax, based on the fact he owns a couple.
Campbell who doesn't like the mansion tax (see above point about the fact he owns a couple) took to Twitter to criticise Miliband’s employment history, suggesting the Labour leader has never known real work.
Not like those Premiership footballers.
And don’t get Sol started on MPs being paid handsomely to swan around the country in luxury coaches performing to crowds of highly partisan supporters.
He probably hates that.
Speaking of bills (see what I did there), it was revealed this week that the Tories are shoveling £100,000 per month into Facebook advertising in an attempt to get people to like them.
Labour also unveiled a new, marginally more sophisticated PR approach this week, intended it appears to limit the personal attacks on Ed Miliband. The party announced it won't be using any pictures of David Cameron on billboard posters this time around, despite not being shy about such things in the past, and has suggested the whole election should really be fought on "issues not personalities".
I wonder what gave them that idea...
The Conservatives are yet to announce if they will reciprocate but clearly Labour are trying to establish a moratorium on personal attacks having realised Ed Miliband's public image poses a significant threat to their hopes of election victory. (For more on this, see: Labour tries to head off Miliband's PR problem).
Of course this election won't just be contested by Labour and the Conservatives.
FUKP, the party founded in-character by comedian Al Murray's Pub Landlord went on something of a jolly boys outing to Thanet this week to kick-start his campaign opposing Nigel Farage and the UKIP leader's band of far less satirical bigots.
Murray worked his way through the full range of textbook photo opportunites: High-vis jacket and hard hat, check. Pulling a pint down the local, check...
And it's not just UKIP who have been reminding people to register to vote (you can register here by the way).
Thursday was National Voter Registration Day, marked by a series of events and recruitment drives around the country, all seeking to undo any damage done by new BBC2 documentary Inside the Commons which re-enforced almost every notion that our elected representatives in Westminster are a chronically out-of-touch, living, breathing anachronism.
Part history programme, part archaeological dig, part fly-on-the-wall mockumentary, Inside The Commons took us deep into the cigar-smoked, statue-lined corridors and oak-paneled cloakrooms, subsidised restaurants and stained-glass tearooms of Parliament which apparently all reminds David 'we're really not all in this together' Cameron of being back at school.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion was just about the only politician to emerge with credibility in tact from the programme. Champion's plain-speaking assessment of Prime Ministers Questions (which it turns out is actually even more farcical than many of us may have imagined) offered a rare glimmer of sanity in an hour of brilliant, but slightly appalling television.
"The behaviour in there is disgusting," she said of the weekly spectacle. "Really embarrassingly juvenile."
But at least nobody offended any nuns, unlike Tristram Hunt on Question Time this week.
It's going to be a very long election campaign.
The Labour Party has declared the general election should be fought "on issues rather than personalities" and said it will lead the way by not using any pictures of David Cameron in its campaign posters.
In a memo to party members, widely reported in the media, Douglas Alexander, Labour's chair of election strategy, declared: "We’ll focus our campaign on issues not personalities - we won’t run any billboard posters with pictures of David Cameron on them."
It's easy to see why Labour would want everybody to play fair because while this change of heart is good news for those who want politicians to start acting their age, it also appear a preemptive attempt to address the issue of Ed Miliband's public image, arguably Labour's weakest and most exposed vulnerability.
Labour certainly weren't shy when it came to putting David Cameron on posters during the last campaign - even if one ill-judged effort backfired. But it's amazing what having a leader with the lowest approval rating and a tendency towards PR gaffes, uncomfortable interviews and unfortunate photo opportunities can do for the sudden realisation that politics should be about policies and substance, not personalities and style.
As PR tactics go it's probably worth a try. It may come from the 'Making the best of a bad situation' section of the PR handbook but it does at least put the ball in the Conservatives' court and challenges them to keep the campaign clean or risk looking petty if they crack on and seek to further undermine Miliband with personal attacks.
On 31 January we started a new game of Express Bingo. The rules were simple: when one of the following appeared on the front page of the Daily Express (Monday to Saturday), it was crossed off until the card was complete - but how long would that take?
We now know the answer - 29 days. 29 days to get to this point:
Here's how the game unfolded. We got off to a flying start on Day 1 with a hattrick of 'Weather', 'Fuel Bills' and 'The EU' all on the front page:
Then on Day 2 we crossed off 'How To Live Longer' leaving the card a third complete after just two days:
On Day 3 we drew a blank. There was a Weather story on the front page (of course), but we'd already crossed that off. However, Day 4 brought better news with a cure for Diabetes and a Pensions story alongside the ubiquitous, but already crossed off, Weather story (of course).
Day 5 and Day 6, things started to slow down a little. First there was a How To Live Longer story and the Weather (of course) but we didn't need either of those again. Then there was a Pensions story and the obligatory, but now unnecessary, Weather story (of course).
Day 7 brought a double, with a story about grapes curing Alzheimer's and advancing hordes of Foreigners! There was also a Weather story (of course):
However, on Day 8 we drew a blank and we didn't fair much better on Days 9 and 10. Both had classic 'Express Bingo' stories but we'd already crossed off both Pensions and How To Live Longer.
It seems incredible to think the Express had gone 10 days without an Arthritis, Benefits or House Prices story. Apparently Kate Middleton's absence could be explained by the fact she was on holiday on the private island of Mustique.
Day 11 saw Alzheimer's on the front again, Day 12 was The EU - neither of which moved us on at all. But Day 13 saw the return of Kate Middleton. Back from holiday and straight back onto the front page of the Express:
Day 14 drew a blank and Day 15 Alzheimer's was back again but still of no use having been crossed off on Day 7. Day 16 saw the Weather make a comeback and yet another How to Live Longer but we're still three squares short of finishing.
But Day 17 saw the Express give in to what must have been an almost crippling urge to put House Prices on the front. Rarely could the paper have gone 17 days without having the subject on page one. There was also Diabetes but we'd crossed that off already.
Day 18 brought a hattrick of Express Bingo stories... but none we didn't already have. Foreigners!, How To live Longer and Kate Middleton now making up for lost time.
Day 19 brought more Kate and Day 20 brought more Alzheimer's but Day 21 brought the Benefits story we'd waited so long for (as well as a Weather story).
Day 22 brought more Diabetes and Day 23 brought Pensions and Alzheimer's. Day 24 saw one time fixture on the front of the Express Diana make a long-awaited return along with a story telling us How To Live Longer (get less sleep). Day 25 had Foreigners! and Day 26 had more Foreigners!. Day 27 it was Foreigners! again and Day 28 had advice on How to Live Longer (take less paracetamol) and a picture of Kate Middleton. But still the wait for Arthritis continued...
...until Day 29 when this headline appeared:
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker announced on Twitter that he is taking legal action against The Sun after the newspaper claimed he had been using a tax avoidance scheme and owes HMRC £1.3m in back taxes.
In a story which The Sun has since removed from its website, it claimed:
"Gary Lineker has been clobbered with a £1.3million bill after investing in controversial tax-break schemes. The jug-eared former England skipper, 54, has been given 90 days by HM Revenue and Customs to pay back the cash."
The story brought an angry response from Lineker who took to Twitter to say he had instructed his lawyers.
The Sun has now removed the story from its website, resulting in another tweet from Lineker.
The Sun has now taken down its story about me from their website. Other papers please note.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 31, 2015