Friday, January 30, 2009


OMG, readers! I got my redundancy cheque through today. It was substantially smaller than I was expecting it to be. It was just a month’s notice, actually. I’d heard my old company paid out big bucks when they let people go and so hadn’t actually read the letter they sent me. I was trusting my instincts, which is key for any new journalist who’s hot on the scent of a big splash.

Anyway, while I maintain that I am right to trust my instincts, I admit that I was wrong to trust my former employers, who screwed me royally. Looking around the lounge at my new possessions I began to rue my impulsive nature. But it’s who I am, I’ll never change.

As it happens, I was planning to call Mum anyway and, when I told her what had happened, she jumped in the car and headed over. She made really good time, Lincoln’s quite a long way away. When she arrived I told her I had to go out looking for a story, and that I’d left the Cilit Bang! under the sink. Meanwhile I had some thinking to do about Sky, so I went to the pub.

When I got home the flat was spotless and there were fresh cheese scones baking in the oven. I love my Mum, and I’m not afraid to say it. She was writing me a cheque, so I decided not to mention the fact that she hadn’t dusted the TV. I’m no bully. Not like Dad. I’ve never told you about my Dad. Maybe one day I will.

Mum mentioned that she’d chatted with my neighbour, Mrs Bradley, the one whose dog had gone missing. Apparently the police were ‘apathetic’ about the crime. This is man’s best friend we’re talking about here! Mum suggested it might make a good story. I think she might be right.

Then she started on about her night vision again and I got the impression that she was angling to stay over. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of time for my Mum, but I’m a man now, independent and strong. I can’t have my Mum staying over at my flat. What if Gill wants to come over and get jiggly with it? What if I want to bust a number?

Like, wtf?

So I gave her one of the scones for the journey and walked her to the car. She said she was scared about the drive but I know better than most that fears have to be confronted! I felt good that I’d helped her face up to the whole thing.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another follower!!!!

It seems the old Newsdesk charm has reeled in yet another follower. Donnac1968* is a fellow blogger. And, if I may say so myself, is nothing short of prolific.

*Apologies Donnac1968 - this pic of you has come out highly pixelated, which gives the impression that I've made the image blurry in order to project your identity, much like they do on TV shows featuring criminals.

Donnac1968 has also been dabbling in Twitterland and Tweets under the name 'electrogirl68'.

Her blog, ‘From Little Acorns’, covers a wide range of topics. Knitting seems to feature prominently, as do photographs of Mighty Boosh star Noel Fielding. She has won a couple of awards and, like Jesus, has 12 followers (at the time of writing).

Do you ever wonder how many followers Jesus would have if he was around today….?

Wonder no more according to Twitter he has 510 followers. This figure comes in well under the number of followers He is estimated to have that follow using the more conventional methods.

Clearly, both Donnac1968 and myself have a long way to go before we can hope to achieve the sort of popularity possible when you’re the Son of God.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Unbelievable. When my so-called lawyer said he'd be sending through an invoice for his work so far, I assumed that he was joking. When I got up this morning and saw the letter sitting waiting for me, I assumed it would be an apology.

Assume nothing, dear readers. It makes an ass of you and me.

Firstly, there was some legal mumbo-jumbo (why can't lawyers write in plain English?), then a short paragraph outlining the nature of our agreement. Which included regular nominal administration fees to cover the retainer and also additional consultation charges. The contract was to run over 12 months, but could be terminated by either party with a three month's notice.

That bloodsucking scumbag is trying to charge me £1500 for the next three months' retainer fee, plus £250 call handling fee from Sky, £250 for the telephone conversation and legal 'advice' I received yesterday and a further £175 for sending the letter that included this invoice.

That's a total of £2175.

I was too gobsmacked to do anything but stare open mouthed at the letter on my table. I felt sick initially, but then I thought 'no, you don't have to take this Barry!'

I called the bastard up. He said that he was contractually obliged to take the call since I still had the best part of three month's worth of retainer available. However, he did need to inform me that the standard consultation fee of £250 would stand and, indeed, that I would receive a further invoice, including an additional £175 administration fee.

It was as though I was an unwilling passenger sitting in the back of a taxi whose meter was on fast forward. Not only that, the taxi I was sitting in was taking me to the wrong place.

"You are joking?" I asked, incredulous.
"Do I sound like I'm joking?"

I was forced to concede that if this were a joke, I was unable to see the funny side. Ergo, he must not be joking.

"So I now owe you £2500?" I asked.
"No sir, not at all," he said, "you owe us £2600."
"But that's ridiculous," I said.
"Do you know how much Sky could have sued you for had your article made it into the newspapers?"
"But it was true, it was a true story."

My legal council merely repeated the question. I was forced to concede that I didn't know, although had assumed that since it was a true story, they wouldn't be able to sue me at all. It was at this point that my lawyer used some fairly colourful language and suggested that I draw a line under things, to "quit while you're still not too far behind" he said.

I put the phone down in the end. But this thing is not over. I swear.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New media

Apologies blogosphere, I have only just managed to get home. Today has been just hectic. First up, I had a call from my lawyer, he started out telling me that he needs to speak to Gill - apparently he has been contacted by Sky regarding the sexual harassment incident. I said I didn't want Gill involved, but then he said why did I use her name in the article? I had to concede that was naive of me. There's more to journalism than simply writing stories, these stories affect people. Real people.

The thing is though, this shows that I've got them on the ropes dear readers.

My lawyer (fucking coward) advised me to drop the case, and disist from, GET THIS!!! "spreading spurious rumours in the press".

He then said some unrepeatable things, and could not understand why I'd added his contact details to the piece. I said, "what's the point having lawyers if you can't use them?". He said some more unrepeatable things, so I said I would no longer be using his services, he said I'd be receiving an invoice. An INVOICE! for his 'services' so far.

Whatever happened to the Freedom of the Fourth Estate??

Gill says I shouldn't really be blogging about this. But it's a free country right?

I have signed up to Twitter. I cannot seem to make it work properly though. I can't really see the point to be honest. But then, I said that about the Internet and it came back to bite me in the wallet.

I got home in a funk and so decided to call my mum. I love my mum, I'll make no apologies, she's stood by me through thick and thin. She wants to come and stay, but I've told her that London is no place for a lady. Where are the views?

She's made up about the redundancy money though, I said I'd send her a little bit so she could treat herself to something, but I haven't actually got the package yet. I've been putting everything so far on my credit cards, I'll pay it off when the redundancy package arrives. Mum said she'd best transfer some cash into my account. I told her I'd pay her back and WITH INTEREST!!

Right, I'd best go now. I've got a Frey Bentos in the oven, a few cans of Cobra in the fridge and a few games of Pro Evo lined up before bed so I'm fresh and ready for some more citizen journalism tomorrow.

First up, I'll be writing to the editors that I sent my peice to, I'm going to find out who ratted me to Sky - almost certainly one of the Murdoch rags. I thought journalists were supposed to respect their sources!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A follower!!!!

Who says journalism is a lonely career. I logged on this morning and was greeted by the news that I have a follower!

Jennifer Walker-Shannon has tied her colours to the Barry Newsdesk mast, so to speak, and agreed to follow me.

A Californian writer. She looks every bit as glamorous as she sounds too! Though I should also point out that she is married to a gentleman called Brett. Hopefully, this will assure Gill that our virtual friendship is purely platonic.

I wonder what Jennifer makes of the great public transport vs atheism debate? I know our American cousins can be quite religious, however, I also know that public transport leaves a lot to be desired in the Land of the Free!

Perhaps this is something President Obama will be looking to change during his tenure. He's probably got a lot on his plate, but he seems like the sort of man who will leave no stone unturned. Even if it means upsetting a few people.

I have yet to receive any feedback from the various editors whom I furnished with my piece on sexual harassment. It's early days, of course, and I'm not too downhearted. Particularly in light of the news that Jennifer (a published writer!!!!) is now following yours truly.

Perhaps I will go out into the virtual world and follow some other notable bloggers - in journalism, it is a case of who you know AND what you know!

Friday, January 23, 2009


I'm so excited about my new life as a journalist. Metaphorically speaking, I'm learning something new every day. Today's harsh lesson in the realities of life as a humble scribe came in the form of a wake up and smell the coffee call regarding remuneration.

I'm drawn to life as a journalist because I'm inquisitive, I have a keen sense of what's right and what's wrong and I feel that everyone has a civic and spiritual duty to do unto others as you would have done unto you.

As a practicing Buddhist I understand about karma. You only have to look at what has happened to deviant pop star Boy George to realise that you cannot mess with karma.

But you can't pay the gas bill with karmic credits either!!!

My redundancy package will only last so long, I need to start earning some money from my journalism. I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that while journalism is rich in the rewards of life, it is not rich in the rewards of high finance. Money, it seems, is a dirty word among the hack fraternity. Still, that's the price for choosing the path of enlightenment. No one said it would be easy.

I billed the Metro £11.46 for the two hours I spent researching and writing my piece about the general public's views on the great public transport versus atheism debate.

I admit now I was naive.

Journalists, it seems, do not charge by the hour at all. They charge by the word. And quite right too, the pen is mightier than the sword after all. Man cannot survive on paltry sums like £11.46. My piece on sexual harassment is 237 words long, so I will send an invoice valued at £1 per word to selected editors.

I know that £237 is not a fortune, it pails into insignificance by comparison with the sort of figures I used to bring home as a salesman, but it should help to keep the wolf from the door for a while longer at least.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sexual harassment

After carrying out research yesterday I decided that I was now armed with enough background material to write a well-balance article outlining the Sky sexual harassment case. I will be sending the piece to select members of the media forthwith.

Here though, I reproduce it in full:

You can’t touch this!

Sexual harassment in today’s Britain is illegal. Yet for so many of today’s young women it is an all too unfortunate fact of life. Nowhere is sexual harassment more disgusting than in the home.
In Britain today, the vast majority of the victims of sexual harassment are harassed in the home. That these scandals are going unchecked by the government and authorities is something Gordon Brown needs to feel personally ashamed and responsible for.
This week, in this journalist’s own home, representatives of a publicly listed multinational corporation that specialises in satellite television and the broadcasting of Premier League soccer, which cannot be revealed for legal reasons, sexually harassed this journalist’s girlfriend Gillian Nelson.
Attractive brunette Nelson (36) was waiting patiently at home, alone, when the two engineers arrived to install a Sky box.
“One of the engineers was a bit weird,” she said, “just a bit sleazy,” she added clearly suffering from post traumatic stress, tears welling in her pretty brown eyes.
The lone white female was then subjected to a barrage of innuendo and when the smutty Sky employee made lewd comments about her appearance and clothing she was forced to leave the room.
A spokesperson for the company refused to deny the allegations when pressed, but did say “we take allegations such as these very seriously sir,” before suggesting that the victim file a formal complaint in the usual manner.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Spirit and the Sky

After yesterday's incident with the Sky engineer, I decided that I needed to do some background reading and research. Forewarned is forearmed.

In the UK there are a number of laws protecting people from harassment including the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Both because the term is used in common English, and because where the term is defined by law, the law varies by jurisdiction, it is difficult to provide any exact definition that is accepted everywhere.

In some cultures, for instance, simply stating a political opinion can be seen as unwarranted and a deliberate attempt to intimidate — in a totalitarian society any such statement could be interpreted as an attempt to involve someone in rebel activity or implicate them in same, with the implication that if they refuse, they are putting their own life in danger.

More usually, some label such as "anti-social" or related to treason is used to label such behaviour — it being treated as an offense against the state not the person. This resembles the use of psychiatry to imprison dissidents which is common in many countries.

Clearly, from the above, Gill has a case that we can use to build a story. It looks like Sky doesn't have a leg to stand on. I think I might have to use some of my redundancy package in order to keep a lawyer on a retainer. Journalism sometimes skates on thin ice legally.

Meanwhile, the public transport vs atheism story has been snowballing in the blogosphere....check out this view from an atheist, this view from a Christian and this view from a bus driver.

Interesting times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Yesterday I was out doing more research – on the bus, this time. I’ve really got the bit between my teeth with this religion/public transport debate. Anyway, Gill had the day off to go to the doctors (women's problems) so I asked her if she could stay round at my flat. I'd ordered Sky with some of my redundancy package and I needed someone to be there to let the engineers in.

Anyway, things didn’t go so well on the research front. I got thrown off three buses. Twice on the 333 and once on the 419. The 333 goes to Elephant and Castle so I shouldn’t be surprised that the drivers are more aggressive.

I was feeling deflated when I got home. Gill was on the sofa watching Sky. I ran to the box to have a look. I asked her if the installation had gone ok.

“Yeah, it was fine. But one of the engineers was a bit weird,” she said.
“Weird how?” I said.
“Dunno, just a bit sleazy, I suppose.”

I got a funny feeling in my stomach when she said this but I knew from my sales training that the best way to get people to talk is to start with open questions, rather than jumping straight in asking if he’d tried to feel her up.

After an hour’s discussion, she confessed to me that he’d said she had a pretty smile and that he liked her dress.

Sexual Harassment!!!

I couldn’t believe it. Here’s a company like Sky, with a reputation, sending perverts into people’s homes to make suggestive remarks about their girlfriends. Or, even worse, if you look at it from Gill’s point of view, about people themselves!

Poor Gill. She seemed to be in some kind of denial; pretending that it was nothing important.

Half of me was consumed with the protective urge. I wanted to find out who this man was and dish out some punishment. I’m actually a black belt in Judo. It’s one of the purest forms of martial art, although some of the other ones get all the attention these days.

Anyway, the other half of me was thinking: News!!!

What a story? I could just see it all over the front pages of the tabs. Sky would be in disgrace. They’d have to sack the engineer and the head of customer visits or whatever. I might even get a free subscription. Murdoch might have to issue an apology!!

Then I realised a problem. Murdoch owns quite a few newspapers and I don’t want to get myself in trouble with the boss at such an early stage in my career. On the other hand, it’s my duty as a journalist to expose this kind of corporate misbehaviour. What a quandry.

I figured I would write this story under a pseudonym and submit it only to non-Murdoch papers. Then, when it became a huge snowball, I could reveal myself as the investigative reporter par excellence. What an opportunity. And how rewarding to realise that my news sense was already developing so keenly.

I was straight on the phone to Sky.

Unfortunately, I was in a queue for 40 minutes before I took a break to think about the best way to take down such a powerful corporate monster. I went for a walk around the block. One of my neighbours was putting signs on lamp posts beause her dog had gone missing. But I didn’t have time to think about that. It was me against the most powerful media conglomerate in the world.

Journalism is so rewarding! I feel like I’ve completely reinvented myself.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blue Monday

I was watching Sian and Bill this morning on the BBC and they said that today is officially the most depressing day of the year. It's all to do with the lack of sunlight, the atrocious weather, the anti-climax following the festive season, the fact that your first wage packet has yet to land and the first bills have already arrived coupled with the knowledge that the rest of the year stretches before you like a vast unclimbable mountain of doom.

Although, the 'research' to back this up claim was funded by a travel agent and promoted by a PR agency. So its scientific validity is somewhat dubious.

Still, I really do think today could be the most depressing of the year. I went down to the station to pick up a copy of Metro. I ran (well, walked quickly at least) all the way home IN THE RAIN, made myself a cup of tea and scanned the rag from cover to cover looking for my research article.

Research, I might add, that was funded by genuine editorial curiosity and not by a travel firm trying to encourage people to book environment damaging flights!!!!!!!

It was nowhere to be seem. Last week's news of the Christian bus driver refusing to do his job because the adverts carried by his bus ran contrary to his opinions was a weighty issue, making headlines on the nationals. My research helped paint a fuller picture of the nation's wavering feelings of apathy towards religion. This week that story has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Maybe I should have been a little bit more targeted in my approach, maybe I should have bought myself a travel card and rode the buses asking passengers and drivers alike.

Today's news really is tomorrow's chip paper. It is an invaluable lesson for any would-be Citizen Journalist.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tangible excitement

After the excitement of completing my first editorial project I decided to take Saturday off.

Strictly speaking the journalist is never off duty. Like policemen. I made a mental note to keep my ears and eyes open at all times. If you're doing it nine to five, you're doing it wrong.

Played Pro Evolution Soccer for five hours and completed half a season taking my team, Notts Forest, to the top of the D1. I'm in all cups. This could prove to be my most successful season to date.

Sadly, I had agreed to meet up with Gill in the evening. Went for a few drinks, got home in time for Match of the Day. Thank heavens for small mercies. Polished off a bottle of wine.

Spent this morning tidying up the flat, but couldn't really concentrate due to the excitement of anticipating seeing my poll results in tomorrow's Metro!

Think I'll have a few games of PES.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Today, after yesterday's decision to take the plunge into the world of journalism, I went into the world seeking inspiration.

I left my flat and turned right onto my road. I'd dressed appropriately, not just for the time of the year, but also for my chosen career path. This is the sort of thing I would have worn on a dress down Friday. Although, coincidentally, it was Friday anyway. But this would be my new apparel irrespective of the weekday in question. Unless I had an important meeting.

Smart casual, with serious leanings toward the latter. Converse sneakers, faded jeans, a plaid lemon shirt, underneath the grey jumper my Mum gave me for Christmas. She's always had such excellent taste.

I went into Specsavers and spent £300 of my redundancy package on clear glass spectacles with thick black frames.

Already feeling good I went into WH Smith and bought a new pen and 'reporters' pad - 100% recycled paper, made from post-consumer waste.

I looked the part.

All needed now was news.

I sat on a bench outside what was Woolworths on the high street. Not much happened for an hour or so, a woman sat next to me for ten minutes until her bus arrived. She was youngish, wearing a work uniform. Observation is key in journalism.

Some time after, a man arrived and started unlocking the metal mesh protective window protector of Woolworths. He would not be drawn on the issues that surround the collapse of the high street store.

The weather was inclement, although not any worse than it was yesterday.

For lunch I had McDonalds. I found a copy of Metro and read it from cover to cover seeking inspiration and stumbled across a story about a bus driver who refused to drive his bus because it carried an atheist slogan.

It got me thinking. Would God be angry that the bus driver had failed to turn the other cheek? Would God be angry with himself, or herself, for failing to turn the other cheek?

Religion is a contentious issue. Perfect for Citizan Journalists.

I thought this would make an interesting article for the readers of the Metro. So I carried out a poll on the highstreet. I simply asked the two questions I had posed myself earlier: Would God be angry that the bus driver had failed to turn the other cheek? Would God be angry with himself, or herself, for failing to turn the other cheek?

I asked 30 people. 4 people completely ignored me, 1 person was verbally abusive, 12 people said they didn't know, 2 people said yes and 11 said probably not.

I sent my findings to the editor at

I had spent about two hours on the project (10 minutes background reading, 10 minutes considering the issues, 1 hour 30 mins collecting data and 10 minutes writing up the findings). I thought I would bill for the UK minimum wage allowance of £5.73 per hour. This seemed fair considering my inexperience.

I await a response.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hello blogosphere

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. So the saying goes.

I was made redundant yesterday. I don't know what this means with regards the rest of my life.

In my heart of hearts I knew it was coming, but that didn't lessen the blow of receiving the dreaded call from the basement meeting rooms.

"Hello Barry, it's Emma Chaff from human resources."
"Hello Emma."
"Barry, can you come down to the basement meeting room please?"

Descending the steps into the office basement, cold sweat beading on my brow, I suddenly knew how Peter Anthony Allen must have felt as he climbed up the stairs of Walton Prison's gallows.

What followed was standard fair in these times of economic turmoil. The credit crunch has come home to roost, my glittering career in media sales was over. My legs went wobbly, my mouth dried up and a tear trickled down my cheek.

I was out of job.

A washed up dinosaur.

The internet is the future, I was told and I'll freely admit it's not one of my strong points. To be honest, I thought the internet was a flash in the pan, people will always want good old fashioned Hard Copy I'd always said. Maybe I was wrong all along

I might have been wrong, but I'm big enough to admit it. If the internet is the future, I would need to get up to speed. I went to PC World this morning and invested some of my redundancy package in an Apple Macintosh iBook.

I've been setting the damn thing up all day, and now I've set up this blog. With 15 years' media sales under my belt, I've decided to cross over the divide and become a journalist. How hard can it be?

You can't keep a good man down.