Mike Vickers' Blog

March 16, 2019

The worry of Social Media – Should Social Media Companies be forced to act

Filed under: Communications, Jo Cox, Journalism, Politics, Social Media — derryvickers @ 8:30 pm

From the Editor of “I”

Act againt Social Media companies.

“The problem is wider than this disgusting video: it is not hard to find far-right propanganda spreading violent ideologies notably on YouTube and there is little political pressure to remove it.”

Just perhaps Sajid Javid will act?
“Internet companies who allow the distribution of banned content “should be prepared to face the full force of the law”, Sajid Javid has said, as he called on people to stop watching and sharing the livestream broadcast by a gunman””


March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”


This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

January 24, 2015

Nous Sommes Charlie – a Riddoch pod of two weeks past

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 11:18 am

The pod can be found at:


Far too late to get anything on the web site so just a few thoughts.

The West is fighting militant Islam but this is nothing compared to what is being fought out between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Yes we all take more note of what is going on around us and ignore, other than from a newsworthy point of view, as to what is going on in Africa.

And we in the West are far from squeaky clean – drones in Afghanistan – torture in Iraq.

No mention of the massacre in Norway by Breivik (BTW what has happened to him?) and how the Norwegian government has coped.

I am not a believer in total free speech in religion – the Pope is reported to have said (and of course he is not independent in this matter) that one should be careful of unlimited freedom in religious matters. Politicians are fair game but religion is not – it is far too sensitive and always has been and it ain’t going to change soon.

Sorry I did not listen to anymore of the pod except the comments on Jim Murphy and the interminable battle between Labour and SNP – just ignore the economy it is not newsworthy enough. As to the oil price – it will go but how quickly is anyone’s guess – the growth of economy in the West is far to sluggish – but that raises a separate question – why is the only measure of prosperity in a western capitalist society the rate of growth – and that takes us back to Charlie and Lesley’s point that Charlie is next door and what about the poor in India and Africa – don’t they deserve of a slice of the cake to catch up even if we stagnate a little. Incidentally we were skiing in the French Alps last week at Courchevel and while we were in a modestly priced chalet, the town is full of shops Chanel, Dior etc along with Estate Agents and up market ski shops and the prices were out of this world.

And I got to thinking – we here in the West are said to live in the Capitialist society. Increasingly this is getting further from the truth; we are increasingly living in a totalitarian society, only that the tyrants are now the global corporates rather than the national tyrants.

December 10, 2013


Filed under: Communications, In Our Time, Journalism, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:18 pm

From the high flying oratory of Obama that brings tears to my eyes


To the arch cynicism of Simon Jenkins and I can’t repress a chuckle


And finally to the cold reality of Okwonga


What a day!

And all thanks to one man: Mandela

August 17, 2013

Scotland’s Population – no need to increase

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Scotland — derryvickers @ 8:22 pm

Three interesting articles in the last few days of the Scotsman

  1. On Thursday Michael Kelly why the future doesn’t belong to Glasgow. Glasgow is no longer the vibrant city that it was in the 19th century.


  1. Today Alf Young has an article Time for push on population front .  He bemoans that Scotland’s population is growing much less than the rest of the UK. Like so many others he equates population growth to economic growth.


  1. In contrast on Friday the Scotsman: Boom time for  Scottish islands. Understandably Shetland is doing better than the other islands, however it is good to see that the Western Isles are also growing significantly.

What do I make all these articles. It is not surprising Glasgow is not keeping up with the rest of the World  indeed it would be surprising if it were. After all it is no longer industrial heart of Britain indeed it is not even industrial heart of Scotland; shipbuilding and building railway engines have long since moved away. Further Glasgow’s need for steel has also gone. Taking Alf Young’s dictum if economic growth decreases then population will decrease. There should be nothing surprising in this. What is gratifying is that the population of the Western Isles is growing this can only be a healthy sign.

All we now need is an electric interconnector between Western Isles and the mainland.  And given good broadband we could foresee an even greater increase in that islands population.  Also in Friday’s Scotsman is a little article about the GP moving to Jura from Yorkshire and loving it.

What’s Scotland should be looking for is a better distribution of its population and if the population does decrease there should be no stigma in this.

December 16, 2012

RIP Newtown

Filed under: Journalism, Personal, USA — derryvickers @ 9:35 am

A short news clip from Johnny Diamond of BBC Radio 4 at Newtown drags me out of my lethargy.
An unspeakable tragedy that took no more than a few minutes to happen
A Town now overrun by hundreds of journalists, TV cameras and satellite transmitters.
The ashes being interminably raked over seeking some clue, dragging some comment out of some bewildered local
Where have we come in this instant Now featured on A Point of View by Will Self just a few minutes earlier
Why can’t we let these Towns Folk rest in peace with their grief.


April 22, 2011

Journalism in an Age of Disclosure

Filed under: Journalism — derryvickers @ 10:12 am

I attended the David Hume Lecture on Journalism in the Age of Disclosure: News, the Media and an Open Society on 20 April.  The main speaker was Blair Jenkins (currently advising the Carnegie Trust) with a supporting panel of Atholl Duncan (Head of News & Current Affairs BBC Scotland), Iain MacWhirter (Scottish Digital Networks) and Philip Schlesinger (Director of Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow) and Jeremy Peat (Director David Hume Institute) in the Chair.

During BJ’s introduction I wrote down a number of words: ethical, reliable, fair, trusted, mediated, transparent.

He illustrated recent failure in transparency and unreliability in Journalists to challenge the basis of the Iraq war and to look critically at the bullish state of the US economy prior to the Financial Crisis.  He felt that Journalists had been too ready to cosy up to politicians and big business

In contrast he felt that the Journalists on the Telegraph had been more responsible in ferreting out MPs expenses and had treated all parties equally.  He was less sure about the sting the Paper perpetrated on a LibDem MP surgery if only because they didn’t sting a Tory surgery. In the general discussion later, all (I think) supported the outing of Vince Cable’s criticism of New International in its attempt to take over B Sky B if only because Cable gave his view unprompted.

BJ recognised a continuing conflict between commercialism and ethics.  This is not helped by the worsening economic situation in the newspaper business with journalists under chronic overload doing more for less.  He wondered whether news  reporting should be funded by philanthropic / charitable organisations to ensure ‘un-bias’; this was challenged later by one panellist who reminded us that a number of news philanthropic sources in the US were funded by undeclared pressure groups.  BJ considered competition essential and welcomed the idea of a Scottish Independent Broadcaster.

In summary he reiterated the need for Journalists to be accountable, to disclose and ask the right questions; Journalists need to better connect to their consumers.

AD believed that accountability is essential.  He considered that the BBC was now doing better at Investigative Journalism.  He recognised that the news media now have to compete with Twitter and other Social Media.  He believes that the Licence fee and Not For Profit remain the key to good Journalism.

IMcW quoted HL Mencken’s ‘Dog and Lamppost where the politicians are the lampposts.  He too bemoaned the lack of a diverse Scottish Press.  He considered the Internet as ignored as a news source.  He welcomed the Australian Newspaper of the Air (I can’t find it on the web but did find The Australian which looks good but in the same way as The Guardian on-line is a potted version of The Guardian). He considered the US ahead of the pack through editorial leadership, recovering from a degraded media, with 10,000 journalists laid off

ProfPS also listed the qualities of a Good Journalist : virtuous, educated, freelance, ethical, providing good stories.  He considered Journalists had lost trust and this would not easily be repaired.  He too saw the need for Public Support thought a Licence fee.  Public money should be ‘creditable and credible’

From the floor Iain MacDonald considered that demand for Journalism is falling through disgust with business and the failure of politics.  Consumers were getting what they wanted free on-line.  There was praise for Reporting Scotland but no one could see real value in Local TV and at best this would be restricted to Glasgow, Edinburgh and perhaps Central Scotland.  ‘Citizen Journalists’ could have a role in reporting local events.  BJ in reply to a question felt that Journalism / the Media needs to become multilayered with consumers being able to ‘drill down’ to the underlying facts behind the story should they wish; the underlying facts being provided by professionals in the particular field.  A comment close to my heart was made by the German Consul General to Scotland who complained that when  BBC Journalists went to Germany to report on the elections they had to ask the candidates to speak English; AD had to agree but stressed that the BBC World Service was significantly better equipped in that it relies on local nationals for its material.

JP in summing up focused on Lack of Resources, warned against the joke of students undertaking ‘Media Studies’, bemoaned that Scotland has only two of the four national newspapers left, humility matters and there needs to be a revival in Public Interest.

For my part I felt there was too little on role of the Internet as a Media purveyor and what impact that will have on journalism.  For good or bad one only has to think of the role of social media in Egypt to see its power for ‘instant reporting’.  Also the Internet is ideal for providing the consumer with the ability to drill down as suggested by BJ – just look at Wikipedia to see the possibilities.  There was some discussion on ‘out sourcing’;  the Scotsman does a lot but again the Internet should be ideal for providing access to well written pieces.  What one wants is an overarching editorial framework and there should be no reason why the existing news media cannot take on this role.

Finally on a lighter note; in looking up quotes by HL Mencken I find

‘A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier’.

I realise that my thgoughts are in conflict with a previous blog on the need to think before publishing but as always life is a balance!

Need to engage brain before going to press

Filed under: Journalism — derryvickers @ 10:05 am

Lesley Riddoch in an article in the Scotsman on 14 March considered that too much undigested news was flying around the media space.  I agreed and wrote the following –

“One picture is worth a thousand words”.  No it isn’t –you can take the ‘Big picture’ in 1 sec – it takes at least 30 mins  to write a thousand words that make any form of sense.  It can take a poet  weeks to write 500 words.

Lesley Riddoch states that the BBC TV is now ‘primarily an entertainment medium’ and she is right, but that’s because it feels it needs to compete with commercial television which has to be for entertainment because it needs its sponsors.  If Chris Patten changes this, that’s all to the good .

Not that the Scotsman is much better – on Monday it had 8 pages on the Japan disaster of which 5 pages are pure pictures.  There is a little real analysis on a possible nuclear melt down but it’s the pictures that come to the fore.

We live in a world where the instant image counts for everything.  Lesley hopes for analysis and I would strongly agree but it’s not going to come from Television unless we resurrect Lord Reith.  If we want more, then a better hope is the Radio.  The best analysis I hear on Radio is ‘From our own correspondent’ and this is almost ‘a sideways look’, and in retrospect.  ‘A Point of View’ is good too.  A very good programme is Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ but then we have to wait at least 100 years to get this depth of analysis.   But I digress.  Lesley praises Twitting but this is just another instant snap shot with no possibility of ‘analysis’.  I commend to readers an article by Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, another columnist – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/22/internet-learn-to-turn-off?INTCMP=SRCH in which he decries Twitter as ‘damaging our ability to concentrate for sustained periods’.  Ultimately if we want ‘analysis’ we need an article at least of 6 pages.  Time Magazine does some good articles with a reasonable degree of objectivity.

And by the way all the moving Big Pictures on TV and in the papers have pushed back the fighters against Gadaffi into the middle pages of Monday’s Scotsman but to be true with some degree of analysis.”

OK – times have changed and Gadaffi is back on the Front  but for how long and has there yet been an in-depth study of the causes and possible outcomes of the war?

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