Yeee haa!!!!

Today at work the laptop fairy (or, more precisely, The Post’s Editor of Production) handed me this little beauty.

What’s more I get to keep it! This is like a second Christmas!

It’s a HP Compaq 6710b and this post is brought to you by its mobile 3G connection.

The reason that I have been given this will be the subject of a later post. For now, I’m off to play!

The Sunday shift

I was “2pm ’til 10pm” girl today, but actually ended up enjoying myself.

Not only did it allow me to walk home in the snow (and have the olbigatory snowball fight), but it also produced quite an interesting story for the front page.

It all centres around this. See if you can figure it out!
[Edit: well you won’t be able to guess now as it appears that after our article today, they’ve edited the document!]

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus (Let us not climb up our own bottoms)

Ok, I’m back.

This time prompted by sheer enthusiasm, which I have promised myself is the only way I will blog in future.

I’m excited to hear that Matthew Parris is enamoured with our fair city and echos the comments made by Trevor Beattie in my interview with him the other week.

In his column for The Times, Matthew mulls over a new motto for the UK (it was mooted some time back that Gordy was looking for one). Inspiration came during his speech at Birmingham Foward’s annual dinner:

The perfect national motto. It came to me while addressing a dinner given by the Birmingham Forward association of regional businesses. Birmingham is looking great these days, and I said how much nicer it was to encounter a city where people undersold themselves, than places (but let’s leave Manchester out of this) that were up their own bottoms.

An MP and archetypal young thruster of a Government minister, Liam Byrne, had recently bewailed what he called the West Midlands’ “malaise of modesty”. Modesty a malaise! How very new Labour. A pleasantly low-key attitude to themselves is one of the great assets of West Midlanders. So I suggested a new motto for Birmingham, which the audience seemed to like.

Philip Howard, the classicist of The Times, has helped me to translate it into Latin, and the five-word motto would be splendid, in fact, for Britain itself – except that it undermines the whole Brownite constitutional project.

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus: “Let us not climb up our own bottoms.”

It’s true that, in many ways, Birmingham has undersold itself through modesty. Trevor Beattie suggested that if we could temporarily adopt the arrogance of the Mancunians, then we might raise our profile a bit.

But I think perhaps it isn’t arrogance we need. I think it’s confidence and a little bit of self belief.

We’ve taken the knocks because there are some idiots that insist on judging the city using anachronistic stereotypes. And, perhaps, that’s made us play safe on some issues.

Yet, in my experience, Birmingham has masses of talent, passion and creativity. Perhaps we just need to be a little braver and give less of a stuff what everyone else thinks.

With a bit of self belief we could use our modesty to our advantage. After all, being great isn’t about shouting the loudest, it’s about doing things better than everyone else!

From (the rather appropriately named) upyerbrum

Post Bloggers

The newest addition to The Birmingham Post editorial team, Tom Scotney, has started his own personal blog.

Vive le revolucion!

One of his first posts deals with a journalist pet hate – the mountain of unsolicited and irrellevent PR emails that we recieve.

My own hobby horse is the unnecessary waste produced from PR campaigns – a subject I hope to post in picture form soon. I’ve been saving up a few beauties.

Greening Down

I hope you will indulge me for a few sentences while I revel in a small achievement.

Today the Post published a letter from Richard Bowker, chief executive of National Express Group. He was responding to one of my articles.

It appears we don’t publish letters online (should we?) and I haven’t got a scanner, so I’ve reproduced the letter word-for-word here.

As the head of a company that is planning to move its headquarters to Birmingham, I am glad he is taking an interest in the local press! But the congratulations for invoking such a response must go to Chris Crean from Friends of the Earth, West Midlands.

But, along with the back slapping, there is an important point to make.

Now, some may say it was cruel of me to kick a company that is essentially trying to do a good thing and reduce it’s Co2 emissions. Don’t get me wrong, as the first three paragraphs of the story suggest, this is generally a good thing.

But I think it is worth noting that Mr Bowker, so honest in his letter to the Post, is in the original aritcle quoted as saying that the Midland Metro is now “emission free”.

Now, I’m sorry, but this simply isn’t correct! How can you describe incineration and the burning of landfill gas and sewage sludge emission free?!

Now, in my mind, these are perfectly legitimate ways to obtain energy. Better to siphon off waste and harmful gases and turn it into something useful than just let it float off into the atmosphere or languish in landfill. (Whether there should be such a large amount of waste to dispose of in the first place is another matter.) You could argue that it is, indeed, environmentally friendly. But, I’m sorry, you can not call it emission free.

The point is, wittingly or unwittingly, Mr Bowker engaged in “greening down”. It’s something I see far too much of in the press releases sent into the paper.

I don’t know exactly how it comes about, but it seems to me that some companies/organisations feel this sustainablity lark is a bit too complicated for ordinary Joe Public. So, perhaps because it will also make them look good, they generalise – glossing over the thornier issues and tossing in a few positive phrases such as “carbon neutral”, “emission free” and (argh!) “green”.

Is it any wonder so many people are confused about climate change issues?

The worst part is that, somewhere along the line, this was also misrepresented to some of National Express’ staff. When I called the National Express press office they were under the impression that 100% of the company’s energy would now come from wind and hydroelectric power. That is to say, it would be emission free.

This claim rang alarm bells, so I did some research and, low and behold, it was not the case.

The day the article went out, I got a cross message from National Express’s press office on my answerphone. A press officer said my article was completely inaccurate and that there would have to be a correction placed in the paper.

With a sinking feeling (because you can only try and get all the info, but you never know what you might have missed) I rang E.ON – who I had contacted to get information on the tariff for the story – to try and establish where I might have gone wrong.

They said they’d get back to me. The next thing that happens is this letter appears in the paper.

Now I understand that with the heightened awareness of climate change there is a pressure on business to be seen to be doing something positive. But, this needs to be achieved by being open and transparent, not by fudging or misleading people. This is particularly important if your company sets great store by its environmental credentials, as National Express claims it does.

That’s why I’m particularly glad to see that letter – a small victory for honesty and clarity.