Lifestyle section: How to burn 17 calories every 15 minutes*

I’ve been reading some articles on various lifestyle subjects from how to eat a cheese sandwich to how chefs are making their plates a little plainer and how to sow a wildflower meadow.

I feel uplifted. It is imagined, of course, that we all aspire (there’s that word again!) to be the demographic that can’t decide whether to rent or sell that irritating additional property or really want to know how to be happy.

I’ve written these things myself over the years so I don’t condemn those doing it now. I remember phases of having to think of time scales for stories – you know the sort of thing, ‘lose fourteen stone in a fortnight’ or ‘one week from meeting to wedding’.

But it seems especially vacant and irrelevant in times of austerity. Chaplin is skint

As queues to food banks double and is worse than other European countries I can’t help but think wordy articles on the best bacon or the poshest crisps is verging on offensive.

As Shelter states that in England, more than 81,000 households were found to be homeless during 2013/14 perhaps articles on how to spruce up your bathroom are, at the very least, insensitive.

And, while Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the average cost of a school uniform and PE kit is £224.69 while the average local authority grant for school uniform is just £51.27 maybe articles on which fashions are bang on trend for toddlers is a but ugly.

It’s aspirational journalism, of course. The profit-driven industry needs it to get advertising. It needs you to want to aspire to buy what is being peddled and to feel better for having engaged with the magazine, paper or website.

I sat at my desk once, listening in despair, as it was decided a local free paper would no longer be delivered to a poorer area because, well, no one there could afford what the advertisers were selling. Stuff informing, forget democracy – these poor people had no disposable income.

As a cub reporter I could be all Daily Planet-dramatic and say a story was more important than an ad and see said ad removed from the page but within a decade and I was being told by advertising sales staff, “you know who pays your wages, right?”

Aspiration and a media dependent on income from advertising means features too often lack relevance to the lives of many. Salford StarIncluding the people who write them …

… at this point I would like to point out that many journalists earn a pittance!

 The Guardian did recently provide a “seven ways to take action” against austerity guide. Credit where it’s due. It was written by Cait Cross is from UK Uncut, though, and not the paper so, in the current shifting “business model” that is journalism, I’m unsure if it was paid for …

This type of attention-grabbing, time-tied, easy to digest journalism is especially effective for magazines because it can be planned ahead, it can be created rather than researched and, significantly, the journalists doesn’t have to move from the office to do it so it’s comparatively cheap.

I feel I could still contribute to this type of journalism given the chance and my current view from the scrapheap gives me a unique perspective.

  • What to wear when the wolf is at the door
  • How an empty fridge can help you diet
  • What tea to drink when opening debt letters
  • How to cope with spending too much time with the cat
  • Keep fit while watching afternoon telly
  • How to avoid job application RSI

But – more seriously – there are some efforts being made to report what is really going on in communities, to genuinely discuss “lifestyles” without the Labour/Tory aspiration rhetoric and the influence of advertisers.

Over at Contributoria Conrad Bower wants to write about the Manchester Homeless Camp campaign – and you can vote to help him do it. Byline hosts any journalistic work, regardless of ideology or subject and is funded by readers. Salford Star repeatedly irritates the council with some hard-hitting journalism while also having a laugh and is currently selling a new batch of publications. And there’s The Conversation, describing itself as a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish and a not for profit educational entity.

You might also want to see my post on the food of the Gods: mushy peas. It’s not hard-hitting journalism but, by heck, you’ll fancy some for your tea later!

*Oh … you burn 17 calories every 15 minutes just by lying on the settee. Unemployedhack – bringing you aspiration and education.

Professional trolls and the death of journalism …

Trolls no longer live under bridges: they sit at keyboards, writing for the likes of the Daily Mail, creating outrage to ensure website clicks and well-paid appearances on daytime telly.

Forget the idiot trolls – predominantly teenage boys and middle-aged loners sitting in their underpants sending abuse to strangers while waiting for their mum to shout “tea’s done” – these new, media trolls are the real problem but, rather than get arrested for their ridiculous statements, they make money.

The media loves to warn us about trolls, to tell us they’re mean-spirited, rude, abusive, ill-informed, deliberately offensive, cruelly sarcastic … but not that they are often also journalists. Troll B Gone

They come in all guises, these trolls; they arrive with their faux anger and false opinions intended only to make being a troll an entrepreneur activity for the 21st century.

Although ultimately still troll-like in appearance with their wizened, bitter features and eyes ablaze from the excitement of upsetting random readers and telly viewers for no reason other than profit and a step up the career ladder.

You’ve seen them. Some are your wannabe-journalist trolls like Samantha Brick and Katie Hopkins; others are your professional trolls like Brendan O’Neill and Julie Burchill. They insult the working class, the vulnerable, the different .. but they’re journalists, so it’s okay, right?

Samantha Brick challengingly thinks all women are jealous of her appearance: “Women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.”

Katie Hopkins offensively says working class parents are unintelligent: “The Class Book of Baby Names. Also available in Large Print, Easy read.”

Julie Burchill controversially thinks the nation is so apolitical its concern was only ever Thatcher’s gender: “She has done harsh things and had a great deal of faith in herself — and, being a woman, this more than anything is why she remains so unforgiven by certain sections of society.”

Brendan O’Neill contrarily worries himself about poor people getting insulted by oiks in times of “austerity”: “Mocking toffs is fast becoming the bloodsport of choice among Left-leaning politicians and influential commentators.”

It is predictable and tedious. But what is to be done? Don’t feed them is the obvious response.

The more fuel you give to the trolls the more money they make from newspaper columns and TV appearances where they spout the same, intentionally ridiculous shite they first shared in a well-placed Tweet.A troll

These trolls crawl out of their beds each morning, fleetingly glance at what’s going on in the world, then settle in front of their computers, sneering, giggling, to write formulaic, join-the-dots articles stating an intentionally controversial opinion. The opinions aren’t necessarily held by them but will promote a news site, ensure readers to their column, bring a pat on the back from an editor who thinks its writers being ridiculed by readers is an achievement.

A lack of principle and no journalism ethics means they’ll produce right-wing shite for The Sun and less right-wing shite for The Guardian so long as the money goes in the bank.

These trolls,of course, exist alongside the lesser “celebrity” hacks but together they create a predominantly white, middle class, myopic clique of London-based writers who condemn, judge and make a mockery of our lives and our journalism.

It’s a nasty trend that sees columnists paid to share their ill-informed views – sometimes with intent to cause offense –  while investigative journalism falls by the wayside and real journalists struggle to find freelance or staff jobs.

It’s all just another knife in the back of British journalism. Don’t feed the trolls.