Wednesday, 25 July 2007

How do you get your news?

Originally people got news via the radio, broadsheet newspapers and occasionally via the cinema screen. This was perfectly fine for many years. However, with the increased use of technology people seek (or should seek) other sources to get a high standard of news.

If you stick with one source, such as the newspaper, it might give you plenty of information, but your views could become biased as you're only getting one angle on events. Also, newspapers have to cater for the majority because if they do that then they are more likely to get a high number of sales. What if the majority like to read about something that you're not interested in - or vice-versa?

Sometimes, the audience is not the only factor in deciding what news is released. It is an unfortunate fact of life the some media sources are heavily influenced by big businesses. For instance, a big business who owns a news network might not want a crisis relating to them broadcast 24/7. There could also be the threat of sponsorship withdrawal. Some news sources could be heavily dependent on sponsors to keep them running. What would happen if a news item put a sponsor in a bad light? The deal could be cancelled and then that news source could cease to exist.

I am a big advocate of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and RSS aggregators. It allows me to get news from several online sources without having to go through each individual website. I can get text-based news, download podcasts and video news and also go straight to the webpage of a particular news item if needed. I can also choose which type of news I receive. If e.g. I don't want to read about Big Brother, then I don't subscribe to any news feeds which would give me that information.

In the morning, I listen to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. I also occasionally watch both local and national news on TV. Yes, most of the TV and radio is BBC, but I still have the variety of RSS-based news sources to keep things more balanced.

Earlier I briefly mentioned podcasts. I think these can be hugely important. Like RSS, it allows you to get news whenever you want and pick the types of news you get. I get a large amount of tech news via this method, but you could get stuff about sport or politics.

Online media means a huge growth in 'user-generated content'. You can get news, commentary and opinions from blogs, wikis and videos. By 'users', I meant the people who would normally receive the content, for instance me. There has been some criticism of this as these people don't necessarily have professional journalism experience. However, just because people don't have that experience doesn't mean they can't do research and backup their content with facts. When I comment on current affairs in this blog I always make sure I use multiple references and use quotations relevant to what I'm talking about. The theory is that this will give my opinions more of a weighting.

I can see a day where there are no newspapers. I could quite easily stop using the likes of TV and radio now and just use the internet for my news. I could go to websites and watched news over a webstream, continue to use RSS and continue to get podcasts and download videos. I'd save money because I wouldn't be subscribing to a newspaper. I wouldn't have to waste time waiting for an item to be discussed on the TV news - I could get information about that item immediately by going online.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: News, Online Media, Newspapers, TV, Radio, Information

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The life of an unemployed man

I had been the Vice-President (Academic Representation) at Hull University Union for a year, had got settled and really enjoyed it. The job was one of the best experiences of my life. However, at midday on June 29th 2007, I became an unemployed man.

It was strange because for a while, the feeling of being unemployed didn't really hit me. However, it's now Thursday and I haven't been to work for a few days. I've been able to do a few things that I wouldn't normally have the time for because of the hours dedicated to my job. I don't feel as physically drained at the end of the day now and believe me, that's a good feeling. When I was working, I frequently fell asleep on the bus going home at the end of the day because I felt so tired.

The thing is, despite all the stress and tiredness, I would happily do the job for another year. Being a sabbatical officer at a student union has given me so many opportunities and experiences and I've met many great people. Many people who I know feel that I've done a great job as well (always great to hear that), which would've been something I'd have liked to build upon.

Oh well, another year is something that will not happen - so what's next for me?

People have asked if I'm going for a postgraduate degree. Well, I'm not. If I was more certain about which sector I'm going into, I might have considered postgraduate study because my education would then be more tailored to a particular role. However, I'm thinking about careers in computing or admin/management roles in higher of further education. Those two areas are both big and different. Something as specific as postgraduate study wouldn't suit that in my opinion.

I know a guy called John Franks who has had many years of experience in careers advice. He suggested looking for a job where I am able to figure out why computing graduates are not going into computing jobs and then figuring out a solution for this. It's an interesting idea and something that will allow me to be in both the computing and education sectors at the same time.

Another suggestion was to work for the University of Hull's Computer Services. Again, this may be something that allows me to be in both sectors. It's definitely something I won't be ruling out, but there are many different aspects to Computer Services, so I would be looking at job descriptions carefully.

I'm not just looking at jobs in the University of Hull though. Doing that will give me a smaller range of options and that will ultimately reduce my chances of getting a job. I have looked at other universities and places that aren't universities. The one major limitation is that that I can't drive - so if it is a job outside Hull it will have to be somewhere easily commutable by train. Either that or I get a great starting wage at some place which allows me to relocate (unlikely at this stage in my career though). Once I am able to drive, this will greatly increase my chances of getting jobs in the future.

So, how am I looking for jobs? In the past, people used to look in places like the Job Centre and the newspaper. The newspaper is something that I will be using, but I will also be looking towards recruitment agencies like Hays and using job websites like Monster, and the pages on DirectGov.

I have applied for some jobs already. Two were in administration, one was in quality and standards and one in international student recruitment. All four were university jobs and all four were unsuccessful. The money was good and my CV was a good fit in most cases. I think the big thing that lets me down is experience. Now I'm unemployed I think I'll do more frequent job applications for different levels of pay. The only thing about pay is that I want something more than what I got in my last job (it was unsurprisingly low as it was an honorarium).

One of the things that I became interested in when I was a sabbatical officer is governance. One day I would like to become a governor in a college or school and/or a charity trustee. However, I want to secure a full-time job first so I know how many hours I could give to something like that.

If any readers of this blog have been unemployed at any point, I'd be interested in knowing your experiences and how you went looking for jobs.

Technorati tags: Employment

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The Blair Effect

The year was 1997 - Tony Blair had just won a historic general election and become Prime Minister. There were crowds of people cheering as he went down Downing Street. The following are extracts from his victory speech on May 2nd of that year:
"And this new Labour government will govern in the interests of all our people — the whole of this nation. That I can promise you. When I became leader of the Labour party some three years ago I set a series of objectives. By and large I believe we have achieved them. Today we have set objectives for new Labour Government - a world class education system. Education is not the privilege of the few but the right of the many.

A new Labour Government that remembers that it was a previous Labour Government that formed and fashioned the welfare state and the National Health Service. It was our proudest creation. It shall be our job and our duty now to modernize it for a modern world, and that we will also do."
"And it will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country. That cleans it up, that decentralizes it, that gives people hope once again that politics is and always should be about the service of the public. And it shall be a government, too, that gives this country strength and confidence in leadership both at home and abroad, particularly in respect of Europe."
There were plenty of promises and 10 years of leadership should be time for those promises to be delivered. The list of achievements below is taken from the Keeping the Faith website, which is dedicated to supporting Tony Blair (or was):
  • Britain now has the lowest inflation for thirty years and the lowest mortgage rates for forty years - saving homeowners an average of £3,700 a year compared to the Tory years. We have the longest period of sustained growth for 200 years.
  • The number of people in work is at a record level, up by over 2 million since 1997.
  • Over 1.5 million working people are better off thanks to the National Minimum Wage.
  • Hospital waiting lists in England are at their lowest since 1987.
  • In the NHS there are 19,300 more doctors and over 77,500 more nurses working with modern equipment, giving faster access to more people, all free at the point of need.
  • Standards are up across the board including the best ever primary school results. More teachers are in our schools than at any point in last 20 years - 28,500 more than in 1997.
  • Police numbers are at record levels - up over 12,500 since 1997, and are assisted by over 4,000 new Community Support Officers.
Seven achievments in 10 years. Wow - that's impressive (you might note a tiny bit of sarcasm there).

Let's think about the point about employment 2 million more people in work is absolutely brilliant. Well, it is brilliant until you find out that Britain is capable of increasing it's population by 1,420,306 in four years. That 'achievement' assumes that the population is static for 10 years.

Another interesting thing is that 'full employment' is frequently mentioned in New Labour propaganda (for instance, Gordon Brown mentioned it in this speech back in 2005). Full employment is - and always has been - impossible. There's always going to be a certain amount of people who spend a few days or week 'between jobs'. This could be due to resignations, redundancies and all sorts of other things.

The point about the NHS is interesting. It mentions how many doctors and nurses that have been recruited since 1997 (a combined total of 96,800), but it doesn't mention how many doctors and nurses have left since '97. According to this article, 20000 nurses have left the NHS (not sure whether this is since '97 or later than that), in 2006 3000 nurses went to work in Australia and there'll be a nursing shortfall of 14000 by 2010. That makes the recruitment figures less than impressive as it means there could either be a smaller overall gain or even a loss.

After Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Patricia Hewitt lost her job as Health Secretary:
"She was widely expected to lose her post after increasing pressure over NHS deficits and doctor training schemes."
That doesn't sound particularly good, does it? This article states that a study reveals that only 34% of the country believe that the Labour government had made the NHS better (this study was done by the British Medical Association, so it's a reputable source). Is that good? I don't think so. It's also interesting to note that the 2005 general election exit poll showed 37% of the vote was Labour (although this is made slightly less relevant by the fact that the turnout was 61.3%). That might account for some of the percentage at least.

Now for education. This was one of the things Blair and the New Labour regime focused on the most (at least initially). As well as the point in that achievements list, they often mention the City Academies, the 50% target for Higher Education and lifelong learning.

On the subject of Academies, this is how they're defined:
"Academies are all ability schools established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working in highly innovative partnerships with central Government and local education partners. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) meet the capital and running cost for the Academy in full."
Tony Blair has said that parents back the scheme and Gordon Brown intends to continue with the plans under his regime, but people such as Estelle Morris (former Education Secretary and now a university Pro-Vice Chancellor) has her reservations. The academies scheme has also been criticised by the Education and Skills Select Committee and the Liberal Democrats.

The 50% target for universities is ridiculous. What about people who don't want to go down the academic route and want a more vocational style of education? What about the people who don't need that level of education for the job that they want to do? If the cap is to be taken off fees, then less people will be able to afford that level of education - which means the target will never be reached. For those who get to uni, it will mean that they'll have to take on even more part-time work, which will increase their stress levels and affect their academic performance. Sure, I think unis needed more money to improve resources for the increasing numbers, but I don't think the cap should be removed.

Lifelong learning has been a success. More and more mature students are coming to universities now to seek a higher level of education for a variety of reasons. However, if the cap were to be lifted - what would happen to them? A lot of mature students have extra responsibilities such as children and a lot of their money goes towards caring for them. How could lifting the cap make it easier for them to get into HE?

I won't cover this much more though, as I have an educational blog to go into more detail about this. I won't go into detail about the 'war on terror' either - as I have made it clear in a previous post on this blog that I strongly oppose it.

Lets not forget that Blair and Labour have done some good things during the past 10 years. They helped to secure the 2012 Olympic Games me out here!

Now we hear that Blair has become a Middle East Peace Envoy. I'm not quite sure why anyone could see him being effective in that role. Alongside George Bush, he went to war in Iraq and has stood alongside Bush in his opposition to any nuclear weapons programme in Iran (as I stated in a previous blog post, they have no proof of that programme yet).

There are plenty of other things I could comment on, such as the failing immigration system, the failed ASBO system, The New Deal or the fact the for years we have had a Deputy Prime Minister (John Prescott) who has done very little apart from go on junkets, have scandalous affairs and speak completely incoherently, but I won't as I'd be here forever.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Government, War, Healthcare, Education, Democracy, Tony Blair