Hollywood, we have an editing problem

Still from Fantastic Beasts - Eddie Redmayne

I used to work in magazines and one of the things I loved about writing for them was that you had a fixed word count.

Being told a piece had to be 350 words long forced you to be economical with your writing and avoid padding out the piece.

TV has a similar restriction placed upon it – making a BBC sitcom means each episode has to be between 25-27 minutes.

On Sunday I went to see the new JK Rowling-penned wizarding extravaganza Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

It was thoroughly enjoyable, but for one thing: it ran to 133 minutes.

That’s two-and-a-quarter-hours!
Continue reading Hollywood, we have an editing problem

Why we need charities to cut through ‘sensational’ health stories more than ever

It was a typical Daily Mail health story: Having an egg a day can cut your risk of stroke by 12%.

On the face of it, great. There are 152000 cases of stroke in the UK every year, so if this is true it’s a great weapon in the battle against it.

But, of course, thats not the full story. If you read more closely, you’ll see that the lead scientist admitted that: “research is needed to understand the connection between egg consumption and stroke risk”.

What was worse was that there’s no UK stroke expert included in the article – only someone from the ‘clearly unbiased’ Egg Nutrition Centre.

That’s why I was relieved to see that the Stroke Association were more cautious in their reception of the research. 

Clickbait headlines

Medical reporting is generally fairly suspect in mass-market media. One small-scale piece of research can sometimes be trumpeted as a major cause for celebration or change in diet, when clearly there’s more to it than that. 

It’s why cause-related charities have such a big role to play in how we perceive sensationalist stories.

The claims that strawberries/coffee/red wine/chocolate can prevent cancer/heart disease/dementia (delete as appropriate) have been around for years – most of them with very little substance.

The likes of the BHFAlzheimers ResearchStroke Association and many more have teams of experts used to assessing these sort of stories, many of which are – frankly – hogwash.

These teams provide a level-headed and often cautious response that we’d do well to accept.

By contrast the positive news this week about the early trials of a new Alzheimers drug were welcomed across the board, including by the aforementioned Alzheimers Research. 

Media proliferation needs a counterpoint

In the era before multichannel TV and the internet, the flimsily-researched, sensational story got short shrift.

There was enough news to go round, and clickbait headlines weren’t generally necessary.

In the 21st century, that has understandably changed. A possibly erroneous story printed on one website gets copied and reproduced in countless other areas, this proliferating a false assertion.

So we need voices of trust and authority to sort the wheat from the chaff more than ever before.

And this is just another reason why charities need your support.

Charity vs ethics: you decide

ux-salon-dark-patterns-3-638Ever heard of “dark patterns”? The term was coined – as you can see from the photo above – by Harry Brignull and is used to describe ‘naughty things’ companies do to try and trick you into doing something you don’t necessarily want to.

As companies try ever harder to make money and get more out of people, these dark patterns are becoming ever more common.

So where’s the link to charity, I hear you cry? Well, last night I spotted this tweet:

The crux of the issue is that a £1 discretionary donation was added to the final bill by default, thus making it less likely that it would be removed.

The restaurant concerned – a very good Indian one in Brighton – was very contrite, but rightly pointed out that the £1 charity discretion was clearly advertised and would have been happily removed. Continue reading Charity vs ethics: you decide