Independent Judgement. I will miss you greatly

February 15, 2016

Obituary for a dear friend

Indy Paris RotatedThere was an inevitability about the passing of the print version of The Independent. I will miss a quirky friend who made morning coffee the more enjoyable for several decades.

My not particularly guilty secret. I became addicted to the print version of the Independent for a bundle of reasons. Now I have a tough decision. What will take its place in my affections?

But that decision is for the future. Now is time to recall the best of friends, brilliant, contrarian, instinctively liberal.

The Indy was not always reliable. It could never be guaranteed to turn up as regularly as I could have liked. In the three Newsagents closest to me, one always ordered a reasonable supply. One gave up stocking the paper a few years ago, and the third resolutely refused to double its numbers of copies, meaning that at times I was thwarted by someone else with a minority taste in the news they preferred, and the way in which it was presented.

A cause a day

Then there was a period a few years ago when every day was time for a new cause waged against a national or global injustice, until I felt slightly desensitized in my enthusiasm for for the ‘Cause of the day’.

Looking back

The Indy was born as a reaction against the last big disruption to the print media.

In the UK. Rupert Murdoch was successfully breaking the hold of the old print Unions. A handful of journalists opposing the Murdoch dominance formed The Independent.

The project was always fighting the economics of a declining market recognized so shrewdly by Murdoch whose Empire had the financial muscle to run promotional campaigns that further weakened its competitors. The Independent would have gone under far earlier if it had not been bought in 2010 for nonfinancial reasons for £1 by Evgeny Lebedev who has bankrolled it since to the tune of £60m

Its innovations included messy changes to a tabloid size, and occasional excessive exuberance in design ideas that never quite lined up with user appeal.

Now creative destruction will hit a fair number of the staff, even some among a talented bunch of journalists.

Chess

One of the reasons I stuck with the full rather than the little Independent.

The chess column shows tireless interest in the game by Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman. Maybe the e-paper will give him a nice new platform for his daily offering.

Obituaries

Its obituaries by Meic Stephens gave me a link with my school days. Thanks to Meic I was not even the best poet in the village. Don’t know if he will get a chance to write an obituary or a poem in memory of the print Indy.

Not just a Viewspaper…

Viewpaper accusations by Tony Blair were taken on board unashamedly, as the Independent ironically admitted the importance of opinion pieces. Mr Tony was uncomfortable about the paper’s uncompromising stance over Iraq, and several other of his policy decisions.

Great journalism

I’m among the readers who dote on Mark Steel’s brand of satirical commentaries., Robert Fisk’s foreign affairs polemics, and Rupert Cornwall’s effortless demonstrations of his deep insights into politics to match those of his step brother David, aka John le Carre.

What next?

Do I seek out a new morning partner to gaze at over my coffee? These are early days after a heart wrenching loss.

 

 


It depends what you mean by Independent: what you vote for and what you may get

September 16, 2014

I believeThe six words on the voting slip ask the ‘simple’ question: Should Scotland be an Independent Country? But independence is more a state of mind than a constitutional matter

The map is not the territory

When my local store sells me a copy of The Independent, its electronic screen says I have been sold an Independant. Experience, tells me I have not been sold the wrong product. Or, to use a term from the social sciences, the map is not the territory.

The independence being voted for or against is a concept constructed in the mind of each individual cross-maker. It will turn out to be the concept acted out in the future not just by cross-makers but a wider group of consequential cross-carriers.

I offer a few thoughts from the sidelines and beyond the geographic borders of Scotland.

How to become independent

Believe. Believe you have removed the ties that bind you to a state of dependency. Believe you will be independent fiscally, even if you have restrictions imposed by currency power brokers in London, Frankfurt and New York. Believe you will be independent militarily because you will not share military resources with England or America, who will not seek some compensation for the collateral damage produced through logistic disruption of their nuclear forces. Believe in the revenues accruing from oil both discovered and waiting to be discovered. And that the revenues will be directed through the wisdom of politicians to address the longer term well-being of an aging population.

But above all

But above all, believe you, the individual voter, will be liberated. You will be able to say truthfully ‘I am no longer under the control of a malign or at best uncaring foreign power. I am free and independent.’

And maybe the dream will come true.


Leadership Development: Try Harder, Want it More

July 22, 2008

Leadership courses are full of life-enhancing bits of advice. Do they work in theory? More to the point, do the courses work in practice?

The other week I came across a news article about leadership. It took a very cynical view of leadership development experiences. It was also very funny. I showed it to someone. After she stopped laughing, she went off to the photocopier with the newspaper to share a little humour with her friends. That’s how word of mouth marketing used to work.

Now, so help me, I am doing the same, assisting the virus to spread electronically.

Later

The article appeared in The Independent, [May 6th 2008] and was written by commentator Gary Mckeone. Gary had sought refuge as a journalist, after escaping from the Arts Council. As you do.

He writes from a deeply wounding personal development experience. His words make compelling reading:

…. take the leadership training course, there to make us all masters of the public sector universe. We’re gathered in a field at 8.30 one morning, with bamboo canes, a rubber band, a pencil, some string and a hard-boiled egg. Our mission – to construct a device that will propel said egg as far as possible across the field. Genius. From just such challenges are leaders forged. In the distance cud-chewing cows stare across a hedge at us. They’re laughing.

The jargon is, of course, endemic; the elephant in the room, to helicopter (apparently something to do with seeing the bigger picture) and the endless diagrams, all circles and arrows, the little yellow post-its we stick on the wall with our individual, life-changing “promise” indicating how we will be better managers: “I will talk more strategically to my staff”, “I will value the opinions of others”, “I will trust others to trust me to trust them”, “I will throw myself out of a helicopter”, “I want to be a cow”.
Enforced light relief only increases the horror. This usually happens on the last night, when a glimmer of escape fuels the frivolity. At breakfast we’re given the instruction in that “let’s-all-have-some-fun-in-a-strategic-kind-of-way” voice. We’re going to form teams, rehearse a performance piece based on what we’ve learned on our course and, after supper, we’ll perform the pieces for each other in the Rest & Reflect Room. Dear God.

Think of a never-ending nursery-school play minus the innocence. Here come five senior managers pretending to be helicopters, blades whirring, all chug-chug noises and formation flying, eyes ablaze with earnestness; they’ve gone over to the other side leaving behind any semblance of the real world; they are now leaders, their faces shining with the ardour of the convert. Their piece is a dramatization of a policy document called “Diversity and Inclusion: A Paradigm for Progress.” All irony is suspended.
We applaud vigorously; we cheer; we have to. The only way through this agony is to subscribe to the illusion. We’re all in this together. I won’t tell if you won’t. Sure wasn’t it fun? Damn the expense, we’re worth it.

Calling all leadership development trainers/gurus

There are some of us who believe that leadership develpment courses do make a difference.

Are we going to let Gary get away with this sort of stuff? One way forward is to borrow his story for your courses, on the technical grounds of prolepsis (anticipating someone’s argument to turn it to your advantage). ‘This not one of those unreflective and cringe-making courses’, you might say.

Out of the mouths of babes ..

In some contrast to the cathartic writing of Gary Mckeone, take a look at the work of someone identified only as Syd (aged 13) His inspired image seemed so apt. I couldn’t find such a nice picture involving five managers playing at being a helicopter squadron).

I stumbled upon Syd on the girlshorseclub site while browsing for images for an earlier post about intelligent horsemanship.

As young Syd (aged 13) put it:

Change is hard. Change is good. But it’s time for me and all you other riders experiencing the same thing to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time for us to buck up and try harder.

Well done, Syd lad. At the tender age of thirteen, you have already acquired leadership wisdom, and you write clearly.

You share this month’s water-cooler moment award with Gary. Would you like to become a journalist?

Or perhaps a leadership development guru?

Or maybe put your name down for an action research PhD in business studies? There’s a nice one which is the brainchild of Laurie Taylor, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Poppleton, laurie.taylor@poppleton.ac.uk. For more information contact Dr Mary Taylor OBE, Centre for Academic Development, University of Poppleton, mary.taylor@poppleton.ac.uk.