Friday, 21 October 2011

Jedward fans dish out the stick!

LAST week was one of the most bizarre in my long association with newspapers.

I’ve long come to the realisation that the celebrity culture dominates the lives of many young people, although being a bit of a dinosaur I can’t quite come to terms with it.

The arrival of singing duo (and I use that description in the loosest sense of the word) Jedward in Lyme Regis left me rather depressed.

We put up all our news stories on our website every week and readers are able to leave their comments.

When we heard that the brothers Jedward were in town I despatched daughter Francesca to track them down and get a photo. She’s no Jedward fan but I thought it would make change from covering boring council meetings.

They immediately clocked her as being a member of Her Majesty’s Press and were less than co-operative in having their picture taken.

Francesca caught up with them later when they were mucking about in the harbour by which time their presence in town was causing quite a stir.

She wrote a humorous piece about how the infamous twins had snubbed her twice - a definite low point in her short journalistic career.

Anyone with a grain of intelligence would have immediately recognised that it was written with tongue placed firmly in cheek and many locals commented on how much they enjoyed the article. The same could not be said of Jedward fans from around the world.

Francesca’s story soon found its way onto Google and suddenly the comments, most of them highly critical and insulting, came flooding in. In short, she took a real kicking, much to the amusement of the rest of the office journos.
It won’t have done her any harm. I’m always instilling into her the need to understand that whatever you write in a local newspaper ends up upsetting someone. This column is testament to that!

To be fair to her, she took it all in good spirit and it will contribute in no small measure to the process of acquiring a thick skin, so essential in journalism.

But we were amazed by the number of comments left on the website and the fact that we received 126,000 hits over the next 48 hours, the most ever. I kid you not!

I suppose this says much for the loyalty of Jedward fans, but it says much more about the times in which we live in that the antics of these two bizarre young men with dubious talent can generate such venom in such numbers.

By contrast, the terrible tragedy at the Cobb in the same week generated just one comment, although many hundreds went onto our website to read the story as it unfolded and before the paper came out.

As I say, it left me feeling rather depressed that today’s celebrity culture dominates so many young lives.

Dealing with The Hub ‘teething problems’

FEELINGS are running very high in Church Street over the rowdy behaviour of some attending the new Hub youth club.

Describing the opening night antics as “teething problems” was probably a bit of an understatement, underlined by the impassioned plea made at a recent council meeting by Maureen Wheeler, who was dining at the Italian restaurant opposite when a few kids were clearly endangering their lives in the street.

This led to a meeting last week between youth leader James Ward-Rice and neighbours. James was surprised to see a reporter present but we are unable to report on what went on because we weren’t invited to the meeting by the protesting neighbours.

The issue has prompted a few letters in this week’s View. One of our correspondents, Geoff Baker, suggests one way of dealing with the misbehaving youngsters which will bring a smile to many faces. “If only...” I can hear them say.

The disturbance caused on the first night is unlikely to be repeated but what is surprising, considering the high profile support The Hub has received to date, is the lack of volunteers, referred to by Hub development group chairman Mark Gage when he apologised in the council chamber for the “teething problems”.

Jubilee plans taking shape

A SECOND public meeting was held last week to progress Lyme’s plans to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next June.

At the invitation of the Mayor, Sally Holman, I’ve agreed to act as co-ordinator for the celebration and a steering committee made up of representatives of local organisations was set up.

Sally and I also paid a visit to Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset, Minnie Churchill and her partner Simon Bird, who have pledged their support and who will be joining in as many of the events as Minnie’s hectic schedule elsewhere in the county will allow.

I’m delighted with the support to date with over 20 local organisations having committed themselves to organising an event or helping out in other ways.

Following the first meeting of the steering committee, a draft programme will be published to which further events can be added as the months progress. We will also be launching our own website to keep people informed of what is happening.

The celebrations will be totally self-financing as we have decided not to go cap in hand to the town council for financial support.

However, for the modest sum of £10, we will be asking people to become patrons so that we will have a small fund to offset expenses. Watch out for further details of this and and other information in the View in the coming weeks.

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