Watch this space: “remap” to become new HR buzzword

How the BBC would like you to see how it imagines its new bright young things. 

I read about this concept first in Private Eye (No 1450) but the only online mention I could find is this post on Bill Rogers’s blog. Private Eye has a long history of picking up what it calls “Birtspeak” phrases used by BBC management, but this was a new one on me. The idea of “remapping” BBC journalists was announced in an email to local radio staff from Chris Burns, head of Audio and Digital, BBC England.

“In our new structure we plan that all existing Senior News Editors will be remapped to the role of Executive Editor from the Content Job Family … We have also looked at the roles and responsibilities of the rest of the management team  and are planning the following:
Assistant Editors to be remapped to the Content Job Family and become Executive Producers;
Every station will also have a Senior Journalist Team manager;
Our plan is to remap the Senior Journalists, Community to the Content Job Family.”

I predict a great future for the concept of remapping people, before it joins “talent acquisition”, “creative pool” and “onboarding” on a list of HR Buzzwords you really need to ditch.


How to paste up your own artwork: 1980s style

Pic: Hackney Radical History

A year or two ago I decided to donate a number of files relating to Hackney People’s Press which had been sitting in my attic to the London Borough of Hackney’s archives. I’m now helping the good people who work there to identify subjects and provide key words for the photograph files. This is a precursor to annotating all the copies which are held in the archives, and making them available to the general public.

I’ve also recorded an interview for Hackney Archive’s oral history section, which will be published in due course. While doing this, I was asked about the production process and specifically about pasting up artwork. Later, I went looking online for information about how this was done and couldn’t find anything very useful. However, I knew that I had written something about the subject in my book, Editing, Design and Book Production, which was published by Journeyman in 1993. I had written the first draft of this part of the text some five or six years earlier so pasting up artwork had become almost an anachronism by the time the book was published.

I pulled a copy of the book down from the shelf, and read through the text. I thought about scanning the relevant pages and posting it as a PDF. But I recalled that Journeyman had once sent me the finished QuarkXPress files, and that I had them in an old archive on one of my back up external hard drives. They weren’t too hard to locate, but my InDesign CS4 software wouldn’t open them. So, no expense spared, I sent the file with the relevant chapters over to Markzware in Holland. A small sum of money changed hands and the very helpful David Dilling sent back an InDesign file an hour later.

You can see a converted spread from the book above. And I was able to import the text on paste up into a new post for the blog. It’s unchanged from the published text, so please follow all current health’n’safety guidelines.

Doing your own artwork: a 1980s guide

If you decide to paste up your own artwork you will find it a lot easier with a small amount of specialist equipment, which you can find in any graphic or artist’s supplies shops. What people find most useful varies from person to person, but what I use is the following:

• Scalpel blades and blade holder. Swann-Morton 10a blades are the most useful shape. They fit into a No. 3 holder.
• Steel straightedge or ruler. It is worth buying a metal typescale which you can then use both for cutting against and for measuring type.
• Clear plastic ruler embossed with a parallel line grid. An 18 inch or 24 inch ruler is useful, since you may need to draw accurate lines longer than 12 inch.
• Suitable adhesive. The aerosol Spraymount is often used, but can be rather messy and is dangerous to health if your workplace is not well ventilated. Professional studios use hot wax, but the cheapest hand-held dispensers cost over £50. Cow Gum (a rubber solution, not made from cows!) is often regarded as old fashioned, but I find it the simplest substance to use, especially if it is applied from a tin, not a tube, with a thin metal artist’s palette knife rather than the plastic tool made by the manufacturer.
• Metal palette knife.
• Large set square. Either 45 or 60 degrees will do.
• Light-blue pencil. For drawing lines on artwork which will not show up when it is photographed by the printer. Do not go to the expense of buying special ‘non-reproducing’ pencils – any light-blue crayon will suffice.
• Very fine steel-tipped black pen, with a 0.1 or 0.2 mm point. There are plenty of inexpensive pens on the market which are just as good for occasional work as specialist refillable drawing pens. These are expensive, usually messy to fill and tiresome to keep‭ clean.‬
• White-out fluid. Preferably a new bottle with a nice fine brush!

With these tools, a decent flat table, some plain white heavy card and scrap paper, you should be able to manage any paste-up. A specialist self-healing cutting mat is not essential but is quite useful, since it can be used as a base on which to work on your table.

Designers usually use a drawing board with a parallel motion in order to produce accurate squared-up artwork. You do not need to obtain such an expensive piece of equipment if you are only going to do small amounts of work, but you might want to consider it.

How to Paste Up
The most important thing about paste-up is to get everything straight and squared up. In order to ensure accuracy, professional designers will often get accurate grids preprinted in pale blue for them to paste onto. You might like to consider this if you have a large book to do. Alternatively you can purchase preprinted grids in standard formats such as A4 and A5 from some designers and printers. If you are going to use a standard grid, plan your design around it.

For a short book or pamphlet it will probably be sufficient to draw up your own grids in light-blue pencil on plain white card. You can also paste up onto heavy tracing paper (available in art shops) so you can draw up grids more quickly by tracing them off a master copy. The edge of the page should be signified by corner marks drawn in fine black pen.

Your paste-up can be done as spreads to appear the way they will appear in the final book or pamphlet – in other words, with p.2 facing p.3, and so on. The printers will make them up to the correct ‘imposition’ to fit their printing and binding machinery.

The typematter which you are going to paste up will probably be in galley form. Before beginning the paste-up of each spread, cut out the typematter for each page from the galley with a scalpel and steel rule, leaving a small margin (about 3 to 5mm) around the edges. Any other elements for the spread which have been set or supplied separately, such as headlines, chapter headings, subheadings, illustrations or figurative matter, should also be cut out.

Place all the matter down ‘dry’ on the grid, to check everything fits and then begin the paste-up from the top of the page. Place each piece to be pasted in turn upside down onto scrap paper and ensure the adhesive is spread evenly in a thin film up to each edge. Pick up the pasted piece carefully with the spreader and place it onto the grid in the correct position. Adhesives such as Cow Gum, Spraymount or wax do not solidify immediately, so the piece can be moved around for about 30 seconds, which gives you time to check whether it is positioned and squared up correctly with a ruler with a parallel line grid or a set square. When the piece is accurately positioned, place a piece of plain white paper over it and gently press it down to the surface.

If you make a mistake, don’t worry. You can lift pieces off the surface for up to about 10 minutes by prising them gently away with a palette knife. After this time, you may need to soften the adhesive by flooding the area with some petrol lighter fuel, which is sold for this purpose in art supply shops. Don’t smoke while doing this!

When you have finished each grid, clean up any marks either with a little lighter fuel on a tissue or with a little ball of solidified Cow Gum, which pulls any surplus gum off the surface. Use white-out fluid to cover anything that won’t clean off in this way.

This description of paste-up is rather brief. Once you have tried it, you will find that it is largely a mixture of practice and confidence – plus the ability to see whether what you have done looks both straight and squared up.

© Charles Foster, 1993 and 2021. May be copied under a Creative Commons licence but please acknowledge source. 

It was sixty years ago today

Pic: Tony Booth/

Sixty years ago this week The Beatles played a series of shows in Liverpool after several months away in Hamburg. The 27 December 1960 performance at Litherland Town Hall was a breakthrough – with over 1500 tickets sold – and cemented their name as Liverpool’s top live draw.

Just as sensational as the performance is this wonderful hand-drawn poster for the gig. The exuberant lettering for this and many other of their Liverpool concerts was done by a very talented signwriter, Tony Booth. The one above has been recreated from the original posters he did at the time for Brian Epstein. Booth’s story was told in a 2016 documentary for local BBC TV, which unfortunately I haven’t seen in full. It is previewed in this clip for BBC News, where you get a glimpse of Booth at work. Sadly, he died less than a year later, as this further clip tells us. His work lives on at this website, where you can buy the modern reproductions.

Tony Booth was just one of the many hundreds of poster artists (or poster writers, as they seem to have sometimes been called) who plied their trade in the first four-fifths of the twentieth century. Cinemas and department stores were major users of their work, but because of its nature very few examples seem to have survived. I would love to find out more about how these skilled tradesmen were trained and where they worked.

The Searchers of course had a number of national hits, but among the other support bands for The Beatles at Litherland Town Hall were The Deltones. It’s not clear whether this was the same Deltones as the band from Croydon which had Jeff Beck in their line-up although, according to this page, they had also played in Hamburg. The name seemed popular enough at about this time – there was another group called The Deltones in the US and a band called the Delltones in Australia. And of course later in the 1980s there was a British ska/reggae group with the same name. The other support act, The Delrenas (sometimes called The Del Renas) were another popular Merseybeat band, and some of their members had also played in Hamburg. It was obviously a popular career move at the time.


Got the memo

This bunch of ten fallow deer bucks in the Phoenix Park have got the memo: the rutting season is over, and it’s time for the male herd to regroup. Most days last week I spotted a few males in groups of two or three heading towards Acres Road, on the far side of which are the sports fields where the boys hang out for most of the year. Above is pictured the largest group I saw, ten in all. It was getting dark and they were quite a long way away so the picture quality is not too good.

In other deer-related news, the authorities are being more pro-active in trying to stop people getting selfies of themselves with the deer. The government’s Office of Public Works has taken up social media. It has posted a number of videos on Facebook and also now has an Instagram page, which it is trying to promote with a hashtag, #staysafedontselfie

A recent incident, witnessed by Dublin photographer Michael Keating shows how dangerous the deer can be. He told Dublin Live: “The poor family were panic stricken. They got too close to the deer however, and should not have been feeding them.” The man had been handing out carrots when an aggressive buck approached. His wife can be seen quickly bundling the two children away.

Pic: Michael Keating

Let’s be careful out there.

Joe Biden: my part in his victory

I’ve written before about how I got on Joe Biden’s email list, by signing up ten or more years ago for a personalised Christmas greeting from President Obama. Biden started his campaign a year and a half ago on Saturday, 23 April 2019, and the floodgates opened. By Election Day, Tuesday 3 November 2020, 556 days later, I had received 1641 emails from his people.

Despite the fact that I’ve never donated a single cent to the cause (which as a non-US resident would of course be contrary to election funding rules) the campaign has throughout treated me as though I am a fervent supporter. So I have been told many times how grateful Joe was for me “showing up right now” and “having his back”. Indeed, I was the “true heartbeat” of his campaign, and various writers at various times were “in awe” of me.

However, despite my exalted position, the computer fundraising program found it difficult to place me geographically. I had given my zip code as “00”, and so at first I would get emails saying that I was one of the best supporters in the 00 district. Later this became a generic “your state” so as each fundraising deadline approached I would be told that a certain amount was still needed. This would vary from email to email, which led to some inconsistency. For instance, at 22.58 on 30 October Kamala Harris was looking for $25 to meet the shortfall in my state of $67,391:

Three hours and six minutes later, at 02.04 on 31 October, Joe himself wanted my first donation to raise another $168,478 in my state before the midnight deadline.

Over the months, I’ve got used to unlikely names popping up in my inbox. Here’s one from Carole King:

Yes, the same person who had written Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? – at the age of 18! – wanted me to support Joe. How could I refuse?

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Joe. In the first few weeks of the primary season, he looked old and tired and was a long way off the pace. He got a boost when a leading black Congressman, Jim Clyburn, supported him in South Carolina, and then somehow he swept most of the states on offer on Super Tuesday on 3 March. As the pandemic took hold everyone else dropped out and, with one bound, Joe was out of the telephone box and into the lead.

A thousand or so emails later, he’s made it. I confess that I spent two or three days madly refreshing the live count pages in both Georgia and Pennsylvania, Whatsapping friends and relations as Biden went into the lead in both states. And I stayed up to watch his declaration speech in Wilmington, which was a lot better than I expected it to be.

At the moment it looks as though Trump is determined to tough out the transition period. But he will have to face reality when the Electoral College makes its declaration, which is scheduled for “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December”, i.e. 14 December. And the four year nightmare won’t be over until 12 noon on inauguration day, 20 January 2021. When it comes to Donald Trump, I don’t think the world will be singing Carole King’s first ever hit:
What shall I write
What can I say
How can I tell you how much I miss you?

[It Might As Well Rain Until September, 1962]


As a footnote, it’s worth pointing out that in all these thousands of emails the Biden and the wider Democratic campaign generally used language that was at least respectful. (“When they go low, we stay high”, as Michelle Obama is supposed to have said.) This can hardly be said of the opposition.

When Trump himself contracted “the Covid”, the official Democratic campaign announced that they would pause negative ads, at least for the duration. Barack Obama tweeted that he and Michelle Obama extended their best wishes, and were “hopeful that they and others who have been affected by COVID-19 around the country are getting the care that they need, that they are going to be on the path to a speedy recovery.”

At almost the same time, this email was sent to Republican supporters by the Trump/Pence campaign:

Thank God they’re on their way out.

The perfect tan corduroy suit

Pic: BAMF Style

An article about Bob Woodward’s recent book about Donald Trump prompted me to search for references to Robert Redford’s portrayal of him in the 1976 film adaptation of All the President’s Men. In particular I was looking for something about the outfit most desired by any young man aspiring to be a hotshot investigative journalist, the tan corduroy suit which Redford wears for much of the film, seen in the screenshot above.

And what should I find but a great website devoted to men’s fashion as seen on film and TV, BAMF Style, run by a Californian (of course) guy called Nick. His piece on the outfits worn by Redford is simply wonderful.

There’s more than enough detail on all the outfits worn by Redford:

“Although he occasionally wears other sport jackets or odd trousers, Bob Woodward’s workhorse suit in All the President’s Men is a light brown pinwale-corded cotton suit. Pinwale, also known as “pincord” or “needlecord” is on the finer end of the corduroy spectrum with a count of approximately 16 wales per inch (as opposed to 11 wales per inch in standard corduroy), with wales referring to the tufted cords that give the fabric its name.
Compared to heavier, warmer-wearing wide-waled corduroy, Woodward’s finer pinwale corduroy suit is a wiser choice for the hot, humid summers of Washington, D.C. Lighter-wearing fabrics like linen or non-corded asset may have been more comfortable, but the durability of corduroy would be a strong asset for a tireless reporter constantly on the move; if Woodward had to wear corduroy, he made the right choice.
The single-breasted, 3/2-roll suit jacket has wide notch lapels consistent with the era’s fashion trends. The three front buttons and the two spaced buttons on each cuff are brown woven leather. Woodward’s jacket also has a welted breast pocket, flapped patch pockets on the hips, and a long single back vent.”

There’s also lots of information about his shirts and ties. This of course is my favourite:
“… a light blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt and a wide-bladed navy necktie with a field of blue teardrop-shaped patterns that create the effect of a repeating zig-zag pattern.”

I confess that I bought a tan corduroy suit in the late 70s, and wore it quite a lot, including to my sister’s wedding. I know I never reached the level of coolness exhibited by Redford – but at least I tried.

There’s lots more to see on Nick’s site. Check it out here.

Worst Debate Ever

I sat through the whole of the first Presidential Trump-Biden debate last night wondering why in hell I was doing it. Only the most masochistic political junkie would inflict such a thing on themselves, I concluded.

I think Jonathan Allen of NBC News has nailed the reason why it was so appalling: Trump may be the only person in the USA who is afraid of Democrat Joe Biden. Allen went on:

“Before their debate Tuesday night, he and his allies demanded that Biden submit to a drug test and let officials check the former vice president for an earpiece.
During the action, Trump absurdly accused Biden of wanting to abolish the suburbs, the cops and “the cows;” declined to denounce white supremacists; and insisted that the election is going to be rigged against him.
And after Trump aggressively failed to demonstrate presidential temperament — blustering, bullying and lying his way through the debate — his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, praised him for being in “control of the conversation.”
Trump’s words and actions are those of a candidate who knows he is losing and has no idea how to fix the problem.
The irony is that Biden was deeply vulnerable: after decades of experience at the highest levels, he’s still not a strong debater. He was noticeably apprehensive; he lacked the motivation and speed to brawl on stage; and he still didn’t have good answers for a host of questions about his record and platform.
But Trump couldn’t or wouldn’t stay focused on Biden’s actual positions. Instead, he ran against a dark caricature of the former vice president while the real version was standing right there smiling.”

I was tuned to the BBC coverage. Just after it finished, presenter Mike Embley called up Washington correspondent Katty Kay who, it can only be said, looked almost shell-shocked by what she had witnessed.  Her initial assessment, which I liked so much I paused the feed and went looking for a pen and paper, was: “It sounded you were being yelled at by all the men you’ve ever had an argument with.”

Three old white men shouting at each other. Hardly representative of the American people. It sets the bar very low for when Kamala Harris steps up for the VP debate next week. I’m sure she will nail it.

No time for both sides: journalists must take a stand


Pic: Unsplash

A click on one of Jason Kottke’s Quick Links took me first to this excoriating piece in The Atlantic, where James Fallows lays into the media coverage of Trump’s re-election campaign. It starts:

We’re seeing a huge error, and a potential tragedy, unfold in real time.
That’s a sentence that could apply to countless aspects of economic, medical, governmental, and environmental life at the moment. What I have in mind, though, is the almost unbelievable failure of much of the press to respond to the realities of the Trump age.
Many of our most influential editors and reporters are acting as if the rules that prevailed under previous American presidents are still in effect. But this president is different; the rules are different; and if it doesn’t adapt, fast, the press will stand as yet another institution that failed in a moment of crucial pressure.

Fallows is very critical of what he calls “both-sides-ism”, which he defines as most journalists’ discomfort with seeming to “take a side” in political disputes, and the contortions that result. Reporters are, he says, most at ease when they can quote first one side and then the other, seeming to be neutral between the two—or when they present a charge, and then the response. But this doesn’t work with a President or his representatives who simply lie in public statements dozens of times a day. Therefore, there is no reason to present Trump’s claims on equal footing with other information. Simply put, what he says is probably not true. And yet the instinct is so hard to resist, the impulse to add “some critics say …” is so powerful.

Then Fallows goes on:
We can’t be sure now which is more destructive: a president openly encouraging much of the public to mistrust the democratic process, or that same president openly welcoming foreign interference in the process. Both are steps toward authoritarianism and danger, and awareness of them should shape coverage every single day.

Fallows’s article also had a link to a piece by Dan Froomkin, an experienced journalist who has done 12 years before the mast at the Washington Post, (Stop headlining Trump’s loony disinformation about Covid-19) on a site I’d never seen before, Presswatchers.

Froomkin is unequivocal about the role of the campaigning journalist. His article lams into articles such as this one from AP, which started:
Openly contradicting the government’s top health experts, President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready as early as next month and in mass distribution soon after, undermining the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and calling him “confused” in projecting a longer time frame.

This approach, Froomkin says, takes no account of Trump’s latest obviously delusional fantasy: that every person in America will be able to get a vaccine “very soon”. It was highly reminiscent of his famous still-a-whopper-more-than-six-months-later that “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

Froomkin’s piece ends with a glorious paragraph which should appear in every handbook for the aspiring campaigning journalist for ever more:

I’ve written a lot about Trump’s response to the pandemic, and here is what has been clear all along: It’s an ongoing tragedy that he has no real plan to restore the country to health other than to peddle false hope, predict a quick end, adopt fake deadlines and shift the blame to others. The most urgent need is to test, test, and test even more, but Trump has never liked testing because the results “look bad”. The media has blown its coverage of the federal response by letting political reporters lead instead of health reporters. Political reporters pay way too much attention to whatever Trump says, such that whatever it is makes headlines. They let Trump set the agenda instead of letting knowledgeable people do it. Political reporters also give Trump way too much credit for trying, which he is not. They cover up for his incoherence, ignorance, cluelessness, gaslighting, and yes, just plain stupidity. They generally fail to properly exploit their rare access to him by confronting him with facts and piercing his bubble. They remain complacent in the face of a massive death toll, instead of relentlessly demanding more forceful action.

Great stuff.