Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseAcross Fleet Street from the Tipperary and up a narrow alley is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I’ve been set up in that pub before now too.

I’m old enough to remember it as a somewhat run-down labyrinth haunted by the last remaining hacks, before Fleet St was repopulated by accountants and bankers.  The Cheese was refurbished.  After that it was a principal hang-out for Goldman Sachs, whose European headquarters stands more or less next door.  Don’t get me wrong: I still liked it.

But my fondest memory of the Cheese is the first time I drank a porter beer: Samuel Smiths’ Taddy Porter, if I recall correctly, though it could easily have been their Imperial Stout. Just a half, mind you, with the Knackered Hackette, near the roaring fire in the quiet snug bar on the right, within sight of Dr Johnson’s favoured seat. We were on our way to see Jane Campion‘s film The Piano.  It must have been 1993 when I was Knight-Ridder‘s much-too-young London bureau chief. It was a dark winter’s evening, and somehow the beer, the pub, the piano, the days of print: everything was a kind of black and white.

Michael Nyman may not please everyone, but I liked the music to that film.  I have been flipping past the CD for the best part of 20 years until 12 months ago, when I started to listen to it again, and with enthusiasm.

Yesterday, courtesy of the independent journalism site Frontline via Twitter, I came across the following short film at the composer’s homepage.  Nyman is offering film-makers free music to accompany their creative efforts as part of a competition being run by Shooting People.  The prize is £750 of video training with Frontline.

The title of the film — We Are What We Lost – struck me hard; how better to define the process of delivery that is grief? When young, if we are lucky, we tend to think we are defined by our accomplishments or their symbols; when older, if we are lucky, we will eventually be disabused of such notions.

It’s an affecting film, so perhaps something really for home viewing, not the office.

The filmmaker, Srdjan Mitrovic, describes it thus:-

This short film is moving reconstruction of a specific personal experience within a given tradition to remind us of the constant interconnection between life, food and death.

Cheese sign photo credit teamaskins

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pure genius?


In the middle of that 2001 Chapter 11 process, I was being primed for information in the Tipperary pub in Fleet Street. The “Tip” is the oldest Irish pub in England and the first ever to sell Guinness here, or so the free information on the internet tells me today. I did not know that then. There was plenty of free information available in 2001 despite a relative shortage of comprehensive pub histories. All the same,  you still had to pay for the Guinness. And that’s invariably the case today.


I was with a very senior colleague who was plying me with the black stuff; I think he’d been asked to keep an eye on me and my rank-breaking entrepreneurship. I said to him that I thought part of the problem for even highly specialized subscription content businesses, like the one we were proposing to launch out of the bankruptcy, was that so much generic news was then free on the internet. This factor perhaps had already tipped investor sentiment away from the concept of proprietary news content. I suggested that one of the principal reasons for this may have been the example set by our competitor, the news agency Reuters, in selling its news feed to search engine/portal Yahoo!, without obvious limitations on what could be published.

“Oh, I did that deal!” said the executive. Imagine the Knackered Hack coughing into his artisan-poured pint, spraying his “mentor” with white foam. [For sure, that's not what happened exactly, but I'm not a factual journalist any more; I don't carry an NUJ card these days and even my poetic licence is provisional.]

Some of us had known for a long while that the value proposition of unbundled real-time news was not what it once was. It wasn’t a good time to be giving so much of it away. Reuters seem to have wised up a couple of years ago because they no longer operate that Yahoo! deal.

But I still wonder, in my counter-factual way, if such a vast organization as Reuters had not taken that fork in the road so prominently would other news media have felt so compelled to provide so much stuff for nothing? And thence GoogleNews. Would a viable subscription model not have been built by now to get the more innovative news organizations [oxymoron warning] cleanly out of the ink-on-dead-trees business? Perhaps not.

There may be more lessons from the real-time news industry of the ‘80s and ‘90s for today’s media to illustrate the tragedy/farce heuristic. Anyone interested in another chapter on that soon?

Photo credit tricky

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