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Sod the Olympics, drink down Olympia

By thirsty hack Ignatius Rake

Posted August 06, 2012
london Olympia Great British Beer Festival venue
Olympia in London: Is that bloke having a slash? (Check bottom for credit)

The Great British Beer Festival at London's Olympia promises drinkers a welcome respite from all that overhyped athletics cobblers taking place at the moment.


No doubt intended to mark the auspicious occasion of the Rake & Herald completing its second full month of still being the world's only website, the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) will get under way tomorrow (Tuesday, August 7, 2012), with public access starting at 17.00 local time.

Set to run until 19.00 on Saturday, August 11, the GBBF will see more than 800 British real ales, ciders and perries mustered for consumption at the Olympia exhibition and conference centre in West Kensington, London.

Additionally, there will also be numerous foreign beers from Belgium, Germany, the US, Australia and elsewhere on tap.

However, if you want to stick strictly local, the vast array of booze and brews just waiting to be sipped, savoured, guzzled and gulped will include beers produced by seven London breweries, including Fuller’s, the producer of the excellent 5.5% and well trippy ESB, which will apparently be operating its own stand at the bash.

The largest event of it kind in the UK, the BGGF is the brainchild of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an organisation we wholeheartedly support and admire and which has dubbed the do "Britain's Biggest Pub".

Given where and when the GBBF is taking place, CAMRA reports that it "has billed its flagship festival as the place for Olympic Games attendees from overseas to experience Britain’s current brewing boom, bearing in mind Dutch brewer Heineken [is] currently enjoying sole pouring rights at the Games venues".


GOOD QUALITY ALES
In a similar vein, Greg Mulholland, Lib-Dem MP for Leeds North West and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group who will officially open the booze fest, says: "I am very much looking forward to getting along to the Olympic triathlon in Hyde Park on Tuesday to see two of my constituents, the Brownlee brothers, hopefully winning medals in the men’s final."

"I will, however, be starved of any good quality real ale as a result of the Heineken sponsorship of the Games, which is why I am delighted this coincides with the Great British Beer Festival, where, following the triathlon, I will be getting along to open the event and enjoy a fantastic range of real ale from across the length and breadth of the country, something LOCOG [the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] have sadly failed to promote during [censored due to draconian copyright enforcement but he means the Olympics]."

"I would urge everyone to get down to Olympia for the Great British Beer Festival to get a taste of the best of British with an array of world class real ale on offer," he continues, marking himself out as one of the few politicians in recent history who has actually had something to say worth listening to.

According to CAMRA, "there are currently more small brewers in operation across the [UK] than at any time since the Second World War".

We at the Rake and Herald think that this is not only great news but something that simply demands to be celebrated.

So, if you're in the Great Wen this week, get yourself over to Olympia and get some scoops down your neck (and probably your front to boot).

While card-carrying hacks get in for free, non-hacks will have to pay some wedge, although the various ticket options available are pretty reasonably priced and far from extortionate.

Especially for London.

Importantly, opening times will vary, with the bulk of Tuesday, for instance, given over solely to the needs of the beer and pub trade.

Hence why public admittance will not start until 17.00.

For more information on tickets, opening times and the GBBF in general, click this link here.



daley thompson
Fancy a pint? Daley Thompson, his mugshot tarted up to remove all the ad logos we have not been paid to display. (Check bottom for credits)

THE DALEY NEWS
We know all the above because CAMRA very kindly sent us a press release containing all the key data and quotes.

The thing is, the press release started off with a load of stuff about how it had conducted a survey in conjunction with market research firm TNS of 650 drinkers "from right across the UK" to discover which past or present "British sporting hero the nation’s pubgoers would most like to share a pint with down their local".

Apparently, the winner was Daley Thompson, a multiple gold medallist decathlon-doer from the 80s, who, as smut-gob editorial assistant Sandi Toxic puts it, "had to beat off Sir Steve Redgrave's stiff showing while giving Dame Kelly Holmes a right good licking to come first".

Meanwhile, the press release informed us, Linford Christie came fourth followed by Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington.

As absolutely nobody at Rake & Herald Towers could give a monkey's toss about athletics, we have no idea who Holmes, Hoy and Adlington are and have no interest whatsoever in changing that.

If they don't gurgitate, play cricket, bog-snorkel or throw darts, they don't mean shit to us.

For that very reason, we decided not to run with all that stuff about Thompson winning a pole.

Or a poll as the case may be.

However, other publications did.

And this is where it gets worrying.


REPEATERS REPEAT
Most people who don't work in the 'news industry' quite understandably assume that the news they read, hear or see is the product of journalists researching stories and then writing them up themselves.

This is kinda true for about 12-15% of the news at best.

The rest of it, the vast majority, (if not simply recycled from other publications) comes either from press agencies (official state/government jobbies or commercial newswires like Reuters) or from press releases issued by individuals or organisations.

Given the various physical and time constraints put on journalists, this isn't that surprising.

Besides, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with press releases and as a hack I'm very grateful for them.

After all, how else are individuals or organisations expected to get their news out?

Phone round every single news desk on the planet?

Or hope that a hack will just spontaneously knock at the door?

Likewise, can a journalist really be expected to know telepathically that some person or organisation somewhere has just done something newsworthy and they should get on the blower to them pronto?

For the news consumer, though, the use of press releases has some major ramifications.

You see, once a press release is received by a journalist it is either binned; re-written; perhaps elaborated upon; or, very, very often, simply spewed out verbatim while still being passed off as objective news reporting.


NICE BYLINE
Of course, the information contained within a press release may well trigger a subsequent independent investigation that then falls into the 12-15% bracket previously mentioned.

Or it might simply be used to pad out another related story.

All too often, though, it is the verbatim route that is taken, with the only change made being the addition of a byline to make it look like the 'story' was researched and then written by a hack when the fact is it was not.

Usually, they don't even bother to change the original headline kindly provided by the person (probably working for a PR firm1) who wrote the press release in the first place.

The thing is, while not intrinsically bad, press releases are by their very nature subjective.

Their sole purpose is to promote the interest(s) of the person or organisation that wrote (or more likely commissioned someone else to write) the said release.

Strange that but true.

When the press release is about, say, a beer festival, there's not really that much to worry about.

When the press release is issued by, say, a government, a political party, a supranational organisation, a pressure group, a religious body or some big business interest, the same is not so.

But by and large it will still be unquestioningly repeated by the bulk of the mainstream media as news when in fact it is at best a heavily biased advertorial or blatant piece of political or ideological propaganda.


CLASSIC FORMULA
The CAMRA press release (which we clearly rewrote and even elaborated on a bit) followed a classic formula: an interesting 'hook' (Daley Thompson apparently being the sporting hero most British pub-goers would like to drink with down the pub) followed a few paragraphs later by the actual message, the 'meat', that the issuer wants to get across (in this case that the GBBF will start on August 7 and run until August 11).

Now open the following links in separate tabs by clicking here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Notice anything?

To learn more about how the bulk of the news palmed off as objective reporting is anything but, get a job as a hack.

Or have a read of Flat Earth News by Nick Davis of the Gruniad.

Personally, I don't reckon Davis goes far enough and he definitely pulls a few punches in typical Gruniad fashion, but otherwise it's a well-written starting point for exploring this disturbing subject, a subject about which anyone who watches, reads or listens to the news anywhere should be aware.

We strongly urge you to buy Flat Earth News in a book shop but failing that you can also get it here.

Another essential book is Scared to Death by Torygraph columnist Christopher Booker and political analyst Dr Richard North.

Again, please try to buy it in a real book shop but if you can't here's a link.

Anyway, no disrespect to Thompson, but why would anyone want to go to the pub with an athlete?

What are they going to drink?

Carrot juice?

Nah.

This is the sporting hero you want to go to the pub with, Steven Petrosino, a true record-holding sporting legend:





Footnotes

1) The cosy relationship between the media and PR firms (not to mention lobbyists, pressure groups, governments and political parties, big business/advertisers, the military and the intelligence services) is yet another issue of which news consumers should be aware.


Photo credits

Top and thumb: London's Olympia by Chris McKenna (Thryduulf).

Bottom: Daley Thompson in 2007 by Billpolo; rejigged by Ignatius Rake.

For licensing information click the above links.



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