Making Sense of Breaking News

Like many people, I was glued to social media on the night of November 13th as the terrorist attacks on Paris unfolded. When something terrible like that happens, it is easy to become confused and bewildered by the conflicting reports that fly around on TV and online. So I decided to write a guide to understanding and demystifying the kinds of sources (newspaper articles, TV and radio reports, live blogs, social media posts, visual images etc.) that you will encounter in all forms of the media when a major news story is breaking. But what qualifies me to write such a guide?

While studying for a degree in history some years ago, I was taught how to analyse and interrogate sources of all kinds; a skill which has come in handy when attempting to understand how breaking news works. By ‘analyse and interrogate’ I mean placing a source (whether written, illustrated or audio-visual) in its wider context in order to understand and assess it. This involves asking a lot of questions about the source, its origins and its creator – the who, what, where, why, and when that you will see in this brief guide to interpreting and making sense of the media’s reaction to breaking events. The answers to those questions can help you decide whether a source can be trusted or whether it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt…


Who wrote/produced/directed/photographed/filmed this source? Are they a professional journalist/photographer/film-maker? Or are they a member of the public who happened to be there at the time and snapped a photo or filmed events with their phone then posted it on Facebook? If they’re a professional, what do you know about them? What can you find out about them? Are they well-known for personally having a particular political bias? Or do they work for a media outlet known for having a particular political bias? How might this affect their work?

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Playlisting: Cover Versions

Back in March, I compiled a playlist of songs about London. That was so much fun to do I decided to put together another on a different theme, and I’d been thinking about this new one for a while – but when I noticed there was a programme about cover versions on BBC4 this evening, it seemed to be exactly the right time to post it!

Cover versions can be a really bad idea (see any classic butchered on The X Factor, for example), but they can also be the definitive version of a particular song or songs (see pretty much any of The Byrds’s Bob Dylan covers as a sublime case in point there). Some of my choices here are simply great covers, but others are possibly a little unexpected, or even just ones I’m rather fond of. If you think I’ve missed anything, or would like to suggest a theme for the next Playlisting, feel free to leave a comment or tweet me.

Edit 07/11/15: Click here for another ten great cover versions!

Same ridiculously basic rules as last time: One theme + ten songs = playlisting.

Here we go….

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Votes for Women!

With the recent success of the film Suffragette, the media has been full of the history of the campaign for Votes for Women over the past few months. So I decided to share this fantastic all-or-nothing, JUST DO IT NOW AND GIVE US THE VOTE contemporary letter to (I think) The Times, which I found quoted on pp. 176-177 of Caroline Lucas MP’s excellent book, Honourable Friends?: Parliament & the Fight for Change*:


Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages, but no-one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual. 1. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom. 2. Give women the vote.

Yours truly,

Bertha Brewster.

Bertha, I think I love you….

*London: Portobello Books, 2015 – and very much recommended too!

Bats in the Belfry: Bats in fact and fiction

Long-Eared and Daubenton's Bats, 1892The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box

Bela Lugosi’s dead…

Bauhaus‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (1979)

Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some news for you, Bauhaus. The bats are unlikely to have left the bell tower, no matter which classic cult horror movie legend has just passed into the great beyond, because bats don’t often tend to roost in belfries. According to the Bat Conservation Trust (pdf), bats do roost in churches – it’s just they seem to find bell towers far too noisy, dusty and draughty for their purposes (and who can blame them). Sorry to ruin the illusion!

Honestly, it’s true, bats really aren’t as scary as all that, despite the continued attempts of Halloween tradition to try and convince us otherwise. I’m very fond of the little critters (they’re seriously cute – no, they really are!), and I find their lives fascinating. Which is why, this Halloween, I’ll be looking at bats in much more detail, and trying to separate the facts from the fiction.

The basic bat facts are these. Bats are the only true flying mammals. Rather weirdly, their wings are similar in structure to the bones in a human hand. Most bats eat insects, navigating and finding their prey in the dark using echolocation, which works in a similar way to sonar. Bats are found the world over, and make up about 20% of all mammals across the globe (over a quarter here in the UK).

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Autumn again…

Autumn colours

After my recent post about all things autumnal, I felt some more seasonal colour was needed round here. I thought I might go to the local park and see what was on offer for my camera there, but while I was pondering that I noticed this tree, which happens to be almost literally on my doorstep. This lovely, still part-green tree is not in the sylvan surroundings of said park – it’s in the more prosaic location of the carpark attached to the block of flats I live in (not visible in the photo: one of my neighbours sitting in his car giving me a strange look while I repeatedly pointed my camera at the tree…!)

Quote of the Day: David Lynch on art, life, and not making sense

I don’t know what I want to say to people. I get ideas and I want to put them on film because they thrill me. You may say that people look for meaning in everything, but they don’t. They’ve got life going on around them, but they don’t look for meaning there. They look for meaning when they go to a movie. I don’t know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense – David Lynch

With the prospect of a new set of Twin Peaks episodes in the next couple of years and all the surrealistic magic and mystery that will inevitably entail (I, for one, cannot wait), David Lynch has been in and out of the news in 2015 at quite a rate of knots. However, the quote above is from an interview Lynch gave to the Los Angeles Times in 1989, round about the period when he was making Wild At Heart. And it contains an almost illogical logic that arguably still applies twenty-six years later.

A well-known proponent of making art that may or may not make sense (depending on how you look at it), Lynch is quite right in his comments in my view. Why should we expect a film or a novel to have a coherent structure, a beginning, middle and end that hang together in a sensible way when life is not like that at all? Obviously, life has a definite beginning and a definite end, but what goes on in between is mostly unpredictable and usually unstructured – and down to us to make sense of, or not, as the case may be.

We know life has no real structure, which is, I think, at least partly why we so often expect art to, particularly when we’re dealing with a novel or a film or a TV series. It’s comforting to think that the lives of fictional characters are in some way predictable, even if our own lives aren’t. But one of the main purposes of art is to be provocative, to unsettle, to produce an element of disquiet, and – most importantly – to make the audience think. And those are all things I would immediately associate with Lynch’s work. It’s that artistic unpredictability that forces us to think, forces us to confront the fact that we have to make sense of our lives where we can find it – and reminds us that, in this existence, almost anything can happen.

And it usually does.

Guest Post: Old Rock Stars Never Retire?

And for the third and final birthday guest post, we’re looking at how rock ‘n’ rollers will never really retire, let alone die (although personally, I think both Lemmy and Keith Richards are both undead already…). Thank you to BeatCityTone for this excellent post, and over to him for the important info:

Beat City Tone does a New Music podcast called Beat City and an Old Music podcast called Retro Beat City. He can be found on Twitter here @beatcitytone. The only thing Beat City Tone hates more than people who use stupid pseudonyms on Twitter is people who refer to themselves in the third person. And more power to him for that.


You may have seen the news that grizzled old former Jimi Hendrix roadie, current Motorhead-fronting Nazi-memorabilia collecting ex-rocker Lemmy has had to cancel a few dates in Texas owing to experiencing breathing problems during a gig in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Guest Post: Exclusive Novel Extract!

Today’s guest post is something a little different. For the first time in the history of Another Kind Of Mind, I’m publishing some fiction – and this is not just any old fiction: this is an exclusive and previously unpublished extract from a brand new novel by Rick Leach, who has kindly let me post it here. Rick is the author of a number of non-fiction books about music, including the Glastonbury Trilogy (you can buy them here, here, here and here), and also contributed a birthday guest post last year too. You can find Rick on Twitter, and check out his blog here.

I don’t know about you, but having read this extract, I really want to know what happens next….

Chapter 1

I am sitting alone in the car, by the side of the river. It is night time. I look at my watch to check the time. The clock on the dashboard isn’t working. Actually it is working. It’s just that it’s set to the wrong time and has been for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if I know how to reset it. Or I can’t be bothered messing around. There is a certain comfort in knowing that it is completely wrong. It seems to jump to a different time every time I start the engine, suddenly leaping forwards ten minutes or so. I think that means that unlike a stopped watch, it’s probably not even correct twice a day. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it does give the right time twice a day. I shrug to myself. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

I look at my watch. It is a little before 11.00 o’clock. I have a lot of time to spare. There is no need to make a move yet. I stare out of the windscreen and look at the lights from the opposite side reflecting on the water. It is really calm. There is not a breath of wind in the air. The river seems to be barely moving, although I know it must be. The water is as flat as a sheet of glass, just swaying gently. It is like a black mirror. The only thing that I can see moving is a container ship slowly heading off to sea. I wonder where it’s going. Thousands of miles away. Another country.

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Guest Post: How I fell out of love with rock music

Finally! The birthday guest posts are here…. First up, I’d like to say a very big thank you to Paul (aka @thehatandbeard) for contributing this highly thought-provoking post on how our taste in music (perhaps inevitably?) changes over time, which I am sure will get you lot discussing and debating! Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments, and watch out for another guest post tomorrow…

This is the story of how I fell out of love with rock music. There wasn’t a specific incident or event that caused it but, rather like falling out of love with a person, a series of clues that, when taken together over time, left no doubt that it had happened.

I’m not going to attempt to define what I mean by rock as entering into the world of genre politics would just take too long. I’m going to assume that, broadly, we all pretty much know what it is.

I love music. I’ve loved it since I would hear my, slightly older, neighbour Richard play The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep On Running’ through the bedroom party wall. It was 1965 and I was eight years old. Even before that I can remember being impressed by Susan Maughan’s 1962 hit ‘Bobbie’s Girl’ which I would hear on the family radio.

I went on to love The Beatles, The Monkees and everything similar but didn’t have access to a record player until I insisted on being bought one as a fourteen year old T.Rex obsessive. Electric Warrior was my first buy and I still have, and play, that wonderful LP.

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