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    Apple extends its influence to censoring magazines


    Apple extends its influence to censoring magazines

    Posted By Alastair Otter

    Apple has already come out against pornographic applications in its iPhone app store, but now the company looks likely to extend its moral oversight to magazines. According to industry blog Shiny Shiny, edgy fashion magazine Dazed & Confused has had to censor its iPad issue for it to be accepted into Apple’s iTunes store.

    If this is true, and Apple’s wide-ranging nudity war suggests it is likely, it ought to be a cause for concern for publishers.

    It’s not about the pornography. It is about the increasing control Apple is exerting over what users of its products can and can’t do.

    The issue is that Apple not only creates products such as the iPad and the iPhone but that it controls the content that can be viewed on them too. In an absurd way it is like a paper manufacturer dictating what type of articles can be printed on its paper.

    If the company can control editorial at a fashion magazine then why not a political magazine, or even a technology publication that doesn’t favour Apple?

    Apple’s iPad is being hailed by some as the saviour of newspapers, but if Apple is going to be forcing its own morals onto publishers then newspapers and magazines could be worse off than ever.

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    Would you like an apostrophe with that, ma’am?

    media writing

    Would you like an apostrophe with that, ma’am?

    Posted By Alastair Otter

    Welcome to the brave new world of online media. A world where anyone with an Internet connection can be a journalist and bloggers are the new media rock stars. A world where readers can immediately deliver their own opinions, and usually do.

    It’s also a world where basic grammar skills are apparently no longer needed.

    I’m not particularly fascist when it comes to grammar but I do have some minimum standards. One of those is that I like writers to use apostrophes correctly. It’s a simple thing to get right and yet daily I see blog posts, Twitter messages, news articles and even advertisements with so many randomly used apostrophes that it feels that when the writer does get it right it is probably more by accident than by design.

    I know Twitter is not populated only by professional media and that many blogs are never intended to be literary gems but would it really hurt to use apostrophes correctly?

    Often it’s the so-called social media gurus, the ones that are trying to sell their Web 2.0 consulting skills, that most often get it wrong. Do I really want a consultant who can’t get a few apostrophes right to tell me how to run my web/social media/whatever strategy? Not likely.

    Admittedly, using apostrophes correctly doesn’t gain you much. You’re unlikely to be inundated with fan mail for using them properly. On the other hand, using them incorrectly raises questions about your skills, your ability to communicate, your attention to detail. In many cases you could be written off as an amateur even before the reader reaches the second paragraph.

    Using apostrophes correctly is not hard. A few simple rules can make all the difference to your writing. Get it right and you can be judged on the quality of your work. Get it wrong and you risk being ignored.

    A few simple rules

    The apostrophe is only used in two instances: to show ownership (Bob’s ball) and to indicate missing letters or contractions (it’s late). The apostrophe is not used to indicate a plural (dogs, cats, cars).


    An apostrophe is used to join two words together and indicate missing letters.

    I’m (means I am)
    it’s (it is)
    they’re (they are)
    aren’t (are not)
    don’t (do not)
    we’re (we are)

    it’s vs its

    The difficult one here is it’s and its. It’s is the one most people get wrong. It’s means “it is”. Its is possessive:

    It’s the first release of the software. (It is the first release of the software)
    The company has released its financial results. (They are the company’s results)


    An apostrophe is also used to indicate ownership:

    Mark’s private jet (the jet belonging to Mark)
    IBM’s servers
    The computer is John’s
    The boys’ books (the books belonging to the boys)
    The Smiths’ house (the house belonging to the Smiths)

    Do not use apostrophes to create a plural

    Very often writers see a word ending in an ‘s’ and, in a moment of panic, slap in an apostrophe. It’s simple, plurals do not need an apostrophe:

    There are many CDs on the shelf (not CD’s) This is the one I see most often.
    The computers have been delivered (not computer’s)
    The boys play soccer (not boy’s)
    The ISPs are involved in a price war (not ISP’s)

    Naturally, being English, there are some cases where things are not so clear but in 99 percent of cases these rules apply.

    So, there you have it: A (hopefully) simple guide to using apostrophes correctly. And I can now move on knowing I have played my small part in ridding the world of apostrophe abuse.

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    Film and Publications Act: Media independence under fire


    Film and Publications Act: Media independence under fire

    Posted By Alastair Otter

    Despite widespread opposition the South African government has signed into law the Films and Publications Amendment Act 3 of 2009 (PDF). Published in the Government Gazette on August 28, the act is a wide-reaching amendment that is ostensibly designed to clamp down on the publication of child pornography but in fact introduces a range of powers to the Film and Publications Board (FPB) that may not be as benign as they seem.

    I’m certainly no lawyer and I am very definitely not in favour of any form of child pornography, but reading the legalese contained in the act leaves me with a sense of foreboding. In particular the act paves the way for what the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) calls “pre-publication censorship and self-censorship” by establishing a requirement for non-recognised publications to have content approved by the FPB prior to publication or face up to five-year’s imprisonment or a fine. The newly-amended section 16 says (paraphrased) that “any person may request that a publication be classified if it (among others) degrades a person, constitutes incitement to cause harm, advocates propaganda for war, incites violence or advocates hatred based on any identifiable group characteristic and that constitutes incitement to cause harm”. Exempt from these regulations are those “bona fide newspapers” recognised by the Press Ombudsman.

    Essentially this means that everyone else is responsible for submitting anything that might seem “offensive” under this act to the board for approval before publication, a situation which is almost certainly unworkable. The sheer volume of submissions would surely swamp the board.

    Nevertheless it ought surely to be of concern that there exists a law which could be applied (even randomly) against publishers that fail to submit content to the board. Right now we live in a country with a mostly benign leadership but this may not always be the case. The very public and ugly spats over the ANC leadership over the past year give some indication of the potential for things to change very quickly. It’s also worth remembering ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte’s vitriolic attacks on the media earlier this year.

    I worry that this type of legislation in the wrong hands could go horribly wrong.

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