What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You

Reposting for great justice.

What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You

This post was written by Owen on October 12, 2009
Posted Under: Civil Liberties, Media, News

Earlier this evening The Guardian was served with a gagging order forbidding it from reporting parliamentary business. To quote the article in the paper itself:

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

The right to report on what’s said and done in Parliament is traditionally seen as pretty fucking important in a democracy, so in an attempt to aid transparency, the Third Estate can exclusively report that the question is (probably) this one:

61 N: Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

Trafigura, of course, is the company that was recently revealed to be not only dumping toxic waste into the sea near Ivory Coast, but also trying very hard to make sure no one found out. Why they and Carter Ruck would be so keen for this question not to be revealed I’m not sure, (especially as it’s clearly publicly available), but they have a history of this kind of behaviour.

All the questions due to be asked in Parliament from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards can be found here, so feel free to have a browse through the rest of them – it’s possible I guessed wrong, though I think it’s unlikely. And please, please re-post this – the more places publish it, the harder it is to justify a gagging order and the worse Carter Ruck and Trafigura will look.

Edit: This guy found it too (and a bit sooner than me I think).

Edit edit: You can download a copy of the Minton Report, which Trafigura is so keen you don’t read, from Wikileaks here. (H/t Chicken Yoghurt)

RSS Full vs. Excerpts

Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.
Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.

RSS, short for Really Simple Syndication, is a wonderful tool that allows readers to subscribe to your content and passively pull it into an RSS reader. For the writer, this means that your content is being distributed more widely and conveniently, helping ensure that people will read what you’ve got to say. And for the reader, it makes it easier to remember to read someone’s work; you receive a notification every time they publish something.

But you don’t have to put all of your content into your RSS feed. WordPress very simply allows you to just submit a summary or excerpt from your entry into the RSS feed. I can think of a couple of reasons to do this, but truth be told, I don’t like them.

Why bother with summaries?

I think that, for most people who use summaries in their RSS feeds, the goal is to get people to come to their actual site. Maybe they have advertisements they want people to see, or they just think their site is pretty and feel that the article needs to be framed within their theme. By only providing a summary in the RSS, it lets readers know that something new is available on the site and teases them with a bit of content, encouraging them to click through to read the full article.

Part of me can sympathize with the plight of the site owner whose livelihood is based on advertisements, but I also know that it’s annoying as hell to me to have to click through and read the article on the site. Google Reader formats text much nicer than most sites do (due to line length, height, etc.), making reading more pleasurable. Having to open up Yet Another Tab is a pain, especially when you’re like me and usually have 20-30 open at a time.

The only semi-valid reason I’ve heard for RSS summaries is on sites with a lot of photos or other media. If your posts are photo-heavy, you may not want to put that bandwidth load into your RSS. It slows down people’s readers, and you don’t know that they’re always going to be on a high speed Internet connection.

But surely those people know what your site is like, else they wouldn’t have subscribed. I can’t really find a good reason to inconvenience people by only posting summaries.

Post your full articles, RSShead.

You want your stuff to be read, right? To my mind, the noblest goal is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to access your content, and the best way to do that is to post full articles into your RSS. If your site is worthwhile, people will probably visit to read additional articles or just to support you. What I’m saying is, if you don’t suck, it’ll work out. People will come, view, read, and click regardless, so there’s no point in being an inconvenient jerk.