Meet Mr Inquisitor - Skankyrich
Hello there interview fans, and welcome to a very special Post Birthday edition of Meet Mr Inquisitor. In the dusty and neglected hot seat this issue is our very own editor, Skankyrich!
So without further ado, here are the questions!
Right then Mr. Editor, question the first. What on Earth possessed you to take on the stewardship of this fine publication when your predecessor decided to call it a day?
I don't recall ever saying that I'd take over the Editorship. EMR first mentioned it to me about nine months before she resigned, and I said I'd think about it. The biggest problem was that EMR was a real saint. She was amazingly diligent and a really hard worker, and did pretty much everything herself where she could. If I had any spare time, I used to have to just do up the Front Page or upload the cartoons and let her know, because if I asked she'd always say she was fine. I couldn't work like EMR. I don't have time, or her reserves of patience, and I also wanted to take The Post back to the mythical times where Post Reporters scoured the site for material rather than waiting for it to come in. I decided that if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it in a particular way and with a long-term view in mind. So we started to put a Team together, starting with Bel and Lil, and the longer it went on the more my ideas seemed possible. I took sole charge of a couple of issues and gradually took over more of the top-level editing, until EMR finally said 'oh, don't forget I'm resigning next week' and it struck me that now I didn't have a lot of choice.
All that aside, it's a massive honour to be the Post Editor. It's a unique position and one that allows you total editorial control, and the fact that the community and Editors have that level of trust in me is amazing. It's easily the best job on h2g2. And I'd like to think The Post keeps getting better as our ideas develop.
It certainly looks like you're a man with a plan. Was the historic "Beeblecast" Edition a glimpse of your vision for the Post's future? Do you hold out hope of a fully integrated audio-visual Post Experience?
The Beeblecast was pretty insane, wasn't it? I must have watched it a hundred times, in individual pieces, in production and when completed, and I never get bored of it. I think its brilliance lay in the sheer diversity of the material we were using, and the number of people who wanted to get involved. So we had Mina filming her dog on her mobile phone, B'Elana learning how to sequence photos, 2legs working on an insane homage to Nighthoover, vogonpoet putting together these funny little animations and linking pieces and so on. It's hard to know how to follow it; I wouldn't like to try to do the same again, because most of the wit and humour was instinctive and came from the anarchistic nature of the clip. And, of course, you can't plan anarchy. I can assure you that it will be back at some point, though.
I would like to see more AV in The Post. It's certainly one of the things I planned for when I took over the reins. I've always thought it would be fascinating to put out an audio version of The Post once a month or so, featuring three or four articles either in summary or in their entirety. Imagine if people started submitting audio as well as text. Imagine if we were regularly making fiction into radio plays or audio books, if Post recipes became cookalongs, if we recorded poetry collections. I don't think we're too far away from doing these things. The real challenge is finding ways to overcome the timescale between submission and publication - four days is no time at all in Aviating, particularly when four of the Aviators are in the Post Team as well! It's not something I 'hope' for, though; it's something that is going to happen. The only question is 'when?'
Moving away from the Post's future for a moment – is there any column or contributor from the Post's past that you'd like to see return?
Where do you want me to start?1
There are loads of columns I'd like to see making a comeback. I won't pretend to have read everything the Post has ever published - we're up to 10,000 articles at the most conservative estimate now - but I got through as many as I could to understand what I was inheriting. Just to pull a few out of the hat, Sporting with Egon, Not Scientific Science and 24 Lies a Second were all superb columns written by people who really knew their stuff in their respective fields. I'd be delighted to welcome those back, and many more. To some extent, though, we've replaced those columns, but with different subjects; instead of sport, science and movies we've got experts writing for us about astronomy, food and wildlife. The point I'm making isn't that a good Regular has any less value; it's just that the Regulars as a whole tend to evolve as ideas run their course and people move on.
One type of column we run much less frequently is the one that links us directly with the community. B'Elana does a tremendous job of reporting on general issues in Random Ramblings, but we don't get many opinion pieces about the site or newsletters from community groups at the moment (save those I've written, in fact). Focus on Peer Review, PROD and First Solo Entries are all examples of columns that stirred debate, encouraged participation and highlighted the achievements of new writers, and I'd love to see more groups and individuals using The Post as a soapbox or to keep us updated with news.
If I could have just one contributor back, though, it wouldn't be any of these. There was a real boom in specialised graphics being created for The Post back in 2002/3 - it seems that a team of geniuses were designing absolutely awesome bits of artwork for us on a regular basis. DoctorMo and Greebo (of course) both stand out, but if I could pick one contributor to come back I'd ask Amy the Ant to sort us out a fresh set of blobs. I adore her work, particularly the fish, which we still use for poems and announcements to this day.
Well, you're nothing if not comprehensive in your answers. What's your view on the new, adults-only policy here at the Beeb?
I do go on, eh?
I sympathise completely with the Italics' situation. I think most Researchers were quite happy with under-16s being around, and the Eds have been as clear as they can be that they disagreed with the decision to ban them, too.
But we're always going to get this while we're part of the BBC. The BBC is paranoid that any tiny incident could be blown up into something major; it's in a privileged position that the rest of the media have a vested interest in undermining. While we read our news here, we're not reading it on their sites, and while they have to sell advertising to produce programmes, the BBC gets the license fee. So you get ridiculous situations where two people complain about a radio show, then the Mail On Sunday gets a whiff of it and persuades 30,000 more to join in. Whatever you think of Woss and Brand, there was more to the campaign than the besmirching of a national treasure.
The reason we need the BBC was illustrated rather well by the whole 'Bridgend internet suicide' saga. Despite the fact that the initial 'link' was that all the teenagers used 'social networking sites' - don't they all - the Murdoch media put their own twist on it and blamed Bebo exclusively, rather than their own MySpace, coincidentally Bebo's chief rival. The BBC and the Independent were the only national news outlets to report that the press had been heavily criticised by grieving parents ('We feel the media coverage could trigger other people who are already feeling low to take their own lives'), the local MP ('You come asking what was the problem in Bridgend - you are now part of the problem') and police ('What is the link since Natasha Randall's death? It is you, the media') alike.
I digress, massively. I'm quite good at doing that, as you have probably noticed. But it's fairly clear to me that the Italics would like to do things rather differently on many occasions, and it's difficult for me to get too annoyed with them when it's really the massive behemoth behind them that's calling the shots.
I apologise in advance2, but here at MMI[R] certain protocols have to be followed. If it had come down to bare-knuckle boxing for the fate of the world, would Mikhail Gorbachev have been able to reverse the events of 1989-91 by beating seven shades out of Ronald Reagan?
I have no idea about that. I would say, though, that if Raisa and Nancy had made up WWF-style tag teams, Mrs Gorbachev would tombstone Nancy's sorry ass into the canvas. My tactic as American President would have been to keep Mikhail out there as long as possible and fight a war of attrition, because letting the Russians tag would have been fatal. Reagan might have stood a chance on points fighting alone, but I don't think either could have held a candle to Raisa. Her range of legdrops was by far the best I've seen from a Soviet First Lady, although apparently Viktoria Brezhnev had a pretty mean clothesline.
Your knowledge of the fighting styles of Politburo wives is impressive Rich- although I'd present Nadezhda Krupskaya as my number one leg-dropping, buttock-prodding New Soviet Woman. Anyway, away from the Post you're a bit of an outdoorsy type. Any tips for the budding Ray Mears or Bear Grylls?
But of course I do!
First of all, don't get sucked into being a gear freak. If you listen to every expert out there, you'll end up spending hundreds of pounds kitting yourself out with stuff you don't really need. If you're keen enough on mountaineering to be up Snowdonia or the Lakes every single weekend in all conditions, then clearly it's worth spending big bucks on your waterproof coat. 90% of us shouldn't be spending more than £50 on ours, but we're slaves to advertising. Do you need top wicking technology for a stroll on the moors? Probably not. I've gone anti-gear, in fact. Unless I'm working with a group, I leave the Gore-Tex and expensive backpack at home. I take a leather jacket and a glorified satchel, and I've stopped using gas as a fuel. It's minimalist, and it feels very simple and beautiful. So the next time you're looking at an expensive bit of kit, actually think about whether you really do need it or not.
Whatever you do, don't forget why you got into it in the first place. I had a friend who had a very pure love of the outdoors; he just enjoyed being on the moor and on the coast or wandering around the woods. He took up walking, climbing and kayaking in a big way; he wanted to climb a longer route at a harder grade every time, paddle harder rivers in spate. For a while that was fine, but the idea of being challenged took over, and when his development started to plateau out he just got frustrated and almost gave up for a while. I took him out into a beautiful wood last spring. We just did a short walk and had a bit of lunch, lit a fire, poked around some badger setts, that sort of thing, and something clicked in him. He's pretty much his old self again now. It was an important lesson for both of us.
Finally, take a child out with you once in a while. They always ask questions you can't answer, and that keeps you learning constantly.
Well we're just about out of space here, but before I dust off the traditional final question, we'd better get back to The Post. If you could have one person, living or dead, do a one-off column, who'd it be?
After about half a millisecond's thought, Douglas Adams.
As a more interesting answer, I'd like Allen Ginsberg to write us a poem, a Cartoon from Scott Adams, a Regular column from Ben Goldacre of Bad Science, and a travelogue for the Features from Bruce Chatwin. And Titania to do the Club Pages and Announcements, obviously.
Well Mr. Editor, thanks for your time (and your in-depth responses). Before we go, there's one last question. What's the most important thing you've learned through being a member of the h2g2 community?
Archive everything, or you'll never be able to find it ever again. And archive your archives, or you'll lose them, too. Archive everything as many ways as you can, and encourage others to do the same. Oh, and never try to reorganise your archives while drunk. Seeing a posting you don't remember making the next day is bad enough; having to put a perfectly adequate archiving system back together again is hellish. I think the Post Team account should have a breathalyser as well as a password, although if it did I'd probably never get anything done at all.
Thanks very much to Rich. If you think you've got what it takes to be the next Mr Inquisitor, please let us know. Until then, I've been (probably for the last time) Mr Inquisitor. Ta-ra.