5 practical skills every modern journalist needs — and how to learn them for free

Your nose for a story is honed, you can write razor-sharp copy to a deadline and you’re versed in media law. Your pitches are perfect and you’ve been published on a ream of major news sites. In short: you’re all set to be let loose in the newsroom, right? Not so fast. With dozens of talented young journalists battling it out for every new job, you’re going to need a few more strings to your bow. Here’s a checklist of what you need to know, and how to get up to speed.

1. SEO and Google News

Search Engine Optimization — it’s just about stuffing the headline with a few keywords, right? Well, actually it sort of is, yes. But considering that for most news organisations, Google is the top traffic referrer, it’s probably worth beefing up your knowledge a little.

It’s true that you don’t need to know everything about SEO to get by as hack. I originally learned about the many white and black tricks out there in a business environment, and I probably only apply about 10% of what I learned in a newsroom.

So ignore the technical stuff like page structure, indexing, link equity etc, and instead boff up on how to find the best keywords — yes, you should be thinking about the terms that go in your headline, standfirst, sluglines and ledes. It doesn’t take a minute to check Google Trends for some help, yet so few people routinely bother. If you write a lot of headlines, you could take it further with other tools such as WordStream or Keyword Finder.

Also try to be sharper with your linking. It isn’t difficult, yet many writers are still lazy with this. Link to outside content when you mention it, link to related internal content whenever possible. Simple.

In addition, spend a minute reading up on SEO for video, and study this excellent guide on how to optimise content for Google News.

2. Data-visualisation

As much as data journalism has long been a sought after commodity in newsrooms, visual data elements are all too rarely planned in advanced. What editors want in most cases are quick-win supporting graphics that can be made at a moments notice, readied in the time it takes an article to pass through subs.

The good news is you can teach yourself to create eye-catching visuals that editors, readers and social media people will love really easily.  Online programs such as Datawrapper and Infogram do all the hard work for you, allowing you to just plug in some numbers and make magic happen at the click of a button. You can sign up for a free account with either and you’ll be an expert by lunchtime.

Although knocking up charts can be super simple, there are a few traps that its easy to fall into. I would recommend steering clear of pie charts, being careful with scales, and making sure your line charts are being honest.

Before you know it you’ll probably be thought of as the go-to data person on your desk, even if the sight of a spreadsheet full of numbers makes you want to vomit.

3. Social media

Sure, we can all send a tweet a headline write a Facebook post. But an extra bit of extra thought and effort can turn mundane posts into viral hits.

You can take your social game up a level in less than 15 minutes. Start by reading the most concise guide to Twitter for publishers I’ve seen, by Mediashift. It’s got loads of great tips that will inform your tweets, plus there are some general lessons that you can apply to all of your social channels.

As far as Facebook goes, most publishers’ biggest social referrer, it offers its own courses for journalists, here, which are well worth a look. For further inspiration, follow the likes of Quartz and Vox on Facebook: they have mastered the art of social friendly headlines — something you need to get comfortable writing.

And while promoting content is still the main purpose of social media, it has other uses for journalists, too: sourcing information, networking, verifying, and interacting with readers are just some of the ways you could be going beyond Tweetdeck.

Finally, here’s a good roundup of social tools journalists might find useful.

4. Coding

I’ve already discussed whether journalists need to learn to code in a previous blog post, and for now, my answer is that you just need to know the basics. That means that for now, unless you want to become a leading data journalist, just make sure you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS, and leave the rest to nerdy hackers.

Unless you have the best CMS in the world, manipulating HTML and CSS will probably become a part of your journalism day job. Pleasingly, you can learn both in just a day with this Codeacademy course. Codeacademy is free, and although I haven’t taken this particular course myself, I used the site to learn the basics of the Python language and it was fun to use, witty, and pleasingly, aimed at total beginners. Did I mention it’s free?

5. Photo editing

Most reporters and editors these days have to be able to add photos to pieces. Being able to brighten an image, crop something out, or create a simple montage are hugely useful skills to have to hand.

Adobe Photoshop (and InDesign, and the rest of the Adobe stuff) can be intimidating for people who don’t use it regularly. But it doesn’t really take long to learn the basics, and you can download a trial for free to give yourself a chance to practice at home. There’s plenty of YouTube tutorials out there to help you get started.

Professional image people won’t like me saying this, but I’m also partial to online photo editor Pixlr. It has all the simple functions of Photoshop but is browser based, so quick to load, quick to use and available on whatever machine you are using.

Final thoughts

There are plenty more candidates to lengthen this list: Using audience data tools effectively, video editing, scraping websites, and endless patience are just a few that come to mind. But my own experience is that these are the five that come up most frequently on job descriptions, in interviews, and crucially, on the day-to-day job. They are all quick to grasp and free to learn — so what’s stopping you?

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Taking a bite out of rural Romania

My bones are aching, my hands shaking and my stomach moaning. It’s a couple of days since I arrived back from a week’s adventures in Romania; perhaps too soon to reflect, but as good a time as any to record one of the most bizarre and surprising trips I have ever taken.

We (my eastern-Europhile self and my slightly more reluctant partner) opted for a fly-drive approach to seeing the country. There isn’t a whole lot of information out there on the best way to see Romania, and though trains seem a simple and cheap option, we thought a car was our best chance to do as much as possible in a short time, as well as allowing us to explore more off-the-beaten-track places. As it turned out, Romanian roads are some of the most beaten tracks I have ever come across…

Bucharest

It made logistical sense to fly to Bucharest, but our time there was always to be fleeting: a city break was not what we were after. We stayed just one evening, during which we discovered a surprisingly decadent old town, an unsurprising deluge of Communist-era building blocks, and some trendy, but sadly empty, bars (it was a Monday). We ate at Caru’ cu Bere, a restaurant in an incredible gothic-style building with stained glass windows and a history of several hundred years. It gave us a tourist-friendly introduction to Romanian food, which is not too unlike English food: heavy, meaty, and comforting.

Waiting for pork and beans in Cacu Cu Bere, Bucharest

Waiting for pork and beans in Caru’ cu Bere, Bucharest

I don’t regret skipping out on the sightseeing: Bucharest is by no means a beautiful city. But I intend to return in the future. My experience of European cities that have little to offer tourists on the surface is that they are often the most interesting once you crack their tough Stalinist exteriors (see also: Berlin, Warsaw).

Sinaia

The next morning, an hour’s drive to the mountain resort of Sinaia. Located on the route to Brasov, our next major stop, the small town has only two things that are really worth seeing.

First, the dreamy Peleş castle, which was so big on fairytale factor that it puts anything you’ve seen in a Disney film to shame. Our time in Sinaia was dogged by heavy snowfall, which made for desperately difficult driving and walking conditions, but added so much to the magic of visiting Peleş. The beautiful exterior was matched by an incredibly decorated interior, complete with armoury, theatre and Turkish smoking room, making for the perfect chateau encounter.

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Peleș, built between 1873 and 1914, was the world’s first castle to be powered by electricity

Sinaia brought spiritual magic too; in the shape of its small but impressive monastery. A Tuesday afternoon in February was perhaps not the most popular time to visit the place — when we got there the ticket booth was abandoned and there was no one to be seen on the grounds. We tried the door anyway, and stumbled across a chorus of monks singing hymns in a kind of Gregorian chant style that was so captivating that we barely noticed the intricate decor of the building. The level of ritual would top that of a Freemason meeting, and given an hour I expect they could convert even the staunchest of atheists.

Sinaia Monastery

Sinaia monastery: founded in 1695 and currently inhabited by 13 Christian Orthodox monks

Small disclaimer: The guidebooks gave no hint that Sinaia, if devoid of its attractions, would be little more than a slightly trashy tourist town aimed at ski folk, so I feel I should mention it here. Visiting on a daytrip from nearby Brasov would perhaps be the best way to see the sights but dodge the plethora of theme pubs and faceless hotels.

Brasov

After digging our car out of the snow, we set off to Brasov, where we would base ourselves for two nights. On the way we were to stop at two more castles; the sizeable Rasnov citadel, and the one we were most excited about: Bran castle, the alleged inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Rasnov fortress was unfortunately a bit of a write-off. Tripadvisor promised a medieval Transylvanian hilltop stronghold, with views for miles and 800 years of history. However skies coated with mist and snow clouds meant we could barely see a few metres in front of us, and trudging through what remained of the ruins with no company but the owners of the tourist-tat shops that have sprung up inside proved a little joyless.

Rasnov: Where cannons double up as bins

Rasnov: Where cannons double as bins

The weather that ruined Rasnov only served to make Bran castle all the more moody and enticing. We approached Bran through a haze of broodiness, and when we finally spotted the castle on the horizon, it didn’t disappoint. The aesthetic was everything my Dracula-loving brain wanted it to be: uncanny, gothic, and dripping with horror.

Bran castle

Bran castle, located on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, dates back to 1211

Travelling through tiny passageways to cobbled courtyards was the order of the day inside, which was actually smaller and more well-kept than I was expecting. It was interesting to get to grips with the Vlad Dracula and Bram Stoker connection, which is a rich tapestry of myths, maybes, and artistic license.

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Bran castle’s courtyard

No one castle that we visited had everything, but the trio of Peleş, Rasnov and Bran, which were all very different, added up to the perfect Transylvanian castle experience.

Brașov

Brașov was a trove of interesting oddities; we thought we had the measure of the old town on the first evening, but the more we wandered, the more gems we found. It’s also a real, functioning (small) city, that doesn’t rely on tourism to exist, which meant we could also drink at great bars, find some excellent hipster coffee and eat really good food.

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Exploring a church in Brașov

The city is overlooked by Tampa mountain, which you can ascend via cable car, and the skies cleared just in time for us to get one of the last cars of the day. The station at the top offers a curious setup; the bar has no windows, and some of the best views outside are obscured, but it was still worthwhile.

The view from the top of Tampa mountain, Brasov

The Christmas-card view from the top of Tampa mountain, Brașov

Our second day in Brașov was largely taken up by a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti. Romania has by far the largest brown bear population in Europe, but unfortunately for would-be bear watchers, they all go to sleep in the winter. A bit of research led us to Zarnesti’s sanctuary, which rescues bears that have lived miserable lives in captivity and gives them a nice life in big play areas at the top of a mountain. Many of the bears have never learned to hibernate, so we were able to see around 30 of the 87 bears that reside there.

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A bear of Zarnesti, at the fence in anticipation of feeding time

Seeing brown bears so close up without having to worry about being eaten was a real treat, and because they are so well looked after it never felt like a zoo. We also saw a bonus wolf, a few deer and some (probably) stray dogs. Romania is teeming with stray dogs and cats, which even for animal lovers can be quite unnerving at times. Some are friendly; others look rather rabid and seem to want to eat you. Anyway, the bears were lovely, and the views from the sanctuary were stunning.

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The view from just outside Libearty Bear Sanctuary

Viscri

Our trip to the small Saxon village of Viscri was meant to be a short detour on our drive to Sighișoara, but it was so much fun that it warrants its own paragraph. It can only be accessed by car, and the 10km dirt track that is the only entry route is realistically undriveable in anything but a chunky 4×4. Not ones to turn down a challenge however, we took on the path in our tiny Toyota Aygo, dodging potholes in first gear for what seemed like forever. At one point we came to a standstill as we tried to shift an entire herd of cows off the road — eventually a local farmer came along and, thankfully, showed us how it’s done.

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Viscri’s fortified church, which dates back to the 12th century

When we finally got to the village, the Saxon fort that is its star attraction was closed for the winter, but it sort of didn’t matter. It was suitably impressive from the outside, and the colourful fairytale village was our first proper taste of the rural Romania we would see a whole lot more of in the coming days.

Viscri village

Viscri village: coloured homes, farmland and horse and carts

Sighișoara

After the long and bumpy escape from Viscri, we arrived in the tiny city of Sighișoara, the most magical place we stayed. It’s home to a large walled citadel, which sits atop a hill and overlooks the rest of the city. For about 30 quid you can stay within the walls and, in our case, even sleep on top of them.

Sleeping on the castle walls

Our bed embedded in the citadel wall, which dates from the 12th century

Exploring the inside of the citadel was incredible fun. Old towers, churches and winding cobbled streets give way to colourful old houses and the birthplace of Vlad Dracula himself. Once again we benefited from visiting in the low season, and largely had the place to ourselves. It is possible to visit Sighișoara from Brasov as a day trip, but I’m glad we stayed the night. The hotel was excellent, we found a great pub, and the Romanian food was the best of the whole trip. We also finally got on board with Romanian wine, which is surprisingly excellent.

Sighisoara by night

Sighișoara by night, with the full moon shining over Dracula’s birthplace

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Sighișoara by day

A quick note on the costs, then. Sighișoara was noticeably the cheapest place we stayed in Romania, but your money goes a long way anywhere in the country. Two courses and a round of drinks in a good restaurant could cost as little as a tenner per person, and accommodation in decent double rooms could be done for not much more. Entry fees to castles and museums were never more than a few quid, and our only experience of public transport (an airport transfer bus from Bucharest airport to the town centre) cost something like 80p a person. The only time we payed anything approaching western-European prices was when eating and drinking in touristy old-town areas, such as in Bucharest.

Hansel and Gretel architecture in Sighișoara

Hansel and Gretel architecture in Sighișoara

Sibiu

As much as I would have enjoyed more time in Sighișoara (we had one evening and a full morning), we did feel like we had seen the sights by the time we left. And so it was on to Sibiu, but not before stopping off at some of the apparently endless Saxon villages on the way, to check out some fortified churches — chapels that have been rebuilt or reinforced to act like castles during an invasion. These were invariably closed (low season strikes again), but all still worth a look.

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One of many fortified churches on the road between Sighișoara and Sibiu

Sibiu is a large city that boasts a picturesque old town, castle walls, turrets and pretty much the full range of city-defense stuff. By now we were in no doubt that these places must have been invaded a hell of a lot, but we were also a bit castled-out, so mostly focused on finding a bar and taking a much needed rest.

Bâlea Lac and the Transfăgărășan road

The next morning we headed out to visit Bâlea Lac, a glacier lake 2,000 metres high and located in the Făgăraș Mountains, the highest mountains of the Southern Carpathians. It can only be accessed in two ways; by what British TV show Top Gear describes as the world’s best road — the Transfăgărășan; or by cable car. As the former only opens for three summer months a year (it is completely snowed under the rest of the time), we did a mix of the two, and took the open section of the road as far as we could (and yes, it was great fun to drive on), before jumping on a cable car to get to Bâlea Lac.

Taking a cable car to Bâlea Lac

Taking a cable car up to Bâlea Lac

The lake was totally frozen over, and barely distinguishable from the surrounding snow-covered peaks, but the views were still worth the trip. We took a sort-of hike up a steep section of the mountain, trudging through around 10 inches of snow, and despite clearly being out of our depth in the weather (it really warranted skis), we still had a great snow day.

Cozia national park

Back in the car, and a short drive to a nearby national park, Cozia. National parks in Romania aren’t really like those in England, in that they don’t seem bothered if the roads are littered with shacks and building blocks. It was still a really beautiful area though, and we spent a very chilled evening in a wooden cabin with home-cooked food, before embarking on a hike the next day.

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Cozia national park

Our route wound 5km up a steep hill, and at the top, our destination: a small monastery at 700 metres above sea level that was home to around a dozen monks, who seemed a little surprised to see us. One of the kind residents gave us a tour (mostly in French, but we got by) and, obviously, five apples.

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Mănăstirea Stănișoara

And just like that (via a gruelling three-hour drive to Bucharest airport), we were done.

A foot note: Driving in Romania

Driving in Romania was at times, the most fun I have ever had driving. At other times, it was one of the most frustrating, stressful and miserable things I have ever done.

The roads, when they are good, can be amazing winding trails that pass through mountains and offer spectacular views. Quite often though, the roads are in terrible condition. Dirt tracks and cobblestones come up, but are rare, while huge potholes all over great stretches of (what should be) fast roads are very common. There are additional challenges, too: Stray dogs, cows and various other animals stroll across roads as they wish, and you’ll have to get used to overtaking horse and carts, and farmers with wheelbarrows.

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Putting the car before the horse

Romanian drivers rank among the most impatient I’ve seen. They consistently overtake in places where it is unsafe to do so, and will honk and flash at you if you go any slower than 20km an hour over the speed limit.

I would probably not choose to drive in the country again, but if you are thinking of doing so, I would wholeheartedly recommend hiring a 4×4 that can handle tough conditions. This applies even more so if you visit in snowy season, as we did.

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Hazard approaching

I have no regrets about hiring a car; we saw things we never could have otherwise — but be warned if you do the same!

Do journalists need to learn to code? And other thoughts on data

Will journalists of the future be coders too? That was one of the questions on my mind when I went to this recent event on data journalism and open data in Europe. Some of it was interesting, some of it less so. Here are some titbits I picked up:

1. Make interfaces, not graphics

People don’t just want general data, they want to know how it relates to them. Where possible, present data in a way that is interactive, and allows the reader to rejig the data to view it through the prism of what matters to them.

Where not possible, try and at least frame it in a way that is more personal.  Here’s a tweet that does so:

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2. Don’t assume connections always exist

Correlation doesn’t always mean causation. 

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3. Data journalists will all need to know how to code one day

Except that no one at the conference seemed to know when that day will be. In America they teach it at journalism schools (mostly in data courses) and some employers do look for those skills in data journalists. In Europe, we are rather behind the curve in both supply and demand.

If you do want to learn (I do!), apparently the Python language is a great starting point. Not least because you can get it to do useful data visualisation things for you after just a few months of casual study.

4. The next big thing in data journalism is three big things

More mobile, more VR, and more emerging countries, apparently. The same as 2012 then.

Is gamification ever going to happen in a big way? No one really seems sure.

5. There’s loads of open data sources hanging around the internet

Did you know? I didn’t. Here’s a good one on European data. Here’s one that uses linked data, a concept I also didn’t know anything about (still don’t).

6. Data is never neutral

It should go without saying. But it was said, so I am saying it again. Data is non-neutral. Consider who collected it and why.

Want more? Read this great thing by the Guardian’s Chris Moran.

The final word goes to W. Edwards Deming.

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

Love Train to Busan? Try these Asian zombie films next

By me for the Myanmar Times

Since its break-out from South Korea in July, Train to Busan fever has been spreading through cinemas the world over like a rage virus. The film’s cocktail of zombies, gore and sentimentality – with a bit more gore for good measure – has seen it turn its B-movie budget of less than US$200,000 into an $80 million profit globally, and breathe new life into a genre that just won’t stay dead.

Train to Busan's explosive action and satirical undercurrent has catapulted the zombie flick into a cultural sensation. Photos: Supplied

While Asia is a relative newcomer to big-screen zombies (which date back over 80 years in America to the critically panned 1932 film White Zombie), it does have previous when it comes to undead-flavoured mayhem on the big screen. So if Train to Busan has left you hungry for more Eastern-style flesh-eating flicks, here are three of the best to sink your teeth into.

Versus (2000)

This Japanese horror spectacular hacks together samurai mysticism, gangster shootouts and, of course, a healthy serving of zombie slaying. When a pair of escaped convicts meet some ne’er-do-wells in a woodland clearing, they aren’t expecting it to turn out to be “Resurrection Forest” – the 444th portal to the other side – and aren’t best pleased when bodies buried there start springing back to life.

Like many movies of the genre, Versus’ dialogue comes up short, but stylish action scenes and good-humoured gore make for a thrilling two hours. Worth a look if you’re done with “It’s only a fleshwound!” style zombie-film cliches and want something a bit more creative.

Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombie (2001)

This amusingly titled Japanese B-movie seems to have hopes of providing us with a dense and considered social commentary about the structures in schools that define our characters and colour our souls. Fortunately, it totally fails and instead we are treated to a micro-budget slash-a-thon, with plenty of laughs and fake blood. The premise is daft and has slicing and dicing built in: Teenage girls who are infected turn into “Stacies”, who must be cut into 165 pieces to be killed. Why? Because Japan.

Hopelessly naff, yet brimming with charm and plenty of Western zombie film references, Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombie will either worm its way into your cold heart, or be your least favourite zombie film ever.

The Guard Post (2008)

It’s back to Korea for my final recommendation, which comes complete with something rare to zombie films; a well-defined plot. Two army operatives are sent to investigate a military outpost where a strange incident has been reported. On arrival they find the place strewn with corpses, but all the weapons are still locked up and a rabid virus looks a far more likely killer. The claustrophobic and psychological thrills crescendo in a scene where one of our heroes is convinced by undead soldiers that the disease never really existed.

The Guard Post sits at the more sophisticated end of Asian zombie films, and those hoping for more gore and senseless violence will instead have to make do with well-rounded characters and slick production values. Despite a splattering of confusing flashback sequences, this po-faced effort fares well and might be the closest thing to Train to Busan out there – for now.

If devouring these three still leaves you hungry for more, fear not: The success of Train to Busan will surely see a spree of Asian undead limping toward the big screen before long. In fact, the business-savvy brains behind Busan have already been pushing its animated prequel – Seoul Station – which some are describing as even better than its successor. Stand by for a tide of unearthly invasion, coming soon to a cinema near you.

Should a potato with plastic facial features pushed into it lead Labour?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is broke, put it in rice, go to bed, and pray that in the morning everything is fine and you’ve got away with dropping it in the toilet bowl.

The man tasked with fishing around in toilet water to pull out the broken remains of Labour party was Hilary Benn, who got through his Brexit hangover last month by triggering a coup to take down Jeremy Corbyn — a man who had for too long reigned over Labour on the flimsy grounds that most of the party want him to.

How Corbyn could be blamed for Brexit was beyond many Labour MPs, who had previously unanimously agreed that he had zero sway over any of the voting public. But spotting the Conservative leadership was in disarray, they jumped at the chance to create a power vacuum in British politics so epic that it would shut up suction show-off James Dyson for good.

While taking the Corbyn train to the next election may be a bad idea for Labour (if nothing else, it will need to stop off along the way to be sold to the state), the coup might have been a better idea if there was someone in the party ready to take over the leadership. After a week or so of scuffling around, in which various potatoes with plastic facial features pushed in to them declared their intention to run for the top job, it became apparent that whoever leads the Labour party next would have just as much chance of winning in 2020 if they were leading the England football team into the European championships.

Any hopes of a slightly more charismatic root vegetable entering the race were dashed when Benn, the mastermind of the coup himself, declared he wouldn’t be running, presumably taking his inspiration from the Cameron/Johnson/Farage school of fuck-everything-up-and-then-disappear-a-bit-quick school of politics.

And so Labour members will face a choice; let Corbyn continue running the party until he is the only one left in opposition, or decide on literally anyone else — so long as they promise not to have more personality than a chequebook stub.

This week in politics, according to Aesop

The writer Aesop is one of my favourite political commentators. It’s hard to prove he knew when writing his fables around 2,500 years ago that they would one day be given a new lease of life as Orwellian satire when they were played out in real life by the modern UK Conservative party, but he was a bright lad and I think we would do him a disservice to suggest otherwise.

One fable that adds fuel to this credible theory is the one where a scorpion, lets call him Gove, asks a frog to help him across a river. The frog, who is known as Boris, hesitates, afraid of being stung, but realises that if the scorpion did so they would both drown. So he agrees, but midway across the river, Gove the scorpion does indeed sting Boris the frog, dooming them both.

A passing crocodile, who works part-time as a researcher for Peston on Sunday, asks a sinking Gove why he did it. His answer? “Because it is my nature.”

The moral seems to be that the Tories are all evil, will never change, and we would all be better off voting for Labour (though Aesop stops short of endorsing Corbyn or any other candidate).

Back to the fable. It turns out the frog was actually a prince, and was about to become king. With his whereabouts unknown, Theresa, a sort of angry racist mollusc, was left free to lead the animal kingdom to its certain oblivion (after fighting off a limp attack from Liam the Fox and Steven the Crab).

How #Drummondpuddlewatch became a metaphor for gentrification

It was perhaps the most British viral phenomenon to date. On Wednesday, thousands of viewers were captivated by a internet live stream of a puddle in Newcastle.

Offering a fresh angle on the age old go-to conversation about weather, #DrummondPuddleWatch was to become the ultimate reality TV show, giving viewers all of the tough external and internal battles present on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! – without them having to endure Ant, Dec, or the cast of Coronation Street circa 1997.

Members of the public negotiated the task of walking past a puddle with all the gusto of an Apprentice candidate, without the need for catchphrases such as “I’m like a human stapler, I hold things together in a business environment.”

And fans of Tom Daley’s prime-time show ‘Splash!’ also couldn’t believe their luck. The expansive hole in their lives left by its cancellation was filled by a redux of its undeniably compelling format: people jumping into water.

With viewing figures that reached 20,000, almost double those of the new series of Celebrity Big Brother, it was no suprise that Channel 5 were rumoured to be seeking to buy rights for the stream.

But the success to be short lived. Like Shoreditch in the 90s, Berlin in the noughties, or Margate in 2015, #Drummondpuddlewatch was to become a victim of its own popularity. As the would-be stars of Geordie Shore caught wind of Twitter’s hottest trend, they rushed to the puddle, desperate to be seen on screen and have their 15 minutes of fame.

Viewers started to notice the cyclists zipping through the puddle were now riding vintage fixies. Bearded men in checked shirts were spotted contructing a pop-up cereal cafe nearby, while others collected samples of the puddle to use in a new brand of craft beer.

As Vice magazine announced plans for a new Drummond-based headquarters, the rich oligachs of Russia and Dubai rushed to buy up property in the new centre of cool. Rent prices rose rapidly, and locals were forced to abandon their life-long homes and head for the cheap, desolate and depressing suburbs of Wallsend, Longbenton, and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

And just like that, everything that made #Drummondpuddlewatch so unique and captivating had gone forever. For its new residents, businesses and tourists of cool, the puddle will no doubt live on as an overpriced and sanitised ghost of its former glory. But for the rest of us, as we stare at our screens from flats in an area a mere eight miles from where we would actually like to be living, it will serve only to remind us of the growing virus of gentrification.

The death of the pen is scary, but not as scary as Bic’s views about women

The young aren’t writing by hand anymore, apparently. A new survey has found that a third of teenagers have never handwritten a thank-you letter, and one in 10 don’t even own a pen. Concerning news for Bic, who conducted the poll, but considering its stone age attitudes to women, becoming an outmoded relic might be a fitting fate for the biro manufacturer.

The mooted reason for the slump in people putting pen to paper is that Generation Xbox are favouring less-sexist writing tools, such as smartphones and laptops. The ancient art of handwriting could soon be extinct, inkblots a thing of the past, and a whole host of your favourite stationary products defunct. A Post-It-dystopian world awaits.

In thousands of years, will scientists spend lifetimes trying to crack the DNA code of a Tippex mouse? Will historians recreate a W H Smiths as it used to be, for space-age tourists? Will robot hipsters fashion necklaces from protractors?

A terrifying prospect. But perhaps even more terrifying, is the question of how women will manage to write without Bic’s specially manufactured pink pens. Answers on a postcard – if you can remember how to write one.