Part 7. Audrey

Architect of Taiwan’s pandemic strategy is the extraordinary Audrey Tang. In 1996, aged 15, Tang convinced her teachers that she’d be better off learning from the internet, quit school and started teaching herself online. A year later Tang launched her first start-up. Many more followed, in diverse fields, but they all featured open-source software and sought to empower ordinary people. In 2016, aged 35, Tang became Taiwan’s youngest cabinet minister, when she was named Digital Minister.

It may be true that intelligence isn’t a useful or meaningful measure of ability in leading or governing. Some experience of…

Part 4. Cry Freedom, or, ‘Look, What You Don’t Understand…’

Funny thing, freedom, innit? We can all agree that its opposite is a bad thing. In my years as a journalist, and as a lifelong news junkie, I can’t think of any demonstrations, rallies or protests involving people explicitly fighting for tyranny, and the right not to protest (though I’ve seen a few where this was implicit). So, we can all agree that Liberty is Good Thing.

Black-and-white turns a bit grey, however, when we’re forced to trade off one kind of liberty against another, which is always. As teenagers…

Part 2: Covid in Taiwan or The Hundred And Twenty Four Points

Taipei, Taiwan

My wife is from Taiwan, we still have family there, and one of our daughters happened to be studying in Taipei when the pandemic broke, so I’ve been following the response there with particular interest. And growing awe and envy. Taiwan’s handling of Covid rarely gets a mention in our media, and hardly ever in much detail, yet its results are so spectacular I’m finding it hard to understand why.

So, in a spirit of scientific enquiry, let’s compare notes with Taiwan, our fellow tea-drinking island nation, whose nearest islets lie no more than a challenging swim from southeast mainland…

Chapter 3: The Boardwalk Fairies

Before Mr. Rolf and I head up the Boardwalk to check on Fragile Sally, I thought I’d just say that when I read my chapter titles, I often reckon they could be recycled as band names. The Boardwalk Fairies is a terrific name for a band. So, if you’re an embryonic Salisbury band, like one of the frogspawn we’ll soon spot nestling in the eddy-free nooks offering safe haven from the Avon, inches from the edge of the Boardwalk, and you’re struggling to come up with a name, help yourselves. Think of The Story of…

Chapter 1: Meet Sally

Here’s a photo of a tree that’s fallen over into a river (ignore Mr. Rolf, he’s just seeking attention). As every Salisbury dog-owner this side of St. Paul’s roundabout knows, this crack willow has miraculously clung to life for years now. Against the odds, it even thrives. Every spring its bisected bough somehow summons the energy to conjure forth chandeliers of elegantly tapered leaves. Each winter, it turns into V-shaped fingers, defiantly warning off creeping death, branches vibrating in the rain-swollen flow. …

Lessons from my Living Gloom

by SternWriter

How Can Anyone Measure Depression?

Modern neuropharmacology is mind-blowingly sophisticated. Yet the critical metric needed to deploy it couldn’t be cruder.

If you’re depressed, your healers’ key diagnostic tool is some form of this simple query:

Are you feeling the same, better, or worse?

Your answer determines your treatment. Exactly how, depends on the treatment.

Sometimes a certain answer might mean adjusting a dosage. Or it might prompt trying another pill. For one therapist, a particular answer might lead them to pursue a particular childhood memory. For another, a tweak to your CBT regime. Focusing on a different…

Part 2 The See Through News Local News Tests or Sniff Tests, Smell Tests, and Robot-Spotting

In Part 1 we outlined the under-reported problem of a handful of conglomerates owning the vast majority of local newspapers. We explained why it’s dangerous, and trailed our Local News Tests, designed to expose the difference between journalism and advertising.The rest of this series of articles deals with See Through News’ proposed open source, non-profit projects. Like the Sniff and Smell Tests, they’re all designed to promote media literacy in a fun, accessible way. We’ll:

  • Explain the role these Tests play in our broader scheme, The See Through News Newspaper Review Project.
  • Introduce other See Through News open source media…


Why Do We Need a Local News Test


When Did Your Local Newspaper Start To Smell Fishy?

Why A Test?

This is the first of a series of articles introducing The See Through News Local News Tests. The rapid Sniff Test, and the more sophisticated Smell Test, offer quick and easy ways to evaluate local news journalism.

The Bechdel Test started as a joke in a comic strip, but is now a respected measure of female representation in fiction. Like our tests, it uses simple questions and straightforward categories to deliver a standardised score.

The Bechdel Test poses three binary questions, which deliver a score from 0–3, revealing how well represented women are in any work of fiction. Our Local…

Lessons From My Living Gloom

Part 2

by SternWriter

My Latest Depression

The last six years of my life have played out like a grim police search for a missing clue.

Clues to my earlier experiences of depression, in my 20s and 30s, were pretty easy to find. Work, love, loneliness, the usual. Experienced eyes know where to look. Stuck on the fridge, in a desk drawer tied up in ribbon, written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror…

But from the start, this one was elusive. At first I was the only one poking through the undergrowth. Then my wife helped. Some close friends then volunteered for the search party.

Lessons From My Living Gloom

Part 1

by SternWriter

There’s a Lot of It About

These days, it can feel like there are more people writing about depression than there are suffering from the damn thing.

Even pre-Covid, depression was hardly taboo in most media outlets, blogs, podcasts and water-cooler chats. Celebrities, artists, even Royalty were speaking frankly about mental health. In the tough-guy bastion of the Sports Pages, athletes were no longer coyly reported to be ‘taking a career break for a stress-related condition’. They called Depression by its name.

This drive towards de-stigmatising depression was in gear before Covid, but the pandemic has supercharged it. Whether…


Writer, documentarian, nuance warrior, tolerance fanatic, balance extremist, human civilisation nut (the planet‘s fine). Specialist in eclecticism. Punny guy.

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