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George Eaton appointed New Statesman political editor

Editor of The Staggers blog replaces Rafael Behr, who joins the Guardian as a political columnist. 

George Eaton is to succeed Rafael Behr as political editor of the New Statesman. Behr will be leaving the NS next month to join the Guardian as a political columnist. 

 

Eaton, the award-winning editor of the magazine’s rolling politics blog, The Staggers, joined the New Statesman in March 2009 as a graduate trainee, having previously worked at PoliticsHome. He has contributed hugely to the successful transformation of newstatesman.com and to the revitalisation of the magazine. He has had a series of impressive scoops over the past year, with agenda-setting stories and interviews with Len McCluskey of Unite, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and others. Under Eaton’s editorship, The Staggers won the Editorial Intelligence Best Online Comment Site award in 2013.

 

The New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, said: “George, who has been with me almost from the start of my editorship, is one of the outstanding journalistic talents of his generation and is one of the most gifted people I have ever worked with. He is both an incisive political commentator and a tenacious and instinctive story-getter.”

 

Eaton assumes his new role as the New Statesman celebrates its strongest growth in decades. In 2013, its centenary year, magazine subscriptions grew by 20 per cent and news-stand sales by 14 per cent; record online traffic made newstatesman.com the biggest political website in Britain. As circulation continues to rise and the magazine moves into profit, the editorial team is entering an exciting phase of expansion and development. The launch of a series of high-profile digital projects will be announced shortly.

 

Eaton said: “It is a privilege to take on this position at the most exciting and unpredictable moment in British politics for a generation. I look forward to maintaining and enhancing the New Statesman’s reputation for intellectual rigour, breaking news and political insight.”

 

Rafael Behr joined the New Statesman in June 2011 from the Observer, where he was chief leader writer. Commenting on his departure, Cowley said: “I knew Rafael from my time on the Observer. I knew, too, that the elegance of his writing, as well as his shrewd and nuanced political insights, would make the New Statesman’s weekly Westminster column a compelling read. Three years on, Rafael has established a reputation as one of Britain’s most authoritative political commentators and played an important part in transforming the fortunes of this great magazine. We shall miss him and he leaves with my best wishes.”

 

Behr said: “The New Statesman occupies a very special place in British politics, media, history and culture. It has been a privilege to work with the immensely talented team that has made it, without doubt, the liveliest, smartest and most creative weekly magazine covering politics in Britain today.”

 

For more information, please contact Anya Matthews on 07815 634 396 or anya.matthews@newstatesman.co.uk

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.