Monday, 3 August 2009

In defence of newspapers

The best that can be said of any British newspaper is that it is ‘slightly better than the others’. This can certainly be said of The Observer who most recently notoriously disappeared up its own liberal arse in arguing that the invasion of Iraq was a progressive thing. But I am still saddened to see that the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper is now rumoured to be closing .

Partly this is sentimental because ink runs in my blood; both my dad and grand-dad having worked at various times on Fleet Street. But also because the decline of newspaper buying and reading is another symptom of dumbing-down.

I am not talking here about the poor or the uneducated, the people who have been most by-passed and un-represented by the political system in recent times. I am talking about those who are literate and educated and who most mornings on the way to work will happily fork out for an over-priced coffee but insist on reading only free-sheets like Metro, London Lite and The London Paper. Vacuous celebrity gossip, soap updates and a reactionary digest of the news for the hard-of-thinking that make OK Magazine look like the London Review Of Books.

I have the excuse that it’s difficult to read a newspaper on the way to work when you commute on a motorcycle. But whenever I take a train, and every weekend I almost feel an obligation to read a newspaper. In fact taking an hour to mull over the papers on Saturday and Sunday is as close as I come to a weekly ritual observance ... and a pleasure too.

I acknowledge that the print media is not primarily where I get the news anymore: at home it’s the radio and the TV, at work it’s the internet. But whether it’s reading the analysis or the features, or even if it’s just getting increasing pissed-off with the lifestyle columnists at least I’m taking a small amount of time to look beyond my immediate environment and engage with the wider world. No other media does this in quite the same way.

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