Sunday, 18 July 2010

The last time I read a newspaper

Well the last time I read a newspaper was this morning when I woke up and fired up the laptop and made the round of my usual stops.  The Guardian, The Chron, The Journal, The Telegraph, The BBC and my assorted blogs. The fact I've not bought a newspaper in several years has not stopped me from enjoying the news or being well informed. If anything,  I seem to get the news faster now. Between 24h news on the BBC and the net, I like to think I'm well served. I know the local paper is the only one I need in my hands sometimes. Where else will I get the gos on who's doing what in town to whom in sports or the radio scene. That said, national papers are fast becoming ethereal beings with a massive presence on the net and a physical manifestation in the real world I come to use less and less.

The physical feel of newspaper pages held up to read is still as enchanting as before, but the truth is that if I do buy a paper, it's for a few specific sections and I feel I've killed a tree to read 20% of the day's edition. My principle news comes from the BBC online. The news and Sport sections serve me well and efficiently. As a writer I spend a lot of time with one or the other laptop, and we are always "online". So I tend to hear about things on the comp first, then the details on telly or radio. The Newspaper, even online ones are for opinion pieces and righteous indignation. I am now and always have been a lefty, so I read The Guardian, I have to admit that even among the writers at the Guardian, a few of them have become pretentious gas bags full of themselves who haven't had an original thought in years. One recently posted a think piece on why she collects stories from 40 plus women about their first times. What is so mysterious, most first time sex is rubbish, end of story. Yet others tend to blow things out of all proportion and clearly haven't had a sense of humour since it was removed by the logic police. Their ongoing battle with Doctor Who a case in point. And yet as a  paper it still speaks to my core beliefs, so I continue to read it. David Mitchell gets his shorts in a not regularly and that amuses me as well. I do not go near the Daily Mail as it would require me to bathe after. The Sun and other such rags are where I used to get my low end "entertainment" news. But since the Sun has yet to apologize for the whole Liverpool thing and they supported Cameron with lies and paranoia, I can't find the will to click on that link anymore. I don't mind the Telegraph, it manages to say important things and Captain slow has a column in it.

One day I may again get a subscription to a massive big paper like the Guardian, but I doubt I'll ever pay Time magazine or Paris Match to deliver to my home. I might when we're more flush, restart the Economist, but weekly review mags that tell me stale news with little content that is original or of great enough interest to take the time to read AFTER you've been through the online stuff,  just doesn't cut it with me. Why should I give my money to a magazine that comes out 4 to 5 days after the big events and that doesn't do local or special interest stories the other places won't touch. It's not like I don't have the money to spend on reading material. We buy books, speciality magazines and local papers all the time. The question is how will the publishers get me to part with my money when I can get a comprehensive minute by minute account of important international, national and local stories from the BBC or some super focused blog that caters to whovians who like football, don't vote tory and support Newcastle United.

My greatest fear but perhaps most unfounded, is that genuine reasoning and debate will disappear from news coverage. On the one hand you have the Daily Scum with it's racists and bigots and the Sun with it's mostly illiterate charvs who can barely spell their own names whilst slagging off x factor and BB flash in the pan celebs. V the tories, lefties and mushy middle types who populate the traditional papers and magazines and leak into the blogosphere to have real debates using big words to respond to other writers and thinkers. Will there be a great divide where you find a growing army of people unable to hold a thought bigger than "cool" or "c ya"  steadily drowning out the chattering classes that have traditionally moved debate along? Let me be clear here, there are loads of people who have, on the whole, fairly reasonable views on things. But the problem arises when you question where those views come from and if it's possible that it was time to move on or look at an issue from a slightly different angle. Too often we bump into solid walls of indifference or absolute orthodoxy  that does not allow for other ideas or scares off "normal" people from participating. You don't have to be an extreme anything to be part of an intellectual process or have that process evolve you. But if you are told you are a heretic for not thinking along the specific 10 or 12 ways as proscribed by some very loud activists, you may feel intimidated, your curiosity tempered or even stored away for when it's safe to think and feel openly. And yet others simply don't care if it doesn't personally impact them at the minute, and cant be bothered or are offended when you rumble their ignorance on an issue.

Discussion or at least curiosity is what leads to seeing the full set of facts, other views and perhaps realizing that limiting ones perspectives leads to ignorant or at the very least uninformed choices and opinions. This is important , because we are asked to make choices daily, some more important than others. If we do not recognize the facts out there and don't look at more than the one interpretation out there, we end up like my mother in law who has taken to spouting the most shocking things as fact despite my ability to show her at least 5 sources proving her wrong. Based on the current debate she is having with me and my wife,  I can conclude that she will one day look at what we sent her and maybe even read it, or she will continue in her blinkered views about an entire culture that easily spans 25% of the world's population. I mention her as a case in point to illustrate the difficulty even intelligent people sometimes have when faced with incontrovertible proof they are wrong.

Over my life time, I have changed my mind about the seal hunt ( now for it) , nuclear energy ( not completely against it), was never put off veal, respected the need for free speech but have since acquired a sense of knowing when free speech becomes the intellectual dictatorship of the loud few over the polite majority. I used to down load tunes, but now have reconciled my own beliefs with the act of taking another person's intellectual property without compensation. Having looked at the other side of the coin, I could not justify my continued rationalization that I wasn't harming anybody. I have engaged in debate and convinced others  and been convinced by others. I fear however that I may be in a minority that grows smaller every day.  I hope I'm wrong.

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