Monday, July 20, 2009

Paper View

I have a nascent theory of the "it came to me while lying awake one night/while I was drinking a beer" variety, that you can judge the quality of a holiday destination by the British newspapers on sale there.

The highest quality such destination is the one that doesn't actually have any British newspapers on sale at all - as that means the place doesn't actually attract enough british people to make it worth while (note: this only actually applies to holiday destinations - you can't buy English newspapers in Csikszereda, but this doesn't imply a high-quality place, merely remote and uninteresting to any outsiders)

However if the number of UK visitors does create enough demand to stock newspapers, then you can start wondering about why and how decisions are made to order which papers. In Malta a couple of years ago, for example, where I was working, the only papers available were The Sun, Mail, and Express. The three worst mass readership papers in the country. The thoroughly downmarket, Murdoch owned Sun, and the two extreme right wing anti-immigration/anti-foreigner rags Express and Mail. Frightening. What had Malta done to deserve this little slice of little-englander hell in it's corner shops and kiosks? Sure the vast majority of English people there were elderly people seemingly escaping the British winter, but not all such people are obnoxiously right-wing, surely? Or are they all in Malta not so much to get away from the weather but to get away from all those foreigners?

Thassos, which is what made me think of this half-baked nonsense in the first place, had the following British newspaper options - Mail, Express, Sun, Mirror and Times (to add to the English language newspaper options it was also possible to buy the International Herald Tribune). Not sure what message this is giving us about Thassos. That tourists there are somewhat right of centre in general (and in the case of the Mail/Express saddoes, completely off the chart). That there was no place for the middle ground Guardian/Independent reader? It's a rum do and no mistake. Wonder what you get in Chiantishire? Guardian and Telegraph?

So, I bought the Times once. I'm not proud of it since it's a Murdoch paper, but I could justify it to myself since the newspaper's online presence does boast the most consistently funny podcast that I know of - The Bugle. I learned that the Times is the official newspaper of The Ashes, whatever that means (it obviously means that the paper contained ludicrous amounts of coverage of said cricketing event), and that it's editorial team have obviously decided that the solution to all the world's problems is David Cameron. One of those "If the answer is David Cameron, it must have been a particularly stupid question" type things. It's a bit like imagining the problems of the world's entertainment industry could all be solved by James Blunt. Another bland vapid inoffensively rubbish toff.

I also bought the IHT (as we seasoned travellers know it). It's not a bad paper all round (though it does give airtime to idiots like Thomas Friedman), but why oh why do all US newspapers do this thing where they start a load of stories on the front page and then ask you to turn to another page to finish each one? It's mad. You have to go front page, page 3, front page, page 5, front page, page 3, front page, page 4, and so on for ages. What possible advantage does it serve? Why don't people complain? It drives me mental.


Anonymous said...

The "idiot" Thomas Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times, twice for International Reporting (1983, 1988) and once for Commentary (2002). (wikipedia)
What prizes did you win?

Andy H said...

Interesting logic - that I can't dislike/disagree with someone because he/she has won stuff. I think Bush is an idiot too, and he won the US presidency (well he won it once, not really the first time). Am I barred from calling him an idiot too? What about Ahmedinajad? Netanyahu? The absolute biggest idiot I know has a PhD - and I don't. Can i not call him an idiot?

Anyway, 2 of those awards were from when he wasn't an idiot (he hasn't always been one - and "From Beirut to Jerusalem" was an excellent book. He's just been one for about the last 20 years since he turned into a pro-occupationist. (Ironically the awards he's won are for writing as much as anything, and most people seem to think he's a terrible writer. Go figure)