Bee's Primer for UK journalism
(highly subjective, and possibly prone to error)
This is not a trivial matter, people: the paper you read is a highly coded business in class-bound England. It says as much about you as your accent does.
The broadsheets: all high-quality journalism; may differ in political slant -- although that is not always obvious to me, Sigmund and Jenni once had a lively debate on the topic.
The Guardian/Sunday Observer -- traditionally the "left-wing" newspaper; associated with intellectuals and liberals. Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are the regular food columnists -- foodies take note. Simon Hopkinson also does the odd column.
The Daily Telegraph -- conversely, this is the Tory paper. Rich public school boys. "Sir" Conrad Black headed it during the 90s, and we all know what happened to him. Tamasin Day-Lewis wrote the food columns for many years; not sure who is doing it now as Sigmund won't let this paper cross the threshold. (Not too sure why, exactly, as he regularly gets in bed with oil and gas folk and bankers. Maybe leftover bias from working class immigrant origins?)
The Independent -- as its title proclaims, it aims for some non-political space or middle ground. More like The Guardian than The Telegraph. I think it has the smallest readership of the four; appeals to iconoclasts, who are always a meager group in the population pie-chart.
The Times -- the classic. Still has the largest readership. If you read a novel from before, say, 1970, the characters will invariably be reading The Times. Middle-brow; middle-weight according to my friend Jenni, who is a snob about such things. Home of the acerbic, prolific columnist A.A. Gill. I really like the Sunday Times, which has good Cultural sections, but Simon says that The Observor does proper news better.
The Daily Mail -- in a Venn Diagram, The Daily Mail would occupy the middle ground between quality broadsheets and tabloid trash. It is a middle to lower-middle class paper. My mother-in-law, and most of the nation's elderly, read it. It does a good Sudoku and TV section. There is little to no international news, and an over-emphasis on various smalltime outrages, scandals, and swindles. The dominant theme seems to be that the country is going to hell in a handbasket and any right-thinking person might as well emigrate. Ironically, the paper is very hard on immigrants -- who are blamed for much of society's problems.
The tabloids: all trash
The Daily Express -- trash which devotes 3 out of 5 front pages to Princess Diana. Madeline McCann is the backup for Di's days off.
The Daily Mirror -- just trash; not sure what kind they specialise in
The Sun -- trash best-known for their "Page 3 Girls" (boob shots, basically)
Now that we have that sorted . . .
Because the big four battle it out for the literate and presumably more affluent portion of the population, there are often incentive "supplements" to entice the consumer. These may take the form of DVDs, or "best of" guides, or educational pamphlets of some kind. This week, The Guardian and The Independent are battling it out with their Great Poet guides. So far I've gotten a John Donne and a W.H. Auden. I should have had a T.S. Eliot, but when I got home from the grocery store I was sad to find that my paper was poet-less. The little book must have fallen out somewhere.
Is it just me, or do others find it charming that there is obviously a belief that poets can sell papers! I just can't see this happening with the Houston Chronicle vs Austin American-Statesman.
By the way, I'm really quite bummed about the missing Eliot guide. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is probably the first "adult" poem that really grabbed me. At one point, I had several stanzas of it memorized, but my sieve-like brain has lost most of them. Incidentally, did anyone catch the "Prufrock" reference in my "Beans" post?
This is really stretching the poetry topic further than it was ever meant to go . . . but I was poetry in motion this morning on the tennis court. My volleys were crisp and precise, and my serve was killer. Non-tennis players: There is a resounding, perfect THWACK that you get when you hit the ball just right. It is one of the most satisfying physical sensations. "Sweet spot" sounds so salacious for a reason, you know.
And finally, for all the Democrat homeys out there working to take the White House back from the Bushian stranglehold: some words from Gore Vidal.
Half of the American people have never read a newspaper.
Half never voted for President.
One hopes it is the same half.