Wednesday, 9 November 2011

In which I don't read the Daily Mail

It was on Saturday morning during a break from attacking the duvet cover with a lint roller and cursing Colin for being so damned fluffy that I saw a tweet from a PR for whom I had much sympathy.

Bought the Mail for the 1st time in years today (client coverage), it really is like entering an alternate universe.

The Mail isn’t my paper of choice either (and then some), but being a PR sometimes necessitates that we buy publications that fall outside our normal reading habits.

Of course, one might argue this is no bad thing. It’s remarkably easy to get sucked into a media diet of opinions concurrent with one’s own, and suddenly you can find yourself viewing the world through unconsciously self-imposed, but very narrow lens.

I read The Times on a daily basis, and the BBC site. I like Time and the Economist and the New Yorker and, on a Saturday when I have a bit more time, I’ll also pick up the Telegraph (although that’s mainly for the GK crossword when I’ve been beaten by the Times’).

From that little list, you can probably tell an awful lot about me, and if I always stuck within those media realms, I’d get a very particular view of the world. But, because of my job, I don’t: I read a whole host of other publications too, which is invaluable in broadening the mind, and testing one’s views on almost everything.

Of course, reading outside one’s comfort zone has its dangers and can, on occasion, inspire fearsome rage. I don’t read The Spectator because it makes me cross enough to spit; The Writer very nearly had a meltdown over croissants on Sunday morning over something that had been said in The Observer; and the Guardian has the same effect on me almost every time I pick up a copy – the sneering articles about how dreadful posh people are annoy me greatly, and the less said about the spelling, the better.

I don’t buy celeb magazines – something I was told off for in my previous job, because it meant that I wasn’t in touch with a huge swathe of public opinion (little wonder that I’ve decided I prefer corporate to consumer PR). Horribly snobby maybe, but I just don’t care: life is too short to look at pictures of the latest X-Factor contestant’s armpit hair, and frankly I’d far rather read something more intellectually engaging. Or poke myself in the eye with a pencil. Whichever comes to hand first.

But then, maybe I should. Maybe it would do me good to get down off my high horse and discover what’s so compelling about the reams of celebrity gossip – because given the immense popularity of celebrity magazines, there’s clearly something in it. And while I’m at it, maybe I should give the New Statesman another whirl and see if this time I can get through an entire issue without being cross enough to burst into flames.

And perhaps those of us who quite wish they’d lock up the Mail’s Liz Jones – and not just for crimes against feminism, quality journalism and sanity, but for theft as well – should indulge a little more in Melanie Phillips’ views on immigration.

If nothing else, proper immersion in arguments on the other side can test our views, and see whether our arguments stand up. It better informs us about differing views on the world, and gives us a much broader understanding of what’s going on. Or else it induces such levels of crossness that we spontaneously combust in a fit of rage thus negating the need ever to read anything ever again.



I'm not sure if it has always been the case, but ones choice of paper does seem to define you now. I recently asked a Guardian reading friend (whose parents have always been avid Guardian readers) whether her sister got on with her in-laws. My friend's reply, which it seemed she thought was enough to give me the full picture, was "well, they read The Times".
My partner and I choose The Times over all other papers more often than not. Our working-class, uneducated backgrounds don't seem to 'fit' a lot of the lifestyle sections, but The Guardian, Observer, Mail, and all those gossipy tabloids leave us feeling even more alienated than The Times.
The final straw for me with The Guardian was an article describing MY typical week as a stay-home mum as being locked in a 1970's time warp which you would have to be simple minded and a Christian to enjoy. It only takes one article to sever all future ties. The Daily Mail excels itself with such articles. The amusement factor can often be a guilty pleasure though.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I think it's important to dip in and out of the papers you disagree with, for that rounded view on things. So I just sometimes buy The Week for a summary.

Not being in a job where reading the papers is a necessity, I often find my snapshots of other papers in the ones people have left behind on the tube. The Sun, Private Eye and some god awful "National Enquirer" style mag being some of my favourite five-minute finds.

Glitterish Allsorts said...

The problem I have with dipping into The Mail is that it always leaves me so angry - its such a nasty paper, determined to create social divisions and fearmongering. I always need to rant after I flick through it!

Fwengebola said...

I always read my mother's copy of the Daily Mail when I'm round hers. It never ceases to make me want to pluck my fucking eyes out with a pencil

Amy said...

For risk of sounding like I've swallowed a textbook, I'd like to quote John Stuart Mill.

"He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion"

In other words, true 'dat, Blonde. Good post, totally agree. Even if reading The Mail/The Guardian does occasionally make me lose faith in the world.

Brennig said...

It's a tale of two cities, really, isn't it? We read what we like, which gives us our comfort zone. Stepping outside the comfort zone is sometimes a challenge but rarely a bad thing. Except in the case of the Daily Mail, obv, which makes me feel mentally unwell when I read it.

Smidge said...

As Bren said, it certainly is a tale of two cities (or two halves of the UK?)

I could never pick up the Torygraph as it makes my blood boil almost as much as the Mail. You can probably guess my leanings just from that statement! Saying that I do buy the Times on a Sunday to argue over with B.

(Btw I rather like the Guardian's stance on environmental, design and town planning issues, although the spelling and grammar is atrocious)

Martin said...

This will, forever, be one of my favourite Yes Minister sketches:

I must admit to my daily reads being quite limited - BBC News and the Telegraph website - and, also, to my blood pressure doing the rise and fall of an Atlantic fishing trawler due to the daily obfuscation of links by Twitter, ending up with me landing anywhere between the Daily Mail (rage) and the New Statesman (rage) on the ideological gamut.

That said, in much the same way that it pisses me off when people tar others with huge brushes when voting preferences are perhaps proffered, so it annoys me when people do the same with newspapers.

Papers have an ideological culture, that's fine, but ideology is a continuum, not a game of boxes, so the fringes often overlap, leading me to nod at the Guardian and rage at the Telegraph.

Breadth is a good thing. My Grandma reads only the Mirror and is thus terrified by the Internet and plenty of other things besides, which is a very sad state of affairs.

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