26 March, 2006

Hot metal

One particularly onerous part of my job is to go out to a newsagents in the middle of every afternoon, buy a copy of the Evening Standard, then summarise its contents in an email which I have to send round to the rest of the office.

This perenially joyless task does, at least, give me an insight into a publication I don't think I'd ever read before moving to London (not that I'd ever have reason or means to), and I'm never less than bemused by its parade of obsessions.

Top of the list is the behaviour of Ken Livingstone, London's Mayor, who the Standard hates and never misses and opportunity to slag off. Then there's the plight of London's shopkeepers, which apparently is a "hopeless" one, full of "daily despair and hardship" in the face of big business (this from a right-wing paper that readily endorses competition and a market economy).

But there's also a preoccupation with the most trivial and frothy of celebrity-based shenanigans, neatly summarised by this rundown I made of the paper's main concerns on Friday:

1) Asda has mistakenly sold 10,000 Mother's Day cards for 6p each
2) Pete Burns has reportedly checked into a mental hospital
3) Gavin Henson 'confesses' he wants to marry Charlotte Church
4) David Hasselhoff's ex-wife claims he once broke her nose in a fistfight
5) Victoria Beckham's favourite designer gets a 14-month jail sentence for cooking the books
6) Which are you: an 'analogue' (e.g. Prince Charles, Wayne Rooney, James Blunt, Kate Winslet), or a 'digital' (Jamie Oliver, Prince Williams, George Lucas, Anne Widdicombe)?
7) Chantelle gets stuck inside the revolving doors of City Hall and tears her jeans

The thing is, because the Standard has a monopoly on the London regional newspaper market (again, somewhat at odds with its stance on economics), everyone reads it because there's nothing else to read. Travelling back every evening on the Underground, I'd say about 75% of commuters have got their heads buried in a copy. To have one unaccountable organisation exercising such a direct channel into people's lives is more than a little disturbing. Especially when those 75% are reading about Chantelle's jeans.


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