There used to be a lot more newspapers lying around the places I work but that seems to have changed. Now it just seems to be the Metro which I will already have read. My work commute takes me 24 minutes which is coincidentally the exact time it takes me to read the Metro. As I work shifts I tend to miss all the TV news and there are way more interesting things to look at on the internet when not at work. The channels I work for are all of the refreshingly shallow and forgettable variety. Consequently all my news comes from the Metro and the occasional follow-up on the internet while at work. This is probably a bad thing but it keeps me happy. TV news is usually dire or dull. You can’t skip through the boring parts where they repeat information that you already know. Like the economy is screwed but might get better. Or politicians aren’t wholly to be trusted but there will be new legislation to try and keep them in line – drafted by politicians and consequently ignored. Or the situation in the Middle East is still shite.
Newspapers are pretty crap too. Britain has a fantastically free press. Something to be praised and treasured. The problem is that they have to pick a stance and stick to it. The Mirror, Sport, Sun etc, seem to be obsessed with paedophiles and rant on about ‘monsters’ and ‘sex beasts’ romping with young women then pausing to have a picture of a topless 18 year old called ‘Luscious Lucy from Liverpool. Cor, look at them jubblies!’. The Mail and the Express are torrid right-wing rants that use the word ‘outraged’ about a 1000 times an issue before blaming all of Britain’s woes on immigrants – even though the average reader lives in a dreary suburban clone and remains utterly unaffected from an influx or exodus of filthy foreigners. The Guardian (probably one of the better ones) prides itself on being for the ‘independent thinker’ but everyone I know who reads it has the same opinion as other Guardian readers on absolutely everything. An opinion they got from the Guardian – which can be astoundingly naive on some topics. It does have great cultural, reviews and travel sections though and is therefore one of the best. I’d be willing to bet that its readership considers itself too intellectual and free thinking to read something as awful as the Metro though. The paper seems to inspire intellectual snobbery and I can see the sneer now. The broadsheets are just too big to read anywhere you would normally read a paper – like the train or the toilet.
So there you go. All news is crap. So how do I remain so wonderfully informed? I read the New Scientist for science, satirical news shows like Have I got News For You or Mock the Week coupled with Private Eye for politics, Time Out for reviews, Empire for movies, Edge magazine for games, and Fortean Times for quirky stuff. While all the above keep me fantastically informed on the topics I’m interested in, they aren’t daily. When a mental schoolkid guns down his classmates or a nutter raises a family with his daughter and keeps them locked in the basement, I read it all first in the Metro. It is like a daily taster of what I will read in depth at a later date. If it’s something major like a war or serial killer, I wait a couple of hours and watch a hastily-made documentary.
Don’t get me wrong here, the Metro isn’t brilliant either. But it is perfect for the train. It has the news but not in too much depth. It has movie and book reviews and weird facts. It features a science bit which tackles some quite big topics but explains them as if the readers were five years old. It has a comments section where people can astound and amaze you with how absolutely pointless and banal a thought can be and still get in print (“I met a man called John Smith, he was bitter.” Someone actually thought that was brilliant enough to write in. Pointless shite like this is what blogs are for, surely). It feels thrown together by a team who have absolutely no communication with each other. Marvellous randomness! Front page – 10 killed in a day in Iraq, turn over and ‘Ohh a panda that can sing’, turn over and an explanation of black holes with comparisons to sinks, and so on.
I have in front of me Friday’s edition. On half the front page there’s a story of a consul killed in the Caribbean in a suspected gay-hate attack. Pretty powerful and shocking stuff. Turn to the next page and there’s a guy who travelled the world for £1 on his bicycle doing magic tricks (this is an entire page). The next two pages are full of stories randomly thrown in – a tribute to a dead soldier, a facebook killer, bankers’ pensions, and a woman called A Payne changing her name to Truly Scrumptious. Sometimes the news seems to conflict with itself from one article to the next. On page 9 for example there is a story that reads ‘Suicide is bigger killer of young men than crime’. It begins with: ‘Forget the headlines focused on a country riddled with teenage knife culture and gun crime – young people are more likely to die by their own hand than they are to be killed in a violent attack.’ This is all well and good. Thanks for reassuring us that the press is being sensationalist and we should ignore these alarmist headlines and articles. Ones like, say, er, the piece directly above this one. The one that reads: ‘Just one in five knife criminals is jailed’ and talks about how Labour ‘has failed to get a grip on the rising scourge of knife crime’. The following page tells how a man stabs himself in front of ITN staff next to a story about the gravitational corridors that can aid a spacecraft navigating its way to Mars. Brilliant.
Other highlights include: Usain Bolt’s 100 metre record is broken by a cheetah. You know, the fastest land mammal (a cheetah) beats a human (also a mammal) at being fast, shocker.
Swine Flu will peak before going down. Probably. But it may or may not be that bad.
THE NEXT BIG SCARE – monkey malaria! I kid you not. Better start panicking now.
A Buzz Lightyear doll has now spent more time in space than any astronaut.
An article about Syria followed by an article about polar explorers.
Scottish people spend more on personal grooming products than any one else in Britain. This could be just because they are fatter but I’m speculating.
A cat that eats nothing but lasagne. You know like, Garfield! Wow! This is accompanied by a half page picture of the fat cat next to a plate of lasagne. Just for clarity.
A quick quarter page of world news (war, famine, North Korea, etc) that ends with a story about a town in Germany that is so fed up with a prostitution area they are spreading fake vomit on the streets. It smells like the real stuff too. Apparently that’s a preferable option, which doesn’t say a lot for the town.
A brilliant story about an advertising campaign that was meant to support recycling and read ‘Taking an old bag for a ride’. Unfortunately it was on the side of a pensioners’ Dial-a -ride bus and all the old ladies got annoyed.
And so on. How could you not enjoy this smorgasbord of random, slightly interesting stuff? All you need to know about the world plus lots you don’t. The only flaw in this is that it is now Sunday. No free papers since Friday morning. I hope nothing much has happened.