My Google Reader account has 360 newsfeeds in it.  As such, I’ve totally stopped reading the freesheet newspapers that are provided around the London Underground – the Metro, the London Lite, and The London Paper.  Y’know… reading them hardly seems relevant when they’re largely an amalgamation of stories that have been harvested off everyone else’s newsfeeds.

For some reason, however (I suspect it was because I was entering a competition) I get The London Paper’s daily midday emailout.  Advantages of this over any other means of transmission are that I can easily dispose of it without having to worry about wasting paper, and as it arrives in precis form it’s easy to skim the handful of banal stories without having to immerse my brain in the childish tedium of it.  I should know better than to read their daily email even, because I already know that it’s going to wind me up into a state of fury before even clicking on the links.  Here’s my list of reasons why:

  1. The hyperlinks in their email don’t always work. Quite often I’ll CTRL-click a bunch of links in Firefox to get the pages all open in new tabs then CTRL-tab my way along reading them, but The London Paper’s links quite often just either fail with a gray screen, or take me to the section heading which that story was from, meaning I’ve got to scan their selection of crap again to find out what it was I was supposedly interested in reading about.
  2. The mentality of their commenting system. I still can’t figure it out, really – stories generally have an “add your comments” box down the bottom.  It’s not framed quite in the same way as the one on The Sun’s website (heading level font screaming “HAVE YOUR SAY”, as if the opinions of Sun readers would be worth hearing), however every now and again where the editor wants to elicit public outrage (one assumes) the story ends with bold text challenging things like “Do you think it’s a good idea to get rid of check-in? Would you prefer to carry your bags to the plane? Let us know what you think … “.  I can’t be bothered digging up any more example of that.  Equally frutratingly regarding comments though is that there doesn’t appear to be any obvious way of reading what the people have said.
  3. The quality and tone of stories. OK, it’s not meant to be The Times, The Independant or The Guardian, but I guess I’d optimistically expect the thing to contain something approaching factual news reports.  Whilst they eschew the word “news” from the title, an example of the sort of thing published in their “news” section is today’s selection of articles:
    • Robbie Williams quizzed by armed robbery cops – probably more one for the Celebrity News category I’d have though?
    • Swarm of bees closes road in Kensington – this is probably news, but if I were in charge it wouldn’t be in the first 3 stories listed.
    • London detective to be sentenced over sex offence – probably news, I guess.
    • Web rental scams are ‘on the rise’ – possibly news, although not 100% sure, as they’ve quote-marked “on the rise”, meaning that it probably can’t be quantified or substantiated.  Still, something to look out for.
    • Return of the mix as Woolworths makes online comeback – yeah, that’s news.
    • Jade’s legacy call snubbed – the story being that doctors have said that Jade Goody’s advice to girls to get cervical cancer tests is in fact medically unsound.  Not exactly topical, and not surprising that Jade was dishing out advice without being fully conversant with the fact.
    • London is the cocaine capital of Europe – could be news, although the statistics mentioned in the story were ropey enough to make the reader wonder if it all hadn’t just been made up.
    • Panic at the Beeb after newsgirl gets swine flu – looks like the “panic” part was subjective headline tweaking, but ultimately it’s close to being news.
    • Wonderbra launch revolutionary bra – seems a thinly veiled excuse to get more pictures of boobs on the website.
  4. The casual shoehorning of nudity into as many stories as possible.  Now I’m completely glad that the UK isn’t as prudish as the USA (refer to the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” if you’re windering what I mean there), however I’m constantly bemused that The London Paper bothers to try to pass itself off as a news source when it seems more intent on ensuring that office workers have their daily helping of boobs to ogle, or a story involving sex in some lurid way.  TLP seems to have also appointed itself some sort of publicnipple watchdog, because it’s building up quite an extensive catalog of pictures of female celebrities who have either had the occasional garment slippage issue, a see-through garment issue, or if it’s a particularly slow news day, a lack-of-support-garment issue.
    • Wonderbra launch revolutionary bra (today)
    • Jennifer Lopez ‘pops out’ for dinner (today)
    • Katy Perry gobbles pizza naked in the bath (today)
    • Women go topless to campaign against Pamplona bull run (yesterday)
    • London’s best life-drawing classes (Tuesday)
    • Corpses having sex go on show at the O2 (Tuesday)
    • Wimbledon babes 2009: A gallery of the finest tennis talent (Monday)
    • Meanwhile Lily Allen has embarrasing nip-slip at charity bash (Friday)
    • Lily Cole and Daisy Lowe go topless for new Pirelli calendar (Friday)
    • Eva Mendes poses in the nude for Calvin Klein (Thursday)
    • Katie Price returns to her old ways (Thursday)
    • Peaches’ boob at Bungalow 8 (Thursday)
  5. They put in reactionary stories which I fall for.  I absolutely hate being emotionally manipulated by news stories, because that’s exactly what they’re going for by use of tone and texture.  Occasionally though TLP gets me to swallow the bait, like with today’s startler: Wimbledon church sorry for letting tennis fans park on graves.  The appropriately enraging paragraphs were:
      “The vicar of St Mary’s is sorry for any offence that has been caused.”Yesterday the Rev Mary Bide reportedly admitted the graveyard parking looked “odd” but claimed the cars were stationed only in the oldest part of the graveyard which contained remains from the 18th and 19th centuries, whose descendants could not be traced.
  6. To me what those actually say isn’t “Wimbledon church sorry”, so much as “Wimbledon church embarrassed that they got busted, but otherwise they couldn’t actually give a toss so long as they’re making a few quid out of it”.

  7. The main thing prompting my tirade: Bloody ridiculous reporting. TLP published the following headline, in what can only be described as a visible and desperate scramble for a story: Britney gets a McDonald’s burger in Neasden.  But equally infuriatingly, today they had this important & newsworthy piece regarding Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, whose career they seem to be following particuarly closely at the moment (one can only assume that, based on their usual journalistic focus, they’re angling to get a “nip-slip” photo of her too – having waited for years for her to be old enough for them to be able to publish such things).  The story was regarding Watson’s rumoured enrolment at an American university, and featured the paragraph:
      The Harry Potter star, 19, is apparently going to the prestigious Columbia University in New York. But in order to maintain her anonymity she is going to enrol under the name Charlotte E Watson, as opposed to her full name, Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson.

    Well there we go, that’s that secret safe.  And England’s capital is all the more educated for having been told that.  For some reason it reminds me of the infamous 1991 Gulf War amphibious landing, where US troops came ashorewith only the lights from a hundred or so media crews to light their way**.

Bloody hell, and now I’ve written 1200 words on whinging about a newspaper I don’t even read.  Really should have put one and a fifth pictures in there instead, eh?

** Edit : Thanks to Anglico for the correction (see comment below).  I’d remembered it as being Gulf War, but then at the age of 14 or 15 I don’t suppose the intricacies of military activity on the other side of the world were foremost among my interests.  But thankyou very much for that!

Trainwreck journalism