I have been away from home for most of this week and last and I was too busy to read any newspapers. I quite enjoy being cut off from the news, I find the world goes on turning in much the same way whether or not I am aware of events and I expect my blood pressure is all the better for my blissful ignorance.
Newspapers haven't been the same since The Times started printing news on its front page in 1967. I remained a loyal reader for a few years but the Murdoch takeover in the early 80s led me to explore other options, finally settling on The Daily Telegraph. Now that this is the only real (i.e. broadsheet) newspaper left, it is the Telegraph or nothing for me.
My approach to reading the paper is rather idiosyncratic. I hate the way that journalists predict or speculate on news stories rather than reporting them; I don't want to hear what the PM is going to announce tomorrow or what the findings of a public enquiry will be, I want to hear what the PM or report actually said. So, I don't read the speculative opinion of the journalists, I wait for a day or two after the event and read about the real thing. The headline grabbers are on to something new by that time and the serious commentators are getting to grips with the matter.
I take the daily paper, therefore, and start at the back. A quick look at the crossword sets the subconscious mind working on the clues, then I turn to the television review to see what I missed that my friends might have seen the night before, that way I can appear to have an intelligent opinion on programmes without the tedium of watching. Then it's the obituaries, followed by the editorial and comments and, finally, the letters. Sometimes a feature will catch my eye but, on the whole, apart from doing the crossword after lunch, I don't read the rest of the paper until it is at least a day old.
The Telegraph generally does fine obituaries and I read them for their excellent prose, even if I know nothing of the deceased. Today's Obituaries page pays a fitting tribute to the 'historian, philosopher, linguist, author and expert on genocide and extermination,' Professor Norman Cohn, who died on Tuesday aged 92. In the newspaper, but not shown in the online version, is a photograph of Professor Cohn, which complements the written piece perfectly. He looks old, wise, scholarly and sad; a man who has looked into the darkest areas of human behaviour and tried to make sense of them.
Two other features in today's paper caught my attention and they have unwitting links with this obituary. The first is the Comment from W.F. Deedes' Notebook, entitled Darfur is as bad as Nazi Germany . I always look forward to Fridays for the words of this writer of exquisite prose and incisive judgement. The other is a report on a man whose death didn't make it on to the Obituaries page but whose nobility of character shines through as clearly as that of Professor Cohn and Baron Deedes. This is the story of Peter Vernon-Ward, who died on Sunday as a result of injuries sustained during torture in a German PoW camp in 1940.
The three articles show events of 60 years ago, their historic context and their connection with current events. This was a good newspaper day for me.