Friday, August 03, 2007

From today's paper

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.


  1. It's been so long since I sat down to read a newspaper that was actually on paper that I don't know whether I still have a ritual. When I did read a paper regularly, I had a strong ritual.

  2. Monix.

    Your recent self-imposed news blackout explains why you didn't write me right away to find out if I'd been hurt in the Minneapolis bridge collapse. Everyone else I know assumed that since I'm one of about 2.5 million people who live and work in the Twin Cities area, that naturally there was a strong chance that I could have been one of the 100 or so people that were present on the bridge when it went down. I'll excuse your glaring lack of concern for my welfare for that reason!-)

    I once made a ritual of reading the local Sunday paper, until I got fed up with how poor a newspaper it was. Lately I've made a ritual of reading the Sunday New York Times at the local coffeeshop. I'm more interested in the national and international stories than the local anyhow, and the Times reporting is first rate. I decided a while back that if I'm going to read, I'll read only the best. Life is too short otherwise.

    Monix, I don't share any of the "creature comfort" sections of the paper with you, like the crossword puzzle or the obituary. I really don't care to read sports stories anymore either. To me sports is only worth watching, not reading about. It's thrilling to read about championships won, but the daily ups and downs of non-contending teams can get pretty tedious and monotonous.

  3. Duck, you know I read the obituaries first, so I knew you were not on the bridge.

    I found the TV news coverage of that disaster very strange, the reporters seemed to assume that we would be disappointed to hear that fewer people than first thought had been killed. Hooray for that, but does it make the story any less tragic? You see why I'm off journalism.

    The crossword isn't a creature comfort, it is supposed to stave off memory loss or dementia or something, I forget what.

    (BTW did you get the Donald Duck plane pics? I thought your email security might block them)

  4. Monix
    I checked my bulk mail folder but did not see the pics you mentioned. I guess the filter assumes Donald Duck is more offensive than colon cleansing aides and online sex clubs. I'm dying to see them now!

  5. Fine for sharing but (thus?) not particularly interesting. The last paper I received on paper was the Wall Street Journal. (Did you hear that Rupert Murdoch has decided to merge his two newspapers, the Wall Street Murdoch and the Murdoch Journal. He's going to call it the Murdoch Murdoch. (Joke stolen from David Brooks.)) I would scan the national and business news summaries to see if anything required immediate attention. I would then read the short feature story in the middle column. I would then turn to the op/ed and editorial pages, then the penultimate feature page. Then I would usually read one of the in-depth news stories starting in the first or last column on the first page. After than, where I would go next would vary depending on what day it was.

  6. Thanks, David. I think everyone has a unique newspaper-reading style whether that is the order of reading columns or the time or place. My dad used to take refuge in the bathroom so that he could read the paper undisturbed. My mother wouldn't look at it until everyone else was in bed and all her chores finished.

  7. When I read about heroic men like Vernon-Ward and your late father-in-law and how they experienced such horror yet went on to build successful families and careers without talking about their experiences (a very common tale), I become enraged at the modern caring profession, shrinks, trauma counsellors, etc. who insist we must all wallow tearfully in the muck of it in order to cope and who harass all and sundry of whatever age to do so. And I despair that almost all of us have come to think they are right.

  8. I fully agree with you, Peter. It ties in with the current view that children should not be exposed to any form of risk. Most of us have to face pain or loss at some time in our lives and the cosseted generation won't have had any practice on minor difficulties to help them deal with the big ones.


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