Monday, March 26, 2012

The New Yorker reluctantly makes it official: the Daily Mail is not quite as evil as North London claims. Damn!

When I thought of writing this piece about a profile of the Daily Mail which has just appeared in The New Yorker, the phrase ‘the man you love to hate’ kept occurring to me which I could then adapt to ‘the newspaper you love to hate’. But being a nosy sort, I googled the phrase to see to whom it was applied and came up with the names of German film director Erich von Stroheim and South London wrestler Mick McManus. I should imagine that the phrase was first applied to von Stroheim, courtesy of a studio press office, and McManus, or his manager, adopted it as being far too good to be wasted. All that by way of a rather unnecessary preamble. Now onto the Mail and its profile by one Lauren Collins in The New Yorker.

When all is said and done about the only honest conclusion one can make about the piece is that it is distinctly odd. I might be wrong on this, but I’ve always assumed The New Yorker is generally read – avidly in some case, I should think – by folk who like to think of themselves as a tad brighter than the hoi polloi and most certainly more enlightened, not to say liberal. Whether fairly or not, I’ve often got the impression that your average New Yorker reader is, well, just a little up him or herself, and although they have more than a great deal of sympathy for the dispossessed of this world, they most certainly wouldn’t be seen dead socialising with them. Being of a liberal, quite possibly left-liberal turn of mind, they most certainly would not approve of the Mail, its readers and its assumed politics, and reading the piece by Ms Collins I got the distinct impression that she was itching to disapprove. But she never quite manages to do so. Why not?

The Mail and its web sister the Mail Online are a modern success story. According to circulation figures released by the ABC, all the circulation of all British nationals is falling, in some cases dramatically, not to say embarrassingly, but the Mail – damn its eyes – is, ahem, doing rather less badly than the rest. And bien pensant folk hate, hate, hate the fact. I am not, and would never, suggest that the fact that the Mail is holding its own has anything to do with the worth of its assumed politics, but it has a great deal to do with the popularity of the paper: whereas fewer and fewer people are prepared to part with £1 to buy the Independent or the Daily Telegraph or £1.20 to buy the Guardian or The Times, the number who will gladly part with 55p to get their own copy of the Mail is, again ahem, holding up rather well. Ah, you cry, but it’s half the price of the ‘serious newspapers’. Well, yes it is, and so what? The Express is also half the price of the ‘serious’ newspapers and its circulation is plummeting.

The New Yorker’s Ms Collins must have spent quite a few days in our offices and, given the potted history of the paper and its current editor Paul Dacre, she obviously did her homework. She was even invited to sit in on conferences (and, according to Private Eye, those attending were warned to be on their best behaviour and to eschew the kind of coarse language which is the lingua franca of most newspaper offices I have worked in) and her piece is the kind of workmanlike and rather long feature article we have come to expect from a Yankee hack working at the serious end of her
“Well (sniff) one doesn’t really want to condone such popularism and Lord it is such an awful rag, but well (sniff) one is, one must admit, obliged to be fair (sniff), though more’s the pity”

industry. And I’ll repeat: while reading it I got the impression, time and again, that she was just dying to let fly, to be outraged, to be disgusted, yet she never quite managed it. It could, of course, be because she had no reason to. Ms Collins touched on the Mail’s alleged institutional racism but, in the event, she was again obliged to pull her punches. And I suspect that this was because for an allegedly racist organisation, the Mail employs a great number of folk whose origins, or that of their parents and grandparents, lie in Asia, Africa and the West Indies. More to the point, they are not kept hidden away in cupboards: anyone walking on any floor and in any department – for some reason particularly in the IT department will spot them very, very easily and with no effort at all.

Well, if the paper is not racist, it can be charged with being trivial. And that it most certainly is: the print edition, but even more so the online edition, brims with what at my most charitable I can only describe as celebrity crap and bollocks. But the fact is that that is what the punters rather like to read, that and that the world is going to hell in a handcart. In the unlikely event that the saintly Guardian decided to start printing just as much celebrity crap and bollocks, we would all witness is harsh decline in circulation being reversed. Can the Mail be condemned for providing – this is me speaking, not the paper – morons with the kind of fodder morons relish? Not in my world they can’t. And, as it turns out, not in Ms Collins’s world either. But read the piece for yourself and make your own mind up. Incidentally, don't ever

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