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Whatcha Reading?

Navigating the minefield that is picking a newspaper to read.

sunny 20 °C

Sunday morning. There’s nothing quite like a decent Sunday morning with nothing at all on the daily calendar, is there? A day to wake up, wander around the house, avoid showering, have a leisurely breakfast and read the Sunday newspaper. Then, maybe about 1 o’clock, after spending the day flipping through every section of the massive Sunday press, then maybe its time to get outside and do something.

Back in Toronto, when I would wander around the house, eating my breakfast and reading the newspaper, it would be the Toronto Star. A good, decent solid liberal newspaper (by Canadian standards).

The question I faced when I first arrived in London is what newspaper I should read. There are a lot of choices, and what you choose to read says a lot about who you are, or at least who you think you are.

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During the week, of course, I don’t have time to sit around a leisurely read the paper. I, like most of the rest of London, read the same thing on weekdays.

The Metro.


The London Metro is a free newspaper distributed every weekday morning. It has just about enough news to digest in about 20 minutes, and if you are feeling really ambitious or want something to do at lunch or on the evening train home, there is a Suduko.

Everyone who commutes in London seems to read the Metro newspaper. Comedian Michael McIntyre commented on this in his Live at the Apollo appearance.

And everyone's reading, you have to read, you can't be on the tube without reading, reading is very important. You get on on the morning and every single person is reading the Metro. Everyone, everyone. Why doesn't one person just read it to the carriage?

if you want to see him do it (much funnier with his delivery), check out this clip on Youtube, starting at about 2:30. Stick around for the bit at about five minutes in, when he talks about the guy trying to get on the crowded tube train. Classic stuff.

We used to have a free Metro newspaper in Toronto, one of many cities with a free morning newspaper called the Metro. The London Metro is not, however, one of that brand. The Metro papers in Toronto, New York, Philly, Paris, Sydney, Rome et al are run by a Swedish company based in Luxembourg.

The London Metro, along with the other Metro editions in the UK are run by a separate company, though they stole the name from the Swedes, so the papers are named the same.

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So that covers me on the weekdays and my commutes. On weekends, though, that’s where you are faced with the decision. Saturday and Sunday editions of the many newspapers available in London are numerous, and the local news agents counters are groaning under the weight of all the editions.

As I said, what paper you read says a lot about who you are.

If you like sports, gossip and boobies, hate immigrants and have little patience for big words or long articles, then the tabloids are for you. The tabloids, also known as red-tops due to the fact many have a red banner at the top of the page, include The Star, The Sport, The Mirror and most famously the The Sun, and her Sunday companion “The News of the World.”

The Sun is one of the most read newspapers in the world, with a daily distribution of almost 3 million copies. The Sun is famous for coverage of celebrities and the Royals, Sports coverage and the Page 3 girl. The Page 3 girl is usually a comely lass who is pictured after misplacing her top and bra.

It is often said of The Sun that it is read back-to-front, as the Sports pages are at the back of the paper, and many of the readers of The Sun are football fans drawn to their extensive football coverage. Of course, in reality The Sun is read in this order - Page 3, and then back to front.

While Page 3 is enticing, for real thrills you’d have to check out the Daily Sport. The Daily Sport ditches the concept of news entirely, simply publishing pictures of naked and near naked women instead and writing a few words of copy around the picture. I must admit that I was tempted to become a Daily Sport reader, but I do occasionally like to read some real news, so decided to go for something a little more high-brow.

The Daily Express or the Daily Mail are a little more high-brow than the tabloids, though at times not much more. The Express is fond of conspiracy stories regarding the death of Princess Diana, and the Daily Mail ran a headline in 1993 entitled “Abortion hope after 'gay genes' findings,” suggesting that if there was a “gay gene” pre-natal test, then parents could choose to terminate the pregnancy. A strange suggestion for a newspaper who is editorially anti-abortion.

The Daily Mail published a story on the seventh of January 1967 called “The Holes In Our Roads” about potholes. The story looked at the crumbling infrastructure of British roads, specifically quoting the example of Blackburn, Lancashire, where it said there were 4,000 potholes. In the same issue was a story about the death of John Lennon’s friend Tara Browne.

Lennon, when writing about the death of his friend, picked up on the story of the potholes to pen the lines, “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, and though the holes were rather small they had to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall,” for the song Day in the Life.

Despite the historical link with my favourite Beatles song, The Mail and the similar Express, often called “middle-market” papers, tend to be conservative and euro-sceptic. As you can tell from my blog, I am pretty Euro-positive, so I decided to look for something a little more in line with my values.

That left me with the Broadsheets. These are the classy papers, the ones that fancy people read. Oh, and me, as well, even though I am not too fancy.

Each paper has a definite political slant. The Telegraph, sometimes called The Tory-graph, is conservative, while the other broadsheets tend to be more liberal. Well, the Financial Times isn’t really liberal, per se, but rather is so focused on business and the stock market to give too much care for liberal or conservative thoughts on social policy. Anyway, I am more liberal than conservative, so I decided to pick one of the other broadsheets.

The Independent is a centre-left paper, an out-growth from The Dublin Independent, but no one really reads it, so I was able to dismiss it pretty easily.

The Guardian and its Sunday edition called The Observer are left of centre and socially liberal.

The Guardian was originally published in Manchester, with the most early editions being sent from Manchester to London. I didn’t know this, but apparently the later runs of newspapers have less errors, because they are being caught and corrected as the run continues. To get the paper into the shops for the morning commuters, London papers sent their early editions to the North of England, whereas early editions of the Guardian came down to London.

Because of Londoners getting the early editions of the Guardian, many folks in London would find spelling errors in the Guardian, leading to it being dubbed the Grauniad, after an urban-myth of the newspaper’s name being misspelt on the banner.

I don’t mind the Guardian, and their headquarters aren’t in Manchester anymore, but rather down in King’s Cross, London, just a block from my flat.

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However, I finally settled on reading the Times on Saturday and Sunday, mostly because my current flat mate reads The Times on Saturdays and Sundays, and therefore we can share the cost of buying the papers.

So, on Sunday mornings I get up, throw on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of sandals and walk half a block up Caledonian Road to the News Agent. There, in exchange for two of my hard earned pounds, I get a thick newspaper that’ll keep me busy for the next four hours, plus a few hours here and there during the week thanks to the magazines.

I return home, make myself some toast and peanut butter and settle in to read the Sunday Times.

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So, what does this choice of paper say about me? Well, officially, the paper is centre-right, so I guess that means I am a little bit conservative. I suppose that isn’t surprising. After all, I do tend to meander over the spectrum of voting. Mostly though, it says I like the concept of not always having to buy the paper.

Perhaps, though, it is best to leave it to others to determine what it says about me. For that, I turn to 1980s sitcom Yes, Prime Minister and their episode entitled “A Conflict of Interest.”

Prime Minister Jim Hacker: I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by people who actually do run the country. The Daily Mirror is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.


Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about people who read the Sun.


Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big tits.

Posted by GregW 04:03 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

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