Sunday, 19 January 2014

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Grey skies and a biting wind this weekend led me straight here, a cozy bar cum eatery that does the best smoked British bacon sanger on toasted sourdough in the world. (If you're in the 'hood, put it on the list it's worth it). 

Chomping happily, it dawned on me that one of the things I most love about London is the diversity of its media. 
In the daytime, the bar looks like a makeshift news agent as beer coasters are cleared away for big piles of papers. Seen all together, the choice is mind-boggling, especially if, like me, you are used to a diet limited to Fairfax or News Limited. 

It's hard to choose between The Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Independent, Observer, Sunday Times, Sunday Tele, yesterday's Evening Standard, 'i' and a rather grubby Metro. 

Had I holed up in the cheerful greasy spoon just up the road (equally delicious but in a different way), I'd feed up on an artery-hardening full English breakfast washed down with orange juice served in 'return for 10p' glass bottles with foil tops like the old Oz school milk. Here, the tables are covered with myriad tabloids, all of them more tits than news.

Truth be told, I adore reading the red-tops and for a while, after leaving the SMH to settle permanently in London, confess that I harboured a secret fantasy of finding a job on News of the World. The hacking scandal kyboshed that idea but I still have a melancholy hankering for the kind of news room once populated by grumpy, male subs and editors who were masters of the outrageous, double entendre headline and ended their working days snot-flying drunk in the pub across the road. I guess deep down, I'm still a dirty ol' print kinda gal.

But back to the serious stuff: casting my eye across the day's front pages, each one is completely different: the front page lead, the picture, the choice of puff and column subject. Some lead on a domestic yarn, others focused on the international, not one looks or reads like the other. Inside, different points of view and axes to grind  but none of that sense of deja vu I had reading the metro dailies in Sydney and Melbourne.

Political coverage is equally diverse and while the serious papers attempt to at least pay lip service to objective analysis, everyone knows what paper to buy if they want to their own views reflected as well as what to buy (or avoid) if you prefer to be irritated or read views different to your own. 

On weekends, it is unusual for me not to learn something new from the papers, whether it's about the arts, about the city, about this country's history - or its people. And more often than not, I am elated by a piece of writing, amused by columnists who have both a honed sense of satire and an erudite approach to their patch (Dominic Lawson, Caitlin Moran, Simon Jenkins et al). Inevitably too there is still stuff to set aside or cut out, interesting tid bits like recipes, things to do or see, a review to put inside a book read and to be remembered or loaned to a mate.

During the week, I admit that I too rely on newspaper websites although I am an avid fan of the Evening Standard and read a hard copy most days, handed out gratis at the station. 

Fleet Street has had its share of troubles - and they are far from over. But London, at least for the newspaper readers (if not for the journos)  still offers a sense of hope, of inspiration and enthusiasm that print ain't dead. Papers are on planes, trains and buses, spread in cafes and pubs, rolled under the arms of walkers and still as visible as phones and tablets on the Tube. 

They're varied and they're gutsy - and when it comes to politics, with each and every one of them, you know where you stand.

Yep, I'm a fan.


  1. Oooohhh so too am I a fan. My family know the greatest treat they can give me is a mountain of newspapers & time to read them. Any country I go to (have to admit UK and US the best) that first breakfast is a long one as I gather up not the standard 4 in Oz (with very minor variations by state these days) but armfuls ... the weekend editions being my favourite. And yes I tear page after page of a great story here, a review there, a business idea, a fav writer, an idea for a friend's thesis, a recipe to be tried, a new idea for stacking wood, a sale of brand name handbags, glimpses & prices of cliff hugging houses and Downton Abbey like estates, an inspiring story of one woman's determination to save a child/imprisoned lover/elephant/herself against the odds; an inciteful analysis of left/right/whatever political party/policy/incident blah blah blah ... To my husband's eternal amusement "... What are you going to do with all those scaps of paper ?" ... He just doesn't understand.
    It's just not the same online. The satisfaction of seeing read newspapers distorted and bloated from page turning, folding, tearing, marking ... and it's been this way since I was about 12 at boarding school (although the nuns had always done their bit of cutting out too no matter how early I got to the library - sometimes with pinking shears to my amusement - of the odd salacious scandal or inappropriate political punch up ... Leading to a most distorted memory of the Whitlam years ). Although I have to admit where once upon a time I could not start my day without reading all 4 Oz major papers I have become so bored by the pap being written by a call centre somewhere that I am now down to the Fin Review still in print and the weekend Victorian papers. The positive outcome of the pap is that I was forced to search out and find alternatives and now enjoy access to independent well written online 'publications ' such as The Conserversation and The Euro File !
    Thanks for the blog Paola thought I was the only compulsive print crazed reader left :-) x

  2. Dominique, maybe we should start an 'ode to print' page!! Nice to know I'm not alone - and when you come to Blighty, I know where to take you!

  3. Love this, makes me want to move to London.