Bemoaning the loss of The Sunday Times….
Today I unwrapped the broadsheet bundle that is The Sunday Times from its plastic wrapper and immediately set about removing three quarters of it for dispatch to the recycle bin. Gone in sixty seconds the style section, the millionaire’s property guide, the pointless news review and, sad to say the Sunday Times magazine ‘proper’.
I say ‘proper’ because that’s what it once was, we had Harold Evans and his predecessors to thank for that and Andrew Neil for setting it on the fast track to journalistic irrelevance. This week the lead feature is a very long and pointless ‘extract’ from AA Gill’s new book on being an alcoholic thirty years ago. So what? Almost famous for being an over-indulgent, self-obsessed ‘food critic’ for the same paper, it’s a bore fest from start to end. In a world of books covering the drunken antics of Best, Reed, Moon and countless other A-list stars this is nothing more than an act of self-promotion by both parties.
The front page tells you where we are at in 2015. ‘Star Wars is back-and it’s female’, ‘Bolly Good Show Patsy’ ‘Free Poster on Dinosaurs’ ‘Pollution Stunts Children’s Lungs’ and the second biggest headline article, ‘Martin Amis Skewers Corbyn as Third Rate and Undereducated’
So, Martin Amis, famous for being relevant in the early eighties slags off politician for the same charge. Inside we are treated to a full page of Amis telling us what we do not care about, it’s elitist and pointless and only Martin Amis fans will bother to read it. Why couldn’t Amis have demanded a better subject to vent his spleen on? Why not follow his great love Christopher Hitchens’ lead in discussing the undiscussed? In magazine issues gone by what continues to happen in the Sudan would have been thrown at us by Don McCullin’s harrowing monochrome images but today’s editors focus on a minority of size zero Beckham lookalike models as the lead investigation on page three.
It would be disingenuous to say that it wasn’t always like this, newspapers are like any other business in so much as they must cater for their audience and there have been column inches dedicated to ‘society’ for as long as there have been column inches but here’s the but..
Under Evan’s stewardship The Sunday Times catered for its known audience. He wasn’t guessing what category they generally fell under, he knew. Now they’re trying to cover every base and if the story isn’t there then they invent it. I often refer back to the late James Cameron for journalistic reference, here was a man who wrote about the facts as he witnessed them on the ground. He didn’t quote ‘a close source’ or ‘a friend of’ as a prefix to a made up sentence, you could take his analysis as a reliable one and that is what this paper, like so many others are guilty of, fact fixing.
I miss those matter-of-fact days of reporting; unsentimental and unapologetic in their delivery and whilst influenced by the publishers political leaning the broadsheet remained a ‘news paper’. Andrew Neil’s tenure brought to bear a high gloss, unreachable porn fest of high fashion which has remained ever since. It sits in tandem with the irrelevance of the Westminster bubble reporting and it has become a symbol of much of what we have now ended up with. Vacuous reporting for a readership seemingly happy to sit back and allow it to happen.