Newspapers are in the news. Now that hardly anyone commutes, very few people are buying them, advertising revenue is dwindling and some may be forced to close. Although I’ve worked on weekly papers, I hardly ever part with my money for an actual copy nowadays. Most of the stories are on line, ‘celebrities’ seem to fill the pages. Frankly, who has got the time to read them?
Looking back, the most significant paper in my life was The Sunday Times. I loved it.
It started in my teens. Growing up in Liverpool in the 1960s, I thought the newspaper was wildly sophisticated, portraying a glamorous metropolitan lifestyle unknown in the north at that time. I pored over the glossy photos in the magazine and dreamed I might one day become one of these people. Taking action, I saved my pocket money to buy a mail-order set of Mucha prints and a fashionable duvet cover with matching pillowcases and plotted my escape from Liverpool.
Fast forward ten years. Living in a bed sitter and working in media, London life wasn’t quite what I expected. I was actually in the big city at last but not going to the ballet, lunching at the best restaurants, needing advice for my investments, or buying a BMW. Never mind, I could still dream and I occasionally bought the paper, mainly for the columnists.
But before too long, I couldn’t care less. The Sunday Times had changed. What an enormous mass of newsprint, with endless stuff on pretentious houses in Surrey and shiny cars, recruitment ads for six figure salary jobs in the City, the Rich List and features on public school-educated actors and their beautiful children. Besides, I was too busy working to read it.
These days, I live in the south east. It’s not quite the swish London apartment of my dreams. I have a ‘classic’ car (aka – old) and invest in travel rather than the stock market but I’m not complaining.
Post-lockdown, I actually bought a copy last Sunday for the first time in goodness knows how many years. It cost £2.90. With the arrival of coronavirus, it seemed different and I enjoyed reading the paper in the garden that sunny afternoon. The bling has largely gone. Fewer pages but better content; the news and features were insightful and the politics less irritating. The Style section still encouraged readers to buy £270 bottles of perfume and a fantastic combo of gym leggings (£139) and a sports bra (£89) so not everything has changed.
Has my experience renewed my love affair with The Sunday Times? Not sure. All the pundits say we won’t be returning to life pre-March 2020 so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the news media. Meanwhile, the April heatwave is over and I won’t be sitting in the garden all afternoon anytime soon. Maybe I’ll buy the next edition……