IHAVE spent a deal of time recently pondering the past as we mark the 50th Anniversary of this mighty organ. Those of us who have been around during that half-century have certainly had a wonderful time of it compared to most other eras. The advances in every aspect of life – health, wealth, food, transport, technology – have come at us fast and furious. In fact, the only real retrograde step I can think of is the sad demise of Concorde.
Without doubt, the most significant developments of the past 50 years have been the invention of personal computers (from desktop machines to mobile phones to in-car sat navs) and the plethora of digital worlds that the internet has created. We are now so dependent on instant connection for everything from shopping to spelling that living without it is almost unthinkable. (I recently had to write a column when my broadband had gone down. It took me twice as long and I actually had to refer to books.)
While the arrival of social media in the form of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al (I can’t keep up with them all) has connected every individual to a wider world, in a way it has made us more insular as well. That’s because the digital company we keep is self-selected. We choose who to follow and who to read. We exist in a social media bubble into which no outsider is allowed. This inevitably means that we miss out on new ideas, new content, new inspiration. And that is where a good newspaper or magazine comes in.
An editor who really knows his or her readership (or target readership) puts together a veritable selection box of words and pictures, some of which the consumer would never have expected to come across. On Cotswold Life we actively look for at least one feature a month that has this Gee-whizz factor. That is the art, and at the heart, of what we do.
Unfortunately, those people who rely only on the internet for their news and views don’t enjoy this breadth of thought, and their increasing numbers have partly brought about the demise of the region’s two daily newspapers, The Citizen and the Gloucestershire Echo. These two fine titles go weekly as of this month after head office management decided that their daily sale no longer justified the expense of production. It is a sad, if probably inevitable, decision. Gloucester in particular has a newspaper history dating back to the founding of the Gloucester Journal by Robert Raikes in 1722 – a full 50 years before the United States of America even existed. And the city can ill afford to lose its voice when it is culturally and economically resurgent. I sincerely hope that the move to weekly revitalises these newspapers and extends their existence in print.
IT MAY come as a terrible shock to those who live in their own ‘Hate the Daily Mail’ bubble, but working class hero John Lennon was actually a reader of that much-reviled (and very successful) newspaper. The evidence comes at us direct from 1967 and the lyrics to A Day in the Life from the ground-breaking Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
On January 7 of that year, the Mail carried a report about the death of a friend of Lennon’s, Tara Browne, who drove into the back of a lorry at 106mph in Kensington. “He blew his mind out in a car...” That same day’s newspaper also carried a story about there being 4,000 potholes in the town of Blackburn, Lancashire. So the Mail helped pen some famous Beatles’ lyrics. Now there’s not many people know that...
THE other big problem with the internet is that suddenly everyone is a writer. No matter how pointless, banal or badly written they might be, cyberspace is overflowing with boring personal blogs droning on about everything from cats to cricket. And they all have one thing in common – they are hideously long.
What’s that got to do with you, I hear you ask? Just don’t read them. I’m afraid it’s not that easy. People send them to me on an almost daily basis suggesting them as our next new column and I, being polite, feel obliged to read the turgid text. I sometimes even reply with suggestions as to how the author’s writing might be improved. Let me tell you, that doesn’t always go down well.
Now the last thing I want to do is deter new talent, but please remember, brevity is the soul of wit. At which point I’ll sto...