Three reasons why I am falling out of love with the Guardian

I admit it: I am lifelong Guardian reader. Readership of the paper is hard-wired into me.

I read most of my news online these days, but may buy a paper once or twice a week. I sometimes make a conscious decision to buy the Telegraph for a laugh, or the Times for its foreign coverage, but almost always my instinct will be to go for the Grauniad.

But after nearly 30 years of reading the paper, and a decade before that of seeing my parents read a daily diet of it, I am beginning to fall out of love with the Guardian.

Most people read newspapers because they like their familiar clichés – the Guardian’s hipness, the Telegraph’s xenophobia, the Sun’s Sensationalism, and so on. The trouble with the Guardian is that its hipness is rapidly being replaced by smugness – not a reputation any newspaper wishes to have.

The charge-sheet relies on three crimes:

1 Metropolitan snobbery. Witness the Guardian’s recent profile of Woolwich as an Olympic venue (see www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/18/london-olympics-2012-hurdles-transport-system) . Reporter Barney Ronay described Woolwich as “the land of fried chicken and betting shops”, and expressed horror that it is so far from the West End. (“…relying as it does on that bolt-on confusion of light and overland railways to the east of the Victorian certainties of the tube map”, etc etc). This prompted a furious response from local MP Nick Raynsford (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/19/snobbish-olympic-jibes-not-helpful ) (Interest declared: I work for Nick part-time).

Some of us live here, Barney! If only you’d called to say you were coming, I could have shown you the sights of Woolwich: the longest parade ground in Europe, the Arsenal (once the largest factory in the world), the remains of the Garrison Church, the Pugin-designed St Peter’s Church, or Wyatt’s Military Academy buildings, just yards from the shooting venue. Instead you just relied on Cor-blimey clichés.

2 Value for Money. Looking at two random recent editions of the Guardian and the upstart “i”, which sells for just 20p, tells a depressing story. The Guardian of April 25th had seven pages about the Leveson Inquiry, lengthy news stories about Uganda and Sierra Leone, Seamus Milne on how politics has become like a  TV Gameshow (yawn), Simon Jenkins on why he hates the Euro (yawn) and in the G2 supplement, an irritatingly fawning profile of the leader of the “Respect” party, Salma Yaqoob.  The “i” of April 20th, for one sixth of the price, offered almost as many foreign stories, an interview with David Hare, features on supermarket shopping habits  and the theft of Chinese art treasures from British museums. I know which newspaper offered the better value and told me things I didn’t already know – and it wasn’t the Guardian. And I am normally a heavy-duty broadsheet man, not given to tabloid sensation.

3 Silly political correctness. Newspaper style guides are supposed to translate journalese into the English language, so newspapers speak like their readers do. The Guardian’s style guide seems to do the opposite: it mangles the language into a dumbed-down, one-size-fits-all Newspeak which bears little resemblance to how normal human beings actually speak or write.

The Guardian’s aversion to the word “actress” is a case in point, and its insistence on using the word “actor” in its place has some clunking consequences.

Take this, from the “Other lives” Obituary column: “As a young girl, my aunt, Sybil Boddington, who has died aged 92, wanted to be an actor.” Or this from Pamela Stephenson’s agony column: “I’m a 56-year-old woman in a heterosexual relationship who loves looking at young, beautiful women. I find myself looking at images of actors and models in provocative poses and becoming very aroused.” Did English girls in the 1920s really want to grow up to be actors, not actresses? Or would a 50-something heterosexual woman, having sexual thoughts about female actresses, really refer to them as actors? I don’t think so, either.

For now, I’ll carry on reading the Guardian. But my loyalty is being tested.

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One Response to Three reasons why I am falling out of love with the Guardian

  1. Paul Webbewood says:

    The Guardian lied about Eltham earlier this year after the Stephen Lawrence trial. The Independent and mail were just as bad.

    Even if you take a Watsonian view of the proprietor, I’d suggest switching to the Times which I find a pretty good paper.

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