One argument you'll often hear from people who (unlike me) know a thing or two about newspapers, goes like this: Say what you like about the Sun's politics, but it's brilliantly written and put together.
I know what they're saying - but is that actually true? Today's Sun front page, for example, might lead you to the opposite conclusion:
I can argue with you about the choice of stories: the prurient intrusiveness into the deaths of celebrities like Stephen Gately and Brittany Murphy; a visit by a Premiership manager to a brothel and so on. But what I'd like to look at most of all is how shit it is.
The 'Prem manager' for example, appears to have overdosed on Ready Brek in preparation for his next match. "Aha!" you might say to me, "but might the colour not be a clue as to the team he manages?" and I'd say, I doubt it somehow, but you never know, and even if it is, it looks fucking shit.
In the online edition, the manager appears to have transformed into a silhouette of a character from a 1980s ZX Spectrum adventure game, and so we're still left guessing. But surely if there's any manager out there who looks like he's made out of Lego, or bright red, then he'll be quickly spotted...?
The 'cocktail of drugs' attempting to piss on the freshly-dug grave of Brittany Murphy before she's even been lowered into it is fairly abysmal as well - ooh look, a list of things found in her house. Christ! "Here is a list of things" - whoa, thanks for that! I don't know how I'd get going into the day without a list of things! Sentences and words are a bit too tricky for me - can we just keep it to lists and pictures, then I'd be able to understand! I don't see any evidence here of the 'brilliantly written' Sun that people are always telling me about.
And the smiley face. The smiley face, what the fuck is that about? The Sun considers its readers so infantile that they'll only react to the simplest possible level of explanation - BIG SMILEY FACE GOOD, FROWNY SMILEY FACE BAD. What kind of regression is this? Even the bad old Sun didn't stoop that low - did it? Maybe it did and I don't remember.
It's truly woeful to behold, and if you were wondering why the Sun is struggling like all other newspapers then you'd probably do well to start with how comically shit it looks. Who knows - maybe everyone was out getting ratarsed at the Christmas party and they left the cleaner to to the front page. Maybe I'm doing them a disservice. But - and I never thought I'd say this - the Sun looks as bad as the Express. As bad as the Express! And it can't really get much worse than that.
The whole 'We can't tell you who this Premiership manager is because of bloody Human Rights and privacy' thing is fairly childish too, I think. Whereas the Tiger Woods exposes had the waffer-thinnest of justifications, that he had marketed himself as an all-American hero (though I still have yet to see evidence of him and his family in TV adverts - and besides, does anyone, anyone in the world, think: "Hang on a minute, before I buy these expensive razors, has the sportsman advertising them been completely faithful in his relationship? Otherwise I may question the effectiveness of the blades") this story has none. Who gives a shit - and, beyond that, how can you possibly justify telling the story in any kind of public interest way, given that you don't even have the "Woods defence", which (in my view) is bollocks anyway?
Perhaps I've just caught the Sun on an especially bad day. Maybe normally they're launching full-scale investigative reports about the things that really matter, rather than trying to trap celebs in brothels, and maybe normally they look like they're something other than a shite comic. But not today.