I used to like newspapers. Really. I loved them. When I was growing up, we always had newspapers around - my parents thought they'd be useful in teaching their kids to read. And I suppose they were, a bit. We had all sorts - the Sun, the Mail, the Times, never really the Telegraph or the Guardian or anything like that. I always used to read the local paper when it came through the letterbox - primarily to see if anything had happened in places I'd heard of rather than places I could only imagine (it usually hadn't, but such is life in dreary cookie-cutter suburbia).
When I was at university I think I started buying the Guardian because that's kind of what you're meant to do when you're a student, but I did enjoy reading it as well. Well, bits of it. And I think I'd get the Independent and the Times as well, or Telegraph when I wanted to read some sport, and News of the Screws on a Sunday for something a bit different, and the unintentional hilarity of the Michael Winner column of course. When I started working, I moved on to the Mirror, which I liked, and then, well that was about it.
I don't buy newspapers any more. I was at the garage this morning going to buy some milk and bread and thought Why not get a paper? But then I looked at the bloody things, and I thought: Actually, I know why not. What do I want to find out about? Well, some news. All the news in the paper is going to be out of date. There might be a couple of columns that are relevant to stuff that I'm interested in, but there's no guarantee that I'm going to agree with them - which isn't a problem, but if you find yourself disagreeing with columnists more often than you do agreeing with them, why are you buying the paper in the first place?
Sportswise, I want to find out about my team, and I have no interest in Premiership transfers that haven't happened yet, or Premiership players saying they'd like to score goals and win games, and Premiership managers saying they want to win more games than they lose, and all the other obvious banality - but in a newspaper you're going to be lucky if your team - unless it's Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea - gets more than three or four paragraphs, sometimes even less than that; sometimes you're just shunted into the 'round-up' bits. Why bother with that at all?
The thing is, time after time, in every section, you're faced with a tsunami of guff about stuff you're not interested in, just in case you might be interested in it, and the bits you actually are interested in seem tiny in comparison. With Sunday papers it's even worse - there are entire sections immediately consigned to the recycling bin without ever needing to be touched. Sure, it's great value to have so much stuff for such a relatively small price; but on the other hand, it's not great value at all when you don't actually want all the crap you're being given. It gets to the point where you've ploughed through half a ton of flabby lifestyle marketing bollocks about stuff you can't ever possibly afford or ever even have the faintest dream of being able to afford, just to get to the fucking TV guide and the cartoons.
But there's something else. Reading Sunday papers, especially the Sunday 'quality' papers, makes me sad. It makes me feel like a failure. I don't really buy into the whole social Veblenism of it, to try and buy into the whole idea that some holiday on a gold-plated yacht in the middle of the Bahamas eating quails' brains carved into the shape of exploding fireworks off the back of a diamond-encrusted flamingo is really going to be something that I could ever even aspire to, let alone get anywhere near to if I saved up all my money ever. I can't be fucked with looking at half-a-grand's worth of handbag, or shoes, or whatever it is, thinking that is anything to do with my life or has anything whatsoever to do with me. It makes me pissed off. What the fuck has this got to do with me? Page after page of luxury cars that I've not got a rat's chance in hell of ever being able to crash into, let alone buy. It's like MTV Cribs - it just makes me feel shit about my own life, rather than having any of the magic rubbing off onto me. Oh look, someone else marvellously wealthy and with loads of shit that they've bought. Oh look, another home cinema. Fucking magic. Ooh, a big marble bathtub. Good for you. It gets a bit wearying after a while.
It's funny but I don't feel so overwhelmed by the dozens of choices I don't like when I'm thinking of something like broadcasting, for example. The BBC offers loads of programmes that I'm never going to watch, whereas on the other hand it offers a significant proportion of things that are absolutely delightful, and which I enjoy very much. (ITV, in comparison, is just loads of stuff I don't like and am never going to watch. But that's just me.) But I don't feel overwhelmed by it at once. I can pick and choose things as the day progresses, or using the iPlayer. I don't have to constantly turn page after page after page of stuff that I don't like, reading column after column that I find annoying or grating, chucking supplement after supplement into the bin.
Like a lot of people, I feel quite liberated by not having a newspaper any more. I might scan one if there's one knocking about, of course, but it's not something that I go out and buy. In fact, those times when I do just pick up a newspaper remind me why I don't buy them any more - there's so much there that's not for me, so little that I find myself agreeing with or enjoying. Sometimes you'll read an entire newspaper just for a crossword or a TV review. Is that enough? I don't know. It's a lot of effort to put in as a reader for not very much back. I don't think it's the cost that puts me off, I think it's the fact that I don't really enjoy what's in there, and I can seek out any number of entertaining reads online. That's just me, and I know it's very different for other people.
I'm not saying that it's a good thing that people don't buy newspapers any more, because I know it's an industry that often provides very important challenges to Government. There are occasional moments of brilliance that you probably don't get anywhere else, in any other medium. But I can't keep on chucking a quid away every day in the hope that somewhere down the line something good turns up. Maybe that's a selfish attitude, but it's the one I have. I love reading, but I don't love reading newspapers any more. I don't think they've got significantly worse, but maybe I've become more impatient with them, more demanding, more easily annoyed. Or maybe it's the case that there are more readily available sources of reading material and entertainment.
I know that a lot of people will say "You'll miss them when they're gone" and I probably will, or would. But I can't see myself starting to buy them again any time soon.