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Monday, 10 January 2011

Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned...

It's finally happened. I promised myself it never, ever would, but it has. I've finally succumbed to the forces of evil and become a new-media, tech-savvy twat. I bought a mobile phone with a QWERTY keyboard and that was the end of me. Let me explain.

I have always bought newspapers. Ever since I was old enough and interested enough to want to read them, I've paid solid, metal money in real live shops  to actual living people for genuine paper papers. I've bought The Guardian regularly for so long I can't really remember not buying it. I read my parents' tabloids on the weekend and often dish out increasingly large amounts of pennies for any paper with a free CD. But today something awful happened. This morning, I was lying in bed wide awake, thinking of the laziest way to get to the Doctors' to have my blood test (I called my dad for a lift in the end - see? Lazy!) and decided to browse Twitter on my phone to see what's been happening. I looked and saw this fantastic article by Charlie Brooker linked on my time-line. It's great, as always. But then, since I was on the site anyway I carried on reading article after article from today's news on the Guardian Website. 

No big deal, right? Wrong. Because I've just nipped to the shops to buy a paper and some milk. Milk I can't even drink, incidentally, since I'm meant to fast for 12 hours before this bloody blood test! I flicked through the paper, you know, to see if I really want to buy it - which I do everyday, then end up buying it anyway - and realised, to my horror, that I'd read all the news stories already! There wasn't a free CD either, so I left the shop sans paper for the first time in years. 

Now, I don't have anything against internet newspapers, like guardian.co.uk, they're a wonderful thing in fact! Great for those who don't have the option of buying a paper, for whatever reason, or for the greener among us who don't want to have real paper anymore because it kills monkeys or something... It's just that every article on newspaper websites seems to be peppered with "maybe you'd like to know more about this even though it has nothing to do with the story you're reading" links - big lines of blue text splashed over the page like the diahrreal dribbles of some virtual puppy suffering from "spare rib bone belly". And I've sinned in the titular because I've realised that I do this too - and have done so in this very post. Granted, mine are just links to other pages of relevance and not the prattling biog of some pre-teen soap-starlet who has been recently recast, but I'm still guilty. It's like the news now tells YOU what you should be reading and thinking and berates you for not knowing the background on the key players - sure, it's helpful enough to plop a "who is Gail Porter?" link on your lap to assist, but clicking it means you're a stupid cretin who SHOULD KNOW THIS ALREADY! 

And when they're not telling you what you should know, cretin, they're making sure that what you DO know is coloured to such a clich√©d and tasteless degree that there is simply no space in your tiny mind to contemplate your own stance on the story. So-called BIG STORIES and BREAKING NEWS are force-fed to us in such a way that the facts are lost in the sensationalist reporting. I don't exactly know WHY Jared Loughner shot countless people, including US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (whose headquarters were showered with flowers and cards wishing her to Rest In Peace, despite her not actually being dead yet) or why Loughner's middle name has sudenly become the third barrel on his smoking gun - because we all know killers have three names, right? (See, there I go again... Thanks Rob). Presumably, the three names thing sells the story as a fantastic and shocking EXCITING WORLD EVENT rather than the real and harrowing tragedy is actually is, and very personally devastating to those actually involved. But that's show-biz! And that's just what the news is nowadays. Showbiz. It's awful. But it's the way things are! The days of fact-based reporting are gone and instead we get a stream of opinion pebble-dashed with "click here's" for this research article and this web source.

Notice how outraged I've been in this post? And notice, too, how little factual information I've given! All the "this is important" stuff is included in link form. It's how ALL journalism works online. Pepper the text with relevant or irrelevant, background-giving info-links and fill in the gaps. This is why I'll never be asked to write for the Guardian newspaper. This is why paper papers are the best form of news. "If you want to know more, do some fucking research, you lazy sod!", they say. "We can't do it ALL for you!" - and quite right too!

And to top it all off, after 12 hours of not eating or drinking anything but bloody air, I went to the Doctors and was told that my blood tests were on THURSDAY! Not MONDAY! Silly me. I really should pay more attention. So, forgive me father, thanks for the lift and everything, but I got it wrong. You'll have to do it again on Thursday.