Thursday, 7 July 2011

News Of The What?

Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed is getting on. Soon we’ll have to think about pre-school and then there’s school itself. It’s exciting and scary. I can almost recall my first day at school and somewhere my mum has a Polaroid of me aged four and a half and wearing a blazer.

The thought of TWMBO going to school so soon makes my head swim. I experienced a similar feeling recently when I gave a talk at one of my old schools.

When I was a pupil it was a collection of huts on a hillside. These days it’s a state of the art building with touch screen white boards. I’ve given talks at schools before as part of the programme that equips fifth and sixth years with ideas for business. My speciality is showing them how to get good publicity for their products and services and how to fend off negative publicity if something goes wrong.

But this was the first time I genuinely felt old. It wasn’t just the super modern surroundings. When I explained how to deal with newspaper journalists I was met with blank looks. Newspapers? It quickly emerged newspapers and even the internet was for fuddy duddies. How do you know what’s going on in the world was my obvious question. A few of them grunted Facebook and Mobiles.

And so it seems we now have a generation that only consumes information passed along by friends. It’s mind-boggling. I still get the shakes on a Saturday if by midday I haven’t at least glanced at the front page headlines of the FT and the Guardian. And although it’s pretty sparse I feel compelled to buy the Inverness Courier on a Tuesday just in case I miss something. Only buying Friday’s edition? Who knows what you could be missing! Just think of the effort Jim Miller puts into those columns, goddamn you!

I do worry about the future of information. There’s a really strange set of forces at work in the media. The rise of the Daily Mail is relentless (I’m curious: why if Scotland voted overwhelmingly SNP is everyone buying an overtly right-wing tabloid?) while the News of the World has imploded. Regional dailies like the P&J and the Dundee Courier are doing fine. Weekly locals have mixed fortunes but what definitely seems to help is if the quality of their journalism is maintained. The temptation for big media firms is to cut back and do as little as possible to maximise profits. But if the quality of writing isn’t there people aren’t going to buy the product.

And then there’s the Nairnshire. No web presence. Still black and white. But where else do you turn for news from the Brighton of the North? It’s a format that works but will it continue to once the Facebook generation takes over?

I grew up in a household that never read a newspaper. However for several years I spent weekends with one of my grannies and I recall her getting the Edinburgh Evening News (it was a broadsheet back then) on a Saturday teatime. Reading snippets from it and watching The Money Programme on a Sunday made me the nerd I am today, I am sure of it.

I hope TWMBO has memories of bumbling around at weekends with her mum and dad with the house festooned with newspapers. Ah, the joy of wading through pages of articles you don’t know you’re interested in until you start to read them - how else do you find out what’s going on in the world?

And as for blogs? Print them out. I’ll read them later.

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