A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Gloomiad indeed.....

Two of our most right-on, trendy, Dave Spartist/metropolitan-left, eco-hyping newspapers appear to be in trouble, namely The Guardian and its Sunday bedfellow, The Observer. According to the latest statistics (May 14, 2004) issued by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), both are suffering declining sales:-

Between April 2003 and April 2004, the daily sales of The Guardian fell by 17,357, or -4.35%. The average daily sale is now only 381,449, which is but 14.32% of the quality national daily newspaper market, or a minuscule 3.14% of the total daily national newspaper market. And this is despite a large increase in the number of weekly supplements issued by the paper (including the new 'Life' supplement on science).

The story for The Observer is perhaps worse. The average Sunday sale is currently 450,119, which represents 16.30% of the quality Sunday national newspaper market and a mere 3.55% of the total Sunday national newspaper market. Losses on April 2003 were 5,363 (-1.18%). But the problems appear to be accelerating, with losses in April 2004 on March 2004 looking worryingly bad at 2,138 (i.e., -0.47% in one month). This is not surprising, because the Saturday Guardian is now largely indistinguishable from its Sunday stablemate and people are tending to buy only one weekend paper.

The causes for these declines are, therefore, multiple (including online blogging?), and, of course, they reflect a general fall in newspaper sales (only a couple of titles are showing significant rises). But, more specifically, The Guardian has been badly hit by the new competitive tabloid versions of both The Independent and The Times (the former benefiting from a large percentage rise in its circulation, the latter from a smaller rise).

The Observer seems, however, to be in particularly serious trouble. It is being alleged that it has lost some £100 million over the last ten years since The Guardian took it over, which appears to have been a bad deal for both The Observer (which once had its own distinctive brand) and The Guardian. According to media rumours, this oldest of Sunday newspapers (founded in 1791) is now under review. The Guardian itself will probably have to go tabloid in the near future.

Interestingly, the good Dr. S demanded this morning that we also stop taking The Guardian and The Observer and just stick to having The Times delivered (we currently take both, as we have done for a long time). She declared that she has had enough of The Groaniad's morally bankrupt one-sided pontificating on everything from America to Israel and 'global warming'. I'm still holding in there (after all, we have read The Guardian throughout our lives), but I might (and I usually do!) lose these domestic debates. This is surely, granted in miniature, further bad news for both The Guardian and The Observer, because, as long-time Labour supporters, we are their quintessential readership.

But, sadly, I have largely to agree with Dr. S. The Guardian has become boring, repetitive, and shrill. Above all, it preaches. It also seems to be falling foul of a disturbing trend in many newspapers, whatever their assumed quality, namely a failure to distinguish clearly between reportage and propaganda, while, too often, it appears defunct in its critical values relating to age, Israel, America, and environmentalism. I thus don't apologise for repeating here part of a gently ironic post I made some time back about The Gloomiad's relentless and trendy 'intellectual' predictability:

[Now you’ll never have to read The Guardian again…..

I’m a publicly-spirited chap - so here is my attempt to save you ever having to fork out 55p on The Gloomiad again. As the headlines never change, why bother. This is a portmanteau Guardian for every day throughout the year. It might also be called: 'Spot the By-line' (affectionately, of course).

The Groaniad, any day in 2004

Holly Hobsbawm: 'Blair must be brave: tax, tax and more tax'
Maudlin Flags: 'Tears for our stressed-out children'
Rachel Whine: 'Why glogolisation is dangerous for us all'
Dave Vital: 'New study in Vanuatu shows GM crops cause impotence'
Peter Green: 'The world is doomed: new evidence on …..' [alter daily as required– asteroids or global warming or pollution or chemicals or GM or disease or allergies or introduced mouse/daisy or Lomborg or any scare story doing the rounds]
A.L. McOther: 'I don’t do coherent, but it must be Bush anyway'
Henry Moonbat: 'Blair, Bush and Monsanto in conspiracy over Scottish sheep farmer'
Barry Olde: 'Haiti [change country as required] – it’s all America’s and/or Israel's fault'
Jamie Gafkin: 'We must learn to breathe out hydrogen'
Arabia Felix: 'Supermarkets strangling our salsify and samphire'
Sean Milliner: 'Power to the Iraqi resistance'
Harry Hand: 'Power to the Grunwick strikers'
Care Long: 'My part in Blair's downfall'

Diary: Surveillance: Daily Mail ranter, Melanie Phillips, in the Muswell Hill Pizza Express at 12.30 pm on Saturday reading The Guardian. [And I didn’t make this metropolitan nonsense up!]

Letters: "So Blair and Bush don’t know who Bruckner is. Music to my ears." Stan Dart, Wapping.

Impossible Crossword by 'Araucaria' (the best thing in it).]

I do hope we can stay with The Guardian and The Observer and be one fewer statistic in their precipitate decline. Yet, if they continue to espouse little but the right-on attitudes of Dave Spartism and of a self-referential, privileged, often metropolitan, 'intelligensia' (who, however, seem to lack fundamental commonsense), then I might not be able to hold out against Dr. S. in full flight.....

And, for nearly all newspapers (with The Financial Times possibly the only true exception), the biggest problem remains an increasingly-worrying conflation between reporting and comment.

Philip, off to read - er - The Sunday Times with his coffee (they have a little letter of mine in today, so I feel kindly disposed towards them).

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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