Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First Impressions

The new format Guardian passed its first test. It was much easier to read at the kitchen table without the pages falling into my poached eggs.
The second test is how many smaller Guardians will fit on a square foot of duvet. I read most of the Guardian when I go to bed which, on a strong day for content, can delay going to sleep for an hour.
I have a dreadful habit of then throwing the paper on to the other side of the bed where they sometimes accumulate for several weeks. Eventually I find myself sleeping in a nest of old Guardians like some kind of rodent, probably absorbing those soppy liberal values through the pores of my skin along with a predilection for organic muesli and vegetarianism. The smaller Guardian should take up less room on the other side of the bed which, in a fairer world, would be occupied by someone nibbling my ear and stroking my thigh while I try to concentrate on Polly Toynbee's analysis of Gordon Brown's policies on redistribution.

I delay throwing old papers away because I am only slowly weaning myself from the habit of cutting articles out and filing them, no longer so necessary now there is an archive on the web. And it's slightly quicker to search the Guardian archive than to burrow under the bed or climb into the attic looking for manilla folders of yellowing cuttings.

The new font is easy to read but I mourn the passing of Helvetica and Garamond. At one time I liked them so much that I had a business card designed in those fonts. The new masthead is rather lacking in impact and authority.

I also mourn the passing of Thursday's Life supplement. Introducing a weekly Science section was one of the greatest innovations of Alan Rusbridger, the Editor. In its short life it has done an exemplary job in explaining science to non-scientists. Fortunately, we shall still have Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column, to which this blog once fed a story. And we are promised a daily Science page. But I stopped reading The Editor when it was absorbed into the main paper and still miss that Saturday supplement.

Although I sometimes snipe at The Guardian (sorry, theguardian) here over trivial things, I firmly believe it is the best newspaper in the world. There were several excellent opinion pieces in the first edition, each of which could have prompted a 500 word blog if I had the time.
They ranged from Roy Hattersley's highly contentious argument that the religious are more altruistic than the non-religious to some advertising harpie in the Media Section writing about break bumpers. As it happens, my own humble 'Adwatch' has in its pending tray a piece about Coronation Street break bumpers. You don't know what a break bumper is? Get a life! We talk of little else in the Saloon Bar of the Rod and Mullet.

G2 had a profile of Judi Dench which revealed that she embroidered a cushion for David Hare with the motto: 'Fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em.' Not the kind of story that would make it into a Mail profile of Dame Judi. (I recently found a card belonging to my late mother which was signed by Judi Dench, Michael Williams, Prunella Scales and Timothy West. Those four together would be quite a coup for an autograph collector).

Also in G2 was the first interview with Oona King since she was defeated by George Galloway at the election. And guess what? She's changed her mind about Iraq. Not because of the thousands who were slaughtered. Not because there were no WMD. But because Hurricane Katrina has shown that the Americans are crap at reconstruction. Come on, Oona. Admit it. You're having a laugh, aren't you?

Sport as a separate section is a great idea because it can go straight in the bin. But I do hope they're going to use the sport-free back page for something other than a full-page ad.
Full colour on every page means that today we could start the day with a spring in our step and a song in our heart: page 5 has a full colour pic of Jeremy Clarkson covered in a custard pie. It was famously said that satire died the day that Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize. But one has to ask: how many times can satire die? Jeremy Clarkson getting an honorary university degree? And being described by said university as a role model for the young? Is this what people call 'post-modern irony'?

The Guardian deserves credit for having the courage to go for the radical option of the Berliner format, which other papers had looked at and shied away from. Some of them must surely be regretting that now. The proof of the pudding will be in the circulation figures. But they won't tell the full story because the Guardian's enormous global influence is shown in the astonishing number of visitors to its website. This proves that millions of people, not just here but around the world, are to the left of the governments that represent them.
Some of us are considerably to the left of the Guardian. But life without it is unthinkable. I shall no doubt criticise and ridicule the dear old Grauniad again in the future. But this week is a time for congratulations and good wishes. Plus the hope that the ink will no longer stain my favourite navy and burgundy duvet cover (£25.99 from Argos).


At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Graham said...

Never read the Guardian for years,may have another go now that its smaller.Broadsheets are so much hassle because of the size trying to read them on public transport is a nonstarter.
Ive been reading The Mail for ages its a good laugh because you can't take the twats that write for it seriously..

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Wyndham said...

Am enjoying the Berliner Guardian but finding the G2 section even more bumptious and psuedish than ever. Leo Hickman's guide "Is it Ok?" and "Good Lives" have tipped me over the edge. Are staples ethical?

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the new format, but have to agree with Wyndham - G2 seems to be written almost entirely by Phil Space and Polly Filler. And what's happened to Doonesbury's baggy-eyed yanks?

- Tony -

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Merkin said...

Isn't a Berliner a jam doughnut? Looks nice but content will make you sick if you have too much. Ithankyou...

Is that satire?!

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Brave admission, graham, given what it says on my profile. But if you read it only for amusement I suppose we can make an exception.

wyndham, just returned from lunch and reading G2 with exactly the same thoughts in my head. Some of the new features are really getting on my tits. There's even a guide to ethical fish eating on the news pages for God's sake.
As for staples, I wonder if the Grauniad did a full risk asessment on them? I've sometimes cut myself on magazine staples. I might ask that on the Guardian blog where there's uproar over the dropping of the Doonesbury cartoon (now re-instated).
I may well blog tomorrow the exact opposite of what I said today. Too much worthiness is going to tip a lot of us over the edge.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Tony, to be fair, yesterday's G2 had some good stuff in it. But they've thought up too many silly new formats and features.

merkin, by coincidence I'm going through a jam doughnut phase at the moment. That's why my keyboard is stickier than a keyboard in a teenager's bedroom.
That wasn't satire either. Just in very bad taste.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger cello said...

Yes, strictly entre nous, the g2 section is the least convincing so far for me.

I was hopping mad about Hattersley's assertion yesterday, Willie, but I have been struggling to come up with incontrovertible evidence to refute it. Can you help me? I fear there may be something about believing that this is the only life you get that may make us atheists more reluctant to sacrifice our comfort, pleasure or even life itself, in the knowledge there will be no heavenly rewards for that behaviour.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I may write something on Hattersley's argument tomorrow. The counter argument is actually a strong one. But there'll probably be letters tomorrow that will make all the points I was going to make.

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Alex Swanson said...

I visit the Guardian website regularly. Not because I'm left-wing, but so that I can keep an eye on the enemy.

As for being a good newspaper; I have to be wary here. A paper that once published a letter of mine attacking the Blair government can't be all bad, but on the other hand, surely Polly Toynbee could have her anger therapy sessions in private.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

alex, it's reassuring that people like youself are public-spirited enough to keep an eye on the enemy, in which category this blog would hope to be included.
I'm not sure it's a practice reciprocated by us lefties. We're generally much happier standing in a cosy circle engaging in mutually reassuring intellectual group masturbation.

I disagreed with Polly Toynbee at the election when she argued that Labour voters should put Iraq on one side (and told her so). But on most issues her views are very close to my own and I regard her as one of our finest columnists.


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