Sunday, October 17, 2004

Booker

In his column today, Booker leads with a story on the wind turbine battle… and it’s getting personal. He is chairman of a group that opposes the plan for the first giant turbine to surmount the 1,000-foot-high escarpment of the Mendip Hills in Somerset. This is not so much "nimby" as "niaby" – not in anyone’s back yard.

His "two" is headed "The end of the 60-year affair" which picks up on the story of the £1.8 bn contract for British Army trucks being awarded to a German firm, MAN-Nutzfarzheuge, a story which we ran last week on the Blog.

Booker also deals with the implications for the US special relationship, which we also rehearsed in the Blog, but it is interesting to note that, while he included in his copy a link to EU Referendum so that readers could find out more if they wished, this was not included in the printed copy or on the online version. Can't have informed readers can we?

In fact, it really is quite extraordinary that Booker alone should see the merits of the story, and include it in his column, crammed into a few tightly-written paragraphs, while the rest of the paper fritters away its space on such vital subjects as the account of women downloading from the website on Ken Bigley’s execution, the tale of two women who are about to canoe down the river Niger, how the sound volume of new films threatens the hearing of younger cinema-goers, and coffee made from civet cat shit.

All of these get full-page treatment, which rather confirms my colleague’s thesis in her Blog this morning, about the decline of the media. If sales of newspapers are declining, this is unsurprising, given the low-grade trivia to which they now devote their efforts.

For his third story, Booker deals with the quite remarkable episodes in the North East, where ministers are quite openly breaking the law, in promoting the regional assemblies – something you would think the media might report elsewhere if we still had grown-up newspapers – and then he retails the Fishing News story about the Whitby trawlers refused entry to the port to escape a storm.

In many ways, the Booker column is a newspaper within a newspaper. Many readers tell us that they only buy the Sunday Telegraph because of his column, and you will see stories there which many months later get front-page treatment in other papers. But it is a poor reflection of the media in general that so many of the stories you do read in Booker are only ever reported by him.

Thus does civilisation decline, not with a bang, but a whimper. As the world goes to hell in a handcart, we are fed a diet of stories about civet cat shit. Correction: delete "civet cat".

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