Sunday 25 May 2008

The Sunday Papers

"Well I got nothing against the press. They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true"

Joe Jackson's classic song Sunday Papers parodied the influence of the Sunday tabloids on British lives. At least in 1979, the Sunday papers provided a reasonable mix of investigative journalism, must-read reflection, arts and travel. But with vastly improved Saturday papers, much of this mix is better provided there. Now the Sunday papers may be larger, but they seem to have become a sorry melee of self-parody and cliche, as predictable in their output as a Eurovision song contest vote. Apart from a handful of commentators (Matthew D'Ancona and John Rentoul stand out) they rarely provide much that could be called 'must read' material in their news pages. Instead, if the story doesn't stand up, it must be made up.

And so we had "Miliband is ready to save New Labour" in the Sunday Times, a story based not on evidence but on wishful thinking; and the equally implausible "Labour chiefs tell Brown: appoint a leader in waiting" in the Observer. My involvement with the media for many years put me off looking forward to the Sunday papers big time: I quickly learnt how to distinguish between stories that had a modicum of truth and those that were simply put together to pad out the headline. None of this is to deny that Labour is in deep trouble. But the sane and sensible performance of Alan Johnson on the Marr programme this morning is both a better guide to cabinet opinion and of what the party needs to do over the next two years than the acres of newsprint that could have been written to formula last Monday.

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