It's not easy being the daughter of a Daily Mail reader. On a near-daily basis, I find myself saying things like, "that's a slight generalisation, isn't it?" and "whoa, hang on, that might be a bit racist!" And possibly the worst one of all: "don't say that, you sound like Granny".
This post will contain a couple of ironies - mainly, that by complaining at length about said newspaper, I'll only be further boosting its profile, and secondly, a blog post that bitches about bitchy so-called journalists is in itself a massive contradiction.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good bitch. Some of the best conversations I've had with friends have involved a heartfelt slagging-off session of a mutual frenemy. Part of what brought the Boy and I together was our shared sense of superiority over [most] other human beings. (The other parts were vodka, and a mutual love of cheese. Find someone that really understands when you say, "that is some amazing Camembert" in an almost orgasmic tone, and you're set.)
What I'm not so keen on, however, is coming across newspaper articles that amount to nothing more than inches upon inches of bitterness and spite. Written by people who are in the privileged position - because we all know where print media is headed, let's be honest - of being paid to thrash out their opinions on a laptop and have them printed in national newspapers. Liz Jones, Jan Moir, Samantha Brick, I'm talking (typing?) about you. If I ever have to cast Macbeth, you three will be a shoe-in for the witches. (Note to self: calm down. Deep breaths.)
I am aware that those named above all write for the Daily Mail, and to provide some gender balance, there's Richard Littlejohn - also at the Mail - and undoubtedly numerous other offensive columnists at other papers. It's those three that drive me to distraction though, every time I have the misfortune to stumble across one of their pieces. In the same way that Fifty Shades of Grey was car-crash storytelling, Brick, Moir and Jones deal in car-crash newspaper columns - you read on, because you can't quite believe what you're reading.
On my way home from work on Tuesday (I get most of my blogging ideas on the train, mainly because it's the only time I don't feel bad about spending ages arsing about on Twitter), I noticed there was a lot of Twitter-based outrage at Jan Moir. (Again.) This time, instead of being vile about deceased boyband members, she'd sunk her claws into mezzo-soprano and let's face it, rather pretty lady, Katherine Jenkins. Now, I don't really have an opinion on Jenkins, and admittedly, getting your high-school bitch on is a far lesser crime than putting your vindictive, homophobic attitude down in black and white. My mum has a couple of Katherine's CDs, and yes, her voice is impressive. But I only have room for one girl-crush in my life, so I'm not here to stridently defend the singer.
But the tone of Moir's article was so breath-takingly bitchy, and seemed so utterly unnecessary, that it was hardly surprising that Twitter was buzzing with it and bloggers and columnists were tapping out responses as fast as their fingers would allow. So Katherine was wearing sunglasses when she ran the marathon - it was sunny. So her hair was "pulled back into an immaculate ponytail" - she was running a marathon. I should imagine that's hard enough without your hair flopping sweatily round your shoulders and getting blown into your face. So she might have been wearing some make-up? Jenkins herself did later deny that she was, but it doesn't bloody matter either way - some women I know will put something on their faces to put the bins out, given half a chance. Like I said, who gives a shit? She ran a marathon, raised £25,000 for Macmillan, a brilliant charity that provided help for her father, who died when she was only 15. Based on those things alone, writing such a nasty article just isn't on.
I highly doubt Ms Jenkins will be losing any sleep over it. If you're in the public eye, you must know that you're going to get a fair bit of crap written about you, so I'm not saying famous people should be exempt from having tabloids print that crap. I'd just like there to be genuine justification for it. There's a reason Charlie Brooker - as an example - is a far more pleasing read than Moir et al.; when he's being misanthropic, he at least displays a certain level of self-awareness so his audience knows he's got a heart somewhere.
Maybe this kind of thing comes from laziness. Maybe if you're a columnist on a national newspaper and it's a slow news week, it's easier to pull a name out of a hat and pick that person apart than it is to try and think of something that will give your readers something constructive, perhaps even uplifting, to mull over when they're commuting to work/on their tea-break/waiting for their dentist appointment. But we're not living in slow news times. There are so many things happening, so many things to write about, that people shouldn't need to resort to filling their column-space with venom and vitriol - especially when those at which it is aimed are doing good things. I get that it sells, and that those circulation figures are what the editors are primarily concerned about, but that doesn't mean it should be accepted. Journalists are meant to write "the first draft of history"; in such a jammy position, you'd hope they'd be beyond the playground bitching.
As I said, I'm well aware that posting the links to the offending articles in question only gives the writers more page-hits, but it's mainly so I don't have to paraphrase and thus risk giving an inaccurate synopsis. It's also in the interests of fairness. Of course.
I didn't really like this song the first time round, but I've been playing it non-stop this week.
If you don't have a sentimental bone in your body, you won't like my second choice. But it's very cute, very catchy, and the musical itself is nothing short of fucking brilliant. Click me.