One of the upsides about not having to commute anywhere at the moment is that I don’t have to see the free newspapers which clog up London’s transport networks each evening rush hour – partly because I knew what would be in them anyway, having been across newswires as part of my job, and partly because London Lite was, and, remains, the most awful, prissy, spiteful, trivial publication known to mankind. The London Paper, by contrast, has at least a spark of imagination to it, even if its news coverage sometimes leaves something to be desired. Tuesday’s paper, however, left me wondering what the hell they must have been on – who on earth thought scaremongering about the swine flu outbreak would be a good idea? I had to make a quick journey in and out of the West End and all I could see was that bloody headline everywhere. It’s crap like that which makes people panic, and when even the Mail takes a cautious line, someone, somewhere, should have known much better.
Oddly, though, The London Paper covered the kind of story which it can do well, about an epidemic that can kill thousands in London each year – and it’s something we choose to do nothing about, even though it’s entirely within our control. It says a report due this week claims 3,000 people a year die in the capital because of our high pollution levels. That’s a real scandal, and something we can stop. Naturally, though, the story was buried deep in the paper and doesn’t even appear on its website. It’s basic stuff, of course – papers like to whip up hysteria about things we have little control over, and play down positive things we can do to improve the place we live in; but I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast.
Is there a moral to this? Don’t just run to the hills, get in your 4×4 and speed the way there, I suppose.