One of the first things I used to set up when doing any kind of PR campaign was a media monitoring service.
The next step was usually disagreeing with whoever was paying for it.
Because what the men at the top (I never had a female client) usually regarded as successful PR was featuring in, or on, the media they themselves read, listened to or watched.
Yes, what top men valued were the elite, small circulation, low-audience media. The ‘opinion former’ and ‘influencer’ media, not the ones that influenced a majority of the population.
I understand. It’s easy to ignore what you don’t respect or like. And social media have perfected the process. Just click what you like and block what you don’t want to see. Easy peasy. Erect a big fence round your comfort zone.
Someone related to me unfriended me earlier this year on Facebook. We’re polar opposites on the political spectrum but he assures me that’s not the reason – he just wants to restrict his ‘friending’ to family. By which I have to assume he means his own blood relatives.
I thought I might be offended, but I’m not. I must be growing up at last.
I tell you this because I’m interested in what we regard as normal, what’s acceptable in this cowardly new online world.
I’m interested in this all-devouring online society of ours and what it’s doing to our social tolerances. And to where we harvest our news.
I’ve found my own group of ‘friends’ on Facebook widening – for practical reasons – to include people even I find radical as my involvement in a refugee aid movement grows. So now I see more than I seek – but, I like it. I feel my boundaries shifting.
Which is why I decided to tackle the ‘echo chamber’ effect of Twitter. It’s so easy for me to agree with you and follow you; then you follow me; then we follow the same media, celebs, commentators, etc – so our shared opinions reverberate endlessly in the same selective space.
So I followed a load of people with whom I profoundly disagree.
Next I decided we needed to revise our choice of weekend newspapers.
For years we’ve been getting a conservative one and a lefty one each day, for balance.
Recently the lefty one left me (ha, sorry) sighing with frustration as it turned its back on the new, genuinely lefty, leader of the Labour party.
Plus, the items featured in its magazine are so hysterically expensive it has me foaming at the mouth. Not a good thing when you’re eating a croissant with strawberry jam.
So now, on Saturday, we take that old establishment standby, The Times, complete with ‘Court Circular’, and, for balance, the independent Independent. On Sunday it’s also the Independent, plus the supposedly lefty but anti-Corbyn Observer.
Weekdays I used to start the day with the radio, then Twitter, no paper. Then one day something hit me right between my surprisingly (to me) biased eyes.
The Morning Star. More accurately, @M_Star_Online.
The Morning Star, formerly the Daily Worker, was founded in 1930 by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It’s now broadly left, reader-owned, but still retains Communist roots. Which of course in the normal world of middle class, middle aged, educated people translates into BAD.
Does any other national newspaper possess such a thing?
I don’t know.
But it was enough to set me off.
I decided to try it out, just Monday to Friday.
I did get into a bit of a hot sweat when I first thought about it.
Would everyone think I was a Trotskyist?
Would I be put on a national register of subversives?
If I was, would it matter?
After all, I’ve already lost one Conservative Facebook friend – and I’m feeling just fine 😉
Well, my newsagent didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked him to order it (though he did keep his head bowed low over the counter).
But, just in case the country’s headlong dive into fascist dictatorship happens more quickly than I anticipate, I decided we’d get the i (a mini-version of the Independent) too. Make it clear that we’re just crazy, multi-newspaper reading eccentrics.
It has so far been, and I hope will continue to be, a fascinating experience.
I enjoy the i’s concise crossword when it arrives home, battered, from the daily commute into Liverpool.
And the breadth of coverage in the very small, cash-poor Morning Star is, genuinely, extraordinary and livens up my lunch break.
The word ‘comrade’ crops up now and again, it’s true – but the titbits I glean from all around the world are truly educational. And the points of view expressed are rarely seen elsewhere.
All of which is making me reassess those norms we all accept all our life. Or rather, norms I’ve accepted all my life.
Morning Star – ooh – scary – Commie – bad-unacceptable.
Daily Telegraph/Times – establishment- respectable – good -acceptable.
So the Morning Star has become acceptable – to me.
But what of the good, acceptable Telegraph? Well, look at this, a political party leader ridiculed on its front page using remembrance day poppies … as exposed to non-readers by the Artist Taxi Driver (a performance artist, find his work on You Tube).
It’s a really interesting topic, this and way too much (already) for a short post.
But I’m going to leave you with a rather more independent view of our media. A fun one.
I decided to look up reader profiles for all the papers we’re reading now, here:
They all have one thing in common with the Daily Telegraph reader. Yes, even the Commie Morning Star.
Their profiled readers’ pet of choice is …
We, by the way, have no pets.
And if we did, it would be a dog.
A Jack Russell.*
That’s radicals for you. You just can’t pin us down. 😉