I am always shocked and saddened when a perfectly normal looking person sits next to me on the train, unzips his manbag or rucksack and pulls out a copy of the Daily Mail and starts to read intently. I can half-understand him picking it up from the luggage rack for something to do, but even then, given the choice, I would just leave it there and glower at it every now and then as though it was listening to Rhianna too loudly on its tinny headphones. This guy yesterday was young, late twenties, wearing a suit, no tie. His hair was spiky and, dare I say, funky? I would have been disappointed if he had pulled out a copy of Q magazine as he appeared to me to be more of a Uncut or Word reader. If he was your young professional, and not just wearing the jacket and trousers as a Superdrug team leader, I would have expected a New Statesman or Economist. (I couldn’t, at that point, hazard a guess at the guy’s political stance – I can now.) The Daily Mail emerged from that Jansport back pack like a radioactive sanitary towel, contaminating and horrifying all who come into contact with it. In the readers case it horrifies him or her with its mild invective on the decline of this scepter’d isle and its degenerate inhabitants. It contaminates their minds like an unstoppable cult, spreading its hate and ideologies on Middle England. What is it about this rag that attracts my traveling companion and his peers? This was one of the issues I had to address in my essay to get on to a BA course at university and now, coming up to completing my second term, I am no closer to understanding the answer. The free CD’s are probably the bait, but the hook has to be the content, and the content, both in layout and actual words, is dated and regressive. It really should only appeal to people who are too set in their ways to know, or want to know, better. It takes all sorts to make up a democracy and for the under thirties it would be foolish to think everyone thinks along the same lines as me and my peers. Maybe they are too young now to remember the Thatcher years, the Major years, even. But they cannot all be unaware of the antipathy held toward them. Conservative politics with conservative values were all but consigned to the dustbin with fluorescent day-glo and white rimmed sunglasses. Now it seems they are all coming back with aplomb.
The retro attraction of the eighties music scene, seems to have gathered pace and with it the return to the Tory values of old. The mixture of right wing politics and a young, fresh faced leader of the Conservatives, a la Blair in the nineties, are helping to revive the Mail’s brand at a time when the whole industry faces ruin in some of its constituent parts. Should I, as a journalism student, be happy that young people are reading the printed word at all? Possibly, but with the dumbing-down of content across the board, I don’t see how I can defend any of them at the moment. As Patrick Wintour states in The Guardian, “Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity.” This could quite easily apply to newspapers.