I used to enjoy the enforced downtime commuting from Godalming to London. For more than 20 years, I devoured a newspaper during the 45 minute trip on South West Trains.
I could have dozed. Or listened to music. Or just thought. But reading printed news was a good way to absorb the daily machinations of life.
Going home it was the Evening Standard. In the morning the Daily Telegraph was my fix, bought more for its excellent business, sports and features sections – and the cunningly cryptic crossword – than its political views, which are slightly right of Attila the Hun.
More recently, I migrated to the i, an inspired cut-down version of The Independent, responding to the shorter attention-span of readers in the digital age. I could read the i almost from cover to cover – and dash off the crossword – in exactly 45 minutes. And it’s been so successful that that the i has just been sold for £25m.
But of course all print media – whether newspapers, magazines or books – continue to succumb to the digital revolution. If I caught my old 06:44 from Godalming now, I dare say the rustling of the Times and Torygraph pages has been almost completely replaced by the soft swiping of commuters’ well-manicured fingers across iPad & Kindle screens.
So it’s a bit of a surprise that the Mirror Group has just launched its own mini-paper, aping the i and called the New Day. Its USP? It will report with an upbeat, optimistic approach and will be politically neutral.
I headed up to London yesterday – much later in the day than all those commuting years – and Daisy’s Cafe had sold all their copies of the i. What the hell, I thought, let’s try the New Day and see if it perks me up.
At 25p for the 2-week trial period – doubling to 50p thereafter – its 40 pages were disappointing. I’m trying hard to be objective and not too sniffy, but frankly it’s just a bit, well, flimsy. Shallow. Lightweight. And I didn’t feel particularly uplifted after I’d read it.
The explicit feel-good attempts are a 5 Smiles piece, and comedian Justin Moorhouse wittily describing the scary reality of bringing up kids.
The New Day is soft on hard news, but I was grabbed – on International Womens’ Day – by an insightful interview with Gloria Steinem, the iconic 81 year-old feminist. And also by a stunning double-page aerial photo of thousands of hungry war-torn South Sudanese patiently queueing for food in searing heat – the bigger picture.
I enjoyed the duelling opinioneers page on is it time to ban bawling brats from our planes? “In a heartbeat” according to a travel writer, “what nonsense” believes the Deputy Editor.
But coverage of sports, business, foreign news, food and other newspaper staples is as thin as Donald Trump’s hair.
And what was really disappointing were the typos. I expected more from professional journalists, and a brand new paper trying to make an impression. I spotted several cock-ups without really trying:
- in a nice article on a 40 year-old Mum reluctantly back on the dating scene, she says: “I found the courage up to slip on some sequins and celebrate. At the end of the night I had a epiphany….”
- in a what-ism sidebar article on the crisis hitting launderettes: “the big fear is that government plans to introduce new permitted development rights would allow launderettes be changed into shops….”
- and in the opinioneers piece on bawling brats flying, Deputy Editor Dawn Alford quotes Jean Paul Satre. I could have sworn he was Monsieur Sartre...
Alison Phillips is the Editor. In her welcome to Tuesday editorial, she extols the virtues of New Day’s astrologer, Jan Jacques, and her daily Your Stars column. “It’s been one of the biggest hits so far. Turn to page 28 for a different – and very funny – approach to looking into your future.”
So I did.
For Taureans “today may feel unfairly challenged. Whether it’s the canteen running out of cock-a-leekie, or your Sky Box failing to record Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, you WILL persevere. Steer clear of men playing nose flutes.”
If I were still commuting, I probably WOULDN’T persevere with the New Day.