“Newspapers are dying out, slowly. Many of them have lost their inner spirit… But whatever happens to the delivery system, the news goes on”
Each morning, I do something which my grandchildren (if I get them) will regard as quaint and mildly absurd. I pick up from the doorstep three bundles of woodpulp-paper imprinted in coloured ink, I pour myself a coffee and I spend an intense half-hour reading. My long-suffering family know how difficult it is to interrupt this archaic, nostalgic ritual. Later, I will check out most of the other newspapers online or in a local café. Radio Four’s Today programme may be burbling quietly in the background.
Soon enough, all this will be as one with stropping the cutthroat razor before the morning shave, or listening to the clipclop of horses as the morning milk is delivered. For most, and for almost all younger people, the news now comes hotter, stronger, and above all faster, in a multicoloured digital stream. And yet it’s still the same “stuff,” isn’t it? The news is the news is the news. It’s an addiction. Drink it, smoke it, or inject it, it’s the essential intellectual opium of the modern world.
Without my daily fix of news, more important even than caffeine, I would feel disorientated, worried and dissatisfied; I somehow “couldn’t get on” with the rest of the day. Although I’m in the news business myself, I’m completely normal in living, willingly and self-consciously, inside an impermeable, rubbery news bubble composed of thousands of narrative strands, like badly-written novels torn apart and then shouted out by a grating, toneless choir. Perhaps it’s more like living inside a swarm of bees than a bubble—being assailed and bumped into by the whining insistence that I need to know, right now, about a proposed new rate of taxation; or an interview with an opposition leader in the Ukraine; and the latest from the hacking trial or the revelations about GCHQ eavesdropping. Do I? Not many of these things affect me directly. I don’t much mind about being spied on by the state. I will wearily pay whatever tax is levied upon me, if and when it happens. I’ve been to Kiev and love the Ukraine, but I can’t make up my mind about whether the street protests will produce a decent new regime.