Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Normally when I leave London for a day or two, I feel slightly unsettled. I thought it was just a pretentious Londoner's affectation of pining for double decker buses and sushi at 3am in Soho, but it turns out I just don't like not to know what's happening in the world of local news. I like to be on top of the news at the best of times, but I particularly like the local news and views of London. It makes me feel more connected to a city that can feel incredibly impersonal at times.
However this time when I head out of London for the festive season, I won't suddenly lose grasp on this reality....it has already happened while living here. It's been a gradual slide for a while with the BBC turning their bulletins into chirpy chats about the 2012 Olympics and the opportunity to see what high jinks Boris has been up to today. There is barely a mention of anything in the boroughs outside Westminster or City Hall. ITV have gone one further and simply removed nearly all their local news bulletins from the schedules. And then the Evening Standard went free and can only be obtained if you now know the right people and my last link to the realities of London vanished.
I used to buy the Standard almost everyday, a routine I have had for the entire 8 years I haved lived in London, even when I lived in the outer boroughs and it meant a 15 minute walk to find a shop that sold a paper mentioning London rather than Surrey. I liked the London-ness of the Standard, especially as it was mixed with enough national news to stop it feeling provinicial. I liked its self importance at being the paper that told you what was hip and happening in this bustling global city while missing the mark nearly every time. I secretly loved reading overly opinionated columnists debating utterly middle class dilemmas and bemoaning situations that never seemed to happen to normal people I knew. The ES magazine made me very glad not to be posh. I had a soft spot for their crosswords. In short, for all its Daily Mail overtones, I liked the Standard hugely.
Yet since the Evening Standard went free on October 12, I have probably read it about 4 times. It has suddenly become almost as difficult to get your hands on as a unicorn. No matter what time I pass Brixton tube, there only ever seem to be two or three torn dog eared copies lying around forlornly and I'm not that keen to read it. On the odd occasion I've been in the West End, I have failed to find a copy near either Oxford Circus or Warren Street stations even late in the afternoon. In desperation, I have resorted to the Evening Standard website only to discover that the slightly old fashioned air that was almost charming in newsprint is badly laid out, slow to load and difficult to read online. It's also rather difficult to shove in your bag on peruse on the bus. The modern version isn't doing it for me, especially as the amount of actual London based news it contains seems to have declined, making it ever more tabloid-esque.
I will continue to read the Standard if I can find it on my not so extensive travels round London, mainly because the crosswords are the only ones I will do. I will read the BBC London online pages and occasionally depress myself with the South London Press in order to try and find out what's going on in my locale, but mostly I will resign myself to the fact that it is just becoming a fact of life that local media is being dumbed down horribly in the modern day. I'm sad to see it happen, especially when it meant all the Evening Standard vendors vanished almost overnight, but I don't know what I can do to help slow the decline? I might as well get used to not knowing what the hell is going on in my city anymore. Maybe ignorance really is bliss?