Schizophrenia in the press

Something I don’t "get" about many newspapers is who exactly they think their readers are. I scan the Times on my way to work each day but ignore much of it to focus on the back page of Times 2 (2 sudokus, crossword and polygon). Today, however, there is a huge, brilliant and arresting photograph of a girl or young woman wearing a mask made to prevent slaves from eating sugar cane. The picture is of part of a re-enactment of a French slave sale on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, as today, 10 May, is the annual day of commemoration in France for victims of slavery (you learn something new every day). Under the picture is a quotation from, of all people, Jacques Chirac: "A country’s greatness lies in accepting all of its history, with its glorious pages but also those steeped in shadow."

Yet turn over two pages, and you get to an almost full-page shot of four high-heeled shoes, with the caption "one in every colour, please — these days we all want to own smart footwear, and we’re prepared to pay more than £1,000 a pair to achieve it". Oh? That is also something new I have learned today. The shoe theme is continued on the next page, and on the subsequent page is a picture story about "coloured mascaras" — a sort of round-up of various gunky things that cost about £10 or £20 that you smear all over your eyelashes.

Feeling a bit defeated by this juxtaposition, I am very grateful to Vitriolica for her posting "be prepared" on how she prides herself on her low-maintenance-ness. "You could drop me on a desert island or even the middle of Lisbon and I’m not going to complain that I haven’t brought my mascara and lipgloss. I’ll live if I haven’t had a bath today. I don’t even really care if I don’t get lunch. You don’t have to massage my ego for me to be contented with life nor do I have to surround myself with minions or friends for affirmation of myself." Click on the link to see how she does prepare for eventualities, though. Mine is about the same size but contains mainly books. Thanks for the laugh, Webb sisters.

Incidentally, if you look at the Times picture online (link above) rather than in the print version, much of the impact is lost. Nevertheless, the paper keeps up its good work by immediately under the picture running a header: "Also in this section…….Power dressing…"(etc). The "power dressing" article is the most demeaning piffle about the UK’s new Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and her clothes — how she measures up to Condi Rice, what colours she should wear — complete with pictures of MB’s head stuck on various models wearing what the Times’ "style editor" thinks would be an improvement.

A woman gets one of the most prestigious and powerful jobs in the land and that’s all they can say about her. I never learn not to be shocked at the way intelligent, successful women are demeaned: particularly sad when, as here, it is another woman doing the demeaning.

1 thought on “Schizophrenia in the press

  1. That’s very interesting about marking the bad stuff in your culture as well as the good – full marks to the French on that one.
    As for the mix of content in the papers – I only read them online now, as I get v. angry about all the stuff in the paper version that I don’t want to read.
    For a similar reason (in this case, the repetition and waffle) I don’t watch the news on TV, only read it online.
    Not sure if that makes me a sort of e-enable Luddite or just under-informed.
    grumble grumble grumble

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