When I was growing up in 80’s Bradford me and my sister went to my gran’s house for our school dinners as my mum had gone back to work at Bradford Royal Infirmary. My gran was wonderful. She made the best dinners, looked after us but most of all on a Monday lunch she let me read the News of The World colour Sunday supplement (magazine) she had kept from the day before. She loved gossip my gran. She watched Coronation Street and smoked between 20 and 40 Benson & Hedges fags a day, depending on stress or boredom I suppose. Her second husband died years ago when I was a nipper, so being on her own in that house off Moore Avenue all the time was no doubt tough at times. She regularly had a bottle of Bell’s whiskey in her drinks cabinet next to the telly. I loved the News of The World colour magazine back then partly because all newspapers were black and white so a flash of colour felt like 3D technology, not to mention the salacious photos of Madonna or images of Michael Jackson in an oxygen chamber asleep. Those reporters with their long lensed cameras were like flies on the walls of celebrity and I loved that. Opening the magazine each week was like christmas morning. My window into a more exciting world and a cerebral point of view on the glamorous aspects of life on planet earth. Hollywood!
‘They’ accessed and stimulated a part of my brain and once it was switched on I was hooked. Hooked on the stories and hooked on the brand of NOTW and that of course, as time passed, led me to the sister paper The Sun. By the time I left school in 1988 and was put on a YTS scheme in Windermere, I was buying The Sun everyday. I felt like a man, holding that paper under my arm, earning my £27.50 a week as a working class northerner. At weekends I would buy it before I went to meet up for football matches with the local village team in Milnthorpe and pass it around the team bus or car for away games. The Sun I loved was the adult comic that entertained me like a court jester. I was a clown back then and The Sun taught me that doing stupid things were funny and that laughing at celebrities or individuals who had made mistakes, like Abbey Titmuss or a member of the general public caught having sex with a donkey, were deemed ’newsworthy’ and put on the front page to attract a sale that day. Peak interest over hard news. By the time I was 19 years old I was a pretty despicable individual who had no, or little respect for women and basically felt the world was there to serve me, and that nationalism was the way to go. Germany lost the war and Britain (England) was ‘GREAT’ for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my tiny life or my tiny consumption of a particular strand of popular media.
By 1997 I’d been a regular reader of The Sun and The News of The World for around 15 years and by then I was clearly aware of what ‘they’ (Murdoch & the Paparazzi) were doing but I was addicted to it, like my gran was in the eighties. By the noughties, mobile phone technology was easily ‘hacked’ and the stories garnered every Sunday got so salacious and were so close to the bone, it was like they were bugging every famous person on the planet. As a reader I remember thinking to myself one morning after buying my copy from a paper shop, “Jesus Christ, all these celebrities and footballers are having the life of riley! I love hearing about their misbehaviour and I love hearing about their downfalls once it’s all been made public. They deserve it. It’s part of being famous this. It comes with the turf so if you’re gonna be rich then you’d better behave yourself.” That was my silly little moral compass from my tiny little vantage point.
By now (in 2004) I had been reading another type of newspaper for around 7 years. It was The Observer. And I started reading that paper because I happened to be featured in it myself in 1997 after I graduated from University: http://www.apinchofsalt.co.uk/observer.html
Sort of by accident I read subjects like Oliver James the child psychologist and in the colour magazine ‘This Much I Know’ as a format of journalism helped me not only see celebrities and sportspeople as humans, but also they were actively sharing their wisdom of life with me so I gained wisdom and a healthier perspective on the world, rather than just the News of The World’s world view.
By 2007 when the iPhone came out I stopped buying newspaper’s altogether, reading on-screen and since then I have followed wider mainstream media news outlets from Washington Post, New York Times, The Independent and Huffington Post. I still keep an eye on The Mirror, The Sun, The Mail and The Express but only because everyone I follow from the UK on Facebook shares their own version of propaganda or others revile the manipulative nature of the owners of each newspaper when their agenda becomes clear. To some this lifting of the veil is frightening and they won’t do it. Like I say, I was brainwashed and obedient to The Sun and The News of The World for 15 years and it negatively affected my behaviour towards women and to my world view that Britain and the British Empire are ‘Great’ when there are clear alternative perspectives on that which are contrary, as time passes and awareness of the propaganda thaws out in an individual, such as me. Try not to be an Ostrich. The strong passionate views that we all have about the world are not only based upon what our grans or granddads pass down to us or our fathers or mothers pass down to us, these views are implanted in our psyches by the media. And the media is owned by individuals such as Rupert Murdoch. We shouldn’t believe everything we read. Ask yourself, why do you read the paper you read? What if an individual media owner such as Murdoch wants his readership to do him a favour? Is that possible in your mind? Could it be that you are being coerced to have particular beliefs through a lifetime’s consumption of a particular brand of newspaper? Who’s telling the truth? Could your whole world view be someone else’s? Planted in your brain over years and years of propaganda? Ask yourself. Deep down.