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Silver Surfer Articles
26. Excess of Information = Smaller Forests

It is a Sunday and I feel guilty. Circumstances have conspired to get me into a corner where I am both ashamed, astounded and amazed. This is a story of good intentions that went wrong, common sense that was appealed to, and guilt that followed. I had better explain.

I am for my sins a Times reader. I take a paper because, as I’ve said in a previous article, I believe reading and keeping abreast of the times helps exercise the mind and keep us alert.
I don’t take a ‘redtop’ paper as most of the people on my paper boy’s round do (I know because he dropped his call sheet on my drive once) and I don’t feel any intellectual superiority because I take such a paper. I don’t take these others because when I have picked them up and read them I have been slightly nauseated by the reporting of the goings on of the ‘celebrities’ of our society. I don’t claim any moral superiority in this; it just turns me off. If you enjoy those papers, that’s fine by me!  

Why the Times and not the Telegraph or Independent say? Well, there’s no clever, philosophical or political reason for it, I just enjoy the layout more than that which the others use. I don’t actually agree with the politics or stance that is often taken in the Times but I do appreciate the fact that often they will get different writers to present opposite views on any current situation. So there I was taking the Times on weekdays – I was too busy at the weekends to spend time reading a paper.

But then the Times went online, as a number of other papers have done and fairly regularly I went online to copy and paste an article onto my computer in my own archive so that I could review it easily in the future. At which point the Murdoch empire got greedy and started charging for the website use. Initially I, like many, took umbrage at this and stopped using it, but as the weeks went by felt frustrated and so, probably again like many, took out the subscription to it, which wasn’t a great deal.

Then the Times started getting clever in a confused sort of way because previously they would only do subscription for the paper itself if you lived in London. Now they extended it further afield but what they offered was the Times seven days a week PLUS the Internet usage, plus iPad usage for less than I had been paying for the paper five days a week plus the online subscription. Common sense dictated I take out this subscription. So now I am receiving the Times at the weekend as well.

It is at this point that guilt arrives. If you want an interesting experience take the Times on Saturday which includes various supplements and then on Sunday which comes at what must be double the weight of the weekday paper, with so many supplements and extras. This morning’s delivery came to just under three pounds weight of paper. My guilt? The number of trees that we must be felling to satisfy this media beast! I love trees. I am not a tree hugger but I enjoy looking at trees and I realise the environmental value of trees and so every Sunday morning as this pile crashes to the floor from my letter box, I weep for the trees.

But there is another aspect to this mountain of paper that now arrives every Sunday morning. I am also feeling guilty because I am not reading it all. In fact I doubt if I read a tenth of it, and what I wonder is exactly who, if anyone, does read a majority of it? (that only needs people to read 51% of it). The shear volume of print that appears every Sunday morning gives reading matter for the remainder of the following week! Does anyone actually read it all? I conclude that it must be the most unread paper in the world!

Now I might have just tolerated this situation where I have joined the guilty tree-fellers of the world who now lock themselves into a sitting or lying position for large parts of Sunday simply to read the wretched pile that arrives, if the Times didn’t then enlarge their marketing strategy. For those people who had not been gullible like me, they then extended the subscription possibilities to include those who would like to take the paper and Internet access for just the weekdays, for £4 which is less that the basic cost of five of the papers. Now that is a good approach – but I am already locked in to this other guilt-inducing subscription!  Answer? Break the contract! I don’t often advocate breaking the Law but I’m afraid a phone call to the Times ended up with me saying I’m either stopping taking the Times and cancelling my direct debit, or you can change me to the week-day subscription. They conceded the case and in a couple of week’s time, when my existing subscription vouchers run out, I will be returning to a more guilt-free life style!

The lesson in all of this? Well it could be that I am a gullible idiot, but I prefer to think that the onus for confusion is on the Times. Bringing out a badly thought out marketing strategy, made at least one of their readers think badly of them. I’m sure they’re not bothered by that but there you go. The image that I am left with from this experience, though, is the pages and pages and pages of newsprint that somewhere in London a whole lot of people spend a lot of time to produce, only for large amounts of it never to be read or bits of it read by only small numbers of people. What a weird world we live in sometimes!

I usually end off these articles with a quote or two, so here are a few I’ve come across about newspapers:

Quote: “Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent.”
(Source: Gore Vidal)

Quote: “I buy newspapers to make money to buy more newspapers to make more money.
(Source: Lord Thomson of Fleet)
Quote: “I read the newspapers avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.
(Source: Aneurin Bevan)

Quote: “I've never cancelled a subscription to a newspaper because of bad cartoons or editorials. If that were the case, I wouldn't have any newspapers or magazines to read.
(Source: Richard M Nixon)