Tuesday, August 08, 2006

MediaGuardian: The Hello! for media types

How do you break a habit? There I go, every Monday morning, buying a copy of the Guardian just for its media section. Just like I buy Private Eye every other Tuesday evening for no better reason than I have for years.
So far as the old MediaGuardian was concerned it was the job ads that once really interested. Pages and pages of them -IPC's particularly until some bright spark at King's Reach Tower realised that ads in the Guardian attract left-ish trouble-makers, so the company took its custom for the most part elsewhere.
The current paper MediaGuardian is an etiolated version of its old self, thin indeed, though not as thin as the Indy's media bit which has not taken off as a significant revenue stream and never will. Its letters page alone is so squashed you'd think the Jolly Green Giant had sat on it.
MG's sickliness is due to many things - a robust, parallel MediaGuardian website that updates news through the day but rests at weekends (so there are fewer stories to stuff into a specialist once-a-week section); a greater number of ad rivals (paper and net); and finally an altered editorial policy that has substituted a preoccupation with major media players for a catholic and slightly irreverent view of all media and their many personalities.
Take any Monday edition and most probably its lead will be a Murdoch, BBC or ITV analysis piece. Inside, interviews with BBC corporates, perhaps a CV of the latest radio signing. MediaGuardian has turned into the Hello! for media types - except it has defined its constituency very narrowly so that most readers (ie journalists) must feel they've wandered into a party uninvited. Very Hello!
There is on display a faintly nauseous veneration for personality hacks and star company suits - some of the interviews read like extended job applications by young ambitious post-grad hacks: certainly the spirit of Nicholas Coleridge fills MG - the man who went to the trouble of writing an entire book of interviews with major newspaper proprietors for career ladder elevation.
The oddity is finding all this in the Guardian. If you want to know what's going on in the world of magazines - all the thousands of them - don't trouble yourself with MG. Regional newspapers? Only if there's bad news. The hundreds of digital TV channels? Far too tacky.
Yet the comings and goings of half-educated half-wits are recorded if in the employ of national newspapers. Why not revive Jennifer's Diary and have done with it. The sense of a club (both established and aspired to) is a little too apparent. The paper MG is becoming an irrelevance as it morphs into a vanity showcase for those who think they've made it.
MG needs to take a closer look at its raison d'etre before it starts to resemble its weakling Indy "rival".

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