The Guardian has a feature where readers say how wonderful the paper is. It's usually either someone who has read the paper man and boy for fifty years, or some youngster who says how he picked up a copy in an idle moment, and abandoned the Daily Telegraph, or the Neasden Gazette, or whatever, on the spot. It's not particularly edifying, and a bit pointless, since, because it's printed in the Guardian, it's unlikely to convince non-readers to switch. The second group is presumably the demographic that the Guardian is trying to attract with its Saturday Guide, in which events are listed, and associated articles are printed. One section is on Clubs, and I don't mean the Athenaeum or Whites- I mean ones where rare groove trance grunge garage house- or whatever it is - is played. Given the average Guardian reader is distinctly middle-aged, I wonder who they think reads these pages. I do use the listings bits, but this week my attention was drawn to the opening page, which attempts to dissect a current TV commercial.This week's was about an advert for Northampton University, but also contains a gratuitous attack on my place of work, Edge Hill University.
It's the worst kind of lazy journalism. The author, one James Donaghy, has decided, on no evidence at all, that Edge Hill's degrees are worthless, and that anyone who goes there is an idiot. I think he's trying to be funny, but it's hard to say, so puerile is his prose. A sample: "Too thick to get into a real uni? Come to Edge Hill University where we will ruin your life with a meaningless qualification, rubbish social scene and low quality sex and drugs". (But see update at the end of this post) Now, I suppose one could say, well, this guy is obviously a complete tosser so why bother even acknowledging him? If he'd published this in some grotty little internet forum, I would- but he's published it in the paper I read every day, a serious national newspaper, whose readers will include many potential Edge Hill students and their parents. It's easy enough to refute his pathetic drivel- any serious examination of the progress at Edge Hill over recent years will confirm this- we were shortlisted for the Times Higher's University of the Year award last year, and there's endless material available to show that we have an excellent reputation in our field. But Donaghy isn't interested in facts. And that's really my point. Famously, CP Scott, the guiding light of the Guardian, said that "comment is free" as the Guardian blog pages confirm on a daily basis- but the second part of his statement was "...but facts are sacred" . Donaghy's vile little piece sets out consciously to ignore the facts, in the name of humour- but I'm afraid it fails there, because it just isn't funny.
Donaghy appears to be a freelance, who runs a website. It's not an edifying read. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now as I give you a sample of his marvellous wit:
Imagine it. It is December 2001. You are Spencer McCallum, Keeley Hawes's newly acquired husband. You couldn't be happier....Update: in the original post, I quoted a lot more of this, but I think it's sullied my blog enough now. Go to the website for the full experience, but take a shower afterwards.
Brilliant, eh? There's loads more like this. Why let this man loose in the pages of the Guardian? Well, presumably because the Graun wants to attract the kind of readers who like this sort of thing - the same reason they are increasingly covering the vacuous lives of alleged celebs, and dumbing down all over the place. And to do this, they are employing people such as Donaghy. Well, I'm afraid the schoolboy pottymouth "humour" has made me consider whether I need to part with my cash every day for this stuff- and since I can get the diminishing amount of readable material on the net anyway, I've decided I've had enough. So if the Guardian want a column on why a former reader has stopped reading, I'll be happy to provide it. This stuff is not big, not clever, and not funny. The Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust. They have betrayed the principles of that great editor, and lost me as a reader.
Update: the reference to Edge Hill has now been removed...