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Phil D. Rolls

Todays News, Tomorrow's Chip Paper

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Firstly, an apology to younger readers. You may not know this, but in the old days - before PC "went mad" - you used to get your fish supper wrapped in an old newspaper.

The odd case of a lead poisoning was a small price to pay. Given the choice of a chance to catch up on old news, combined with a nutricious and tasty meal meant it was a risk worth taking.

Now, I'm one of those types that likes a good moan. Given the current fashion for healthy eating and the lack of old newspaper packaging at my local chippie, I have been forced to actually [I]buy[/I] newspapers again.

One that really grinds my gears, as Peter Griffin would say, is the News of the World. Everyweek I read apalling distortions of truth. I am so angry that I have to buy it again the next Sunday, just to make sure it was really as bad as I thought.

A classic example was a recent edition in which Bev Callard (Liz off Coronation Street) recounted her horrific "Frankenstein Operation". There unfolded a tale of physical brutality, and Bev says she could smell the flesh burning in her brain.

An alarming tale, and one that was completely based on innuendo to paint a grimmer picture of the procedure she'd been through. Constructed, no doubt, to encourage a bit of titillation over the Sunday roast, before the East Enders omnibus (how ironic).

Bev had actually undergone Electro Convulsive Therapy. A treatment that involves brining on an epileptic fit by passing a light electrical current through the brain.

I am not going to criticise or defend this practice. Evidence is divided on how effective it works. What I do know, is that - administered under general anaesthetic there is no pain involved.

Reading the NOTW though, you had visions of white coated ghouls connecting anodes to her head, and then waiting for a thunder storm to adminster 30,000 volts to her brain.

This is the point where harmless titillation becomes more sinister to me. They could just as easily have written about the marvellous work done by Bev and those caring for her, to help her recover from her severe depression.

The journos will always say they print what people want to read. That may be true to an extent, but what happened about the power of the press to inform and educate people?

In our society, there seems to be no point in allowing people time to ingest an argument and then form their own reasoning from the facts. Our Pot Noodle culture demands instant answers.

One place I didn't expect to find sense was in the Sunday Post. Once described as Scotland's national comic, it is not noted for ground breaking investigative journalism.

I have spent years in a state of paranoia, convinced that every conversation I have had on public transport is being bugged by a Sunday Post man.

I used to examine the paper every Sunday in a fever desperately looking for the words that would destroy my life forever - "a Sunday Post man was travelling on a 23 Bus the other day, when he heard this.....".

Luckily they never did print my thoughts on my Hearts supporting relatives, but the fear still remains. I am also fortunate never to have visited a tea room in Auchterderran where the table cloths were unwiped and they charged 1.50 for a pot of stewed tea.

Maybe that's thanks to the Sunday Post, maybe they have made a difference in our lives. I was certainly pleasantly surprised at their sensitive handling of the recent Mephedrome panic (see War on Drugs, the Silly Years).

They gave a balanced report, which actually sought to reassure people that - although a nasty drug - there was little evidence to back up claims that it was a killer. This written by someone who might actually know about drugs, as opposed to a pissed old hack slavering over his word processor.

I suppose the moral is that you should always look beyond the headline to get to the facts. Form your opinions on what you see, not what you think you see, or what you are allowed to see.

Now I'm off shark fishing in Lochearn with the Hon Man.


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