“Dump the Guardian” – demanded a post on Facebook. Well, I won’t be doing that, and here are the reasons why.
Left-wing comments and quips often fill my Facebook feed, mostly from friends who share similar views, and occasionally from cyber acquaintances, or friends of friends with an axe to grind.
I have read the Guardian for more than half a lifetime, certainly since the days when the term “Guardian reader” was a term of abuse reserved, by demands of the cliché book, for sandal-wearing lefties. Because of this, it still seems alarming to see the newspaper attacked from the left.
Mostly the sniping comes from the truest disciples of Jeremy Corbyn, who feel that anything short of total fealty to the Labour leader is basically a sin. That seems to be the case here, as the post carries a picture of Jonathan Freedland, alongside a headline of one of his columns – “No more excuses: Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown.”
I do have a problem with Freedland – but only that he basically stole my ideal life, being a columnist and a writer of bestselling thrillers. That grudge aside, Freedland is one commentator among many who often feature in the Guardian. If you don’t like him, read Owen Jones or Paul Mason instead, or enjoy the spiked tumbrils that blow through Marina Hyde’s column. It seems small-minded to let one columnist you dislike damn a whole newspaper.
On a personal level, the Guardian is part of my life. I always buy the Saturday paper and the Observer on a Sunday, both of which keep me going for the week. As an inveterate internet dipper, I also now shell out £5 a month as a member, even though money is tight.
Sometimes it’s the familiarity I like, the signposts: Hadley Freeman, Clive James and Tim Dowling in Weekend. I contacted Tim in my role as visiting lecturer role at Leeds Trinity University, wanting some thoughts on writing personal journalism, and he happily obliged.
I always read Oliver Burkeman’s This Column Will Change Your Life, too. This is partly because Oliver once did a spot of work experience at the newspaper in York where I was working at the time, but mostly because his column is interesting. And I never miss Marina O’Loughlin’s restaurant review, even though I’ve yet to taste a mouthful of what she writes about.
My preferred route in the magazine is to read the Zoe Williams motoring column and Clive James first, then go back to the start. I noticed recently that a friend reads the magazine from back to front, but it takes all sorts.
On a weightier point, newspapers – whether print or on the internet – take an incredible amount of work to put together. Commentary aside, last Saturday’s Guardian had pages of in-depth reporting on Theresa May’s miscalculation of an election: and that takes skill, experience and effort. It’s easy to sit at home and put the world to rights in a blog (as I know), but much more complicated and demanding to be out there doing the hard work of reporting.
As for opinions, surely it is better to seek out as many different views as possible. You can do that within the Guardian if you wish. Or you can pick and choose from various sources. But listening only to those you agree with is the route to a smaller mind; and pouring bile on the heads of those who dare to disparage Jeremy Corbyn represents the sort of censorship people on the left should be wary of.
Newspapers are writing history on the hoof, and columnists are commentating on life as it happens, firing off opinions that may well turn out to have missed the target. But don’t go condemning a whole newspaper because of a few columns you didn’t like. The Guardian, like other papers, is having a tough time of it nowadays, and if you wish to disparage newspapers there are more obvious ones to choose. You know, the usual Labour-hating suspects – and they really did misread the signs of the unnecessary election we’ve just had.
And don’t forget inconvenient truths such as Labour still losing that election, even if that defeat was a victory of sorts – in the same way that Theresa May’s victory was a defeat of sorts.
Anyway, there are lots of newspapers to read, and I know that newspapers aren’t always popular nowadays, but I am old-fashioned enough to believe that a spread of opinions and views is always better. That’s why I won’t be dumping the Guardian.