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Tuesday January 17 2006

Or (and this is only here because I couldn’t fit it into the title): How I don’t any longer buy newspapers no matter how interesting some of the articles in them sometimes still are.

Niall Ferguson, in the Telegraph:

As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime change in Teheran.

This gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered. Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.

The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice’s hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.

The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq’s Shi’ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.

Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration’s original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran’s nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.

One of these guys noticed this too.  As did this.

More and more, my favourite blogs are how I now get to interesting articles in what used to be favourite newspapers, for which I now seldom pay.  Basically, I only binge on newspapers when something sporty and good has happened, like England winning the Ashes.

On Sunday night, I found a pile of Sunday Times’s just lying in the street, and I’m sorry (as we English say when we aren’t) but I reckoned they were fair game.  So I took one home.  It was like the old days of junk mail through the letter box.  Most of it was crap right off.  Half the rest was crap after a few glances.  I still haven’t read the bits that might be non-crap.  Suddenly, confronting a posh (or used to be posh) Sunday newspaper felt like I’d found a free trans-Atlantic boat trip ticket circa 1930, only to discover that it was in a twelve-masted sailing ship and that it would take four months, with me paying for all the food.

So, are newspapers doomed?  I guess we will really find out during the Great Gulf War.  Will that be newspaper-reported?  Or blogged?

My guess is both, to start with.  But during the Great War the newspapers will run out of money.

I don’t know if it is the rosy glow of nostalgia, but I’m sure newspapers used to be a lot better in the past. I have vague memories of the Sunday Times Magazine having serious articles on the Vietnam War and so on.
I don’t remember precisely when it happened, but I realised one day that the pile of discarded ‘sections’ - on style, fashion, exotic holidays, and so forth - was far higher than the pile of sections I wanted to read - just the news and the review section, I think - it was then that I gave up on newspapers.
It seems to me too that the columns used to be ‘about something’ too, not just the Phil Space and Polly Filla stuff we get now.
Like you say - you can get links to the good stuff from newspapers all around the world by visiting the good blogs - oh, and places like Arts and Letters daily, Arts Journal, Butterflies and Wheels and all that.

Posted by David Hadley on 18 January 2006

For some time I’ve assumed that newspapers (at least in their online forms) will survive because (as one wag observed) at the time of Gulf War II, the newspapers broke all the stories and the blogosphere none of them.

But it occurs to me they didn’t.  For the most part it was the two governments who did the story breaking.  It was just that the newspapers (amongst others) were the first people they broke them to.  They don’t have to do that anymore - they can just put it up on the website.

So, what does that leave newspapers with?  Opinion pieces?  Well, that’s meat and drink for the blogs.

Reportage?  Any fool can do that so long as he is the right place at the right time and bloggers are much more reliable in this respect - they don’t get paid.

Stringing?  Newspapers are very good at finding small stories and blowing them up.  Blogs are a bit rubbish at this.

As a kind of aside, one thing that blogs are very good at (and newspapers rubbish at) is telling the “slow” story, the day-to-day routine of things that David Copperfield and Dr Crippen, to give two examples, do so well.

Golly, I think you could be right.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 20 January 2006
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