I’ve been reading some articles on various lifestyle subjects from how to eat a cheese sandwich to how chefs are making their plates a little plainer and how to sow a wildflower meadow.
I feel uplifted. It is imagined, of course, that we all aspire (there’s that word again!) to be the demographic that can’t decide whether to rent or sell that irritating additional property or really want to know how to be happy.
I’ve written these things myself over the years so I don’t condemn those doing it now. I remember phases of having to think of time scales for stories – you know the sort of thing, ‘lose fourteen stone in a fortnight’ or ‘one week from meeting to wedding’.
As queues to food banks double and is worse than other European countries I can’t help but think wordy articles on the best bacon or the poshest crisps is verging on offensive.
As Shelter states that in England, more than 81,000 households were found to be homeless during 2013/14 perhaps articles on how to spruce up your bathroom are, at the very least, insensitive.
And, while Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the average cost of a school uniform and PE kit is £224.69 while the average local authority grant for school uniform is just £51.27 maybe articles on which fashions are bang on trend for toddlers is a but ugly.
It’s aspirational journalism, of course. The profit-driven industry needs it to get advertising. It needs you to want to aspire to buy what is being peddled and to feel better for having engaged with the magazine, paper or website.
I sat at my desk once, listening in despair, as it was decided a local free paper would no longer be delivered to a poorer area because, well, no one there could afford what the advertisers were selling. Stuff informing, forget democracy – these poor people had no disposable income.
As a cub reporter I could be all Daily Planet-dramatic and say a story was more important than an ad and see said ad removed from the page but within a decade and I was being told by advertising sales staff, “you know who pays your wages, right?”
… at this point I would like to point out that many journalists earn a pittance!
The Guardian did recently provide a “seven ways to take action” against austerity guide. Credit where it’s due. It was written by Cait Cross is from UK Uncut, though, and not the paper so, in the current shifting “business model” that is journalism, I’m unsure if it was paid for …
This type of attention-grabbing, time-tied, easy to digest journalism is especially effective for magazines because it can be planned ahead, it can be created rather than researched and, significantly, the journalists doesn’t have to move from the office to do it so it’s comparatively cheap.
I feel I could still contribute to this type of journalism given the chance and my current view from the scrapheap gives me a unique perspective.
- What to wear when the wolf is at the door
- How an empty fridge can help you diet
- What tea to drink when opening debt letters
- How to cope with spending too much time with the cat
- Keep fit while watching afternoon telly
- How to avoid job application RSI
But – more seriously – there are some efforts being made to report what is really going on in communities, to genuinely discuss “lifestyles” without the Labour/Tory aspiration rhetoric and the influence of advertisers.
Over at Contributoria Conrad Bower wants to write about the Manchester Homeless Camp campaign – and you can vote to help him do it. Byline hosts any journalistic work, regardless of ideology or subject and is funded by readers. Salford Star repeatedly irritates the council with some hard-hitting journalism while also having a laugh and is currently selling a new batch of publications. And there’s The Conversation, describing itself as a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish and a not for profit educational entity.
You might also want to see my post on the food of the Gods: mushy peas. It’s not hard-hitting journalism but, by heck, you’ll fancy some for your tea later!
*Oh … you burn 17 calories every 15 minutes just by lying on the settee. Unemployedhack – bringing you aspiration and education.