Big News

Reading & Writing

Two stories about language today. The Times turns in a nice piece on the slow death of the regional newspaper. Once it was common for reporters to spend a year on the local press circuit covering everything from flower shows to provincial court cases. The training taught journalists to communicate (making a story out of virtually nothing) and to detect (following local magistrates could uncover bigger criminal cases). In his memoir on provincial journalism, David Nobbs points out that his first word in print was spelled wrong, while the Gloucester News Service explains that stories about animals only work if you remember to name the animal. The seven deadly staples of local press are;

Dressed-up duds
“Experts have branded a new bus route a ‘corridor of death’ after hundreds of toads were found massacred.” Cambridge News April, 2009

Hardy perennials
“Superstitious Jean Taylor has not left her home on Friday 13 for 50 years after breaking her leg when she slipped on a banana skin.” M&Y, Portsmouth, July 13, 2007

Wacky proposals
“Football fanatic Dennis Mason matched the romance of the FA Cup by proposing to girlfriend Sue Fane after non-league Havant and Waterlooville’s shock win over Swansea.” M&Y, Portsmouth, December 2008

Local celebrity news
“A Victorian snooker table sent to auction by Take That star Howard Donald, 40, was sold at Nantwich, Cheshire, for £3,055.” Space Press News and Pictures, April 2008

Quirky animals
“A talented parrot with a penchant for Michael Barrymore’s favourite catchphrase has escaped his distraught owner’s clutches and is on the loose. Tony Bailey, 43, of York, has been grooming his loveable pet Basil for a career of television stardom as he taught him the entertainer’s famous ‘Alwight, you alwight?’ greeting.” Ross Parry Agency, West Yorkshire, August 2007

Elderly people
“After 75 years of motoring without an accident or conviction, Muriel Gladwin has decided it is time to give up driving, at the age of 94!” Gloucestershire News Service, December 2007

“A Merseyside golfer was the toast of the clubhouse after scoring two holes-in-one in a single round. Media manager Andy Murphy, 32, from Southport, was stunned as he sunk the first two holes-in-one of his life at the Royal Liverpool course in Hoylake.” Liverpool Daily Post, August 2007

The full piece is here.
But on a more serious note, Tim Parks points out in the New York Review Of Books that the rise of the global novel spells the end of the ‘local’ book. Novels from France, Germany, Spain and Italy are finding it harder and harder to travel outside their own borders because publishing deals require novels to be globally accessible, like Dan Brown and Harry Potter. As regional quirks are ironed out, the result is the all-purpose book that can travel the globe. If I had followed advice to avoid a local flavour, I would have had to abandon my career years ago – just because I write about London doesn’t mean I can’t tap into universal emotions. Full article here.

One comment on “Big News”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Have you noticed that irregular verbs are being regularized? “Wove” becoming “weaved” is one I’ve particularly noticed. “Sink” is an irregular irregular since it is “I sink, I sank, I have sunk”. I think the Liverpool Daily Post got it wrong up there.
    And they get things wrong all the time. Any story of which I know the details is always wrong in some way or other. Our Tai Chi group provided a (very successful) dragon dance for New Year last week and all the newspaper advertising was wrong so it wasn’t surprising that the tv report was wrong, too. If they can’t get the group’s name and physical details right then I really wonder about the rest of the story.
    International novels. “A Christmas Carol” is read everywhere, girls in Japan and Poland read “Anne of Green Gables”, Alan Paton’s “Cry the Beloved Country” is known, as is “Gulag Archipelago”. If necessary you can put a glossary or footnotes at the end, but the whole point of reading foreign books is to find out what people think like in those countries, what their life is like.
    Quisling is not used as much as it was and I looked on the note as background for young people, especially North Americans, who might well not know the word. Doesn’t it sound slimy and nasty? It’s perfect.

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