Reasons Why I Avoid Free Newspapers

// 21 September 2008

All examples from The Metro, Friday September 19th.

Reason 1: Their misguided sense of priorities. Take this headline on page 9:

Barman was deceived

Oh no! Poor man. Why? (reads rest of headline:)

Barman was deceived

into sex with girl, 12

Oh. Hang on… What? (reads actual content of article:)

A barman who admitted raping a girl of 12 has escaped jail, after saying he was duped into believing she was 19.

So the story is a 25-year old man ‘admitted raping’ a 12 year old girl, yet the words chosen in the headline paint him as the victim. Nice one, Metro.

Reason 2: Adverts like this:

Zombie Strippers movie

Oh good grief…

Reason 3: Articles like this:

Women_cycling article.JPG

Women are three times less likely to cycle than men because they are put off by ‘helmet hair’ and getting sweaty, a poll found.

There’s a quite interesting statistic behind this story, which is that the UK lags behind mainland Europe in terms of gender equality in cycling, where men and women apparently cycle in roughly equal numbers. But the way this is presented as a kind of “Aren’t women pathetic and vain!” story…. ugh. (There’s more on the cycling story on Cycling England’s website.)

Reason 4: Adverts like this:

Tiger Beer Advert.JPG

Tiger Beer: “The Far East’s most desirable export since 1932”

Is this rage-inducingly offensive on many, many levels, or is it just me?

Comments From You

Alex T // Posted 21 September 2008 at 7:17 pm

I saw that Zombie Stripper ad! I was so stunned I thought it had to be a spoof. Silly me, of course people are making crap like this in the 2st century.

Free papers are the devil’s work, if you ask me – I mean, why pay to think for yourself when you can be told what to think for free?

The Boggart // Posted 21 September 2008 at 7:40 pm

Ugh – nope, it isn’t just you. ;-)

A friend left a copy of the Metro at my house last Friday; thank goodness I chucked it straight out into the recycling pile rather than bothering to read it.

I’m sure that most F Word readers will already be aware of the pervasiveness of the exploitative and abusive Far Eastern sex trade – but how on earth could this connection have slipped the collective minds of Tiger Beer’s marketing team?

Also, am I the only one who interpreted the headline as implying that the rapist’s perception of the victim defines the nature and gravity of a rape?

Politicalguineapig // Posted 21 September 2008 at 7:55 pm

I think it depends on the newspaper. The local free paper has some pretty intelligent people, but the back pages are pretty bad. (So many sex ads.. and I absolutely HATE American Apparal)

Gweem // Posted 21 September 2008 at 8:47 pm

I saw that beer advert on a bus shelter today. Racism and sexism all rolled into one. Fantastic.

Cara // Posted 21 September 2008 at 8:52 pm

Grrr, exactly. I hate the Metro.

(Except Nemi).

The Boggart // Posted 21 September 2008 at 9:22 pm

Alex T – I’m afraid that I don’t quite understand your stance on free newspapers. All newspapers, free or otherwise, influence our perspective through not just through editorials and tone/how they report stories, but what they report as well.

Surely freer access to information can only be a good thing?

That being said, most free newspapers are absolute dross, and if I had a pet bird, I wouldn’t use one as a birdcage liner for fear that it lower the poor thing’s IQ.

spiralsheep // Posted 21 September 2008 at 9:39 pm

That last one’s special: sexist AND racist. Ew.

Lucy // Posted 22 September 2008 at 7:56 am

I’m so overwhelmed by the volume of paper involved in this kind of junk every time i pass through london! where does it all go at the end of the day? Are the producers of the papers required to recycle it?

I’ve always refuced to take them based on the assumption that they’re not worth the environmental cost.

Liz // Posted 22 September 2008 at 9:54 am

If only this kind of thing was limited to the free newspapers…

Anne Onne // Posted 22 September 2008 at 11:19 am

Oh yeah, this paper did its best to ruin my day, too. The ads were completely ‘WTF?’ (although I think Zombie Strippers would be a great parody!) and the 12 year old girl case really got my goat.

I mean, she was 12. YES, she pretended she was older, how many of us have known a 12 year old, even an early developer who could pass for a 19 year old woman?

The fact that a judge believed that just because a girl (not even a teenager!) flirted with grown man ( and we’re not talking a horny 16 year old, here) and wanted to have sex, it therefore absolves the adult from all blame and paints the child as a hussy is indicative of how biased the system is against women. Poor men, they get duped into sex! It IS a shame that this girl learned from society that deception to sleep with others is acceptable. It’s also in part due to the sexualisation of women being passed down to children, because this girl learned enough of how to be sexual to allow this defense. This is not to blame her, since I still think the man as an adult should have been more careful, and that it would have been most unlikely he wasn’t aware she was younger. It’s that if society hadn’t let the girl down, and given her a role other than sex object, she wouldn’t be deceiving her parents and putting up sexy pictures of herself and trying to have sex with adults.

It would be easier to believe he was telling the truth if she was in her mid teens, but it’s just so unilekly to not be able to tell apart even an early developer from a woman who is almost 20. For a start, the behaviour of 19 year old and 12 year old could hardly be more different. Not to mention that growth spurts aside, most of the attributes of puberty don’t occur overnight, and won’t be found in any 12 year old. I’ve known very early developers (was one, even) and none of them could pass for a 19 year-old when they were 12. Not to mention that physically maturing early doesn’t make someone act older, and I don’t know anybody who is really fooled by the ‘pretending to be a grown-up’ behaviour of children.

Even if her pictures online made her look older (according to the judge, which probably just means she had make-up or a short skirt on!), I doubt that when he met her he would really have met someone who looked and acted 19.

His intentions were summed up by a children’s charity worker as ‘he wanted to… jump on her, get her drunk and have sex with her’. I’d bet money that if he did have any doubts she was 19 (and he probably realised she was younger be may least a few years), he would have pushed them aside because it didn’t matter to him to make sure she was old enough to consent and he never thought he would get caught.

Also, the idea that because someone doesn’t specifically seek out children (i.e. the psychiatrist said he had not got paedophilic tendencies) does NOT mean someone would not have sex with someone knowing or suspecting they are legally a child. It means they are unlikely to seek out children specifically. Whether they would sleep with any if they had any encouragement is another matter.

Tangentially, whist googling the above article, I came across the story of another 29 year old sex offender, only this one managed to persuade a school, and two paedophiles who had sex with him, that he was 12. I mean, WTF? Can anybody tell the difference between prepubescent children and adults anymore??? How can a MAN with STUBBLE and adult genitalia be confused with a child???

Sabre // Posted 22 September 2008 at 11:30 am

I’ve stopped reading the free newspapers in London. They annoy me too much; they’re really trashy, sometimes sexist, sometimes racist, often misinformed and with many headlines designed to stir up fear. Reminds me of the Daily Mail (or as I like to call it, the Daily Hate).

Not surprising if you consider that the same company that owns the Daily Hate also owns the Metro and London Lite.

Of course there’s the environmental aspect of increased street litter and rubbish caused by these papers, which is another reason to avoid them.

sianmarie // Posted 22 September 2008 at 1:41 pm

the best saw in metro was “7 people and 2 women were killed.”

last time i checked women were people…they are owned by the Daily Mail.

Alex T // Posted 22 September 2008 at 7:39 pm

@The Boggart

It just seems to me that if a person wants to read a paper and they get given a free one then they are more likely to read that than to pay for one. And since buying one involves making a choice then people are thinking for themselves about what to read. The sight of all those commuters reading that garbage seems a bit Orwellian to me. Having said that, I would probably feel very different about it if free papers were biased towards the left though!

Sarah // Posted 23 September 2008 at 7:29 am

Did you see the one with the headline that went something like “Woman killed by henpecked dog-lover”?

Honestly – I kid you not – the story was about a man, portrayed as a dog lover, who got so henpecked by his wife that he had to kill her. Poor him.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I took 30 metros into school with me (I’m a politics teacher) and had my year 10 tutor group share the outrage. They thought it was pretty disgusting. In the words of one of them: “Miss, that is raw, he killed her innit, bein no dog lover aint gonna save him”. Quite.

Anne Onne // Posted 24 September 2008 at 12:24 am

Ah, but Sabre, what if on takes theirs home and recycles them? I must admit I read them, mostly because I have a long commute, and though rather rubbish they have enough news in them to keep me slightly informed. Naturally, I don’t let them be my only source of information, and still buy something weightier whenever something interesting catches my eye.

I definitely think they’re a problem if they’re the only source of news, but only for the same reason that the mainstream media is a general problem if someone doesn’t know how to be critical and guage the worth of reported ‘fact’ and notice bias.

In a way, I read them for the same reason I sometimes read the Mail: It’s important to know what’s being spread about, and to be able to counter it and debunk it.

Naturally, If you don’t feel like it (and often I don’t), then it’s perfectly legit to avoid reading such hateful, infuriating things.

Sianmarie: at last! Proof women aren’t human! Very telling, though…

Sarah: Your students sound cool! Shame whoever writes the articles doesn’t have as much sense!

James Mummery // Posted 23 October 2008 at 12:26 pm

Hi everyone,

Free Newspapers are creating a lot of issues for urban dwellers, especially an environmental problem. Check out my campaign to make publishers more responsible.

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