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Newsing

Today, as every day, I rise from my slumbers, pad through to the kitchen to make porridge and then sit down to breakfast in front of some of my computers.

The order I then read the morning's media is theoretically random but actually formed of habit. It follows a predictable pattern. With the Financial Times being my most expensive monthly indulgence, it comes top of my reading list. Even the recently announced reduction in tax on online media will make no difference. The FT is pocketing the saving and my subscription will remain the same. It actually costs more than I pay for my broadband connection.

Is it worth it? Yes. But is it worth more than my next read which is free? That's the Independent. A very different publication and since 2016, online-only. And apparently making a financial success of it. Their figures published in March show a profit of £2.3 million on £27 million turnover (source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/independent-financial-results-profits-revenue-a9376196.html). So is the online world a threat to traditional print-led news media as is much claimed? It depends on your strategy.

If you are like the Telegraph who previously paid (from memory) £250,000 each year to the person who is now PM, you are clearly not employing a value judgement based on the writing, but are using an employment contract to subsidise a political party. The wrong way to do it. And IMHO, the wrong party.

It's a shame because they employ a couple of fine Scottish journalists in the bodies of Alan Cochrane and Simon Johnson who write just as well (better?) even if the views they espouse, diverge radically from my own. I guess they are paid the going rate, not an inflated six-figure sum.

Some newspaper owners have failed to rise to the challenge of an online world. Although on my first visit to the Telegraph's web site this year I see a tiny banner proclaiming they are "News Website of the Year". The layout is clean and good. And unlike the Independent, it loads up instantly and has virtually no advertising on its front page. But then there is also nothing there on that first page to suggest knowledge of or interest in anything north of Basildon. Not even a link.

The highlight, as always, is the Matt cartoon which today has the strap-line, "Surely Hauwei can tell us if the Russians are trying to steal our Covid-19 vaccine". Neatly joining two news stories and placing them via his impeccable artist's pen at the PM's door.

The Guardian is next on the read list. You get the impression of a paper on its uppers with increasing eye-ball space devoted to pleas for the free-loading readers like myself who give them nothing but our time, to sign up and pay up. And for a paper whose origins were in Manchester, it too has a web front page devoid of anything, bar a story on Ireland's contact tracing app, that reaches much north of London.

John Harris has a rather pedestrian piece, it's one I have tweeted a link to this morning, which the subs have given the title "Now Britain stands at the crossroads. Will we choose dread or hope?". The very headline captures part of the problem. It excludes Northern Ireland by applying the geographical name "Britain" which neither equates to a country nor the boundaries of a state. In my tweet, I have changed "Britain" to "UK". But even then, I have pushed the boundaries of rationality as none of the thinking of three of the four UK nations intrudes meaningfully into the article.

I subscribe to the National. It's certainly unusual to have a long-run administration which has almost all the media against it. There are stories I read here which I am unlikely to see elsewhere, so it is a "must-read".

And then it's over to stv. Its main page is one of the few that makes a deliberate effort to reflect the geography and diversity of our country on its front page. Their comparatively small team of journalists give me something tweetable every day. It may not be "hard news", today it's a wee feature on how to stop your glasses fogging up when you wear a face-covering that makes the cut.

The BBC is something others lead me to from time to time. It is ruthlessly metropolitan with their main core of journalists clearly unaware of diversity in the UK. International coverage and the tech and science segments are good. But if you set up their web site by saying you live in London, you would barely know Scotland exists. Try it.

I kind of gave up on them via a particular story a few years ago.

It was a piece on Sunday trading driven by a press release from a trade union. I think it would be USDAW. Apparently, in England, there are rules preventing supermarkets from opening on Sunday. I didn't actually get that from the story, but I was motivated enough to find that out from other sources later. I hadn't known what "Sunday trading" meant.

But the BBC, with their London spectacles on clearly assumed that I did. Fail number one. They did not attempt to explain to a Scottish listener, it was on Radio 4 that I first heard it, what this issue was.

They then became engrossed in the downside of "Sunday trading" for shop workers. A perfectly proper issue for the trade union which represents many of them. But the BBC made no attempt to test the claims of harm by looking north to Scotland where the rules did not apply. Fail two. England was left badly informed.

And this all on a BBC radio station claiming to talk to all of the UK. Indeed one whose budget is similar to that which BBC Scotland gets for all its TV and radio output.

My media reading concludes in Washington most mornings.

The Washington Post is one of the world's great newspapers and costs international subscribers about £8 per month. It was, of course, the paper that brought President Nixon to book. Although it is firmly a Democrat paper, it carries comment from right across the political spectrum. And from time to time covers Scotland. No great surprise there as we have populated every corner of their great country. I have only three states where I have had no relatives.

I will also dip into the New Zealand Herald, the Irish Times and the Danish paper Politiken (thank you Mr Google for automatically, if not wholly perfectly, translating it for me) if time permits

That first hour over, I basically time limit myself, I currently turn to the issue of writing up my daily diary.

A systematic, (nearly) consistent start to the day refreshes the brain and equips me for the inevitable unplanned surprises that will follow.

Nearly 150,000 words in the diary so far. A good deal suggested from online newsing.

But I do so look forward to the traditional face-to-face version.

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