#METROBLOG: The Metro’s page 3: Who cares what its about? Just get me a pun damnit!!

The Metro’s page 3 is infamous among commuters for always being something trivial and fluffy, and for good reason. At that time of the morning: you’re barely cognisant of where you are or what you’re doing, so some light hearted fluff isn’t just appropriate; its utterly necessary. For example; here’s a Metro page 3 I republished a while ago in which the man who made the world’s largest jigsaw accidentally dropped it and it fell to pieces.

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Thing is though; since newspapers are by nature published in a hurry to get everything done on time, sometimes they don’t really give a whole lot of thought into whether they way they present it is a tad inappropriate. Take for example this instance where the New York police department’s attempt to get positive publicity through social media by getting people to tweet pictures of them with their happy friendly police officers went horribly wrong when people started tweeting pictures of police brutality.

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Is it just me or does that headline completely sum up the state of tabloid journalism and their lack of self awareness and tact? “What’s the story about?” “I DON’T CARE!! JUST GET ME A PUN!!! THE DEADLINE’S IN TWO HOURS!!!” Looks like Twitter’s become a shitter for NYPD’s publicity! …yeah I’m shit at puns, I won’t do those again, I’m sorry.

This isn’t the most tasteless case of forgetting that not everything needs a pun and it’d probably be a good idea not to pun it. I have seen worse cases where stories of incest, rape, and people being decapitated have ended up getting a pun headline. But whether you agree with their punning this story or not, it still doesn’t seem like the sort of thing the Metro’s page 3 was designed for. Sure it’s got the social media element in there but the general formula for this page looks something like this:

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Whereas police brutality isn’t exactly something that achieves this effect. To make my point I’m gonna have to be very tasteless, so please forgive me but I’m trying to make a point here.

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See what I mean? You’d better break out the puppies having a tea party or a quirky sort of bake sale for cancer tomorrow Metro, cause this shit doesn’t slide for commuters.

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#METROBLOG: Click the Shiny headline for lolnews

Something’s occurred to me: I bash the print Metro a lot but since I’m a caveman luddite I should probably take a passing look at what most of the normal up to date commuters might be looking at if they have nothing better to do on their train ride: the Metro’s web strand.

I don’t know why anyone would look at the Metro’s online strand at all, let alone on their commute. I don’t think anyone voluntarily reads the Metro in print form, just picks up because there’s nothing else to do while sat upright in a moving vehicle for 30 minutes to an hour. And if you have a tablet with internet access on the train, chances are you’d be doing anything other than thumbing through webpages from a news source designed to be barely read by people with only a vague interest in it because guess what? The internet contains everything in the whole wide world ever! And its on tablets now! ….so why are you reading this and not ANYTHING ELSE?

Yeah the Metro’s online strands serves basically no purpose, I’d wager I’m the first person to ever click on their address, I feel like an archaeologist venturing into uncharted territory here…yeah of course I’m kidding but if you do read the metro online, ask yourself: why? You’ve got thousands of other choices of what to look at on your commute. The Metro is made and printed for one specific purpose where its free and there is no other available media so you think “well why not? and skim over the headlines and first sentence, whereas here….you’ve got every piece of other available media ever on a tablet, why would you do that?

So what I’m gonna do is look at the top 5 trending articles over my lunch break and see if we can build a rough guide to what you’ll typically see on the Metro’s web strand and see if we can figure out what makes it stand out over say Buzzfeed, Yahoo news and so on and whether a digital commuter paper is a concept that doesn’t collapse in on itself and merge into a quantum singularity.

Trending Articles at 12:28pm on Friday the 28th of February

metrotrendingUm…so yeah, what are you thinking print Metro strand? Ukraine updates? Some major terrorism incident in the middle east? No, man has sex with a goat BUT did ask first.

Yeah I think the purpose of this might be to gauge the sort of story they should pay the most attention to in the print edition the next day to see what their readers actually want to look at. Problem with that is the internet is kind of base in nature so if you do use it in that way, you’re basically picking up a channel 5 documentary in print at the station next day. EEEEERGH!! LOOK AT THIS GROSS FREAK!!! More on page 5!

I mean yahoo news and buzzfeed do similar stuff but since the Metro’s webstrand also do your bog standard internet tricks of eye catching words then maybe yeah its just another of those sites with shiny headlines you might click on. Is that a bad thing though because unlike print metro where a lot of the time interesting headlines are pot luck, here its at least eyebrow raising, its not boring. And yes you laugh at it, so trending articles of a base nature are a shortcut round the boring dross of the print edition. Despite the fact yes it sounds funny on the surface but if you actually look at this you might accidentally picture in your mind’s eye what this story is and its kind of….gross.

metrogoatYeah thanks for the cute picture of the goat with a wide angle lens coupled with a story about a man penetrating a goat with his penis Metro, that’s a mental image I want to muse on.

So yeah, the Metro’s online edition’s main appeal is exactly the same appeal as the rest of the internet: look at this slightly amusing news story for about five seconds, this headline has something weird in it, divert eyeballs here. I think the only tag for this article being “bizarre” definitely sums up the Metro online strand’s general appeal. There’s a student addicted to ketchup, that’s weird, goatsex, eeeergh!!! Gross!! Can you imagine?

Thing is though these stories don’t even have to be true, no one’s exactly going to phone the local authorities in Dutse to see if its true that some guy liked to have sex with goats. I think I’ve got the formula down now.

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Divert your eyeballs here viewers!

METROBLOG: Real Time Newsprint: St. Jude’s a bitch isn’t he?

I find stuff like this interesting because I’m a nerd for journalistic technique and if you don’t it probably means you have a life but get this:

Last night the MET office issued a severe weather warning saying there would be the worst storm the UK has seen in three years….or five years….or since 1987 depending on which news outlet that misheard the story you happened to be reading. Following that, most of the UK’s train companies issued a statement to the effect that all services would be cancelled between midnight and 9AM. So the free paper for commuters the Metro had quite an interesting route for its Monday morning edition open to them. The morning paper for the trains is specifically meant to be designed for the harrassed commuting office worker and now they had a glaringly obvious real life issue that would affect their readers that they could print about to try and make themselves seem relevent to their target audience. And boy did they go for this one:

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Since I went in to the station at 9AM and found a note scrawled by rail staff saying the 9AM limit on trains had been pushed back to 11 and found about twelve commuters that had bothered to hang around I also found the pile of copies of the Metro virtually untouched. Now I’m at home writing this blog and this copy of the Metro is precisely what I’ve been saying this paper should be since the beginning because they’ve themed almost every article in their opening few pages around weather and commuter misery and transport. How awesome is that?

This showed that in the age of instant smartphone updates, print media can still actually have some relevence to its audience as they go about their lives. The morning paper for London commuters is meant to be a comforting read. You’re depressed that about a fifth of your income goes on actually getting to work, you might have work problems or are just finding it hard to wake up, the morning paper is meant to socialise you again at that time of day. The only problem is printing media takes time and tailoring it to your audience even more effort to broaden your scope as there are quite a lot of people that could potentially read this. Yet here they had a firm warning for something that would affect commuters’ lives so they could tailor their news to be able to talk to commuters about their problems in real time and that front page article is so conversational in tone I’d say its exactly the sort of front page the Metro should be printing. If it was any other newspaper I’d complain it shouldn’t be front page news but here its highly relevent to their target audience.

So that got me thinking: why stop at the weather? The morning paper could speak to the reader about their daily life and act as that socialising comfort on a regular basis. The life of your average commuter is very bland and generic, you can’t get out of audience tailoring just because there’s a lot of them; life working in London isn’t thaaaat different for most people. Example, here is a list of keywords I regularly come across in my daily life as a london office worker:

Rail, travel, weather, coffee, underground, office, chair, desk, computer, wages, expenses, invoice, spreadsheet, meeting, email, logistics, lift, notes, folder, filing, minutes, accounts, lunch break, kettle, enquiry, phone call, numbers, calculator, etc

Most of these words could potentially apply to just about anyone.

So what you could easily do is construct a piece of news print that can speak to thousands of people but appear to be personal to them as they’re reading it which would be quite extraordinary and seriously unlike any piece of print media you would ever read. Just stick a few more keywords into this and you’ve basically got: PAPER FOR COMMUTERS. You can relate to their lives and go “Yeah your life is boring but here’s some interesting stuff we found on the internet” Its what the Metro’s really for but I just feel they could make their stories more personal. For example this is the front page for my fictional paper that speaks to commuters in real time:

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METROBLOG: Paparazzi by Royal Appointment

So Kate Middleton and Prince William had a baby. Woop de doo. Hooray. Here’s a sticker! All sarcastic barbs aside, congratulations to the happy new parents and since it’s a media talking point at the moment and I do a blog about the way news media is presented in my publication of choice, the free railway station newspaper the Metro: a few thoughts on the way the Royal baby story has unfolded in the press.

Now, the difference between this royal event and the royal wedding between Kate and William is that unlike during the royal wedding where I seemed to be the only person sick of the endless coverage, the main talking point we seem to be hearing about the royal baby is that people are sick of the endless press coverage. That’s literally all I hear about it. Granted this may be due to the type of people I speak to on a daily basis and the media I consume but seriously, it’s not that hard to not give two shits about a certain news story.

When I have seen a link on the internet to a story about the royal baby, I haven’t clicked on it. When its come on the news, I’ve switched the TV off and gone and stared out of the window or made dinner or something. When people have started talking about it, I haven’t listened. When it’s been covered on the first twelve pages of the Metro, I’ve put it down. I’ve overheard approximately one conversation about it. The only reason I know she’s had the baby at all is it’s been on the front pages of newspapers and I had my eyes open while walking past a newsagent. It’s not that hard to be completely oblivious to something if you happen to not care about a story.

Yes, I agree with you that not being able to walk five metres without hearing something about the royal baby is a tad annoying. However there’s no point asking “why is there blanket media coverage of the royal baby?” when it’s kind of blatantly obvious that they’re endlessly covering the royal baby because journalists think that you care about it. If they were convinced you cared about something else, anything else, then they would dedicate thousands and thousands of hours to providing you with press coverage about that. Endless news coverage of stuff they think people care about is what they do and it is a big news story, they could have got their target audience completely wrong, maybe they care about different sorts of things to the royal baby.

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We all know how and why the press works at proliferating stories to an absurd degree when there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to those stories so just let it go and let them have their fun talking endlessly about the royal baby for the people that care.

At the same time for people that like to be cynical about the way news is presented, it’s been interesting to watch journalists try and make this story seem like it’s a fantastical magical event. I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been reiterated a thousand times but the royal family have basically been a tourist attraction for some time now. Now they’re essentially what makes Britain a likable country, they remind people of when we used to be a cute and quaint people that lived in hobbit holes and sent our knights to fight dragons and rescue princesses or something. Problem is it just seems to be the word “royal” that makes people interested. There’s been plenty of people pointing out that this is just the regular everyday miracle of birth here. A woman has a baby, something loads of people go through every day. Good for her. Problem is it’s the paparazzi that’s enthusing this, we should be blaming them for reporting on regular everyday stuff as though its something everyone should care about because they’re royalty who are better than us just because they are. Kate and William are probably nice enough people which is reason enough for someone to take an interest, but its the paparazzi that are to blame for their annoying ever presence in the media, not William and Kate themselves. Take this example from the Metro this morning for instance:

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…wow, baby sits in car seat and people on twitter say some stuff, WELL WORTH THE MASSIVE BOLD HEADLINE! I know you’re meant to go “aww” because its a baby but…is this a bit of news? Page four in a newspaper is generally meant to be for news stories. Its worth the massive bold headline because its assumedly a royal car seat. Paid for by a royal credit card at a branch of mothercare whose shop assistants are supposedly by royal appointment…ooh aren’t I clever and funny? Yeah I know I’m not the only one pointing this out and the endless people pointing out how ordinary and everyday current royal activities are and the silly over-exaggeration of it by the press is rather ridiculous. I however find it entertaining from a journalistic criticism standpoint because royal press coverage seems to just use simple buzzwords like the word royal to make you interested in the fact this is a story you’re meant to care about rather than what’s actually happening in the story. A man has done a thing, a child has done a thing, its not interesting just because you say it is, you don’t know these people, there is no human element to this vicarious interest in the daily lives of the royals.

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Wow, I’m so interested because the word royal appeared in an article more than twice.

So yeah. Royal Kate Middleton had a royal baby in a royal hospital….I literally can’t muster up any sort of opinion because I don’t know her and will never meet her. Good for her I guess and I wish her and her son well…but I would say the same to anyone that’s just had a baby whether I knew them and had a cause to like them as a person or not…so yeah…you can go back to doing whatever you were doing now…no seriously I don’t know what else I can say on the subject…and I can’t think of a closing sentence…

….bye…see you next entry I guess.

METROBLOG: The Battle of Michael Gove

Recently the Metro’s letters page has devolved into an insult slinging match regarding one rather controversial figure in British politics.

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There’s just something about Michael Gove that gets people riled. I think it’s his face to be honest. He sort of looks like a version of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit that’s been possessed by Satan. I fully expect him to do a full on Exorcist neck twist when he speaks in public. He’s already doing the puking in people’s faces but instead of vomit, he’s puking really dumb legislation proposals.

One day the Metro prints letters and people’s opinions about how much of a prick he is and how he’s messing up the education system, next day its people rebutting that and saying how he’s doing good work, next day its yet more people rebutting that with more about how he’s a prick. The problem with these opinion pages is all they amount to is talking about how the other side is wrong and stupid, neither argument in favour or not in favour of Gove has anything concrete to say on why he’s doing and saying stupid things, it’s just people talking about how opinions counter to theirs are stupid which is not political discussion. “I think you are wrong” is not a qualification, “I think you are wrong because” is a qualification.

If something or someone arouses controversy then that means you don’t have a fact that Michael Gove is an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing, you have an opinion that’s just as valid as anyone else’s. The only thing we know is fact about Michael Gove is that he’s a former journalist, now the education secretary, and desperately needs to be catapulted into the sun for being a twat.

…….yeah I think I might be a bit biased…just a little bit.

My opinion’s mainly coloured on the subject of Gove based on his spite towards the teaching profession. If you’ve got no respect for the job, why should you be in charge of it? If you’re labouring under the stereotypical delusion that teachers get to go home early and get long holidays instead of staying late marking and planning lessons and designing projector slides and other shit like that, spending hours having dull pointless meetings and bowing to Ofstead demands and the actual job of teaching kids itself is incredibly difficult and emotionally challenging. You’ve got to put up with all of that in the face of getting paid seriously little for a really tiring and thankless job. There are lots of reasons there’s a teacher shortage at the moment and your clever idea is to increase the paperwork and bullshit procedures and claim that teacher unions are just looking out for their long holidays. Problem is the people that write in offering these rather valid points about how challenging teaching is don’t really articulate their point that well, neither do the opposing parties because, well we don’t seem to be hearing much from teachers themselves.

I especially liked the token “ex-teacher” they had on the letters page the other day saying “I used to be a teacher and can perfectly say its a rather easy job” ………..okay, let’s hear how, when and why you left then? Oh, not going to tell me and just shout about teachers being lazy? Yeah, thought so. We also had the husband of a teacher, someone who’s friends with a teacher. These letters pages are more like a David Attenborough documentary on teaching than any serious discussion. Let us watch the teacher from afar in its natural habitat:

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I have a suggestion: how about everyone with limited involvement with the teaching profession as it stands today, stop claiming to speak for teachers (yes I know how hypocritical that sounds but I’m trying to make a point here).

The problem with the Michael Gove issue is that teachers themselves are not the ones voicing their opinions on the man. We should believe the words of teachers’ unions because they are teachers and have more of a clue what they’re talking about. If you’re going to offer the excuse that they must just be looking out for their long holidays so teachers can’t offer neutral ground on how their profession be run, try and spend an hour teaching a bunch of rowdy 13 year old shits and then we’ll see whose life is harder. Either we hear from the teachers themselves or all this chatter on newspaper opinion pages means about as much as the cute animals section.

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D’awww hes all sad 😦

METROBLOG: The story of Phil Morley and his headline grabbing predecessor

I have a super freaky memory for stuff that really doesn’t matter whatsoever. I can memorise entire episodes of Peep Show that I’ve only seen once or twice…but remember to take my lunch to work? Buy milk when I go shopping? Someone’s birthday? Nope, doesn’t register. This automatic sectioning off of my ability to remember important stuff meant I got average grades at A-level and ended up emotionally jaded against people that got into Cambridge and Oxford. I mean I wasn’t clever enough to get into Cambridge or Oxford but my grades would probably have significantly improved if I hadn’t had the theme from cult 90’s comedy show “The Mary Whitehouse Experience” playing continuously in my head during my English Literature exams.

This happens with news stories as well. The news is pretty much a well established set of stories with interlinking continuity that if you’re not caught up with it, you’re going to get lost. Its kind of like comic books having a massive multiverse that would make your head explode and take years to memorise all of it. Catching up takes time and so my brain sections it off and doesn’t bother with it. What’s up with the Syrian rebels at the moment? Why are there massive protests in Turkey? Why are people afraid of the new Iranian president? What is the reason people give for not really seeing North Korea as the serious nuclear threat it claims to be? What’s Vladimir Putin done recently that’s bound to have pissed people off? I don’t know, I can’t remember anything I’ve read about it and have no interest finding out the hows or whys. However when it comes to tiny insignificant stories that don’t really matter and are just printed for the light hearted fluff of it all; that I do remember. So when I see this:

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Which is talking about an NHS boss called Phil Morley making a cheesy cringy employee motivational video (which can be seen and laughed at in full here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW3kRj_MCv8 ) to get them to stay fit and healthy at work while dressed as Superman in a shallow desperate bid to say he’s filling his role and justifying his six figure salary, who they’re making out to be worse than Hitler in this story. When I see that then my question is, hang on a second, anyone remember this?

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Yeah, a few months back a guy brought a criminal to a police station dressed as Batman and I specifically remember that most news outlets, including the Metro thought this was all cute and quaint and admirable. I mean yeah it is different, a superhero is a masked vigilante turning in the criminals to the authorities and not some guy in an office making cheesy promotional videos, and yes this Phil Morley twat gets his pay from taxpayer money, but at the same time they’re both doing a job while dressed as superheroes, except one is paid quite a lot for it and one isn’t. It’s an interesting question of where you draw the line.

Admittedly the guy dressed as Batman wasn’t officially employed by the police to turn someone in and succeeded in his role as vigilante, while the NHS boss was…well being a twat and got paid taxpayer money for it. Same time though, vigilantism is technically not okay, as is being a twat, so who’s to say which is right and which is wrong?

Still, we’ve got two of the emergency services aided or annoyed by costumed heroes. The police and the health service; one police related superhero hailed as a decent member of society, one health related superhero completely backfired in his attempt to enthuse workforce morale. Now all we need is for the firemen to dress like the X men and people to go “meh, s’okay I guess” and we’ve got the complete spectrum of the good the bad and the just okay I suppose.

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Alright, yes I will admit spending public money on the people making this dumb video is a talking point. Especially since the NHS is kind of stretched to its limit at the moment with regard to funding. Staff go without breaks, spending cuts across the board, there’s a lot of problems with the NHS at the moment and with a fairer system in place to ensure everyone gets a decent wage, then we’d have less reason to complain about shit like this wasting valuable resources. Yes I agree with all of that but I just find it hard to get pissed off at this like most people calling it an insult to the taxpayers that pay for the NHS rather than an insult to the workforce that are the real victims of NHS cuts as that’s really what affects the people receiving treatment.

Yes it is an insult to the workforce in terms of wasted time, money and effort. Its also an insult on grounds of “hey everyone! Why’re you so unenthusiastic at work! Let’s be superheroes!” Bosses trying to be motivational kind of always backfire for very simple reasons. I’ve been there myself when it comes to qualms with attempts at “morale boosting”. I used to work in customer service and am well versed in the mental middle fingers to people who think that the way to get someone to smile and be happy with their job is to just say “come on smile and be happy misery guts!” because that will make them smile. Really? I can smile? I thought I was supposed to look miserable. Thank you for enlightening me, just telling me to smile has made me so much happier. Ahh, let’s all pick flowers beneath a rainbow, everything’s alright now you’ve just said the words “cheer up you miserable git” its like you exude happiness from yourevery orifice.

Pointing out that someone is unhappy and unfit is not morale boosting, its openly going “NERNER!! I’M HAPPY WITH WHERE I AM IN LIFE AND YOU AREN’T!! NERNER!” I can totally sympathise if you are an NHS worker looking at this from that perspective.

Still though I really don’t think this NHS Superman video is much to kick off about. Especially with the excuse from people outside the miserable underpaid grind of the health service frontlines with “ooh public taxes” you do know that taxes get spent on a lot of really dumb shit, right? And I’m not just talking about the MP’s expenses, porn, moats, bird houses etc, there’s a lot of stuff being spent on by governments across the world that makes this look tiny by comparison.

This is a true story: in the US, five hundred and ninety two thousand dollars of state funding was given to this man

To study and find the answer as to why apes seem to have a pre-conceived compulsion to fling their shit at people………………….taxpayer funded study. Seriously, the guy’s dancing to Tony Christie while dressed as Superman. Calm the fuck down.

 

Stuart would like to note he is a UK taxpayer and also thinks this twat shouldn’t have got money for this. He just thought it was a talking point

 

On a completely unrelated note, I picked up the Standard recently and saw this advert for Game of Thrones:

spoiler…okay has the Metro’s twattish Game of Thrones spoilergate and then crying about people being mean to them about it given inspiration to the Game of Thrones marketing department? Or maybe it was a PR stunt organised between the Metro and the Game of Thrones marketing department. I’m off to send threatening emails and tweets to the Metro’s editors to find out more…

The Metro: Beyond Page 45

I was reading the Metro this morning on my way to work like I usually do and then I put it down. I hadn’t finished it but I did put it down. It was then that I realized that I always put the Metro down and can’t be arsed with the rest on exactly the same page every single day. The page numbers differ depending on how it’s laid out but I always put it down after either the TV guide or the really on and off comic strips, of which they only print two. I don’t know why but just instinctively, some part of me thinks there can’t possibly be anything interesting after that.

All of a sudden when that occurred to me I picked it up again and flicked to page 44…hand trembling, I pulled the page back and found one blank page followed by page 46 containing this message:

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And then just like that, for the next ten pages there were reems upon reems of articles about the most interesting things you could possibly imagine, except the back page that they just make to look like sport just to throw you off.

The Intriguer is a newspaper published at the end of the Metro to reward people with the will to struggle through the tedious bollocks and not give up before the end. So much of its made me go wow, I never knew that, it’s great. Here’s a couple of pages I took scans of:

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I don’t know if half of it’s true but it was certainly an eye opener.

I went to work feeling overwhelmed, refreshed, amazed, astounded thinking about all the wondrous things going on beyond the vapid shit about celebrities, horror death and kidnapping, politics and dogshit like that. Life has meaning and everything’s going to be okay…

……yeah just kidding, its travel news, business and sport, shit like that.