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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: laments for lost newspapers (plus: historical characters’ desert island discs)

28 March 2015

9:30 AM

28 March 2015

9:30 AM

In his 2004 book The Vanishing Newspaper Philip Meyer predicted that the final hard-copy newspaper will plop through someone’s letterbox in 2043. So who’ll be the first to go? In the latest competition you were invited to imagine that one of the major newspapers has ceased publication and provide a verse lament for it.

A couple of you submitted entertaining entries in the style of William McGonagall, poet and tragedian — take a bow, David Silverman and Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead — and my head was also turned by Brian Murdoch, who didn’t seem overly sad about the demise of the Guardian.

Over to D.A. Prince, who pockets £30 and her fellow prize-winners, who earn £25 each.

D.A. Prince
No more the morning doorstep thumps that
       bring
news and opinions from the public sphere.
The Guardian’s laid to rest where angels sing
and deadlines are no more, is grieved for where
the muesli-ed tables sit, forlorn and sad.
No more the Toynbee fire to heat the grate,
no Monbiot to shame us from our bad
earth-wrecking habits. We must mourn the fate
of letter-writers with high-minded whine
parted from publication, and the starrier
of crossword setters — Paul, Shed, Philistine —
now joined in cryptic heaven with Araucaria.
And think how much we’ve lost to darkness if
we cannot follow Ambridge with Banks-Smith.

W.J. Webster
O tempora! The Times no more!
The Thunderer gone wholly under,
Silenced now its vaunted roar:
The shifting zeitgeist stole its thunder.
Who would follow then its leaders
With their majesterial tone
Disguising in the minds of readers
An Oz-like voice behind the throne?
It tried hard not to act its age
With yards devoted to The Game
And selfies on the op-ed page
Conforming with the cult of fame.
But true to the times that it was bred in
It kept a feature one can’t omit:
That was the place to be seen dead in —
Shame we shan’t read its own obit.

Philip Roe
When the men who rule over us dithered and
       blundered
The presses of Fleet Street rotated and thundered
The man in the street read despatches and
       wondered:
How could we survive with no Times?


When the printers of Fleet Street grew rich and
       rapacious
The editor’s answer was bold and audacious:
He moved to new premises cheap and capacious.
We lived for a time with no Times.

And it soon re-emerges with printers robotic,
A style that is colourful, slick and demotic
And supplements, puzzles and counsel erotic.
There’s not enough time for the Times.

Now the writers, reporters and wrangling
       disputers
No longer compete with the news from
       computers
And tablets and smart-phones for busy
       commuters,
We have to survive with no Times.

Sylvia Fairley
The Sun has set on Sundays and I’m gutted to
       the core,
for in its dying rays I fear I can indulge no more
in Sunday morning worship of the goddess on
       page three,
the saucy pin-up of the week, who bared her
       breast for me.

I’ll miss the wit of Katie Price, the lurid
       kiss’n’tells;
no politics or world affairs, just sleaze, the stuff
       that sells,
with footballers and stars of soap in stories that impinge
on private lives, ’neath headlines wrought with
       puns to make you cringe.

The sunrise found me waiting in a fevered
       ferment, while
I listened for the paper boy, but now I know that
       I’ll
no longer feel the joy that found me leaping
       from my bed
to keep abreast with news …I’ll take The
       Telegraph instead.

Bill Greenwell
We think of you, your helmet dented,
Your chain half-rusted, sword-edge dull,
As a bold Crusader, if demented,
Who’s not survived the paper cull —
But think of all that you’ve outlasted
That never had your shining masthead:

We lift our pure Dominion vino
To those with Empire flags aloft,
To Beaverbrook, who claimed there’d be ‘No
War in Europe’ (Hitler scoffed
And took out Poland just that day,
But we salute him anyway).

When you merged with Nigel’s ’Kippers,
Sadly you went up the spout:
Poor Desmond’s dirty bodice-rippers —
For him, alas, the ink ran out —

Frank Upton
The English yeoman fighter, sent to jail;
The bearded, ranting cleric, out on bail;
The hunky TV love rat tells his tale;
The curative effects of eating kale;
The politician’s secret you unveil;
The Dorset woman hit by giant hail;
The housing market crisis: what’s for sale?
The ‘Why-oh-why?’ repeated plangent wail;
The EU types who’d force us to eat snail;
The Oscar-winner’s frock, ‘an epic fail’;
The breathy prose with no time to exhale;
The royal scandal stories, fresh or stale;
The super-scrounger you’re agog to nail;
Such popularity could naught curtail!
And yet today we mourn you, Daily Mail.

Your next challenge is to suggest suitable Desert Island Discs (seven) for a well-known historical figure, living or dead. Please email entries, wherever possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 8 April.


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