I suspect I shouldn’t get worked up about this, and I’m not really, but I read my newspaper every day and from it, I expect one simple thing: news. I just need the events of the world reporting, organising and disseminating for me, that’s all. Some anaylsis, yes please, some comment, OK, but mainly I want the facts of what’s been going on, whether it’s in Parliament or Iraq, or any point in between. What I don’t want are news stories which are not news stories, but thinly-disguised adverts. Here, from today’s Guardian is a classic of this type. It’s short, so I’ll let you read it first.
The flatpack fans riding for a fall
By Martin Wainwright
Almost half of people living with home-assembled flatpack furniture are in danger of falling out of bed or collapsing when they sit on a chair, according to a survey. Haste and over-confidence have turned the relatively simple system into one of the biggest potential sources of home accidents, says a report on the 1.1bn sector. “Bravado shoulders aside logic, especially among men,” says the survey, which finds that 67% of male flatpack buyers fail to read the instructions. Women are far more cautious, spending an average of 12 minutes preparing, but none the less, 47% of all jobs are never properly finished. Sliding doors are high on the list of failures in the data, collected from 2,000 homeowners by the online trades directory RatedPeople.com. Just over 2% of flatpack buyers are so intimidated that their planks and bags of screws are never even unwrapped. “Even so, the seemingly simple self-assembly bed was named as the biggest problem overall at 22%,” said Andrew Skipwith of Rated People, which promotes the alternative to DIY of GSI – Getting Someone In. The survey also checked out regional variations in failure to read instructions, finding Manchester the runaway hotspot with 69% not bothering.
1) So fucking what?
2) Are you really telling me that that there is so little actual news the Guardian has space to fill? (At least the tabloids would presumably have had some fun with this daft and inconsequential survey – I haven’t checked – whereas here, all we get are the facts, reported as if it was a story about the NHS, reported as if they matter.)
3) As with all survey-based stories – and there are a lot of them about, as websites and publications get wise to the value of sending out a press release with a survey on it to achieve free publicity – you have to read to the end to find out what it’s an advert for. In this case, a website promoting tradespeople. Nothing wrong with that, but why not make them pay for an advert, like everybody else? The Guardian has been had, and now so have I, for stupidly reading the story to the end. (I did so, because you often need to, to get to the punchline.) This website is free to customers, in return for your details, and is funded by the membership of tradespeople, who also pay a referral fee for any job they get through the site. It’s not a bad website. I wish them no ill-will, it’s the newspaper I have a problem with, and not just the Guardian, that just happens to be where I saw the story.
In summary: a website promoting tradespeople over DIY has conducted a survey which suggests, in a lightly comical way, that people shouldn’t do DIY, because it’s dangerous. A national newspaper prints this as news.