Recycled cucumbers

Back after my annual week-long summer break with no technology. Now, sunburnt, I can resume my deskbound, keyboard pounding ways.

As recent posts indicate, Norway’s silly news season (cucumber news) is in full swing, and today not only provides a great example of the state of the national newspapers, it also marks the last time I use my hard-earned kroner on one for the foreseeable future.

While I may debate and lament the state of old media, the devastating effect of the new, and the economic chaos of the present, I must confess that even though I have spent years writing for them, it has been aaages since I bought a newspaper. Like everyone else, news is faster and free on the ‘net, and while I am more than willing to pay for content I want, I haven’t seen an online newspaper yet that has managed to find a model that tempts.

Today though, the tabloid VG did manage to get me to buy a hard copy by luring me in with the headline: ‘She nursed nine puppies; Dog mother died’. Wow! A follow-up to the story that made News in English history, and generated more traffic than the rest of the Aftenposten web site combined.

From a glance at the front page and the not irrational expectation of news, I had the impression that the woman who took the puppies to her breast had died, but I soon found out that what I had was a print version of recycled online news. While old Internet news can suddenly gain a lease on life when rediscovered and then recirculated, I don’t remember seeing this done in old-fashioned papers before. But in fact the story was just a rehash of the original story, and the ‘dead dog mother’ was the real mother of the puppies – which was why there was a litter of hungry canine babies looking for milk in the first place.

VG, like all successful tabloids, has an arsenal of tricks to get the reader’s attention, such as wild headlines that have no bearing on reality, which becomes clear in the final paragraph of some rambling, taped-together story that ends in an admission that the premise was just false. Having now paid to read used news, I will return to getting more for free online.

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