Have I got news for you
I'm not really the 'green' type. While I tut over the ridiculous amounts of packaging required to wrap mange tout and recycle newspaper and bottles, I'm not the type to stand waving placards about the plight of whales (do people still do this?) or chain myself to a power station.
An environmental matter that's come to my attention now, however, is the sheer volume of newspapers floating around London at the moment. Freesheets in London have been commonplace for years, from the specialist titles aimed at backpackers or Polish people (the strapline for which on its distribution boxes cheerily reads: "If you're not Polish, don't bother") to the execrable 'bits of the encyclopaedia paraphrased and sprinkled with industrial tribunal gossip' that is Metro, but now London finds itself in the middle of a media war, and it's taking many a tree with it.
Media reporters have been scratching their crotches excitedly for weeks at the arrival of two rival freesheets launching within a week or so of each other. London Lite, scrawnier counterpart to the Evening Standard, itself a London newspaper with incurable delusions of national grandeur, was first off the blocks, its bored distributors half-heartedly gesturing with a copy, barely bothering to urge you to take it. As a read goes, it's OK if you like the Standard, Metro or the Daily Mail- three titles I don't enjoy and do not read- and are more interested in Lindsay Lohan wearing four different outfits per day than in world events.
Cheeky upstart thelondonpaper (oh look, no capitals or spaces between words, woo! How unmistakably 'now'!) has impressed me slightly more in content if not in distribution. Its employees are borderline psychotic and think nothing of jumping out in front of you to make sure you have a copy of these 50 pages of precisely nothing. Because the weather's nice and I now live more centrally, I have been walking home and have become the target of approximately 30 of these wannabe adrenaline junkies, as well as spied them darting across impossibly busy roads, thrusting papers through barely open car windows or chucking piles of them on buses. I can but imagine what kind of commission bonus they seem to be on, but it does look like a rather elaborate Pepsi Max commercial to watch them try all manner of death-defying stunts and words of persuasion to get me to take a copy. That this newspaper has recruited people who act as if they're in a Big Brother audition comes as no surprise; its publishers are News International, responsible for, amongst others, The Sun.
What both newspapers have in common is they claim to encourage content from readers, be it restaurant reviews, pithy comments on music releases or concerts or, every paper's staple (no pun intended): an over-reactionary letters page. Indeed, one of the papers screams that it is London's only paper which truly knows Londoners, only to ignore any news actually happening in the capital and place a reader's comments on being worried about the Tube fares next to a story about somebody losing an earring in Dakar.
All of this newspaper floating around has reminded where paper comes from and I'm beginning to wonder how many freesheet launches it will take until we've ruin out of trees completely. There simply isn't enough news in the world to justify all of these colourful, yet pointless, tabloids. Distributors on every corner stand with piles and piles of newspapers beside them. Won't somebody think of the trees?
Perhaps the way to get rid of these two treekillers is to launch my own freesheet using alternative media: sheer metal, perhaps? I could then combine the pointless content of one and aggressive distribution of the other by copying random news 'buzzwords' off the internet and then hurling my inscribed, metallic news javelins at unsuspecting commuters, spearing them through the hand. They'd certainly never forget the brand.