As part of the Herald's 150th anniversary last month, the editor, Shayne Currie, answered readers' questions online. Responding to one on demographics, Shayne conceded the paper's readership was now mostly the over-40s, unsurprising given the startling ignorance exhibited when one talks to folk in their 20s. Why is this?
With a colleague a fortnight ago, I stood chatting across the road from the Auckland Art Gallery as three young women approached, walking very, very slowly, heads down, gazing at their cellphones. As readers will surmise, they weren't reading the Times online; rather they were victims of the texting disease that has turned so many young people into zombies.
We stood quietly awaiting the inevitable and, sure enough, one duly bumped into me. "Happen often?" I inquired and she gigglingly conceded to hitting the occasional lamp-post. So, too, the report from Melbourne of a young woman so obsessed with her phone while walking on St Kilda pier, she walked right off and almost drowned.
We can mock but it's becoming a serious addiction problem, particularly with young girls, and is causing havoc with their mothers, as I constantly hear. Although not just them: an academic friend of mine regaled me over lunch a week back about his dismay at delivering university lectures to a wall of bowed heads, all texting away and Facebooking. That wasn't supposition. He'd sent out roving spies to examine what they were looking at.
But here's the point. If from the time their children could read, parents had introduced them to newspapers, as certainly happened when I was young, rather than addiction to idiotic texting, they would, instead, be addicted to the world in all of its wide-ranging fascination and zaniness (the human factor), as delivered to us daily in the newspaper.
It's a shame as nothing matches the daily newspaper for sheer stimulation, education, and entertainment value for money. Take a recent Dominion Post. First the pleasure of its crosswords and tussling over the wordgame, this after quickly scanning the front page for later reading. Each news item induced a full spectrum of emotions, from rage to delight, in the latter case from the splendid heading, "Mr Whippy frozen with fear by chainsaw wielding cross-dresser". That alone was worth the price of the paper and was promptly dispatched to friends abroad. These texting obsessives don't know what they're missing.
And so it went; politics, sport, foreign news, (mostly ghastly) business, mad and sensible readers' letters, plus as always, a very good editorial.
In the office a few hours later I read the Herald and its amazing revelation of the riches being showered from on high on the people of Remuera and other affluent Auckland suburbs, this a story on their rapidly rising incomes while, by comparison, South Aucklanders' have apparently been static.
Seemingly the first duty on rising every morning for Remuerites is to go outside and rake up the $100 notes that have fallen like confetti on them overnight. It must be very tiresome.
Then came rage at reading of our globe-trotting Prime Minister's latest indulgence at our expense, carting three has-been mates and the leader of the Opposition, described hyperbolically as "distinguished citizens", to Nelson Mandela's funeral.
Distinguished citizens my bum. Spongers on the taxpayer is more accurate. This is simply abuse of office. There's not a soul among the world's seven billion people who gave a damn whether Bolger, McKinnon and Sharples were there but New Zealanders should because they paid for this jaunt. Fortunately, they were made to suffer, listening to tediously endless identical speeches.
Then came even more outrage at king sponger Hone Harawira's ranting about attending the funeral with the threat that, if necessary, he would pay his own way. The "if necessary" pertained to whether he could find a way to make you readers pay his fare, which he duly managed. The chances of him ever fully paying his way through life are akin to me chopping my feet off and eating them uncooked.
Still, I cheered up greatly at the next item, revealing the dramatic drop in religious belief, with now almost half our population rejecting baying at the sky. Nevertheless, the superstition-imbued South Aucklanders can console themselves with the realisation that their low incomes are plainly God's will.
In fact, far from being showered daily with banknotes, the non-religious affluent, not having faith in a benevolent Father Christmas figure lurking in the clouds to depend on, have opted instead to rely on themselves, and thus studied and worked hard to attain their ever-growing prosperity. And it goes without saying, newspaper subscriptions are heavy in Remuera and lower in the south. Could there be a connection?