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31 May, 2003

The 7th circle of Hell

In the history of writing, from the first runes scratched on a rock by a Neanderthal cousin, to the estate agent weeklies, student rags and parish gazettes of crap newspaperdom today, surely no other publication can match the unparalleled, appalling horror of Dubai's latest weekly tabloid, "7 Days."

Set up by some ex-magazine hacks - almost certainly soft feature writers who wouldn't know hard news if Osama bin Laden detonated himself in the same cafe (they'd write about his beard, or more likely, wait for the press release about his beard, and just C&P that) - "7 Days" is unbearable for even "7 seconds."

The latest edition's front page features an (old, obviously) story about a American born-again muslim nitwit who refuses to de-veil for her driving licence. The headline, above a large photo of the woman in her veil? "Veiled threat." Despite the fact that it's (a) inaccurate, as she's not threatening anyone, and (b) culturally offensive/racist, the subs obviously couldn't resist such a clever, if totally inappopriate pun. Lowest form of wit, etc etc, goes without saying.

Let us turn to page 5, past the garish layout and white-on-black headline boxes, used randomly yet often for the most mundane stories - and arrive at a wires cut-and-paste story on African pygmies being cannibalised in tribal warfare. A truly horrific story, but old, dating from nine days ago, according to Google, Reuters and the BBC.

The story has a nice photo of black African pygmy people in some jungle setting. But the sensitive caption to give these people's tragic plight the dignity and gravitas it deserves?

"Dinner time in the Congo."

This newspaper needs a whole new business model. It should not a "freebie" paper, but a paid one - where the publisher PAYS the reader for the torture suffered reading it.



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