The trouble with newspapers is there's no news. It's all opinion and, er, columnists ...

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The Independent Online
Today I am bringing you a bit more of the extraordinary case in the High Court in which a newspaper reader is taking his own favourite paper to court. George BR Higgs claims that the Daily Post is no longer a newspaper in the real sense of the word and should not be allowed to call itself such.

Higgs has just taken the witness stand.

Counsel: Now, Mr Higgs, you have been reading the Daily Post for how long?

Higgs: About 20 years.

Counsel: Have you noticed any changes in the Daily Post over those years?

Higgs: Yes. It has acquired a Property section, a Motoring section, a Jobs section, a Media section, an Appointments section, a Travel section, a Holiday section, an Education section, a Gardening section ...

Counsel: Just a moment, just a moment. What is the difference between a Jobs section and an Appointments section? They sound the same to me.

Higgs: Oh, they are, but one is downmarket and one is upmarket. The same with overseas sections; Holiday is downmarket and Travel is upmarket. Cars is down, Motoring is upmarket ...

Judge: Up which market?

Counsel: The marketplace of public taste, m'lud.

Judge: Ah. Has the public got any taste?

Counsel: No, my Lord.

Judge: I see. Carry on, and try to make it easier to understand.

Counsel: Now, all these sections which have sprouted in the Daily Post over the years, what do you do with them?

Higgs: I throw them away.

Counsel: Why cannot you use them for drawer-lining or fire- lighting?

Higgs: I cannot line drawers or light fires as fast as the Daily Post can produce sections.

Counsel: Hmm ... So what do you have left when you have thrown away the other sections? The news, surely?

Higgs: This used to be true. But there is no longer any news in the paper.

Counsel: What do you find instead?

Higgs: Columns of opinion. Columns of commentary. Letters from readers. Obituaries. Reports of sports events.

Counsel: Surely sports reports are news items?

Higgs: Occasionally. But most sports items are merely speculation about the future. "England have good chance in West Indies". "Ian Wright doubtful for big match". "`We can do it,' says Seve." It's not news. It's useless gazing into a clouded crystal ball. The main so-called news pages are the same. Blair pledges himself to reform. Dome is fine, says Mandelson. Hague accuses government of backsliding. All those things are reports of what people have said, not of things that have happened. It is very rare to find news even in a good paper. That is why I think newspapers should not be allowed to call themselves newspapers.

Counsel: All papers? Or just the Daily Post?

Higgs: Daily Post first. Rest later.

Judge: Mr Higgs ...

Higgs: Yes, m'lud?

Judge: I have been listening to this case with some attention, which is not a boast I often make, and an interesting question occurs to me. If this case ends in judgment for you against the Post, do you think it will be reported in the Post?

Higgs: No, my Lord. But I think it will be widely reported elsewhere.

Judge: The effect would be to damage the Post, would it not?

Higgs: Yes, I suppose so.

Judge: And drive its purchase price down?

Higgs: I am not intending to purchase the Post ...

Judge: Then what do you think should happen to it?

Higgs: Papers like the Post need a rethink, my Lord. New strategy, new ideas, new blood.

Judge: What kind of new blood?

Higgs: A new man with vision, perhaps, my Lord. From time to time a great man comes along who can change things. A Rothermere, a Murdoch, a Thomson, a Maxwell ... well, perhaps not a Maxwell.

Judge: And who would you nominate as such a man?

Higgs: Well, Richard Branson, perhaps ...?

Judge: Ah, yes. Mr Branson. He already has planes and trains, records and banks, I believe. Sooner or later such a man feels he needs a daily paper as well, does he not?

Higgs: I think he would make a very good newspaper proprietor ...

Judge: No doubt you do. But would it surprise you to learn that we judges have a list of things we are asked to look out for? And one of them is any court case which might be a disguised PR bid by Mr Branson, or any other man on the make, for a daily paper?

Higgs: But ...

Judge: But nothing! Case dismissed! See headline in tomorrow's Post: "Judge Rebuffs Branson In Court Outburst!" And the next case please ...