It’s Not A Free Country Any More

I bought a Guardian on Saturday. It cost £2.90. I bought it on the off chance that I might have been quoted inside it. A Guardian editor had contacted me a couple of days before. She wanted to know if I still wanted to be called C F Davis, “if published”. So I was curious to see if I had been.

In fact I had been published, in an abridged form. But seemingly only in the online version of the Guardian. I haven’t been able to find it in the paper version.

Which brings me to the reason why I haven’t managed to find the article: there are far too many pages in the paper.

And this happens to be the reason why I stopped reading the Guardian some time in the 1980s: there was simply too much of it. And there still is. It’s like those restaurants where you get served a plate with 8 slices of roast beef, 7 Yorkshire puddings, 5 carrots, 6 roast potatoes, and about six other portions of assorted vegetables, all drowned in gravy. And you know – or at least I know – that you can’t possibly eat it all. Not in one sitting, anyway. Maybe in three or four sittings, but definitely not one.

I suppose that the Saturday Guardian is likely an expanded version anyway. Most newspapers seem to publish a lot more on Saturday. So in addition to the 50 page main newspaper, there was the separate Sport, Review, Family, Travel, and Cook sections, each with about 16 pages. And an 80 page magazine. And  a little 80 page TV guide that included several lengthy articles. All told it came to about 300 pages. And I could have fitted 3 of my blog posts on each page. And it wasn’t as if it was mostly ads. The entire newspaper was surprisingly light on ads. I estimated that it was less than 10% ads.

From memory, the 1980s’ Guardian seemed to have been 90% ads, usually for jobs in local government. It had entire supplements full of ads.

I estimated that if I had written all the articles in the Saturday Guardian, writing at my usual rate of one article a day, it would have taken me well over two years to fill one edition of the Guardian. Or, putting it the other way round, the Guardian would have had to employ about 800 Frank Davises to write all that stuff. I imagined rows and rows of clones of myself in floor after floor in the Guardian, sweating over articles about chocolate sponge pudding. How did they manage to fit them all in? How much did they pay them?

In my own way, as a blogger, I write a little daily newspaper. It takes me anything from about half an hour to over three hours (or more) to write each post. And nobody pays me a penny for it.

It set me wondering whether the Guardian might be written by unpaid bloggers like myself. Not working inside the Guardian’s offices, but scattered all over England, and all over the world. And as they finished their pieces, they emailed them to the Guardian, where a small army of sub-editors sifted through them, and decided which to publish. The sub-editors would them pass the draft copy of that day’s paper to a board of editors who would monitor the political content, and the overall tone and style. And finally, at about midnight, the Editor-in-Chief would press the Publish button.

The benefit for the unpaid bloggers was that they got their stuff published in the Guardian, which has a circulation of about 400,000 per day.

So the Guardian’s bloggers could expect to be read by up to 400,000 people a day, maybe twice that if the online readership is equal to the paper readership.

And in fact I myself was one of the unpaid bloggers who’d helped provide a few lines somewhere in the Saturday edition. If I’d been heavily abridged, it was because I wasn’t really the right sort of blogger. I was far too far right wing for this left wing newspaper. Junican has some thoughts on this.

Am I on the right track here? I can’t see how everyone who is writing in the Guardian can possibly be paid. So I’m supposing that mostly they’re not paid. The only writers who will be paid will be those which the Guardian’s editors decide they want to hear more from, and whom they’re prepared to pay to write regularly.

Looked at this way, the Guardian isn’t so much a newspaper, but a swirling galaxy of writers who are all contributing in greater or smaller ways to the central newspaper. It’s a miracle of organisation. I’m filled with admiration. It’s an entire self-sustaining culture, with thousands of contributors writing the paper, and then reading it as well – all shaping people’s opinions, and being shaped.

Anyway, I think that it’s probably going to take me about 3 months to read last Saturday’s edition of the Guardian.

I have no plans to buy another one. For I got a powerful political message somewhere inside the Guardian on Saturday. It was something someone said to me on 1 July 2007, the day of the UK smoking ban:

“It’s not a free country any more.”


About Frank Davis

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31 Responses to It’s Not A Free Country Any More

  1. The circulation graphic is interesting as it confirms the decline of the press started long before the intrawebz. I assume the rise of the TV?

  2. Rose says:

    Frank, look in the Society section of the paper, that’s where it was posted online.

    And incase you missed it on the previous thread,

    Guardian Pick
    “Not a parody.
    I was never a member of UKIP. I voted Lib Dem for about 30 years, until 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the smoking ban (only 90% of Labour MPs did), when I stopped voting for them. UKIP has been all that’s left to vote for since then.”
    With an internal link to that very comment.

    So you did get another important part of your message through,it was at the top of the comments this morning, now third down.

    • Frank Davis says:

      My paper doesn’t have a separate Society section.

    • beobrigitte says:

      So you did get another important part of your message through,it was at the top of the comments this morning, now third down.
      I’m not so sure about that. I can see 4 Guardian picked comments:
      Guardian Pick 1: blames for his father’s cardiac arrest the tobacco industry.
      (the “death danger”)
      Guardian Pick 2: states that his parents’ pub in a sleepy village experienced an increase in the number of young adults after banning smoking – which incidentally improved the parents’ smell and taste – and that these parents now opened a second pub in a nearby village.
      (the “life-is-so-much-better” and “all-the-non-smokers-will-come-to-the-pub-if-no-one-smokes-there” lie dug out again)
      Guardian Pick 3: is Franks reply
      Guardian Pick 4: is that smokers don’t want to hear that their smoke is killing people. The poor bar staff who have to work in smoky pubs…. And then “it-was-so-nice-coming-home-from-a-night-out-and-the-hair-and-clothes-not-smelling-of-tobacco” followed before the mention that – as an asthmatic – health has improved since the ban.
      (wow!!! 1. telling smokers their smoke kills, 2. mentioning the “better” life without smoky pubs/bars and 3. pointing out improved health – asthma works particularly well for that, that’s why I assume there are so many “improved asthmatics” to be found in the comment section – since the smoking ban uses three old tobacco control arguments.

      The Guardian appears to do it’s best to prove that it is a lobby mouthpiece. £2.90 for a hard copy of the guardian is a little too much considering that it gives anti-smoking propaganda still for free on the internet. And I didn’t think this article was going to be printed – there would be no comment section for the anti-smokers, all (?)11 of them.

      • Rose says:

        Brigitte, one of the answers that Frank gave the Guardian, but the Guardian omitted in the article, was that he was a Lib Dem up to the point that they voted overwhelmingly for the Smoking Ban.

        “For decades I used to vote Lib Dem. But given that 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the illiberal and undemocratic smoking ban, I stopped voting for them after 2007”

        The message being smokers don’t vote for a party that holds them in contempt.

        Which he repeated more or less in the reply.

  3. Rose says:

    Talk about rewriting history.

    “As usual pub industry insiders carefully avoid remembering the smoking ban coincided with the 2007/8 recession. We will never disentangle the 2 events relative effect on pubs but there is a huge clue. Wetherspoons adopted the ban 6 months early and saw an immediate large increase in profits.”

    Wetherspoon pubs ban smoking

    “JD Wetherspoon is to ban smoking in all its 650 pubs by May 2006 amid fears smoky pubs are deterring customers.”

    JD Wetherspoon ends no-smoking trial

    “Proposed ban in 630 pubs is scrapped
    Chain sees profits plunge as customers rebel
    JD Wetherspoon has called time on a bold experiment to extend its smoking ban beyond 49 of its pubs after the company faced plunging alcohol and slot machine revenues and a backlash from increasingly disgruntled regular customers.”

    This comment section is giving me hours of fun.

  4. garyk30 says:

    Smoking ban was supposed to save lives.

    The smoking bab is causing more deaths and has brought to a screeching halt the decrease in the U.K. Dearth rate.

    But this much is plain: In the aggregate, the Banning of smoking hasn’t kept more people alive.

    So lawmakers who supported smoking bans should be accused of sending more people to their graves, right?

    Defenders of Smoking bans should be smeared as “heartless” and “evil” and the “death party.”

    In the seven years before the ban, the death rate fell from 10.6/1,000 to 9.5/1,000.
    That is a 10.4% decrease.

    In the 8 years since the ban, the death rate has pollen from 9.5/1,000 in 2007 to 9.3/1,000 in 2015.
    That is only a 2% decrease.

    • garyk30 says:

      If the death rate had the same after the ban as before, the 2015 rate would have been 8.5/1,000 instead of 9.3/1,000.

      The ban is causing about 50,000 extra deaths per year.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Some miscellaneous references:

      Air pollution leading cause of cancer, World Health Organisation warns; Breathing ruled more dangerous than passive smoking

      “The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances. We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen, more so than passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, head of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.”

      South China Morning Post

      Air Pollution Is More Harmful Than Passive Smoking, Two Reports Find

      “IARC’s Kurt Straif told the South China Morning Post. “We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen, more so than passive smoking.” According to data from the WHO’s Global Burden of Disease project, air pollution was responsible for 3.2 million deaths worldwide in 2010, and 223,000 specifically from lung cancer.”
      The IARC Monograph mentioned above is available here:

      W.H.O. Declares Diesel Fumes Cause Lung Cancer

      “Dr. Silverman said her research indicated that occupational diesel exposure was a far greater lung cancer risk than passive cigarette smoking”
      New York Times

      Empa. “Carcinogenic soot particles from petrol engines.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2017.

      Freeway emission lead to cancer and other illnesses

      “But pinpointing the harmful agents in traffic pollution is difficult because it’s a stew of ingredients including toxic combustion gases, microscopic soot particles, compounds from worn tires and dust from vehicle brake pads. Recent research has narrowed in on one component of special concern: ultra-fine particles, pollutants in freshly emitted vehicle exhaust that can be five to 10 times higher near traffic.
      The invisible, chemical-laden specks are less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair — so tiny they are hard to capture with pollution controls or filters. Scientists suspect ultra-fine particles are able to pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream, where they may harm the heart, brain and other organs. Yet they remain unregulated by state and federal authorities.”

      “L.A. keeps building near freeways, even though living there makes people sick” LA Times,

  5. wobbler2012 says:

    Amazing to see that a lot of people still buy the Daily Mail, the Sun > Daily Mail gap has narrowed a hell of a lot from 1985 to 1995 when the Sun pissed it by a couple of million.

    Print media is a dying breed and that’s no bad thing as most of it is bullshit anyway.

  6. After their poll the other day which didn’t go quite as they expected *cough* Cornwall Live have put up
    …without a poll.

    • Rose says:

      And all the people who look in again after voting to see which way the poll has gone, will have noticed.

      • beobrigitte says:

        Noticed this?
        Read more: Smoking could be banned inside new council houses to protect children
        and this
        Read more: Devon and Cornwall police issue just one warning for smoking in cars with children
        It’s the cheeeeeeldren – yet again…….
        The lobby has managed to cull free speech and free lives.
        God I only can hope tobacco kills – according to tobacco control I should not be alive at all!!! Remember, smoking causes impotence. Tell that the parents of the baby-boomers then!!! It’s the baby-boomers who have to work until they are 65 to 70 years old.
        Write a 500 word essay about that, Deborah!!!

        WHO wants to live in such a sick, anti-smoker hijacked society?I KNOW What am I supposed to be scared of? The anti-smokers killing me? Go ahead you cowards, shoot me!!
        Good God, please give me a cardiac arrest in my sleep! At least the stench of this little old lady in isolation composing might make some new, critical, papers headlines in 20 years.

        I am sick of having to live according to scared to death of anything idiots’ world view with the mass media as their poodles.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Yes, The current result on the poll is 79% against the smoking ban. Of course they won’t mention it again. It’s at

    • Joe L. says:

      Interesting. At least Cornwall Live didn’t take down the original article with the poll (as was the case with the Buxton Advertiser a couple days ago). But it is odd that they would create a tamer, less controversial article about the ban; probably done in hopes the old article with the poll gets buried and forgotten.

  7. Rose says:


    JerryAtrick 2hrs ago
    “You’ll probably be shocked to learn the market was close to deciding being successfully sued by bar staff over effects of passive exposure was unsustainable. Given a few more years it would have become cheaper to properly support non smokers in pubs than pay liability insurance. Something they’d actively refused to do for more than a decade.”

    Not just a casual commenter then.

    ASH Political Bulletin 2004
    page 7

    Letter to The Publican,
    May 2004
    From: Peter Linacre, Managing Director, Massive Pub Company

    “I attended and spoke yesterday (Monday 17th May 2004) at a conference held by The Royal College of Physicians entitled ‘Environmental Tobacco Smoke and The Hospitality Industry’.”

    “What is also clear is that the legal dimension to ETS is only just beginning. We will need to add ETS to our Risk Assessments and to make appropriate provision.

    “The only ultimate provision and safety for us will be a smoking ban.
    We all need to be forwarned that the next growth area for the legal system will be prosecutions of publicans for not protecting staff from the dangers of ETS.Since April 27 cases have been taken on – this is the start of a tidal wave – in my view.

    The industry, through the various trade bodies is looking for a voluntary ban with 80% of premises having smoke free areas by 2007.
    Having attended the conference I am of the clear view that far too many of us could be fighting legal battles by then, and perhaps we will be preferring a total national ban.

    We need to take a very close look at what is happening elsewhere and learn from their experiences.The clearest message from this conference is that on health and legal grounds a ban is an absolute must and an absolute certainty.
    That frightens us and requires us to change will, ultimately, be irrelevant.

    I would strongly recommend that every trade body and industry representative invites some of the speakers from this conference, or workshop.
    At least that way acknowledge of the dangers of ETS and to our livelihoods and businesses will be more widely available.”

  8. Tony says:

    A little pedantry:

    As of January this year, ‘The Guardian’ seems to have a daily circulation of only 156,756 rather than 400,000. It was almost 400,000 just prior to the smoking ban as it happens.

    All of the newspapers have seen falls but the Guardian has fallen further than most. I’ve seen many comments here and there questioning their sources of funding. Particularly suggesting it is offshore and that the paper couldn’t possibly be financially viable with such a low circulation.

    But perhaps you’re right that it’s produced by an army of bloggers.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I’ve seen many comments here and there questioning their sources of funding.
      The paper is certainly begging for online funding. Perhaps tobacco control would oblige?

    • nisakiman says:

      It’s more likely that Soros is helping them to keep afloat, Both the Guardian and Soros sing from the same hymn sheet, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s helping bankroll them.

  9. Rose says:

    Excellent series of comments on the health benefits of smoking by Kin-Free, well he was asked.
    First page.

  10. Smoking Lamp says:

    At least some good news from Taiwan: “The plan for a total ban on indoor smoking might be going up in smoke”

  11. Rose says:

    Security warning as one in seven UK cigarettes fake or smuggled
    3rd July 2017

    “Organised crime gangs are cheating British taxpayers of billions of pounds through a huge trade in illicit cigarettes that poses an “unseen threat to citizens’ security”, a new report will warn tomorrow.
    The report, by the Royal United Services Institute think tank and accountancy firm KPMG, says that one in seven of cigarettes smoked in this country — a total of 5.5 billion cigarettes last year — is either a fake or smuggled in from overseas to evade tax.
    It puts the cost in lost tax revenue at around £1.8 billion last year.

    The report warns that the scale of the unlawful trade is so large it has become the “modern face of organised crime” with profits used to fund other forms of more serious criminality.”

    I look forward to Deborah Arnott’s explanation to Parliament.


    Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said: “Once again, official figures show that the illicit tobacco trade in the UK is not rising rapidly, as the tobacco industry and its front groups routinely claim. The industry’s latest myth is that standardised packaging of cigarette products could increase illicit trade: this is as false as every other claim it makes on the issue.”

  12. Smoking Lamp says:

    Frank, A must read by Brendan O’Neill at the Spectator (Telegraph):

    “The smoking ban ripped the soul out of this country”

    After reading this essay, I expect everyone here likely share it broadly!

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