Saturday, November 11, 2006

Changing Rooms

The new content-lite Times Educational Supplement? For me it was akin to that moment in ‘Changing Rooms’ when that nice couple from Purley open their eyes and confront the scale of the horror – Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen has converted their bijou living room into an imitation nineteenth-century French brothel. Or that familiar old boozer you used to frequent is re-branded and acquires some ludicrous name like the ‘Slug and Parrot’ and is full of uncomfortable chairs, garish lighting and the only drinks on sale are expensive lagers in weirdly-shaped bottles.

The TES has obviously been clobbered by the ‘curse of the consultants’ and the conclusion has been drawn that there are far too many old farts like me and younger trendy hip teachers need to be recruited as readers. Yep, they’re tired of reading about early retirement, teachers moaning about pensions and trawling through all those adverts for hearing aids, stair lifts and incontinence pads.

I’ll have to concede that I liked the new lifestyle magazine, sure attract new readers, but what the hell has happened to the news section? There’s dumbing down and there’s completely losing the plot. The TES used to be a serious journal of record, comment, debate and analysis. I read it because it covered issues in the kind of detail we couldn’t get from the daily newspapers, I’m not sure this is the case any more. How much was the word content slashed? One third? One half?

The re-vamped news section was an embarrassment, like watching an old treasured maiden aunt attempting to break dance or David Cameron trying to get down ‘wiv der yoof’. Worst of all was the letters page (now re-named ‘Inbox’) with only six letters on show.

The old TES may have been a bit staid and establishment orientated with a plethora of articles from government ministers and too many pieces directed at heads and senior managers instead of the troops in the trenches, but this was a bit like waiting for your caffeine fix and getting a cup composed of vast amounts of froth instead of coffee. Or to put it another way, as the Americans say, ‘Where’s the beef?’ Will you attract a new younger audience or just lose the older dedicated readers?

This must be the most disastrous ‘makeover’ since Coca-Cola changed their recipe. If ever you wanted an example of ‘death by focus group’ this was it.

P.S. Please could you manage to find the space to review my book?


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