Ovoid to Tabloid

As I gaze out of the window at a morose landscape sketched entirely with a 4B pencil, I cheer myself up by thinking of Easter. In an increasingly secular society, it’s comforting that we still can’t resist tapping our toes to ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’ as we contemplate the miracle of the Resurrection, that singular event upon which the entire zombie genre is based.

If there’s something that Christians do well — aside from wrestling with lions and saying no to women — it’s a miracle. They’re all over them like a dreaming Argentinian over Goose Green.

pope francis

In the miracle stakes, Christmas isn’t all that. Mary simply got lucky; she found Joseph, a man blessed with both a trusting nature and a poor grasp of biology. If there were to be a Christmas miracle, however, it would lie with the Three Wise Men. These three men, without food or drink, raced all the way from India to Bethlehem on the backs of camels laden with heavy metal and “exotic plant resins”, only thinking to ask for directions when a cloud passed over the star they happened to be following. I mean, the whole thing reads like an episode of Top Gear.

By Easter, Christians have a firmer grip on the story arc, realising that they need a strong finish to leave the door open for that all-important second series. How do you create a buzz big enough to pull in a global audience? Kill off the sexy main lead, that’s how. Employ the three Bs — bromance, betrayal, Barabbas — then just when you’ve got your audience hooked, bring on the stepladder and the two-by-fours. Your target demographic of the unsaved will be left gasping at the twist. Think Verbal Kint and Keyser Söze.

usual suspects disciples

“And thence?”

“Lo, verily, he liveth again.”


“A stonker. But not straightaway. Leavest an audience wanting more and all that.”

“Nice,” nods the producer. “I liketh it.”

After a three-day wait Jesus becomes the first of the living dead, before eventually being abducted by aliens. Which is how the tradition of a long weekend came about. And the giving of chocolate eggs.

alien egg

In my day, of course, we had proper chocolate Easter eggs, eggs that you shook and heard sweeties rattle inside, sweeties wrapped in nothing but an outside chance that a factory worker had touched a scabby dog at some point in the last six months and had forgotten to wash his hands. The excitement of breaking into the egg, the hollow cuh-rruck! as the chocolate gave way … How sad then that today’s Easter egg is a fun-free ovum of despair. Trapped within impenetrable packaging like Han Solo in a slab of carbonite, the egg of today surveys the world with sad eyes and an empty heart. Its innards are kept in a canopic wrap of plastic, anticipation and surprise banished to a Health & Safety underworld.

When I opened this week’s edition of The Berwick Advertiser I felt for a fleeting moment that I’d been transported back to childhood. Once I got past the packaging I — wait! The packaging had changed, shrunk from broadsheet to tabloid. Great news. You needed planning permission just to open the bloody thing before. Another advantage of dropping excess weight, as any fat man will tell you, is that it makes other things look bigger. Our local news suddenly seemed more important, the stories more strident. Stone me, Berwick had only gone and produced something resembling a professional newspaper!

The Tiser

Better things were to come. As I riffled through the pages with mounting excitement, small bonbons of personality plopped into my lap. I’ve moaned in the past about how The ‘Tiser  lacks an identity for its readership to get behind and I don’t for one minute flatter myself that my words have had influence (because obviously it’s there for all to see), but I confess to a shivery thrill at discovering Phil Johnson’s editorial. Reaching out like the difficult teen in a family counselling session, Phil finally told the people of Berwick all about his hopes and dreams for the paper. A beautiful moment. I sent a mental hug.

Yes, some pages do resemble a fight in a font factory but as any doctor tells a patient suffering a sudden rash, it’ll soon settle down. For the time being let’s enjoy our paper’s resurrection and the miracle of finding something wonderful inside a formerly empty shell.

easter egg

What do you think? Could this herald a turnaround in the fortunes of The Tiser and The News? Drop me a line.


13 comments on “Ovoid to Tabloid

  1. Hello again! I’m hoping a ‘Tiser has been picked up for me – they managed to last week – in one of its more southerly outlets. Its old Tweeddale Press sisters and half-sister the Morpeth Herald went compact too this week, and I should have a copy of the latter too, for review when I manage to return north.

    The move to the Cases i Associats templates has been long in the works and I’m glad it looks as if Phil Johnson is rising to the challenge. (The Northumberland Gazette won the internal Johnston Press group award for the paper which made best use of the move to the new template last year, so there is an example to follow and beat close to home.)

  2. I liketh it. But what about that second series? Has funding been removed or something?

  3. I was very nervous about the move to compact format for the Tiser – I thought it would look downmarket and lacklustre. But I think the first edition is great. It looks grown up, clean and stylish. A few pages are a bit messy, as you say but, overall. Looks like good news for local news. Here’s hoping. x

  4. A two-thousand-year season break? That’s no way to build an audience. Or maybe it is . . . It’s lovely to be here, thank you. I liketh it.

    • I think you’re right. Islam’s picking up their audience, and Jediism …

      Sadly the first person singular in early modern English (aka Bible-speak) doesn’t take a present tense verb ending. I indulged in some rather hefty artistic licence there I’m afraid, yet it pleases me you likest it.


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