Monday, August 25, 2008

A tale of two features

Interesting how two very different features can reflect such very different, and yet similar views of the same topic. Or to put it another way, The Times and The Sun both do a good job.

The Times coverage of The New Joy of Sex came out on Saturday morning. It majored hugely on the social significance of the project, delved into my own background, and happily reflected the key point about the whole book: that despite the fact that sex is all around - I would argue *because* of the fact that sex is all around - we need an informed sex manual as much now as we did in 1972 when JOY was first published. (I also hugely liked the big picture of me in a punt!)

The Sun coverage came out this morning and on the surface looked utterly different. Screaming headlines, capitalised key words, lots of sexy pictures, and boxouts comparing what is "in" the new book and "out" of the first one. One might think that the points made were going to be both less subtle and less accurate. Actually no. The same message about the necessity for sexual information and resources came across just as strongly.

Aside from being a potentially useful "compare and contrast" lesson for media students, these two articles made me reflect. It's fashionable to accuse the redtops of scandal-mongering. It's almost as fashionable to sneer at the broadsheets as being merely vehicles for the chattering classes. And either paper, when writing up the material they had to work with - research, the book itself, the interview with me - could have dramatised, patronised or generally let themselves be hi-jacked by the temptation to write The Joy of Sex in an irresponsible way. It's a sex book, after all - and could have easily been fair game.

But neither paper into that trap. At the heart of each - expressed very differently but making their point just as accurately - was an extremely effective treatment of the messages I am trying to get across. So thank you to both journalists involved. You've just made a huge contribution to sex education in Britain today.

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