Judging by a cover
And whilst we could use this freebie media insurgency to debate the evil monopolistic tendencies of journalism writ large. We would be recklessly dismissing the major and immediate risk at hand: the loss of the impermeable stereotypes we derive from a fellow commuter's newspaper choice (free Metro excluded).
In the mind numbing but stimulus heavy subculture of London's public transport systems, we look for easy signals from which to distinguish friend and foe. In times of heightened security this is reduced to size of backpack or briefcase, but in less pressured times is often marked by newspaper mast. A lot can be surmised about a person if given their commute reading preference. But if everybody is reading an indistinguishable free Metro, Lite, or thelondonpaper; how will we know a Telegraph tory, from a Mirror builder, or an FT money tree?
All of a sudden the world of pretend subterranean sympathies would be no more. And the imagined personalities the stereotypes afford are part of the collective force driving our will to commute. They help connect the dots between millions of atomised souls being carried from place A to place B, if only for 20 minutes a day.
If this freebie explosion takes off, everything would be different. No longer could I smile at the Guardian reading bloke who I assume eats muesli and lentils, until I remember he probably wears socks with his sandals. Nor will I stare down the suited and booted FT reading gent, with presaged contempt of his million pound bonuses. Or smile out of pity at the Sun reading chap still stuck on Page Three.
No, once we are all fed the same free dribble, the cost will be to our collective, time passing stereotyping. But wait, must we surrender? For 70 pence a day, won't we gladly escape? This is today's world order, as here defined: paying up, to read up, so we can dream up. But remember to choose with caution, now you know we are all watching.
For anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper and wondered what's gone into it?
Recommended read: My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism by Andrew Marr. A clever insightful read by a journalist who loves his job.