Guardian ’94 Tabloid Irony Mashup!

“At The Guardian,” writes today’s Sunday Times, “…they claim that they came up with the idea of a compact newspaper long before The Independent.” Well, I can confirm that it’s not just a claim, it’s a fact. What’s more, they even put out a prototype in 1994.

Went to tea yesterday with Ben House, a friend of mine from way back; the power behind The Wire magazine and an astute observer of popular culture. He’d been going through some old papers which included a prototype “personal newspaper” printed by TheGuardian MediaLaboratories {sic} in 1994. The Guardian of 11:31: Thursday December 1, 2004 (large scans) was a tongue-in-cheek bit of futurology as to how some dead-tree media might look a decade in the future. Perhaps it was the Y2K bug messing with their Apple Newtons, but that date was in fact a Wednesday.

With reasonably accurate prescience, it was a fold-out half-A4 sized sheet. Proof that even back then, mavericks within the empire were worrying about what the Indie eventually did something about in 2003. The rest is a fascinating mix of some good guesses, near misses and the utterly wrong, even allowing for the fact that it was supposed to be a bit of fun. Other than the ironic timing of Ben’s discovery with the launch of tomorrow’s full-colour “Berliner” edition, some rather eye-popping highlights include:

– A front page story about a devastating Los Angeles earthquake, after which appeals for calm are issued by “Governor Schwarzenegger” (counterbalanced by an outside bet on Newt Gingrich as president). “Although more than 1,500 square kilometres are little more than a ruined concrete jungle of looting, murder and terrorism, some communications are now getting through.”

– 2002 referenced as the year of “the third Gulf conflict” in which “Iraqi forces surrendered on live TV after being precision bombed from orbiting weapons platforms.”

– A rather quaint obsession with TV listings, which despite heavy references to “the net” and “email” pretty much proves that print journos have always been several steps behind the fact that British TV is awful, even as the online media revolution that allows me to type this was exploding in their custard. And now we know where Charlie Booker got his idea for TVGohome!

I’ve not had time to digest it all, it’s just too fascinating. I just want to blog it before Monday – but hope to dig out some more gems later.