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Paper Monitor

13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ohhh, there's nothing the posh papers like more than the term "middle class" in a story. In a world where news stories tend to be things that "happen to other people", those magic two words married together ooze relevance, significance, connection and, let's be honest, healthy ad revenues.

So, while the other qualities trouble themselves with the trifling matter of the surprise resignation of the leader of one of Britain's top three national political parties, the Times gives its front page over to "Hazardous drinking, the middle-class vice".

In fairness, it sounds like deeply worrying news. "Drinkers in middle-class areas are more likely routinely to consume 'hazardous' [we'll return to those inverted commas later] amounts of alcohol than those in poorer areas..." Hots spots include Guildford, Harrogate and Surrey Heath.

Gulp (ok, perhaps an inappropriate exclamation of surprise) - you mean to say that wealthy, enfranchised people are more likely to seek solace in drink than hard-up/jobless, and therefore more disenfranchised, members of society. Paper Monitor isn't being flippant - were this true, it would overturn all sorts of long-established sociological theories about the security of wealth and undermine long-standing government and charitable policies about helping vulnerable members of society.

But the Times isn't telling the whole story, because while "hazardous" (remember those inverted commas) drinking ain't good, it's nowhere near as bad as "harmful" drinking - which is a rung above. And yes, when you turn to page six of the Times, there's a top 10 of the areas with the most "harmful" drinking. Unlike Guildford, Harrogate and Surrey Heath, these are places unlikely to excite the Times' circulation department.

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