The Edinburgh Evening News works on the same journalistic principles as the Tolpuddle Examiner, or the Stoneygate Herald, or the Stirling Observer, or the Isle of Wight Witchfinder-Mercury.
It’s a local paper concerned with the minutiae of ordinary people facing everyday annoyances. Mrs McGovern was sent an electricity bill for a billion pounds. Mr McGlaschen (war hero) takes a militant stand against the dogs who poo outside his gate. And someone, every year, wants to know WHEN the council will do something about the flyerers and the posterers and the pontificating fools on stilts who make them ten minutes late to their jobs at the Ministry of Scottish Bureaucracy.
In a city that professes to be the capital of an emergent nation, the Evening News has the scope and ambition of a market-town freesheet, and as such you sense that the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe is a bit of a double-edged claymore. There’s all this stuff it really ought to be writing about, but it’s the same stuff that’s causing all the grumpiness.
And grumpiness drives sales. The 17 per cent drop-off in The EN’s circulation last year correlates exactly with the brightening mood in Scotland. Soon the country will be independent, or Alex Salmond will have to shut up for a bit. Either way, it’s something to look forward to. But the EN isn’t having any of this dratted optimism.
On the whole the EN deals with its cognitive dissonance by moaning about the Fringe in general and talking about shows with ruthless specificity. In the same way that a rural weekly will discuss (to take Stewart Lee’s fine example) Paddy McGuinness coming to the Corn Exchange, the News will take one act at the Assembly Rooms and discuss it like there’s nothing else happening at all. Which is nice if you’re that act, and you want the sort of crowd that goes to town planning meetings, and doesn’t like anything it ever sees or hears.
EN tries to make money by hotlinking random words in its online reviews. This means that a discussion of Mark Thomas’s 100 Acts of Minor Dissent is peppered with pop-up ads telling readers to buy more stuff, and quickly. EN is part of the Scotsman’s crumbling empire, and so its reviews end up on the WOW24/7 website where nobody other than the NSA is able to read them.