I live online and rarely buy a hard copy newspaper these days anywhere, let alone in Malta. The last time I bought one was to make papier-mâché. So last Sunday was an exception. I headed out at crack of dawn to my local sell-it-all shop to grab a copy of the Sunday Times of Malta. It sells out by 8am usually.
I was lured by the prospect of some erroneous headlines; a friend told me a couple of days ago that according to a headline in one local paper the ‘Torries’, not the ‘Tories’, won the British election. The beauty of print is that an error remains an error. Remember the Australian recipe book published by Penguin that was pulled last month because one of its recipes had an ingredient called ‘freshly-ground black people’? It’s not just in Malta that the proof readers slip up.
The main English language Sunday in Malta is a bulging number compared to its weekday counterpart. It’s also a tradition that still has magnetic pull though perhaps its circulation figures are boosted by those seeking ads not news; apparently the ‘classifieds’ is the most read section.
You can learn a lot from the ads about the movers and shakers in Malta. Adverts can help you work out the business scene, state of the economy or who’s who. The social pages are all about pouts, lipstick, heels, décolletage and podiums. At least half the people in the society pages you’ll know, or know of, if you live here.
But scan the boxed ads and you’ll have a mine of information at your fingertips. Recruitment ads mean ‘ah, so and so must have left that job then if they’re hiring’; while adverts for upcoming conferences, business breakfasts and talks mean: ‘so he’s on the speaking gravy train now he’s back from Brussels’; and notices about art exhibition inaugurations can give you a diary date as you’ll know you’ll bump into so-and-so who’ve you’ve wanted to talk business to for ages.
The ads speak volumes and often far more than the column inches. Half a year living in Malta and a bit of insider knowledge and you’ll soon find you’re reading the adverts as much if not more than the journalism.
I meant in this post to give a snapshot of what to expect of typical Sunday paper headlines, and therefore an insight into what preoccupies Malta. But the news items this week are so typical they could be of a year past or a year hence. They include items on an errant MP; some administrative errors in EU fund disbursement; Malta’s Eurovision hopeful and her woes; priests and alleged child abuse; Brand Malta and tourism; and a death, albeit of a Sacristan this time, from injuries sustained from a fireworks’ factory blast.
Given the news is a case of ‘plus ça change’, it’s inevitable the ads often give a better insight into what’s happening here!
Photo: Luc De Leeuw