LIFESTYLE

The Philosopher's Mail: Presenting An Antidote To The Daily Mail With A Positive Spin On News

03/02/2014 15:52 | Updated 03 February 2014

It has been dubbed the 'anti Daily Mail' but The Philosopher's Mail - which features celeb and crime stories but with a different twist - is a bit more than that.

Run by famous philosopher Alain de Botton, there are no pictures of fluffy bunnies or extensive treatises about the meaning of life. And while 'the only news organisation staffed by philosophers' may sound like a more tedious version of The Guardian, it's actually quite a radical idea, and one worth reading.

The idea isn't to only report about the high-brow or things that the Daily Mail wouldn't cover, but instead to cover them in an entirely different way.

They state: "Every day, The Philosophers' Mail starts with the stories everyone is interested in - a double suicide, Miley Cyrus, a paedophile teacher, Gwyneth Paltrow's marriage, a fireball on the runway, but then applies its own very particular spin, in the direction of traditional philosophical interests: calm, complexity, dignity and wisdom."

alain de botton

And it does prove a point: reporting on Simon Cowell or Rose Huntington-Whiteley doesn't always have to be about the lowest common denominator angle (his hair or her boobs). Although they may want to consider changing the font of that logo - it's impossible to look at it without thinking: Hogwarts.

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Alain said: "It’s an analysis of what goes wrong with a lot of media – there's a division of what's popular and what’s important, as if the two cannot meet. It's reflected in the stats for the Mail – which is the most popular website – and it isn’t an organ of sensitivity, kindness, or sensitivity of the human spirit. The challenge was rather than reinvent The Guardian, to try and reinvent The Daily Mail."

On the first day of the launch, the site had over three million hits and continues to be received well. But, as Alain says - echoing what I'm thinking - they need to think about how to take it from being a 'cute idea' to something more long-lasting.

alain de botton

There also seems to be a bit of a conflict with what we perceive to be high brow stories and what The Philosopher's Mail actually covers. Would people who normally read about celebrity and crime even want a different take on it?

"Our view is that there is nothing wrong with crime stories," he says. "In fact if you look at western literature most of it is crime – from Sophocles to Anna Karenina. There is nothing about crime that makes it a low subject but rather how it’s handled. Crime has lessons for everyone - Sophocles’ point of view was that we should look at the mother who has chopped up her children and not just gawp but wonder what the lessons are in this."

An amazing analogy, Alain brings to my attention is the story of the man who boiled his wife alive. "Our take on it would be that this is actually a nice story because it helps us to feel sane – here’s a guy who is so obviously insane. You may be feeling really bad about yourself, but at least you can read that and think: "At least I'm not that guy"."

The same goes, he says, for the car executive in Bangkok who threw himself out of a window after a 10-hour argument with his wife and killed himself. "People love the left field stuff," says Alain. "We covered that story by saying that the man was just too hopeful about relationships, that he believed in love too much. So our message was to keep your hopes in check."

mail

What about sex and celebs?

"We’ve gotten used to idea that pretty celebs are a low subject. Or that an attractive woman being used to sell or promote something is bad. So what we have done is to take a lead from the Catholic Church.

"We looked at painting, and just how much religious painting uses pretty young women to promote the truth of Jesus Christ. So there is nothing wrong with that – just depends what you're trying to sell. If sex is being used to sell an essay on kindness then it's fine."

Another interesting perspective is on our distinct lack of attention spans. But Alain again offers a different theory, which is that our shrinking ability to pay attention existed long before smartphones and apps.

"In previous ages, there were no novels before 1750 – before that people read poems - short stuff. Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it has to be terrible. The artistry will be around whether you can you say it in 400 words."

What do you think of The Philosopher's Mail? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below...

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