Thursday, May 12, 2005


Today I had an epiphany (nothing ground-breaking, I'm afraid). I have come to the realization that the Brussels edition of Metro (the free newspaper distributed in subway stations around the world) is truly a piece of garbage.
Since I think it's important to be somewhat aware of your surroundings, for me Metro is a handy way to keep up with the local news, which can become rather mystifying to an expat. For example there has been speculation recently that the government will fall over the Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde wrangle, but it took me forever to understand (with the help of a colleague) what it was actually about.
However every now and then I notice things that I find disturbing. Today, for instance there was an article (in the French edition) supposedly about the spread of blogs, which degenerated into a disguised ad for Skyblog. Since to get a blog there you have to be subscribed, the article gives the impression that to run a blog costs something (but, it adds, reading blogs is free...), without mentioning the various ways to create a blog for free.
As I was reading this, I remembered that a few months ago Metro ran a piece about a lottery the US State Department runs, whose winners are offered green-cards. Ironically they ran the piece about a week after this year's lottery applications were closed, and stated that it cost €50 to apply. This is total bollocks, as anyone remotely familiar with it will know this lottery is free. There are people who charge, but what they offer is unclear and they have no connection to the State Department (and this is stated clearly on the Department web site). Maybe Metro should not rely on spam for news...
I don't think the reason for these blunders is that Metro is free (I know, I know - nothing is really free...) because there are high quality products and services that are offered (at least partially) for free, like Blogspot and Skype (try it out - it's fantastic!). And anyway the largest income source for newspapers is advertising and Metro has plenty of that, and with 487,000 readers just in Belgium it should earn quite a bit of money off it. Maybe it's just carelessness...
Anyway, it's too bad that so many Belgians get their news from people who mix journalism and advertising and who are not media-savvy enough to avoid making colossal blunders.
Post scriptum:
By the way Metro also reported this news item, without bothering to mention that the methods used to gather the statistics are questionable, at best. Just another small piece in the puzzle that explains anti-Americanism.

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