In this new age of austerity the readers' editor of the Guardian has taken up complaints about the paper featuring luxury fashion goods and expensive food.
Chris Elliott in his Open Door column today highlights a letter from a Guardian reader who asked: "What is blossom water and pistachio halva?" (which were both listed as ingredients for a salad scheherazade featured in some free recipe cards offered by the Guardian).
The reader suggested: "In these straitened times we need recipe cards for cheap cuts of meat like ox cheek, brawn and breast of lamb, recipes that our parents might have used, not those that need a trip to a big city to gather their ingredients … none of which, I suggest, would be found in an average reader's cupboard."
Elliott writes that readers have been making "irritable noises" in these difficult economic times about the Guardian's coverage of food, fashion, gadgets and cars.
He adds: "Last September, after the price of the Saturday Guardian rose to £2.10, one reader said she felt the paper was good value 'compared with £2.99 for a card from WH Smith … But then you go and fill the Weekend magazine with pictures of expensive tat, culminating in four pages entitled Vital Extras. Personally, I have never considered kitten heels or a handbag vital, let alone those costing £425 and £1,700 respectively.'
"One interesting division between readers and journalists is that the former, when they complain, tend to feel that coverage means a recommendation. The latter strongly disagree."
Various section editors tell Elliott that just because they write about expensive items doesn't mean they are instructing readers to go out and buy them.
Jess Cartner-Morley, the Guardian's fashion editor, says: "There are a variety of factors influencing what product we feature. Price is one. But newness, originality, desirability, usefulness, availability, suitability for different ages and ethical production credentials are others. Fashion pages are not merely shopping lists."
Elliott concludes: "These are all good and valid reasons for covering subjects that represent major industries or major areas of interest for readers, and Guardian coverage of them has been appreciated by the overwhelming majority of readers hitherto. But a further prolonged period of austerity may bring a change in outlook."