Horoscopes in the Papers

Let’s leave the general issue of astrological signs aside, and just accept that some people do believe that they have an impact. My question specifically concerns the horoscopes that you find written in the papers. Are these written by serious astrologers using some accepted methods of astrological prediction? Or are they made up off the cuff? And are there any people who take them seriously? (If not, why are they written?)

The authorship of newspaper astrological columns does vary. Some are written by serious astrologers, who may have a contract with the newspaper or with an agency that will syndicate their horoscopes to several publications. Others are written or made up by journalists.

However, more or less all serious astrologers will tell you that newspaper horoscopes are not really the best advert for astrology, even if they are prepared by a serious astrologer. Given that these newspaper horoscopes must be quite brief, often less than 50 words, they must necessarily be rather vague and superficial. If you want detail, astrologers recommend you have your own personal horoscope drawn up by a professional.

As to why these horoscopes appear in papers, most newspaper editors would say they are there for fun and entertainment, and because people like them. Many of these editors are happy to declare that they personally don’t believe in it, but it’s a cheap way to fill a section (usually, unless a ‘star’ astrologer has been brought in at vast expense) and readers like them.

I have a lot of experience of talking to people who read these things. Most say they don’t take them TOO seriously, given the inherent difficulty of writing 50 words that will be meaningful to one twelfth of the world’s population. But, most readers say, they can’t help but be intrigued, just in case it really works! Besides, they say, it can be a bit of fun, and if it says you’re going to have a good day, that kind of perks you up a bit.

I know you didn’t want any astroloical scepticism, so I have refrained, but just for the record I am a die-hard sceptic where astrology is concerned, and formerly spent many years debunking this kind of brain dead medieval crap. That was before I realised it was an utterly futile fight.

Granta had an article some years back by a guy who worked briefly on the astrology section. The writer was instructed to retrieve a set of old astrology columns from the archives and reallocate them to different astrological signs. The job was typically (always) assigned to someone new to the paper. (The name of the Granta article may have been “Interesting If True”.)

A story I heard many years ago. At one leading “women’s” magazine, horoscopes were prepared by a junior member of staff going round to her colleagues and asking “What sign are you?” and “What would you like to happen to you this week?”


Hey Steve, are you psychic? :smiley: I actually did that one time, but not at a magazine.

I used to work in the features section of a newspaper, and I had to put the horoscopes on the page every day. The paper got a file on the computer every so often with a few weeks worth of predictions (it came from a syndicated column). I would save those files and use them as needed.

Unfortunately my idiot boss loved to play with my computer, and one day he “accidentally” erased all of my horoscope files. It was late on a Friday and the syndicate’s office was closed for the weekend so there was no way to get the files resent – but I still needed to put the horoscopes in the paper. I ended up asking my co-workers what their signs were and what they planned on doing that weekend. I wrote the horoscopes from that info.

That was the first and last time I ever wrote the horoscopes. From that day on I made at least two back-ups of all my files and hid them where my boss wouldn’t be able to find them.

Am I psychic? I just knew you were going to ask that question…

Actually, according to a (personal) horoscope, yes, indeed, I am strongly psychic. Unfortunately, this is the same horoscope that told me I was tall, blonde and beautiful, like Brigitte Bardot… No. Not even in a dim light. Not even in total darkness, in fact.

If this has a point, it’s that inaccurate horoscopes are not confined to the newspapers. But I have to say that, even if I believed in astrology, I’d still take the newspaper stuff with more than just a pinch of snuff.

Is there a difference?