Murdoch empire launches new Sunday Sun
Britain’s best selling paper has run its first ever Sunday edition, finally replacing the scandal-hit News of the World. But does the world really need more mass-market tabloid journalism?
Just over seven months ago, Britain’s best loved newspaper suffered a catastrophic – and terminal – disaster. Journalists at the News of the World had been illegally hacking into the voicemails of celebrities and members of public in order to get exclusive stories and gossip. During the good times, this helped it sell around two and a half million copies each week – but when the public found out, popular anger forced owner Rupert Murdoch to shut the paper down.
The move left a huge gap in the UK media market. Some readers migrated to other Sunday tabloids like the Sunday Mirror. For most, however, the News of the World‘s signature mix of provocative opinion, spicy rumour and muck-raking investigative journalism was irreplaceable. Thousands of people simply stopped reading Sunday papers at all.
Now, another paper from the Murdoch stable has entered the Sunday tabloid race. Britain’s biggest selling daily paper, The Sun, has extended its operation to cover the full week. Launched yesterday, The Sun on Sunday will try to claim back some of the huge audience lost by its sister paper.
It must be careful to avoid the sort of scandal that destroyed the News of the World. Some Sun journalists have already been questioned by police over unlawful news gathering techniques.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of people in government who would like to see tabloids facing tough new regulations after the phone hacking scandal. The Sun on Sunday must not give them any excuse.
On the other hand, a careful, responsible paper is no good without any readers. Yesterday’s edition tried to tempt buyers with a column from former glamour model Katie Price, some words of wisdom from the Archbishop of York and an exclusive interview with reality star Amanda Holden.
But most media commentators thought this line-up fairly thin. The News of the World got its success through daring, boundary-pushing, no-holds-barred journalism. The Sun has started softly, but to survive in a tough market, it may eventually have to do the same.
Lowering the tone?
There were many, when the News of the World met its end, who hoped that the paper would never be replaced. Red top tabloids, these critics believe, are bad for society. They spread lies, rumours and distortions; give a platform to witless celebrities; encourage angry, ranting columnists and lower the tone of public debate.
But the appearance of The Sun on Sunday will be welcomed by millions more. Not everyone, they say, wants their news to read like an academic journal. The ‘posher’ papers, with their pretence of impartiality and grand-sounding ideals are really just snobbish and boring. The Sun, on the other hand, should be brash, loud, bold, outrageous, but – most of all – fun.
- Is the launch of The Sun on Sunday a good or a bad thing?
- Should all journalism be sober and impartial?
- The Sun is famous for its punning headlines. Make up five of your own about recent events at school or in the news.
- Compare a news report from The Sun online with one on the same topic from a ‘serious’ newspaper like The Guardian or The Telegraph. Write a short report analysing the differences in style and and content between the two sources.
Some People Say...
“Trashy tabloids are bad for democracy.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Sun on Sunday? I think I’d rather be reading a good book.
- Lots of people feel the same. Even so, the media landscape matters whether you read the papers or not.
- Ideas picked up in newspapers can spread fast – just through people having conversations at work or in the pub. And enough of those conversations altogether start to affect public opinion – and therefore the whole political direction of a country. Sometimes this process is fairly unsubtle. One Sun headline from the 70s: ‘Vote Tory This Time.’
- Is it all politics?
- Not at all. Another legendary Sun headline: ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster!’
- Members of public
- The most notorious episode of phone hacking came when a detective working for the News of the World hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
- Tabloid newspapers are smaller than their ‘broadsheet’ rivals. Traditionally, tabloids are more commercial and sensationalist than broadsheets.
- Murdoch stable
- Rupert Murdoch, an Australian media tycoon, owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times through his company News International.
- Tough new regulations
- At the moment, Britain’s newspaper industry is largely self-regulating. A government inquiry is underway at the moment, following the phone hacking scandal, and will report on whether stricter rules should be in place.
- No-holds-barred is a metaphor taken from the world of wrestling where some ‘holds’, or grapples, were traditionally not allowed under match rules. A no-holds-barred match was one in which any hold was allowed, however dangerous.