The News of the World dominated the Sunday paper market for decades. We now see clearly the dark side of that success. Was there ever a real alternative – a popular, tabloid, Sunday journalism which could challenge the sleazy side of Fleet Street?
Almost 25 years ago, News on Sunday was launched. Among those welcoming its arrival were Neil Kinnock, Clare Short, Glenda Jackson, Bob Hoskins, Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Paul Boateng and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Here’s the leading article in that first issue on 26 April 1987:
News on Sunday is a dream come true.
A dream cherished by women and men, young and old, all over the country. A dream of a radical, independent, popular newspaper that stands up against the privileged and the powerful. A paper committed to equality, justice and freedom.
People said it couldn’t be done. The City scoffed. The marketing men mocked. Well, here we are.
We’re here because hundreds of people worked like crazy to make it happen. Because trade unions, local authorities and individuals invested their money.
We’re not owned by a Murdoch or a Maxwell. No-one here wants a knighthood or a peerage. We don’t kow-tow to anyone. That makes us unique among national Sunday newspapers in Britain today.
News on Sunday is unique in plenty of ways. We shall fight racism and sexism. We take the side of workers. We stand up for the unemployed. We never forget that Britain is a tiny island on a small, threatened planet.
We’ve discovered a whole world of entertainment beyond naughty knickers and randy vicars. And, guess what, we think we can sell a popular newspaper which fills its pages with news, investigations, sport, entertainment – and no naked women.
Where did it all go wrong? Watch this space for more thoughts about the News On Sunday experience and its lessons for popular journalism.
(One-time Wales correspondent for News on Sunday)