A different sort of tabloid news on Sunday?

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.

James Stewart
(One-time Wales correspondent for News on Sunday)

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About James Stewart

Senior Lecturer in Radio Journalism. http://staff.glam.ac.uk/users/1713-jstewart
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3 Responses to A different sort of tabloid news on Sunday?

  1. Rob Campbell says:

    Looking forward to the sequel James!

    In the meantime I’m not liking the look of MPs ganging up on the press and would always prefer it the other way around. “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter,” said Thomas Jefferson, and in spite of everything we’ve seen in the past weeks, he’s still right.

    On another aspect of all this, what does this mean for the tabloid diaspora? The export, which predates Murdoch, of British tabloid values and practices to the USA? American tabs and tabloid-ish agencies have been surprisingly full of British hacks over the years and the links go back a long way. The Americans’ own tabloids got ghettoised into supermarket tabs with no real news, and tabloid practices/values washed up in broadcasting (Fox News, shock jocks) in a way that couldn’t happen in the more heavily regulated UK scene.
    The resulting rather grey, dull newspaper scene there has long looked to the UK for little breaths of fresh (now fetid, I suppose) tabloid air to enliven things.
    Will they want out hacks any more? Perhaps they will intern them all, and put them on a ship back to Fleet Street.
    Enough – there is work to do, in order to clear time to set aside Tuesday for watching Brooks at the select committee.

  2. Michael Yong says:

    Can’t wait to see the sequel James. There should be interesting lessons to learn from the seven months collapse of News on Sunday.

    Closer to home, does anyone wonder what sort of future self regulation (PCC) might have? After Wednesday’s PMQs, there seems to be an understanding that statutory regulation is not ideal; then what is? How do you set up an independent regulating body that might be disconnected from the industry?

    Also, not forgetting that the closure of NoTW means there are 200 odd experienced journalists (or staff members) running loose. What could this mean for journalism graduates, who will have to deal with intense scrutiny from both employers and readers?

    Interested to hear your opinions. And Brooks’s.

  3. jstewart says:

    Good question about the new regulatory body – we’ll have to wait and see.
    One could argue (as Kevin Marsh, ex BBC College of Journalism does) that journalism graduates with a clear idea of what ethics are all about are in a good position to compete with the redundant News of the World hacks. (Am planning a blog post on this ethical question …)