Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Sun also rises

When Rupert Murdoch flew into Britain last week following the arrest of senior Sun journalists on suspicion of making corrupt payments to police officers, there was some speculation that the daily tabloid was about to meet the fate of News International's former Sunday title The News of the World and be shut down. Instead, Murdoch visited the Sun newsroom and told staff that a new Sunday paper would be launched "very soon". Many thought it would appear in the next couple of months but shortly afterwards it was announced that The Sun on Sunday will launch next weekend. This was predicted when the NotW was shut down and the new title must have been in preparation since then.

Although it's wrong to assume that people who read a newspaper automatically share its attitudes or  politics (a shop steward at Longbridge car factory in the 70's I know says the West Indian guys on the shop floor always read the Times for its cricket coverage), I don't think there's much doubt that people only read the NotW for the gossip about footballers, soap stars and minor celebrities. That is borne out by the fact that while there was much discussion at the time as to which Sunday tabloid ex-NotW readers would now switch to, it seems most of them have stopped buying a Sunday paper. It is also doubtful if they will start buying The Sun on Sunday, especially as the editor has promised more "family content" in place of the salacious tittle tattle.

I know when the NotW shut down, many people pointed to the fact that the workers there were being sacrificed for their bosses' errors and the way to deal with such abuses was for News International to rerecognise the National Union of Journalists so that their staff would be bound by its code of conduct. I have some sympathy for that view but still raised a cheer when the NotW sank below the waves, seeing it as a small move towards to a more decent press. I would have felt the same if the Sun had also been axed. Of course journalists would have lost their jobs, just like the NotW staff, and before them the public hangman and witchfinder general. They would though then be able to write for better newspapers, or do something more socially useful, like roadsweeping.

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