The Red Tops

24 Jul

“News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.” —Lord Northcliffe

The story of the Daily Mirror begins in 1903 in Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, London, EC4 at Geraldine House (named after Northcliffe’s mother). To this date Alfred Harmsworth had known only success. He had bought the Evening News in 1894 and it was making money. He had created the Daily Mail and it had expanding profits. The Daily Mirror was an historic mistake.

“I advertised it everywhere,” said Harmsworth,”…if there was anyone not aware that the Mirror was to be started they must have been deaf, dumb, blind or all three.” And so on Monday November 2 the paper ‘produced by women for women’—the Mirror went on sale for 1d.

Its aim was to “present in new ways; cookery, fashion…”. It aimed to be entertaining but not frivolous, serious but not dull. Later said he was wrong in launching “so mad a frolic as a paper for ladies.” The first issue sold 265,217 copies, the second 143,000 and the third less than 100,000. After 3 months the circulation was down to 24,000 and Harmsworth said that he had learned that “women can’t write and don’t know how to read.”

The Sun began life as the Daily Herald. The International Publishing Corporation acquired the paper when they bought a number of profitable publications from Odhams Press in 1961. It was a socialist newspaper tied to the Trades Union Congress and had been the country’s biggest selling daily in the 1930s. When IPC got it was rather puzzled about what to do with it. They already owned the Mirror and did not want to run in competition with it but the had a commitment to the TUC to keep it running for seven years.

To cut their losses in 1964 IPC relaunched the Daily Herald as the Sun, the broadsheet ‘born of the age we live in’. Its circulation fell from 1.5 million to 850,000 by the spring of 1969. IPC decided to sell. Robert Maxwell, who had already lost the News of the World to Murdoch, offered to take the paper from IPC and keep it running but after his job cut plans were announced IPC was threatened with union action against the Mirror. Needless to say that Rupert Murdoch jumped in and bought it.

Back at the Mirror in the early 1900s there was about to be a change of staff. Northcliffe sent for Hamilton Fyfe who became editor, succeeded by Alexander Kennedy in 1907. “To Fyfe fell the distasteful task of sacking the women, and the rape of the Sabines wasn’t in it. ‘They begged to be allowed to stay,’ he recalled. ‘They left little presents on my desk. The waylaid me tearfully in corridors. It was a horrible experience, like drowning kittens.'”†

The paper was revamped and the use of pictures made a real impact in its sales as did the cut in price to a half penny. From here on things improved remarkably. By 1906 the Mirror staked claim to be “The morning journal with the second largest net sale”

Northcliffe sold the paper to his brother Harold (later Lord Rothermere) for £100,000, apparently the loss he had made on the paper originally. On 18 November 1949 the paper printed “Latest certified circulation more than 1,000,000 copies per day.” By 1918, “Certified Circulation larger than that of any other daily picture paper.”

February 3, 1921 and the Daily Mirror is the first to get pictures back from Australia of the Cricket test series. January 23, 1924 — Ramsay MacDonald leads the Labour Government and the Mirror leads with “Socialists Take Over the Government.” It is now 1926 and the Mirror continues to print through the general strike. June 29, 1927, the Daily Mirror leads with photographs of a total eclipse of the sun [Murdoch later hoped that the Sun would totally eclipse the Mirror]. And so the Mirror continued under Rothermere and later Bartholomew. It had achieved a circulation of over 7 million with its coronation day issue but its real peak came in the late 1960s, just as Murdoch turned the Sun into a tabloid.

Murdoch hired Larry Lamb to be the editor. He was working on the Daily Mail at the time but he had only recently moved from the Mirror. After the relaunch sales reached one million within 100 days. IPC had mad a fatal mistake. They had failed to see the market and then given it away. Indeed in 1978 sales of the Sun finally overtook those of the Mirror.

There was at this time a distinct difference between the Sun and the Mirror which is much less evident today. The Daily Mirror had been ‘the’ paper to work for, having the highest circulation and some of the most notable journalists on its staff. You might even say that it had become a paper ‘run for journalists by journalists’. Its alumni of columnist include; Godfrey Winn (1936-1938), Cassandra (William Connor, 1937 until his death in 1967), Peter Wilson (1935-1972), John Pilger (1962-1986) and Keith Waterhouse (1970-1985).

The Mirror was the quality tabloid. It lost readers because of the fact, but it had a ‘mission’. “Forward with the people” had been its motto and it had tried to bring culture to the average reader in an easy and understandable form in the ’60s in the shape of Mirror-Scope. It was a total failure but it illustrated the Daily Mirror’s commitment to do more for its readers.

The biggest change came in 1984 when Robert Maxwell bought Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). Until now there had been a difference in style between the two papers. In 1982 the Sun would lead with the ‘GOTCHA’ headline on the sinking of the Belgrano. This simply would not happen at the Mirror. The Maxwell take-over saw the war heating up. Bingo was introduced but more than ever the two papers could be seen to be alike in the respect that they were both reduced on many occasion to being voices for their proprietors. This was not to change at the Mirror until Maxwell’s death. However the similarities are still there.

I would like to end with a comparison of Monday’s 29 November 1994’s copies of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Daily Mirror is about an inch taller than the Sun but apart from that it is difficult to see their differences. They both have a bright red and white banner. They both have an ‘Aladdin’ offer.

The Daily Mirror’s Headline is “MAJOR’S LIES PUT PEACE IN PERIL”, the Sun’s is “HYPOCRITE! Two days after IRA killed my son Major talked peace to them” The Sun has the more grabbing angle but they both condemn John Major.

Page two reveals the political slant to some extent where the Sun is more lenient on Kenneth Clarke’s tax plans than the Daily Mirror. Page three of the Daily Mirror is about Madonna with another article on ‘Di’

Page four and five carry the ‘exclusives’. The Sun on Major’s lies and the Daily Mirror on Peter Lilley’s niece, an unwed mum.

Page six carries the comment. This is where political bias is usually most evident.

The layout and content are startlingly similar, so much so that a foreigner unfamiliar with British politics would find it hard to judge which paper was supposed to appeal to which audience. Perhaps this is because they both seek to appeal to the same audience – the working man. The Daily Mirror reader is more likely to belong to a union and vote Labour but a recent ICM poll found that a surprising 36 per cent of Sun readership claimed to have voted Labour at the last election.

sales (millions)
Daily Mirror
sales (millions)

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation. Average daily sales over a six-month period ending 31 December of each year unless otherwise stated.

Latest Circulation Figures:Sun – 3.78, Daily Mirror – 3.32
Note – the Mirror figure is incorporating Daily Record.

† Publish and be Damned!, Hugh Cudlip, 1953.

1 Comment

Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Media


One response to “The Red Tops

  1. модели

    April 19, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting
    anyplace, when i read this piece of writing i thought i could also create comment due to
    this good article.


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