Back Issues 29.01.04


The Times’s first colour treatment of a news story – a four-page insert of the Apollo moonshot – raised sales by around 70,000 to 481,000. Editors will be hoping that President George W Bush’s plans to put a man on Mars will give a similar boost to readers.


In a urprising bit of Fleet Street co-operation the Daily Mail and Daily Sketch clinched a oint deal to buy the “Moon Men’s Story” by outbidding the rest of the national press for exclusive British rights from Time-Life. The deal was brokered by Daily Mail editor Arthur Brittenden and Howard French, editor of the Daily Sketch. In a Press Gazette advert the triumphant papers boasted: “Scooped by the Daily Mail and Daily Sketch, the story the whole world wanted.” Their relationship got even closer. Two years later the Sketch merged with the Daily Mail. Sketch editor David English took over as editor of the Mail after the merger.


Sunday Times editor Harold Evans (yes, that really is him behind the thick, black specs) was singing the virtues of journalists who had trained in the regional press. “Nine hundred and ninety-nine journalists out of a housand ought to begin their careers in the regions,” he said. Evans warned against journalists moving too quickly to Fleet Street before mastering their craft on a regional title. He did mention one exception to his rule, Michael Frayn – who joined The Guardian straight from university. “He was able to do every job –
reporting a gas board meeting, writing about events in Moscow or writing a column,” Evans wrote admiringly.


Michael Parkinson took over as the presenter of Granada’s film review programme, Cinema. It established him as a popular presenter and paved the way for him to have his own talkshow.


IPC chairman Edward Pickering was bullish about the future of newspapers at the ceremony to mark the start of the building of the new £6m site for the Daily Record and Sunday Mail in Glasgow. “I hear many gloomy stories – that in 20 or 30 years time we won’t have them and we will all be looking at television sets. I don’t believe these stories.”


Rupert Murdoch had begun to make his way as an international media mogul by taking over as the new managing director of the News of the World. Press Gazette described Murdoch as a “darn good sub” and described how he had worked on the Daily Express subs’ desk where he had urged the staff to treat him as a trainee.


A happy looking News of the World editor Stafford Somerfield was pictured with his team – all men – n the front of Press Gazette, following the Murdoch takeover. He had threatened to quit if another bidder – obert Maxwell – ad managed to get his hands on the paper.


The Guardian was so angry about a Press Council ruling against it that it republished the article, accompanied by the council’s verdict. Guardian editor Alastair Hetherington described the ruling, over a tory about an undercover investigation into conditions at Harperbury Hospital, Hertfordshire, as “so eccentric as to be beyond understanding”. PC chairman Lord Devlin countered by saying the council regarded The Guardian’s way of expressing dissent as “eccentric”, but concluded that it had done “no further harm”. The council had ruled that the article did not conform to proper standards of objectivity and accuracy.


Not all newspapers have lost sales in the past 35 years. The Financial Times was celebrating a second-half sales rise of 4.7 per cent to 160,681 – far less than today. Due to its expansion abroad, the latest half-year sale for the FT show it now averages sales of 434,704. Another paper yet to hit its heights was The Sun, which had reported a sale of 1,009,182. It now sells more than three times that. What has collapsed are the big Sunday sales. Back then the Sunday Express sold 4.2 million, The People 5.2 million, and the News of the World a massive 6.1 million.

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