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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Are we ready for another Sunday paper?

The News of the World could have survived hacking celebrities’ phones. Unethical, certainly. But the rich and famous having their privacy violated would not have toppled Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

David Helliwell photo
David Helliwell

Then came the knockout punch: claims that the paper hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Not only that, but it was said to have deleted messages, raising hopes that the murdered 13-year-old was still alive.

The revulsion was strong enough to finish a paper which had run for 168 years.

As advertisers deserted the News of the World and readers threatened to do the same, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch closed it.

Fast forward seven months. Enough time, hopes Murdoch, for the public to accept a replacement for his disgraced former flagship title.

Tomorrow sees the launch of the Sun on Sunday. Is it the News of the World by another name? Will those who were disgusted by that paper’s actions forgive the Murdoch empire?

Answers will arrive tomorrow, along with an indication of whether the Sun on Sunday can match its predecessor’s 2.7m weekly sale.

News & Star editor David Helliwell is among those watching with interest.

“There are many fascinating aspects to look out for from the launch,” he says.

“The Sunday market is different to the rest of the week and the News of the World was so successful because of its mix of scoops, scandal and sex. So will this be a mere clone of what went before?

“There’s also a question about whether advertisers are still turned off by the phone-hacking affair.

“I think it’s going to sell in vast quantities and advertisers will be desperate to get their messages in front of a bigger audience.

“More interesting perhaps is how much of an impact phone-tapping has had on readers and whether significant numbers will boycott the new edition with those lurid details still fresh in the memory.

“On balance, I think it will be a success. While Rupert Murdoch may have lost some of his mystique in recent months his launches – backed by millions invested in advertising and promotions – are rarely flops.”

Tony Randall is journalism degree course leader at the University of Cumbria. He expects the new paper to have a similar recipe to its predecessor.

“The ads talk about ‘only four days to go ’til celebrity gossip!’ What I’ll be interested to see is whether it is a definite version of The Sun or whether it’s the News of the World rebranded.”

Amidst all the sex scandals and celebrity gossip, the News of the World earned plaudits for its investigations.

In 2010 the paper exposed members of the Pakistan cricket team who took bribes from a bookmaker.

Following the News of the World’s collapse, journalists’ methods are being scrutinised more than ever.

This casts doubt on whether the Sun on Sunday will be able to continue its predecessor’s investigative work.

“It will be much more difficult,” claims Tony. “The News of the World had an amazing reputation for its apparent ability to get wonderful scoops.

“Now we realise that some of its journalists were actually involved in a nationwide surveillance campaign. Any journalist could say ‘If you give me the phone number of every celebrity in Britain, I’ll get you stories.’

“Among all the celebrity gossip there are things people can point to and say ‘Isn’t it good?’ But if you look at it all on balance, you have to wonder just how high a price we paid for them to be able to set up these sting operations.”

David Rae of P+D Newsagents on Corporation Road in Workington has seen plenty of enthusiasm for the new paper.

“There’s been a lot of interest from people that bought the News of the World,” he says. “A few people have already asked to have it delivered.

“Since the News of the World closed most of its readers buy the Sunday Mirror, The People or the Sunday Express.

“I think most people will have a look at the Sun on Sunday before they make their minds up about it.”

Keith Sutton edited on Fleet Street and was launch editor of the short-lived News on Sunday.

He edited the News & Star from 1993 until his retirement in 2005 and is not at all surprised to see a new Sunday paper from the Murdoch stable.

“As soon as Rupert Murdoch stopped the News of the World, it was only a matter of time before he brought out a Sunday edition of The Sun.

“It will be interesting to see how many News of the World readers buy the new paper. Murdoch won’t get them all back. But people’s memories are terribly short. They used to say a week is a long time in politics. Now seven hours is a long time.”

Keith expects to see a London-orientated paper with celebrity at its core. “I’ve lost count of the number of celebrities I’ve never heard of,” he quips.

“But a Sunday tabloid relies on celebrity stories. It can be quite difficult to bring out a paper on a Sunday. A lot of things that newspapers rely on for news, like Parliament, courts and councils, are closed on Saturdays.”

While other Sunday tabloids cost between £1 and £1.50, the Sun on Sunday is launching at 50p. “Launching a newspaper is quite difficult for most people,” says Keith. “But Murdoch can afford to undercut his rivals. That’s something the rest of the world can’t do.”

While the Sun on Sunday can call on huge resources, Keith is not convinced that it will enjoy the same air of invincibility which powered its predecessor.

“The News of the World used to have a brashness born of supreme confidence. Murdoch is very good at creating that kind of atmosphere in which editors can flourish. He can only do that because he wields great influence and power.

“That atmosphere can only be built by someone who has back door access to 10 Downing Street. Whether that air of confidence can be rebuilt, we shall see.”

Have your say

Red white and blue, so, commenting on an article about the Sun on Sunday, you were not talking about the actual topic. Okay..... So which paper were you thinking of then?

Posted by Me on 28 February 2012 at 20:43

me,if you read my post ,you will see no mention of the sun,get your facts right.

Posted by red white and blue on 28 February 2012 at 19:01

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