The last edition of the News of the World is now out, saying “Thank You & Goodbye”. The first-ever issue of the newspaper (above) is on my wall at home and I’m struck by the consistency. Its mission statement says it aims “to give to the poorer classes of society a paper that would suit their means, and to the middle — as well as the rich — a journal from which due to its immense circulation would demand their attention.” And so it was to prove. The News of the World is, even now, the best-selling Sunday newspaper on the planet. Only those who don’t read it regard it as a scandal sheet. Its power lay in its ability to mix scandal with hard-hitting social and political analysis, and it was heeded because it represented (and spoke directly to) the biggest single readership not just in Britain but the world. Until the end, it was read in Buckingham Palace because it was being read all over Britain — precisely the idea set out in the founding statement. The below is one of my favourite pictures: the Lady and her son, Mark, reading the paper.
When I was an aspiring journalist, I was in a class where we were addressed by the (then) editor of the Glasgow Herald. “Please tell me I’ll never have to write tabloid” one of the students said. “No you won’t, son, because you’ll probably never be good enough,” came the reply. I was struck by that, an later found out how true it is. It took me ages, trying to do what those brilliant red-top journalists can do instantly: distill complex facts and issues down to their essence; write wasting not a single word nor a second of the reader’s time.