Thursday, February 23, 2006

No tits, no balls and no newspaper

The sad but inadvertently amusing story of the News on Sunday aired last night on BBC Four, documenting the universally disastrous attempt by the British left to launch a mass-circulation tabloid newspaper in 1987.

The idea was to give an alternative voice to rival the Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell press and, very promisingly, it started out so well as an unlikely group of left-wingers managed to raise £6.5m.

Beginning by appointing people on the basis of politics and political correctness, the paper ended up with a launch team that included an editor who never edited a tabloid newspaper and a marketing director who knew nothing about marketing ("but I think it's the kind of thing you pick up").

The paper's news editor got his job because he was a young black journalist giving him more cadre points than the white lesbian who was qualified for the job.

Everybody fell out and no one was quite sure what they were trying to produce. Its editor Keith Sutton wanted a kind of leftish Sun while editor-in-chief wanted a worthy and weighty informed political read. No surprise that they got nothing.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty were appointed in a further clash of cultures. The agency came up with a great gutsy tagline "No tits, but a lot of balls".

While the line summed up why the paper wasn't The Sun, the feminists onboard hated the line and it was rejected in place of something a little more watered down - kind of like the whole project.

 With a dire first issue (frontpage splash was a story of a man selling his kidney… in Brazil) sales went from 500,000 (800,000 had been the break-even point) to 200,000.

There might not have been time for the kind of tabloid humour that readers want (left-wing or right), but at least there was time to take the staff on a much needed deafness awareness course prior to launch.

The paper did at least give rise to a very good book, 'The Rise and Fall of the News on Sunday'Posted by Picasa

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