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The Sun shone yesterday

27 February 2012

2:49 PM

27 February 2012

2:49 PM

According to early figures from wholesalers and retailers, the first edition of the Sun on Sunday has sold over three
million copies, a big win for Rupert Murdoch and the team of journalists — including yours truly — who had to get the new paper out at breakneck speed. Last week, the News Corp chairman
said on Twitter he’d be happy with anything substantially over two million. As it is, sales have comfortably
surpassed those recorded by the News of the World when it closed last year.
 
This rather gives the lie to all those commentators in the broadsheets who gave the new paper the thumbs-down over the weekend.
 
In the Guardian (circ: 229,753), Roy Greenslade described it as ‘unusually bland’,
while Matthew Engel in the FT (circ: 319,757) dismissed it as ‘timid, mumbling, joyless
and dull’
.
 
Engel predicted that the new paper would have all the firepower of a ‘popgun’ in the circulation war Murdoch had unleashed by pricing it at 50p. Turns out it was more of a Howitzer,
with the sales of rival tabloids falling between 15 and 30 per cent. According to the Guardian, Trinity Mirror is the biggest loser:

‘Early estimates indicate that the People could be down as much as 30% week-on-week to a circulation of about 560,000; while the Sunday Mirror is looking to be down by
about a quarter to approximately 1.3m.’

Nearly all the broadsheet commentators complained that it lacked the vim and vinegar of the News of the World ­— which is a bit rich when you consider how much stick
the News of the World came in for from those very same broadsheets last year. Even the Guardian’s Peter Preston said the new paper lacked ‘guilty pleasures’. Oh yeah? And whose fault is that, Peter? As ex-NOTW hack Jules Stenson tweeted earlier today: ‘Love all these liberal commentators wishing the new Sun was more like the NOTW. Not
liking safety-first media culture you have created.’
 
The biscuit-taker in this respect was John Walsh in the Independent (circ: 124,248), who claims — implausibly — to have been relishing the prospect of
a resurrected News of the World:

‘For nearly eight months, we’ve been breathless with expectation: imagine the vigour and cheek of The Sun allied to the campaigning zeal of the Screws. Imagine more
kiss-and-tell footballer babes and Nazi S&M parlours, more fake sheiks and Pakistani spot-fixing, more swingers’ clubs and imaginative uses for mobile phones. Would it be a rag we could
treasure as a monument to British vulgarity, plumbing new depths of pun-riddled persiflage?’

All this, of course, was just his way of setting-up the pay-off: ‘How disappointing to find it’s exactly the same as the daily, only less so. It’s the weekly Sun minus
about 15 per cent of its style.’
 
Walsh’s comments sat a bit oddly with the more po-faced, censorious tone of the Independent’s editorial on Saturday, headlined ‘The
dark side of the Sun on Sunday’:

‘Justifiable high-fives all round at Wapping and whistles from Mr Murdoch’s fawning admirers? Hardly. The fallout from the appalling behaviour of some of his employees
continues.’

So the Independent, the Guardian and the FT, who led the campaign to declaw Murdoch’s red-tops and neuter the tabloids in general, are now complaining
that the Sun on Sunday didn’t launch with a blistering kiss-and-tell story? A tad hypocritical, even by their standards.


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