Until the 1960s the old "Daily Herald" was an important daily paper reflecting the views of the trade unions and the Labour Party. Then it went through several changes, until in the 1970s its successor, "The Sun", was taken over by Mr Murdoch's company. In its new tabloid form it became a right-wing rival to the "Daily Mirror", with huge headlines and some nudity. In the 1980s its sales reached four million and exceeded the "Daily Mirror". Mr Murdoch's News International already owned "The News of the World"', a Sunday paper which has continued to give special emphasis to scandals. But by 1990 its sales were only two-thirds of their former highest figure of eight million.
For a very long time the press has been free from any governmental interference. There has been no censorship, no subsidy. But for several decades it has seemed that some newspapers have abusedtheir freedom. In competing with one another to get stories to satisfy a public taste for scandal, reporters and photographers have been tempted to harass individuals who have for one reason or another been involved, directly or indirectly, in events which could excite public curiosity. Prominent people of all kinds, as well as obscure people who come into the news as victims of crimes or accidents, have been pursued into their homes for photographs and interviews.
2. Local and Regional Papers
Local morning papers have suffered from the universal penetration of the London-based national press. Less than 20 survive in the whole England, and their combined circulation is much less than that of "The Sun" alone. Among local daily papers those published in the evenings are much more important. Each of about 70 towns has one, selling only within a radius of 50 to 100 kilometres. The two London evening papers, the "News" and "Standard", together sold two million copies in 1980, but they could not survive, and merged into one, now called "The London Evening Standard".
Most local daily papers belong to one or other of the big press empires, which leave their local editors to decide editorial policy. Mostly they try to avoid any appearance of regular partisanship, giving equal weight to each major political party. They give heavy weight to local news and defend local interests and local industries.
The total circulation of all provincial daily newspapers, morning and evening together, is around eight million: about half as great as that of the national papers. In spite of this, some provincial papers are quite prosperous. They do not need their own foreign correspondents; they receive massive local advertising, particularly about things for sale.
The truly local papers are weekly. They are not taken very seriously, being mostly bought for the useful information contained in their advertisements. But for a foreign visitor wishing to learn something of the flavour of a local community, the weekly local paper can be useful. Some of these papers are now given away, not sold out but supported by the advertising.
3. The Weekly and Periodical Press
Good English writing is often to be found in the weekly political and literary journals, all based in London, all with nationwide circulations in the tens of thousands. "The Economist", founded in 1841, probably has no equal everywhere. It has a coloured cover and a few photographs inside, so that it looks like "Time"', "Newsweek" or "Der Spiegel", but its reports have more depth and breadth than any these. It covers world affairs, and even its American section is more informative about America than its American equivalents. Although by no means "popular", it is vigorous in its comments, and deserves the respect in which it is generally held. "Spectator" is a weekly journal of opinion. It regularly contains well-written articles, often politically slanted. It devotes nearly half its space to literature and the arts.
"The Times" has three weekly supplements, all appeared and sold separately. The "Literary Supplement" is devoted almost entirely to book reviews, and covers all kinds of new literature. It makes good use of academic contributors, and has at last, unlike "The Economist", abandoned its old tradition of anonymous reviews. "New Scientist"4, published by the company which owns the "Daily Mirror", has good and serious articles about scientific research, often written by academics yet useful for the general reader.
One old British institution, the satirical weekly "Punch"', survives, more abrasive than in an earlier generation yet finding it hard to keep the place it once had in a more secure social system. Its attraction, particularly for one intellectual youth, has been surpassed by a new rival, "Private Eye", founded in 1962 by people who, not long before, had run a pupils' magazine in Shrewsbury School. Its scandalous material is admirably written on atrocious paper and its circulation rivals that of "The Economist".
Glossy weekly or monthly illustrated magazines cater either for women or for any of a thousand special interests. Almost all are based in London, with national circulations, and the women's magazines sell millions of copies. These, along with commercial television, are the great educators of demand for the new and better goods offered by the modern consumer society. In any big newsagent's shop the long rows of brightly covered magazines seem to go on for ever; beyond the large variety of appeals to women and teenage girls come those concerned with yachting, tennis, model railways, gardening and cars. For every activity there is a magazine, supported mainly by its advertisers, and from time to time the police bring a pile of pornographic magazines to local magistrates, who have the difficult task of deciding whether they are sufficiently offensive to be banned.
These specialist magazines are not cheap. They live off an infinite variety of taste,