The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain - Vol. 2

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain - Vol. 2

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain - Vol. 2

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain - Vol. 2

Excerpt

Late in 1904, as if to prove that neither insight nor ingenuity had deserted him, W. T. Stead dignified the London daily newspapers as 'His Majesty's Public Councillors'. He then divided them into four categories.

In the first rank, Stead placed The Times and the Westminster Gazette, both political papers 'read by men of both parties'; their circulations were relatively modest (hovering around 35,000 and 20,000 respectively), but their reputations were resounding. Immediately below, in descending order of importance, came the Standard, the Daily News, the Morning Post, the Daily Chronicle, the Morning Leader, the St James's Gazette, the Daily Graphic, the Star, the Globe, the Echo, and the Pall Mall Gazette, which Stead himself had edited in palmier days for both of them. Falling equally between morning and evening publication, and almost equally in terms of partisan allegiance, newspapers in this intermediate classification were distinguished by editorial excellence, parliamentary front-bench connections, or a healthy mixture of the two. To a third echelon, Stead consigned those journals that 'combine the maximum of advertising and of circulation with the minimum of influence': the Daily Telegraph, once the front-runner in Fleet Street; the Daily Mail, which had pre-empted it; and, 'hobbling painfully after', the Daily Express. Significantly, all three were better known for their proprietors (Lord Burnham, Sir Alfred Harmsworth, and C. Arthur Pearson) than for their editors. Finally, at the bottom, Stead put those dailies that were as much without pretence to influence as without serious capacity for it: the Morning Advertiser, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the Evening News, and the Evening Standard. Although one may dispute Stead's value judgments in specific cases, his inventory -- which pointedly excluded provincial and weekly newspapers -- serves conveniently to provide a framework.

Of the twenty-one major metropolitan papers that celebrated Edward VII's accession in 1901, three did not survive long enough to report his death nine years later. In 1905, the Echo closed down, and the St James's Gazette was merged with the Evening Standard. The following year saw the setting of the Sun. Then, in 1912, the Morning Leader was absorbed by the Daily News.

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