It was a bad error. But we're all here to cause a stir

'The Mirror' operates in a tradition of sensationalism, and that's as it should be, says Mike Molloy. Piers Morgan just went too far

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde's wonderful comment on the death of Little Nell, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the firing of Piers Morgan.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde's wonderful comment on the death of Little Nell, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the firing of Piers Morgan.

As Morgan is about as resilient as the nose cone of a Saturn rocket I'm pretty sure I can predict his smooth re-entry into the world of showbusiness without much damage being done to his income or boundless ego.

I'm not so confident about the immediate prospects of the Daily Mirror, though. I suspect the politicians will be merciful, now that Morgan has gone, but the other pop papers will put the hob-nailed boot in for some time. The red-top market has always been a rough old trade.

There will also be a great deal of simulated hand-wringing among those chattering-class commentators who hate the Mirror and who will now seize this opportunity to lecture on its glorious past while lamenting the sorry state of a once great institution of the British press. All humbug, of course.

Don't get me wrong. The error in publishing the pictures was pretty dreadful, but it wasn't the first catastrophic mistake the Mirror ever made. During the Second World War, Churchill threatened to close the paper over a brilliant cartoon it printed by Philip Zec showing a lone merchant seaman clinging to a life raft in the Atlantic Ocean. The caption, supplied by Cassandra, read: "The price of petrol has been increased by one penny - official."

Cecil King, as the Mirror's chairman in the 1960s, made his own suicidal mistake by calling on Harold Wilson to resign. He was summoned to Downing Street and was made to eat a largish slice of humble pie in order to ensure the paper could continue publication.

Later, Silvester Bolam, editor from 1948-1953, printed a stirring manifesto on the Mirror's front page stating: "The Mirror is a sensational newspaper. We make no apology for that. We believe in the sensational presentation of news and views, especially important news and views, as a necessary and valuable public service in these days of mass readership and democratic responsibility. We shall go on being sensational to the best of our ability ...

"Sensationalism doesn't mean the distorting of truth. It means the vivid and dramatic presentation of events so as to give them a forceful impact on the mind of the reader. It means big headlines, vigorous writing, simplification into familiar everyday language, And the wide use of illustration by cartoon and photograph ...

"Sensational treatment is the answer, whatever the sober and "superior" readers of some other journals may prefer ...

"No doubt we make mistakes, but at least we are alive."

Great stuff, and a philosophy I vigorously embraced in my 10 years as editor of the Mirror. Unfortunately for Bolam, he did make a mistake, printing evidence that was prejudicial to the trial of John George Haigh, the acid-bath murderer. Bolam was subsequently banged up in Brixton jail for three months for contempt of court.

Hugh Cudlipp, the man who taught me most of what I know about editing, is undoubtedly the one individual most responsible for shaping the paper in what is now regarded as the post-war "golden age" of the Daily Mirror.

The sagacity and political judgement which he exercised in that time are now hailed as the benchmark for those who aspire to "responsible popular journalism". But Cudlipp would have deplored that narrow view of his talents. He was a popular journalist to his fingertips, operating in a time when the establishment and the Royal Family were treated by most of the British press with kid gloves and a degree of obsequiousness that would have choked even Lord Fawsley.

Cudlipp's headline on the Princess Margaret business, when she was dithering about whether or not to marry Peter Townsend, was:


Tame stuff by today's standards but, at the time, it was as shocking as a loud fart made in the Royal presence.

Cudlipp's genius was that he knew just how far to step over the line, and he didn't rely only on his personal judgement. He surrounded himself with counsellors whom he trusted.

Morgan's downfall was as much engineered by management cost-cutting as by his own misjudgement. In the past the Mirror always had an editorial director who could slam on the brakes if the car was heading for the precipice. That fail-safe figure has long gone and another salary has been saved.

In the cut-throat competition of recent years, popular editors have had to dream up the stunts and drive their staffs to take risks. That brings too much pressure on one man. To my mind it's a miracle they aren't all in jail.

Mike Molloy was editor of the 'Daily Mirror', 1974-1984

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits