Stephen Glover On The Press

Are the days of the newspaper really numbered? I don't think so

I am as enthusiastic as the next man about the internet, possibly more so, but all this apocalyptic talk about the imminent demise of newspapers is beginning to get me down. Of course I cannot prove that papers will be around in 20 years, any more than the soothsayers can prove that they will not be, so one is reduced to making a rather lame appeal to common sense. Is it really likely that the ingrained habit of buying a daily newspaper - still carried out by more than 12 million people in this country - will disappear in so short a period of time?

If you cannot accept that, at least take a fair look at the statistics. It is often stated bluntly that newspaper circulation is in free fall. Certainly most newspapers (this one happens to be an exception) are selling fewer copies than they were two or three years ago. But if one goes back 10 or 20 years the comparison is not totally bleak.

Let us set aside the fact that the way in which newspaper circulation is calculated has slightly changed over the years. Twenty years ago - I am looking at the figures for February 1986 - the three daily red-tops sold 8.6 million copies a day. In February 1996 the Daily Mirror, Sun and Daily Star had a combined daily circulation of 7.26 million copies. In February this year the sale was 5.6 million. That represents quite a decline, and one that was plainly underway before the internet could have had any effect. Over 20 years the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star have lost almost half their sales, and the Sun about a quarter.

In the middle market, the Daily Express has plummeted over the past 20 years, while the Daily Mail has risen from about 1.8 million copies a day in February 1986 to just over 2.4 million copies today. Nearly all that increase took place during the 1990s. The combined sale of these two titles has fallen from 3.69 million in 1986 to 3.27 million in 2006. The Daily Express has suffered a near catastrophe, while the Daily Mail has had an enormous boost.

The size of the so-called quality market has actually increased over the past 20 years. I am slightly cheating, though, because in February 1986 The Independent did not exist. The Daily Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian and the Financial Times together sold about 2.4 million copies. Ten years later that figure had risen to just over 2.7 million. In February this year these titles sold 2.66 million copies. This is a slightly dodgy figure, boosted by the increasing foreign sales of the Financial Times and, over the 20-year period, by the advent of The Independent. Certainly the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph have lost sales over 20 years, but not the Times. All in all, though, the quality market has not fared badly.

I do not want to be accused of offering a panglossian interpretation. Plainly a revolution is underway. People are turning more and more to the internet, and advertisers are recognising this. Last year, while most newspapers were experiencing a decline in advertising revenue, online advertising leapt by more than 50 per cent from its 2004 levels. It is likely to overtake national newspaper advertising this year or the next. As I wrote recently, newspapers will have to adjust themselves to a declining share of an expanding revenue base.

Millions of people will nonetheless go on reading newspapers - I promise. If they are to thrive, newspapers will have to adjust to the new economic climate in which they find themselves, and work out what they can do better than the internet.

At the same time they will have to produce better online versions of themselves. None of them, with the possible exception of the Guardian, has adapted particularly successfully to the internet because they have not properly grasped that a new medium needs a different sort of journalism.

But the older sort of journalism - printed on the marvellously convenient bundles of newsprint that you can take into the lavatory or on the train - will continue to appeal to millions of people. The future may look bleak for some individual titles but not for the whole industry. There is no cause for despair!

Shame on those who committed this unjustified act of intrusion

On 3 January, Katherine Ward jumped to her death from a hotel in South Kensington. She was a 52-year-old, American-born lawyer who, at the time of her death, worked for Rolls-Royce. A photographer called Jon Bushell took a picture of her as she fell. This was published by the Sun, the Times and the London Evening Standard.

Their defence, I am sure, would be that this was a news event, and it is the function of newspapers to report what happens. Ms Ward had chosen to commit suicide in public. Nonetheless, the majority of newspapers took a different view and decided, for reasons of taste, not to carry the picture.

A friend of Katherine Ward's called Marina Palomba complained to the Press Complaints Commission, arguing that Clause 5 of the code (intrusion into grief and shock) had been breached. Her complaint was directed at the Evening Standard. It had named Ms Ward while carrying the picture of her falling to her death, circling her body. Ms Palomba was upset that the paper should have run the photograph before checking whether the family had been informed about the incident.

On Friday the Press Complaints Commission delivered its judgment. Ms Palombo's complaint was not upheld. The PCC did not believe that Clause 5 had been breached. It added that "matters of taste and decency fall outside the terms of the code of practice". The PCC was concerned, however, that the Evening Standard had made no effort to confirm that Ms Ward's family had been informed of her death. As it happens, they live in America, and could not have seen the paper, but the Standard could not have been certain that this was the case.

What are we to make of all this? Ms Palombo and other friends of Ms Ward clearly regard this as another PCC stitch-up. She remarks bitingly that between January and September 2005 the PCC received 2,719 complaints, of which only five were upheld. Yet it seems arguable that on a strict interpretation Clause 5 was not breached, though it was surely reckless to run the picture without being certain that the family knew. Matters of taste and decency apparently do fall outside the PCC's remit.

Nonetheless, I am certain that most decent people would agree that the three newspapers were wrong to carry this photograph. When I saw it in the Times, my blood froze; there was no conceivable public interest in carrying it. By contrast, a defence might be made of those newspapers which controversially ran an appalling photograph of a man jumping from one of the towers of the World Trade Center because it highlighted an act of terrorism.

Ms Ward's death highlighted nothing, save her own despair. The picture was not so much an intrusion into her friends', or even her family's grief, as into her private world. We should be allowed to die in peace. The newspapers that elected not to publish this photograph showed much more human feeling than the three that did.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

International Promotions Manager - Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker