MEDIA: MAGGIE BROWN; Daily Mail defies the logic of cost-cutting

Most people in the media believe that Rupert Murdoch has been the most important and dominant press baron of modern times. After a life-time spent rubbing out unions, introducing supplements and price warfare, his role in revolutionising Britain’s newspaper industry is secure.

Most people in the media believe that Rupert Murdoch has been the most

important and dominant press baron of modern times. After a life-time

spent rubbing out unions, introducing supplements and price warfare, his

role in revolutionising Britain’s newspaper industry is secure.



And yet it is clear that everyone involved with the business of papers

is obsessed by the successful and influential journalism of the Daily

Mail, which day after day combines energy and instant reaction with

formidable resources. When Kelvin MacKenzie edited the Sun it was

unmissable (remember Hop Off You Frogs, Gotcha, and Up Yours Delors).



Now it is the Daily Mail’s very distinctive form of high energy

editorial which is in the ascendancy. It seems to race ahead under its

own head of steam, in pursuit of an earthy, popular Conservative agenda.



In the past week the paper has proved able to change Government policy

(‘Live in Lovers Bill is Shelved’), humiliate the Lord Chancellor and

once again make its growing army of readers feel that they are

identified with a crusading paper speaking up for the common sense tax

payer.



For good measure, the Mail’s crusade in favour of middle England issues

such as marriage and family life never gets heavy-handed. It is a text

book study in demonstrating what sells. Last week’s high moral tone was

carefully balanced with salacious autobiographical details of actor Sir

Robert Stephens’ affairs with married beauties, the confessions of Spike

Milligan’s ex-lover and single mother - plus a fashion spread of four

real women dressed gorgeously, for pounds 10 each.



Here is a paper under the joint direction of old-style proprietor Lord

Rothermere and editor-in-chief Sir David English which has truly lived

up to best business school precepts by not cutting prices, opting for

quality, and reaping a sale rise.



It pays top salaries, and tries to hold onto its favoured staff through

thick or thin. Both Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black have tried to

attract editor Paul Dacre, and both have failed.



This is why Sarah Sands, the new deputy editor of the Telegraph was only

repeating Fleet Street truisms in her leaked memo to Charles Moore about

capturing some of the Mail’s brilliance for the paper.



And yet I find it strange and a little sad that there is such a rush

towards the Daily Mail’s middle ground, to such an extent that it

sometimes seems as if the broadsheets would be happy to print its

content simply in a different format.



Rivals should stand by the principle of diversity, and learn a lesson

from the paper’s success. Reverse the trend towards editorial cuts and

telephone journalism. Let’s see a revival in the art of good story-

telling, the narrative technique which draws in readers. There is an

awful lot of instant analysis and superficial writing which could be

ditched, to everyone’s benefit.



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