MEDIA: Why MacKenzie’s Mirror exit can help the Sun rise again

I was at the packed fifth anniversary party of Hobsbawm Macaulay when the news broke that Kelvin MacKenzie was quitting Mirror Group, for Talk Radio, before a takeover battle began. What better place to witness the reaction. Even experienced media operators gasped with astonishment.

I was at the packed fifth anniversary party of Hobsbawm Macaulay

when the news broke that Kelvin MacKenzie was quitting Mirror Group, for

Talk Radio, before a takeover battle began. What better place to witness

the reaction. Even experienced media operators gasped with

astonishment.



One outcome is to take immediate pressure for results off the Sun’s

clever new editor David Yelland. According to News International there

will be no panicky dash to solve flagging sales. Nor is anything so daft

as a quick march ’up market’ planned. Analyse the latest readership

figures and you find, beneath a crude drop in sales, that the paper is

dipping in key categories, among women, the under-34s and in the paper’s

traditional heartland, London and south and central England. The recent

successful push into Scotland is small consolation.



Replacing page three girls, freezing out punning headlines, bolting on

human interest features and re-hiring Richard Littlejohn is hardly going

to relight a fuse. I’ve long suspected that the Sun’s problems stem from

being trapped inside a too-narrow world of cliches: pre-school children

are always ’tots’, sex is ’rumpy pumpy’ and Garry Bushell’s male taste

in TV rules the roost. Its conversion to Labour and efforts to expand

features lack conviction.



I’ve been intrigued by a piece of research conducted for last month’s

conference - Dispatches for Disaster Zones - which contrasted the way

the British media reported Africa, above all in the Rwanda/Zaire crisis

in 1996/97. The Mirror published 24 separate items, including five

editorials, while the Sun by contrast published just seven - one

editorial. Lack of interest was not the only striking feature of its

’Little England’ mindset.



Its coverage tended to reflect purely British concerns about getting

sucked into the conflict and gave little space to explanation, while the

Mirror emphasised the suffering, and used the front page to launch an

appeal for aid. This agenda is close to TV’s most successful news

programme News at Ten.



It’s why modernising the Sun must take time. Alongside an obsession with

show biz and sinning football stars, the Sun has a chauvinist

agenda.



Foreign stories are poorly projected, but so are many other areas. The

Sun may never recover its previous power, but it must become a modern

read. This is where Yelland’s experience - making the difficult area of

business and economics interesting - may prove useful.



Yet there is a further challenge. Yelland is a low-key figure. Editors

of papers in trouble currently edit with one eye on the other media.

Rosie Boycott seems to have a TV camera perched on her Express desk,

while Piers Morgans at the Mirror never misses a trick. When a new Sun

rises, it will need someone to spin it a place on the airwaves.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.