Thank you and hello: The Sun rises for a seventh day
“This is not the weather forecast…” reads the front-page Sun “exclusive” this morning as it promises that there will be an Irish Sun next Sunday. Actually it reads “THIS IS NOT THE WEATHER FORECAST… IRISH SUN NEXT SUNDAY”, to be more precise. Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants are doing what nobody except News International and passing Russian oligarchs would contemplate these days: they’re launching a printed newspaper.
Notwithstanding the double-digit circulation declines in the UK Sunday newspaper market – and glossing over for one moment the fact that nine current and former Sun journalists have been arrested in connection with alleged illegal payments to public officials – Murdoch’s manoevre is not all that bizarre (no pun intended).
While the speedy demise of the News of the World last July took thousands of readers out of the market, if any publication can recapture it, it’s likely to be the Sun on Sunday – though not, perhaps, in Liverpool. For all the public opprobrium, readers never got a chance last summer to prove they were serious about boycotting the News of the World, and in any case the shared parentage of the Sun seems unlikely to prove a problem for most readers seven months on.
Maintaining a seven-day operation at the Sun is also likely to prove substantially cheaper on labour costs than the old Sun / News of the World system, which is why rumours of a seven-day Sun were circulating long before the Guardian published its story on the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. Even if it’s not a commercial success, it has already achieved an instant public relations goal for Murdoch, allowing him to ”move the story on” from last week’s narrative of civil war and crumbling empires.
So is the arrival of the Sun on Sunday a good thing? Ever since the idea was floated that the weekday Sun might go the way of the News of the World, people employed elsewhere in the media (and bet-hedging politicians) have been happy to declare that the loss of another newspaper – yes, even one that brought us “WHITNEY’S DEATH BATH” – would not be in the public interest. It would even be bad for democracy, given how much “good campaigning journalism” was apparently squeezed in between the breasts.
Such intra-industry solidarity was too much for one Guardian feature writer, who tweeted, “to all those saying it’s either the Sun or Pravda: come off it”. Indeed. Democracy, I’m guessing, would muddle along pretty much the same with one less Murdoch newspaper. If anything, ”the moment of evangelical release” in the House of Commons last summer - as Hacked Off campaign founder Brian Cathcart phrased it – suggested that a weaker Murdoch would probably be a good thing for British democracy.
The launch of the Sun on Sunday means it’s pretty much a case of “as you were”. As for Rupert himself, his one tweet on the arrival of his latest print baby was this: “Just for the record: Newscorp shares up 60c on news of Sun on Sunday. Highest for year.”