The riddle of the ‘New Day’, a newspaper launched in 2016

The Trinity Mirror title has faith in print, but its target audience may have other ideas

The New Day is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma that is the media group Trinity Mirror.

The title of the UK’s newest daily newspaper, a baffling exercise in actual ink and actual newsprint with no proper website, sounds like it has been drummed up from the same minds that churn out those self-affirming, empowerment ballads where an uplifting bridge takes us to the stirring chorus.

And its launch, editor Alison Phillips indicated she does indeed want the New Day to be "upbeat" and "optimistic", as well as politically neutral. As a premise, it veers worryingly close to siding with those occasional complaints that the media is beset by pessimism and a toxic gloom, to which the first response must always be that good news is in the eye of the beholder.

But in the name of research, I picked up some copies of the New Day during a recent trip to the UK to get a better idea of how its optimism played out against the stern opposition posed by reality.


It turns out the Monday-Friday newspaper, supposedly aimed at 35-55-year-olds, isn’t so Pollyannaish at all: its masthead bears the strapline “life is short, let’s live it well”. To be honest, “life is short” isn’t really a message I want to receive over my morning coffee, but it feels wrong to dismiss all 40 pages just on this basis.

Mixed bunch

Like its closest comparison, the i newspaper (now owned by the cost-cutting Johnston Press), the New Day's tabloid-sized front pages are picture-dominated, with text only creeping on in the form of headlines, subheads and blurbs.

Stylistically, these images are a mixed bunch, with stock images of soberly clad legs to illustrate a gender pay gap investigation sitting next to news wire pictures of “Royal tots” in ski gear. The design throughout is unimpressive, as if the whole operation is being done on the cheap.

Phillips’s upbeat approach is typified by one front page featuring three smiling women, one of them in an apron, and some cake. “As one pensioner a day dies of malnutrition, we ask...” the newspaper begins in small font, before getting to its undeniably optimistic headline, “Could this cafe stop our elderly from starving to death?”

On paper, it seems like a positive thing to do to emphasise solutions to crises rather than dwelling on misery. But over the long term, it’s a habit that risks glossing over crises and the political failure, abuse of power or absence of responsibility from which they spring.

Interestingly, the Mirror, the New Day's Labour-supporting stablemate, has covered the malnutrition crisis in a much punchier fashion, sticking it to the Tories when it can. It's an altogether different kind of cheering.

Admittedly, the UK press can be a weirdly vituperative bully much of the time, openly nasty and angry towards targets much less powerful than itself. When it’s not proudly punching down, it has a habit of engaging in “concern trolling”, which is where the media gleefully spills or rehashes often inaccurate gossip, but with the addition of a “we wish him/her/them well” coda and other tokens of faux-sympathy.

So perhaps there is space for a daily newspaper that is genuinely nicer than the red-tops, dumber than the i and the now online-only London Independent, and not as severely partisan as the rest of the UK press.

But the case has yet to be made. Trinity Mirror, now headed by ex-HMV chief executive Simon Fox, indicated it wanted to shift 200,000 copies a day, but the New Day's initial circulation of 150,000 has dropped below 100,000 in the weeks since its launch.

After some dithering, and despite the sales slide, the cover price was increased from the 25 pence trial price to the planned 50 pence. But in an environment in which so much news media content can be accessed for free online, and people are glued to their mobiles anyway, debating the price tag feels irrelevant. The greater problem, surely, is persuading people to pick up the newspaper at all.

From its jokey astrology column (Phillips is a Virgo, she declares in one editor's letter) to its "orange corners of optimism" (page space dedicated to random facts, inspirational quotes and other non-sequiturs), it is hard to take the New Day seriously. But the real issue is likely more fundamental than any flaws in the editorial mix.

Perhaps Trinity Mirror is just wrong that there is a gap in the market for a new print product aimed at 35-55-year-old readers who want “a modern approach to the news”. Sometimes the most obvious response is the correct one: Aren’t they all online?