Rupert Murdoch's tabloid The Sun celebrates 40-years following his lead
Rupert Murdoch's sensationalist and politically relevant tabloid The Sun, celebrated 40 years under his ownership last week.
Feared, loved, and reviled, the cornerstone of Rupert Murdoch's international media empire celebrated 40 years under his control this past week. The best known of Britain's tabloids or "red tops" mixes a cocktail of blaring headlines, celebrity gossip, sports and hard news exclusives that have often brought it in for criticism.Skip to next paragraph
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Its best riposte? That it has remained, through thick and thin, the country's largest circulation newspaper.
The paper was a struggling broadsheet when Mr. Murdoch bought it in 1969, and quickly converted it to a popular and populist tabloid that unlike its tabloid cousins in the US wields major political clout.
The Sun has produced some of British journalism's iconic moments – from celebrated scoops to its infamous "Gotcha" headline after the British navy sunk an Argentine warship during the 1982 Falklands War with the loss of 323 lives.
While the paper is grappling with the crisis faced by the entire newspaper industry, it remains a potent player in British politics – though perhaps not as potent as it once was.
Its continued ability to set the political agenda was demonstrated earlier this month when Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized to the mother of a British solider killed in Afghanistan after The Sun revealed her anger that a condolence note sent by Mr. Brown was littered with spelling errors.
But for many, there was a hint of the paper's loss of influence in the backlash against its publication of a transcript of a phone call Mr Brown made to the mother, which she apparently taped.
Elsewhere, commentators on the tabloid's 40th anniversary charged it with helping to "coarsen" British society, not least through its casual depiction of semi-naked women every day on page three.
Roy Greenslade, a sub-editor 40 years ago on the first issue of the tabloid, says that while he appreciates The Sun's role as a sensationalist tabloid newspaper "engaging with and entertaining its readers," he regards it as "a reactionary political force" often guilty of "casual cruelty."
"Because it's now 40 years old, it has changed and society has changed," says Mr. Greenslade, now a professor of journalism whose career included a stint as The Sun's assistant editor from 1981-86 and as editor of its more left-wing rival, The Daily Mirror, from 1990-91.
He divides the Sun's history into two periods. The "saucy and irreverent" era between 1969 and 1981 and a more aggressive period from 1981 onwards when it "moved from being saucy to being a lot more sleazy" under the editorship of Kelvin MacKenzie. Mr. MacKenzie is a British journalist with near legendary status in media circles, as much for his news sense as for his infamous foul-mouthed management style.