Dropping the dead tree press

by Stephen Tall on July 7, 2006

Two months ago, I blogged-up the current exhibition being hosted by the British Library, Front Page: 100 years of the British newspaper, which runs until 8th October.

Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly, my fave – the then-broadsheet Indy’s blank ‘Whitewash?’ splash on the Hutton Report – failed to make the cut.

Tim Gardam* has reviewed it in the TLS, observing the transformative effect wreaked by teh internets:

How quaintly self-important the newspapers of the twentieth century now appear. As the click of the mouse allows us to snack on random news in a world of ambient information, one realizes how the internet has changed for ever the way we assimilate what happens from hour to hour and day to day.

But it was this passage which especially struck home:

The exhibition demonstrates how fundamentally the Sun in the 1980s, as the Mirror in the 1900s, and the Express and Mail in the 1930s, changed the idiom of the press. In 1970, the Mirror, on Decimilisation Day, could still exhort its readers in the earnest collectivist rhetoric reminiscent of the Second World War: “Keep your cool. Take your time. Don’t panic”. The Sun’s 1992 assault on the European Union, “Up Yours Delors” starts with a sentence that could come from the St James’s Chronicle of the 1780s: “The Sun today calls on its patriotic family of readers…” before leaping into the puerile demotic [Kelvin] McKenzie so enjoyed: “… to tell the feelthy French to FROG OFF. They insult us, BURN our lamb, FLOOD our country with dodgy food and PLOT to abolish the dear old pound”. Both now seem very dated. The pure silliness of the Sun is today reserved for football; the journalism of xenophobia has taken an uglier form since 9/11.

(* he’s my boss, btw.)

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