A posting I could not resist which expresses what I imagine many have already noted about the new Sun on Sunday…
I stayed up far too late last night and, as a result, this morning has not been characterised by any effervescence or sharp intuition. Therefore, on hearing the BBC Radio 2 news when my partner’s alarm clock went off unexpectedly, I did not engage in my usual energetic, one way conversation/rant with the headlines but barely identified the boundaries between any of the stories. However, I did glean that the new Sun on Sunday has been published and is aimed at families and women.
As I concentrated on the important task of preparing caffeine for consumption, my barely sentient brain began to ponder what, as a woman and a member of a family, the Sun on Sunday could offer me. I was striving (albeit futilely) for an optimistic hope that they had perhaps offered a radical new media approach and that my bubbling feminist rant could stay unused. I searched for the online edition with the sole intention to judge a publication by its cover.
I was not disappointed with the potential for harsh judgements. It seems that this national newspaper has deemed the childbirth experiences of Amanda Holden to be the most significant and pressing news for the front page of its launch edition. It is difficult to know where to begin to try to convey my response. However, noting the subject’s national importance seems a fair place: Holden is a reality show judge and celebrity which does not even place her at the top of the entertainment industry for talent or influence, let alone enable us to attribute her with any individual cultural significance. Therefore, her place on the front page of any newspaper is at best surprising. Then there is the issue of the definition of news itself, as the front page is headed with “Amanda Holden exclusive” followed by “My heart stopped for 40 seconds”. This is not even a new story as the difficult birth of her child and a previous miscarriage have been reported in many areas of the press in recent weeks and months along with specific details and photos of her now healthy with her child in public; so the front page story does not even possess the quality of newness. I do not deny that she must have had a terrible time and that some will be comforted to read her story or that she is probably a pleasant woman; however, in the context of national childbirth issues in Britain (let alone internationally), her experience is as minor as her cultural status. And it is probably too obvious to state that there are far more significant news items proliferating in the rest of the media, as well as those not receiving enough coverage because of the dominance of the horribly extreme situations in places like Syria or deaths of genuinely remarkable stars.
But to my final point about it being aimed for women and its supposed “soft” (BBC Radio 2 news quotation again, I’m afraid) approach. Here I have to utterly disagree with Roy Greenslade in The Guardian who asserts that “There are no surprises, no controversies and no investigations”.
I think it is immensely controversial for Murdoch’s organisation to suggest that this kind of banality is appropriate for a female focused news publication or that it represents what women want in the news. As Greenslade notes, it is more like certain magazine publications which I think suggests an even more controversial idea which is to reinforce the notion that women should not and do not want traditional news because we desire celebrity based, apolitical personal gossip. It implies our stupidity, an inability to deal with the public domain and that our priorities are both different from men and less serious thus presenting both men and women as homogenous groups. Whilst some will find it amusing that as it is “Supposedly billed as a female-friendly paper, it carries a page 3 topless picture with the woman folding her arms across her breasts” (Greenslade), I see that as an attempt to assert a pseudo-morality; it is still a topless, page 3 model and I do not imagine I would be entirely wrong to assume that she is probably young, white, slim and clear-skinned and thus not at all subversive of the page 3 tradition (please do correct me if I a wrong). The Sun on Sunday is not going to be bastion of noble ideals, forging a pathway through the dark and seedy world of some journalism making it easier for the press to follow in it lily white wake and I certainly do not think it epitomises the decency it claims to uphold.
With all that said, I suspect it will be very popular as The Sun brand is unequivocally successful. Furthermore, the enormous traffic statistics for The Daily Mail‘s online edition exhibit the draw of celebrity gossip. In the meantime, enjoy if you are female or in a family: