Slow start for The Sun on Sunday

The fledgling newspaper is set to fill the lucrative gap left in the wake of the abrupt closure of The News of The World. Rupert Murdoch, executive of News International, was quoted as hoping to sell over 2 million copies on the inaugural day of sale. A tweet from Murdoch on Monday afternoon confirmed he exceeded this aspiration: “Amazing! The Sun confirmed sale of 3,260,000 copies yesterday. Thanks all readers and advertisers. Sorry if sold out – more next time”.

The content of the newspaper is more or less what had been expected, and indeed the first edition contained (almost) all of the hallmarks of The Sun’s journalistic style. There was war mongering, in the form of Tom Dunn’s article: “Like it or not, Britain is going to war again in the Middle East soon.” There was motivational rhetoric from one of Britain’s most upstanding public figures, Katie Price, urging people to support the Paralympics and public schools. However, the most interesting editorial decision lay on page three, something Steven Baxter in The New Statesman referred to as the “tits/no tits dilemma”. The Sun, previously unwilling to compromise on its ritual objectification of women, opted for compromise by covering the nipples of the first edition’s Kelly Rowland. This taming proved to be a theme throughout this first edition.

Baxter called the first edition a “muted debut”, a view echoed by many, including former editor Kelvin MacKenzie. MacKenzie commented on the “lack of sleaze”, saying mournfully: “I like sleaze on Sunday so I feel slightly robbed”. The intention seems to be, for the meantime, to stay well away from the type of intrusive journalism that characterised the News of the World, but ultimately led to its demise. With five senior The Sunjournalists recently arrested following allegations of corruption, and speculation over the possible closure of The Sun amidst its worst ever crisis, this is probably a wise decision.

Despite its tame debut, it is unlikely The Sun on Sunday will remain so for very long. Indeed, it is expected to mature after the legal proceedings against its staff either come to a conclusion or at least leave the public sphere. After all, the journalism that led to the arrest of senior journalists in the first place is what made The Sun stand out and prosper among the other red-tops.

It seems unlikely that Murdoch would willingly set adrift such a large portion of his customers and let them go looking for something with a little more punch. While it’s not, as many had predicted, The News of the Worldin disguise, the resemblance will probably grow over time. Those who never read the former will not feel compelled to start reading The Sun on Sunday, and those who used to are likely fill their boots.


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