Broadly speaking, the daily newspapers published in Britain can be dealt with under two categories.
They are the London newspapers and the newspapers printed and published outside the capital. Of the sixteen morning newspapers published in London nine are known as the ‘nationals’ because their circulation is distributed throughout the whole country.
It is an expression which is used solely for convenience throughout the newspaper world and is not intended in any way to be a reflection on many of the leading papers published elsewhere such as The Scotsman, The Glasgow Herald, the Manchester Guardian, the Yorkshire Post, and the Birmingham Post, which may wield a greater power over the life and thought of the nation than some of the so-called ‘nationals’.
The nine ‘nationals’ placed in alphabetical order to prevent any argument as to their merits are the Daily Express, the Daily Herald, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Sketch, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Worker, the News Chronicle, and The Times.
The other seven London morning newspapers are the Financial Times, the Greyhound Express and Coursing News, the Industrial Daily News, Lloyds List and Shipping Gazette, Morning Advertiser, Public Ledger and Sporting Life. There are also one or two journals published in foreign languages for the benefit of immigrants who have settled in the country. The circulation of the ‘nationals’ range from the 3 or 4 millions of the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror to the hundred thousand or so of the Daily Worker.
The question of the distribution of newspapers cannot be detailed here, but it should be mentioned that all the ‘nationals’ except The Times and the Daily Worker have additional printing plants outside London.
They issue a northern edition printed in Manchester, and two also print in Scotland: the Daily Express in Glasgow and the Daily Mail in Edinburgh. This gives them an opportunity to give more local news than is possible with a paper which prints only in London and is compelled to catch early trains if it is to be on the breakfast table in competition with the local journals.
According to the Royal Commission, The Times and the Daily Telegraph are known to the trade as ‘quality’ newspapers to distinguish them from the’popular’ papers which appeal to a mass readership. It is only fair to say that this distinction might be hotly challenged by the so-called ‘popular’ newspapers, which on occasion publish leading articles and special articles of a very high quality indeed.
Equally The Times and the Daily Telegraph might resent the idea that they are run by superior persons for the declaration of superior persons. But to whichever category papers belong they never overlook the fact that their primary purpose is to give the news, whatever trimmings they may surround it with.
The three London evening newspapers, the Evening News, the Star and the Evening Standard, can hardly rank in the ‘national’ category, because for transport reasons their circulation must be restricted in the main to Greater London and the Home Counties.
There are twentyfour morning papers published in England and Wales outside London, and even in the difficult post-war period they were able to maintain a high standard. With one or two exceptions their circulation is not high and as a rule the profits are made by the evening paper if both morning and evening papers are issued from one office; The morning paper does not aspire to a mass readership.
It is planned for the benefit of the businessmen and the professional men of a single area and for that reason the dividing line between ‘quality’ and ‘popular’ papers does not apply here.
The local newspaper which did not specialize in news of local affairs would have a poor chance of survival, and that is perhaps one reason why the citizen living outside the Metropolitan area knows more of local conditions than the Londoner does. It would be difficult to discover any daily paper which consistently gives a good report of the meetings of the London County Council, despite the millions which it spends every year, but on the other hand the meetings of the Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham City Council are always well reported.
It is true that some of the London weekly newspapers give a better show to municipal politics, but one doubts whether the reports are widely read. The ideal of a provincial newspaper must be to give a judicious blend of national and local news. If it does not do so it will eventually fall by the wayside.
And here one is inevitably brought up against the question of chains and monopolies and their effect on the journalistic profession. The Royal Cummission described a chain as an organization having single or multiple units in several widely separated places, and it named five chains vvith sufficient links to be worthy of the name.
They were the Hanr.sworth Chain, Associated New-papers, the Westminster Press, Kemsiey Newspapers and Provincial Newspapers Ltd. and by their terms of reference, the Commissioners were instructed to inquire into the control, management and ownership of the newspaper and periodical press and the news agencies, including the financial structure and the monopolistic tendencies in control.
Their examination was certainly an exhaustive one and the accountants of the newspapers spent many days and nights in extracting the mass of information which the Commission called.
The Nineteenth Century and After
In the nineteenth century the newspapers were commonly family properties, but the arrival of the popular journals like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express with large circulations and vast financial resources tranformed the picture.
As competition became more acute and the great battle for circulation grew ever more bitter, making expenditure a minor consideration, the gradual evolution of groups and chains was possibly inevitable. It is only fair to the Royal Commission to say that it examined the subject most thoroughly and finally came to the conclusion that the case against chains had been overstated. Indeed it admitted that the system had some advantages
in that the association of a number of papers, and particularly of national with provincial papers, spreads the financial risks and gives greater stability. By organizing central purchasing, advertising, news- gathering, and other services a chain effects economies which enable it to produce better newspapers. It can spend more on home and foreign news, features, salaries, and equipment, and, in fact, in the opinion of the Commission, the papers acquired by chains have improved in quality.
The Commission however held that while it would not be alarmed by an increase in the number of relatively small chains it would deplore any tendency on the part of the larger chains to expand, particularly by the acquisition of further papers in areas where they were already strong.