First edition of the News of the World
The 1st of October 1843 AD
Breakfast time on a Sunday morning was a duller affair before the strident scandal exposing pages of the News Of The World parked itself beside the cornflakes. It was in 1843 that the paper was first published, positioning itself as the Sunday paper for the people – a populist stance it has maintained to this day.
From its beginnings as a lively, cheap sheet, beating its rivals to the punch by offering affordability before the abolition of Stamp Duty, to its modern day hegemony as the world’s biggest selling newspaper, the News Of The World has been a cornerstone of British culture. It is a triumph of publishing – no matter what its critics say. A lively proponent of ‘Howzat!’ and ‘Gotcha’ journalism, the tabloid had (and still has) plenty for its detractors to get upset about.
The News Of The World’s early years saw it cater to Britain’s working classes, who, through the economic growth of the British Empire’s industrial zenith, were growing ever more literate. Founded by John Browne Bell, the paper was always obsessed with scandal – it didn’t become colloquially known as the News Of The Screws for nothing.
Operating in that thin line between British society’s uptight, abhorrence of social mores and its love for a bit of gossip, the paper was soon the highest selling sunday paper, with over 10,000 copies being sold per week. This figure would rise beyond recognition in the modern era; even though the market for Sunday newspapers become a tougher place to do business.
Fending off competition from other red-topped Sunday tabloids like the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People, the News Of The World remained number one. And in employing a more lively treatment of sex scandals and celebrity tittle-tattle than the Sunday Mail and Express, it had the alchemic balance between hard news told in the plainest of terms, while cosseting the newly found celebrity culture which was rooted in the ‘60s .
It was just a matter of time before this British institution became the most desirable title on the newsstand for the country’s publishing moguls. And in 1969, after a bitter courtship where the Hungarian Robert Maxwell and the Australian Rupert Murdoch both fought for a controlling stake in the paper, Murdoch got it. It would be his first predatory move on Fleet Street. But not his last.
The controversy of Murdoch’s 1969 purchase would soon fade into a background of libel actions and complaints to the Press Complaints Commissions for the paper’s cavalier reporting. The News Of The World makes a business of sailing close to the wind. Perhaps its biggest scandal came in 2006, when its Royal Editor Clive Goodman was arrested and jailed for four months for intercepting phone calls. The storm cost editor Andy Coulson his job.
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