OK, so a new newspaper launched in the UK on Monday. This uncommon event (remember Today?) is particularly noteworthy in the current publishing climate, where The Independent has very recently announced intentions to go online-only and its concise sister paper i has been sold off to new owners/collaborators. So, what distinguishes The New Day from other tabloid-format titles out there?
Promotional material explicitly identifies mid-market publications Daily Mail and Daily Express as intended shelf-mates. For those not familiar, the Daily Mail is the newspaper where everything will cause/cure cancer although not usually in the same week. It also famously backs the Blackshirts.
The Express is exactly the same as the Mail, except with Princess Diana on the cover.
On to The New Day itself, which launches with a largely-female team. Edited by Alison Phillips, who explicitly refutes that this is a pertinent factor in their approach to reporting/content it isn’t coincidental that they are targeting the Daily Mail which has a strong female readership (and a rather decent TV Guide on a Saturday, there I said it!).
TND is printed on noticeably decent white paper, a lot better than most newsprint. An amusing side effect of this is that the two arms of the Murdoch International Newspaper Empire (The Sun and The Times) both printed their outer pages on similarly good quality paper today to offset any advantage in the eyes of the casual observer/fingersmith, in much the same way that The Wolf got Jules and Vincent to chuck a duvet over the back seats near where Marvin used to keep his face.
The first issue was free, although I would have baulked at paying for it frankly, as it seemed rather thin content-wise. That’s partly due to editorial direction and partly because there was nothing to put in the Share It! readers content page, as well as a “Would you help a child being bullied?” article which was effectively a Dom Joly prank minus the laughs.
Interestingly, what looked to me like a misstep with the choice of cover story for the first issue, now looks like part of a laudable trend. Yesterday’s issue highlighted child carers, today’s put attacks on ambulance staff on the front page. Whilst this does still make the paper look more like a supplement (E.g. Saturday’s Times 2), it also reminds me of all the times I’ve seen items way down the TV news coverage about “everyday” things and thought “Why isn’t this top item?”. Seriously, if more people die from car crashes, nicotine or heart disease than terrorism or bird flu then why not? Why allow politicians and media manipulators to dictate public discourse unchallenged? I’m not convinced it’ll work, but I thoroughly applaud the thinking behind it, even as I retain a slight cynicism about which (whose) stories will be most consistently foregrounded in future.
Whilst they won’t function as sister-publications some reportage is drawn from The Mirror also owned by Trinity Mirror plc. Retrolechuck had me worried that it came from the same stable as the Daily Mail so I went a-searching online to confirm otherwise. One of the interesting facts I found out was that the Daily Mirror originally launched in 1903 as a womens title, raising the (probably baseless) spectre that rather than holding up a mirror to world events that paper was originally intended to function as a compact for silly ladies to see themselves reflected in. Or maybe I just have a poor view of Edwardian social politics.
Another notable thing is that both issues to date have contained multiple longform and brief pieces about amputees, whether this proves to be confirmation bias on my part or an idee fixe for TND remains to be seen. I used the word “everyday” above advisedly, the paper itself is described as delivering positive news without a political spin. One of the manifestations of this small-P political stance is the way it seeks to define its readers and their norms, so it’s interesting to see that appears to have chosen to put some of its efforts into representation for amputees. Other “we all think this”-esque norms are yet to be defined, I suppose. The tension between how the paper wants to be read and the candid admissions I’ve seen in pre-launch interviews that the paper’s content, price and style are all likely to change in the first year (paraphrasing, can’t search for the relevant quote(s) right now) means that the eventual readership, if any, has the ability to shape the final product even as it seeks to work upon them. Interesting.
Content wise, celebrity coverage is quite restrained. The Oscars are included, represented by a list and by what the women wore, but there’s no Kardashians Ate My Hamster stuff. Children are near omnipresent in the articles and reportage. Sport coverage (i.e. mostly football) is inside, just past the middle rather than back page. News proper is scattered throughout as i or search result style headline-plus-two-line-paragraph. Longer pieces are either the investigative “real people” material as represented on the front page or a lot of false-dichotomy, faux-balance, for-and-against opinion pieces. The middle page double spread is an eye-catching picture of some sort, be it Tim Peake‘s picture of the Earth at night or a cute lamb in a dog basket by the fire. There are comedy horoscopes too, of which I definitely approve (“Lucky reed instrument: Bassoon”). That said, the urge is to read all of them meaning I fear that they could fall down whatever the Russell Grant equivalent of the Sunday Sport‘s repetitive headline hole is (you know, where everything involves “dwarfs”, lookalikes and sex with foods/animals/corpses).
The design-conscious approach seems to favour a big default text, lots of whitespace as well as round circles and lists everywhere. Many pages have a lifehack, positive-sounding quote or poetic excerpt on them. Very magazine, very social media, very DTP on an Acorn Archimedes. One very nice touch is the weather map on the back page, which constructs the shape of Britain out of the names of her cities and regions, halfway between ASCII art and a wordle.
On the other hand, even the great Grauniad itself isn’t immune to editing errors and I know TND is going for a funky, modern internet-enabled feel, but I was quite startled to find a page celebrating St David’s Day had as its centrepiece a ghastly artifact-heavy jpeg of daffodils, almost certainly the blown-up tiny thumbnail from the back page. Yuk!
The puzzles page has a number of small crosswords, sudoku, etc, at varying levels of difficulty. There are also a picture recognition quiz, riddle and space for your short self-actualisation list on the back page, e.g. “List the three habits you want to break”.
I realise I end all of my review/opinion pieces with a variation on this theme, but lets call that selection bias. TND is worth your picking up to try, if it sounds at all interesting to you. I mostly stand by my initial opinion on it, in that it wouldn’t serve as a solid source for daily news, but as a daily browse, supporting internet or TV current events coverage or another paper it seems fine. I’ll probably pick up the odd issue, as I do with most of the other papers these days, but I’m unsure if the non-news front pages will prove enough to draw in even a reader like me, i.e. one well-disposed to the publication.
The New Day will publish Monday-Friday. For the rest of this week it’s selling at a trial price of 25p with an increase to 50p from next week onwards.
“And the next day and the next and another day!”