Monday, 6 January 2014

The Obsessions of our mid-market tabloids

I don't buy The Daily Mail or The Daily Express. I don't like them. They don't represent my opinion on anything, really and just annoy me. So I try to steer clear of them to keep my blood pressure down. They are what is known as the 'midmarkets', positioned half way between the 'qualities'- Independent, Guardian, Telegraph, Times- and the 'red tops'- The Mirror, The Sun, The Star and The Sport.   I do notice them when I go to the shops and have been struck recently by the number of times they seemed to have devoted their front pages to stories about immigration- all part of the obsession with what would happen once Rumanians and Bulgarians were allowed to come to work in the UK.

So to see just how much of an obsession it was, I checked out this site: which I have mentioned in previous posts as being quite useful as an archive. To some extent I was right, as these front pages illustrate:

In spite of the limited amount of truth in most of the headlines, both papers are going for easy wins, tapping into reader prejudices about immigration. When I looked across the last five weeks, I found that immigration was marginally ahead of health coverage in terms of front page stories, with particular events like the Nigella Lawson servants' trial, the Glasgow helicopter crash and the death of Nelson Mandela providing a few exceptions. But for The Daily Express, one topic outstripped all others for its front pages, with no less than 16 of the last 30 front pages about it, including on the day after Mandela died- only the Express did not make him the headline. Yes, for The Daily Express, the front page is more often than not, all about the weather.

You would imagine from this that maybe The Daily Express is campaigning about Global Warming to raise questions about what is causing freak weather- but you'd be wrong. It seems that it is just their strategy to avoid putting the big political stories on its front page. Even The Sun devoted its front page on December 6th to Nelson Mandela, but The Express just pretended nothing had happened and stuck with floods and an advert for its TV guide the next day.

But this is nothing new. Blogger Scott Bryan reports that between September 2011 and August 2012, the front page was about the weather on 111 occasions. And most of the time, they were wrong. George Monbiot, of The Guardian, offers an explanation for some of this, explaining that The Express seemed to subscribe to a dodgy weather forecasting outfit.

The excellent newsframes blog gives a systematic breakdown by colour of The Express front page topics- health, weather and immigration have been in their top five for some time!

Best of all, is the fabulous 'Express Bingo' which I was alerted to by my friend Penny on twitter: This site shows you how they 'pick n'mix' their front pages according to just twelve themes. It does make you wonder, what is the point of The Daily Express? If you really want to help out the owner, Richard Desmond, you could buy one of his other publications or subscribe to some of his TV channels. Though they don't cover the weather very much.

Anyway, just for the record, if I want to know the weather I either look at the BBC site, which is generally quite accurate, or put my head out of the door to see what it is like. If I want to know about health, I ask my doctor. And if I want a view on immigration, I usually choose to believe exactly the opposite of the Mail and Express, as that is likely to be a much more accurate position.

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