The Sun Is Not The First Paper To Misjudge The Mood

jamie-janes-the-sunFor a newspaper that prides itself in being attuned to its readers’ sentiments, it is odd to see The Sun so out of step on the Jamie Janes affair. Odd but not unique.

Prime minister Gordon Brown may not be wildly popular across the country but many feel he is victim of a smear.

As the BBC’s Nick Robinson noted on his blog and on the Ten O’Clock News last night, it’s “clear from the phone-ins, the text messages, the blogs and the like that many share that sympathy [with Brown]”.

And that includes those who have passed judgement on The Sun’s website itself.

To take some of the most recent comments:

Asleroth: I truly am sorry for her loss. but give Brown a break, at least he went out of his way to even write a personal HAND written letter, most people would not have even done that, even the Queen does not send out hand written letters it’s all computer

jessicauk: [sic] fell sorry for the pm, seems nothing he does nowadays is right.

Jamie-101: Yes, the view that the note contains 25 spelling mistakes is clearly that of an illiterate who does not generally write by hand. Quite odd and disgusting to reduce the conflicts and the loss of life to this utterly puerile level. Brown is wrong on many things; he is honourable in writing thus.

The last time I can recall a national newspaper being so out of step with its readership (or should that be its commentariat?) was when the Daily Mail published an interview with former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed.

Here is a flavour of the reaction to a reasoned and largely sympathetic piece with Mohamed, a victim of “medieval” torture, who, let’s not forget, was not found guilty of any terrorist acts:

Ship him back to Ethiopia and stop using my taxes to house and feed him!

This man is NOT BRITISH, illegally entered the country, went to Pakistan (for help in beating his drug habit – yeah, right!) so, to be blunt – WHO CARES.

You put yourself in the Terrorist arena mate so you take the consequences of your action.

Er…. go away sunshine.

The backlash, far more predictable perhaps, has echoes of the more recent case.

But where the Daily Mail may have expected a negative reaction, The Sun is left slightly stunned.

The Sun’s sympathy for a grieving mother… or simple exploitation?
Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?

The Sun Shines On DC. So Wot?

the-sun-30-sep-2009Does The Sun make winners or merely back them? Does it shape public mood or simply reflect it?

David Cameron will care little so long as his Conservative Party win the next general election.

But the debate continues about the political clout of the UK’s leading national newspaper after today it ditched Labour following 12 years of support.

I argued earlier this month that the influence of The Sun is more myth than reality, but it’s a difficult, almost impossible thing to quantify.

What we do know is where the parties currently sit in the opinion polls. And despite a conference bounce, Labour still trails Cameron’s Tories by 11 points.

So while the Sun’s endorsement may add a little credibility – lustre, even – to DC and co, it can’t be described as a game-changing event.

Unless, perhaps, Labour wins a fourth term.

The Sun, Katie Price And Political Delusions

The Sun, Katie Price And Political Delusions

It's The Sun Wot Won It 2

(Update 30 Sep 2009: The Sun ditches Gordon Brown and backs David Cameron. Read more)

As The Sun ushers in a new editor today the debate continues over how much political clout the country’s leading red top really exerts.

Certainly Gordon Brown and David Cameron continue to flirt with Rupert Murdoch in the hope of winning his favour, the furtive glances ever more urgent as we approach a 2010 general election.

We know our history, too. The Sun saw off Neil Kinnock in 1992 (‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’ etc), and a timely leader endorsing Labour ensured Tony Blair’s coronation in 1997. That’s the way it’s told, at least.

Trevor Kavanagh, the paper’s associate editor, made a strong case for The Sun’s continuing influence speaking on the Today Programme this morning. His readers, he said, may not be party political in the way they were in the 1980s and 1990s but they are, nonetheless, politically active:

“[Our readers] are deeply interested in the ingredients of politics. They are interested in the crime on the streets, they’re interested in Afghanistan and the way the war has been fought there … and how they get to work in gridlocked Britain.”

And yet, there has always been a suspicion that readers of The Sun buy the paper for the sport, celebrity and page 3. Politics (big P or small p) is merely filler.

In the pre-internet days that was simply a thesis. But let’s consider today’s five most read stories on The Sun website and ask whether the Westminster obsession might just be a delusion:

The Sun Most Read

The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns
Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?
Fox News Anchor To Rupert Murdoch: ‘Mr Chairman Sir, Why Are You So Great?’
What’s Wrong With This Telegraph Front Page?