How valid is the distinction between the popular and the quality press in Britain?

Essay, 2000

9 Pages, Grade: 2


Essay: How valid is the distinction between the popular and the quality press in Britain? Support your answer with detailed evidence from any two daily newspapers.


In the UK you can find a wide range of newspapers. In general you can divide them into quality and popular press. Quality newspapers are The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent and The Financial Times. The popular press consists of The Daily Mirror, The Daily Express, The Daily Star and The Sun. You can also find a lot of regional newspapers; for example The Evening Standard (London, popular press oriented), The South Wales Echo (South Wales, popular press oriented) and The Western Mail ( Wales, more quality press oriented). In this essay I will refer to the popular press as tabloid press. The aim of this essay is to compare quality press and tabloid press. This I will do with two examples: The Times and The Sun. So the question might arise why I chose just those two newspapers? They are both reflective of their field and are recognized all over the world. However they both belong to the same person: to the Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch. And so a second question arises: Are there indications that this constellation might minimize the difference between quality and tabloid press? Yet we are in the age of the internet. So a third question arises: Are both newspapers sufficiently represented on the internet?

Main part:

When comparing articles in The Sun and articles in The Times with regard to the same topics it is evident that The Times is much more detailed: The articles are longer; the language is nearly free of vulgarities and slang and the textual expression is more polite. On the other hand The Sun supplies the reader with information in a demagogic way. The Sun seeks to create moods about special topics that can be inner politics, foreign politics or sports. Above all hailing British celebrities from every area of the public life.

Furthermore, The Sun is more nationalistic than The Times. You can see the Union Jack quite often in The Sun. While The Times is still able to report soberly on the political situation in other countries, The Sun always tries to find a link between the British way of life and the British pride. But pride comes before a fall. And this is reflected in the circulation of The Sun. Between July 1995 and September 1998, The Sun ’s circulation fall from 4,027,850 to 3,730,402 newspapers a day. That is a loss of 297,448 newspapers sold per day. That is a number nearly as high as the whole daily circulation of The Independent between July and December 1995.

After Germany’s Bild-Zeitung, which circulates an average of between 4,5 and 4,3 million newspapers a day, The Sun would appear to be Europe’s second biggest newspaper. But here also the circulation indicates a growing loss of readers. When you assume that there are three readers per sold newspaper, The Sun is read by circa 12 million readers daily. On the other hand there is The Times with 777,355 readers per day in September 1998. But also The Times has seen better times in the area of circulation. Between July and December 1997 The Times appeared in 792,151 exemplars. That is a difference of 14,796 exemplars per day or 44,000 readers a day, when you assume an average of three readers per newspaper.

When looking at the maximum circulation for both newspapers between July 1995 and September 1998, The Sun had 4,027,850 and The Times 792,151 published newspapers per day. So The Sun published five times as many newspapers a day as The Times and you can assume that The Sun has also got five times as much readers as The Times.

The next important point to be mentioned here is statistical data. Among that I count prize, number of pages, genres, amount of advertisements, size and number of articles and photos, supplements and font size etc. On weekdays The Times costs 35 pence. The Sun costs 30 pence. Some people say that The Times started a prize war among the quality newspapers. The Times can have 40 pages without supplements (27.3.2000) and The Sun 44 pages (27.3.2000). But the sizes of the pages are different, one page in The Sun measures approx 1100 sqcm, but one page in The Times measures approx 2140 sqcm, that is nearly the double size of page of The Sun. When you count the number of words on the frontpages of both newspapers you find 300 words for The Sun (31.1.2000) but 2150 words for The Times (31.1.2000). In this case you have more than seven times more words on the frontpage of The Times and this pattern continues on the following pages. But though The Sun supplies less space per page it has got more photos than The Times. On the 31 st of January 2000 you could count 121 photos in The Sun (35 coloured) but only 104 photos in The Times (42 coloured). On the same day 154 articles were counted in The Sun, but 196 articles in The Times. The whole number of advertisements on that date was 50 in The Sun and 73 in The Times. So The Times loses a little bit space in this area. In both newspapers appeared 4 wholepage advertisements.

I have mentioned already the number of words per page in The Times is in some cases seven times as high as in The Sun. So what is the cause for that? There are two very simple explanations. Firstly, The Sun uses much bigger photos than The Times, especially in the sports section. Secondly, the font size of the headlines in The Sun is much bigger. For example the maximum font size in The Sun on the 27.3.2000 is 5,6 cm. The Maximum font size in The Times on that day is only 1,65 cm. That is a very obvious difference. It must be said that The Times offers more room for information or, more simply, The Times offers more information. But the decisive question is: Of what quality is the information supplied in both newspapers? In order to answer this question we have to analyse the following parameters: genres of the newspapers, supplements, feedback, correctness vs. offensiveness, register and style, topics and layout.

While The Times has got clearly indicated genres, this is not apparent in The Sun. I must say that the arrangement of articles in The Sun can be called chaotic. Occassionally, for example in the sport section of The Sun, an article may start on the last page and is continued on a page before the last page. But that is not what I call chaotic in the heart of the sense. A chaotic article starts on the last page, continues on the third last page and suddenly ends abruptly in the middle of a word and is not continued at any other place in the newspaper. That happened on the 29.3.2000 on page 42 of The Sun. Without success the interested reader searches for the rest of this article. But, unfortunately, this is not a single case in the editorial work of The Sun.

But The Sun ’s chaotic Style is not very controversal. Controversal are The Sun ’s topics, their political aims and their attitude towards human beings and humanity. When you read political articles in The Times you find that its editors respect other nationalities and minority groups. This fact is reflected in the tenor of the articles, photos, comments and headlines, even in the advertisements. When someone expects the same attitude in The Sun he or she is completely wrong. You might assume that in a civilised country like Great Britain the tabloid press respects other nationalities and minority groups. But, unfortunately, it is not that way. The Sun is rife with racism, sexism, nationalism and supporting alcohol and adultery. On the 29.3.2000 there appeared an article in The Sun with the headline “Gymslip-Ups On Increase”. It is an article about schoolgirl pregnancies. Why did they not write “Schoolgirl Pregnancies On Increase” or the even shorter “Schoolgirl Pregnancies”? No, they write it in their typical sexist style. You can find lots of examples of sexism in The Sun.

More sinister is The Sun ’s open racism. On the one hand they accuse two Leeds football players of grievous bodily harm against an Asian teenager (The Sun, 18.3.2000, p.7), on the other hand The Sun, or better to say the editors themselves, are responsible for articles with racist tenor. If you are very cynical you can ask the question: Have the two Leedsplayers read The Sun beforehand? Especially the articles concerning the hijacking of an Afghan aeroplane were full of racist terms and offences. One headline for example says: “Doctor Put An Afghan Before My Sick Child” (The Sun,12.2.2000). Another headline says: “Why Dump Them On Us? (The Sun,14.2.2000,p.11). In this case The Sun tried to give the direct speech of some town residents who complain about the wish of hijacked Afghans to get asylum in the UK. According to a famous racism theory (Mithen,S., University of Reading), racism comes into being when people are treated as physical objects without rights or emotions. That is the case in this article. The Afghan asylum seekers are treated as physical objects without rights or emotions, when the editor uses the verb "dump”. You can dump waste in the Northern Sea, but you cannot dump living people. More striking is another article: headline: “UK Is Euro Dustbin” (The Sun,14.2.2000,p.11). Logically seen, this means that the asylum seekers are described as human waste. The article gives a statistic that is interpreted completely wrong. The editorial decisions are potentially highly controversial. This journalistic style can lead to aggression in the readers and can have severe consequences. Is the Sun responsible in the event that its readers beat up foreigners after a Sun article incited them? In other countries such articles have consequences such as fines or official reprimand. But in the UK a newspaper such as The Sun can write every impudence. That is a very typical style for the tabloid press.


Excerpt out of 9 pages


How valid is the distinction between the popular and the quality press in Britain?
Cardiff University  (School of European Studies)
British Society and Culture
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ISBN (Book)
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As this essay shows there is a great difference between quality and tabloid press. The amount and quality of given information alone is much higher in the quality press. But this is a comparison between The Times and The Sun. Consequently as a conclusion I have to say that in spite of the high register and brilliant language, The Times is not critical enough to show todays capitalism a firm way in its future. This newspaper is loyal to the government, the monarchy and christianity.
Britain, British, Society, Culture
Quote paper
Dr. phil. Roland Scheller (Author), 2000, How valid is the distinction between the popular and the quality press in Britain?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • Know All on 3/4/2011

    Would be a good idea to update this article - and correct the grammar in it (e.g. Sun has also got five times as much readers as The Times) so that these mistakes are not repeated by students! Otherwise interesting, even if no longer up-to-date.

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