THE Twitteratti were besides themselves last week, desperately trying to outdo each other in their righteous indignation at having a received a promotional copy of The Sun through their middle-class letterboxes. Up went the oh-so-predictable pictures – copies being burned, copies being posted back to the company’s Freepost address, copies lining cat litter trays and torn-up copies hanging from toilet roll holders (as if anyone was really going to forsake three-ply quilted Andrex for inky newsprint).
And then there was further excitement when a blogger suggested that there might be trouble ahead for The Sun because there was no imprint on the 22 million copies of the World Cup promo. (An imprint is the small print hidden away, usually at the bottom of the back page, which tells readers where a newspaper is printed and on whose behalf.)
Publishing an imprint in a newspaper is a legal requirement dating back to the Printers and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869, amended by the Printer’s Imprint Act 1961. Its principal intent is to prevent the publication of anonymous papers and pamphlets carrying scurrilous and possibly libellous allegations about the great and the good. As the Brown Moses blog pointed out, the fine for not publishing an imprint could be £200 for every single copy of the offending publication. So 22 million at £200 equals a not insubstantial £4.4 billion. It’s fair to say that that would not make Rupert very happy.
Well, sorry to dampen the spirits of the anti-Murdoch mob, but I see two immediate problems with this notion. First of all, the copy of The Sun that came though our letterboxes wasn’t strictly a newspaper. It was a piece of direct mail marketing material just like a local takeaway menu or an estate agent’s flyer. Secondly, if the purpose of the imprint is to enable the publisher to be identified, does anyone at the CPS really want to stand up in court and argue that they don’t know who owns the country’s biggest-selling newspaper? Somehow I don’t think this one is going to stick.
WHY DO some regional newspapers think that readers will turn to them first for national news and sport? I ask because I noticed a weekly newspaper on Twitter breathlessly posting a link to a World Cup match report on its website: “Neymar at the double as Brazil beat Croatia in curtain-raiser”.
Now no disrespect, but if I want to read an authoritative, informative match report I’m going to turn to the Telegraph or the Guardian, not some small-town weekly. Why on earth would I want to read re-hashed PA copy with no local links when I can read the thoughts of the best football writers in the business? It just doesn’t make sense, and irritates to the extent that it undermines the rest of that newspaper’s online content.
I DON’T know if one of writers of The Archers has had an unfortunate experience with their local press, but the poor old Borchester Echo is getting it in the neck again. Still battered over its reporting of the e.coli outbreak at the dairy, the paper has now upset the Berrow Farm cow factory bosses by using a picture of a dead calf in its coverage of Open Farm Sunday. (Would any editor do that on a full-colour centre spread? Really?)
Still, while the Echo is getting a kicking at least they’re laying off Glenn Whitehouse, the David Brent-a-like editor of county glossy Borsetshire Life. He’s still suffering from earache after spiking Lynda Snell’s dire restaurant reviews.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan