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The Sun on Sunday: Review

Rupert Murdoch launches The Sun on Sunday

Ever since the News of the World ceased publication seven months ago at the height of the phone hacking scandal, speculation of when, not if, Rupert Murdoch would announce the launch of a new Sunday tabloid has been rife.

Today, after last week’s official announcement, the first edition of The Sun, to be published on a Sunday, finally hit the newsstand. However, amidst all the fanfare, The Sun on Sunday was a rather bland offering, with a soft focus, which failed to deliver anything new or different for readers.

So what’s the problem? Well, there’s no scandalous kiss ‘n’ tell stories, no major revelations or surprises and nothing remotely provocative – the only possible exception being Dr John Sentamu‘s column, which no doubt raised a few eyebrows amongst some Church of England clerics. It was very much a Sunday edition of The Sun, rather than a re-imaged News of the Screws.

The paper’s soft launch is hardly surprising. Aside from a shrinking public demand for celebrity scandals on a Sunday, there is, as media commentator Roy Greenslade states, “a clear intention to draw a line under the News of the World and that type of intrusive journalism” That said, The Sun on Sunday needs to find an edge if it wants to attract a regular readership.

Sunday newspaper readers are a different breed to those who buy newspapers during the week, they want something different, which makes them think and offers a greater challenge than their daily news fix during the week. The Sun on Sunday sadly doesn’t provide this, at least not at the moment, it’s just an extension of the what The Sun, does so brilliantly every other day of the week. Again, that’s hardly surprising, after all the paper has been produced and edited by the same editorial team as the daily edition, but at a time when the tabloids are getting more shrewd and creative, the Daily Star Sunday‘s recent signing of Guido Fawkes being the most obvious example, Dominic Mohan and his team will have to find a way to entice readers away from the other established Sunday titles, whilst pleasing The Sun‘s faithful 7.7 million readers.

The splash, a World Exclusive with Britain’s Got Talent show judge Amanda Holden discussing her “nightmare birth ordeal” with daughter Hollie, spread across four pages inside, is hardly ambitious, although incredibly moving. As for the columns, there’s comment from retired footballer Roy Keane, “fashion expert” Nancy Dell’Olio and political writer and Free Schools pioneer Toby Young alongside Katie Price aka Jordan, who despite paying tribute to The Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria earlier in the week,  is essentially predictable.

Elsewhere there are a number of first person stories including a Liverpool footballer’s grandmother telling of her love for her “little black boy”, a war widow speaking of her grief and a dinner lady’s daughter who boasted of being spoiled. As for Sport, there’s plenty of that, 45 of the papers 120 pages are devoted to everything from the Olympics to coverage of every single league game.

There are plenty of “old favourites” too, such as Dear Deidre, Mystic Meg, TV Biz and Bizarre (although with a rather peculiar layout), while page 3 has been dropped in favour of modestly covered topless photo of Kelly Rowland. Plus there’s no shortage of punny headlines either. “Mandelly Belly” heads up the story about Nelson Mandela‘s trip to a South African hospital on Saturday while “Piggybeck Ride” leads into a short picture exclusive about David Beckham with his youngest child, Harper Seven, on his shoulders.

So will The Sun on Sunday reclaim the News of the World’s crown and become the best-selling paper in the UK?

If predicted sales are correct then today’s The Sun on Sunday will likely top two million, if not come close to selling out its three million print run. Whether or not that lasts though will only become clear with time. What The Sun on Sunday needs most of all though is time to bed down. It needs to relax and reflect on the kind of paper it wants to be. Sure, it’s 50p price tag, depending on how long it lasts, is a key selling point, although today’s competitive price matching by the other Sunday tabloids ruled that obsolete, but it needs to do more than just recycle the most popular elements from the week. The paper looks great and its new columnists are a modest start. It’s tone to is noticeable different – a reflection and response to the phone hacking scandal – but it does appear very much work in progress. Perhaps its biggest challenge though will be how it lives up to what it promises in its editorial, which promises that its reporters will “abide by the values of decency as they gather news.” It’s very much a new era. “A new Sun has rise[n],” how brightly it shines though, will only become evident in the weeks and months ahead.

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