x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Sun on Sunday's shock attempt at decency

Reporter's notebook Early consensus is that this addition to the Murdoch universe is bland, even though it has buxom models ruminating on matters of geopolitics, writes David Sapsted, Foreign Correspondent.

The Sun on Sunday appears on a news-stand in London. Critics say the first edition was 'bland' compared to the News Corp publication it has replaced, the News of the World.
The Sun on Sunday appears on a news-stand in London. Critics say the first edition was 'bland' compared to the News Corp publication it has replaced, the News of the World.

LONDON // The middle-aged man clutching Rupert Murdoch's new Sunday edition of The Sun was far from impressed.

"It's a bloody disgrace," he fumed. "Have you seen page three?" Other males queuing yesterday at the supermarket newsstand in Hastings, on England's south coast, murmured in agreement.

The cause of all the angst stemmed from what was missing from page three: namely, the photograph of a topless model, which has become a staple feature of the best-selling daily version of the tabloid since Mr Murdoch bought the title 43 years ago.

Except the disgruntled purchaser of new Sun on Sunday - a replacement for the News of the World, which News Corp closed seven months ago at the height of the phone-hacking scandal - was not entirely correct.

The singer Kelly Rowland was on page three, nude from the waist up, but she was clutching her hands across her chest.

A similar modest approach to life, and news in general, was reflected throughout the paper, whose three million print run was overseen by Mr Murdoch on Saturday evening.

The lead story featured an exclusive interview with Amanda Holden, 41, an English actor and TV talent show judge. She revealed that her heart had stopped beating for 40 seconds when she gave birth a month ago.

"Forty seconds? Not long enough in my book," laughed one lady, a little unkindly, in the same supermarket queue.

There were four more pages on the travails of Holden, inside.

Roy Greenslade, a former Fleet Street editor and now professor of journalism at City University, London, described the new Sunday Sun as "bland" in comparison with the News of the World, whose reporters uncovered some true scoops when they weren't busy hacking into the phones of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Britons.

An editorial in the new newspaper promised that it would "abide by the values of decency" in its operations. Proudly, it pointed out that none of the 10 Sun journalists who have been arrested recently for bribing police officers and other public officials, had actually been convicted.

For most of its 92 pages, the new Sun on Sunday concentrated on celebrity tittle-tattle and sport - 45 pages of it, in fact. Or 46 if you count the slightly grainy picture of David Beckham carrying his seven-month-old daughter on his shoulders. A "world picture exclusive" that, you know.

But issues such as Syria were not totally ignored. The death of the Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin in Homs last week was mourned in a column by Katie Price, a model formerly known as Jordan who was remarkable only for her large chest and whose appreciation of fearless journalism from war zones had, until now, escaped the public's attention.

And there was an "exclusive" story outlining Britain's plans when, not if, war breaks out with Iran. You will be comforted to learn that the plan includes sending an infantry battalion to the UAE, along with RAF Typhoons and Tornados.

Surprisingly, perhaps, no other British news organisation followed up this story yesterday. Perhaps it was because everyone was still too preoccupied with the inexplicable absence of a topless model on page three.

dsapstead@thenational.ae