Topic 67 – Ways of communication in the english language i: journalistic style. The press. Quality and yellow journalism

Topic 67 – Ways of communication in the english language i: journalistic style. The press. Quality and yellow journalism



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. The mass media in English.

2.1.1. Means: press, radio, television.

2.1.2. Aims: the audience.

2.2. Journalistic style.

2.2.1. Aims.

2.2.2. Language.

2.2.3. Main features.

2.2.4. Main genres.


3.1. A brief history of the press.

3.2. The press: common features.

3.3. The press in the United Kingdom.

3.3.1. Main variables.

3.3.2. National press. Quality vs. Popular papers. Daily vs. Sunday press. Journals and magazines. Weekly vs. Periodical press.

3.3.3. Regional and local papers.

3.4. The press out of the United Kingdom: the U.S.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 67, aims to provide a useful introduction to the mass media in English which comprises the main means of communication: press, radio and television. Yet, we shall namely concentrate on the former so as to analyse the (1) journalistic style and the press. It is within the field of journalism that we shall examine the main types of newspapers in Great Britain, that is, quality papers and popular papers. In doing so, we shall also approach other general features of journalism in terms of aims, style and language so as to better understand its scope within the international arena.

So, the unit is to be divided into two main chapters which correspond to the main tenets of this unit. Thus, Chapter 2 provides a general introduction to (1) the mass media in English and then, to the journalistic style in particular. So, we shall start by offering a definition of mass media in English in terms of (a) means (press, radio, television), and main (b) aims regarding the audience. Next, we focus on the former element, that is, (2) journalistic style and we examine its (a) aims, (b) language, (c) main features, and (c) main genres.

Then, with this background in mind, Chapter 3 shall address the Press within the scope of the English language (in and out the United Kingdom), and shall review its main features, among which we shall focus on the distinction between quality papers and popular papers. In doing so, we shall examine (1) the origins of the press, (2) common features of press nowadays; and (3) the press in the United Kingdom. At this point we shall examine the main newspapers and magazines in England (South, Midlands, North), Wales, North Ireland, and Scotland regarding the (a) main variables that mark the difference between them (national vs. regional/local press, daily vs. Sunday papers, weekly vs. periodical papers). Hence we shall divide the papers between (b) national papers, including (i) quality vs. popular papers regarding daily vs. Sunday, and (ii) journals and magazines (women, children, teenage) which refer to other types of press, such as weekly vs. periodical versions, Then we address the question of (c) regional and local papers; finally, we shall examine (4) the press out of the United Kingdom at the international level, namely the United States as the most outstanding English-speaking country.

Chapter 4 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 5 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 6 will include all the bibliographical references for further information.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to journalism in general is namely based on the Encyclopaedia Britannica (2004); The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (2003); McLean, Profile UK (1993); and Vaughan-Rees, In Britain (1995). Specific information about the press and typology is drawn from Bromhead, Life in Modern Britain (1962); Land, What the Papers Say? A Selection of newspapers extracts for language practice (1981); Tebel & Zucherman, The Magazine in America (1741-1990) (1991); and the reliable webpage (2004) and (2004).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2002) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; and the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).


So, the unit is to be divided into two main chapters which correspond to the main tenets of this unit. Thus, Chapter 2 provides a general introduction to (1) the mass media in English and then, to the journalistic style in particular. So, we shall start by offering a definition of mass media in English in terms of (a) means (press, radio, television), and main (b) aims regarding the audience. Next, we focus on the former element, that is, (2) journalistic style and we examine its (a) aims, (b) language, (c) main features, and (c) main genres.

2.1. The mass media in English.

2.1.1. Means: press, radio, television.

The mass media comprises three types of modern communication, that is, the press, the radio, and the television. In terms of percentage, the press is curiously much more demanded than the radio or television; actually, according to Bromhead (1962:179), “the British people buy more newspapers than any others except the Swedes and Japanese.” Figures show that over 80% of households receive at least one daily nespaper, and despite that fact that people usually get the

first news from radio or television, newspapers are more and more demanded in terms of explanatory and background information.

Broadly speaking, following the website, within the press, “there are about 130 daily and Sunday newspapers, over 2,000 weekly newspapers and some 7,000 periodical publications in Britain. That’s more national and regional daily newspapers for every person in Britain than in most other developed countries. The major papers, twelve national morning daily newspapers (5 qualities and 7 populars) and nine Sunday papers (4 qualities and 5 populars) are available in most parts of Britain. All the national newspapers use computer technology, and its use in the provincial press, which has generally led the way in adopting new techniques, is widespread.”

Also, “the press in Britain is free to comment on matters of public interest, subject to law. By the open discussions of all types of goings on, it is obvious that there is no state control or censorship of the press, which caters to a variety of political views, interests and levels of education. Newspapers are almost always financially independent of any political party, but their political leanings are easily discerned. The industry is self regulating, having set up a Press Complaints Commission in 1991 to handle public complaints. The Commission was established at the suggestion of a government-appointed committee to promote more effective press self- regulation and to prevent intrusion into privacy.”

Regarding the British broadcasting, that is, radio and television, it “has traditionally been based on the principle that it’s a public service accountable to the people through Parliament. Following 1990 legislation, it is also embracing the principles of competition and choice. Three public bodies are responsible for television and radio throughout Britain. They are: (1) the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcasts television and radio; (2) the Independent Television Commission (ITC) licenses and regulates non-BBC television servic es, including cable and satellite; and (3) the Radio Authority licenses and regulates all non-BBC radio.”

On the other hand, “television viewing is Britain’s most popular leisure pastime: 95 per cent of households have a color television set and 68 per cent have a video recorder. The Government is not responsible for programming content or the day-to-day conduct of the business of broadcasting. Broadcasters are free to air programs with the only limitation on their independence being the requirement that they not offend good taste.”

Note that “the BBC operates two complementary national television channels and five national radio services. It also has 39 local radio stations, and regional radio services in Scotland, Wales

and Northern Ireland. BBC World Service Radio transmits in English and 37 other languages worldwide. Regular listeners are estimated to number 120 million. BBC World Service Television, set up in 1992, provides three services: a subscription channel in Europe; a 24- hour news and information channel available throughout Asia; and a news and information channel in Africa. Both BBC overseas services have complete editorial independence.”

“BBC domestic services are financed almost exclusively by the sale of annual television licenses; World Service radio is financed from a government grant, while World Service Television is self-funding. Popular television drama programs produced for the BBC are shown in America and many other countries around the world.”

2.1.2. Aims: the audience.

The main aim of mass media elements is not only to transmit information, that is, what, but also how to do it. It must be borne in mind that news is a representation of the world in language and, therefore, it imposes a structure of social, political, economic and moral values on whatever is represented, as well as a different treatment in presentation according to several factors (political, economic). This means that news is a construct which is to be understood in social and semiotic terms, and the relevance of the English language in this process of communication is understood as an international common code to transmit information.

Regarding what to transmit, mass media means report the latest events around the world, from international to local level. That report traditionally answers the set of wh- questions: what?, who?, when?, where?, why?, what for? and how?, among others (i.e. how much?, how many? and so on). The information report must be a complete piece of news or enlarged bits of information according to a decreasing interest order. On the other hand, how to transmit leads us to the question of objective and subjective information. This bias can exist because Britain is a free country with an elected representative government, and the mass media is free putting forward various points of view to be transmitted through different mediums with their own structural features.

In short, the aim is to provide as much information as possible to the recipients of the news, that is, the audience, which is regarded as the market of news in a commercial sense. So, it is important not only what to write but also how to write it taking into account that each means of communication has a particular framework and a characteristic mode of address. The determination of the particular mode of address will depend on the particular type of audience

since there must be a reciprocity between producer and receiver. As a result, we find the three main types of communication means: the press, the radio and the television with a common way of expression: the journalistic style.

2.2. Journalistic style.

The concept ‘journalistic style’ must not be confused with ‘journalistic language’ since both of them refer to mass media means, but in different ways. First of all, the journalistic language refers to the particular way language is used by the press, radio and television whereas the journalistic style refers to the ways of expression, that is, informative, literary, and that of public opinion. Therefore, the latter comprises the three types of media in terms of style whereas the former does it in terms of language, form and structure.

It must be bear in mind that journalistic communication is expressed by means of written texts (newspapers and magazines) and oral texts, which are further divided into audio texts (radio) or audio-visual texts (television, video). Hence, the freedom of press becomes an essential condition for journalistic communication fulfil a social aim, that is, the possibility of spreading true sorts of information and opinions without any kind of censorship.

2.2.1. Aims.

The main aims of journalistic communication are three. First, to satisfy the need of informing about matters of common interest which any well-organised society has; second, to spread the news; third, though informative objectivity is very difficult to reach, different mass media is aimed to cultivate the audience’s opinion, by interpreting the information spread and by using different semiotic devices. This is specially felt when they support some particular ideological or political position, together with the information and their opinions. Hence their propagandistic purpose to attract converts to the ideology or policy they are interested in, which is supported by the freedom of press.

2.2.2. Language.

Journalistic language makes reference to the particular channel each means of communication uses. This means that each text (oral or written) has its own particular rules and ways of

expression in the sense that each type of text shares some exclusive and general features no matter how many different channels it has. For instance, within the press, all the different types of newspapers (national vs. regional/local; quality vs. popular) shall present common features. Hence there is a threefold formulae called ‘the three c’s code’, that is, the journalistic language must be clear, concise and correct.

This is so for the item of news to be understood by any reader no matter what their cultural level is, and also because in this type of communication the important thing is the content rather than the form, which must just be a transparent means of transport of the former. Actually, there are three main aspets that journalistic texts should avoid in style: literalising (adjectives, metaphores), vulgarising, and technifying (using non comprehensible words for the audience).

2.2.3. Main features.

Similarly, there are six main features of jo urnalistic style which, strictly speaking, are the result of the linguistic reflection mentioned above. Thus, (1) correctness, since journalistic language is non- literary and must be close to cultivated colloquial language; (2) conciseness, since short sentences are often the most appropriate in journalistic language; (3) clarity, since one can achieve communicative efficiency by using suitable verbs in the active form and the indicative mood; (4) to hold the attention of the receiver, since articles of an informative nature have a peculiar structure which is used in order to attract the reader’s attention from the first line to the last; (5) language produced in groups. Note that all the messages in collective communication are produced by different authors, some of them have greater responsibility than others in the final result which is offered to the receivers; and finally, (6) the use of a mixed language, since the plurality of concurrent codes drives the different languages to depend on each other. The leading code (the articulated language in written or oral representation also suffers at the same time the influence of smaller codes.

It is worth taking into account that the two formulae of journalistic language, previously mentioned, that is, being general and informative can be applied to the six features (except for the two latter). Once a text is conceived, it undergoes a process of elaboration before it is edited so as to transform the text into its own style without interfering directly. Since it is difficult to inform objectively, the text appearance exposes objectivity by means of extralinguistic signs whose existence permits us to speak about journalistic semiotic. The following set of semiotic devices may be used to accompany an item of news in order to guide and judge it, even though

the linguistic expression may be the narration of events in a totally impartial way (i.e. images in commercials).

Thus, the context where the text appears (page, radio dials, TV commercial). Actuallly, in written texts, the most important location is the front page or the first page of each section (home vs. International policy, domestic life, sports, fashion, culture). Note that the pieces of news appearing on uneven pages, within each section, are rather relevant. Also, the number of columns (or radio/TV commercials) expresses the hierarchy which the text allows it. The item of news is, no matter what their length is, more relevant than the one published in just one place. Then the way we highlight the news (typeface, height of letters, intonation/emphasis in radio/TV) is also a sign of importance given by the text. Finally, in audio-visual texts, photographs and images illustrating a piece of news make it more relevant.

All these manipulations are the editorial staff’s responsibility so as to value, depreciate, give prominence or reduce the importance of the text. As a result, the published text is believed to present a general journalistic language which gathers several characteristics unique to each type.

2.2.4. Main genres.

Within journalism there is a great variety of genres, which have particular features with regard to content and expression. Among the most outstanding ones we include: report, interview, chronicle, editorial, article, column and review. Thus,

(1) reports, which are defined as a vivid narration of what a journalist has seen and heard about something which must interest public opinion. It may not be of immediate current affairs, which is what we expect from a piece of news. Sometimes a report may be of denouncing character, usually with negative connotations (i.e. bad news). Often, reports are illustrated with photographs.

(2) Interviews, which include dialogues between the journalist and the person whose

opinions or secrets may be interesting for the audience. Note that they are usually reported in indirect style.

(3) Chronicles, which tell a series of events that have taken place during a certain time (daily, weekly) and which are interesting to considers (i.e. a session held in Parliament, Royal events, car races). Like reports, they are usually signed.

(4) Editorial texts are a written piece without signature. They appear in a fixed and outstanding place, where the view of the paper about an important matter is exposed.

The person in charge of the editorial is the newspaper director, radio manager, the editorial advisor, or TV director.

(5) Articles are written by journalists or collaborators, where within certain length the author’s thought is exposed about any topic which may interest people because it is up- to-date or for just historical, artistic, scientific, or philosophical reasons. This is said to be the most subjective journalistic genre, since the quality of the language and the suggestive strength of the content are very much appreciated.

(6) Columns are a fixed space reserved to reporters or collaborators who, daily or very often, comments on current matters in a rather subjective tone. There are column reporters considered as greatly influential on public opinion. Note that columns are the synonyms of daily or weekly collaborations in radio and television.

(7) Finally, reviews are carried out by journalists or collaborators who judge books, films,

plays, concerts, sports, or any other show through oral or written texts.


Then, with this background in mind, Chapter 3 shall address the Press within the scope of the English language (in and out the United Kingdom), and shall review its main features, among which we shall focus on the distinction between quality papers and popular papers. In doing so, we shall examine (1) the origins of the press, (2) common features of press nowadays; and (3) the press in the United Kingdom. At this point we shall examine the main newspapers and magazines in England (South, Midlands, North), Wales, North Ireland, and Scotland regarding the (a) main variables that mark the difference between them (national vs. regional/local press, daily vs. Sunday papers, weekly vs. periodical papers). Hence we shall divide the papers between (b) national papers, including (i) quality vs. popular papers regarding daily vs. Sunday, and (ii) journals and magazines (women, children, teenage) which refer to other types of press, such as weekly vs. periodical versions, Then we address the question of (c) regional and local papers; finally, we shall examine (4) the press out of the United Kingdom at the international level, namely the United States as the most outstanding English-speaking country.

3.1. The origins of the press.

The origins of the press trace back to the invention of the printing press. Basically developed independently in China and Europe, printing is defined as the process of making multiple copies of a document by the use of movable characters or letters. Before the invention of printing, multiple copies of a manuscript had to be made by hand, a laborious task that could take many years. However, the arrival of printing made possible to produce more copies in a shorter period of time. Invented by Johann Gutenberg in c1450, the printing press made the mass publication and circulation of literature possible. It was derived from the presses farmers used to make olive oil; actually, the first printing press used a heavy screw to force a printing block against the paper below.

This invention set off a socia l revolution that is still in progress. Moreover, once the problem of molding movable type was developed, printing spread rapidly and began to replace hand-printed texts for a wider audience. Thus, intellectual life soon was no longer the exclusive domain of church and court, and literacy became a necessity of urban existence. What civilization gained from Gutenberg’s invention is incalculable, thus the printing press stoked intellectual fires at the end of the Middle Ages, helping usher in an era of enlightenment, and even more. This impact lasted for centuries, and eventually, the nineteenth century saw the emergence of periodicals and the increase of newspapers. In fact, many more relevant literary figures contributed to them, up to the present day (Coleridge, Dickens, Kipling, Twain, Huxley, Hemingway, Greene).

3.2. The press: common features.

Though the press in Britain is aimed to guard its freedom to print, there are some rules that restrict its scope of information. So, among these restricting features we include: (1) the laws of libel, by means of which a newspaper or periodical can be sued in the law courts for damages if it publishes a harmful untruth about someone; (2) the Official Secrets Act (OSA), a law which restricts the reporting of some military and government matters; (3) the government requesting newspapers not to publish information about a sensitive public matter; (4) legal restrictions on reporting certain court proceedings or commenting on a trial in progress in case the publicity would be unfair to the people on trial.

Finally, (5) the influence of the Press Council, an official organisation which was first set up in

1953 with the aim of maintaining high standards in the press. It hears complaints from the public about the behaviour of journalists and the stories newspapers sometimes print. The

Council is intended to safeguard the privacy of the individual as well as the freedom of the press.

3.3. The press in the United Kingdom.

3.3.1. Main variables.

There is a wide variety of newspapers at the level of national vs. regional/local press, which depend on several variables, among which we shall focus on the distinction between daily vs. Sunday press, and weekly vs. periodical press. Yet, it is worth noting that the one which actually marks the difference over other similar European countries is the distinction between ‘quality’ papers and the mass-circulation ‘popular’ tabloids. Hence ‘quality’ and ‘popular’ papers will be classified into ‘daily’ vs. ‘Sunday papers’, and ‘weekly’ vs. ‘periodical’ papers. Also, we shall examine other types of press like magazines.

3.3.2. National press.

Because of the small geographical area of the UK, and the good travel infrastructure, there are many national newspapers, in contrast to the policy of the United States where most newspapers are printed and published locally. Actually, out of the 1386 British newspapers (, ‘national’ papers, based in London, altogether sell more copies than all the eighty-odd provincial papers combined” (Bromhead, 1962:179). Note that UK papers are generally grouped into three types within the national scope: quality papers (broadsheets), middle -market tabloids (or semi-popular papers) and popular papers (also called tabloids or mass market tabloids).

The national press is dominated by large companies, some of which have other interests besides (commercial television, Canadian forests, package holidays, North Sea oil) as a national newspaper needs a strong financial base. In one sense its total daily sales in England amount to

13 million, or three papers sold for every four households. Yet their financial position was not always successful and their financial difficulties were not resolved by the 1980s. So, attempts to cut their costs by using more efficient production processes have caused several strikes. In

1976- 84 all the London national papers had some periods when they were not published.

On the other hand, most of the significant regional newspapers are ‘evening’ papers, each publishing about four editions between about mid-day and 5 p.m. London like every other important town has one. All these ‘evening’ papers are semi-popular, but none has a circulation approaching that of any popular national paper. Quality vs. Popular papers.

Following Bromhead (1962:179), “the national uniformity and the difference between ‘quality’ and ‘mass’ papers together correspond with and reflect both the weakness of regional identity and the gulf between the social classes. With the press, people in all parts of England choose one or more of the eight national papers according to their preferences which are based on various factors, among which national sport reports are probably more influential than politics, and certainly more influential than anything to do with the region.”

The contrastive pair ‘quality’ and ‘popular’ papers is further extended into a threefold distinction since a third type, middle -market tabloids, is included in between. Hence we find three main types of newspapers (also called papers): qua lity papers (broadsheets), middle – market tabloids (or semi-popular papers) and popular papers (also called tabloids or mass market tabloids).

1. Quality papers.

Broadly speaking, they are also called ‘broadsheets’ because of its size. They are probably the most famous to readers overseas as they contain a special emphasis on news about business, political relations, cultural tendencies, scientific, social and political matters at an international level. They are also characterized by an aura of dignity and stability which is shown in their semi-academic style and their serious tone, which tends to assume the intelligence of the readers.

According to Mervill (1981), quality papers show several features which make them unique, such as: a wide range of international news about culture, economy, science and education; lack of sensationalism; excellent printing; an analytical and deep approach to news; lack of hysteria; high cultural standard; unbiased and factural approach; imagination, decency and general awareness of the problems of human beings; excellent editorial pages; and a detached orientation from sensationalism and provincialism. In short, quality papers are famous for being serious, intellectual and cosmopolitan.

Among quality papers’ main functions we include: first, the fact that they are the reference for other newspapers which will not produce their own ideas and judgements about a particular issue without having consulted the opinion of quality newspapers, although they do not say so in so many wor ds; second, that they are the ideal vehicle for political leaders, social institutions and national associations when they address leading groups in the country; and finally, that they are very useful in embassies and diplomatic institutions so as to know about the country’s situation. Hence the quality press is said to be linked to the certain public voices of democratic government and be able to fall within a party’s doctrine or ideas.

Regarding semiotics, an edition of quality papers might consist of forty pages, of which 20 might deal with foreign and home news and opinion, 8 with business and sports news, and 12 with other features and advertisements. Among these other features there will be theatre and film reviews, obituaries, TV pages, crosswords and advertisements. Over the past decade, as competition for readership has increased, the percentage of purely news-orientated pages has decreased steadily, and many of the quality papers have run competitions for their readers along the lines of the Bingo competitions first set up by the Daily Mirror and the Sun.

2. Semi-popular papers.

Though traditionally regarded as popular tabloids, the Daily Mail and The Express, are (possibly thankfully) concerned with a very different readership – that of affluent women and, as a result, they are framed up within the category of middle -market tabloids. Weekend supplements and carefully-placed sponsorship ensure that these titles are a cheap alternative to a magazine, while sports supplements aimed at the husband aim to broaden their readership.

3. Popular papers.

Popular papers, also known as mass-market tabloids and defined as yellow journalism, is characterized by “the use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation” (britannica, 2004). Since they respond to their estimates of the reader’s interests, they show particular features such as the use of enormous banner headlines, coloured comics and copious illustrations to thrive on the excitement of the readers. Also, they include “leading items of each day, which are one day political, one day to do with crime, one day sport, one day some odd happening. They have their pages of political report and comment, short, often over-simplified but vigorously written and (nowadays) generally responsible” (Bromhead, 1962:183).

With respect to typograhical resources we highlight the make-up of the first page, which aims to heighten sensationalism by emphasizing human interest on fantasy and other unusual issues (i.e. The so-called ‘Page Three girl’ in The Sun). For instance, usual tools are the unbalanced lay-out of the pages (large headlines vs. little text), exaggeration of the news (epic on occasions), a treatment of news which pays little or no attention to the truth and to tact, illogic design and distribution of spaces, and an unclear division between information and opinion.

With this background in mind, let us examine these main features within each type of paper, both quality and popular within the further distinction of daily and Sunday press. Daily vs. Sunday papers.

1. Daily papers: quality and popular.

Also, “the gap in quality is not so much between Labour and Conservative, as between the levels of ability to read and appreciate serious news presented seriously.” At national level, regarding daily morning papers, five quality newspapers are distinguished: The Times, The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, and The Independent in contrast to the six popular papers: The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Morning Star, and the recent Manchester-based The Sport.

Within the quality group, The Times, though being the UK’s oldest national newspaper (founded in 1785) , is not the most popular of all British newspapers (c. 350,000 readers). Since it had to suspend its publications in 1978 because the workforce would not accept the management’s plans for modernisation, it has been the paper of the “Establishment”, which uses it “for announcements of births, marriages and deaths” (Bromhead, 1962:185). “In 1981 it was taken over by th Murdoch group, though its editorial independence was guaranteed.” Politically speaking, though it is said to be independent, it is sympathetic to the Conservative Party. Yet, it has a big minority of non-Conservative readers. Also, “it has a reputation for aution in its attitudes,” and its “letters to the Editor, which are printed next to the leading articles, are very influential.”

The Guardian, originally called ‘the Manchester Guardian’ up to 1959, developed into a modern national paper when moved its base to London, and hence its change of name. It is said to be equal with The Times In quality, style and reporting (c. 450,000 readers). Politically speaking, though it is said to be non committed, it has been described as ‘radical’ since it has been related

to the Liberal Party and humanitarian attitudes. “It has made great progress during the past thirty years, particularly among intelligent people who find The Times too uncritical of established interests” (Bromhead, 1962:185).

The Daily Telegraph, known affectionately as the Daily Torygraph because of the staunch support to the Conservative Party, is bought by the majority of Conservative middle -class readers (c. 1,300,000 readers). “It contains much more reading matter than the popular papers” and its circulation is said to be greater than that of The Times and The Guardian because of its low price.

The Financial Times is a financial newspaper which, incidentally, is not related to The Times in any way. It has “recently shed its old commercial specialism and has become a major quality paper, enjoying a reputation rivalling The Times. Its circulation, though small (c. 200,000 readers), has grown enormously. Its success in recent years has rivalled the Sun’s at the opposite end of the scale” (Bromhead, 1962:185).

The Independent is the newest of the broadsheets, and has quickly established a reputation for unbiased and interesting reporting. It shows the similar large format of the previous newspapers, similar content, though it pays little or no attention to the activities of the Royal Family, and a good selection of news.

Moreover, it is worth mentioning that “Scotland has two important ‘quality’ papers, the Scotsman in Edinburgh and the Glasgow Herald. The Glasgow Daily Record survives: two other ‘popular’ papers have disappeared. On Sundays the Sunday Post, of Dundee, claims to be read by four-fifths of the Scottish population. Scotland’s cultural distinctness is refelcted in its press” (Bromhead, 1962:179).

On the other hand, regarding the daily popular press we analyse the main features of: The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Morning Star, and the recent Manchester-based The Sport.

The Sun, which appeared in the mid 1970s, is regarded as the successor of the old Daily Herald , which was a quasi-official organ of the Labour Party until the 1960s. Following Bromhead (1962:184), “after several changes of status and ownership The Sun was taken over by Mr Rupert Murdoch, whose first big newspapers were in Australia. Before his firm took over The Sun it already owned the News of the World, a British Sunday paper which pays special attention to reports of crimes and whose sales once exceeded 8 million copies.” With similar

features to the daily popular press, it keeps minimum contents such as politics and maximum about football, sports, horseracing, but above all, pictures and girls built on nudity and bigger headlines (c.4,200,000 readers).

The Daily Mirror appeared in the 1940s and soon became a serious rival of the Express and Mail in popupar journalism. Following Bromhead (1962:183), “it was always a tabloid, always devoted more space to pictures. It was also a pioneer with strip cartoons. During the war it was the Government’s fiercest and most effective critic, and at one time Chruchill was tempted to use the Government’s special wartime powers to supress it. He was indeed sorely tempted; but he left it free. After 1945 it regularly supported the Labour Party. It soon outdid the Express in size of headlines, short sentences and exploitation of excitement. It also became the biggest- selling daily newspaper. For many years its sales have been above 4 million; sometimes well above (c.3,500,000).”

The Daily Express and the Daily Mail are the two archetypal popular papers with circa

2,000,000 readers each. Both of them were “built up by individual tycoons [rich businessmen] in the early twentieth century. Both had a feeling for the taste of a newly- literate public: if a man bites a dog, that’s news. The Express was built up by a man born in poverty in Canada. He built up his newspaper in Britain, not only on crime and human interest stories, but on his simple message about the greatness of the British Empire. He became a great man in the land, a close friend and associate of Winston Churchill, a powerful minister in his war Cabinet. The circulation of the Express at one time exceeded 4 million copies a day. Now the first Lord Beaverbrook is dead, the paper is searching for a new identity, and the daily sales are not much more than half of their highest figure. The history of the Daily Mail, with its more conventional conservatism, is not greatly different. Both of these papers have become ‘tabloids’ (printed on smaller sheets of paper) within the past ten years” (Bromhead, 1962:183).

The Morning Star belongs to the Communist Party and “might well be placed beside the Express and Mail. But the Morning Star’s circulation is said to be about 60,000 –only a small fraction of that of any other national paper; most people would scarcely regard it as a national paper at all. It supports all strikes, condemns all the social evils it can find –and sells more copies in Eastern Europe (where it is the only permitted British paper) than in Britain.”

Finally, just mention a relative newcomer, the Manchester-based The Sport, which deals with sport news and keeps the same format and style as the other tabloids. It is closely linked with the pornography industry, and consists mainly of a diet of fanciful stories, any stories or trials

connected to sex, and a diet of nude women on almost every page, although no pubic hair is shown. Advertising seems to consist of sex products and services.

2. Sunday papers: quality and popular.

On the other hand, among the Sunday press, we include three qualities and four popular. According to Bromhead (1962:179) “almost no papers at all are published in England on Sundays except ‘national’ ones”: three ‘quality’ and four ‘popular’ based in London. Regarding the former type, we find The Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, and The Observer whereas within the second type we include News of the World, the Sunday Mirror, the Sunday People, and the Sunday Express.

On the one hand, the ‘quality’ Sunday papers devote large sections to literature and the arts so as to review new books, the London theatre, new films and music. Also, they bring information and comments about politics and business throughout the world. They have colour supplements and are in many ways more like magazines than newspapers. They largely depend on the advertisements to finance them. On the other hand, ‘popular’ papers supply quite different worlds of taste and interest from ‘quality’ ones. They are famous for reporting scandals, sports, and legal matters involving sex and violence as daily versions do. Journals and magazines. Weekly vs. Periodical press.

Weekly and periodical press refer respectively to journals and magazines. Following Bromhead (1962:187- 8), “good English writing is often to be found in the weekly political and literary journals, all based in London, all with nationwide circulations in the tens of thousands. The Economist, founded in 1841, probably has no equal anywhere. It has recently adopted a coloured cover, and has a few photographs inside, so that it looks like Time and Newsweek, Der Spiegel and l’Express, but its reports have more depth and breadth than any of these. It covers the world’s affairs, and even its American section is more informative about America than its American equivalents.”

“Although by no means ‘popular’, it is vigorous in its comments, and deserves the respect in which it is universally held. Its circulation rose in the 1970s, and reached 240,000 in 1984 –

more than half outside Britain. The New Statesman and Spectator are weekly journals of opinion, one left, one right. They regularly contain well-written articles, often politically prejudiced. Both devote nearly half their space to literature and the arts. Both lost circulation after other weeklies had disappeared.” It is worth noting that “these specialist papers are not cheap. They live off an infinite variety of taste, ambition, desire to know, create and buy” and their production, week by week and month by month, represents a fabulous amount of effort.

The Times has three weekly ‘Supplements’, all published separately. The Literary Supplement is devoted almost entirely to book reviews and covers all kinds of new literature. It makes good use of academic contributors, and has at last, unlike the Economist, abandoned its old tradition of anonymous reviews. The Times Educational and Higher Education Supplements are obviously specialist, and useful sources for any serious student of these fields of interest. New Society and New Scientist, both published by the company which owns the Daily Mirror, sometimes have good and serious articles about sociological and scientific research, often written by academics yet useful for the general reader.”

“One old British institution, the satirical weekly Punch, survives, more abrasive than in an earlier generation yet finding it hard to keep the place it once had in a more secure social system. Its attraction, particularly for the intellectual youth, has been surpassed by a new rival, Private Eye, founded in 1962 by people who, not long before, had run a pupils’ magazine in Shrewsbury School. It is so scurrilous that some main chains of newsagents will not sell it, but its scandalous material is admirably written on atrocious paper and its circulation rivals that of the Economist.”

“Glossly wekkly or monthly picture magazines cater either for women or for any of a thousand special interests. Almost all are based in London, with national circulations, and the women’s magazines sell millions of copies, encouraging people to buy new wallpapers, carpets and equipment for their kitchens –and, of course, new clothes. These, along with commercial television, are the great educators of demand for the new and better goods offered by the modern consumer-society. For every activity with any human following, there is a magazine, supported mainly by its advertisers, and from time to time the police bring a pile of pornographic magazines to local magistrates, who have the difficult task of deciding whether they are offensive.”

There are also other types of magazines which are addressed to young people. For instance, 15- year-old magazines are Just Seventeen, Smash Hits, Shout, TV Hits, and More, among the best sold. Other magazines are linked to the radio and, actually, the best-selling magazine is the

Radio Times which, as well as listing all the television and radio programmes for the coming week, contains some fifty pages of articles. Other publications include computer magazines (PC Weekly ), other TV listing magazines, and women’s magazines.

3.3.3. Regional and local papers.

Following Bromhead (1962:186-7), “local morning papers have sufffered from the universal penetration of the London-based national press. Only sixteen survive in the whole of England, and their combined circulation is much less than that of the Sun alone. Among local daily papers those published in the evenings are much more important. Each of seventy towns has one, selling one within a radius of 50 to 100 kilometres. The two London evening papers, the News and the Standard, together sold two million copies in 1980, but they could not both survive, and merged into one, now called The Standard.”

“Most local daily papers belong to one or other of the big press empires, which leave their local editors to decide editorial policy. Mostly they try to avoid any appearance of regular partisanship, giving equal weight to each major political party. They give heavy weight to local news and defend local interests and local industries. A Bristol paper must vigorously support the Concorde aircraft, which is built in Bristol.”

“A European visitor to Britain may be surprised to see no kiosks on the pavements. Some people buy their morning or evening papers in shops, others have them brought to their homes not by the mail service but by boys or girls who want to earn money by doing ‘paper-rounds’. In towns evening papers are sold by elderly men who stand for four hours on the pavement, stamping their feet to keep warm.”

“The total circulation of all the provincial daily newspapers, morning and evening together, is around 8 million: about half as great as that of the eight national papers. In spite of this, some provicial papers are quite prosperous. They do not need their own foreign correspondents; they receive massive local advertising, particularly of things for sale; some (not all) of them have persuaded their printing staffs to accept the efficient production- methods which the London unions will not accedt on any reasonable terms. If a national paper’s compositors refuse to work new machines unless each man is paid larger wages, that national paper’s costs must rise beyond reasonable limits.”

“The truly local papers are weekly. They are not taken very seriously, being mostly bought for the useful information contained in their advertisements. But for a foreign visitor wishing to learn something of the flavour of a local community, the Friday local paper can be useful. Most of the daily and wekkly newspapers are owned by large companies which also own national papers, as well as large shares in the regional commercial television companies. The dominance of these few big firms in the whole world of public information is often criticised, but they have become sensitive to the criticism and take care to avoid giving cause for complaint.”

3.4. The press out of the United Kingdom: the U.S.

The most outstanding example of the press out of the United Kingdom is to be found in the United States. The reason is that Americans hold the press in high regard and that their newspapers have gained greater public and professional recognition for offering unbiased and comprehensive coverage of news, as well as editorial opinion in support of basic principles of human freedom and social progress. Yet, it is important to highlight the fact that there are hardly any truly national newspaper since competition with broadcast media (radio, TV) and restrictions for most dailies to their local or regional area due to nationwide distribution issues, determine some of the features of American newspapers.

However, they also distinguish three main types of publications: daily, tabloids and magazines. Following Vaughan-Rees (1995), the most famous daily newspapers include: The New York Times, which tells news with integrity and completeness, has a virtually nation-wide distribution due to its high prestige; The Washington Post, which covers national and foreign news, has won recognition as one of the most influential of the liberal, intellectual newspapers in the country thanks to its editorial page; The Los Angeles Times, one of the oldest newspapers (founded in the late nineteenth century), is acknowledged as an independent- minded publication for his high-regarded editorial position; The Wall Street Journal, a financial daily newspaper, has been solidly edited since its foundation in the late nineteenth century. It was broadened to include written summaries of important national and world news, as well as comprehensive articles interpreting trends in industry; finally, the USA To day, which is the first attempt at a serious national daily newspaper of general interest.

Among the well- known tabloids, The New York Daily News is the one with the largest circulation, and among the publication of journals and magazines, these may be la unched weekly, bi-weeklly, or monthly. Though some of them are consumer magazines, others are devoted to trade and business. Among periodical papers, the best-selling types include: top mass

magazines (TV Guide, Reader’s Digest), women’s general magazines (Cosmopolitan, Working

Woman), news and opinion (Time), and business (Business Week, Fortune), among others.


The mass media in English (press, radio, television) or the journalistic style is one of the most outstanding aspects of educational activity and, for our purposes, the press and the distinction between quality and popular papers. In the classroom setting all kinds of social and linguistic aspects of language may be brought to students in terms of means of communication so as to bring them closer to the world’s reality. Yet, how is this issue linked to our Spanish students? Basically, through the educational activity, both in and out the classroom, the former being developed in terms of tutorial or cla ssroom activities and the latter by focusing on sociocultural aspects that exist within the students’ environment (home, friends, the media).

We may handle in class news from the British press which make relevant the analysis of it in comparison to the Spanish press regarding the outstanding differences (size, format, style, contents). So, the distinction between quality and popular papers may become familiar to Spanish students thanks to another means of communication, the TV, since certain Spanish programmes address to British headlines to highlight relevant news in the fields of fashion, music, sports, and so on. Hence it makes sense to examine the historical background of the press in English, and check whether the distinction between quality and popular papers has always been present.

Currently, educational authorities are bringing about relevant changes for the school reality with the yearly international exchanges of British-Spanish language assistants in schools so as to promote the learning of the English language with native speakers. Actually, they can make students aware of certain sociocultural aspects of Britain related to the press and encourage them to use the British media to get informed through new technologies such as the radio, TV, or the Internet, since the press is also present there. The integration of Spain into the European Union makes relevant for students to become aware of the journalistic style so as to be able to appreciate the main similarities and differences with the Spanish one.

Also, this cultural dimension of the English language may be easily approached to students by the increasing number of European programs (Comenius, Erasmus, school trips) and technologies (the Internet, mobile phones, mail) which provide students with authentic material in context so as to get acquainted with other forms of journalism around Europe. Actually,

among the stage objectives for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato students (stated respectively in RD

112 and RD 113/2002, 13 September) there is a clear reference to the fact of getting acquainted with other cultures so as to promote respect and, for our purposes, an attitude of critical awareness of other language systems.

Thus, E.S.O. objectives (5, 6) make reference to first, “Know and value the scientific and technological development. Its applications and importance in a physical and social environment” (objective 5), and secondly, to “obtain, select, deal with and transmit information using sources, methodologies and technological instruments, included the technologies of information and communication, proceeding in an organised, autonomous and critical way” (objective 6). Furthermore, within the Foreign Language General Objectives (8, 9, 10), we find a closer approach to the cultural dimension of English when saying that students are expected to “accede to the knowledge of the culture transmitted by the foreign language, developing respect towards it and its speakers, to achieve a better understanding between countries” (objective 8); “recognise the value of foreign languages as a means of communication between people belonging to different cultures and as an enriching element for social and interpersonal relations” (objective 9); and “use the foreign language as a means of communication with a ludic and creative attitude and enjoy its use” (objective 10).

On the other hand, Bachillerato students are expected to “understand and know how to express oneself fluently and correctly in the foreign language or languages being studied” (objective 2); and also, “to use the information and communication technologies to acquire types of knowledge and transmit information, solve problems and facilitate interpersonal relations, valuing its use critically” (objective 7). Furthermore, within the Foreign Language General Objectives (6, 7), we find a closer approach to the cultural dimension of English when saying that students are expected to “know the sociocultural aspects of the target language as a means to improve communication in the foreign language and for the critical knowledge of one’s own culture” (objective 6) and also, to “value the importance of the study of foreign languages as an element of understanding and encouragement of respect and consideration towards other cultures.”

Actually, the success partly lies in the way this issue becomes real to the users since theory about the press only becomes relevant when students may check by themselves the difference between the main types of press (quality vs. Popular papers, daily vs. Sunday versions, natio nal vs. Local, journals vs. magazines) in and out the classroom setting. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages

where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals. One of them being closely related to. Broadly speaking, the final aim is for students to be aware of their current social reality through the use of the media in the English language, for our purposes, the press.


The journalistic style in Britain has traditionally followed the model we have already presented. Throughout most of the Commonwealth, the media in English has its roots in the British version. In fact, English is used as a technical language around the world, in medicine, computer science, air traffic control, and many other such areas of concentrated expertise and international user populations. Hence, the relevance of the English language makes of it the language of the media so as to transmit news all around the world.

As we have seen, the press language may vary slightly from one paper to another, and even more from journals or magazines, at both national or regional/local level. Hence the aim of this unit has been, then, to provide first a useful introduction to the mass media in English (press, radio and television) from a general overview regarding the journalistic style. Then we have focused on the press, and its two different manifestations : quality vs. popular papers. In doing so, Chapter 2 has provided a general introduction to the mass media in English (press, radio, television) and then, to the journalistic style in terms of aims, language, main features, and main genres.

With this background in mind, Chapter 3 has addressed the Press within the scope of the English language (in and out the United Kingdom), and the distinction between quality papers and popular papers. So, we have examined the origins of the press, common features of press nowadays; and the press in the United Kingdom. At this point we have examined the main variables that mark the difference between the newspapers (national vs. regional/local press, daily vs. Sunday papers, weekly vs. periodical papers).

Hence we have divided the papers between national papers, including quality vs. popular papers (daily vs. Sunday) and journals and magazines, which refer to other types of press, such as weekly vs. periodical versions, Then we address the question of regional and local papers, and finally, we have examined the press out of the United Kingdom at the international level, namely in the United States as the most outstanding English-speaking country.

So far, we have attempted to provide the reader with a general overview of the media within the United Kingdom, and its further influence out ot it. This information is relevant for language learners, even 2nd year Bachillerato students, who do not automatically detect differences between different newspapers in English. So, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in socio-cultural aspects within cross-curricular settings (Spanish language, history, technology –format, presentation). As we have seen, understanding how the press works and is reflected in our world today is important to students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of the English language, not only in English-speaking countries, but also in Spain.


– B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 112/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de la

Educación Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

– B.O.E. 2002. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 113/2002, de 13 de septiembre. Currículo de

Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

– Bromhead, Peter. 1962. Life in Modern Britain. Longman.

– Council of Europe (1998) Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference.

– Land, G. 1981. What the Papers Say? A Selection of newspapers extracts for language practice. Longman, London.

– McLean, A. 1993. Profile UK. Heinemann, Oxford.

– Tebel, J. & M. E. Zucherman. 1991. The Magazine in America (1741-1990). Oxford University Press, New York.

– Vaughan-Rees, M. 1995. In Britain. Richmond Publishing Editors. Other sources include:

“British Empire.” Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 28 May 2004


The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2003, Columbia University Press (2004)