The Daily Mail is a British tabloid newspaper, first published in 1896. It is Britain's most popular daily paper after The Sun and arguably the most right-wing. Its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982, and an Irish version of the paper was launched on February 6, 2006. The Daily Mail was Britain's first daily newspaper aimed at what is now considered the "middle-market" and the first to sell one million copies a day. Its chief rival, the Daily Express, has a similar political stance and target audience, but sells fewer than half as many copies. The Daily Mail occupies a position midway between the tabloid and broadsheet divide, covering much of the same celebrity ground as the tabloids but positioning itself as a more upmarket "middle class" publication.
"Daily Mail reader" has become something of a phrase in its own right in the UK. The stereotypical Daily Mail reader is characterized as an insular, aspiring middle-class conservative who lacks the intelligence to read the broadsheet equivalent, The Daily Telegraph, and is stuck in the past. A roughly opposite stereotype to "Daily Mail reader" is the "Guardian reader" (denoting left-wing self-proclaimed intellectuals); this epitomizes the conflict between the classic right- and left-wing viewpoints in British middle-class society.
The Daily Mail, devised by Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) and his brother, Harold (later Lord Rothermere), was first published on May 4, 1896, and was an immediate runaway success. It cost a halfpenny at a time when other London dailies cost a penny, and was more populist in tone and more concise in its coverage than its rivals. Soon after its launch it had more than half a million readers. Controlled editorially by Alfred, with Harold running the business side of the operation, the Daily Mail from the start adopted a vigorously imperialist political stance, taking a strongly patriotic line in the Second Boer War, leading to claims that it was not reporting the issues of the day objectively. From the beginning, the Mail also set out to entertain its readers with human interest stories, serials, features, and competitions (which were also the main means by which the Harmsworths promoted the paper).
In 1906, the paper offered £1,000 for the first flight across the English Channel, and £10,000 for the first flight from London to Manchester. Punch thought the idea preposterous and offered £10,000 for the first flight to Mars, but by 1910, both the Mail's prizes had been won.
The paper was accused of warmongering before the outbreak of World War I, when it reported that Germany was planning to crush the British Empire. Northcliffe created controversy by advocating conscription when the war broke out. On May 21, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. Kitchener was considered a national hero, and overnight the paper's circulation dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. 1,500 members of the London Stock Exchange ceremonially burned the unsold copies and launched a boycott against the Harmsworth Press. Prime Minister H. H. Asquith accused the paper of being disloyal to the country.
When Kitchener died, the Mail reported it as a great stroke of luck for the British Empire. The paper then campaigned against Asquith, and Asquith resigned on December 5, 1916. His successor, David Lloyd George, asked Northcliffe to be in his cabinet, hoping it would prevent him criticizing the government. Northcliffe declined. In 1922, when Lord Northcliffe died, Lord Rothermere took full control of the paper.
In 1924, the Daily Mail published the forged Zinoviev Letter, which indicated that British Communists were planning violent revolution. It was widely believed that this was a significant factor in the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Party in the 1924 general election, held four days later. Since that incident, the paper has been referred to as "The Forgers' Gazette" in some Labour circles.
In early 1934, Rothermere and the Mail were sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Rothermere wrote an article, "Hurrah for the Blackshirts," in January 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine," although after the violence of the 1934 Olympia meeting involving the BUF, the Mail withdrew its support for Mosley. Rothermere was a friend and supporter of both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, which influenced the Mail's political stance toward them up to 1939. During this period it was the only British newspaper to consistently support the German Nazi Party.
The Mail's consistency regarding this controversial stance has lasted to the present day, a remarkable feat regardless of one's political persuasion. Rothermere visited and corresponded with Hitler on many occasions. On October 1, 1938, Rothermere sent Hitler a telegram in support of Germany's invasion of the Sudetenland, and expressing the hope that "Adolf the Great" would become a popular figure in Britain. In 1937, the Mail's chief war correspondent, George Ward Price, to whom Mussolini once personally wrote in support of him and the newspaper, published a book, I Know These Dictators, in defense of Hitler and Mussolini. Rothermere and the Mail supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, particularly during the events leading up to the Munich Agreement in 1938. However, after the Nazi invasion of Prague in 1939, the Mail changed position and urged Chamberlain to prepare for war, not least, perhaps, because on account of its stance it had been threatened with closure by the British Government.
The paper continues to be referred to on occasion as the "Daily Heil," referring to its firm right wing stance and its support for Mosley.
The Daily Mail was originally a broadsheet, but switched to tabloid format on May 3, 1971, the 75th anniversary of its founding (on this date it also absorbed the Daily Sketch, which had previously been published as a tabloid by the same company).
The paper enjoyed a period of considerable commercial and journalistic success in the 1980s, employing some of the most inventive writers in old Fleet Street, including the diarist and feature writer, Paul Callan and his protégé, the gossip columnist Nigel Dempster. In 1982, a Sunday title, the Mail on Sunday was launched (the Sunday Mail was already the name of a newspaper in Scotland, owned by the Mirror Group.) There are Scottish editions of both the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, with different articles and columnists.
Since 2005, the publisher of the Mail, the Daily Mail and General Trust, has been a FTSE 100 company and the paper has a circulation of more than two million, giving it one of the largest circulations of any English language daily newspaper, and the twelfth highest of any newspaper.
It officially entered the Irish market with the launch of a local version of the paper on February 6, 2006; free copies of the paper were distributed on that day in some locations to publicize the launch. Its masthead differs from that of UK versions by having a green rectangle with the word "IRISH," instead of the Royal Arms. The new dedicated Irish version comprises stories of Irish interest alongside content from the UK version. The Irish edition had a circulation of 55,311 for July 2006.
The Daily Mail considers itself to be the voice of "Middle England," speaking up for the "small-c" conservative values and against what it sees as a liberal establishment. It generally takes an anti-European, anti-immigration, anti-abortion view, and is correspondingly "pro-family," pro-tax cuts, and pro-monarchy, as well as advocating stricter punishments for crime. The paper is generally critical of the BBC, which it perceives as being biased to the left politically, but it is less unequivocally supportive of deregulation and commercial broadcasting than more downmarket papers, such as The Sun, and supports a return to a somewhat nostalgic idea of what the BBC once was in a way that The Sun generally does not.
In common with many of its left-wing critics, it has strongly opposed the growing of genetically modified crops in the United Kingdom. The editorial board is frequently critical of the Labour Party and endorses the Conservative Party in elections.
On Middle East issues, the Mail is generally pro-Israel, although it has expressed doubts about the Iraq war, and in 2004, Michael Gove wrote a piece in The Times accusing the Mail of allying itself with the anti-war Left.
Not often called to task for its less than objective reporting, when facing government scrutiny of its practices in 2004, editor Paul Dacre claimed that the Mail obeys the first clause of the press code—that they should not publish inaccurate, misleading, or distorted material—and has no responsibility for collapse in civic trust.
The Mail takes a strong stance on numerous moral issues, including continuing condemnation of criminals who have already been punished, and harsh attacks on certain television programs, such as controversial comedies and those including excessive profanity and blasphemy. The "Daily Hate" (or lately "Hate Mail") nicknames are in part because—according to Polly Toynbee in The Guardian—the Mail's founder, Lord Northcliffe, said his winning formula was to give his readers "a daily hate." It is also seen as anti-gay, for example running the headline: "Abortion hope after 'gay genes' find" in response to the supposed discovery of "gay gene."
The Mail takes a strong stance on immigration, and its treatment of issues such as refugees seeking asylum has prompted opponents to claim that the newspaper panders to racism in this respect. In the 1930s, the paper ran inflammatory articles about Jewish immigrants, serialized, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and briefly supported the British Union of Fascists.
However, the modern paper strongly repudiates far right wing groups; for instance on February 3, 2006, having the front page headline "In Britain: Two members of the odious [British National Party] BNP go free over remarks offensive to most decent people" on the same day as publishing the article. Despite its anti-immigration stance the paper has also campaigned for failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to be allowed to stay in Britain, making a distinction between supporting the right to asylum for people (it deems to be) genuinely fleeing persecution on one hand, and opposing economic migration (arguably) disguised as asylum seeking on the other.
The paper has been lauded for its coverage of events occurring outside of Britain. One of the first notable instances of this foreign reporting was of the French Dreyfus Affair, in which Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish Captain in the French Army, was accused and wrongfully convicted of treason. The coverage in papers around Europe, including the Daily Mail, led to a sea-change of opinion and ultimately the establishment of the state of Israel.
Also, as mentioned above, the Mail provided exemplary coverage of the Boer War. The editorial stances surrounding these two events helped to cement the Mail's place among the British readership. The Daily Mail often syndicates its foreign event coverage to other news outlets. The Washington Post's Tina Brown called the Daily Mail "scarily powerful" as a result of its foreign reporting.
All links retrieved July 25, 2013.
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