POPULAR NEWSPAPERS DURING WORLD WAR I
Parts 1 to 3: 1914-1919 (The Daily Express, The Mirror, The News of the World, The People and The Sunday Express)
Brief Portrait of the Papers
The Daily Express was a popular daily newspaper that was primarily aimed at the middle-class and Tory working class households. It was strongly nationalist and imperialist and fiercely patriotic. The paper always carried a high news content with articles such as “Desperate German Attacks hurled in vain Against the Allies” headlining its front page. The articles were supplied by a stable of regular writers supplemented by special field reporters and outside contributors. There was also a regular Political cartoon, placed prominently in the centre of a right hand page.
Adverts were always an important element of the paper and provide evidence of popular taste. There was always at least a ½ page advert from Selfridges for clothing and fashion. Adverts filled the edges of the paper, ranging from Whisky and cigarettes to Fountain Pens and furniture.
Other regular features included: theatre and entertainment features, ‘Fashion Reflections’ and other interests such as births, deaths, marriages, ‘For Sale’, ‘Wanted’ and ‘Today in the Garden’ slots.
The Daily Express featured the war very strongly throughout its pages with little or no room left for Human Interest stories. There were a lot of ‘Hero’ stories and many of the papers, including the Daily Express, featured a column for the ‘Casualties of War’, listing names of those who were killed, wounded, missing or hospitalised and it always carried and advertisement for more men to join the forces.
The Daily Mirror was a popular daily newspaper and claimed that it had a “Certified circulation larger than that of any other Daily Picture Paper”. It was a tabloid rather than a broadsheet. It had a long standing relationship with the labour and trades union movement and was aimed at the middle and working class households.
It was one of the first dailies to introduce photographs to its pages and a quarter of the paper concentrated on photographs of the war and those associated with it. It cornered the market for the bizarre and aimed to amuse as well as to inform. It minimised its news content to a double page, leaving space for adverts on female interests, such as ‘Infant feeding’ and ‘Grey Hair’. Its Human Interest articles covered stories such as “ ‘Spiritualistic’ Quacks in War-time”, which told of Mediums, Crystal Gazers and Palmists being bombarded with female believers, worried about relatives at war.
It featured a political cartoon; adverts for clothing outlets, tobacco and food; short stories “Like all other Men” by Mark Allerton being one of many; ‘This Mornings Gossip’; a sport and entertainment page; ‘A thought for today’ and ‘In my Garden’ also featured regularly. It often featured Winston Churchill as he wrote a column in the ‘Sunday Pictorial’ for the Paper.
News of the World
The News of the World was, without doubt, the most ‘Popular’ newspaper in Britain in simple circulation terms. It stated on the front page that “Certified circulation Exceeds 2½ Million copies weekly” and changed in future copies to “Largest Circulation in the world”. It was a light and lively paper with its title printed in a cheery banner effect. The front page held the regular political cartoon with news stories surrounding it. The following pages concentrated on Human Interest stories rather than a news content.
Adverts filled a majority of the paper, from Bovril and soap to remedies for illness. Photos and Pictures were featured on every page but did not override the articles. Its features included cartoons, Human Interest stories (eg: “Courted Two Lovers: Airman has to pay damages. Did not end with old before starting with new”); a song page; a regular serialised story “The Laughing Mask”; Amusements; At the Halls; Missing relatives; Photos found on the battlefield and a regular slot on “Your Weekly Ration” informing people of their entitlement. Its stories always included a ‘Quirky’ heading perhaps encouraging people to read on.
The People described itself as “A Weekly Newspaper for all Classes”. It was produced on a Sunday and featured many human interest stories such as “portraits found on the battlefield” which provided images of loved ones found amongst the casualities. It contained regular articles on gardens and small holdings. “The Home Page” featured articles on clothing and fashion, concentrating on female interests. Divorce court stories and articles on “the turf” and the Music-hall also featured regularly. It included some photographs and a regular political cartoon, along with a strip of illustrations entitled “Various phases of the war as seen by Leading Cartoonists of other Lands”. These were images from Austria, Canada, America, France and Germany. The strip was excluded when the paper reduced it size from 16 pages to 13. Adverts filled the edges of the paper, ranging from soap to Bovril and Grapenuts. It also featured a regular “Reply to Readers Queries” page.
The Sunday Express
The Sunday Express was launched by Lord Beaverbrook in 1918 as a Sunday stablemate to the Daily Express. It was a Nationalist and Imperialist paper and was proud to be so. It was less heavy than other war-filled papers and contained short news features. It had a regular cartoon on its front page and had a high emphasis on female articles, adverts and interests. Beaverbrook used his connections to land scoops and review articles by leading figures and had regular writers such as H Trevor and E V Lucas. It featured ‘Green Room Gossip’; ‘Music in London’; ‘Some best books’; a female interest page; a childrens corner featuring cartoons and competitions; specials on “Sport by Sportsmen for Sportsmen”. Photos appeared prominently with headings such as ‘People in the News’. They were portrait photos of people, mainly beautiful women and, during 1919, the paper ran a competition for new women cinema stars and printed each photo entry. It contained many Human Interest stories such as the Drug Related Death of Bille Carlton, a rising young actress, regarding the tragedy as a “cocaine induced sleep of death”. Fashion outlets featured high among its range of adverts as it seemed to relate to a female audience.