Today marks the 50,000th edition of The Guardian.
It has, for the last two years or so, been my newspaper of choice for most days of the week.
That’s not important. What is important is that with anniversaries such as this, it gives us a chance to look back at the legacy of The Guardian.
Last Saturday, we were treated to a pull-out showing some of the major front pages in the paper’s long history. Looking at these, two things were apparent:
1. The Berliner wasn’t a success
Yes, it looks very pretty and is easier to read on the train; but now The Guardian looks like a cross between a parish newsletter and a lifestyle magazine. The look has had an effect on the content too. G2 seems to get fluffier by the day. I’m not asking for serious features everyday, but I can’t remember the last time I read a good hard-hitting feature.
When something shocking/important happens, I instinctively find myself reaching for The Times instead.
2. Tabloids act as a far greater chronicle of history, and will live on
For Christmas, I was given a really impressive looking book with replica copies of tabloids on the day major sporting stories broke. If there’s one thing the tabloids do well it’s reflect public opinion like no other medium — even the internet. It’s the newspapers’ trump card, maybe the only one they have left.
The ‘quality’ dailies need to learn how to do this. They can without dumbing down. They can without burying their opinions on page 20. Comment pages in the qualities are extremely poor. Sometimes two or three columnists will focus on the same issue of the day. While it’s good to have some great analysis on a major event, this seems to happen every time Gordon Brown/David Cameron makes a speech. The Guardian has plenty of comment out there, Comment is Free is evidence of that.
In my view, if quality dailies are going to survive, they need to take one course of action out of a possible two. These are:
- Do more of what they’re good at already. Media on a Monday, Technology on a Thursday, Film on a Friday. All fantastic sections from The Guardian. The Times’ football coverage on a Monday is exceptional. The New York Times pullout in The Observer is a bit odd, but still nice to read.
If they pick certain subjects and cover them in a way no other place can, then the readers will come flocking.
- Not be afraid to say what they think. The Independent knows how get its views across. It’s effective. If you agree with the Indy’s point of view, you feel empowered. If you disagree, then you still read it anyway. The important point here is that you’re reading the thing regardless.