The Daily mail was the first national daily to deviate away from the norm, in terms of content, as he encouraged his paper to become more of a human-interest paper than a political feature. Lord Northcliffe placed huge emphasis on stories that were crime based and more often than not he made crime the staple diet of the reader. Kevin Williams also states that murderers and as well as the police were interviewed for Northcliffe’s paper and so coined the motto, which Williams later wrote a nook with the same title, ‘get me a murder a day!’ (Williams: 1998: 56). It was this adaptation of publication content that caused the Daily Mail’s rivals to follow suit in order to compete on the same level. The Daily News is a prime example of the effect that Lord Northcliffe had on the Press of the period 1890-1930.
Its owner George Cadbury, an ardent user of his paper to bellow his Liberal creed, was forced to adapt its content (inserting pictures and reducing the parliamentary and religious sections).Even though he did not want these changes he understood, that for his publication to remain a commercial success, alterations had to be made. Although one aspect of the newspapers development of that time that is continually linked to more contemporary press was the notion that sensationalism was born during the ‘Northcliffe Revolution’. Lord Northcliffe cannot be accused of this according to Williams as he writes that he prided himself on the fact that his paper was a respectable family publication, and so did not feature much if any sex and scandal.
Its substance came more in the nature of being enjoyable, enlightening and intelligent (Williams: 1998: 56). Jean Chalaby though believes that the sensationalism of stories was extremely evident in Lord Northcliffe’s newspapers, claiming that headlines of ‘Fire in Glasgow: Exciting Scenes’ and ‘Germans in Africa: Sensational Story’ are proof positive that sensationalism was, maybe not in the content of the stories themselves then at least in the headlines that accompanied these stories.(Pound ; Harmsworth: 1959: 46) Debates have been raised as to whether Northcliffe can be extremely useful in looking at the developments of journalism in the period 1890-1930, with both Jean Chalaby and Kevin Williams both believing that although he had an effect he more simply applied adapted, improved and developed existing traditionally placed techniques and styles, simply giving them more direction and purpose (Chalaby: 2000: 27, Williams: 1998: 56).Although with orders from Lord Northcliffe to his journalists to ‘touch life at as many points as possible’, the press moguls publications reported upon news that he believed reflected new elements of personal and societal life that had never been so widely described upon in the history of the British press.
(H. Fyfe, 1930, 86-87) Lord Northcliffe was revolutionary in the fact that he recognised the potential of the female market and so introduced the Daily Mirror, which employed a female only staff, as a newspaper for the ‘gentlewoman’.This venture turned out to be a complete failure as the paper simply didn’t sell and was revamped into an illustrated daily.
This is proof alone that Lord Northcliffe understood the value of the female market as he saw an indication of what could happen in future years. A few decades down the line the advertisers and newspapers realised collectively that there was an untapped goldmine waiting in the wings through this feminine market, as the industry changed the way it reported on news as to make it more ‘neutral’ and in turn more appealing to both genders.This though is arguably more a factor in terms of the effect that Northcliffe had on the economic revamp to the industry but nonetheless was an important factor in understanding the developments of the industry in terms of journalistic style. People also believe that as the Daily Mail grew it began articulating popular causes that came to represent suburban, lower middle classes and effectively came to speak for their views and values – “imperialism, jingoism, nationalism” (Jeffery & McCelland: 1987: 9-27).This, many believe, started the trend in the British press of the polarisation that is evident in contemporary press, the massive divide between, in effect, the broadsheet and the tabloid publications.
Press Barons, Concentration of Ownership & Press Power Some believe that this period, 1890-1930 but more definitively the height of the Northcliffe revolution, is where the birth of the first major press barons originated. This era is vitally important towards the knowledge of the 1890-1930 period of press development.The ‘Northcliffe Revolution’ was the major turning point in terms of press ownership as major press proprietors dominated the key publications, and effectively wiped out or bought out their competition.
The major national papers grew in stature during the Northcliffe period and, with the help of improvements in rail and road transport, they expanded across the country to wider areas at the inevitable expense of the local publications.This though would not have been possible if the economic changes that Northcliffe brought to the press industry had not occurred. These changes allowed press chains to emerge, none more so than Lord Northcliffe’s and his brother’s, Lord Rothermere, collaboration to form the Amalgamated Press, the massive press empire of the Victorian era. (Curran & Seaton: 1991: 51). Although the economic changes that Northcliffe brought to the press industry helped, it is doubtful whether he instigated such a concentration of ownership, as most publications were family owned.It is doubtful whether even the Amalgamated Press would even have existed if it were not for the fact that it was co-owned by his brother.
This became the era in which the owners gained hold of their newspapers and shook them into the 20th century. It had been the editors ‘sovereign right’ to dictate what was to be printed in the newspaper for which they worked. This practice had developed from the early 1800’s, but during the ‘Northcliffe Revolution’ it was conceivable to believe that he ‘blurred the division between the editorial and business aspects of the industry’.During this period, none more so telling than in Lord Northcliffe’s case, came the domineering influence of the press barons as they quickly brought their own interests and viewpoints into the editorial procedure (Williams: 1998: 63-64). Political influence from the press barons has always been a key issue in the development of the press in the period 1890-1930. Northcliffe understood this, and used his Daily Mail in a series of crusades in order to culminate in governmental reform or change in polices.In terms of crusade, Jean Chalaby defines it well as ‘a campaign launched by a newspaper to call for action or reform’.
During this period Northcliffe pioneered the use of three varying types of crusade – social crusade (e. g. issues of poverty), jingo crusade (e. g. problems of national security) and the stunt. (Chalaby: 2000: 36).
In the pre war years Lord Northcliffe crusaded about the possible threat that the Germans would eventually pose unless our armed forces were further funded.Due to Lord Northcliffe’s continual crusading for the Daily Mail to become the ‘Voice of the Empire’ he was in some parts, blamed for the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany. Some would argue that he was simply vehemently trying to sustain the Empire’s supremacy and his publications were representing the masses opinions, but the fact has to be noted that the crusading undertaken by Lord Northcliffe, for or against whatever was being debated, helped to increase the circulation of his newspapers dramatically.Critics, such as Norman Angell, believe that the press barons were manipulating the masses as to use them as a massive tool in political influence. Angell believes in the notion that the public were clearly not provided with all of the facts necessary for collective decisions in such a democratic system (Angell: 1922: 16). Many politicians would also agree with Angell’s theory as for instance Stanley Baldwin once said that press barons exercised ‘power without responsibility’.Such was the influence of this debate that James Curran ; Jean Seaton went on to write a book about the press and broadcasting in Britain titled ‘Power without Responsibility’ (Curran ; Seaton: 1991).
But what has to be noted is that other than at war times, where they were used successfully to pitch the idea of subscription, the press barons seemed to have very little influence. Even the ‘revolutionary’ Northcliffe failed to get himself elected and that was after he bought most of the local Portsmouth newspapers in order to sway the opinion in his favour.