Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror, often referred to simply as The Mirror, is a British tabloid daily newspaper founded in 1903. It is the only British national paper to have consistently supported the Labour Party since 1945.

During a couple of periods in its history — 1985 to 1987 and 1997 to 2002 — the front-page masthead was changed to The Mirror.

Early years

The Daily Mirror was launched on 2 November 1903 by Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) as a newspaper for women, run by women. Hence the name: he said "I intend it to be really a mirror of feminine life as well on its grave as on its lighter be entertaining without being frivolous, and serious without being dull". (He also invited men to read it.) It cost one penny.

It was not a success, and in 1904 he decided to turn it into a pictorial newspaper, changing the masthead to The Daily Illustrated Mirror and appointing Hamilton Fyfe as editor who then fired all the women journalists. This name ran from 26 January to 27 April 1904 (issues 72 to 150) then reverted to The Daily Mirror. The first issue did not have advertisements on the front page as previously, but news text and engraved pictures (of a traitor and an actress) with the promise of photographs inside. Two days later the price was dropped to one halfpenny and to the masthead was added "A paper for men and women". This combination was successful: by issue 92 the guaranteed circulation was 120,000 copies and by issue 269 it had grown to 200,000: by then the name had reverted and the front page was mainly photographs. Circulation grew to 466,000 making it the second largest morning newspaper.

Harold Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) bought the newspaper from his brother Lord Northcliffe in 1913. In 1917 the price was increased to one penny. Circulation continued to grow: by 1930 the Mirror was selling more than 1 million copies a day and had the third-largest sale among British national newspapers, behind only the Daily Express (owned by Lord Beaverbrook) and the Daily Mail (also owned by Rothermere).

Rothermere used the Mirror for his own political purposes just as he used the Mail. Both papers were an integral part of his joint campaign with Beaverbrook for "Empire Free Trade" in 1929 – 32, and the Mirror, like the Mail, gave enthusiastic support to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in 1933 – 34 — support that Rothermere hastily withdrew after middle-class readers recoiled at the BUF's violence at a rally at Olympia.

By the mid-1930s, however, the Mirror was struggling — it and the Mail were the main casualties of the early-1930s circulation war that saw the Daily Herald and the Daily Express establish circulations of more than 2 million — and Rothermere decided to sell his shares in it. His withdrawal paved the way for one of the most remarkable reworkings of a newspaper's identity ever seen.

The Mirror transformed

With Cecil King (Rothermere's nephew) in charge of the paper's finances and Guy Bartholomew as editor, the Mirror in the late 1930s transformed itself from a gently declining, respectable, conservative, middle-class newspaper into a sensationalist left-wing paper for the working class that soon proved a runaway business success. The Mirror was the first UK paper to adopt the appearance of the New York tabloids and was noted for its consistent campaign in opposing the appeasement of Adolf Hitler. By 1939, it was selling 1.4 million copies a day.

During World War II, the Mirror positioned itself as the paper of the "ordinary" soldier and civilian, critical of the incompetence of the political leadership and the established parties. At one stage the paper was threatened with closure following the publication of a Philip Zec cartoon (captioned by William Connor) which was misinterpreted by Winston Churchill and Herbert Morrison. In the 1945 general election it strongly supported Labour in its eventual landslide victory. In doing so the paper supported Herbert Morrison who co-ordinated Labour's campaign and ironically recruited his former antagonist Philip Zec to reproduce, on the front page, a popular VE Day cartoon on the morning of the election - suggesting that Labour were the only party who could maintain peace in post-war Britain. By the late 1940s, it was selling 4.5 million copies a day, outstripping the Express; for some 30 years afterwards it dominated the British daily newspaper market, selling at its peak in the mid-1960s more than 5 million copies each day.

"Open to the Public"

One of the most 'open' publishers of tabloid newspapers, the Daily Mirror arranged regular tours of its printing presses at the Holborn Circus site in London, built on the site of the former Gamages department store. At the time it was one of the most technically advanced printing works in the world. Visitors were taken on tours of the entire production process and shown everything involved in producing a newspaper: the linotype machines where text was entered, the lead-melting plant where the curved leaden printing plates were cast before being attached to the cylindrical printing-press rollers, the huge reels of newsprint (paper), and the presses themselves. Shortly after the day's edition was complete the visitors could get a fresh copy of the paper literally 'hot off the press'.

Toppled by Murdoch

The Mirror's mass working-class readership had made it the United Kingdom's best-selling daily tabloid newspaper. But it became complacent about its success. In 1960, it acquired the Daily Herald (the popular daily of the labour movement), when it bought Odhams, in one of a series of takeovers that created the International Publishing Corporation (IPC). The Mirror management did not want the Herald competing with the Mirror for readers and in 1964 relaunched it as a mid-market paper, the Sun. When it failed to win readers, the Sun was sold to Rupert Murdoch — who immediately relaunched it as a more populist and more sensationalist tabloid competitor to the Mirror.

In an attempt to cater for a different kind of reader, the Mirror launched the Mirrorscope pull-out section on 30 January 1968. The Press Gazette printed "The Daily Mirror launched its revolutionary four-page supplement Mirrorscope. The ambitious brief for the supplement, which ran on Wednesdays and Thursdays, was to deal with international affairs, politics, industry, science, the arts and business." (see Press Gazette Back Issues 23.01.03) The British Journalism Review said in 2002 that Mirrorscope was "a game attempt to provide serious analysis in the rough and tumble of the tabloids" (see British Journalism Review Vol. 13, No. 4, 2002, pages 6-14). (For scans of the 10 June 1968 edition entitled Born Today: Tomorrow's Man see Page 13, Page 14, Page 15, and Page 16). It failed to attract any significant numbers of new readers, and the pull-out section was abandoned after its final issue on 27 August 1974.

Since then, the story of the Mirror has been one of continuous decline. By the mid-1970s, the Sun had overtaken the Mirror in circulation, and in 1984 the Mirror was sold to Robert Maxwell. The import of heavyweight columnists and writers with a following, like Paul Callan from the Daily Mail sat uneasily with the perceived need to compete with The Sun. After Maxwell's death in 1991, David Montgomery became Mirror Group CEO and a turbulent and at times controversial period of cost-cutting and production changes ensued. The Mirror went through a protracted crisis before ending up in the hands of Trinity Mirror in 1999, its current owner formed through the merger of the Mirror Group (after Montgomery had resigned) and the regional newspaper group Trinity. In recent years the paper's circulation has also been overtaken by that of the Daily Mail.

The Mirror today

Trinity Mirror is based at One Canada Square — the focal building in London's Canary Wharf development. The Holborn Circus site is now occupied by J Sainsbury plc.

In 1978, the paper announced its support for a United Ireland.

During the 1990s, the paper was accused of dumbing-down in an unsuccessful attempt to poach readers from Murdoch's Sun, and was widely condemned in 1996 for publishing a headline "For you, Fritz, ze Euro 96 is over!" (regarding England's match versus Germany in the 1996 European Championships) complete with mocked-up photos of Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce wearing tin helmets.

In 2002, the Mirror changed its masthead logo from red to black in an attempt to dissociate the paper from the term "red top", a term for a sensationalist mass-market tabloid. Sometimes it was blue. On 6 April 2005 the red top came back.

Under then-editor Piers Morgan, it was the only tabloid newspaper in the UK to oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq and ran many front pages critical of the war. It also gave financial support to the 15 February 2003 anti-war protest, paying for a large screen and providing thousands of placards.

The tabloid gained notoriety in the United States after the re-election of George W. Bush for a second term as President, with its 4 November 2004 cover. It trumpeted, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?". The cover became a favourite of anti-Bush websites. In this issue it provided a list of states and their average IQ, showing the Bush states all below average intelligence except for Virginia, and all Kerry states at or above average intelligence. The source for this table was The Economist.

The current editor is Richard Wallace.

Famous Mirror features

  • Cartoon strips "Jane (1932-1959)", Just Jake (1938-1952), Andy Capp, and The Perishers. The latter ended in 2006 upon the death of its creator Maurice Dodd. The latest comics page features the strip Scorer, the adventures of professional football player Dave Storry and his many girlfriends, though he appears to have settled down with model girlfriend, Ulrika. The two are often shown at odds over a misunderstanding, but always come back to each other. The innovative strip also follows Storry's team's pursuit of the league championship and Ulrika's triumphs and foibles on the runway and in front of the camera, both as a model and as a celebrity.
  • The "Old Codgers" letters page.
  • Chalky White, who would wander around various British seaside resorts waiting to be recognised by Mirror readers (an obscured photo of him having been published in that day's paper). Anyone who recognised him would have to repeat some phrase along the lines of "To my delight, it's Chalky White" to win £5. The name continues to be used on the cartoons page, as Andy Capp's best friend.
  • "Shock issues" intended to highlight a particular news story.
  • The columnist Cassandra.
  • Marjorie Proops's problem page "Dear Marje".
  • Investigative reporting by Paul Foot and John Pilger (notably the latter's exposé of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia).
  • The Shopping Basket — starting in the mid 1970s, the paper monitored the cost of a £5 basket of shopping to see how it increased in price over the years.
  • On 2 April 1996, the Daily Mirror was printed entirely on blue paper. This was done as a marketing exercise with Pepsi-Cola, who on the same day had decided to re-launch their cans with a blue design instead of the old red and white logo.


In May 2004, the Daily Mirror published what it claimed were photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at an unspecified location in Iraq. The decision to publish the photos, which were subsequently shown to be hoaxes, led to the sacking of Morgan as editor on 14 May 2004. The Daily Mirror then stated that it was the subject of a "calculated and malicious hoax" The newspaper issued a statement apologizing for the printing of the pictures. The paper's deputy editor, Des Kelly, took over as acting editor during the crisis. The tabloid's rival, The Sun, offered a £50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those accused of faking the Mirror photographs.

The fact that military experts who looked at the photos were quickly able to point out discrepancies led some to believe that the Mirror accepted the photos without any detailed background checks of their origin. However, in his autobiography The Insider, based on diary entries from the time, Piers Morgan wrote that the decision to publish the photos was a difficult one and extensive consultation was made, not least with his brother, Jeremy, who was in Basra at the time.

In February 2008 both The Daily and the Sunday Mirror implied that TV presenter Kate Garraway was having an affair. She sued for libel, receiving an apology and compensation payment in April 2008.

On 18 September 2008, David Anderson, a British sports journalist writing for the Mirror, repeated a claim deriving from vandalism on Wikipedia's entry for Cypriot football team AC Omonia, which asserted that their fans were called "The Zany Ones" and liked to wear hats made from discarded shoes. The claim was part of Anderson's match preview ahead of AC Omonia's game with Manchester City, which appeared in the web and print versions of the Mirror, with the nickname also quoted in subsequent editions on 19 September. The embarrassing episode was featured in Private Eye.

The Sunday Mirror

The Sunday Mirror is the Sunday edition of the newspaper. It began life in 1915 as The Sunday Pictorial and changed to become the Sunday Mirror in 1963. Trinity Mirror also owns The People (once Sunday People). Many commentators have said that the company's ownership of two red-top Sunday papers chasing a similar market is odd, especially as they fight each other for readers as well as the News of the World.

The Sunday Mirror's current editor is Tina Weaver.

References in popular culture

In George Orwell's Animal Farm, Napoleon, the Stalin figure, is reading the Daily Mirror in the final chapter.

A cover of the Daily Mirror appears in a wall of the streets at Silent Hill town in the Silent Hill (video game)

A sketch in a 1969 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus parodied the Mirror's letters pages: 'Dear Mirrorview, I would like to be paid five guineas for saying something stupid about a television programme.'

In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, The Delta Mirror is a newspaper intended to be read by the "Delta" caste, the fourth out of five intelligence castes.

In a skit on the Benny Hill Show, two photographers from London's "mainstream" papers are showing taking photographs of a beautiful model in the regular manner, while two other photographers, identified by their press cards as from The Mirror and The Sun are shown photographing up her skirt.

In The West Wing episode Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics, it's the "London Daily Mirror" that acquires the pictures of Sam Seaborn with a call girl.

In an episode of The Good Life, snobbish next-door neighbour Margo refuses to wear a paper hat made from pages of the Daily Mirror at Tom and Barbara's Christmas party, but happily wears one made out of the Daily Telegraph.

See also




External links

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