The Human Truth Foundation

Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?

By Vexen Crabtree 2016

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#mass_media #newspapers #western_culture

UK popular newspapers are infamous for their daft stories, political bias, poor fact-checking and skewed reporting, combined with a concentration on celebrities and entertainment-value news. By comparing all newspapers to common criteria, including academic judgements of their quality and the number of complaints raised against them, it is possible to score each one of them. As a result of their low quality, only 7% of the population rate printed news as the best source of "accurate and reliable" information1. But it is also clear that this problem is self-imposed - the four most popular papers in the UK are all at the bottom of the list of quality. All four of the most trustworthy papers are under the top 10 in terms of popularity. The main cause of trashy news is economics: far fewer people buy newspapers that are accurate and non-sensationalist. The overall effect troubles British culture, creating a cycle of misinformation and there have been many calls for the UK government to regulate the industry using similar methods to those used in most of the rest of Europe. For now the only control is a self-regulation body (IPSO) which is staffed by the papers themselves and is widely considered dysfunctional.

The EconomistWeekly newspaper in magazine format. Because most academics don't include this (or other weeklies) in their studies of newspapers, it has fewer points. It is included in this list due to its very high quality.
1
No criticisms found in any of my sources.
1
Quality, accuracy, wide scope, realistic reporting.
The Guardian
22nd most popular2
@
Left-of-centre, progressive, generally pro-European, pro-welfare state, pro-civil rights, anti-monarchy.3
2
High quality4.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 4 times since 19935.
1
Least amount of wire copy (Davies 2008), meaning that text and stories are manually checked and manually written more than other papers.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (6th worse in the list) [2013]6.
Daily Telegraph
11th most popular2
Sunday: 14th most popular2
@@
Strongly conservative3.
2
High quality4.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 4 times since 19935.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (3rd worse in the list) [2013]6.
The Independent and i
i: 17th most popular2
@@
Generally, politically left. Cautious of official information.3. Independent print edition ceased publication in 2016 Mar but compact i continues.
2
High quality4.
1
Won Newspaper of the Year in 20035.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (10th worse in the list) [2013]6.
The Observer
@
Slightly less left than the Independent3.
1
Quality4.
1
Won Newspaper of the Year in 20065.
Financial Times
19th most popular2
@
1
Won Newspaper of the Year in 20075.
The Times
Sunday: 8th most popular2
12th most popular2
@@
Politically conservative3.
1
Quality4.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 3 times since 19935.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (9th worse in the list) [2013]6.
1
A high number of successful PCC complaints (2008)7.
1
"I know Whitehall press officers now who rank the [Sunday Times] above even the cheapest red-top tabloid as a source of fabricated stories"8.
London Gazette
@
"Official Newspaper of Record for the United Kingdom", "its content consists of legal and official announcements from HM Government, the Armed Forces, local authorities, the Established Churches, companies and private citizens"3.
Morning Star
@
Left wing3.
The People
Sunday: 18th most popular2
@
1
Many PCC complaints against it (7th worse in the list) [2013]6.
The Metro
5th most popular2
Free, London-area. Included here because of its popularity.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (8th worse in the list) [2013]6.
London Evening Standard
6th most popular2
Free, London-area. Included here because of its popularity.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (8th worse in the list) [2013]6.
Daily Mirror
7th most popular2
Sunday: 9th most popular2
@@
"Left-wing, down-market. [...] It remains the only national newspaper to support Labour consistently". Daily Mirror is one of the two most popular newspapers.
1
Won Newspaper of the Year in 20015.
1
Sensationalism3, lack of depth.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (4th worse in the list) [2013]6.
Daily Sport
@@
"Unapologetically trashy tabloid", "almost zero news content", soft porn content3.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
Daily Express
13th most popular2
Sunday: 15th most popular2
@
Conservative, right-of-centre3. Daily Express is one of the worst three tabloids4. Britishpapers.co.uk lists this as a mid-market title.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004).
Daily Star
10th most popular2
Sunday: 16th most popular2
@
Sensationalism, entertainment, some soft porn, right-wing, news content is negligible9. One of the worst three tabloids4.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004).
The Sun
Most popular2
Sunday: 3rd most popular2
@
Entertainment, "Sensational headlines", some soft porn, sometimes right-wing, light on news and politics, some say xenophobic and sexist3. One of the two most popular newspapers.
2
638 PCC complaints against it (2nd worse in the list) [2013]6.
1
A very high number of successful PCC complaints [2008]7.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004)4.
Daily Mail
2nd most popular2
Sunday: 4th most popular2
@@
Staunchly right-wing10. Populist, rabidly conservative, anti-Europe, anti-immigration, anti-taxation, anti-abortion, anti-permissive, concocted moral outrages11. Alastair Campbell said: "It's very hard to see how we can be happy as a nation when every day two million people buy the Daily Mail"12.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 6 times since 19935.
3
1,214 PCC complaints against it (top of the league by a long way, and its Sunday counterpart is 5th in the list) [2013]6.
3
Three times more successful PCC complaints against it than any other paper [2008]7.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
"Alarmist headlines", providing "daily hate" according to former owner Lord Northcliffe. "More than any other newspaper in Britain, it deals in falsehood and distortion"10.

The "most popular" statistics refer to UK-wide print circulation according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures from June 2016. The @ links are to BritishPapers.co.uk website pages for each publication - two links can appear for those that also have Sunday editions. Green markers denote positive points and red markers denote deductions. The Press Complaints Commission does not produce figures broken down by publication, so methodical analysis of complaints is only available from times when academics have manually iterated through claims. They have been told by UK government to produce such stats, but so far have refused (they are led by a Daily Mail manager, who represents the paper with the worst rate of complaints). It is not the case that the most popular papers attract most complains because they are read most frequently: The Daily Mail receives twice as many complains even though The Sun is more popular, and, the number of complaints is genuinely a reflection of the poor fact-checking and sensationalism of the papers - hence why the worst quality papers have most complaints.

Current edition: 2016 Aug 07
Second edition 2009 Jun 13
Originally published 1998 Oct 15
http://www.humantruth.info/uk_newspapers_comparison.html
Parent page: The Human Truth Foundation

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper..

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..

The Times. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Was once a quality newspaper but over the last two decades has fallen below several other papers. Part of Murdoch's News International empire since 1981.

Goldacre, Ben. MD.
(2008) Bad Science. Published by Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, London, UK.

Jones, Bill
(2004, Ed.) Politics UK. Paperback book. 5th edition. Originally published 1991. Current version published by Pearson Education Ltd. With Dennish Kavanagh, Michael Moran and Phillip Norton.

Leveson, Lord Justice
(2012) The Leveson Inquiry. Subtitled: "An Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press". Published by The Stationary Office, UK. Dated 2012 Nov. Official UK government document. Available for download from www.official-documents.gov.uk . The full report is spreadh across 4 volumes, totalling 2000 pages. I've used the 48-page Executive Summary which contains numbered paragraphs and these as referenced directly. Accessed 2016 Nov 09.

Lewis, Williams & Franklin
(2008) A Compromised Fourth Estate? UK news journalism, public relations and news sources. The authors are Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams, and Bob Franklin. Published in Journalism Studies (2008 Feb), Vol. 9 Issue 1, p1-20.

McDougall, Julian
(2012) Media Studies: The Basics. Paperback book. Published by Routledge, New York, USA.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.statista.com/ data from 2015, accessed 2016 Aug 03.^
  2. Press Gazette report of Audit Bureau of Circulations statistics on print statistics (2016 Jun 16) accessed 2016 Aug 05.^
  3. www.britishpapers.co.uk. Accessed 2009 Jun 11.^
  4. Jones (2004) p202.^
  5. Newspaper of the Year list on Wikipedia for 1993-2014. Accessed 2016 Aug 05. The paper that has the highest number of awards gets 2 points; papers with more than one award get 2 points, and those with just one award since 1993 get one point.^
  6. Year 2013 PCC Monthly Complaint Summaries compiled by Hacked Off, in The Huffington Post (2014 Apr 02) accessed 2016 Aug 03.^
  7. Davies (2008) p366. Davies tabulated successful filings with the Press Complaints Commission (i.e., cases that were concluded in favour of the complainer). He listed the four worst papers: The Times, the Mirror, the Sun and the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail had three times as many complaints as the other three.^
  8. Davies (2008) p325.^
  9. The Economist (2008 Jun 28) article "The unanimity problem".^
  10. Davies (2008) p367.^
  11. David Aaronovitch (2006), Times newspaper. Accessed on timesonline.co.uk/davidaaronovitch in 2006.^
  12. McDougall (2012) p158, citing Alaistair Campbell (2011). 'Happiness', the Thomas Baggs Lecture, University of Birmingham, 12 July.^

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