The Human Truth Foundation

Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#mass_media #newspapers #the_guardian #the_sun #UK #uk_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, and across Europe the UK's written press is the least trusted, by a wide margin2. It is also clear that this problem is largely self-imposed - the lowest quality newspapers are some of the most popular, and the highest-quality ones rate as some of the least popular. 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.


1. Chart of Newspaper Popularity Against Quality3

#mass_media #newspapers #uk_newspapers

Version three of this chart (above) takes into account two more sources of information. However, the is still a shortage of genuinely systematic reviews of UK newspaper impartiality and accuracy. And publications such as The Economist are very rarely studied in the context of news because they are weekly rather than daily. I suspect that The Economist should be higher in the list alongside some other weekly publications, however, there is no evidence to support moving them on the chart. Likewise, many other national papers lack evidence. The Daily Star and some others are so widely regarded as entertainment rather than news, that few attempt to study them, hence I've not included them due to lack of data.

Quality comparison of UK newspapers

2. Newspaper Comparison and Points Calculations

#mass_media #newspapers #UK #uk_newspapers

The EconomistWeekly newspaper in magazine format. Because most academics don't include this (or other weeklies) in their studies of newspapers, I do not have enough information to formally rate it.
1
No criticisms found in any of my sources.
1
Quality, accuracy, wide scope, realistic reporting.
The Guardian
@
Left-of-centre, progressive, generally pro-European, pro-welfare state, pro-civil rights, anti-monarchy.4
2
High quality5.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 4 times6.
1
Least amount of wire copy (Davies 2008), meaning that text and stories are manually checked and manually written more than other papers.
1
A low amount of Very Biased articles on Islam and Muslims7.
0
Only responsible for 9 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (6th worse in the list) [2013]9.
The Observer
@
Slightly less left than the Independent4.
1
Quality5.
1
Has won Newspaper of the Year once6.
1
A low amount of Very Biased articles on Islam and Muslims7.
0
Only responsible for 7 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
The Independent and i
Including the Independent on Sunday.
@@
Generally, politically left. Cautious of official information.4. Independent print edition ceased publication in 2016 Mar but compact i continues.
2
High quality5.
1
Has won Newspaper of the Year once6.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (10th worse in the list) [2013]9.
Financial Times
@
1
Has won Newspaper of the Year twice6.
0
Only responsible for 6 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
The MetroFree, London-area. Included here because of its popularity.
1
A low amount of Very Biased articles on Islam and Muslims7.
0
Only responsible for 6 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (8th worse in the list) [2013]9.
London Evening StandardFree, London-area. Included here because of its popularity.
1
A low amount of Very Biased articles on Islam and Muslims7.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (8th worse in the list) [2013]9.
1
Responsible for 12 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
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"4.
Morning Star
@
Left wing4.
The People
@
0
Only Responsible for 6 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (7th worse in the list) [2013]9.
Daily Sport
Including Sunday Sport
@@
"Unapologetically trashy tabloid", "almost zero news content", soft porn content4.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
Daily Telegraph
Including Sunday Telegraph
@@
Strongly conservative4.
2
High quality5.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 4 times6.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (3rd worse in the list) [2013]9.
4
Responsible for 89 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU (2nd worst)8.
Daily Mirror
Including Sunday Mirror
@@
"Left-wing, down-market. [...] It remains the only national newspaper to support Labour consistently".
1
Has won Newspaper of the Year once6.
1
Sensationalism4, lack of depth.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (4th worse in the list) [2013]9.
1
Too untrustworthy to use as a reference by Wikipedia10
1
Responsible for 19 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
Daily Star
@
Sensationalism, entertainment, some soft porn, right-wing, news content is negligible11. One of the worst three tabloids.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004)5
1
Responsible for 18 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
The Times12
Including The Sunday Times
@@
Politically conservative4.
1
Quality5.
2
Has won Newspaper of the Year 4 times6.
1
Many PCC complaints against it (9th worse in the list) [2013]9.
1
A high number of successful PCC complaints (2008)13.
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"14.
-3
Responsible for 51 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU8.
Daily Express
Including Sunday Express
@
Conservative, right-of-centre4. Britishpapers.co.uk lists this as a mid-market title.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004)5.
1
Singled-out as a source of hate by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights15.
2
Too untrustworthy to use as a reference by Wikipedia specifically as he worst of all the tabloids10
4
Responsible for 75 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU (4th worst)8.
The Sun
Including The Sun on Sunday
@
Entertainment, "Sensational headlines", some soft porn, sometimes right-wing, light on news and politics, some say xenophobic and sexist4. One of the two most popular newspapers.
2
638 PCC complaints against it (2nd worse in the list) [2013]9.
1
A very high number of successful PCC complaints [2008]13.
1
Sensationalism, lack of depth.
1
Worst 3 tabloids according to Jones (2004)5.
1
Corporate criminal and immoral behaviour16.
1
Singled-out as a source of hate by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights15.
1
Too untrustworthy to use as a reference by Wikipedia10
4
Responsible for 79 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU (3rd worst)8.
Daily Mail
Including Mail on Sunday
@@
Staunchly right-wing17. Populist, rabidly conservative, anti-Europe, anti-immigration, anti-taxation, anti-abortion, anti-permissive, concocted moral outrages18. 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"19.
4
Has won Newspaper of the Year 8 times6.
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]9.
3
Three times more successful PCC complaints against it than any other paper [2008]13.
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"17.
1
Plagiarism of external press sources20.
1
Misinforming the masses of medical issues: "international journal of health scares" according to Dr Goldacre21.
1
Too untrustworthy to use as a reference by Wikipedia10 due to "poor fact-checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication"22.
6
Responsible for 116 of 548 articles on false and misleading information about the EU (the worst)8.

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.