The papers? What papers?

The papers I mean are the big national dailies: the Mail, the Mirror, the Express, the Telegraph and the popular free paper the Metro.

This is me reading one of the papers.

This is me reading one of the papers.

They are the most widely-read and therefore, supposedly, the most influential. To some extent the Times, the Guardian and the Financial Times are also important, although their circulations are much smaller, because they, allegedly, influence the influencers.

Do the papers print fake news?

Not often! That is probably because of the laws of libel and the role of the regulator, Ofcom. They rarely publish facts they know are untrue and they usually check their stories before they publish them. They generally use only trusted sources. If you try to give them a story, they won’t use it before verifying it. Otherwise, they may say ‘Sources say’ or ‘It is alleged’ in case anyone challenges them. I have written about fake news in a previous post.

Don’t the papers just bring us the news?

They also give us opinions. Sometimes they do it in columns  called Comment or Opinion but they also include opinions in the way they report the news. They are almost always biased in their reporting. Some are more honest about this than others.

Why are they biased?

One reason is that most papers are owned by a few very rich people who want their journalists to defend the privileges of the rich and oppose any threat to their wealth. Another reason is that everyone has bias: some conscious, some unconscious. It comes from your upbringing and is later affected by the attitudes and assumptions of people around you. Journalists are no better or worse than the rest of us (probably).

Who reads them anyway?

Does any of this matter if you don’t read the papers? A lot of people get their news and opinions from the internet. Some even watch TV, which is why politicians complain when they think the BBC is biased. (What about ITV?) Even the free paper, the Metro, had a daily circulation of only 951,000 copies daily in 2023 compared with the highest actual sales, the Daily Mail’s, 733,000. For more detail go to the Statista website.

Out of a UK population of 65 million, that’s a small proportion.

How can the papers influence people who don’t read them?

The TV and a lot of social media are influenced by the papers. People don’t always question the assumptions behind statements they read. The papers also tend to set the agenda. The TV and social media usually report on and discuss the issues the dailies write about. Someone has said ‘The media can’t tell you what to think, but they do tell you what to think about’.

Think about that!