Lost Newspaper Titles Since 1986: The Not So Perfect Ten

What the ‘Papers Said

In the last ten years, newspaper sales have plummeted since the rise of the internet. To counteract this, or ameliorate the worst effects, local and national titles have also added online editions. Some opt for posting a fully fledged print edition in eBook form. Others use their websites for displaying main stories, or as a paywall (like The Times).

A week after Thatcher’s death, I was trying to think of as many new titles published after the Wapping dispute in early 1986. Then I realised, this could be part of our latest Not So Perfect Ten.

  1. Today (1986 – 1995);
  2. North West Times (1988);
  3. The Planet on Sunday (1996 and 1999 – 2000);
  4. Sunday Correspondent (1989 – 1990);
  5. News on Sunday (1987);
  6. North West Enquirer (2006);
  7. News and Echo (1992 – 1999?);
  8. Sport First (1998 – 2004);
  9. The European (1990 – 1998);
  10. The Post (1988).

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1. Today

I remember the arrival of the Today newspaper owing to the amount of hype it received in its formative years. It hailed itself as the UK’s first full colour newspaper using state-of-the-art technology (albeit without unionised labour), though came a little undone on its first edition with an out of focus picture of Queen Elizabeth the Second on the front page.

From the spoils of Rupert Murdoch’s and Margaret Thatcher’s battle with the NGA and SOGAT, it seemed an appropriate time for Eddy Shah (he of the fight against the NGA dispute in Warrington, 1983). There was also a short lived Sunday edition, and in its short life, the ‘paper even sponsored the Football League First Division. It also had daily sections such as ‘Assets’ (Financial Advice) and a column headed by Anne Robinson.

What Happened Next? Today was sold to News Corporation in 1991 (oh, the irony) and closed in 1995. Its last editor was the late Richard Stott, who later joined the Daily Mirror.

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2. North West Times:

The first time I knew about the North West Times, it was in an ad-break sandwiched between Granada Reports and possibly something like This Is Your Right or something insipid like Fun and Games. I was at Ewing School at the time and wondered why my region had an opt-out from Andrew Neil’s edited title. Like The Independent, it was a quality broadsheet daily aimed at persons in my area with in-depth reporting.

Launched in September 1988, it would be a home for redundant journalists, hitherto employed by the national titles’ Manchester bases.

What Happened Next? The title was short lived, closing at the end of 1988. Its launch editor, Bob Waterhouse, would try again in 2006 with the North West Enquirer weekly newspaper.

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3. The Planet on Sunday:

It seemed a good idea at the time: a national newspaper with an environmentalist viewpoint. The Planet on Sunday’s mission began with a false start on the 16 June 1996. Their first stories involved a violent gorilla and Anthea Turner’s sister being bitten by a bat! Its paymaster, Clifford Hards was unimpressed with its first edition and saw no merit whatsoever (apart from the Dan Dare strip). There was no second edition the week after: that would follow after finding alternative financiers.

And the gap between the first and second edition was three years, five months and three weeks! The ‘paper was redesigned, akin to the style of a mid-market tabloid. The Dan Dare strip was nixed and – at odds with most newspapers – no football coverage! It was relaunched on the 05 December 1999, with former Southern Television reporter Preston Witts and Uri Gellar (as a columnist) among its members of staff.

What Happened Next? The Planet on Sunday’s second incarnation wasn’t a bad read, though I thought they committed commercial suicide with its lack of sports coverage. Needless to say, the title folded in February 2000.

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4. Sunday Correspondent:

Launched on the 17 September 1989, it was the first quality Sunday newspaper to have been launched since the Sunday Telegraph. Journalists included Robert Peston, who would later become the BBC’s Economic Doom Correspondent. Among its alumnae was Jonathan Freedland and Luke Harding, later of The Guardian.

What Happened Next? It struggled to find an identity and was hit by the launch of The Independent on Sunday in January 1990. The title folded on the 25 November 1990. Part of it is survived in The Guardian, by means of its Pass Notes column, plus Messrs Freedland and Harding.

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5. The News on Sunday:

Challenging the status quo, the News on Sunday became Britain’s first mass market left-wing paper since Hugh Cudlipp turned The Daily Mirror from a Conservative title to a staunch Labour one. Launched in April 1987 by members of The Big Flame collective, it was funded by a shares issue and pension funds of Labour councils. Its base, along with the North West Times over a year later, was central Manchester, away from the influence of Fleet Street.

Its first front page story involved a Brazilian boy having to sell a kidney to pay for medical care. The paper fell short of its targeted circulation running into financial problems. A cash injection from the Transport and General Workers’ Union ensured its survival till the General Election.

What Happened Next? Shortly after the 1987 General Election, the News on Sunday filed for bankruptcy and the title was taken over by Owen Oyston. Under his control, it carried on till November 1987.

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6. The North West Enquirer:

Following the North West Times’ short stay in the region’s newsagents, Bob Waterhouse was determined to launch another quality newspaper for the North West of England in 2006. Eschewing a daily format in favour of a weekly title, the North West Enquirer allowed for more in-depth articles of regional focus. It was independent of political leanings and launched as a quality tabloid on the 26 April 2006.

I found it a refreshing alternative to the local papers I was used to, and it sat well with my usual Guardian, Manchester Evening News, Daily Mirror and Tameside Reporter. Part of me thought The Guardian could have learned something from Bob Waterhouse’s title, though they succeeded by returning to its Northern roots with The Northerner blog. The late great Anthony H. Wilson’s column, more often than not for me, was a valid enough reason for me to support the title.

What Happened Next? Sadly, it seemed that the regional quality market for the North West didn’t attract advertisers nor readers. It filed for administration on the 20 September 2006 and folded after its 21st issue.

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7. News and Echo:

In 1992, another new paper darkened the doorstep of North West households. The News and Echo, in a nutshell, was the North West’s first – and possibly only – regional Sunday title covering the whole area. Its main selling point, as well as regional news, were its sports reports. As well as having coverage on Manchester United, Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers, they also had match reports from non-league fixtures. Therefore, as would often be the case in the Manchester Evening News’ Football Pink (God rest its soul!), there was proper match reports for GM Vauxhall Conference and Northern Premier League sides.

What Happened Next? The News and Echo, as far as I know, ceased publication in 1999 (I would be grateful if anybody else knew the exact year of its closure).

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8. Sport First:

Since 1983 saw the demise of the Sporting Chronicle, Britons lacked a Sunday sports newspaper. By 1999, former Daily Express employee David Emery launched Sport First. Though a sizeable chunk of its column images were devoted to overhyped spherical ball sports, it also covered both rugby codes and athletics. Unlike national newspapers (and like the News and Echo before then), it carried non-league football match reports.

After a redesign, they also launched a Friday edition and a comprehensive website. There was also spin-off non league football paper, named The Non League Paper. Things were looking up.

What Happened Next? Sport First is survived by its spin-offs which outgrew the twice-weekly title. Its original company was wound up in 2007 with the title sold to Greenways Media. Subsequently, Sport First’s football coverage was replaced by The Football Paper, with rugby covered by The Rugby Paper. Its most enduring title, the Non League Paper remains a popular read and saw off competition from a rival title, Non League Today.

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9. The European:

Thatcher might have said ‘No! No! No!’ to increased EC powers, but Robert Maxwell thought Britons would relish a Europe wide title. Perhaps he thought the popularity of Going For Gold was enough to suggest a quality broadsheet launched on the 11 May 1990. It was originally going to be a daily title, but it became a weekly one on launch. It had a modest 180,000 readers – half of which British – and, following Robert Maxwell’s death, was sold to the Barclay Brothers in 1992.

What Happened Next? The title became a quality tabloid aimed at business readers in 1996. By then, Andrew Neil was its editor. It folded in 1998.

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10. The Post:

For our final lost newspaper, we return to Eddy Shah. After launching the Today in 1986, he followed this up in 1988 with The Post. At odds with the more boorish nature of the red top tabloids, The Post prided itself as a more family-friendly newspaper. A bit like a daily edition of The Weekly News. It had a sports column headed by Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves. It was launched on the 10 November 1988, produced with Apple Macintosh computers with Quark Xpress. Though this was the norm among some magazine publishers at the time (like Newsfield Publication’s Zzap! 64 and Crash at the time), it was revolutionary at the time for daily newspapers.

What Happened Next? The Post only lasted for five weeks. Perhaps fate delivered a hand from the union chapel in the sky, but its techniques would be copied – and made standard – in today’s newspapers. Among its staff was a young Rebekah Brooks (née Wade), who would later edit The Sun. We never heard about her since!

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Hold The Front Page…

Feel free to comment in the usual fashion. Did you read or work on any of our ten journals? Anything to elaborate on, for instance the closure dates of the North West Enquirer and the News and Echo? You may use a nom-de-plume if you wish.

S.V., 16 April 2013.