“Good morning! Yes, it’s time for a new newspaper”, screamed the headline of the first edition of The Sun, dated 15 September 1964. Top of its manifesto was the pledge: “The Sun is politically free. It will not automatically support or censure any party or government”. That’s a far-cry from the Labour-bashing paper we know today. But, in fact, it was never truly non-aligned – The Sun started life as very much a newspaper of the left.
Its predecessor, The Daily Herald, was part-owned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and it was the most-read newspaper in the world during the 1930s, with around two million readers. But by the 1960s, those glory days were long gone, and The Herald was struggling to make ends meet.
With the TUC having sold its stake, The Herald was bought by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and the International Press Corporation (IPC). They promised to continue the paper’s Labour-supporting traditions, while refraining from making a play for The Daily Mirror’s traditional working-class readers. But what they couldn’t do was turn the paper around.
Relaunched as The Sun in 1964 with a circulation of around 1.5 million, the new paper’s slogan reflected its new approach: “A paper born of the age we live in”, which, it was hoped, would chime with the technology-driven spirit of the age, and the rise of the young, left-wing thinkers, known as the ‘pacesetters’. But, alas, by 1969, sales had declined to 850,000, and an even bolder approach was needed.
Enter Rupert Murdoch. Owner of News International and The News of the World, Murdoch snatched The Sun from under the nose of Robert Maxwell after winning the blessing of the print unions. This time, The Sun would look and feel very different.
For starters, it would be published as a tabloid newspaper. And its new editor, Larry Lamb, knew exactly want its readers wanted: scandal, sex and page-three models – the first of which, Stephanie Rahn, graced the page in November 1970.
It was a recipe that worked. The Sun recovered over the years, peaking with a readership of around 4.7 million in the mid-1990s. But the rise of the internet has brought fresh problems – as it has for all print media – and today, there are just under two million readers getting their daily fix.
Also on this day
The financial crisis claimed its most high-profile casualty today in 2008 when Lehman Brothers, America’s fourth-biggest investment bank, filed for bankruptcy. Read more here.