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Based on findings that on an average day 25 million people read a national newspaper, it is clear that this form of mass communication plays a key role in our everyday lives. This essay will look at two national newspapers: a broadsheet, The Guardian and a tabloid, The Sun, in a comparative manner to discover where the main contrasts and similarities lie. These two particular newspapers have been chosen due to their differing style, format and readership that will produce interesting results in the comparison.

The Sun is famously owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch. News International, a division of News Corporation, owns all of his newspapers. These include The Sun’s sister paper The News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times. Murdoch stretches his ownership not only through the British media, but also across the world, internationally owning huge American newspapers such as the New York Post and TV channels including Fox Network and TV network Sky . Liberally political paper The Guardian’s ownership differs to The Sun. It is run by Guardian Media Group (GMG) which is owned by The Scott Trust. GMG also owns other national and regional newspapers, such as The Observer and The Manchester Evening News, as well as radio and internet businesses and internationally newspapers published in South Africa. This wide range of ownership by the GMG mimics that of News Corporation, but they differ in the sense that being independently owned as opposed to by a media baron eliminates unwanted interference from the owner. The Scott Trust have minimal amount of say in the way the paper is presented and it’s content:

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“The Guardian is the only truly independent newspaper in the UK……journalists
are free to present the truth as they see it” with nobody “dictating what can and
cannot appear in our pages”

Murdoch however is notable for his interference in the running of his newspapers and Stafford Summerfield, former editor of The News of the World remembers how he would “change the paper about”.

A majority of the funding for all newspapers comes from the advertising within it, this percentage vastly increased throughout the twentieth century reaching 70% for broadsheets, and around 30% for tabloids. Although there is a clear difference in the amount each paper relies on advertisements, they are similar in that neither could survive without this funding. What causes confusion is that in the two newspapers looked at for this essay, purchased on the same day, The Guardian has less than half the amount of adverts The Sun does, which is unexpected as their funding is double The Sun’s.

Further funding comes from the cover price of the newspaper. Once papers built their economy, which began after the introduction of new press technologies, it meant they were able to drop the cover price causing price wars. Murdoch reduced his price of The Sun to as low as 20p, so although it would seem there was not as much funding coming in the increase in readers made up for the cut. The Guardian is sold at 55p; giving them a substantial amount of funding that is vital due to the smaller circulation and readership. This is where The Guardian makes up the money The Suns makes from its huge readership.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) regulates the press industry and is a body that is “independent of the Newspaper industry and government” . There is no difference in the way the PCC regulates The Guardian and The Sun. If a complaint is made, or either of the papers breaches the Code of Practice set up by the PCC, they would be treated in the same formal way to resolve the dispute, often by simply printing an apology or retraction. The PCC, with help from editors set up the Code of Practice for editors to follow so complaints can be avoided. There are 18 main points and these include items such as privacy, whereby a paper cannot interfere in a person’s private life without permission, and accuracy, detailing that inaccurate material must not be published.

The difference in the target audience of newspapers can primarily be compared by the social class definitions. Whereas The Guardian aim at an audience of AB social grades (the middle/upper class), The Sun’s main readership comes from CD social grades (mainly the working class). These findings reflect how the content of the newspapers differ. Murdoch produces a paper that not only has political ideology, but is more famously packed with sensationalism, human interest, showbiz, sport, soft porn and cartoons, hence its working class readership. This is also supported by the type of advertisements, which includes loans, insurances and ways of saving money. Murdoch claims that with The Sun he is producing a paper for the “working class, young” but also the “politically aware”. The Guardian’s style however is much more sophisticated and dedicates a lot of its pages to political, international and business news, hence the middle and upper class readership. The Guardian’s reader profile presents findings that 47% of its readers are being educated at least at degree level, are young and financially active. This is also reflected in the adverts which include wine, internet sites and computer stores – immediately aiming at the richer, more educated population.

The current performance of the press industry has fallen rapidly parallel to the growth of TV over the past 50 years. This is not a coincidence and readers realized TV was easier to access when being informed, especially with the introduction of breakfast TV. The attitude of the younger generation also makes a difference; they are more reluctant to buy a newspaper, not being as entertained by it as much as they are TV. Newspaper circulation figures for September 2003 are 3,523,576 for The Sun, -5.61% since September 2002, and 378,355 for The Guardian, -2.96% since a year ago. Despite this fall the papers are trying to do what they can to keep their old readers and gain new ones. The Sun continues with it’s daily publication of sex, violence and showbiz news, and The Guardian with it’s politically informative outlook on the stories around us, but despite this there is little each of them can do to stop the broadcasting industry taking over.

In conclusion of this comparative essay on two national newspapers, it has been shown that they are both as strong in the aim of pleasing their differing target audiences. They have the same regulations and funding, but it has to be pointed out that the sensationalized and simplistic structure of The Sun wins over the readers The Guardian just cannot reach.

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