All consumers lose by this; those who buy dailies get something which is not exactly a newspaper, though it can be argued that advertisements pay for a news-collecting machine of amazing technical efficiency.
Those who never buy papers pay for them all the same every time they buy their advertised stockings or soap.
To get advertisements large circulations are needed, and the policy of the paper tends to be determined by the fight for readers.
Some provincial papers, however, are not interested in raising circulation, as in their case of increased cost of printing more copies would necessitate the raising of advertising rate higher than they could afford to maintain them.
The chairman of Allied Newspapers put it in a more dignified manner when he said, at a company meeting: “A great group such as Allied Newspapers must be run on sound financial and commercial lines. In other words, I recognise that our first duty is to our shareholders.”
After that his Lordship discussed the responsibility of the Press toward national life. In the struggle for circulation important considerations receive less attention than they ought to—truth, quality of comment, sometimes even the foibles of the controller.
There are of course exceptions to these generalisations; there is one or two small circulation papers run at a loss or a very small margin.
Another feature of the modern newspaper, exemplified especially in the Daily Express and its success, is that it tries to do far more for its reader than the news-sheet of a hundred years ago.
It gives him not only news and comment, but also free insurance, notes on motoring and gardening, how to keep fit, how to look beautiful, how to behave in courtship, marriage and relations with other people, guides to reading and entertainments, crossword puzzles and so on, besides pages of advertisements.
All this has a bearing on the making of opinion; readers’ interests are affected by the amount of space given to various items.
The pages taken up by sport fill columns which might be given to more important news and articles; they develop in the reader too great an attention to sport and keep him from vital contact with the world.
This interest has been so developed that the news agencies have been known to instruct their correspondents to cut down important foreign news because a test match was in progress.
There is obviously something to be said for this widening of the newspaper’s scope, but the disadvantage is that we get less real news, less explanation and comment upon it.
The main happenings are often very well reported, though how little news is obtainable under difficult conditions was shown in the Abyssinian War. But however accurately events may be reported, such news means little by itself.
During that war some weeklies of comparatively small circulations did supply what was wanted, articles filling the background and explaining its meaning in terms of Italy’s economic problems and Mussolini’s political needs and its implications for British Interests.
Some of the daily and Sunday papers gave the impression that the issue was simple—between Christianity, equated with western civilisation, and backward and brutal heathenism.
It is easy to list more recent examples; it was not easy in 1938 for an unprejudiced reader to get a clear view of the rights and wrongs of the Sudeten problem, and after Franco’s victory it was still more difficult to come across any information about the state of Spain.