The history of the Daily Mirror

May 11, 2010

I submitted this as my Journalism now peice, and thought it would be useful for those who couldn't get hold of 'Tabloid Nation'.

In 1887 Alfred Harmsworth -- later known as Lord Northcliffe -- founded a revolutionary publishing business. Harmsworth's first publications were ‘Answers’ and ‘Comic Cuts’, but he then went on to own the ‘London Evening News’. However, Harmsworth soon became bored with managing others creations so he decided to transform Fleet Street by creating The Daily Mirror, which was launched on the 2 November 1903.

The tabloid newspaper was created for women and was run by women. The initial reputation of the newspaper was that it was a gossip sheet for “gentlewomen”. Harmsworth decided the name of the newspaper should reflect the everyday life of women, "I intend it to be a mirror of feminine be entertaining without being frivolous and serious without being dull”. £100, 000 was spent in publicity, which included giving free gifts such as gilt and enamel mirrors to increase circulation. The newspaper included sections which dealt with fashion and cookery, and, although it did invite men to read it, the idea did not catch on. The price of the newspaper was one penny; but it failed to capture the nation’s attention.

In 1904 The Mirror was forced to make a drastic change- the paper was losing £3000 a week. Harmsworth decided to change the newspaper into a pictorial newspaper under the name of ‘The Daily Illustrated’. Hamilton Fyfe was appointed editor, who dismissed every woman working for the paper. Harmsworth stated "Some people say that a woman never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror”. The paper would now attract a very different audience. The masthead read “A paper for men and women” and the price was dropped to half a penny. The paper soared to be the second largest morning newspaper and had a circulation of 466, 000. The immense popularity of the paper was down to researching public interests. The Mirror ran articles on the Royal family which included pictures, sponsored national events and created the idea of ‘exclusive’ interviews with celebrities.

Harold Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) bought the tabloid from his brother in 1913. In 1917 the price was raised back to one penny and circulation continued to grow until 1930 where sales rocketed to over 1 million a day. Rothermere owned both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, and used both for his own political purposes. Both newspapers supported Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, but rapidly withdrew their support after middle-class readers were outraged at the violence at a rally in Olympia.

The Mirror did not keep its newly found popularity however and by the mid 1930’s it was struggling again. The competition from two new rival newspapers, The Daily Herald and The Daily Express, was having an immense impact on both The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail. Rothermere decided to sell his shares, which created one of the most controversial re-workings of any paper in history.

In the late 1930’s the newspaper changed its format to follow the New York tabloids. The Mirror transformed itself from a conservative, middle-class newspaper to a left-wing, working class paper; which raised its circulation in the late 1930s to 1.4 million. It was known for campaigning against the appeasement of Adolf Hitler.


For more information on this subject, I recomend this book by Chris Horrie: ‘Tabloid Nation’ – from the birth of the Daily Mirror to the death of the tabloid.

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