1960s >> 1960 >> no-676-december-1960
Death of a Daily
Fleet Street was knee deep in a flood of crocodile tears. “We didn’t want to do it,” cried Lord Rothermere. “Neither did we,” wailed Mr. Cadbury. Nevertheless, it had happened, and The News Chronicle was no more. Publication had ceased with the last issue on October 17th, and the whole of its assets had been purchased by The Daily Mail. Its sister paper, The Star, suffered a similar fate and was gobbled up by Lord Rothermere’s Evening News. According to the last figures available at the time of writing, a sum of about £1,925,000 changed hands in the deal, with a further payment of £1 for every former Chronicle reader whom the Mail manages to retain.
Everyone will be familiar with the various reactions as the bombshell exploded in the world of journalism, ranging from the plaintive last tribute of the Guardian to the baffled rage of the 3,000 or so workers who overnight found themselves without a job. The general public reaction was one of surprise that even with a circulation of over a million, The Chronicle could not escape this fate.
Somehow, we are told, nobody had really expected it to happen, even though rumours had been circulating for some time before—rumours which only a few hours previously had been dubbed as “without foundation” by a spokesman of the Rothermere Press. Could it be credible that the sizeable body of opinion represented by the Chronicle could be blandly ignored? Yet there it was. And clearly the cloak of secrecy had been pretty effective, as many dumbfounded readers found when the Daily Mail was dropped through their letterboxes for the first time on October 18th.
It is this calm fait accompli which stands out so starkly from all the hullabaloo and wringing of hands. Doubtless, many of the older readers of the Chronicle will not be able to resist a comparison of this with the unctuous lip service to “principle” which has characterised this paper in the past (it even banned racing from its columns in the earlier days). Probably the Guardian leader of October 18th summed up the opinion which many held of its contemporary when it mentioned “. . . the attempt to give to a popular readership . . . a fair impression not merely of the events of the day but of its culture, its unsmart values, its enduring humanities.” Certainly this was an impression that the Chronicle tried to create about itself, and of course, it was never tired of flattering its readers with its “purity” of approach.
One of the sickening hypocrisies of Capitalism is the implication behind the sales talk, that service to the public is pursued for its own sake. But the News Chronicle was no different from other dailies in that it was run with a view to profit. Advertising revenue played a major part in this and when, for various reasons, advertisers were no longer prepared to use its columns, when in fact the paper was no longer a paying proposition, then the “unsmart values” were promptly sacrificed, and Mr. Cadbury sold out. Possibly this will rank as one of the slickest deals in the history of journalism, and as usual, the people who really suffered were working men and women.
Much has been made of the apparent concern of the employers over the pensions and compensation payments to the staff. How far is this true? The Observer suggested that the sale took place to compensate the staff, yet almost in the same breath, we are told that the very profitable interest in Tyne-Tees Television had been retained. Such touching concern did not apparently induce the directors to part with this sideline. In any case, there were a number of courses open to Mr. Cadbury other than the closure of the paper, but if they were considered, they were rejected. Certainly, one of his erstwhile employees, Mr. Frank Barber, had no doubts about the parsimony of the whole affair. In a scathing television interview, he described the compensation proposals as “meagre.”
The unpalatable truth is that there are no “unsmart values” in a world of private property relationships, although the Chronicle has for years supported this illusion. Its readers were really led to believe in its integrity of purpose and even that sophisticated supporter of capitalism, The Guardian, said that “ it went down with all guns firing.” Nearer the truth was the furious assertion by one correspondent who alleged that the paper was sunk without a whimper of defiance coming from it.
Do not let us get too nostalgic about the passing of the Chronicle. It was always a supporter of British Capitalism right up until its undignified exit from the scene. Do not forget that it has after all only fallen a victim to its own practices, for during its lifetime it took over no less than four other newspapers. With its disappearance, the battle between the remaining giants will probably get that much sharper, and maybe in the not too distant future, we shall see a repetition of the same lying denials that accompanied the demise of the Chronicle, as yet another journal is made ready for the block.
Whichever goes next, it is as well to remember that they are all fervent supporters of the capitalist set-up. The whole sordid story of trickery, deceit and falsehood can come as no surprise to us—it is so typical of a world of dog-eat-dog. When interests so demanded, the reputation of the Cadburys for high principles and good labour relations was worth very little, and quickly gave way to a calculated and cynical move which threw 3,000 workers out of employment. A facade has crumbled as far as the Chronicle is concerned, but the rest of capitalism continues its wearying existence, embodying all the shabbiness and double-dealing with which we are so nauseatingly familiar.