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The Daily Mirror is a British tabloid newspaper founded in 1903. Twice in its history, from 1985 to 1987, and from 1997 to 2002, the title on its masthead was changed to read simply The Mirror, which is how the paper is usually referred to in popular parlance.

Early years

The Daily Mirror was launched on 2 November 1903 by Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) as a newspaper for women, run by women. Hence the name: he said, "I intend it to be really a mirror of feminine life as well on its grave as on its lighter be entertaining without being frivolous, and serious without being dull", and also invited men to read it. It cost one penny.

It was not an immediate success, and in 1904, he decided to turn it into a pictorial newspaper, changing the masthead to The Daily Illustrated Mirror and appointing Hamilton Fyfe as editor who then fired all the women journalists. This name ran from 26 January to 27 April 1904 (issues 72 to 150), then reverted to The Daily Mirror. The first issue did not have advertisements on the front page as previously, but instead news text and engraved pictures (of a traitor and an actress), with the promise of photographs inside. Two days later, the price was dropped to one halfpenny and to the masthead was added: "A paper for men and women". This combination was more successful: by issue 92, the guaranteed circulation was 120,000 copies and by issue 269, it had grown to 200,000: by then the name had reverted and the front page was mainly photographs. Circulation grew to 466,000 making it the second largest morning newspaper.

Alfred Harmsworth sold the newspaper to his brother Harold Harmsworth (from 1914 Lord Rothermere) in 1913. In 1917, the price was increased to one penny. Circulation continued to grow: in 1919, some issues sold more than 1 million copies a day, making it the largest daily picture paper.

Rothermere used the Mirror for his own political purposes, just as he used the Mail . Both papers were an integral part of his joint campaign with Beaverbrook for "Empire Free Trade" in 1929–32, and the Mirror, like the Mail, gave enthusiastic support to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in 1933–34 – support that Rothermere hastily withdrew after middle-class readers recoiled at the BUF's violence at a rally at Olympiamarker.

By the mid 1930s, however, the Mirror was struggling – it and the Mail were the main casualties of the early 1930s circulation war that saw the Daily Herald and the Daily Express establish circulations of more than 2 million, and Rothermere decided to sell his shares in it. His withdrawal paved the way for one of the most remarkable reworkings of a newspaper's identity ever seen.

The Mirror transformed

With Cecil King (Rothermere's nephew) in charge of the paper's finances and Guy Bartholomew as editor, the Mirror in the late 1930s transformed itself from a gently declining, respectable, conservative, middle-class newspaper into a sensationalist left-wing paper for the working class that soon proved a runaway business success. The Mirror was the first UK paper to adopt the appearance of the New York tabloids, and was noted for its consistent campaign opposing the appeasement of Adolf Hitler. By 1939, it was selling 1.4 million copies a day.

During World War II, the Mirror positioned itself as the paper of the ordinary soldier and civilian, critical of the incompetence of the political leadership and the established parties. At one stage, the paper was threatened with closure following the publication of a Philip Zec cartoon (captioned by William Connor), which was misinterpreted by Winston Churchill and Herbert Morrison. In the 1945 general election it strongly supported Labour in its eventual landslide victory. In doing so, the paper supported Herbert Morrison, who co-ordinated Labour's campaign, and recruited his former antagonist Philip Zec to reproduce, on the front page, a popular VE Day cartoon on the morning of the election, suggesting that Labour were the only party who could maintain peace in post-war Britain. By the late 1940s, it was selling 4.5 million copies a day, outstripping the Express; for some 30 years afterwards, it dominated the British daily newspaper market, selling over 5 million copies a day at its peak in the mid-1960s.

Toppled by Murdoch

The Mirror's mass working-class readership had made it the United Kingdom's best-selling daily tabloid newspaper. However, it became complacent about its success; in 1960, it acquired the Daily Herald (the popular daily of the labour movement) when it bought Odhams, in one of a series of takeovers which created the International Publishing Corporation (IPC). The Mirror management did not want the Herald competing with the Mirror for readers, and in 1964, relaunched it as a mid-market paper, now named the Sun. When it failed to win readers, the Sun was sold to Rupert Murdoch — who immediately relaunched it as a more populist and sensationalist tabloid as a direct competitor to the Mirror.

In an attempt to cater for a different kind of reader, the Mirror launched the "Mirrorscope" pull-out section on 30 January 1968. The Press Gazette commented: "The Daily Mirror launched its revolutionary four-page supplement "Mirrorscope". The ambitious brief for the supplement, which ran on Wednesdays and Thursdays, was to deal with international affairs, politics, industry, science, the arts and business". The British Journalism Review said in 2002 that "Mirrorscope" was "a game attempt to provide serious analysis in the rough and tumble of the tabloids". It failed to attract any significant numbers of new readers, and the pull-out section was abandoned, its final issue appeared on 27 August 1974.

Since then, the story of the Mirror has been one of almost continuous decline. By the mid-1970s, The Sun had overtaken the Mirror in circulation, and in 1984 the Mirror was sold to Robert Maxwell. The import of heavyweight columnists and writers with a following, like Paul Callan from the Daily Mail, sat uneasily with the perceived need to compete with The Sun. After Maxwell's death in 1991, David Montgomery became Mirror Group's CEO, and a turbulent (and at times controversial) period of cost-cutting and production changes ensued. The Mirror went through a protracted crisis before merging with the regional newspaper group Trinity to form Trinity Mirror in 1999. In recent years, the paper's circulation has also been overtaken by that of the Daily Mail.

The Mirror today

Trinity Mirror is based at One Canada Squaremarker, the focal building in London's Canary Wharfmarker development. The Holborn Circus site is now occupied by J Sainsbury plcmarker.

In 1978, the paper announced its support for a United Ireland.

During the 1990s, the paper was accused of 'dumbing down' in an unsuccessful attempt to poach readers from Murdoch's Sun, and was widely condemned in 1996 for publishing a headline "For you, Fritz, ze Euro 96 is over!" (regarding England's match against Germany in the 1996 European Football Championship), complete with mocked-up photos of Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce wearing tin helmets.

In 2002, the Mirror changed its masthead logo from red to black, in an attempt to dissociate itself from the term "red top", a term for a sensationalist mass-market tabloid. Sometime it was blue. On 6 April 2005, the red top came back.

Under then-editor Piers Morgan, it opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and ran many front pages critical of the war. It also gave financial support to the 15 February 2003 anti-war protest, paying for a large screen and providing thousands of placards.

The Mirror gained notoriety in the United Statesmarker with its 4 November 2004 front page after the re-election of George W. Bush as President. It trumpeted "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?". The cover became a favourite of anti-Bush websites. In this issue, it provided a list of states and their average IQ, showing the Bush states all below average intelligence (except for Virginiamarker), and all Kerry states at or above average intelligence. The source for this table was The Economist, though it was apparently a hoax.

The current editor is Richard Wallace, who has been so since 2004.

Famous Mirror features

  • Cartoon strips "Jane ", "Just Jake" (1938–1952), "A Man Called Horace" (1989–), "Andy Capp", and "The Perishers". The last ended in 2006 upon the death of its creator Maurice Dodd. The latest comics page features the strip "Scorer", the adventures of professional football player Dave Storry and his many girlfriends, though he appears to have settled down with model girlfriend, Ulrika. The two are often shown at odds over a misunderstanding, but always come back to each other. The innovative strip also follows Storry's team's pursuit of the league championship and Ulrika's triumphs and foibles on the runway and in front of the camera, both as a model and as a celebrity.
  • The "Old Codgers", a letters page.
  • Chalky White, who would wander around various British seaside resorts waiting to be recognised by Mirror readers (an obscured photo of him having been published in that day's paper). Anyone who recognised him would have to repeat some phrase along the lines of "To my delight, it's Chalky White" to win £5. The name continues to be used on the cartoons page, as Andy Capp's best friend.
  • "Shock issues" intended to highlight a particular news story.
  • The columnist Cassandra.
  • "Dear Marje", a problem page by agony aunt Marjorie Proops.
  • Investigative reporting by Paul Foot and John Pilger (notably the latter's exposé of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodiamarker).
  • "The Shopping Basket". Starting in the mid 1970s, the paper monitored the cost of a £5 basket of shopping to see how it increased in price over the years.
  • On 2 April 1996, the Daily Mirror was printed entirely on blue paper. This was done as a marketing exercise with Pepsi-Cola, who on the same day had decided to relaunch their cans with a blue design instead of the old red and white logo.


Front page of the Daily Mirror after publishing faked photographs.
In May 2004, the Daily Mirror published what it claimed were photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at an unspecified location in Iraq. The decision to publish the photos, which were subsequently shown to be hoaxes, led to the sacking of Morgan as editor on 14 May 2004. The Daily Mirror then stated that it was the subject of a "calculated and malicious hoax". The newspaper issued a statement apologizing for the printing of the pictures. The paper's deputy editor, Des Kelly, took over as acting editor during the crisis. The tabloid's rival, The Sun, offered a £50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those accused of faking the Mirror photographs.

The fact that military experts who looked at the photos were quickly able to point out discrepancies led some to believe that the Mirror accepted the photos without any detailed background checks of their origin. However, in his autobiography The Insider, based on diary entries from the time, Piers Morgan wrote that the decision to publish the photos was a difficult one and extensive consultation was made, not least with his brother, Jeremy, who was in Basramarker at the time.

In February 2008 both the Daily and the Sunday Mirror implied that TV presenter Kate Garraway was having an affair. She sued for libel, receiving an apology and compensation payment in April 2008.

On 18 September 2008, David Anderson, a British sports journalist writing for the Mirror, repeated a claim deriving from vandalism on Wikipedia's entry for Cypriot football team AC Omonia, which asserted that their fans were called "The Zany Ones" and liked to wear hats made from discarded shoes. The claim was part of Anderson's match preview ahead of AC Omonia's game with Manchester City, which appeared in the web and print versions of the Mirror, with the nickname also quoted in subsequent editions on 19 September. The embarrassing episode was featured in Private Eyemarker.

Sunday Mirror

The Sunday Mirror is the Sunday edition of the newspaper. It began life in 1915 as the Sunday Pictorial and changed to become the Sunday Mirror in 1963. Trinity Mirror also owns The People (once Sunday People). Many commentators have said that the company's ownership of two red-top Sunday papers chasing a similar market is odd, especially as they fight each other for readers as well as the News of the World.

The Sunday Mirror's current editor is Tina Weaver.

See also



Daily Mirror

1903: Mary Howarth
1904: Hamilton Fyfe
1907: Alexander Kenealy
1915: Ed Flynn
1916: Alexander Campbell
1931: Leigh Brownlee
1934: Cecil Thomas
1948: Silvester Bolam
1953: Jack Nener
1961: Lee Howard
1971: Tony Miles
1974: Michael Christiansen
1975: Mike Molloy
1985: Richard Stott
1990: Roy Greenslade
1991: Richard Stott
1992: David Banks
1994: Colin Myler
1995: Piers Morgan
2004: Richard Wallace

Source: Tabloid Nation p. 248.

Sunday Mirror

1915: F. R. Sanderson
1921: William McWhirter
1924: David Grant
1928: William McWhirter
1929: David Grant
1938: Hugh Cudlipp
1940: Stuart Campbell
1946: Hugh Cudlipp
1949: Phil Zec
1952: Hugh Cudlipp
1953: Colin Valdar
1959: Lee Howard
1961: Reg Payne
1963: Michael Christiansen
1972: Bob Edwards
1984: Peter Thompson
1986: Mike Molloy
1988: Eve Pollard
1991: Bridget Rowe
1992: Colin Myler
1994: Paul Connew
1995: Tessa Hilton
1996: Amanda Platell (acting)
1997: Bridget Rowe
1998: Brendon Parsons
1998: Colin Myler
2001: Tina Weaver

Source: British Political Facts, 1900-1975 p. 383.


  1. Daily Mirror No. 1 (Nov. 2 1903) page 3
  2. Albion (1973) Vol 5, 2 page 150
  3. Daily Mirror issue 72, January 26, 1904
  4. Daily Illustrated Mirror issue 74, January 28, 1904
  5. Daily Illustrated Mirror issue 92, February 18, 1904
  6. Daily Mirror issue 269, September 13, 1904
  7. Daily Mirror issue 1335, February 8, 1908
  8. Daily Mirror issue 4163, February 26, 1917
  9. Daily Mirror issue 4856, May 19, 1919


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