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The Sun is a daily tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdommarker and Irelandmarker (where it is known as The Irish Sun) with the second highest circulation of any daily English-language newspaper in the world and the biggest circulation within the UK, standing at an average of 2,986,000 copies a day between January and June 2008 and with a daily readership of approximately 7,900,000, of which 56 percent are male and 44 percent female. By circulation it is the tenth biggest newspaper in any language in the world, four places behind its Sunday stablemate the News of the World, although their circulations are close and these places were briefly reversed during May 2008. It reaches 2.9 million readers in the ABC1 demographic and 5.0 million in the C2DE demographic, compared to the 1.5 and 0.1 million respectively of its broadsheet stablemate The Times. It is published by News Group Newspapers of News International, itself a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.


The Sun was first published as a broadsheet on 15 September 1964 - with a logo featuring a glowing orange disc. It was launched by owners IPC (International Press Corporation) to replace the failing Daily Herald. The paper did not live up to IPC's expectations. Circulation continued to decline and it was soon losing even more money than the Herald had done.

In 1969, IPC decided to throw in the towel. The tycoon Robert Maxwell, eager to buy a British newspaper (which he later did, with the Mirror Group in 1984) offered to take it off their hands and retain its commitment to the Labour party, but admitted there would be redundancies, especially among the printers. Rupert Murdoch had already bought the News of the World, a sensationalist Sunday newspaper, the previous year, but the presses in the basement of his building in London's Bouverie Street sat idle six days a week. Seizing the opportunity to increase his presence on Fleet Street, he made an agreement with the print unions, promising fewer redundancies if he got the paper. He assured IPC that he would publish a "straightforward, honest newspaper" which would continue to support Labour. IPC, under pressure from the unions, rejected Maxwell's offer, and Murdoch bought the paper for £800,000, to be paid in instalments. He would later remark: "I am constantly amazed at the ease with which I entered British newspapers."

The early Murdoch years

Murdoch appointed Larry Lamb as his editor. Lamb was scathing in his opinion of the Mirror, the paper where he had recently been a senior sub-editor. He shared Murdoch's view that the measure of a paper's quality was best measured by its sales, and he regarded the Mirror as overstaffed, and primarily aimed at an aging readership. Lamb hastily recruited a staff of about 125 reporters, who were mostly selected for their availability rather than their ability. This was about a quarter of what the Mirror currently employed, and Murdoch had to draft in staff on loan from his Australian papers. Murdoch immediately relaunched The Sun as a tabloid, and ran it as a sister paper to the News of the World. The Sun used the same printing presses, and the two papers were now managed together at senior executive levels.

The tabloid Sun first published on 17 November, 1969, with a front page "splash" headlined HORSE DOPE SENSATION - an "exclusive" in which a racing trainer admitted to the paper that he was doping his horses.

The paper copied its rival The Daily Mirror in several ways. It was the same size and its masthead had the title in white on a red rectangle of the same colour as the Daily Mirror. The front page had the same general style and it could easily be picked up by mistake. Sports news was on the back pages in both. The text was written for a slightly lower reading age than the Mirror. The Mirror's "Lively Letters" was matched by "Liveliest Letters", and the comic strip "Garth" by a comic strip "Scarth" featuring a frequently naked woman. Later strips included Striker, set in the world of football; Axa, about a barbarian woman in a post-apocalyptic world; Hagar the Horrible, the comic adventures of a home-loving Viking warrior; and George and Lynne, a domestic gag-a-day strip about a couple and their friends and neighbours. George and Lynne were normally pictured naked but discreetly covered.

Sex was used as an important element in marketing the paper from the start. While the Daily Mirror frequently featured a pin-up photograph of a young woman in bikini or lingerie, ostensibly as a fashion item, The Sun dispensed with the excuses; it featured what were openly glamour photographs of women, wearing fewer clothes than their Mirror counterparts. Exactly a year after it was first published, The Sun printed a topless model on Page 3 for the first time. The Page Three girl gradually became a daily staple of the paper. Features such as 'Do Men Still Want To Marry A Virgin?' and 'The Way into a Woman's Bed' began to appear. Serialisations of erotic books were frequent; the publication of extracts from The Sensuous Woman, at a time when copies of the book were being seized by Customs, produced a scandal and a gratifying amount of free publicity.

Despite the industrial relations of the 1970s - the so-called "Spanish practices" of the print unions - The Sun was very profitable, enabling Murdoch to expand to the United States from 1973.

Politically, The Sun in the early Murdoch years, remained nominally Labour. It supported Labour in the 1970 General Election, although in the two 1974 elections, the paper's attitude to Labour was "agnostic", according to Roy Greenslade in Press Gang (2003). The then editor, Larry Lamb, was originally from a Labour background, with a socialist upbringing. Deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley was a middle-class uncommitted Conservative.

In 1978 The Sun overtook the Daily Mirror in circulation, partly thanks to extensive advertising on ITV, voiced by actor Christopher Timothy.

A year later the paper caused a small stir by changing tack politically, endorsing Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 general election. On 3 May, it ran the unequivocal front page headline, VOTE TORY THIS TIME.

Thatcherite king of the tabloids: the 1980s

The Sun's sale grew and grew during the 1980s and the paper became increasingly brash under the editorship of Kelvin MacKenzie. Bingo, introduced in 1981, was a key driver of the circulation rise.

The Sun was an ardent supporter of Margaret Thatcher and her policies. Throughout the 1980s, its stance, on many issues, was to the right of the Daily Mail, and it maintained its very strong support for the Conservatives when Thatcher was succeeded by John Major in 1990.

The Sun also made frequent scathing attacks on what the paper called the "loony left" element within the Labour Party and on institutions supposedly controlled by it, such as the left-wing Greater London Council and Liverpool City Council.

The Sun also did a story extensively quoting a respected American psychiatrist claiming that British left-wing politician Tony Benn was "insane", with the psychiatrist discussing various aspects of Benn's supposed pathology. The story was discredited when the psychiatrist in question publicly denounced the article and described the false quotes attributed to him as "absurd", The Sun having apparently fabricated the entire piece.

The Sun, during the British miners' strike, 1984-1985 supported the police and the Thatcher government against the striking NUM miners. The paper was accused of making misleading or even outright false claims about the miners, their unions and Arthur Scargill. On May 23, 1984, The Sun prepared a front page with the headline "Mine Führer" and a photograph of Scargill with his arm in the air, a pose which made him look as though he was giving a Nazi salute. The print workers at The Sun, regarding it as an attempt at a cheap smear, refused to print it.

The Sun strongly supported the April 1986 bombing of Libyamarker by the USA, which was launched from British bases. Several civilians were killed during the bombing. Their leader was "Right Ron, Right Maggie"

In January 1986 Murdoch shut down the Bouverie Street premises of The Sun and News of the World, and moved operations to the new Wappingmarker complex in East London, blocking union activity and greatly reducing the number of staff employed to print the papers; a year-long picket by sacked workers was eventually defeated (see Wapping dispute).

During the 1987 the Sun ran an extraordinary mock-editorial entitled "Why I'm Backing Kinnock, by Joseph Stalin.

Although the coverage of the 1992 election remains the best remembered, there were many other vitriolic personal attacks on Labour leaders by the Sun during election campaigns, such as in 1983 when the Sun ran a front page featuring an unflattering photograph of Michael Foot, claiming he was unfit to be Prime Minister on grounds of his age and appearance, as well as his policies, alongside the headline "Do You Really Want This Old Fool To Run Britain?",. Paradoxically, a year later, in 1984, the Sun made clear its enthusiastic support for the re-election of Ronald Reagan as president in the USA. Reagan was two years older than Foot.

The 1990s

The Sun vociferously supported the introduction of the controversial Poll Tax by Margaret Thatcher in 1990, despite widespread opposition, (some from Conservative MPs) which culminated in huge public protests, riots and eventually mass non-payment, all of which is seen as having contributed to Thatcher's own downfall. The tax was quickly repealed by her successor John Major, who The Sun initially supported enthusiastically, believing he was a strong Thatcherite. The Sun labelled those attending public protests opposing the tax as "thugs".

The Sun launched a fierce and bitter personal attack on Michael Heseltine, Michael Mates and Keith Hampson during the November 1990 leadership election contest, as a result of which Thatcher was ousted from office.

On the day of the general election of 9 April 1992, its front-page headline, encapsulating its antipathy towards the Labour leader Neil Kinnock, read "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights". Two days later The Sun was so convinced its front page had swung a close election for the Conservatives it declared "It's The Sun Wot Won It".

The Sun led with a headline "Now we've all been screwed by the cabinet" with a reference to Black Wednesday in September 1992. A month later, on October 14, it attacked Michael Heseltine for the mass coal mine closures.

Despite its initial opposition to the mass coal mine closures, until 1997, the newspaper repeatedly called the implementation of further right-wing, Thatcherite policies, such as Post Office privatisation, social security cutbacks, with leaders such as "Peter Lilley is right, we can't carry on like this", and hostility to the EU, public spending cuts and tax cuts, and promotion of right-wing ministers to the cabinet, with leaders such as "More of the Redwood, not Deadwood". The Sun attacked the then Labour leader John Smith in February 1994, for saying that more UK troops should be sent to Bosniamarker, as did some Conservative MP's. The Sun's comment was that "The only serious radicals in British politics these days are the likes of Redwood, Lilley and Portillo". It also gradually expressed its bitter disillusionment with John Major as Prime Minister, with leaders such as "What fools we were to back John Major".

The Sun supported John Redwood in the 1995 Conservative leadership election, but whilst backing Redwood and expressing admiration for him, the Sun urged both Major and Redwood to stand down, so Michael Heseltine and Michael Portillo, whom the Sun consistently and lavishly praised between 1992 and 1995, could contest the leadership of the party. The Sun would have almost certainly backed Portillo under such a contest.

Circulation peak

Between 1994 and 1996, The Sun's circulation peaked. Its highest average sale was in the week ending 16 July, 1994, when the daily figure was 4,305,957. The highest ever one-day sale was on 18 November, 1995 (4,889,118), although the cover price had been cut to 10p. The highest ever one-day sale at full price was on 30 March, 1996 (4,783,359). In common with almost all other UK national newspapers, due to the advent of the Internet and multi-channel broadcasting, and other factors, the circulation has since declined.

Support for Labour at the 1997 General Election

The Sun switched support to Labour on 18 March, 1997, six weeks before the landslide General Election victory which saw Labour leader Tony Blair become Prime Minister, despite attacking Blair and New Labour up to a month earlier. Its front page headline read THE SUN BACKS BLAIR and its front page editorial made clear that while it still opposed some of New Labour policies, such as the Minimum Wage and Devolution, it believed Blair to be "the breath of fresh air this great country needs." John Major's Conservatives, it said, were "tired, divided and rudderless". Blair, realising the influence the paper could have over its readers' political thinking, had "courted" it for some time by granting exclusive interviews and writing columns.

On January 22, 1997, the 'Sun' accused the then shadow chancellor Gordon Brown of stealing the Conservatives ideas by declaring, "If all he is offering is Conservative financial restraint, why not vote for the real thing?", and called the then planned windfall tax, which was later imposed by the Labour government as "wrongheaded". In February 1997 it told Sir Edward Heath to stand down for supporting a National Minimum wage.

In exchange for Rupert Murdoch's support, Blair agreed not to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. The paper has supported Labour in both the subsequent two elections, in 2001 and 2005, despite being a persistent critic of some of its policies, particularly on closer ties with Europe. It was argued that the 'Sun' backed New Labour at the 1997 General Election because it knew that the Conservatives had no chance of winning, and it had urged its readers to vote Conservative, afterwards it would have been seen as having backed a loser.

2009 Sun switch to the Conservatives

Politically, the paper's stance has been less clear under Prime Minister Gordon Brown than under Tony Blair. Its editorials have been critical of many of Brown's policies and often more supportive of those of Conservative leader David Cameron.

On the 30th of September 2009, shortly after Gordon Brown's speech at the 2009 Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the Sun announced that it no longer supported the Labour Party, saying "The Sun believes - and prays - that the Conservative leadership can put the great back into Great Britain", although the Scottish Sun was more equivocal in its editorial. The magazine Private Eyemarker noted that the switch came shortly after a number of Conservative announcements that echoed James Murdoch's anti-BBC stance that had been the core of his MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the 2009 Edinburgh International Television Festival.

The Scottish Sun is not backing either Labour or the Conservatives, with its editorial stating it has "yet to be convinced" by the Conservative opposition, and editor David Dinsmore asking in an interview "what is David Cameron going to do for Scotland?". Dinsmore also stated that the paper supported the Union, and was unlikely to back the Scottish National Party. Union Leader Tony Woodley ripped up a copy of The Sun on 30 September 2009 at the Labour Party Conference saying as he ripped it up - "In Liverpool we learnt a long time ago what to do". This was a reference to the newspapers Hillsborough Disaster Controversy.


The Sun relies heavily on stories and occasionally scandals involving celebrities and the entertainment industry, contained in its general news pages as well as in sections such as Bizarre (pop music stories and gossip) and TV Biz (television stories, concentrating on soaps and reality TV). The current editor is Dominic Mohan.

An award-winning section titled Something for the Weekend, published each Friday, covers a wide variety of other contemporary music and arts not normally found in the main part of the paper. Coverage of the British monarchy is regular or even daily, albeit without the dominance it had in the paper in the 1990s during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Page 3, prominently displaying a female model aged between 18 and about 27 posing topless, is still a daily feature in the paper, as it has been since 1970.

The paper regularly runs reader promotions, such as DVD giveaways and holiday offers such as £9.50 Holidays.

The Sun has a large sports section, placed at the back of the paper and with football as its mainstay, though personal stories about prominent sportsmen and women will often be found in the news pages.

Politics is always found on Page 2 but can be elsewhere in the news pages. World news is distributed throughout the news pages, rather than in a self-contained section. Crime coverage has been prominent during 2007, 2008 and 2009, with the paper running a "Broken Britain" campaign to highlight the increased lawlessness it perceives to be rife. Other themes high on The Sun's news agenda are illegal or legal immigration, child sex abuse and security lapses. NHS scandals are frequently covered, though the paper also has a Health section which covers general health issues and treatments.

The Sun's coverage has been supportive of the UK's military interventions and the "War on Terror" more generally. On 18 December, 2008, an editorial piece "The Sun Says" titled "Job well done" declared "Britain is leaving Iraq with its head held very high" as well as "Through the commitment of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to Iraq, we have shown that Britain DOES still have a major role to play in the world."

Rupert Murdoch, head of The Sun's parent company News Corporation, speaking at a 2007 meeting with the House of Lordsmarker Select Committee on Communications, which was investigating media ownership and the news, said that he acts as a "traditional proprietor". This means he exercises editorial control on major issues such as which political party to back in a general election or which policy to adopt on Europe.


The Sun has been a regular winner at the British Press Awards. Here is a list of winners since 2000

2000 – Front Page of the Year (Solar eclipse); Cudlipp Award for excellence in tabloid journalism: John Perry, Neil Roberts, Phil Leach for Hold Ye Front Page; Sports Photographer of the Year: Richard Pelham.

  • 2001–Front Page of the Year (I'm Only Here For De Beers); Reporter of the Year: John Kay.
  • 2002–Scoop of the Year: Briony Warden, Internet baby traders.
  • 2004 - Reporter of the Year: John Kay; Photographer of the Year: Terry Richards; Sports Reporter of the Year: Neil Custis.
  • 2005 - Front Page of the Year (Hutton Report Leaked); Reporter of the Year: Trevor Kavanagh; Cudlipp Award (Band Aid 20 campaign); Financial Journalist of the Year: Ian King; Cartoonist of the Year: Bill Caldwell.
  • 2006–Front Page of the Year (Harry The Nazi); Reporter of the Year: Oliver Harvey; Showbusiness Writer of the Year: Victoria Newton.
  • 2008–Reporter of the Year: Tom Newton Dunn; Scoop of the Year: Tom Newton-Dunn; Cudlipp Award (Help for Heroes campaign); Campaign of the Year (Help For Heroes).


The Band Aid 20 charity pop single, which raised around £3million for Africa after its release in 2004, was the idea of Sun executive Dominic Mohan, who persuaded Bob Geldof K.B.E. to become involved. The paper gave the recording and release of the record blanket coverage in a campaign that won the paper a British Press Award in 2005. The single was a re-recording of Band Aid's 1984 original "Do They Know It's Christmas" and featured, among others, Bono, Sir Paul McCartney and members of Radiohead and Coldplay.

The Help for Heroes charity, championed by The Sun, raised £7million in the eight months to June 2008 for injured British servicemen and women – a record for a start-up British charity. The campaign won two British Press Awards in 2008.

The Sun's long-running Free Books For Schools promotion and campaign, in which readers collected tokens from the paper to be exchanged for school books, put 3.5million books worth nearly £20million into the 98 per cent of UK schools which registered for the scheme. The achievement won The Sun a Business In The Community award.

Two books written and produced by The Sun were endorsed by the Government for use in schools. Hold Ye Front Page, which told 2,000 years of world history in spoof Sun pages, sold almost 100,000 copies. The then Education Secretary David Blunkett, later a Sun columnist, recommended every school should have one as an "ideal" aid for teaching history. Giant Leaps, a science version along similar lines and jointly produced with the Science Museum marker in 2006, was endorsed by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who read passages from it during a speech at Oxford Universitymarker, and by Education Secretary Alan Johnson, who hailed it as a breakthrough for science teachers. The book was a finalist in 2007 for the Royal Society Prizes for Science Books General Prize.


The Sun is famous for its headlines – be they witty, pertinent, outrageous or blatantly offensive. Some of the more memorable front page headlines include:

  • CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS? (11 January 1979) – Reporting the attitude of a seemingly oblivious Prime Minister Jim Callaghan as he returned from a summit in the middle of the so-called "Winter of Discontent"
  • STICK IT UP YOUR JUNTA (20 April 1982) – Reporting Margaret Thatcher's rejection of a peace move by Argentinamarker during the Falklands War.
  • GOTCHA – Our lads sink gunboat and hole cruiser (4 May 1982) – the torpedoing of the Argentine ship Belgrano and sinking of a gunboat during the Falklands War
  • FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER (13 March 1986) – Entirely made-up story about a then-famous British comedian.
  • THE TRUTH (19 April 1989) - Infamous and baseless headline following the Hillsborough disaster, alleging that Liverpool F.C. fans had attacked policemen while trying to assist the victims of the crush at Hillsborough Stadiummarker, Sheffieldmarker. Retracted in 2004.
  • UP YOURS DELORS (11 November 1990) – A message to French EU commissioner Jacques Delors, who was promoting the single European currency.
  • IT'S PADDY PANTSDOWN (6 February 1992) – Mocking Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal-Democrat party, as he admits a five-month affair with a secretary.
  • IF KINNOCK WINS TODAY WILL THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE BRITAIN PLEASE TURN OUT THE LIGHTS (9 April 1992) – Backing the Conservatives against Labour's Neil Kinnock at the 1992 General Election.
  • IT'S THE SUN WOT WON IT (11 April 1992) – Claiming credit for the Conservative victory.
  • THE SUN BACKS BLAIR (18 March 1997) – Switching political sides for the General Election in 1997.
  • I'M ONLY HERE FOR DE BEERS (8 November 2000) – Jewel thieves attempt to steal a De Beers diamond at the Millennium Domemarker, a tourist attraction in South-East London.
  • SLING YOUR HOOK (21 January 2003) – About the hook-handed Islamic preacher Abu Hamza, a regular Sun hate figure, later jailed for inciting terrorism.
  • BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP (23 September 2003) - On boxer Frank Bruno being hospitalised after a nervous breakdown.
  • HARRY THE NAZI (13 January 2005) – Scandal of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party.
  • HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA? (10 October 2006) – As North Koreamarker tested a nuclear weapon.
  • PORNOCCHIO (19 March 2008) – A reference to the "glamour modelling" past of Sir Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills as the judge in their divorce case called her a liar.
  • SCUMBAG MILLIONAIRES (11 February 2009) - On bank bosses. A pun on Slumdog Millionaire.
  • TONGUE SNOG MILLIONAIRE - (24 April 2009) On Slumdog Millionaire actors Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto dating in real life.
  • LABOUR'S LOST IT (30 September 2009) - The Sun turns its back on Labour after 12 years of support.


The Sun's brash headlines and bold presentation of news have made it a consistent subject of controversy and criticism throughout Rupert Murdoch's ownership.

Page 3 girls

The appearance of the first topless Page Three girl, Stefanie Rahn, on 17 November 1970, caused little offence. She was presented as a one-off "Birthday Suit Girl" to mark the first anniversary of the relaunched Sun. Controversy was only ignited over the next four years when the topless Page 3 girl gradually became a regular fixture, and with increasingly risqué poses. Both feminists and many cultural conservatives saw the pictures as pornographic and misogynistic. A public library in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, banned the paper because of its "excessive sexual content". The Labour MP Alex Lyon waved a copy of The Sun in the House of Commons and suggested the paper could be prosecuted for indecency. Much later, in 1986, Clare Short attempted in vain to persuade Parliament to outlaw the pictures. Although the anger generated by Page 3 has waned with the rise of "lads' magazines" during the 1990s and a generally more permissive society, it still has many enemies. As recently as 2005 a college in Lewisham, South-East London, banned The Sun from the campus because it felt its Page 3 pictures were degrading to women.


One of the paper's most famous front pages, published on 4 May 1982, appeared to celebrate the news of the torpedoing of the Argentine ship the General Belgrano during the Falklands War by running the story under the headline "GOTCHA". The headline was changed for later editions when the extent of Argentine casualties became known.

In 2003 the paper was accused of racism by the Government over its criticisms of what it perceived as the "open door" policy on immigration. The attacks came from the Prime Minister's press spokesman Alastair Campbell and the then Home Secretary David Blunkett (later a Sun columnist). The paper rebutted the claim, believing that it was not racist to suggest that a "tide" of unchecked illegal immigrants was increasing the risk of terrorist attacks and infectious diseases. It did not help its argument by publishing a front page story on 4 July 2003, under the headline "Swan Bake", which claimed that asylum seekers were slaughtering and eating swans. It later proved to have no basis in fact. Subsequently The Sun published a follow-up headlined "Now they're after our fish!". Following a Press Complaints Commission adjudication a "clarification" was eventually printed, on page 41.

The Sun has been openly antagonistic towards other European nations, particularly the French and Germans, who were, during the 1980s and 1990s, routinely described in copy and headlines as "frogs", "krauts" or "hun".The paper is opposed to the EU and has, in the past, referred to foreign leaders who it deemed hostile to the UK in unflattering terms. Former President Jacques Chirac of France, for instance, was branded "le Worm".An unflattering picture of German chancellor Angela Merkel, taken from the rear, bore the headline "I'm Big in the Bumdestag" (17 April 2006).Although The Sun was outspoken against the allegations of racism directed at Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on television reality show Celebrity Big Brothermarker during 2007, the paper captioned a picture on its website, from a Bollywood-themed pop video by Hilary Duff, "Hilary PoppaDuff", a very similar insult to that directed at Shetty.

On 7 January 2009, the Sun ran an exclusive front page story claiming that participants in a discussion on, a British Muslim internet forum, had made a "hate hit list" of British Jews to be targeted by extremists over the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict. It was claimed that "Those listed [on the forum] should treat it very seriously. Expect a hate campaign and intimidation by 20 or 30 thugs." The UK magazine Private Eyemarker claimed that Glen Jenvey, a man quoted by The Sun as a terrorism expert, posted to the forum under the pseudonym "Abuislam", and was the only forum member promoting a hate campaign, while other members promoted peaceful advocacy such as writing 'polite letters'. The story has since been removed from The Sun's website following complaints to the UK's Press Complaints Commission.


The controversial Hillsborough edition.
The Sun's sensationalist coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster in Sheffieldmarker, where 96 people died and 730 were injured, proved to be, as the paper later admitted, the "most terrible" blunder in its history. Under a front page headline "THE TRUTH", the paper claimed that some fans picked the pockets of crushed victims, that others urinated on members of the emergency services as they tried to help and that some even assaulted a Police Constable "whilst he was administering the kiss of life to a patient" (19 April 1989). Despite the headline, written by Kelvin MacKenzie, the story was based on allegations either by unnamed and unattributable sources, or hearsay accounts of what named individuals had said - a fact made clear to MacKenzie by Harry Arnold, the reporter who wrote the story. Although the disaster occurred before TV cameras and a mass of sports reporters, no evidence was ever produced to substantiate The Sun's allegations. The front page caused outrage in Liverpoolmarker, where the paper lost more than three-quarters of its estimated 55,000 daily sales and still sells poorly to this day (around 12,000). It is unavailable in many parts of the city, as many newsagents refuse to stock it. It was revealed in a documentary called "Alexei Sayle's Liverpool" that many Liverpudlians won't even take the newspaper for free, and those who do simply burn it or tear it up.

On 7 July 2004, in response to verbal attacks in Liverpool on Wayne Rooney, then a young Everton player who had sold his life story to The Sun, the paper devoted a full-page editorial to an apology for the "awful error" of its Hillsborough coverage and argued that Rooney should not be punished for its "past sins". In January 2005, The Sun's managing editor Graham Dudman admitted the Hillsborough coverage was "the worst mistake in our history". He added: "What we did was a terrible mistake. It was a terrible, insensitive, horrible article, with a dreadful headline; but what we'd also say is: we have apologised for it, and the entire senior team here now is completely different from the team that put the paper out in 1989". However, in May 2006, former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, the man behind the Hillsborough coverage, was rehired as a Sun columnist. Furthermore, on 11 January 2007, MacKenzie went on record as a panellist on BBC1's Question Time as saying the apology he made after the disaster was a hollow one, forced upon him by Rupert Murdoch. MacKenzie further claimed he was not sorry "for telling the truth" but he admitted that he did not know for sure whether some Liverpool fans urinated on the police, or robbed victims.

Freddie Starr "ate my hamster"

The 13 March 1986 edition of The Sun, with the famous headline.
Despite its soaring sales The Sun of the 1980s earned a reputation for running stories based on few facts. The most blatant example gave the paper arguably its most famous headline: FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER (13 March 1986). The story alleged that British comedian Freddie Starr had been staying at the home of Vince McCaffrey and his 23-year old girlfriend Lea La Salle in Birchwood, Cheshire, when, after returning from a performance at a nightclub in the early hours he demanded La Salle make him a sandwich. When she refused, he went into the kitchen, put her pet hamster Supersonic between two slices of bread and proceeded to eat it. Starr, in his 2001 autobiography Unwrapped, said he only stayed at McCaffrey's house once, in 1979, and that the incident was a complete fabrication. He wrote: "I have never eaten or even nibbled a live hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, mouse, shrew, vole or any other small mammal." When the man behind the story, British publicist Max Clifford, was asked about it on television years later, he admitted to making it up and justified the lie as it boosted Starr's career enormously.

Mental health

On 22 September 2003 the newspaper appeared to misjudge the public mood surrounding mental health, as well as its affection for ex-World Heavyweight champion boxer Frank Bruno, who had been admitted to hospital, when the headline "Bonkers Bruno Locked Up" appeared on the front page of early editions. The adverse reaction once the paper hit the streets on the evening of 21 September, led to the headline being changed for the paper's second edition to the more sympathetic Sad Bruno In Mental Home.

Allegations of Homophobia

In 1987, The Sun falsely accused homosexual pop musician Sir Elton John of having sexual relationships with rent boys. In another story it accused him of removing the voice boxes of his guard dogs because their barking kept him awake. Elton sued over both stories and won £1million in libel damages, then the largest payout in British history. The Sun ran a front-page apology on 12 December 1988, under the banner headline SORRY, ELTON.The Elton John story was fuelled by the homophobia rife on the paper during the 1980s and to a lesser degree the 1990s. Gay Church of England clergymen were described in one headline in November 1987 as "Pulpit poofs." Stories frequently speculated on the sexual orientation of famous people, and pop stars in particular. Television personality Piers Morgan, a former Editor of the Daily Mirror and of The Sun’s Bizarre pop column, has said that during the late 1980s, at Kelvin MacKenzie's behest, he was ordered to speculate on the sexuality of male pop stars for a feature headlined "The Poofs of Pop". He also recalls MacKenzie headlining a story about the first homosexual kiss on BBC television soap opera EastEnders "EastBenders". Even much later – after Cabinet Minister Peter Mandelson was "outed" by Matthew Parris (a gay former Sun columnist) on BBC TV's Newsnight in November 1998 - The Sun's then Editor David Yelland demanded to know in a front page editorial whether Britain was governed by a "gay mafia" of a "closed world of men with a mutual self-interest". Three days later the paper apologised in another editorial which said The Sun would never again reveal a person's sexuality unless it could be defended on the grounds of "overwhelming public interest".

Spelling errors

After attacking Gordon Brown for mis-spelling a dead soldier's mother's name, The Sun were then forced to apologise for mis-spelling the same name on their website.


On November 17, 1989, the Sun headlined a page 2 story “STRAIGHT SEX CANNOT GIVE YOU AIDS – OFFICIAL." The Sun Says column added: “Forget the idea that ordinary heterosexual people can contract Aids. They can’t…anything else is homosexual propaganda.” The Press Council issued a ruling of censure against the paper and The Sun later apologised.


Other versions

The Scottish Sun

There is also a Scottish edition of The Sun launched in 1987, known as The Scottish Sun. Based in Glasgow, the paper sells for 30p. The Scottish Sun is often referred to as "a downmarket, English-based tabloid" by the Daily Record. It duplicates much of the content of the English edition but with additional coverage of Scottish news and sport.

In the early 1990s, the Scottish edition became notable as the first major newspaper to declare support for the pro-independence Scottish National Party. At the time the paper elsewhere continued to support the Conservatives, who were then becoming an increasingly marginalised force in Scotland. This stance, however, became somewhat problematic following The Sun's adoption of support for Labour elsewhere in the UK, given that the SNP were seen as Labour's main challengers and fiercest rivals in Scotland. The Scottish edition was forced to employ some convoluted logic to justify its eventual withdrawal of support for the SNP in favour of pro-union Labour.

In football the newspaper got banned from Heart of Midlothian's football ground Tynecastlemarker for stirring up issues at the Edinburgh club involving their owner Vladimir Romanov. Two years later they were stirring up life for the Edinburghmarker outfit again as they made a back page report that manager Csaba Laszlo was on the verge of leaving the club after a meeting with the owner Vladimir Romanov over transfer fees for the following season. It turned out that the pair didn` t even meet until the day after The Sun made this false report.

However, the Scottish Sun had performed a major U-turn by the time of the 2007 Scottish election, in which its front page featured a hangman's noose in the shape of an SNP logo, stating "Vote SNP today and you put Scotland's head in the noose"

The Irish Sun

There is also an Irish edition, based in Dublin with a regional edition for Northern Irelandmarker, known as the Irish Sun. It shares some content - namely glamour and showbiz - with the UK edition, but has mainly Irish news and editorial content, as well as sport and advertising. It often views stories in a very different light to those being reported in the UK edition, or takes a more pro-Irish angle. One notable example is how the release of the film The Wind That Shakes the Barley was covered, with the UK editions describing it as "designed to drag the reputation of our nation through the mud" and "the most pro-IRA ever", whereas the Irish edition described it as giving "the Brits a tanning". It uses a slightly bigger sheet size than the UK version, and costs €0.90.

Polish edition

In June 2008, The Sun became the first national newspaper to produce a Polish language version (Polski Sun). Six editions were produced for Poland's group matches in the Euro 2008 football tournament.

Related newspapers

Other newspapers published by other companies within the UK with "tabloid values" are the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Star, and the Daily Sport. Of these, only the Mirror supports the Labour Party. The others are Conservative, although The Sun has been a critical supporter of New Labour from 1997. See List of newspapers in the United Kingdom for a comparison of The Sun with other newspapers.

Note: the sister Sunday paper of The Sun (also published by News Group Newspapers) is the News of the World – the Sunday Sun is an unrelated tabloid newspaper, published in Newcastle upon Tynemarker.
  • The first newspaper to carry The Sun masthead was published in 1792 by the Pitt government to counter the pro-revolutionary press at that time.
  • The Toronto Sun in Canada modeled itself on the newspaper, including a sunshine girl (who has never been topless). The "Sun" masthead has since spread to many other cities in Canada.
  • The Sun has also been adopted in Nigeriamarker as "The Sun" or the "Daily Sun", With the page-3 girl dubbed "The Sun Girl". The Nigerian counterpart shares the same iconic red and white masthead with the British paper.
  • In the United States, The New York Post, also owned by News Corporation, is a somewhat milder counterpart of The Sun, with broadly conservative views of American politics, and extensive coverage and gossip of celebrities which often serve as the full front page headline even when other local papers are reporting something more significant.
  • Also in the US, American Media Inc. publishes a supermarket tabloid called simply Sun. The content of the paper is satirical and sensationalist. Stories often involve Bible prophecy or Nostradamus. Its masthead is modelled on The Sun, only with an American flag replacing the red background.
  • In South Africa, two newspapers take their inspiration from The Sun, including the name. The Daily Sun (Johannesburg) is the country's biggest selling daily newspaper, and by far the most sensationalist. Die Kaapse Son (Cape Town) started out as a weekly newspaper, but became so successful that it eventually became a daily. Two regional (weekly) editions, respectively in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, were less successful, and have folded.

See also


  1. Greenslade, Ch. 9
  2. Chippindale and Horrie, Ch 1.
  3. Chippindale and Horrie Ch. 1
  4. Chippindale and Horrie, Ch 1
  5. Chippindale and Horrie
  6. "Benn on the couch", The Sun, 1 March 1984. Benn was standing in the Chesterfield byelection which was held on the day the article appeared.
  7. Greg Philo, War and Peace News (Open University Press, 1985), p. 138.
  8. The Sun - April 16, 1986.
  9. "1987: Three on the trot for Thatcher", BBC News Vote 2001. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
  10. Sun still shines for Blair", BBC News, 8 March 2001. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
  11. "A History of The Scum (S*n 'newspaper')", Kirby Times News, 2004. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
  12. The Sun newspaper - September 17, 1992
  13. The Sun - November 3, 1994
  14. The Sun - July 1993
  15. The Sun - 1994
  16. The Sun - February 1994
  17. The Sun - January 14, 1994
  18. News International Circulation Reports Archive
  19. From The Sun archive, edition 18 March 1997
  20. The Sun, January 22, 1997
  21. The Sun, February 15, 1997
  22. The Sun - February 26, 1997
  23. BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Harman turns fire on Sun decision
  25. News International archive
  26. Chippindale & Horrie, Ch7
  27. Editorial, "The Sun Says", 7 July, 2004.
  28. The Sun

Further reading

  • Peter Chippindale & Chris Horrie Stick It Up Your Punter! The rise and fall of The Sun, 1990, Heinemann; 1999, Pocket Books
  • Roy Greenslade Press Gang, 2003, Macmillan

External links

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