A tale of three newspapers

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I’m on the night shift tonight – got to file an article for Comment is Free at 7am. The big picture is still unclear at the mo so I thought I’d offer my words of wisdom about the London election.

I’ve spent the past month tracking mentions of Boris, Ken and Paddick on Twitter. What I witnessed, particularly today, was about 80% of twitterers mentioning Boris expressing utter disbelief at the prospect of Three Jobs Boz getting the Mayoralty, 5% were petulant remarks from True Blues accusing anyone who fails to immediately see how wonderful he is as being “class warriors” and “inverted snobs” and 15% echoing Charlie Brooker’s article a couple of weeks ago, namely “OMFG LOOK AT HIS FUNNEEE HAIR LOL!!!! BORRIS IS A LEGERND!!!!” I’m afraid to say that seeing the 100th one of these messages today, I started to go a bit funny in the head.

The general impression seems to be that turnout in London is high. Iain Dale seems to think it is limited to the Outer London donut, but my experience from telling in an uber urban Islington ward today is that it is high there too. At 6pm we were being told that turnout there was already hitting 50%.

What I found most revealing today was looking at the coverage of the London elections in London’s free newspapers. For those who don’t know, London now has three of the things: the Metro which is distributed on the tube in the morning and London Lite and thelondonpaper which is handed out in the late afternoon/evening. The Metro and London Lite are both Associated Newspapers, who also publish the Mail and the Evening Standard. thelondonpaper is News International who also publish the Sun and the Times.

The Evening Standard has of course been running a vendetta against Ken Livingstone and not surprisingly called on its readers to vote for Bozza in a leader today. But what of the Metro and London Lite? They have very different demographics: while the Standard is the paper for the middle aged, middle class, stockbroker, its sister papers are for the hoi polloi.

thelondonpaper has had extensive coverage of the Mayoral elections over the last three days. Today’s paper consists of the following:

  • Front page: headline “IT’S NOT TOO LATE”. front page editorial encouraging people to vote.
  • Page 2: pics of the candidates
  • Pages 6-7: general coverage
  • Pages 8-9: Bozza and Ken’s style analysed, with tips on how to get their respective looks

By contrast, this is the coverage of today’s London Lite:

  • Front page: headline “Ken closes in on Boris”
  • Pages 6-7: general coverage.

And the Metro? The paper with the widest circulation by a factor of more than two?

  • Front page: nothing. nada.
  • Page 23: half a page of jokey coverage.
  • Er…
  • …that’s it?

It’s quite clear that the Associated Press were trying their best to depress turnout. So full marks to thelondonpaper, which has easily had the best and most balanced coverage. The fact that News International are angling for the license to distribute a morning paper on the tube is, I’m sure, a complete coincidence.

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