I got my first paper round when I was about 13 years old. Every weekday and Saturday morning I bicycled to the newsagents in the shopping precinct and picked up that morning’s papers that some kid who got up even earlier than me had sorted into the correct order for my round. A few of the folks on my round got The Sun and my co-workers and I would occasionally check out page 3, but not very often. We had places to go, papers to deliver, then breakfast and school.
The News of the World was the Sunday version of The Sun. The soft boys with connections got the Sunday rounds. No need to get up early and just one morning instead of six. Not that I’m bitter or anything. But, as a result, I had very little interaction with the News of World. But have no doubt that The Jam had it right when they pointed out: “It’s just a comic, not much more.”
Fast forward to 1992. I remember this election very clearly. At least, I remember the result. I lived in Ohio at the time. There was, of course, no internet and next to no information available about anywhere else in the world at that time, at least not on TV or in the local press.
As a result, I had not actually heard about this newspaper cover until I read this piece about the British tabloids in Sunday’s New York Times. The Sun owes a great debt to those blokes who came up with the iconic: will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights billboard, if the Seattle Times is to be believed. I’m not convinced myself, but — either way — that was quite the front page.
Here’s what the NYT had to say about Neal Kinnock and the impacts of the tabloids on his 1992 election bid:
The day before the election, The Sun printed a package of articles under the headline “Nightmare on Kinnock Street.” It printed a picture of a fat topless woman and the warning, “Here’s How Page 3 Will Look Under Kinnock!” And, in an image he would never live down, the paper printed a large front-page photograph of Mr. Kinnock’s head inside a light bulb, under the headline: “If Kinnock Wins Today Will the Last Person to Leave Britain Please Turn Out the Lights.”