The Daily Mail
In 1887 the journalist Alfred Harmsworth formed a new publishing business. Early publications included Answers (1888) and Comic Cuts (1890) and in 1894 went into newspapers when he acquired the London Evening News. Harmsworth now decided to start a new paper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place. For each of these the complete papers were produced at a cost of £40,000. The eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny" and "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper".
The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery.
Another innovation introduced by the Daily Mail was the publication of serials. Personally supervised by Harmsworth, the average length was 100,000 words. The opening episode was 5,000 words and had to have a dramatic impact on the readers. This was followed by episodes of 1,500 to 2,000 words every day.
The Daily Mail was an immediate success and circulation quickly achieved 500,000. With the strong interest in the Boer War in 1899 sales went to over a million. Harmsworth encouraged people to buy the newspaper for nationalistic reasons making it clear to his readers that his newspaper stood "for the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire".
Harmsworth also used his newspapers to promote inventions such as the telephone, electric light, photography, motorcycles and motor cars. He was so passionate about cars that Harmsworth prohibited the editor of the Daily Mail from reporting automobile accidents.
The popularity of the newspaper increased with the use of promotional activities. This included the offer of prizes for the first-ever flights across the Channel and Atlantic. Although aimed at a mass audience, Alfred Harmsworth employed the best journalists available. This included people such as Henry Hamilton Fyfe and Philip Gibbs.
Alfred Harmsworth was a great supporter of flying and in 1906 offered a prize of £1,000 for the first airman to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover and £10,000 prize for the first completed flight from London to Manchester. The idea seemed so preposterous that Punch Magazine decided to poke fun at Harmsworth by offering a prize of £10,000 for the first flight to Mars. However, by June 1910, both of Harmsworth's prizes had been won by French pilots.
Harmsworth was worried about the possible consequences of aircraft for the defence of Britain. He realised that it would soon be possible for foreign pilots to drop bombs on Britain. He wrote a letter warning Richard Haldane, Secretary of War, about his concerns, but failed to persuade the government that this danger existed.
Before the outbreak of the First World War Harmsworth was accused of being a war-monger. As early as 1897 he had sent the writer G. W. Steevens to Germany to produce a sixteen-part series entitled Under the Iron Heel. The articles praised the German Army and warned that Britain was in danger of being defeated in a war against Germany. Three years later Northcliffe wrote an editorial in the Daily Mail predicting a war with Germany
In October 1909 Harmsworth (now Lord Northcliffe) employed Robert Blatchford, the Socialist editor of the Clarion, to visit Germany to write a series of articles for the newspaper on the dangers that the Germans posed to Britain. Blatchford agreed with Northcliffe on the problem and in one article wrote: "I believe that Germany is deliberately preparing to destroy the British Empire" and warned that Britain needed to spend more money in defending itself against attack.
Soon after the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Lord Northcliffe was determined to make the Daily Mail the official newspaper of the British Army. Every day 10,000 copies of the paper were delivered to the Western Front by military motor cars. He also had the revolutionary idea of using front-line soldiers as news sources. In August 1914 he announced a scheme where he would pay soldiers for articles written about their experiences.
During the early stages of the conflict Northcliffe created a great deal of controversy by advocating conscription and criticizing Lord Kitchener. In an article he wrote in the Daily Mail on 21st May, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on the Secretary of State for War: "Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them."
Lord Kitchener was a national hero and Harmsworth's attack on him upset a great number of readers. Overnight, the circulation of the Daily Mail dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. A placard was hung across the newspaper nameplate with the words "The Allies of the Huns". Over 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange had a meeting where they passed a motion against the "venomous attacks of the Hamsworth Press" and afterwards ceremoniously burnt copies of the offending newspaper.
Although the leader of the government, Herbert Asquith, accused Northcliffe and his newspapers of disloyalty, he privately accepted that shell production was a real problem and he appointed David Lloyd George as the new Munitions Minister.
Lord Northcliffe also used the Daily Mail to attack the government for the failed operation at Gallipoli. He wrote about the "forty thousand killed, missing or drowned; three hundred millions of treasury thrown away" and argued that even if the campaign had been successful "to win this war, the German line itself must be broken" on the Western Front.
Lord Northcliffe continued his attacks on Lord Kitchener and when he heard he had been killed he remarked: "The British Empire has just had the greatest stroke of luck in its history." After the death of Kitchener he concentrated on having Herbert Asquith removed. Not only did he criticise Asquith as a man of inaction but claimed that Germany was afraid that David Lloyd George would become prime minister.
When Asquith resigned in December, 1916, the new prime minister, David Lloyd George decided that it was be safer to have Northcliffe in his government. However, Northcliffe refused an offer of a place in Lloyd George's cabinet as he knew it would undermine his ability to criticise the government.
Although David Lloyd George offered Lord Northcliffe a cabinet position he disliked the man intensely. In a confidential letter to his Parliamentary Private Secretary he wrote at the time he claimed that: "Northcliffe is one of the biggest intriguers and most unscrupulous people in the country."
After the war Northcliffe retained his interest in new technology. He began a campaign to promote wireless communication by arranging for the Daily Mailto sponsor the world's first wireless concert. In an editorial Northcliffe argued: "Once before the Daily Mail stirred the national imagination to realise the vital importance of flying. It has now taken the lead in private wireless experiments with the object of cultivating national receptivity for the new science and of bringing minds in train for achievements to come."
Northcliffe's health deteriorated rapidly in 1921. He was suffering from streptococcus, an infection of the bloodstream, that damages the valves of the heart and causes kidney malfunction. When Lord Northcliffe, died in August, 1922, the Daily Mail newspaper was taken over by Lord Rothermere.
Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this enabled the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.
Lord Rothermere disposed of his shares in the Daily Mirror in 1931. He now concentrated on the Daily Mail. In the 1930s Rothermere moved further to the right and gave support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace.
Rothermere and his newspapers supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. He was therefore devastated when war broke out between Britain and Germany in 1939. Lord Rothermere died on 27th November, 1940..
(1) Alfred Harmsworth, letter to Max Pemberton (1884)
The Board Schools are turning out hundreds of thousands of boys and girls annually who are anxious to read. they do not care for the ordinary newspaper. They have no interest in society, but they will read anything which is simple and is sufficiently interesting. The man who has produced this Tit-Bits has got hold of a bigger thing than he imagines. he is only at the very beginning of a development which is going to change the whole face of journalism. I shall try to get in with him. We could start one of these papers for a couple of thousand pounds, and we ought to be able to find the money. At any rate, I am going to make the attempt.
(2) The Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)
Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what otherwise appear a mystery.
(3) G. W. Steevens, The Daily Mail (1897)
The German Army is the post perfectly adapted, perfectly running machine. Never can there have been a more signal triumph of organisation over complexity. The armies of other nations are not so completely organized. The German Army is the finest thing of its kind in the world; it is the finest thing in Germany of any kind. Briefly, the difference between the German and, for instance, the English armies is a simple one. The German Army is organised with a view to war, with the cold, hard, practical, business-like purpose of winning victories. And what should we ever do if 100,000 of this kind of army got loose in England?
(4) Philip Gibbs was one of the journalist who went to work for the Daily Mail in 1902.
The New Journalism had arrived, and the Daily Mail under Alfred Harmsworth for whom I worked was its founder and pioneer. There were violent critics of this new type of journalism. They thought it vulgar, trashy, and lacking altogether in the dignity of the old-time Press. But Alfred Harmsworth knew what he was doing, and did it with genius. He knew that a public had grown up which took an intelligent interest in things not previously considered part of newspaper chronicles. Food; fashions; the drama of life in low places as well as high; sport of all kinds; the human story wherever it might be found; the adventure of science as it affected everyday life. Harmsworth knew that women's interests had been left out mainly from the old fashioned newspapers, and he knew that here was an enormous field for increasing circulation.
(5) In 1907 Henry Hamilton Fyfe was appointed special correspondent with the Daily Mail.
I was the special correspondent with the largest newspaper public in existence to address, and a fairly free hand as to what I would write about and how. From that time until the war I had as good a life as ever fell to the lot of any journalist in any land. To travel had been my hope - more than that, it had been my determination. In my holidays I had got as far afield as I could. Now travel was to be my occupation, my livelihood.
As a method of enhancing the prestige of the paper, it was impressed on all connected with it that they must on all occasions wear the correct clothes, be seen in only exclusive places of resort, give the impression that they were accustomed to the habits of the wealthy and fashionable. This was the resolved commercial policy of Northcliffe, and from the commercial angle a very sound policy. His idea from the beginning, even when people were ashamed to be seen with the Mail and business men took it home under their coats, was that it should seem to be produced for the rich and privileged. This had its effect, as he knew it would, on advertisers. It resulted, too, in making the paper eventually what it had all along aimed at being - an organ of the well-to-do.
(6) At the beginning of the First World War, Basil Clarke attempted to write about the Western Front without the permission of the French and British military authorities.
Even to live in the war zone without papers and credentials was hard enough, but to move about and see things, and pick up news and then to get one's written dispatches conveyed home - against all regulations - was a labour greater and more complex than anything I have ever undertaken in journalistic work. I longed sometimes to be arrested and sent home and done with it all.
I evaded the authorities in France and Flanders in 1914-1915 for five months - going to the Front on average two or three times a week. I had apartments or hotel rooms in three districts, and when things became hot in one place I moved to another of my bases.
(7) The Daily Mail (19th April, 1915)
The Germans have this advantage over us, that their public is kept interested in the war. By brilliant war correspondents and constantly changing kinematograph films and photographs, every man, women and child knows what the war means and how the nation is fighting. In this country anyone who goes about among the populace finds that few of the masses understand what the war is about. They are told very little of the horrors of war as waged by Germany. They do not understand what defeat would mean to us.
(8) The Daily Mail (21st May, 1915)
Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them.
(9) Lord Northcliffe, The Daily Mail (23rd August, 1915)
The daily losses in the war, on ordinary days, where there is no attempt to advance, are about 2,000, according to official casualty lists. We are growing callous about the size of the daily lists of killed, wounded and missing. Very few people read even the headings of them, comparatively few grasp the fact that after vast losses we are just where we were six months ago on our little line in the Franco-Belgian Frontier. Thousands of homes are mourning today for men who have been needlessly sacrificed.
(10) The Daily Mail (16th June, 1920)
Once before the Daily Mail stirred the national imagination to realise the vital importance of flying. It has now taken the lead in private wireless experiments with the object of cultivating national receptivity for the new science and of bringing minds in train for achievements to come.
The appeal of wireless to human interest is that it seems magical and yet is real. In attempting the control of electrical energy we begin to get on terms with the world-force on which the future of mankind - for construction or destruction - will depend. The objective of such (wireless) experiments as the Daily Mail has initiated and intends to continue is to enable this country to take the lead. The only safe place is in front.
(11) David Low, Autobiography (1956)
The spectacle of Mussolini so masterfully beating up his Liberal and Socialist opponents was one that could not fail to evoke admiration in some Anglo-Saxon breasts. A British Fascist Party grew up overnight; and the Daily Mail, then Britain's biggest popular newspaper, approved it. With the zest I added the first Lord Rothermere, its proprietor, to my cast of cartoon characters. He made up well in a black shirt helping to stoke the fires of class hatred. Lord Rothermere was much incensed and complained bitterly. "Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done," said one of his Fleet Street men, as though he were giving me a moral adage instead of a thieves' wisecrack. "You forget, old boy," I replied, "I'm a moa."
(12) David Low, Autobiography (1956)
The British Fascist Party was comparatively insignificant until Mosley took over its leadership. Mosley was young, energetic, capable and an excellent speaker. Since I had met him in 1925 he had graduated from close friendship with MacDonald to a job in the second Labour Government; but he had become disgusted with the evasions over unemployment and had resigned to start a party of his own.
Unfortunately at the succeeding general election he fell ill with influenza and his party-in-embryo, deprived of his brilliant talents, was wiped out. Mosley was too ambitious to retire into obscurity. Looking around for a 'vehicle' he united himself to the British Fascists, rechristened 'the Blackshirts', and acquired almost automatically the encouragement of Britain's then biggest newspaper, the Daily Mail, which was more than willing to extend its admiration for the Italian original to the local imitation. That was a fateful influenza germ.