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Newspaper Styles and Culture

- by Elizabeth Redfern
History of British Newspapers – Chapter 3

It’s always interesting to see the different ways in which payday and short term loans feature in the news. Why do different newspapers report such different news? Our investigation into British newspapers continues, with this article looking at different newspaper styles, including the type of language and content often used, followed by a report on how we see references to newspapers in the British culture today.

Cashfloat explore newspaper styles and their impact on out culture

Newspaper Styles and Format

Newspapers exist in different styles and formats. There are British national papers, local/regional papers and publications for the niche markets. These papers can be categorised as tabloids, broadsheets or compact. The broadsheets are typically larger papers with more text content, and the tabloids are colourful with lots of images and mainly focus on celebrity gossip and real life stories. The Berliner format is known as the ‘midi’ format, being slightly smaller than the broadsheet style.

Is the broadsheet a better, classier paper than a tabloid? Is it stereotypical to suggest that certain tabloids (e.g. The Daily Star and The Sun) appeal more to working class males who like to read the sports pages at the back and ogle at the topless girl on Page 3? Or is this an unfair assumption based on the content of the newspaper?

Individual readers enjoy a particular style of writing, with some reading for pleasure and others reading for the hard facts. Some read for business requirements and may opt for the broadsheets, whereas others might just want to grab a quick paper that is not too cumbersome in its text, but that would mean they still get to know what has been happening. Some individuals may be ‘A-type’ readers who enjoy the frivolities of The Sun and the educational aspects of The Guardian.

Earlier designs would have included the salient points for distribution, but now, where possibilities are somewhat endless, page number restrictions are not generally enforced as long as there is news to tell.


The language that is used today is very advanced compared to previous centuries. Earlier editions of newspapers and pamphlet style before that would include incorrect spelling and grammar. As the nation has become more educated, so has editorial content.

Newspaper styles have changed regarding the layout too. Display of language has altered, with earlier publications starting with a larger, grand capital letter followed by text of a smaller size. This style was adopted in letter form as well as in early publications and, in some ways, would have also been a sign of the times with older printed newspaper styles when hand setting was used to apply the text. We still have capital letters today, and use them in accordance with English language and writing styles. However, they are in the same proportion to the rest of the text, and there is more consistency than before.


Newspapers were, and still are, produced daily or weekly and some have weekend special editions.


The general contents of a newspaper can include:

  • editorials
  • local, national and international news
  • letters to the editor
  • comic strips
  • crosswords/puzzles
  • horoscopes
  • TV guides
  • weather
  • sport
  • advertisements
  • advice columns
  • death notices (but these are mostly in local papers, apart from obituaries)

Often, with a larger newspaper that has a lot of international content, they might have an office in that location which allows for expedient transfer and update of news.

Where the columnists are writing an article on a certain topic, it may be that they try to influence the reader’s opinion to follow their belief. These persuasive attempts are particularly prevalent when discussing political information, especially if there is an upcoming election.

Newspaper Styles: text versus pictures

Newspapers that contain a lot of text-heavy articles can be overpowering to some readers whereas some buyers may prefer this as they want the detail and context in abundance.

The broadsheets are more content-heavy with 80% text. These papers aim for the more middle class individuals. The tabloid papers such as The Daily Star and The Sun consist of celebrity gossip, sports, page 3 and advertisements.

If we look at the front page news of today in some newspapers, we can see that some are more focused on celebrity gossip stories rather than the plight of refugees, for instance. Their choice of front-page story is a telling hint to the type of newspaper it is. Again, some papers will focus more on the overall story whereas some will pick up on the personal aspect of it. For example, when it comes to the rather controversial topic of payday loans; some papers discuss the industry as a whole, looking at the regulations on it and whether the economy needs payday loans, whereas others will present stories of people who ended up in deep debt because of these loans.

Newspaper production costs money and, therefore, the media house that publishes them aim to make money. It is, therefore, no surprise that what appears on the front page of a tabloid is aimed at catching people’s attention to get them to buy the paper to read more about it. All the media companies have to do is make a sale; whether the customer reads the entire paper from cover to cover is a different, somewhat insignificant, matter. As it is a competitive business, they will try and make their newspaper more attractive than others to secure the sale.

No news is good news… but then what can they write about?

Customer retention is important to maintain, but surely it is guided by the news in most cases. If nothing was happening, would people still buy the paper? Arguably this is where stories can be inappropriately embellished to catch people’s attention. The phone hacking scandal of this century is an example of underhand behaviour in order to make sales.

Many say that scandals of this sort would not have happened back in the early days of newspaper publication. However, you could argue that this is due to the life and times being completely different. These days, with surges in the popularity of reality and celebrity culture, there seems to be a hunger for gossip. When it comes to the tabloids, gossip sells.

Some articles are naturally under more scrutiny today because of recent scandals, and it poses the question in minds, ‘who can I trust?’ Readers are therefore becoming more sceptical towards the content they are reading.

Even notable personalities in entertainment and sport have been caught out in undercover interviews which have then been broadcast and published in the news, the result of which has often resulted in these people resigning from their position. But then, it a good thing that this happens and people are aware of it through the news. Or is it manipulation by the media? Is it sometimes that they are trying to find a story, or is it that they are merely revealing a story to the public of which they should be aware?

Admittedly sometimes the language used to lure customers into buying the paper can be misleading, but the editors are trying to make a sale.

We need a range of newspaper styles

There will always be customers who buy a particular paper as they like the writing style; some readers prefer larger text-heavy articles compared to others, for example.

When examining the different newspaper styles, one sees that sometimes the editors design their newspapers with a distinct class in mind. The content of some would suggest this is the case, mainly from the advertisements displayed within.

Articles can vary in length and complexity of language used, but they should be accessible and available to all. It should be down to personal choice of the reader which content and newspaper styles they prefer. In a hospital or doctor’s waiting room, for example, you will find a variety of papers and magazines that cater for everyone.

Newspapers in the British Culture

If we look at the traditional British culture, we can see some ideas that come from British newspapers.

Sayings associated with Newspapers

There are a few sayings often used whose origins are based in the newspaper styles and culture, such as:

“Today’s News becomes Tomorrow’s Wrapper.”

The phrase “today’s news becomes tomorrow’s newspaper wrappers” was banded around to stop cause for concern on particular stories that might be unfavourable to someone, for instance, celebrity topics.

The wrapper in this phrase refers to the British tradition of fish and chips, as it provides the image of someone using the newspaper to hold their food. There is something traditionally British about a couple on the sea front enjoy their fish and chips in newspaper, eating them with a wooden fork.

The reality is that papers are not on the shelf until infinity. If it is a daily paper, this will get replaced the following day by the next one. All unsold papers get returned and disposed of, so a fish and chip shop making use out of the papers is also an effective, albeit slightly unhygienic, recycling method.

The concept is more to stop focusing on news of today as tomorrow things will be different and this concept can apply in many other areas, for instance, all of the work stresses that people endure.

“No press is bad press.”

Another common saying is ‘no press is bad press,’ or ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity,’ mainly in the entertainment/arts arena, because for someone to get column inches written about them it means they remain active in the public’s consciousness. Add social media on top and debates that start as a result, and you are creating hype around a particular story which is seen as a good thing for that individual as it helps increase their status. It also helps with newspaper sales and website hits for the various press organisations.

Imagery associated with British Newspapers

An image that sticks in one’s mind when thinking back to old times of paper deliveries is that of a paperboy on a bike delivering papers. The papers would be rolled up and fastened with a rubber band, and the paperboy would throw them over the fence into someone’s garden or next to the front door,

Paper rounds still exist today, mainly in rural areas where customers might not be able to get out and about as easily. They usually happen before school as schoolchildren often do this as their first job. It is a way of getting some extra pocket money, and it is especially handy for the newsagents who employ them as they are taking on someone in the area who is familiar with the roads and streets. Regular customers subscribe to the paper in print form in this way. They would get postponed while customers go on holiday and then usually resume on their return.

Some traditions stick with the British as well, one of which being reading the paper with your morning cup of English tea. Even on holiday, this tradition is hard to shake off by some, even if that means paying a much higher rate due to extortionate export/import costs. It also means waiting a bit longer for the news. This would not necessarily be an issue to someone who breaks with tradition and can access the news online, but for the older generation, this is not an image you would expect to see. For the younger generation, it is, as they are rarely not on their phones, and this is a normal sight.

A Thirst for Gossip & News

The phrase ‘Extra Extra, Read all about it!’ came as a result of extra, often breaking, news being exclaimed after an edition had already been published and disseminated. It does conjure up the image of your local paper stockist signaling to the masses, in a ‘roll up, roll up’ way, to come and read the latest news. Today, there are numerous ‘breaking news’ Twitter accounts that will update their feed every minute, ensuring that their followers receive the most recent news via app notifications. Receiving news in this way is a popular method today, and more and more people are recognising the ease in which these applications and notifications can be set up.

Elizabeth Redfern
Elizabeth Redfern is a born and bred Londoner who loves the city life. She is a proud chocoholic who enjoys reading, jogging and eating – especially chocolate! Elizabeth attained a first class degree in Mathematics but chose to make a career out of her real passion, writing. She has published many poems and short stories, but decided to join the Cashfloat educational channel writing team because she is passionate about helping people take care of their finances leaving them free to enjoy the finer points of life – most notably (in her opinion), chocolate!
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