Jokes about “Rupert Murdoch's last hoorah” greeted the launch of the Sunday edition of The Sun to replace the News of the World, which Mr. Murdoch shut down last summer hoping to draw a line under the phone-hacking scandal — though, if anything, the crisis has since deepened with even the venerable The Times being dragged into the row
The inaugural issue — a 92-page doorstopper with a print-run of three million copies and priced at just 50 pence to beat the competition which immediately provoked a price war among the Sunday red-tops — is more family-friendly than the “boobs and bums” Sun served on weekdays.
“We expect it to be read across the whole spectrum of society,” said Mr. Murdoch holding up the first copy of his latest gamble as it rolled off the presses.
The cover story, a “world exclusive” interview with actor Amanda Holden where she “reveals” how her heart “STOPPED” for 40 seconds while giving birth to her daughter, sets the tone. If that doesn't sound family-friendly enough, there is a column by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, cheekily headed “Sentamu's Sunday Service”.
But The Sun being The Sun, it can't resist raunchiness. So, on page three, there is a full-length nude picture of singer Kelly Rowland with a breathless caption littered with double-entendres.
Model Katie Price has a column to herself — a hotch-potch of trivia redeemed by tributes to Whitney Houston and Marie Colvin — signed off with “The PRICE is always right!”
Elsewhere, there is the usual tabloid mix of celebrity gossip (“Drugs Job for Amy's Junkie Ex”), soft news, sports and sexed-up headlines. The news of Nelson Mandela's surgery is headed “Nelson Tum OP”; and guess what's this about “Good golly, Holly”?.
But hardened tabloid readers brought up on the News of the World found it “bland”. “I like sleaze on Sunday so I feel slightly robbed,” said the former Sun Editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. Tabloid critics, too, felt Mr. Murdoch had gone to the other extreme to be family-friendly. “What struck me is the paper's soft focus. Everyone is mentioned in a very kind way. There is a clear intention to draw a line under the News of the World and that type of intrusive journalism,” said commentator Roy Greenslade.
A tub-thumping editorial, “A new Sun rises today”, with bits of mea culpas thrown in hailed the launch as the dawn of a “new era for Britain's No 1 paper” and urged people to “trust us” while acknowledging that the hacking scandal has been a “sobering experience”.