Full disclosure: the author of this blog is a convinced ‘Remain’ voter
Does anyone else remember that childhood fizz of excitement when your dad arrived home from work via the newsagents bearing your favourite weekly comic wrapped inside his evening paper?
For me it was Victor in the late-1970s (I was mesmerised by Alf Tupper, The Tough of the Track), but for memory’s sake substitute your own title (Beano, Bunty, Jackie, Look-In, Dandy, Roy of the Rovers, Shoot, or even the likes of Eagle for some of you oldies!).
Can you recall how we used to hungrily scan every square inch of the front cover, then gulp down the content on each inside page, amazed at how every story seemed to have been written just for us?
I relived that emotion on Saturday morning when I asked: “What’s in the post?”, my wife’s reply triggering an adrenaline-filled moment that took me back nearly 40 years: “Just that European paper you ordered.”
Yes!! The New European (TNE) had arrived, resplendent with a cartoon splash that had me – and probably everyone else in #The48 – eagerly reading it once, twice, then again out loud at the breakfast table, gurgling with the sentiment that mirrored just how we felt.
“I wonder if dogs think?” asks a caricatured ‘Leave’ voter slumped on the sofa with his lipstick-pouting partner in Kerber & Black’s giant cartoon. The hound’s thought-bubble reply:
“These idiots… voting to leave the EU, creating a future of uncertainty and instability that will have a knock-on effect for generations to come… leading to isolation and beleaguerment for this once great nation!!!”
This simple gag gave the new pop-up paper the zeitgeist its expectant readers desperately wanted – clearly translating their own confused feelings into one sentence, a signpost that the next 48 pages (clever pagination, that) would contain exactly what everyone was craving for.
The agenda was set again on page two with a reprint of Robert Gross’ expertly-phrased letter to the Financial Times from June 30 that spoke for how we all felt after losing the referendum, TNE interviewing the technology lecturer on ‘Why I wrote THAT viral letter’. Here’s a snippet:
“We feel completely disconnected from half our neighbours and felt the need to apologise in person to our Polish friends at the school gate.”
Then launch editor Matt Kelly poured out his heartfelt raison d’être on page three, and here’s just 83 of his 1,000-plus words:
“This newspaper is created for those of us who feel we are better off within. Maybe because for most of our lives Europe is all we’ve known, and we didn’t seen any great reason to cut loose a bond that has led to sustained peace and prosperity for a continent with a shudderingly violent history, that has given us membership to the world’s largest trading block and the right of freedom of movement to live, work, learn and love wherever we choose without boundary.”
It was quite a stance, and in some ways surprising that Archant allowed its chief content officer to wave such a fervent European flag, given the majority of its own readers surely voted to leave the EU.
Then again, perhaps it’s not such a surprise: for one, 56.2% of voters in Norwich – where Archant is headquartered – chose to ‘Remain’, a mini-island in an otherwise clearly ‘Leave’ Norfolk.
And while TNE might annoy ‘Leave’ voters, none are very likely to buy or read it, whereas there’s a massive target readership who might: 16 million ‘Remain’ voters, or even just the four million who signed a petition for a second referendum (imagine if just 10% of those petitioners decided to buy TNE).
Anyway, with the editorial direction set, the rest of the Berliner-sized newspaper (printed on The Guardian’s presses) gave us detailed insight, personal experience, continental culture and more humour.
The headline ‘Seeds of revolution planted long ago’ dominated pages four and five, an expert analysis from Jonathan Freedland on what he termed “a roar of rage from the ‘Left Behind’”, (this star writer was also teased on the bottom of page one).
Light relief came on pages six and seven, headlined ‘The craziest two weeks in British politics, brought to you by [Twitter logo]’, a pictorial spread of the roller-coaster ride as seen on social media.
Then there was ‘Leavers reap the Brexit whirlwind’ on pages eight and nine, a detailed examination of how foreign-owned businesses might react to Brexit – with ‘Leave’ capitals Hull and Sunderland likely to be the hardest hit.
And ‘The view from Germany’ on pages 14 and 15 offered articles from the editor of Bild (who’d promised to recognise England’s disputed third goal from the 1966 World Cup Final if we voted to remain) and Wolfgang Blau (who fears the UK’s tabloids will now “fan the flams of hate”).
Honestly, there was so much in TNE, given it was put together within a fortnight, that there’s no room to list it all here, but other highlights included:
- an expert’s reflection on how ‘racists feel they’ve now got permission’ on page 18;
- an intelligent rant on page 19 from student journalist Ajit Niranjan, headlined ‘The young have every right to be angry – but at whom?’;
- ‘Liverpool reborn’ on pages 20 and 21 from media lecturer Dr Paddy Hoey, pointing out why that EU-regenerated city voted to ‘Remain’;
- ‘The wander years’ feature on pages 27, 28 and 29 by former Loaded editor James Brown, extolling his “love affair” with Europe;
- a fascinating ‘Europe in numbers’ statistics feature on page 37, this first week focusing on Bulgaria (did you know its population was just 7,186,993?); and
- what appears to be the beginning of a ‘48’ theme on page 48, the back cover, this week listing 48 random facts about 48 – such as: “Both Conform Or Die by Napalm Death and the theme song from Rugrats are exactly 48 seconds long”.
In total, there were more than 100 reads in the first edition of TNE – not bad value for £2 when you consider around 20 of them were in-depth features of well over 1,000-words.
The self-declared pop-up status of TNE was a touch of genius, meaning that critics already sniping that “it won’t last a year” are embarrassing themselves.
Indeed, there’s been some pleasure in watching @TheNewEuropean’s social media replies which have pointed out: “Amazing news! This guy says our four-week newspaper is running into 2017!”.
I hope it lasts longer, but even if it only runs for two months it will be a mini-success story, doubling its own short-term business plan to become one of the UK’s newspaper stars of 2016.
Yes, that word ‘newspaper’ – how proud we should be of that. In the face of our industry’s so-called ‘terminal’ decline, a regional publisher has launched a national paper of some quality, attracting international attention and thousands of new readers. What an investment!
If nothing else, it’s given me and a huge chunk of #The48 an ink-on-paper thrill that we haven’t had since we were in short trousers (to be euphemistic), and I hope it’s going to carry on doing that for the next three weeks.
▪Coming soon: Dyson at Large reviews 24, the other new regional-national printed newspaper surprise of 2016.