Monthly Archives: July 2011

News of the word and the Decline of the press

By Anne Applebaum

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. … In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about? Naturally, about a murder.

I am not the first person to quote the opening lines from “Decline of the English Murder” this week, and no wonder: George Orwell, who composed that droll little essay in 1946, placed the now-defunct News of the World in its historical and cultural context as no one else could. Orwell’s mid-20th-century British tabloid reader first eats a lunch of “roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding.” Then he settles down to drink tea and read scandalous stories, preferably involving the “chairman of the local Conservative Party branch,” a “strong Temperance advocate,” or someone equally respectable. British tabloid readers spent many Sunday afternoons that way in the decades before Orwell wrote those words. They have gone on doing so ever since.