I'm a man who, history has documented, is willing to try new things, and this week, I thought "I've never actually bought, and read, the Sun!". Well, when you combine that with the release of the brand-new and not-at-all-like-the-News-of-the-World Sun on Sunday, it was an ideal opportunity to dip my toes into tabloid water. In the interests of a fair comparison, I also got The Mail on Sunday, its main rival in the Sunday paper market. Here is a comparison of each against each other.
The Sun has the newstritional (Deliberate pun) content of a cereal box. If you want a series of insightful, thoughtful articles, examining the biggest issues society faces today, with relevant examples from this week, The Sun is not the place to look. It's like a kid's "My First Newspaper", with big, exciting pictures and small, simple words. Of the opening ten pages, 5 can be considered "News", and three of them are about the "Indy" debate. Seriously, they shorten independence to "indy". It's got 12 letters, I can't be expected to read all of them. They also have "Celebrity" endorsements littered throughout the paper, as this is the glorious first edition, to quote them; "A new era has dawned". One such celebrity endorsement is The Krankies. Oh yes, the ever-relevant Krankies, thank God you sought out their opinion of the paper, I couldn't imagine doing anything without their agreement. Another celebrity was Barbara Rafferty. You know, from Rab C Nesbitt? The wife, of a supporting character! Don't tell me you don't remember! She was on River City, till about 3 years ago? Come on! No? She's one of 3 former River City stars to say the Sun's great. I wouldn't expect you to get the other two either.
The Mail isn't exactly content-heavy either, in fairness to the Sun, but it does at least have a token effort at including news (Judging by the randomness of the articles, largely by accident. "Oh no, Mr Dacre, I accidentally ran an article containing news!" "It's too late now, we've already started printing!" is probably a common exchange in the editor's office).
Both papers rely heavily on celebrity tittle-tattle to make up for their stunning lack of news. there is however, one news story that featured fairly prominently in the columnists pages for the Sun: Fellow News International war correspondent Marie Colvin's death came up twice, separately. Katie Price (In her articles on page ELEVEN. That's ten pages of sort-of news then "Woah there, but what does celebrity topless model Katie Price make of this!?". The tagline is "The Price is ALWAYS right!", and she talks about private education versus state education, using the damning line "I went to a state school and look how well I've done!". Quite. But if I don't want my daughter stripping for money...) says "She is just the sort of woman who impresses me", while Catriona Shearer also sings her praises. Nothing mentioned of the award-winning war photographer who died with her. Presumably he was just freelance rather than working for NI.
The Mail didn't focus on this story much, but how could they with space at such a premium that the story about Tara Palmer-Tomkinson telling Kate that William would come running back to her could only take up a (full) single page? That's a four page spread at least, but they must have somehow whittled it down to one. The Sun weren't quite so economical in their story about Amanda Holden giving birth, unable to get that down, somehow, to less than two pages.
Having criticised Katie Price, The Mail's columnists aren't much better, in fairness. Liz Jones looks around the world, sees plague and pestilence across the world, looks at the issues in Syria and Bahrain, looks at the big issue of the day, the Scottish independence debate, glances at the NHS debate, and indeed, the "Slave labour" issue rearing its head, and thinks "The world needs an article, and I am ready to deliver". She sits down at her desk, is presumably briefly possessed (It's the only logical conclusion) and churns out "Someone has to tell the truth about fashion (...Even if it does cost me that lovely olive greatcoat)". Brilliant. Well, thank god you stepped up, Liz, because it doesn't seem particularly likely that anyone else would, and now that Marie Colvin's dead, someone has to nail these big issues. Unbelievable.
Mercifully, though, The Sun is slightly less right-wing than the Mail (I kid you not, the Mail has some sort of weird article about the Socialist Worker's Party and its front organisations. Apparently whatever side they are on, "Sensible citizens" should be on the other. It reads like a 1920s piece against the rise of communism. "Sacrificed on the altar of Leftist dogma" may be the weirdest way to end an article since about 1953) but it's hardly the Socialist Worker. Both papers lose marks for showing clear bias here.
Additional pull outs and so on, as is standard for Sunday papers, were adequate in both. A decentish sport section, although nothing remarkable. The Mails "You" magazine featured the rest of the aforementioned Tara Palmer-Tomkinson interview which didn't fit in the newspaper. To show you that I've done my reading, she describes herself as "secretly clever". Oh really. I'm secretly very handsome. No, no, I know I don't look it, but that's because it's a secret. I didn't realise we could ascribe ourselves qualities and then put "secretly" before them, and thus, it becomes a perfectly valid statement. The Sun's pull out was "Fabulous" magazine, which had the story article "99 Buy Me Now Shoes". I'll let that speak for the general tone of the thing. Nothing more to say about them, really.
In short then: The Mail wins, but only because, at fifty pence, The Sun on Sunday is the best value toilet paper I've ever bought. Don't buy either if you can avoid it.