The Daily Star has been raising smiles – and eyebrows – for its sharp and often comic front pages during the pandemic, which editor Jon Clark tells Press Gazette is indeed “satire” but certainly not “woke”.
The tabloid news title describes itself as “the home of fun stuff” and seems to have taken this to heart while the country has been in lockdown, often comparing the Government to clowns in a recurring gag.
Clark, a former Daily Mirror associate editor who took over from Dawn Neesom as editor of the Star in 2018 following its buyout by Reach, tells Press Gazette over email: “Comedy is the best way to get your point across.”
The Daily Star counts 100 journalists, including production staff, among its ranks across print and online. Reach says the Star, which also has a weekend edition: Daily Star Sunday, is profitable in its own right. (Reach also publishes the Mirror and Express.)
Like every other newspaper in the UK, the Daily Star has recorded continual print decline over the past decade, but it has grown its online readership at the same time, reaching 9.4m UK adults a month (latest Pamco data), with unique users said to be up 61% year-on-year to just under 11.2m registered users (Comscore, January 2021).
Clark shares his thoughts on Dominic Cummings, his paper’s campaign to make Piers Morgan PM, whether the Star is woke, and how its front pages are helping to redefine perceptions about what the title stands for.
This interview was conducted before the Meghan and Harry interview and Piers Morgan’s resignation from Good Morning Britain.
Looking at your lockdown front pages, something seems to have snapped at the Daily Star. What was the final straw?
Dominic Cummings was the final straw. Our readers had been diligently doing their bit, staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives, when this clown decided to go for a drive in the middle of a pandemic. And to make matters worse, rather than saying “it’s a fair cop, guv”, he came up with a bullshit excuse. He was taking the piss out of every right-thinking person and being backed by Bozo. Totally unforgivable.
Your Dominic Cummings mask splash went viral. Where did that idea come from?
The mask sprang to mind as I sat there thinking about the ruling elite and how they thought they had got away with murder. That night it went viral. The success of a page like that is not necessarily in sales but in redefining people’s old fashioned perceptions about what the Daily Star stands for. There are some terrible snobs in the government and media and this gave them something to think about.
OK, are you guys really serious about Piers Morgan for Prime Minister?
Would Piers do any worse than Bozo Johnson? Up until the vaccine rollout (great job NHS heroes) the PM had the SADIM touch – the opposite of the MIDAS touch where everything he touches turns to shit. Piers would almost certainly do a better job. But then again so would my labrador Charlie.
What have readers said about the tone of the new front pages?
Our readers are loyal, hard-working and decent people. If they didn’t have a sense of humour and were boring old farts then they would be buying the Guardian every day instead of the Star.
Which splashes are you most proud of?
I liked the Cummings mask best and thought it summed up the mood of the nation quite well. It got more traction than any other newspaper front in 2020… but still not good enough to be shortlisted for Front Page of the Year. Perhaps next year we will focus more on really boring stuff and see if that helps.
Comparing the Government to clowns is funny, but is it actually useful journalism in a crisis?
Comedy is the BEST way to get your point across. A complicated or serious story boiled down to a simple image and a story told in eight paragraphs should be enough. We told Brexit in six crisp pars once, which was more than enough.
Some people are calling your splashes satire. What do you think of that?
Satire is exactly what they are.
Has the Government said anything about your coverage that you can share?
They have been mentioned in the corridors of power. I’m reliably told the Star is avidly read at Number 10. So we have gained at least a few new readers, which is not to be sniffed at.
Has the Daily Star gone woke?
The day we turn woke is the day hell freezes over. We will continue holding our leaders to account but we will also praise them if they ever get something right… but don’t hold your breath.
What do you think the average Daily Star reader looks like nowadays?
Star readers want to be informed, entertained and uplifted. In print two-thirds of our readers are men but online the gender split is 50/50. They don’t want to be lectured or talked down to. They make up their own minds and have a great sense of humour. Other people should give it a try.
The Daily Star is one of the few newspapers still regularly reporting on UFO and ghost sightings. Are you a true believer?
We reported recently that Donald Trump had done a deal to keep his knowledge of UFOs secret. Stranger things have certainly happened with regards to Donald Trump. The truth is out there.
Why would the UK be worse off if the Daily Star were to close tomorrow?
The country would be less cheerful, entertained and uplifted. But a couple of publicity-shy millionaires and a few members of the government would be happy at least.