PERSPECTIVE: Love, loathe then envy the status of the Sunday Times

By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 12 December 1997 12:00AM

How do you read your Sunday Times? Do you enjoy a prologue with your lovely local newsagent? ’Um, there’s three Moneys and no Sport in mine.’ ’I’m sorry sir. It’s difficult, I’m telling you.’ You possibly don’t begin with a frantic search for the Leeds United match report, or a skim of Business to see if there are any stories Campaign should know about. You might turn to the front page - apart from our very own Andrew Grice - more in hope than expectation, because you will have already listened to the radio, or watched Breakfast with Frost after Teletubbies. You will glance at the Sunday night movies, check out the Travel destinations, and bin the Appointments, Money (too scary to read), Getting Wired (ditto), Books (no point, no time) and Business (Sunday’s too precious) bits, then give the inserts to the babies to mangle.

How do you read your Sunday Times? Do you enjoy a prologue with

your lovely local newsagent? ’Um, there’s three Moneys and no Sport in

mine.’ ’I’m sorry sir. It’s difficult, I’m telling you.’ You possibly

don’t begin with a frantic search for the Leeds United match report, or

a skim of Business to see if there are any stories Campaign should know

about. You might turn to the front page - apart from our very own Andrew

Grice - more in hope than expectation, because you will have already

listened to the radio, or watched Breakfast with Frost after

Teletubbies. You will glance at the Sunday night movies, check out the

Travel destinations, and bin the Appointments, Money (too scary to

read), Getting Wired (ditto), Books (no point, no time) and Business

(Sunday’s too precious) bits, then give the inserts to the babies to

mangle.



Next, like many people you know, you will do a bizarre thing. In

succession, you will read the effervescent Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, whose

column is the most meaningless of anyone’s, anywhere; turn to the

appalling Michael Winner, whose views on restaurants and food you don’t

respect; look for AA Gill (on restaurants and TV, but nothing else),

whose beautiful prose style is in marked contrast to his personality;

and the extraordinary Taki, who runs T P-T close for meaninglessness and

whose views make AA Gill appear liberal. Then there are all those who

you can get away with not reading: Simon Sebag Montefiore, AA Gill in

News Review, any contributor to the motoring section (a personal

prejudice).



You’re not alone. Virtually anyone you know a) reads the Sunday Times,

b) professes not to like it, c) devours the likes of T P-T and kicks

themselves for it. Of course, there are journalists you look forward to

reading (Lesley White, Hugh McIlvanney), but, for me, the overall level

of antipathy is strange considering that it’s the only publication I

hate to miss.



That’s its secret. You can take the others, but the Sunday Times really

is the Sunday papers for so many different sectors, particularly

business.



It understands and exploits the contemporary taste for the shallow. It

also proves the power of polemical opinion. We read Taki for the joy of

being wound up.



It’s an extraordinary privilege to be a ’must’ - whatever the degree of

seriousness or size of category: from the Financial Times to Hello!,

Caterer and Hotelkeeper to the News of the World, Sky Sport to the

Lancet.



Their own consumers may profess to dislike them, but they’re buggers to

compete against. It’s easy to see how this happens in the trade press

niche, but for a Sunday national it’s a remarkable achievement. We all

aspire to ’must’ status, but it’s bloody hard work getting there. And

even harder staying there.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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