MEDIA: The observer: an expert’s view

Paul Mukherjee hopes for big things with a Guardian team on the new Observer

Paul Mukherjee hopes for big things with a Guardian team on the new


Ever since I could read big words and stopped using crayon (about 19)

I’ve read the Observer. I read it while I was studying for my A-levels

because in those days anything Murdoch was off limits, there was no

Independent on Sunday or Correspondent and the Sunday Telegraph was

still filled with stories about policemen falling off pushbikes in


Even with this background, Lonrho contrived to sever my allegiance. The

infamous mid-week edition printed to kick Al Fayed; and the heart-

warming stories of certain African dictators embracing democracy when I

knew they were electrocuting the gonads off some poor sod just because

he wanted the vote. Yet somehow, we have stayed together.

Over the years, the Observer has changed from a five-section newspaper

to, surprise surprise, a five-section newspaper. Even a new masthead,

after a couple of weeks, feels like the old one. Its ex-editor, Andrew

Jaspan, tried to make the Observer a scoop paper, always dangerous

because you rely on there being a scoop. The new team, mostly Guardian-

reared, have gone back to a Monday-to-Saturday appeal in terms of news

and layout. Comment is back in the main paper and, if the stories are

correct, we should expect the demise of Preview (I wonder if it saw it


Is it better, is it worse? Well, it’s the Observer. As a reader on

Sunday I expect words, some to inform me, some to incense me and some to

make me laugh. For me, it’s better than it ever was under Lonrho and in

the Sunday tea-and-toast war it gets my vote.

The problem all papers have, especially Sundays, is staying relevant to

the majority of their purchasers. The Guardian went through the same

process in the late 80s and early 90s with surprising success. It has to

be a good bet to do the same on the Observer and for me, as a Guardian

reader, this can only be a good thing.

Paul Mukherjee is the refined head of press at the Network


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