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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 13:44 GMT
Daily Express: A chequered history
The Daily Express
The Daily Express was founded in 1900
The Daily Express was once the biggest selling daily newspaper in the world, but with the departure of its editor Rosie Boycott and falling sales, its fortunes have been mixed in recent years.

Founded in 1900, it was the first newspaper to carry news instead of adverts on the front page.

Max Aitken, the Canadian-born son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, bought a controlling interest in the paper in 1916, for the princely sum of 17,500.

By then the paper had a circulation of 277,000, but was losing money at the rate of 3,000 per day.

The potential of Aitken, then the Conservative MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, was recognised by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who appointed him Minister for Information in 1918. He also later served in Churchill's wartime cabinet.


Clearly the Express needs some new lifeblood

Philippa Kennedy
Aitken, granted the title Lord Beaverbrook, used ideas pioneered by the Express's great rival, The Daily Mail, and from overseas, to present the news in a livelier format.

He used features like gossip columns, women's features, sports and social pages. The Express was also the first British paper to carry a crossword in 1924.

By 1922 the paper had moved into the black.

Beaverbrook also launched the Sunday Express, and in 1931 moved operations to the impressive Daily Express building in Fleet Street.

Bringing tabloid principles to a broadsheet quickly established the Express as a success, and by 1936 it had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world, at 2.25 million.

'Flaming sword'

This success was maintained throughout the 1940s under the editorship of Arthur Christiansen, with sales peaking at more than three million in 1944 and four million in 1949.

Beaverbrook was a great believer in the power of the press, describing it as "a flaming sword which will cut through any political armour".

It was no coincidence he chose as the paper's symbol, a crusader.

But he was not averse to suppressing information in some cases, such as the affair between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, or the news that Winston Churchill had suffered a stroke.

He often launched newspaper campaigns, although they did not always have the intended effect.

Cartoonist Giles
Cartoonist Giles was a great asset to the newspaper
His attack on the Labour party during the 1945 general election with the headline The National Socialists was considered by some to have helped to secure their victory, while cynics said no cause was truly lost until it had been championed by the Express.

The Express dominated mid-market journalism in the post-war years, comprehensively outselling The Mail, owned by rival peer Lord Rothermere.

Fall from grace

But Lord Beaverbrook's son Max did not enjoy the same success when he took over, following the magnate's death in 1964.

Editors were changed frequently - there have been 12 since Beaverbrook.

None has made any great impact on flagging sales figures, but many critics say none has been given money to invest in promotion or editorial improvements.

The Express switched to tabloid size in 1977 and in 1985 was bought by United Newspapers.

In 1978, it gave birth to a mass-market younger brother, the Daily Star, but despite initial success the Star has struggled to match Sun and Mirror sales. In recent years it has suffered chronic under-investment.

Boycott 'boost'

Nine years later the Express Group moved to Ludgate Street, marking the end of an 89-year stint at Fleet Street.

United News and Media, as United Newspapers became in 1995 to reflect its wider media holdings, switched The Express to seven day publishing in 1996.

But this innovation was later reversed and the paper reverted to being called the Daily and Sunday Express.

The Daily Express has even dropped its long-held Tory bias in recent years, in an attempt to stem falling sales and maverick editor Rosie Boycott was brought in from The Independent to boost the tired title.

Nothing has yet stemmed the tide, and her departure is sure to fuel specuation over the newspaper's future.

See also:

25 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Boycott's climb to the top
25 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Rosie Boycott quits Express
22 Nov 00 | Business
Northern & Shell wins Express race
22 Nov 00 | Business
OK! owner buys Express
04 Aug 00 | Business
United News sharpens focus
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