Sun Editor David Dinsmore on Page Three, Phone Hacking and Hillsborough

David Dinsmore during interview with John Pienaar

Photo: Angela Shine   By Angela Shine

David Dinsmore, now five months into his editorship of The Sun newspaper, was speaking at a Breakfast Forum hosted by The London Press Club at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.  In interview with John Pienaar, Chief Political Correspondent on Radio 5 Live, he spoke about the newspaper’s past and future.

Mr Dinsmore, ex Director of Operations at News International, looked sharp and focused as the session began. He answered questions on ex Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and the police at Downing Street and spoke about his ‘pain every day’ for arrested and mistreated journalists abroad as well answering questions on a diverse range of news topics.

When asked whether he was considering moving away from Page Three, Mr. Dinsmore replied ‘I make the paper for the readers, I don’t make it for the No More Page Three Campaign, I don’t make it for the Twitterati, I don’t make it for readers of the Guardian.’  He talked about the various polls and investigations done with focus groups and continued ‘the word that came back loud and clear was ‘do not touch it.’ He also said that women offered strong support for the feature adding; ‘they feel it is intrinsic to the brand and also they don’t want to be told, by someone else, what should be in their paper.’ And finally ‘Frankly, I have now parked the issue and we move on.’

‘I make the paper for the readers, I don’t make it for the No More Page Three Campaign, I don’t make it for the Twitterati, I don’t make it for readers of the Guardian.’ He talked about the various polls and investigations done with focus groups and continued ‘the word that came back loud and clear was ‘do not touch it.’

Discussing changes to the layout of the paper, he talked about making the paper more lively and vibrant by including single column stories of interest and changing set sections to different pages. He later commented ‘It is not set in stone that there must be a pair of breasts on page three every day in The Sun.’

Phone Hacking

I asked Mr. Dinsmore if he thought phone hacking should be allowed, and if so, in what circumstances would he use it for journalism? He replied ‘No, I don’t think it should. It’s illegal, apart from anything else.

As he took questions from the floor, I asked Mr. Dinsmore if he thought phone hacking should be allowed, and if so, in what circumstances would he use it for journalism? He replied ‘No, I don’t think it should. It’s illegal, apart from anything else. Are there circumstances? I just can’t see any circumstances in the UK where anyone would ever, in their right mind, hack a phone again. No matter what the story is, because of what has come from all of this. Now it could be that if this hadn’t happened, you could possibly make an argument that something was in such public interest that you could do, but I think you’d have to be to be in leave of your senses to go and do that.’

When questioned on Hillsborough, he spoke about the ‘special challenges’ involved and commented ‘there is no doubt there were mistakes made in the past’ adding ‘Everybody had the same story, we just had the wrong headline on it.’  Mr. Dinsmore also said ‘I don’t expect to start selling papers again in Liverpool.’

When asked whether the paper has lost its Mojo, he replied ‘I’ve been here five months; we changed the name of The Sun to The SON when Prince George was born; that kinda went round the world, it was something that was different and exciting and a great snapshot of that moment in time.’ Adding ‘I don’t think it has lost its Mojo, what has changed is the media landscape.’ Acknowledging those changes as he compares the newspaper market four years ago,  he adds ‘We have to kinda recalibrate where we are today because I don’t think the Sun will sell 4m print newspapers today, but I don’t see there’s any reason why we can’t have 4m subscribers in the future.’

Researching the internet, you will find the clean lines of the News UK website combining The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times. The website is already casting its metaphoric net with iPad versions of themselves, print and paper costs free. Of course the Sun is offering a tempting ‘Appy days’ Get the paper on your iPad – Free Download. Click on a small, interactive icon, strategically placed next to a mini front page of each paper and the news is at your fingertips, literally.

His eyes firmly on making The Sun a paid for multi platform readership; he appears to be in morph mode to meet the ever-changing needs of his readers. With the lure of so much available free web content, only time will tell if he will reel the falling Sun readership figures back in via on-line subscriptions.

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2 thoughts on “Sun Editor David Dinsmore on Page Three, Phone Hacking and Hillsborough

  1. When a woman says they want to see girls just out of high school get a topless half-page daily feature in a national newspaper, I have to wonder… why?

    Theory 1: “Wow, we have a lot of lesbians!”
    – Quickly dispelled when you actually know any lesbians, because they’re as tired of being portrayed as sexual objects as any woman should be. Imagine what it’s like to be enjoying a romantic moment with your partner, only to have some random twerp come up to you believing that you’d both be interested in sharing their bed. This generally doesn’t happen to heterosexual couples, but it sure as hell happens to lesbian couples, whilst the group of people that commit this invasion of privacy are usually the same group of heterosexual males who would probably ridicule, laugh or even physically attack a *gay* couple for doing the same thing. What’s the difference? Attitudes towards women, attitudes it doesn’t take much brains to figure out are promoted by The Sun, particularly with it’s Page 3 feature.

    Theory 2: “These must be free-thinking women who do not believe in censorship!”
    – This may be given as a reason by those women, but that just means those women were obviously never taught as children by their parents or schooling that freedom comes with responsibility. In other words: freedom doesn’t mean you’re free at all, it simply means that you have power – the power to shape the world around you which you can use for your own benefit at the expense of someone else, unless you acknowledge that with power comes responsibility.
    – If we had a newspaper slandering non-whites…
    [Wait… have you *seen* the “representation” of non-whites in The Sun lately..? Take a look: ]
    … would it be censorship to ban their publication or racist slurs? I don’t think we’d bat an eyelid if “Whites First” were the title of a paper that it got banned. Is that… censorship? Censorship is when you take something that is for the common good then stop it from getting made public, because it doesn’t fit your not-for-the-common-good mandate. On a more positive note it is also used to deal with the fact that some things are harmless when experienced by mature adults, but not by children. Ask yourself at what age you first knew of Page 3’s existence, then ask yourself if you think that’s an appropriate age to be seeing porn, let alone porn that comes from only one very narrow spectrum and is directed at one very specific audience.

    Theory 3: “These women must have a sensible stance on porn.”
    – Except you don’t have to hate porn to understand that Page 3 is *not* good porn. If you’re an experienced fan of porn, you may have yourself come to the realisation that actually most porn, is not good porn and what you wouldn’t give for a better reflection of reality, starting with people who are actually honestly *enjoying* each other. If you had a sensible stance on porn, you’d be demanding a revolution right now, with non-for-profit consenting reality-porn being shared within communities – far more enjoyable, actually rather educational, far easier to prevent getting into the hands of children but if it *does* get into their hands, it’s going to do a lot less damage and at least stands the chance of teaching the right lessons about sex and how to treat your partners. If you truly loved porn, you’d be outraged that some newspaper is shoving such a bland version of it in your face every day *and* giving it bad press, ruffling feathers everywhere and within easy access of small children – all the ammunition required to take what you love away from you.

    Theory 4: “These must be women who are happy with the way things are!”
    – I beg your pardon… Happy with what? Wage inequality? Rape and domestic violence statistics of which women make up the vast majority? Happy with the fact that political representation is a joke regards to females in positions of power, and that the shaping the outcome of policies that can and do affect *all* women is usually done primarily by white men in posh suits? That list gets very long, very quickly. I really shouldn’t have to go on. Also censorship is usually for one of two reasons: to prevent positive solutions that sabotage something very nasty, or… to prevent harm.
    – Page 3 is NOT a positive solution to anything. Want to progress towards a world where women to have equal rights and opportunities? Loose Page 3. Want to progress towards a world where women are able to wear what they want and feel confident about it? Loose Page 3. Want to progress towards a world where women stop judging each other and men to stop judging them based on their physical appearances above all else? Loose Page 3. Want to stop the growing trend to equalise that dreadful valuation method for women by applying it also to men? You could start by losing Page 3. Want women to feel more comfortable (and society be more comfortable) with showing their breasts in public whilst using them to do what they are actually there to do (breastfeed an infant)? Or even progress towards an era where actually nudity is no big deal and a woman could go topless on a hot day if she felt like it – truly liberated? Lose Page 3, because it tells us breasts are for sex, a woman’s body is for sex, so they should be covered up unless involved in that, except for that woman who’s there to make sure you remember that every day and yell/think sex-centred thoughts about the next bare breast you see, even if it’s a stranger breastfeeding her child or involved in an accident.
    – Page 3 does however, *cause* harm. Consider for a few examples. Those examples include some explaining how it finds its way into the hands of minors, what it can do to those minors, and to minors who become the targets of the ones who use it as a weapon. No wonder teaching unions have backed the No More Page 3 campaign – they see it first hand. Also included are stories of how it is used to perpetuate sexual discrimination in the workplace and again, no wonder then that workers unions – blue collar as well as white – are joining the campaign. It also tells the more general ways in which Page 3 feeds views of women held by heterosexual male readers and women who know of its existence. Eating disorders, even rape… Page 3 says “women should be attractive and accessible (and preferably white)” – if they are one but not the other or don’t fit the bill of being either, then outrage is warranted as is spite and ridicule. So if banning Page 3 is censorship, then it is only of the good kind, not the bad and there *is* a difference.

    So if none of these theories really works as a reason for why a woman supports Page 3, then you have some pretty nasty home truths coming out about what happens when you down-tread someone into thinking they deserve what you’ve done to them, or feed them propaganda until they think it’s the way the world should be and it’s actually a good thing. Don’t believe that possible? Try this on for size:

    When Gene Rodenberry’s pilot episode for the original Star Trek first aired to a test audience, it starred his wife as the second in command of the star ship. In the story, the captain is captured and held hostage, so she actually took on a leaadership role, in trousers, commanding the crew to hunt for the captain. Seeing this today, Gene actually wrote her character and she played it very well. She’s a believable leader. But the test audience rejected it because of her position and behaviour and Gene was told that unless he removed and avoided in future, women taking any kind of commanding roles, the show would be axed with criticism like:
    “Who does she think she is?! Talking to a man like that!”
    “She needs to learn her *place*!”
    “She was completely unladylike, a bossy, aggressive thoroughly bad example of what a woman should be!”

    – But those criticisms, the harshest ones… came from *women.*

    You do not have to buy into a culture to receive payback from it. If women genuinely supporting Page 3 then they are either the worst victims of that truth, or they consider themselves to be the equivalent of the teacher’s pet in the same way that during Rwanda’s genocide, it was a *woman* that decreed and directed that women of a given ethnicity should be assaulted, raped and killed.

    Sorry for the rant, I’ve just had enough with Mr. David Dinsmore’s dismal discussions about continuing to promote porn that poor quality and a gilded cage for gender equality, lest it escape and make use of itself in some positive way..

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