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British newspapers today

Higgins, Michael and Smith, Clarissa and Storey, John (2010) British newspapers today. In: The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture. Cambridge Companions to Culture . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 279-295. ISBN 9780521683463

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Abstract

British culture today is the product of a shifting combination of tradition and experimentation, national identity and regional and ethnic diversity. These distinctive tensions are expressed in a range of cultural arenas, such as art, sport, journalism, fashion, education, and race. This Companion addresses these and other major aspects of British culture, and offers a sophisticated understanding of what it means to study and think about the diverse cultural landscapes of contemporary Britain. Each contributor looks at the language through which culture is formed and expressed, the political and institutional trends that shape culture, and at the role of culture in daily life. This interesting and informative account of modern British culture embraces controversy and debate, and never loses sight of the fact that Britain and Britishness must always be understood in relation to the increasingly international context of globalisation. Michael Higgins begins his chapter on British newspapers by acknowledging the importance of newspapers to Britain's sense of its political and cultural identity. He argues that the notion of the press as a 'fourth estate of the realm' situates the industry as representative of the British population against the institutions of power and ­privilege. Although the press have never lived up to the rhetoric of this demanding tradition and are currently suffering from declining print sales, Higgins argues that newspapers remain important as socio-political identifiers and as a means of reproducing established political and class-based social groupings. Higgins's argument resonates with that of John Street, such that it appears that the politics of newspapers are motivated as much by target markets as an attachment to political ideologies. Higgins suggests that these divisions in the newspaper market extend beyond the conventional one between popular and quality newspapers and include various factors of political party allegiance and identification with particular, shifting social groupings and politically significant categories.