Perhaps it’s just my insatiable imagination working overtime, but I often view the Fleet Street family as just that; a dysfunctional family at times, but the same could be said of the Forsytes, and it was this very factor that made their story such an entertaining saga. A combination of readership and editorial serve to shape the character of each individual member of the Fleet Street family, who are united as much as they are divided. The complex relationships between the various members are ones of love and hate, comradeship and contempt, and romance and rivalry. Like any family, petty grievances are only ever put aside when the entire dynasty is under attack; they close ranks and confront the common enemy as one intimidating unit. As if to underline this, they maintain their name despite having vacated their crumbling old home and relocated to a modern luxury residence in Wapping.
Head of the family I see being the Times, on account of her advanced age; a wizened old matriarch whose seniority earns her grudging respect as the vast fortune she is assumed to sit upon is eyed with envy by those hoping to inherit it, the Times is long separated from her caddish husband the Sunday Times, who shows up periodically the worse for drink and half-heartedly demands his conjugal rights. The Times shares her home with the equally aged sister she spends most of her day sniping with, the Telegraph. The Times’ sibling is a spinster, whereas the Times’ turbulent marriage produced two children, brother and sister the Express and the Mail.
The Mail is a paranoid, sex-starved, neurotic and melodramatic middle-aged woman trapped in an unhappy marriage with the Sunday Mail; she is convinced everything she eats will give her cancer and sees enemies everywhere, even if her darkest sexual fantasies usually involve the immigrant servant staff she employs for a pittance. Her brother the Express is equally prone to hysterical outbursts, accusing all Europeans of secretly plotting to destroy everything he holds dear about the country he loves. Unlike his sister, the Express has always been a confirmed bachelor, something his disturbing fascination with the late Princess Diana has often raised questions about.
Despite their miserable marriage, the Mail and Sunday Mail have two grown-up male children, the Sun and the Mirror, siblings who have followed in the family tradition by never getting on. The Sun is a flash Thatcherite Tory who revels in his coarse vulgarity and calling a spade a spade, whereas his brother is a humourless old-school Labour supporter nevertheless prone to a rather hypocritical predilection for titillation, despite the dismissive barbs he aims at the Sun for his brazen breast obsession. The Mirror is married to Scotswoman the Daily Record, a marriage that has spawned three somewhat smug and smarmy university-educated children prone to lecturing their parents in a rather patronising and superior manner – the Guardian, the Observer and the recently deceased Independent.
Although it has yet to be verified, rumours suggest the Independent committed suicide after never really getting over the death of his long-gone lover, Today, way back in the mid-90s; he had recently fathered a somewhat simple child known as the i, and the infant has at least surprisingly acquired a playmate following the unexpected arrival of a fourth child to the Mirror and Record via IVF, one they optimistically christened The New Day, though the newcomer is rather weak and sickly, with doctors not predicting much of a future for her.
The Sun has never tied the knot, though was a bit of a lad in his day; he has at least one officially confirmed illegitimate son, the Star, who is forever trying to be accepted as a legit member of the family, without much luck; rumours also suggest the Sport is another result of the Sun’s indiscretions over the years. Much the same was said of the now-deceased News of the World, and many maintain the People has a similar claim to his paternal parentage.
Mind you, the Fleet Street family is littered with the corpses of cousins who tried their best to court favour with the central core of the clan, such as the Sketch and the Herald. The family is not known for its sentiment and possesses a cold, calculated ruthlessness it is adept at masking in affability, always declaring its innocence whenever an accusatory finger points in its direction. Such is the Fleet Street way.
So, there you have it – either a tumultuous family drama worthy of BBC1 on a Sunday night or simply my way of coming up with something silly to obscure the fact that nothing much is happening in the news that I haven’t already written about.
© The Editor