It’s said that today’s news wraps tomorrow’s fish and chips. In a sense, it’s the British version of the saying that a Persian king commissioned from his philosophers, when seeking an adage that would be suitable for any occasion: “This, too, shall pass.” Perhaps it’s a comfort to disgraced politicians, and the like.
It hasn’t actually been permitted to have old newspapers in contact with food for years now, but still the saying persists. There are even printed paper cones and cartons that are made to look as if they’re old newspapers, which is a curious historical throwback.
Something like a hundred thousand tonnes of newsprint are used daily, and few papers are considered to have much use once a day or two has passed. For one newspaper the useful life was even shorter, and it provides a cautionary tale on the merits of distribution planning.
It was early 1965, and Mr Lionel Burleigh was hard at work creating a new weekly paper. The Commonwealth Sentinel was to be “Britain’s most fearless newspaper”… yet it closed after just one issue had been printed. Burleigh wrote the stories, sold advertising space, and had fifty thousand copies printed. No doubt it was a busy week for him. He met the printing deadline… but forgot to arrange any form of distribution.
In the absence of any instructions, the printer delivered everything to the hotel where Burleigh was staying, blocking the street. Precisely one copy of the newspaper was sold, to a curious passer-by.
If that copy still existed, it would be quite a collector’s item.