Newspaper was last print daily using topless images but says it will trial non-naked pictures

Daily Star covers up its Page 3 girls, signalling end of tabloid tradition | Media
‘The Daily Star is always looking to try new things and improve,’ its editor said. Photograph: Web

Almost two decades into the 21st century, the days of the Page 3 girl look to be finally over, after the Daily Star announced it would no longer feature pictures of topless women.

The newspaper was the last daily print outlet maintaining the British tabloid tradition, after the Sun stopped doing so following political pressure in 2015.

Although the Star will continue to feature photos of young women, they will no longer be topless, according to its editor, Jonathan Clark, who suggested it was time for a change.

“The Daily Star is always looking to try new things and improve,” he said. “In that spirit, we’ve listened to reader feedback and are currently trialling a covered-up version of page 3.”

The move potentially brings to an end 50 years of topless photos in mainstream newspapers. The former Labour minister Clare Short, who was pilloried by the tabloids in the 2000s when she repeatedly proposed banning the feature, told the Guardian her campaign had been vindicated.

“Good news. It only took 30 years,” she said.

The decision also marks a U-turn for the Star, which has always taken an idiosyncratic approach to the newspaper business. When the Sun cancelled its Page 3 girls, the Daily Star responded by increasing on its own commitment to the feature.

Under the guidance of its former proprietor Richard Desmond, a major Ukip donor and pornographer who previously owned titles such as Asian Babes, it defended the inclusion of such pictures and suggested they were a core part of British culture.

“The Daily Star is proud to continue the great British page 3 tradition,” the newspaper said at the time. “It brightens the day for our readers during tough times and has launched many successful careers.

“We will continue to listen to what our readers want and put a smile on their faces with our lovely, bright, talented and independent young ladies. Page 3 is as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pud, fish and chips and seaside postcards. The Daily Star is about fun and cheering people up. And that will definitely continue!”

Four years later, the newspaper appears to have decided otherwise, seemingly influenced by Desmond’s decision to sell the title to the Daily Mirror owner Reach.

The former longstanding Star editor Dawn Neesom, who once justified page 3 as something that is “fun and women look at it as much as men”, was last year replaced by Clark, a former Daily Mirror associate editor who has brought a new approach to the job.

Page 3 was introduced to the UK by Rupert Murdoch and Larry Lamb in 1970 shortly after they relaunched the Sun as a tabloid newspaper. It helped make models such as Samantha Fox and Katie Price household names, and rivals followed suit with their own equivalents, despite a sustained public campaign against the feature.

Topless pictures have not vanished from British newsstands completely, with the Sunday Sport continuing to be distributed in some outlets.

It remains to be seen whether the Star’s decision to end topless Page 3 girls will make a substantial difference to the newspaper’s sales, which last month fell to 322,000 copies a day, an 18% year-on-year decline.

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