For the second part of Salut!'s occasional series looking at the British national press, attention is turned to a title that is usually regarded as the weakest and most vulnerable of the redtops, but turns out to pack an unexpected punch ...
Names will be withheld to protect the guilty.
Two bright young reporters in a fairly grim northern city, one working for a regional newspaper and the other for a news agency, discuss their ambitions.
One knows he will end up on a broadsheet and that he will probably rise to a high position (or apply his considerable brainpower to another career). The other also has considerable brainpower, but only one aim: to work for the Daily Star.
The dreams of both men came true. The first is a friend and former colleague, the other a character I met while covering extraordinary goings-on* at Newcastle United. He proved excellent company and it was obvious to me that he was an accomplished journalist. So why on earth the Star?
"It's just great fun to work for," he replied. "If you are from The Sun and ring someone about a story, they either slam the phone down or demand pots of money. If you're from the Star, they just laugh."
There you have the essence of the Daily Star, now as it was when the conversation took place nearly 12 years ago. No one is supposed to take it too seriously.
If you had asked me then about the paper, I would have said it was unnecessary, trashy and doomed. Ask me again and I would alter the third adjective. For doomed read successful: ABC figures for December showed that its sales rose 15.3 per cent, year on year, to reach 823,476 while the Daily Mirror and Sun circulations fell by 10 and just under three per cent respectively.
I have bought the paper four times since mid-December, without even asking for it to be concealed within a copy of the Financial Times or Penthouse. It costs only 20p, a marketing ploy central to the impressive sales.
To gain an idea of its priorities, consider the page one headlines of these editions.
X Factor Fixes Christmas Chart/ Simon's Secret Xtra Factor/ Jordan's Lovers Save BB/ Big Bruv Red-Hot Sex Crisis
Inside, there is more show business, with an emphasis on reality TV and celebrity gossip, lots of sports, especially football, and just about enough coverage of proper news, I imagine, to satisfy the target readership. The editorials in Monday's edition commented on immigration ("we need to close our doors"); snow-hit football ("health and safety madness cannot be allowed to ruin the beautiful game") and Big Brother (a gag about one of the contestants).
With a cover price so low, it is difficult to see how Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell Group can make a decent return on the paper (the group recorded pre-tax profits of £41m for 2008, down from £55m the previous year, but the accounts do not seem to break down the total into sectors).
And 2009 proved an expensive year in the libel courts, with the Star and its stablemate, the Daily Express, forced to make large payouts arising from the case of the missing child Madeleine McCann; the new year has started with another settlement, this time handing over damages to a daughter of Sir Bob Geldof. The nature of the libellous statements concerned shows that the Star is not just a lightweight, harmless read but can get nasty.
It would hardly be a controversial view to suggest that the trade of journalism would not be greatly diminished if the Daily Star ceased to exist. But it has proved its resilience so often that the editor, Dawn Neesom, and that contented old confrère from the North can afford to respond to such an impertinent thought with cheeky chappy smirks.
*"Aren't there always extraordinary goings-on at Newcastle United," I hear you wearily demand, "so that they are no longer classifiable as extraordinary?" Well, yes. But this was the time senior boardroom figures had been caught out in a News of the World investigation for, among other things, calling female Toon supporters "dogs" and mocking Alan Shearer as football's Mary Poppins. It all led to another of the club's crises.