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What If William The Conqueror Couldn’t Get Through Customs On His Arrival In England in 1066?

Research into the impact upon history of a world devoid of William The Conqueror conducted by the Commission has indicated that The Domesday Book, a catalogue of all the land in England, what was held upon it and by whom it was owned, was commissioned in December, 1085 and completed the following year by William as a means to ascertain what taxes he could levy, would never have been compiled by anyone else. Thus paving the way for a Domesday Newspaper

The Domesday Book must be one of the most boring tomes ever written. It therefore follows that any publication sharing that name, or any derivative of it, will be tarred with that association and be considered a tedious reaa. This consideration nullified any attempts to produce a Doomsday (or Domesday) Newspaper that would’ve appealed to a previously uncatered for section of the British reading public, those of a depressed nature.

‘Newspapers might well flaunt depressing news, but contained within its many pages are also feel good stories, features on holidays, horoscopes that hint strongly at better times ahead, scantily clad young people, cartoons and worst of all agony aunts who try to make awful situations better for readers who write in with their problems.

The Omphalos, the computer program designed by Professor Delphi to postulate and then examine all the possible outcomes of life without certain historical figures, has some, ironically, very good news for those only wishing to be brought further down by their reading material. For it has forecast that in a world where William The Conqueror is turned away at customs in 1066, a Doomsday Newspaper will flourish as a consequence of there being no Doomsday Book.

The Doomsday Newspaper

This newspaper was similar in style to the periodicals specializing in sports coverage around Britain called the likes of The Pink’UN (black print on pink paper) and The Green ‘UN (black print on green paper. However, where it differed was in its radical combination of black ink upon black paper, something that appealed tremendously to the downhearted.

The Doomsday Newspaper (aka The Black’UN) provoked a mixed reaction when it first went to press in 1925. On Merseyside, for instance, Liverpool and Everton soccer fans complained because they couldn’t find where their respective teams were in the tables in the sports pages after that Saturday’s round of matches. Whereas, in the likes of Bristol, Plymouth and Hull supporters of clubs there liked it for the very same reason.

The Doomsday Newspaper (aka The Black’UN) swiftly gained a reputation for unbiased reporting and also appealed to illiterates, a group previously ignored by the newspaper industry. Proof of the paper’s growing popularity came in 1927 when a record seventy thousand applications were received to fill the recently vacated post of proof reader.

The Black’UN won the prestigious Sports Picture of the Year Award in 1932 for a photo depicting a rugby match played on a winter’s night before the advent of floodlights. Similarly, when a speck of white erroneously appeared on the front page of The Black’UN on August 9, 1933, editorial staff were able to pass it off as the first picture of Halley’s comet taken in deep space on its way to rendezvouz with the Earth’s skyline in five decades time.

Of course, The Doomsday Newspaper boasted more chronically depressed people among its readership than any other newspaper. It came as no surprise, therefore, when it was revealed in 1936 that newsstands exclusively selling that paper alone, had pitches on or adjacent to some of Britain’s most popular suicide spots such as Beachy Head and The Clifton Suspension Bridge* and that these entrepreneurs did a roaring trade.

*The Clifton Suspension Bridge newsstand eventually relocated onto the Portway below the bridge, due to falling custom.

The Doomsday Newspaper had the biggest turnover of any newspaper in terms of readership as a significant proportion of its audience were very much down in the dumps and prone to ending their lives early or being too depressed to be arsed enough to seek treatment for ailments that afflicted them. Although The Black’UN, as it was affectionately known, did devote four pages each week to health matters, but it’s fair to say that 100% of its readers were completely in the dark about this. Yet, some of the purchasers of this niche publication could actually be described as of sunny disposition. One such reader was Gavin McCloud from South Wales. But his effervescent demeanour didn’t prevent him from adding to the high early deaths statistic among the readership. This was tragically due to his reading The Black’UN on Platform 4 of Cardiff Central Station on April 24, 1939. The Swansea to Paddington Express ran him over, the driver having mistaken him for the entrance to The Severn Tunnel.

As a result of this tragedy it was decided to no longer produce The Doomsday Newspaper in broadsheet form but to reduce it to a tabloid instead. The impact on sales was negligible but the potential for an impact upon customers being mistaken for tunnel entrances was cut even more.

The death knell for the paper came in the Second World War when customers found that they no longer needed to buy copies as they could read the latest edition framed in the windows of a neighbour’s home. Thus was because it made excellent blackout material. The Doomsday Newspaper publishers cunningly decided to reverse this trend by printing it on magnetic paper thus attracting any German bombs that were to fall towards the homes of those displaying it. This was only partly successful, for yes, fewer homes used The Doomsday Newspaper as blackout material, but this was dwarfed by the unprecedented rise in the amount of Black’UN purchasers accused of stealing cash tills on their way out of the newsagents.

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