National papers 05-10-14 to 11-10-14
The British tradition of holding elections on a Thursday is a mixed blessing. It means there is plenty of meat for the Friday, when news is often on the lean side, but the fare can also be a bit heavy for a Saturday morning. We see that clearly today with the aftermath of Ukip's first poll victory in Clacton. The Independent and Guardian look at the difficulties Miliband faces, the Times looks at the difficulties Cameron faces and the Mail grabs the opportunity to bang home its immigration agenda with a splash, three spreads of election fallout, an essay and an extended leader.
Of those who choose to lead on something else, you have to admire the Star for coming up with the Saturday splash of the day. After two days of matching black-eyed ghost children with "reality" TV shows, it has been rewarded by seeing its scary spider series taken up by Coronation Street scriptwriters.
The Express tells us what we know: that fruit juice contains lots of sugar and isn't as healthy as we'd thought. If you remember, this was a big issue in January at the start of the New Year diet season, but there's no harm in reminding people about the dangers lurking in a 250ml glass of orange juice (115 cals, 24g of sugar). Especially on the day you're offering readers a free bar of chocolate (250 cals, 25g of sugar).
Biggest surprise of the morning is that only the Guardian and Times make Malala, the youngest yet recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, their front-page photograph. The Telegraph has Angelina Jolie being "damed" by the Queen, which has a bit of Saturday flavour. But what makes the Express, i and Independent think that Farage, Carswell and Miliband will sell their papers - or Graham Norton on the front of the Mail?
Friday 10 October, 2014
Douglas Carswell's huge win in the Clacton by-election was not declared until well after 3am, so these are mostly first editions. The Times changed up from a story (stolen from the Express?) about a cure for diabetes. SubScribe has not seen other later editions. The Government's about-turn on screening airline and Eurostar passengers for a raised temperature - even though experts say this will do little to detect anyone who might be in the early stages of Ebola - has delighted the tabs and honorary bedfellow the Telegraph. The Guardian, meanwhile, tells us that Nigel Farage wants immigration officers to keep a completely different set of virus-sufferers out of the country. One elected MP and already he is becoming emboldened.
Thursday 9 October, 2014
The Mirror finds itself in tune with the indignant Mail and crusading Independent as the arrival of Ebola in America and Europe begins to focus minds. The answer to the Mail's question is "because the people who know about such things say it won't make any difference". But now that both Obama and the Mail have spoken, we can expect Cameron to fall into line before too long.
There is some sensible writing about the virus on the inside pages of today's papers - not least in the Express, which makes clear how little risk there is to populations where health services are adequate or better. The disease has got a grip in Africa because there are so few facilities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and because the few doctors they have - Liberia had only 50 to serve a population of 4.3m - are falling victim to the disease.
There is also some mildly hysterical writing: it is reasonable to ask questions of the Madrid hospital where the first victim to contract the disease outside of Africa was infected, but the amount of space given to the fate of her dog is absurd. Petitions signed by 300,000 people and mini riots? Can no one see how disproportionate this is to the real human suffering in Africa?
Elsewhere, background details of the medical student arrested as a suspected jihad plotter make the other main story, while the must-have element for almost every front page is the winner of the Great British Bake-Off (complete with lame pun headline). The Times and Guardian resist, preferring to go for a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly at a film premiere.
The Express looks forward to Douglas Carswell's expected by-election win at Clacton tonight, while also taking the prize for the most extraordinary USP of all time - a souvenir facsimile edition of its 7/7 bombings coverage. The concept beggars belief, even without the unfortunate timing. Having spooked X Factor, the Star's black-eyed ghost children are now having a go at Strictly.
Northern and Shell has just announced increased profits - the print and publishing arm's operating profits are up by £10m at £33.8m - it has also pocketed hundreds of millions from the sale of Channel 5, yet the Express and Star editorial staffs are being cut from 650 to 450. It may be that the increased workload is having an effect on the journalists' thinking. Or maybe they are being deliberately perverse.
SubScribe Ebola: never mind the dead of Africa, we must save the dog
Wednesday 8 October, 2014
No contest today for the stand-out front. The Sun's cover is a thing of beauty - possibly the most striking page one SubScribe has seen from the paper. It's followed inside by six pages on the subject, with the page 3 glamour shot replaced by a cut-out Union Flag poster - complete with Sun logo at the bottom. There are also eight photographs of people holding up the poster, only in these cases the Sun logo is squarely at the top.
Let's hope its two million customers appreciate the effort. But there are more than 60 million people who don't buy the Sun, and a large proportion of those are not simply ambivalent; they are deeply antagonistic towards the paper, perhaps because it is owned by Murdoch or because of Hillsborough or because they disapprove of page 3. This front page is unlikely to be taken at face value by many of those, especially in the light of previous recent fronts about halal pizzas and the murder of a woman in her garden by a "Muslim convert". Whether this is cynical or open-hearted, to this old newspaperwoman, the front is still stunning.
The Sun's page two lead is the splash in the Telegraph and Mail, which both celebrate the "smashing" of a Jihadi plot to attack Britain. In the Times, it is merely foiled. This story concerns the arrest of four people, one of whom has just returned from Syria and may have links with Isis. There are likely to be many such apprehensions over the coming weeks and over-excited, triumphant headlines about our intelligence services where the full picture is unclear are unlikely to make this country any safer.
The other big scare story of the day comes from the case of the Spanish nurse who has ebola, having contracted it from two repatriated missionaries being treated in Madrid. The papers splashing on the disease - the Mirror, Independent and i - have all been assiduous in reporting its spread in Sierra Leone and the threat to the rest of Africa, so they cannot be accused of waking up just because it has arrived on our doorstep. Recriminations have started in Spain and now British hospitals are said to be gearing up to prepare for cases here. It would be most surprising if they had not been doing so for some while - not least, since the treatment of William Pooley at the Royal Free in August. Telegraph readers will hardly feel comforted by two paragraphs of official quotes which, in the space of fifty words, say that the chances of the virus entering the UK are "low", that there is a "real risk" that it could reach Britain and that its arrival is "inevitable".
The Express, buoyed no doubt by the widespread reporting yesterday of its honeysuckle tea cure for flu, remains grounded and offers hope for arthritis sufferers. Still on health matters, the Guardian leads on Nick Clegg's Liberal Conference speech today at which he is to call for defined waiting times for mental health services. These are much needed, since access to psychiatrists licensed to prescribe the most effective drugs is notoriously difficult and the provision of non-drug treatments such as CBT is patchy. Whether Clegg, with only six months left as deputy prime minister, will be able to deliver is another matter.
Tuesday 7 October, 2014
Once again we are being told that we will have to work longer. This time the warning comes from the pensions minister Steve Webb at the Liberal Democrats' conference, and it makes the splash in the Telegraph. There is all the standard stuff about an ageing population and the strain on the state pension budget, plus an extra factoid: fiftysomethings now have to wait longer for their inheritance windfall to help them into retirement. In other words, those even older pesky parents are refusing to die. There's no mention of the millions who will never receive an inheritance, however delayed, from parents who have spent a lifetime living hand-to-mouth.
Nor, of course, are there any suggestions about where these "older people" are supposed to do their longer working, a key point when go-getting companies (especially national newspapers) make it a point of honour to shove desk-blockers out of the door as soon as is decently possible after their fiftieth birthdays.
This is a serious issue, but every time newspapers write about it, they simply trot out the same statistics about how there won't be enough people paying taxes to finance all the old people's pensions. Maybe this is because the stories are written by people in their thirties and forties who believe the baby boomer generation stole their inheritance. But the baby boomers are pushing 70 and probably already retired. It's the people further down the line who are going to suffer. A proper investigation, taking into account all sides, would be useful.
The Telegraph, in common with the Times and Independent, chooses a photograph from the Turkish border to show the advance of Isis, whose flag is now flying two miles from the frontier. None of the pictures works for the simple fact that you need to be told what you're looking at to see its value, and all three seem to have adopted that old principle: if you've got a bad photograph, use it big.
Shrien Dewani is another popular choice of picture subject - in court suit for the Guardian, in his wedding finery for the Express. This case has captivated Fleet Street from the word go, and so Dewani's appearance in court at last was always going to get saturation coverage. Papers struggled, however, to get across both his denial of any involvement in the death of Anni Dewani and the details of his bisexuality. The result is that several headlines - notably the Sun's splash - are uncomfortable non-sequiturs. Are we to assume that having gay sex might ordinarily be linked to murder?
Monday 6 September, 2014
A mixed bag for Monday from the nationals, with only the two Independents in harmony. They work in tandem on an investigation of the health service that they say will last all week. The starting point is an open letter from heads of medical organisations and royal colleges, who say that the NHS is about to crack. They acknowledge that the coalition has maintained health spending in an era of unprecedented austerity, but say that past failures to maintain funding increases designed to keep pace with a growing and ageing population had created the longest and most damaging budget squeeze in the service's history. The Indie builds on this with a Q&A on the problems and a series of graphics showing how the budget has changed over the years and where the money goes. The chances of the papers emerging from the week with solutions are remote, but a plain English non-political analysis is helpful for everyone.
The Mail demonstrates a key factor in trying to balance the budget with its splash on how womb transplants are giving infertile women the chance of motherhood. The babies in the Mail story are the result of treatment in Sweden, but the sidebar in side says that the procedure should be available in Britain next year. Every medical advance brings hope to someone - and the prospect of further strain on the NHS. Drugs and surgery we now regard as routine had never been dreamt of in 1948 and making the decisions on who should benefit requires the wisdom of Solomon - which NICE does not have.
Also in Sweden, we have had today the announcement of this year's Nobel laureates for medicine. The American John O'Keefe and the Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser are honoured for discovering the brain's "GPS system", in other words how we know where we are and how to get to where we want to be. This is important in understanding why Alzheimer's sufferers get confused about their surroundings.
The Guardian (which also has a two-page special on the NHS) acknowledges the start of Nobel awards week with a three-quarter page graphic on past winners. The only problem is, there is not a word to explain why it's there. No accompanying story, no caption, nothing. A pity because it is one of the only papers to take science seriously. The only Nobel prize that stirs most of them is the one for peace. Take Professor O'Keefe, for example. He's American, but works at UCL, so we have a British-based winner. The papers are therefore bound to make a fuss of him tomorrow aren't they? Don't hold your breath.
Not while there's "reality" television to report. The Star achieves the considerable feat of combining its spooky fetish with the X Factor, while everyone reports that Greg Wallace has been knocked out of Strictly. Does it not occur to newspaper folk that anyone interested in who goes out in the early stages of these competitions will know because they'll have watched - and that the rest of us don't give a monkey's. When we get to the final, fair enough; a filler on each elimination, ok. But please spare us the week-by-week full-page specials. It's not news. Back to the X Factor, all three redtops give us the full line-up of the final 12. Sun readers will be particularly interested in the progress of "X-Factor star Orla", who was the subject of Friday's splash. If you recall, she was the girl in a drugs bust who was chucked out but "hotly tipped" to return. Astonishingly, she is nowhere.
Back to health matters and to The Times, which strays into Telegraph territory with a front-page picture of Elizabeth Hurley, just sitting there looking pretty in pink. Why? Because she was angry about the death of her grandmother from cancer in 1992. We are pointed to an "exclusive" interview inside in which "the face of Estée Lauder for two decades" talks about her grandmother as part of the Estée Lauder breast cancer awareness campaign. What the piece doesn't tell us is that Evelyn Lauder, who recruited Hurley to this role, was the woman behind the pink ribbon and the international movement to get people to take notice of the disease that kills 10,000 women in this country every year. The result is that it just feels like a puff - and an excuse to run a totty picture - especially when it is held up against the first-person account of Michaela Strachan, which is far more affecting than the story of a woman we've never heard of who died 22 years ago.
The death of Brenda Leyland, the woman outed by Sky Television as an internet troll who posted abusive messages about the McCanns on Twitter, is a sad example of the cruelty abroad on both social and mainstream media. Trolls and the Press have the power to make people's lives a misery and the distance between writer and subject can foster a cavalier attitude. Sky and the papers that followed up the story were practising legitimate journalism; it is reasonable to call people to account for their actions. Let's just remember to keep our humanity with us as we work.
Finally, a huge hurrah for Fleet Street. Every newspaper has a story about Isis and Alan Henning today. There is not a single orange robe in sight. Progress
Sunday 5 October, 2014
The Independent stands out with another of its stark front pages in which it announces that it will not disseminate murderers' propaganda. It is talking, of course, about the killing on Friday of Alan Henning. Inside, it runs three pages on the subject without a single picture of Henning in orange. The Independent has been ahead of Fleet Street in showing restraint on this; with the previous killings, it has used postage stamp drop-in stills from the Isis videos. Now even those have gone.
The decision seems to have been appreciated by at least some people. Gameoldgirl tweeted the front page last night and the dings of the retweet notifications provided a modern soundtrack for an old episode of Morse. Piers Morgan described the front as a "good try" but said that if the Sindie felt so strongly, why put it on the front at all. Well, if it thought it the most important story...
SubScribe is rarely in agreement with Hacked Off, but is pleased to commend Joan Smith's article and the leader in the Sindie, which pretty well say what SubScribe has been banging on about for the past six weeks.
Another tweet that was widely shared was the suggestion that papers should stop calling the masked killer "Jihadi John" as though he were a pop star. Even within the Sunday Times there was some dismay at his appearance in the splash heading.
The tabloids understandably sent the Henning story inside (generally complete with video grabs and Jihadi John headlines) so that they could focus on the discovery of a body believed to be that of Arnis Zalkalns, the Latvian tried and convicted by the media of the murder of Alice Gross. This story is in every paper, but is also mysteriously exclusive to the Star. Well done to them. Without wishing to trample on the delight of our journalistic detectives, SubScribe would like to point out that we still do not have a cause of death for Alice and, hard as it may be to believe at the moment, there may yet still be a killer on the loose.
The Mail on Sunday alone deviates from the two murders with a media-heavy front: the divorce of Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud, which is a very interesting story, and a splash on how the police hacked into the newspaper's phones.
This may seem a pretty self-interested lead from a paper that resisted all constraints on the Press in the aftermath of the News of the World scandal and the Leveson inquiry, and there will be few messages of sympathy on social media this weekend.
The fact remains, however, that the misuse of Ripa, a law that was supposed to be used to protect us from terrorists, is the biggest threat to freedom of speech in this country today. Police are trawling through phone records to discover sources of stories, in this case the Huhne speeding case, having been given the authority to do so by...the police. Similar laws have been enacted in America and Australia, so that three supposed pillars of democracy have endorsed state spying on journalists and given the police tools that will deter whistleblowers from exposing malpractice in public life.
If only the Mail took a more responsible approach to more of its stories, its readers and detractors might have cared. But they won't.
SubScribe When murder is the expected outcome
See last week's papers and reviews here
The British Journalism Awards
Entries are invited for the Press Gazette awards, which recognise journalism that makes a difference to society. The deadline is first thing Tuesday morning.
Entries are invited for the Paul Foot award for investigative or campaigning journalism. Work published in print or online in the year ending October 31 is eligible. The deadline is November 10.
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