Front pages September 21-27
Saturday 27 September, 2014
When the Guardian, Mirror, Times, Mail, Sun and Express agree, there can be little doubt on the story of the day. Yes, they're all cooing over Clooney and his bride taking the sun in Venice. World's most eligible bachelor? Hmmm. SubScribe suspects the editorial teams are showing their age: most determined perhaps, but Harry stole the most eligible crown years ago. Anyway, the glowing couple and the clear skies make for brighter Saturday pictures than David Cameron in the Commons or stock photographs of jets that haven't taken off yet.
The Clooney nuptials are, of course, a mere distraction from the most important issue: MPs voting to go to war in Iraq for the third time in 25 years. The result was a given even before Parliament was recalled for yesterday's vote, but what hadn't been expected was the chastened level of debate. This intervention is surely the triumph of hope over experience and it comes with the certainty that the innocent will die as a result. That the Iraqi Government has requested British assistance gives this enterprise a legitimacy that the previous forays lacked, but few expect it to turn out well. It will be dangerous, expensive and could create a common enemy for Islamic military factions now in conflict with each other. All of this has been debated in the comment columns over the past week and was reflected at Westminster. Now all we can do is hope.
Friday 26 September, 2014
For those with no appetite for war, there is more National Enquirer style fare on the menu. The Mirror splashes on the cannibal fantasist jailed for grooming and indecency offences - through the account of the friend he tried to dope with dry-cleaning fluid. The Express comes up with another diet to beat dementia, while its little sister leads on a fat woman on benefits who wants more money so that she can afford a healthy diet.
The Telegraph meanwhile goes for that Friday staple, house prices, albeit in the new guise of a supposed European threat to buy-to-let mortgages.
The paper's front-page picture of the Ryder Cup captains' wives is widely used inside other papers - in the Express it appears on three under a head describing them as "Ryder Cup birdies" - as is the Times's page 1 photograph of new UN Aids ambassador Victoria Beckham. SubScribe likes this story, particularly the way Will Pavia tells it in the Times, and the fact that David was on duty at the opening of her fashion store. ("Vend it like Beckham", as the Guardian puts it).
And so to the coming conflict: the papers - and their readers, to judge from the Sun's poll - are generally in favour of military action. But many columnists take a different stance from the leader writers and there is a strong anti-war lobby that sits at odds with the more belligerent news pages.
Apart from the Ryder Cup birdies, a couple of other heads caused a curl of the SubScribe lip or eyebrow: the "bomber babe" on the Star's front and "widowhood in decline as men live longer" in the Times. It makes it sound as though it's a shame. Best heading of the day comes from the Independent:
"Tony Blair hailed as gay icon (and you thought he was a straight kind of guy)"
Beautiful. Give that sub a pay rise - or a staff job.
The Sun also deserves a round of applause for its pre-nuptial "cut out and weep" Clooney memorial poster, complete with helpline for those who want to blub.
For arachnaphiles worried about the absence of spiders on the Star's front, worry not. They're safe and sound on page 3. Happy Friday everyone.
Thursday 25 September, 2014
MPs will pop into Westminster tomorrow to authorise airstrikes on Isis in Iraq. Quite an occasion. For the Mirror it's the start of Gulf War 3, a prospect that isn't sufficiently frightening or serious for it to devote more than the bottom half of its front page to the story. The top goes to a supermarket money-off offer and an exclusive on Jason Orange that is so exclusive that it's worth only a corner of the page. It is also exclusive to the Sun, which splashes on the story. The Sun gives the Iraqi mission a single column, as does the Express (well, it was never going to displace over-indulged migrants for a mere war). The Mail, which has consistently mocked the Prime Minister over his holidays, does not give him front-page credit for breaking this one to discuss military action. Instead it leads on his apology to the Queen for telling the world that she had "purred" on being told the Scottish referendum result. The picture is of Alice Gross, there's another monster Lego puff - but not a word about the coming conflict. It's tricky building a story about something that hasn't happened yet, but the serious papers have found plenty to say and it's not as though there wasn't a "tabloid" angle. It comes to something when the Daily Star teaches the whitetops and the bigger redtops a lesson in news judgment - and it still has room for spiders.
Wednesday 24 September, 2014
The battle for the United Kingdom has been won and now the papers are on war footing, marshalling their forces for the coming conflict with Isis. President Obama is the advance party, having already begun airstrikes on suspected Isis positions in Syria, and the feeling is that Parliament will be recalled by the end of the week to give Cameron approval for British forces to join in. There are so many strands to this story that almost every paper chooses a different line. The Express and Independent report that the RAF is preparing to start bombings, which is a bit of a nuisance for the Mirror, which claims an exclusive for the same information. The Mail and Times lead with Barbara Henning's disclosure that she had received an audio message from her hostage husband Alan in which he begs for his life. The main angle for the Independent, with cryptically clever head, is on how Obama is putting the effort to remove Assad from power in Syria to attack militants in that country.
All of which overshadows Ed Miliband's big moment - the party conference speech in Manchester that should be his last set-piece occasion before next year's election. Only the Guardian gives him pride of place, and it even backs up the splash with a basement commentary from Jonathan Freedland. The Mirror gives its Miliband picture the top half of the front, but the Tory press allow the Labour leader no quarter. The Times has the speech as its first teaser brief, but doesn't get round to reporting the conference fully until pages 12-14 and then it leads off not on his policy pledges but on how he forgot the bits about the trade gap and immigration. It was a silly error - he was speaking without his script - but it's not as though his views on these have been hidden.
The Independent was equally ruthless. It put the error on the front, but it did balance the books by pairing it with Cameron's gaffe in saying that the Queen had "purred" when he telephoned her to tell her the Scottish referendum result. Cameron has made so many mistakes since taking office, but surely he is not so incompetent that he just let this slip? It shows extraordinarily bad form; maybe that spoof Mail (left) doing the internet rounds last week was prescient. The Express used the story as an opportunity to run another photograph of the Queen on its front, rather incongruously in this case: she looks rather gleeful about the prospect of war.
The rival picture choice is Dave Lee Travis, who was convicted at the end of his second trial of grabbing a woman's breasts without permission. The judge apparently rebuffed the defence's suggestion that a fine or community punishment would be appropriate, saying that all options remained open. Most papers have taken the chance to say he faces jail and the Sun is on witty form with its splash head, but SubScribe thinks that if the admittedly sleazy DJ is sent to prison for serial groping it would be a Travisty. Ouch.
We don't need to spend thousands on bed and board for this arrogant piece of slime; much better to make him work for us for nothing: give him zillions of hours of community service.
Meanwhile, the Star's spider count is rising.
Tuesday 23 September, 2014
Tesco in the soup, a complicated episode of Breaking Bad, a tense day at the Times and Express, the Mirror missing the point, and an Emma Watson double bill. Quite a mix.
The Guardian, Independent and Mail recognise the best story of the day, a story that also makes a single column teaser on the front of the Sun, yet doesn't find a home among the Telegraph's half-dozen page 1 offerings - nine if you include the puffs. Alan Bennett talking to another publication about his television viewing habits is apparently more appealing that the scandal surrounding the shop where we spend £1 in every £8, the company whose fortunes have a direct impact on all of our pensions, endowments and other savings.
The Independent does best, from its great splash head through to its wide-ranging inside coverage. But what is that poor-man's Andy Warhol on the Guardian front? If it had been a business-style graphic or if there had been the sort of groany "in the soup" pun seen at the start of this review it might be understandable, but neither was the case and it makes the page look dull. More on this here.
Stephen Sutton knew that opportunities had been missed to catch and treat the cancer that killed him in May and he wrote about these failings without rancour. Today his mother talks to the Mirror about how doctors had not acted on the family's fears. It is naturally of interest, but surely the reason she spoke was yesterday's report that just under half of all cancer cases are diagnosed late; it might have been worth mentioning.
Both the Star and Telegraph call on Emma Watson to sell papers. The former thinks the actress was among the celebrities to have their photographs hacked and they are apparently about to surface on the internet - so the Star kindly gives its readers a heads up so they can get their search engines whirring. The Telegraph has loftier motives, pointing from the front-page to Watson's OpEd piece about equality, based on a rather good speech she gave at the UN. The two may very well be linked, not that either paper recognises the other.
Pictures and spreads The Sun and Breaking Bad habits
Editor's blog Where there's a will there's a way to get it right
SubScribe Why we should worry about Tesco
Monday 22 September, 2014
Ed Miliband's encounter with Andrew Marr provided rich pickings for Sunday editors and the Mail prints extracts with glee. The splash head might lead a reasonable person to think "Well, he's being consistent, what's the beef?" But when you read the edited transcript on page 2, you see the Labour leader squirming as he tries to avoid answering the one question he knew he'd have to face. It's not quite Michael Howard v Jeremy Paxman, but it's not far off. Labour's other Ed also had a bruising encounter with a journalist yesterday and this time the journo came off worse. The annual politicians v journalists football match in Manchester, where they are all gathered for the Labour party conference, left Rob Merrick of the Northern Echo needing stitches in his cheek after a tackle by the Shadow Chancellor. The clash makes the front page picture for the Times and a diary item on its conference page, but unfortunately the paper declines to give us the result. The Mail helps here: the journalists won 3-1 and Merrick was man of the match.
Sunday 21 September, 2014
Now we've had a chance to digest the result and Salmond has gone, the London papers can focus on the important issues; after all, that referendum was all about England wasn't it? The notion that that three-party vow would bring peace was as realistic and short-lived as the hopes imbued in Mr Chamberlain's piece of paper. They may seem dozy, but both Cameron and Miliband have always been well aware of what a reduction in the Scottish influence at Westminster would mean to our political landscape. So this week it will be all eyes on Ed, both as party leader in Manchester and as constitutional wheeler-dealer in slowing the Tory bandwagon towards English devolution.
The search for Alice Gross and the Latvian man regarded as a key witness or prime suspect in her disappearance gets great play everywhere. Unless or until Arnis Zalkalns is found and charged, the papers can write what they like about him within the bounds of the libel laws - and there will always be the question of how much reputation a convicted murderer has to lose. But SubScribe has an uneasy feeling about all these stories about what a nasty man he is, with women popping up all over the place willing to talk about his violent temper.
How interesting, too, that the Met is telling us that this is its biggest operation since 7/7. Is this to emphasise the importance of the safety of one schoolgirl or a subtle riposte to those who complained about the number of officers chasing journalists compared with the number deployed to look first for Millie Dowler and then her killer? Of course we hope Alice is found safe, but it seems hard to believe that this is the Met's most important case for nine years, requiring more manpower than the fight against gun gangs, knife crime, drug cartels, white-collar fraud. There's something amiss about all this. It's not going to tie up as neatly as the papers seem to think.
See last week's papers here
It's never easy when business stories push their way up front, but we should worry about Tesco profits - here's why
SubScribe has spent many years working in the early hours when sensible people are in bed. There have been wars, bombings, kidnap victims rediscovered after decades. But nothing beats that election night thrill and the 7am elation as you emerge into streets populated with people on their way to work. Too few readers see the fruits of your labours. It's vanity publishing. But it's the best.
The joy of six (am)
The British Journalism Awards
Entries are invited for the Press Gazette awards, which recognise public interest journalism that makes a difference
Two peers suspected of rape, lost child abuse dossiers, further allegations against Rolf Harris, Scotland Yard mired in corruption claims - would we know about any of this without newspapers?
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