SubScribe: Riding for a fall Google+

Friday 13 April 2012

Riding for a fall

You're walking along the high street, stumble on the kerb and fall. A friend comes to your aid and you get up and dust yourself down, no harm done. Big news? Probably not.
Your girlfriend or sister is in her glad rags for a night out when she catches her heel in her hem and falls as she walks into a restaurant. Her friends help her up and all is well. A photographer witnesses the scene. Will the local paper think his picture worth publishing? Probably not.
Your mother or daughter goes to the races in cripplingly high wedge sandals. She slips on the grass  and a friend holds out a hand to break her fall. Big news? Surely not.
Yet her embarrassment is broadcast to millions - because she happens to fall at Aintree on the first day of the Grand National meeting rather than at the local point-to-point.
Is this right? Is it fair? Is it reasonable?
The Independent thought it sufficiently important to run as the page 7 picture under the heading 

Grand National Aintree's faller at the first

If the horses are as unsteady on their feet as this punter on the opening day of the Grand National festival, a lot of bets will be lost at Aintree this weekend...

The woman is not named. She is merely a "punter".

The Telegraph, too, thought the unfortunate woman was fair game and ran a slo-mo sequence of four pictures of her falling on page 5 under the heading

Faller at the first Aintree meeting starts with a tumble (blame whoever shod her)
A race-goer takes an early tumble on the first day of the Grand National meeting at Aintree yesterday....

The paper goes on to mention that Coleen and Wayne Rooney were also there and that Coleen was in a fuschia dress (which we are not shown), before ending

More examples of Scouse fashion will be on show on Ladies' Day today.

The Express went even bigger, devoting most of page 3 to  the woman's trip, rescue and recovery under the heading

Aintree filly falls at the first...
Merry race-goers were falling at the first hurdle of Aintree's Grand National festival yesterday, as the sunshine left Liverpool's champagne-soaked ladies wilting.
One blonde reveller hit the turf after tottering on huge wedge heels while navigating her way over a grassy bank at the Merseyside course.
Her ungainly tumble came after it was revealed that Britain's women punters are expected to wager up to £100 million on the Grand National this weekend - partly due to the appeal of regular punter Coleen Rooney....

There is  a small  picture of the Rooneys and the report adds that  Mrs Rooney - in a Mad Men-inspired hot-pink Roksanda Illincic dress and sky-high Louboutin heels - had a 50-1 winner in Follow the Plan. It goes on to say  that one man collected £100,000 after betting half a million on Big Buck's in the first race and there are the usual bookmakers' quotes about how much we'll risk this sporting weekend and how much they'll lose if the favourites triumph.

The Mail also went for the sequence - but way back on page 24, even behind Samantha Brick's latest "I am wonderful" piffle.

12.10 at Aintree and we have a faller at the first
And they're off - although it appears some fashion fans have more form than others.
As Liverpool's finest arrived at Aintree for the first day of racing yesterday, this woman took a tumble at the first hurdle as she battled to navigate the enclosure in six-inch wedges...

And this is where the Mail can, for once, claim some superiority over the rest: the next sentence begins with the woman's name: Milly Johnson. We aren't told what she does, where she comes from, how old she is, or anything else about her. But we do have a name and, more importantly, a small face shot in which she is looking directly at the camera. In other words, the photographer (who is not credited) or the reporter Liz Hull actually spoke to her. So Ms Johnson will have known that she might appear in the newspaper today.

But what about the Indy, the Telegraph and the Express? They didn't know who she was or anything about her - or if they did, they didn't share the information with the reader. To them she was just a "filly" or a "punter" or a "merry reveller". Chris Riches of the  Express perhaps produced the most respectable first-day-of-the-National- weekend  report  in that it had more facts in it than most - Coleen's win for a start - but did he know that Ms Johnson was champagne-soaked or did he just assume she was tipsy?

Many women dress for  big race meetings in the hope of being photographed, and with Ladies' Day today, you can be sure tomorrow's papers will be full of fashion verdicts.
But it troubles me that we as journalists are taking too much for granted. Just because a woman is dressed up for an occasion doesn't mean she's giving tacit permission for her every move to be open to  public examination. Is it now the case that the purchase of a ticket means the sale of your privacy, that you are required to subject yourself to the judgment of the masses?
"Oh come on, look at what she was wearing...that halter neck dress, that hemline, those heels.."
Is that the argument? That used to be the dodgy defence in rape cases in the Fifties and Sixties: if a woman dressed "provocatively" she was "asking for it". 
Scrutiny by the press is obviously not rape. But are today's women "asking for it" just because picking an outrageous outfit is part of the fun of a big day out?
We have seen the ladette culture, the Ibiza shame, the TOWIE brigade and we know that some women do not set great store by acting with decorum. But how dare we make assumptions about people we don't know just because they are showing a bit of flesh, wearing high heels and - heaven forfend - are in Liverpool?
And the language. It's so derogatory. 
The Times, in common with The Guardian and The Sun, chose not to use the photographs of Ms Johnson, focusing instead on the Rooneys. But then Russell Jenkins  blew it this afternoon with this patronising prose on The Times website: 

Punters could get 9-1 on Clare Balding bursting into tears during the BBC's last John Smith's Grand National broadcast, and millions will be wagered on Katie Walsh to become the first woman to win the world's greatest steeplechase
But, as ever, the annual parade of Scouse fillies tottering past the Winner’s Bar at Aintree, in Merseyside, on Ladies’ Day on the second day of the Aintree Festival remains beyond price.

Scouse fillies tottering? Why are we treating people with so little respect?

When Agyness Deyn falls over on the catwalk in London Fashion Week, comment is legitimate: it's her job to wear high heels. She's paid a great deal of money to do so.
Ms Johnson is not, so far as we know. We have no reason or excuse for turning her into a figure of fun.

Business as usual?

Earlier this week  the Telegraph illustrated its business cover with a photograph of Maria Sharapova  without telling us who she was (Just a pretty face). It was obviously so thrilled with its new game of Guess the Sports Star that it has decided to make it a new feature.
Today's business front has a picture of Usain Bolt under the heading

Bolt from the blue Olympic power supplier surges 20pc

The caption beneath reads
Aggreko, which supplies temporary power to events like Glastonbury and this summer's Olympic Games, saw its share price soar after Q1 revenues were well ahead of expectations. Full story B3

Once again, it doesn't name the subject of the photograph, although the "Bolt" in the heading and on the sprinter's chest may help if you are vaguely interested in athletics. The picture was, in fact, taken at an Aggreko-powered event: the world championships in Berlin three years ago. But it would probably be spoiling the spot-the-link challenge to tell the reader as much.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow's teaser.

And finally...

Sorry, still with the Telegraph. The front page splash this morning says

Royal Mail rationing stamps

Royal Mail is limiting then number of stamps it supplies to retailers now to ensure it profits from record price rises later this month.
Some of the biggest high street chains and post offices said yesterday they were running out of stamps as people began stockpiling them.
Royal Mail confirmed yesterday that it had imposed a cap on the number of stamps every shop could buy...

Good consumer story - even  though it didn't get the angle in the Express that Superdrug was selling stamps at a 5 per cent discount - certainly good enough to warrant a turn and a Q&A factbox. 
The turn included this par 
A Royal Mail spokesman denied that stamps were being rationed, but admitted supplies were being "limited".
Semantics,  you might think. The backbench were obviously happy enough to go with a 96pt rationing splash head. Perhaps they should have talked to whoever was overseeing page 2, where we find this turnhead  

Stamps not rationed, insists Royal Mail

Thank you for sticking with it to the end. Please do share your thoughts below. And please take a look at the other posts. They are all media related.

Sold down the river the Beeb's flotilla and fireworks fiasco - and a feeble fightback. Why didn't the top man have his hand on the tiller?

Hello and goodbye to Wapping a personal diary of life inside the fortress in the days before the strike that changed newspapers forever

Out of print a love letter to newspapers in this digital age. Why they don't have to die if we have the will to let them live and thrive

Why local newspapers matter Why we should care about the revolution in the regional press

Missing: an opportunity How the hunt for Madeleine McCann could be turned into a force for good instead of just a festival of mawkish sentimentality

Just a pretty face Illustrating the business pages isn't the easiest job in the world, but spare us the celebs who aren't even mentioned in the story

Food for thought a case study in why we should take health advice with a pinch of salt (and a glass of red wine and a helping of roast beef) 

The world's gone mad Don Draper returns and  the drooling thirtysomethings go into overdrive But does anybody watch the show? (But there is more Whipple in this post!)

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