SubScribe: The front pages: burning issues for picture editors and puff designers Google+

Thursday 23 January 2014

The front pages: burning issues for picture editors and puff designers

Dramatic pictures of the violence in Ukraine dominate three of the four 'serious' papers, with a suspected potential suicide bomber completing the quartet. Yet none of the pages has the desired impact. The Independent's stark image would have worked better on any of the other three papers - and vice versa.

 It all comes down to puffs. The Telegraph has given its picture the best chance by separating it from the puff by a hamper splash. But even though the subject matter is entirely different - Paris fashion - there's something about the tone of the puff images that makes if feel as though they belong with the main photograph and that the models have been decapitated in the fighting below.

The Times has the same picture and the opposite problem. The juxtaposition of the vivid pink puffery and the blazing city, with Miriam Gonzalez Duartez perched on top of a burnt-out coach, leaves you wondering where to look. (By the way, Ms G D prefers to go by her own name rather than her husband's - so it would be a courtesy for a newspaper promoting her views on 'how to get ahead as a woman' to respect that wish rather than turn her into an appendage).

The Guardian has a different photograph and in close-up it may seem the better choice - the flames in the background plus the striking figure of a riot officer in sharp relief to the smoke. In print on the newsstand, however, it comes across as just so much grey. The password puff word 5tRoNg is brilliant - but does it refer to the man in the big picture? The tricolour puff has no theme and the Tom Daley blue jars with the Kieve photograph and with the horizontal ad at the foot of the page.

The Independent, with the most restrained puffs in Not Fleet Street, could have accommodated either of the Kiev pictures with ease. The woman in the pink veil doesn't convey a sufficiently powerful message. She looks more a victim than a murderer, so it needs a headline along the lines of  'Find this woman, she's out to bomb the Olympics'. And there we run into a further difficulty. No one is quite sure whether she is. Ruzana Ibragimova, the widow of a militant, features on leaflets distributed by the police, but there appears to be no evidence of her involvement in a plot, nor even of any plot at all. Do love the phrase on the inside page 'Russian authorities are conducting a manhunt for three women...'

The Times and the Mail both examine the case of Tallulah Wilson who jumped under a train at St Pancras station after becoming addicted to self-harming and suicide websites. The ballet student had a fantasy alter ego as a cocaine-taking anorexic and posted pictures Tumblr of her cutting herself. As with the death of Daniel Spargo-Mabbs yesterday, Tallulah's mother produced the killer phrase at the inquest: 'She was in the clutches of a toxic digital world where we could no longer reach her.' The inquest jury called for a better understanding of online media and the coroner is to send a 'prevention of further death' report to the Government.

Stan Collymore has also been railing against online media, complaining to Twitter about abusive tweets directed at him after he accused the Liverpool player Luis Suarez of diving.

'In the last 24 hours I've been threatened with murder several times, demeaned on my race, and many of these accounts are still active. Why?'
'I accuse Twitter directly of not doing enough to combat racist/homophobic/sexist hate messages, all of which are illegal in the UK.'
'Several police forces have been fantastic. Twitter haven't. Dismayed.'

But his concerns didn't cut much mustard with his former girlfriend Ulrika Johnston who pops up in the Sun to remind us all that Collymore kicked her in the head in 1998.

'It must be horrendous to be vilified for your beliefs, your colour or your sexuality.
'In no way do I agree with trolling or abuse on Twitter. The people that do it are pathetic cowards.
'But Stan is too. He is actually one of the people he’s criticising… If Stan is so against death threats, why was he so insistent on making many death threats against me?
'In a public place, Stan shoved my face to his and said at least twice he would ‘f****** kill’ me. But now he’s the poster boy against threats online.
'No one should give this man a platform to claim he is a victim. With his history of violence, it’s beyond ironic.'

Fifteen years is a long time. Collymore may have grown up and changed. And is it hypocritical to denounce one type of bad behaviour because you have been guilty of another in the past?Cue debate on pots, kettles and redemption.

From vile to evil - the Mirror is in a twist because Ian Brady was given speedy hospital treatment after falling over and cracked his hip. There's a battalion of people ready to complain about how wrong it was that such a monster should go to the front of the queue.

Er, shall we pause and think about this a moment. First, Brady didn't jump the queue, the people in charge of him did (he probably didn't even want to be there). And second, does anyone seriously believe that it would have been a good thing to have him sitting in a public waiting room for hours?

Away from the struggling health service, happy days are here again for the Express and the i, with positive economic news and the fall in unemployment making the splash for both. The i falls into the trap of the 'serious' quartet, with a picture of  a factory line that is clear only on close inspection, whereas the Express lights up the newsstand with its photograph of Abbey Clancy at Tuesday's television awards.

Yes, she's there as eye candy. But she is fully clad and it is rare for the Express to produce the brightest front, so let it have its day. (Shame about the garbled copy inside, which couldn't make up its mind whether it was a fashion report or a rundown of award winners.)

The Star, on the other hand, continues its mission to turn page one into page three. This issue really should be on the top shelf. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the Corrie Kev street robbery is a plot line, not a real news event.

A mini review of the papers will be a feature of the new Sub-Scribe website, which should be alive and possibly kicking within the next couple of weeks. A few pages are available for a sneak preview, if you are interested, at For updates on progress, please click the button. 

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