SubScribe: January 2016 Google+

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

January front pages

Sunday 31 January

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Saturday 30 January

Jan 30 front page

 Friday 29 January 

Jan 29 front pages

Thursday 28 January

front pages jan 28

Wednesday 27 January

front pages jan 27

Tuesday 26 January

front pages jan 26

Monday 25 January

front pages jan 25

Sunday 24 January

front pages jan 24

 Saturday 23 January

front pages jan 23

Friday 22 January

front pages jan 21

Thursday 21 January

front pages jan 21

Wednesday 20 January

front pages jan 20

Tuesday 19 January

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Monday 18 January

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Sunday 17 January

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Saturday 16 January

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Friday 15 January 

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Thursday 14 January

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Wednesday 13 January

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Tuesday 12 January

Jan 12 front pages

Monday 11 January

front pages Jan 11

Sunday 10 January

Jan 10 front pages

Saturday 9 January

Jan 9 front pages

Friday 8 January

Jan 8 front pages

Thursday 7 January

Jan 7 front pages

Wednesday 6 January

Jan 6 front pages

Tuesday 5 January

Jan 5 front pages

Monday 4 January

Jan 4 front pages

Sunday 3 January

Jan 3 front pages

Saturday 2 January

Jan 2 front pages

Friday 1 January

Jan 1 front pages

Monday, 11 January 2016

Honouring the dead

front pages 11-01-16

A film star shaking hands with a fugitive drugs baron or the blessed Kate venturing out into the January chill? There are few surprises in which paper opted for which  this morning. The static picture of Sean Penn with El Chapo would never do for the Times, Telegraph or Express. 

Joaquin Guzman, believed to be the world's most powerful drug trafficker, escaped from a maximum security prison last July through a hole in a shower tray that led to a mile-long tunnel. In October, Penn was taken to Guzman's hideout and interviewed him for Rolling Stone. The magazine published the resultant article on Saturday, hours after Guzman's recapture and return to jail. President Obama is not happy.

An interesting tale from all angles - and an interesting picture of its sort. But it's easy to see why only two papers put it on the front. The Princess is always a safe bet, then there is Cheryl and her estranged husband for the Mail, protesting doctors for the i. This is the way of things: it's a rare day that everyone picks the same picture. 

So it is intriguing to speculate on what they might be thinking now about tomorrow's offerings. The heavies will surely go for big portraits, but in what guise? As Helen Green's gif, below, shows, there are many to choose from.

Will the Express forsake the weather, the Star its bikini girl, to make Bowie the main image or will he be relegated to the puff or a little single? Surely not.

Bowie's death has come as a jolt, rather as John Lennon's did. The news is hard to process. On Friday he released his latest album Black Star on his 69th birthday. Two days later he was dead. And we didn't even know he was ill.

All of which adds to the poignancy of his death, but will have no impact on the scale of tomorrow's coverage. The album release and New York show contribute a "news" line, but if there had been nothing new from him for five or even ten years, the reaction and response would have been the same.

Last week I was moaning about press coverage of the death of Pierre Boulez, particularly in comparison to that of Lemmy. A former colleague said: "Old man dies. x-ref obit. Nuff said. Anything else belongs on the arts pages - whether its Boulez or Lemmy. I hate the 'tributes poured in' style of news stories."

He won't be thinking that today. He will be marshalling Bowie copy with the proprietorial air of a man who knows his music and knows his news.

Of course it's obvious that Bowie's death is front-page news. But who else makes the cut? Only one celebrity made every front page last year: Cilla Black. The Mirror is most likely to use an obit at the heart of its front,  doing so seven times last year, with the Guardian just behind on six; The Times and i are least likely with two each.

In total, 17 noted deaths (as opposed to murders or murderers) made the splash or main page 1 picture in at least one national. Here they are:

Cilla Black: everyone

Terry Pratchett: Guardian, Independent, Mirror, i

Cynthia Lennon: Guardian, Mail, Express
Anne Kirkbride: Sun, Star, Mirror

Jackie Collins: Mirror, Guardian
Leonard Nimoy: Mirror, Telegraph
Stuart Baggs: Sun, Star
Lemmy: Mirror, Star

George Cole: Mirror
Christopher Lee: Mirror
Charles Kennedy: Mail
Omar Sharif: Times
Oliver Sachs: Independent
Peter O'Sullevan: Telegraph
Gunther Grass: Guardian
Henning Mankell: Guardian

And those who believe that newspapers should focus on the living may be pleased to know that the Duchess of Cambridge was the subject of the main image on 52 front pages last year.

For the record:

front pages 09-1=01-16

front pages 10-01-16

Here are the front pages from Saturday and Sunday, complete with the triple "exclusives" on Cheryl's divorce.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Starvation in Syria: how did it take us so long?

front pages 08-01-16

How can it be that in all the saturation coverage of the migration from Syria, the debates about air strikes and the brutality of Isis, it has taken until now for the plight of the besieged people of Madaya to reach our consciousness?

The Times splash headline seems odd. "Outcry over..." You'd think the mere fact of thousands of people at risk of starving to death would be enough for a splash. But it is needed because that fact was in the paper yesterday - at the foot of the opening world spread.

It was in the Guardian, too. At the bottom of the second foreign spread. The Telegraph picked up on it today and put it on page 12.

This flurry coincides with extensive BBC television news coverage yesterday, including pictures of emaciated children and footage of a man making leaf soup,  and a UN announcement that the Assad government was to allow aid through.

The difficulties of getting news from towns such as Madaya might explain our ignorance of this situation apart from one thing: Laura Pitel reported on it for the Independent a week ago. Her story led the paper's world section, accompanied by a photograph of children demonstrating outside the UN building in Beirut a few miles away. The splash that day was British troops facing abuse charges over the war in Iraq.
Independent page 21, January 2, 2016
The UN has many failings and it may be that it hasn't made enough noise about the sieges of Syria (Madaya is not the only stricken town). Or maybe we, as Western journalists, haven't been listening. Maybe we think our readers won't care.

Because that is the big problem with news judgments these days: newspapers tend to give prominence only to stories they think readers care about.

When challenged about the disparity in coverage of terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, papers were quick to say "We covered Beirut, but people didn't care."

There is a lot of fantastic journalism on newspapers' inside pages, but foreign stories tend to break through to the front only on the tails of television coverage. Even the H-bomb tests in North Korea made page one of only the Guardian and Telegraph (where it got five pars) yesterday.

It's a tricky one. What's the point of printing stories no one will read, stories that might actually turn them away from your product? Newspapers are commercial enterprises, they have to sell to survive, and now that there are so many algorithms to tell editors exactly what people are reading on their tablets or mobiles, it is tempting to follow the Mail online model and feed the known appetites.

But isn't that like giving the kids fish fingers because you know they like them and never offering something more challenging, but ultimately more satisfying, such as liver or kippers?

So hurrah for the The Times for looking beyond the direct interests of its readers. People in Syria drinking leaf soup matter more than people in the Home Counties drinking a pint a day.

Postscript Good to see "proper" journalism, too, from the Independent and Mail, whatever your opinion of the politics behind their lead stories.

Was it right for Keogh's letter to the BMA about the junior doctors' strike to be passed up to Jeremy Hunt - who is, after all, his ultimate boss - for approval? Is it really a scandal? After all, he agreed with the changes made and the inserted paragraph was a restatement of something he had actually said. Should we be surprised that politicians try to manipulate situations? That's what they do.

It's an interesting topic, especially in the light of the furore over Laura Kuenssburg and the resignation of  foreign affairs spokesman Stephen Doughty from the Shadow Cabinet.

The BBC political editor is being accused of manipulating/manufacturing the news, rather than reporting on it, because she apparently persuaded Doughty to announce his resignation in a live interview  just before Prime Minister's Questions. Was this political bias, designed to help Cameron and embarrass Corbyn? Seems unlikely to me, given that the Beeb is supposed to be a hotbed of lefties.

If she had convinced a wavering shadow minister to resign when he wasn't going to, that would be another matter. But there is no suggestion that that is what happened.

I'd have thought that any broadcaster that got wind of such a resignation would have sought to capitalise by trying to get a scoop and then time its release for  maximum impact. But critics say that because the BBC is publicly funded, it must be impartial (see above) and not chase ratings.

But if it doesn't compete with rivals to prove its coverage is best, then people will seek out other news sources. And then critics (not necessarily the same ones) will say "Why are we paying for this stuff no one watches?"

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Pierre Boulez as a footnote to Nicola Benedetti

Front pages 07-01-16

This morning's post is not so much about what's on today's front pages as what isn't on them, apart from the little slot marked in red at the bottom of the Telegraph.

The death of the composer Pierre Boulez.

OK, he's hardly in the same newsworthiness league as Lemmy as far as the pops are concerned. He was 20 years older, for a start. But the passing of such a force for modern classical music surely deserves a mention a little earlier than page 12 of the Guardian or page 16 of the Independent?

At least they offered a news story in addition to their obituaries. The Times didn't even go that far.
Readers who persevered to the end of a page three story about Nicola Benedetti's views on how classical concerts can shake off their stuffy image were alerted to the death by the one-line cross-reference: Pierre Boulez, Obituary, page 49.

Let's pause to think about that for a moment.

Times page 3

A 28-year-old violinist speaks about the atmosphere at concerts and how it could be made friendlier, while at the same time encouraging audiences to respect classical music, to listen in silence without eating, drinking and playing with their mobiles. She gives this interview not to the man with the byline, Jack Malvern, but to Classic FM. To emphasise the seriousness of the subject matter, the story is illustrated with a delightfully attractive photograph of Benedetti and a cutout of members of the more laid-back Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which is apparently less uptight about the eating, drinking, texting fraternity.

It's a perfectly good subject. And a fantastic opportunity to give prominence at the same time to one of the great modernisers of classical music. A man who worked with a president to set up an institute for the development of modern music, where composers could work hand-in-glove with the best performers and technologists, with the latest computers at their fingertips.

But no. Old man dies is not news unless he happens to be a drug-abusing rocker or a former politician suspected of sexual abuse decades ago.

Much better to give the other slot on page three to a viral video of people jumping over a  puddle in Newcastle. Yes, it's fun. But it's also something shared on Facebook or Twitter. I looked at it this morning, alerted not by The Times, but by social media. It's a laugh. It's interesting that a puddle attracts viewers in America - although the numbers aren't that sensational - but it's a story that could have been told further back in the paper.

Times Lemmy coverage

Funnily enough, the paper's page three on the day after Lemmy's death was announced looked quite similar to today's. And funnily enough, it gave Lemmy exactly the slot that I'm suggesting might have been used for Boulez today (I give up on any idea that it might have made the page lead).

Independent Boulez

In the Independent, Jessica Duchen is given news space for her appreciation and she grabs it with this summary of Boulez's importance in her opening paragraph:
"not only one of the greatest composers of his era. He was also a masterful conductor, a visionary thinker, an influential writer and a towering figurehead for new music. He was a unique soul whose energy and focus could leave a profound impact upon those who encountered him".
But the paper still gave more space, further forward, to the forthcoming appearance of the Thick of It actor and panel show regular Chris Addison in a comic opera at Covent Garden. He says he hopes that fans of his television work will be tempted to go and see him and discover that opera isn't "exclusive, impenetrable and super posh".

Independent spread

So we have two serious papers giving over serious space to celebrities trying to persuade people that serious music is worthy of their attention. Yet those same papers lack the confidence properly to acknowledge a giant like Boulez.

Yes, the obits are all thorough, a full page in the Independent, Telegraph and Guardian, two in The Times. But isn't it time news editors took off the showbizzy blinkers and started recognising that a person's newsworthiness doesn't begin and end with his or her television or social media profile?

The music of Pierre Boulez will not be to everybody's taste. But neither is Motorhead's. Here is a YouTube video of Michael Barenboim playing Anthèmes II at the Proms a couple of years back.
It's a solo piece, the extra sounds are produced electronically by IRCAM, that institute set up at the behest of Georges Pompidou in the 1970s. The music was written in 1997 - almost a decade after Ace of Spades.

Oh yes, and if you're counting, the hatful of honours showered on Boulez incuded 26 Grammys. That puts him five behind record-holder Sir George Solti and four ahead of U2, the most-honoured group. Lemmy never got one.

I've wittered about this sort of thing before. Here is the link to a previous blogpost, Why is arts coverage so lamentable, and another about the double Nobel laureate Fred Sanger

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Mail arrogance and Obama's tears

front pages 06-01-16

A solid hard news story with a soap link makes a dream splash for the redtops. This may seem obvious, but over the past year hard news has had a tough time making itself heard above politics and posturing, even in the Mirror and Sun.
Today's Mail is a case in point. "Victory for democracy!" cries the splash. The paper is again thrusting its opinion at the readers rather than tell the story, as the Times, Guardian and, to a lesser extent the Express, do.
A victory for democracy could refer to votes for 16-year-olds, an about-turn on freedom of information curbs, a majority government almost anywhere in the world, or even the winner of a television talent show. It's not until you look to the subdeck that you learn that this is about Europe.
Mail splash headlines generally leave the reader in little doubt as to what their reaction is supposed to be, but this device goes a stage further in its arrogant assumption that the paper's opinion is more important than the news.

Turning to pictures, today's papers are unusual in that more than half of them have a man as the main image. The usual philosophy is: "Men like looking at pictures of women, women like looking at pictures of women, so put women on the front whenever possible." When Obama weeps over gun laws - one policy where he surely has all of Britain, right and left, on his side - there is good reason to deviate from that approach,
The Express meanwhile goes for Ant and Dec to point to a could-have-been-written-anytime biog feature inside. This is notable because male-only pictures accounted for less than 8% of the paper's main front-page images last year.  Actors, TV stars, politicians and sportsmen alike generally have to be accompanied by their wives if their Oscar nomination or personal disaster is to make the pictorial cut. We can see the mindset at the top of the page: "Cricketer fined for flirting with TV presenter" is accompanied by a photograph not of the player, but of the female reporter.
To complete the picture, the Times takes the women-first policy to its ultimate conclusion with a picture of Cate Blanchett as Richard II. The new theatrical director of the Globe is, according to a deep inside page lead, planning to cast more women as men.
It's good to see the arts given prominence and it's an interesting story. If only there wasn't that niggling suspicion that Cate is on the front page for no other reason than that she is a (beautiful) woman.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Jumping to scandalous conclusions on asylum

front pages 05-01-16

Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story. Nor, it seems, should ignorance be any bar to righteous indignation.

A Sudanese man called Abdul Rahman Haroun made headlines last August when he evaded security and walked the length of the Channel tunnel to England. He was arrested a mile into Kent and charged with obstructing an engine or carriage using a railway.

Yesterday he appeared in court via a video link and was granted bail when prosecutors were given 14 days to consider whether to proceed. They may not do so because the court was told that Haroun had been granted asylum in Britain.

This, according to the Express, is a "new migrant scandal". Both it and the Mail are concerned that the episode may encourage others to embark on similarly dangerous escapades. Eurotunnel is not happy. Nor, unsurprisingly, are the Tory MPS, Ukip MEP, and Migration Watch spokesman wheeled out to give an opinion. They, perhaps reasonably, make the point that you're supposed to make asylum applications in the first safe country you reach.

But the thing is, we don't know why this man was granted asylum. It is Home Office office policy not to say. And surely that is the central fact required to determine whether this is a scandal liable to lead to reckless and dangerous copycats, or a civilised country's response to one man's particular circumstance.

What we do know is that there is a huge backlog in dealing with asylum applications - another scandal in the eyes of the whitetops - so there may have been a compelling reason for the fairly swift ruling in this case.

Sudan is not a very nice place. It is a world where child soldiers, attacks on civilians and torture are part of daily life, where freedom of expression is non-existent, Here is last year's Human Rights Watch report on the state of the country. Haroun may, indeed, be a chancer - or he and his family may be at risk of their lives. You have to be pretty desperate to cross Europe and then pull a stunt like that.

If he had been a British soldiers fleeing a Nazi prison camp, he would be a hero of derring do. But because this man is African, it goes without saying that he is a scrounger totally undeserving of the hostel accommodation and thirty-odd quid a week we are giving him to live on.

There's nothing like good old-fashioned British hospitality.

Monday, 4 January 2016

English shame and joy in black and white

front pages 04-01-16

Oh dear. It was bad enough when papers persisted in calling Mohamed Emwazi "Jihadi John". The nickname, bestowed before we knew his real identity, gave an air of Hollywood hero to a calculating murderer.

As hostage after hostage met their fate in the desert, we disseminated Isis propaganda in the form of their orange-robed humiliation as they knelt before man-in-black Emwazi and his machete. It took a long time to grasp that this was not the way to portray those men murdered simply because they were from the West.

But the "Jihadi John" habit was too hard for most to break, even after his real name was released. It was a convenient shorthand, instantly recognisable. But that didn't make it right.

Now, six weeks after the death of Emwazi, another Briton in a black balaclava has appeared in another Isis snuff video. And what do we do? Proclaim him the "new Jihadi John". Shame on you Daily Telegraph. You should know better. Don't you realise that this is propaganda. You are doing the terrorists' job for them.

This new murderer, brandishing a gun rather than a knife, also stares out at us from the Guardian, without the nickname, while the Mirror and Sun focus on a little boy in combat fatigues, also apparently English, who appears at the end of the film. The Mirror pixellates the face, the Sun stays true to form and decides not to protect the identity of a minor.

I wouldn't argue too strongly against that on principle. But it's a shame that those four papers chose to make these people their main image.

The Independent papers, Mail and Express meanwhile go in the opposite direction and keep the killings off their front pages altogether. That seems perverse.

So hats off to the Times, which has the right splash and  the best picture subject - double centenarian Ben Stokes in South Africa.

It's not only more uplifting to celebrate the Englishman in whites over the Englishman in black. It is also more informative. After all, we can see his face.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

They fatten you up to slim you down

front pages 02-01-16

It's the last Saturday of the holiday. It's grey and damp. The unlit reindeer and snowmen in the wannabe Winter Wonderland gardens look sad and out of time. So maybe the papers have something to cheer us up as we ponder the return to routine on Monday?

Silly me.

The last Saturday of the holiday equals the first Saturday of January. And that means one thing: dieting. The Mail pairs up with Weightwatchers, the Mirror with Slimming World. The Fast Diet, the Atkins and the Do-Do have gone. Now we can have red wine, chocolate and eat up to slim down. We can lose 7lb in 7 days or 14lb in 56.
Promise me 56lb in 7 days and I might give it a whirl. The last time I wrote about this two years ago, I offered my own solution: eat less, move around more. My weight has since increased by a further two stone, give or take a mince pie and a sausage roll.

The slimming industry is worth billions. So no wonder newspapers give us new year, easter, bikini and party diets dotted through the year.
Here's a selection of the offerings from the first January Saturday from the past three years:

I particularly love the consistency in the Mirror from 2014 to 2015. And congratulations to the Sun for dumping the girl in the bikini with the tape measure in favour of a rather pleasing six-pack. The Times is meanwhile promoting the diet "everyone's talking about", which suggests it's superfluous, but is at least an advance on the "secret diet everyone's talking about" from a previous campaign.

Do these diets work? Obviously not. Do they sell papers? Maybe. Do they make us feel miserable? Absolutely.

But they also have a point.

We're too fat. A friend who signed up as a paramedic attached to the fire brigade to help people reports that his life is spent moving fatties who at 20, 30 and even 40 stone cannot get out of bed let alone down the stairs.
So something needs to be done - as we are told in the countless "obesity epidemic" warnings wheeled out on slow news days (one Mail splash heading last month was "Obesity in women 'as dangerous as terror threat').

If newspapers want to play their part, perhaps prevention might be a better approach than dubious cures. The Times and Mail in particular could focus a little less on consumption in trying to sell papers. Below is a montage of the food and drink puffs that appeared in national papers last month. The Sun and Star didn't go near the subject. The Mirror, Express, Telegraph and Independent had one apiece. Which sort of proves that December papers don't have to be all about Christmas. And Christmas doesn't have to be all about over-indulgence.

Christmas food puffs

Time for lunch. Happy new you!

Friday, 1 January 2016

16 hurt in Dubai? Clear the front page

front pages 01-01-16

So here they are, the first front pages of the year.
Tried and tested seems to rule the day: Sydney fireworks from the Guardian,  Alzheimer's cures from the Express, a lot of "babe" flesh from the Star and worries about our boozing habits from the Mail (which also gives us yesterday's Sun splash without so much as an updated headline),

The most interesting offering, however, comes from the Telegraph with a stunning picture of the Dubai hotel fire, coupled with the obvious headline also used by the i.
Hundreds of people were staying at the hotel, but only 16 were injured, so it's a great picture with a generally happy outcome. It certainly beats a petrol nozzle or fireworks pictures that could have come out of the archive.

What baffles me, however, even on a quiet news day, is the fact that the Telegraph has given its entire front page - apart from the puff - to this story of limited interest to most readers.

single-subject front pages

In 2015, the paper produced only seven front pages that were devoted to a single story: four related to the election and three to the attacks in Paris in January and November.

single-subject front pages

A further three carried one big story accompanied by nibs. Two of those were about the Paris terrorism and the third celebrated the Queen's record-breaking reign.

Of these ten single-subject fronts, five commanded the top of the page without a puff. The presence or otherwise of an ad may influence the decision about whether to retain the promotional guff, but the Telegraph is not afraid to drop it if it seems inappropriate. There was no puff on follow-up front pages after the two Paris attacks. It was also removed when RAF drone strikes killed British jihadis, for the Commons vote on bombing Syria, and the Germanwings plane crash.

Other big stories of the year - the whole refugee crisis, the floods, the identification of Mohamed Emwazi, the Tunisian beach massacre, the Nepal earthquake, and even the Telegraph's award-winning Malcolm Rifkind-Jack Straw sting - had to share their fronts with other elements. The Nepal quake didn't even make the splash; it was a puff above one of those "don't vote Labour" business letters.

Yet yesterday nothing happened of note to compete with, or even stand alongside, 16 hurt in an hotel thousands of miles away. Extraordinary.

That said, it's a bloody good looking page.