Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Mail arrogance and Obama's tears
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.