SubScribe: Honouring the dead Google+

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.






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