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Monday, October 10, 2005 

Moss dross: of earthquakes, Elton and tabloids.

Not a single one of this country's tabloid newspapers today led on their front page with the earthquake in Pakistan and India, which has killed at least 20,000 people.

They can possibly be excused for not leading on it yesterday, as the full scale was not known then; they have none whatsoever for today. The Mirror and Sun both at least had small items on their front pages. The Mail, Express and Star did not even mention it.
All the broadsheets (or quality papers, I suppose, seeing as the Telegraph is the only true remaining broadsheet) featured it on their front page in detail.

So what was it that was keeping the deaths of so many people off the front pages of the so-called popular papers of this country?

The Mail leads with an interesting and important story, but it's not one that's earth-shattering. Issues of maternity and paternity leave have been rising in political importance for a while. Somehow I consider the deaths of thousands of people rather more important, considering how many in this country have relatives in India and Pakistan. Oh, I forgot, I guess they must be the wrong colour.

The Express features an education story, or as it should be known, just another excuse to beat Labour with. Nearly every single front page of the Express is somehow an outraged attack on what Labour is doing wrong, so it's not surprising that they didn't change this despite a natural disaster in a far off land. Also of note is the incredible picture of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Anyone would think that they'd announced she was having a baby.

The Star, the most down-market and pathetic newspaper in the country bar the Sport, which isn't considered a newspaper, unsurprisingly doesn't have any mention of the earthquake. What it does have is a photo of Jennifer Ellison or whatever the fuck her name is in her underwear. An important news story, as I don't think she's done any such revealing shoots since she left Hollyoaks, apart from oh, at least 20. Other than that, there's the sensational story that Simon Cowell is apparently to leave the TV show the X-Factor. I won't be watching it anymore, that's for sure.

Next up we have the country's favourite, the soar-away Sun, which deserves credit for at least having the decency to have a short piece on the earthquake on its front page. Compared to the story opposite it however, about the tragedy of fans not being able to get World Cup tickets, and its huge puff piece for giving away a DVD, you would have thought that it deserved more space at the least. Still, what do I know about tabloid journalism and priorities?

Finally we have the Mirror, and the worst of the lot. I consider the Mirror to probably be the best tabloid, if only because it's broadly left wing and does takes its politics seriously. This makes the above even more depressing, as they continue with the Moss dross of the past few weeks, with Elton John saying that it's a good thing she was caught apparently being front page news. Again, there is a small piece on the earthquake, which demands a small amount of respect. It then ruins that respect by running an intro to a sensationalist account of two grown adults who dared to meet on the internet and then commit suicide together.

I admit, the only newspapers I actually went through today were the Mirror and Guardian. The tabloids could have in-depth coverage inside, which would negate the lack of focus on the front pages. However, if they are anything like the Mirror, then they won't have. The small piece on the front led to a single tabloid page of coverage, 15 pages inside. That was it. Compare this to the Guardian. It has a large piece on its front, continued on the second page. Pages 4 and 5 are then given over completely to the earthquake. Pages 16 and 17 is the daily Eyewitness, a photo given two whole pages. This is of Islamabad after the quake. Peter Preston then comments on the disaster on Page 24, and there is a leader on disasters on page 26.
Just a small difference, don't you think? Also worth remembering these are "Berliner" sized pages, midway between tabloid and broadsheet.

I'm willing to give some of the papers the benefit of the doubt, and they have the excuse that there has been so many cruel "acts of God" recently that some people may be disastered-out. But come on, this is on a pretty slow news day, in a country which governed India and Pakistan only 60 years ago. Many have emigrated and started lives here. What do the tabloids reward such people with? Stories about drugged-up celebrities and idiots who can't think of anything other than football for 5 seconds.
Is this what we deserve, or is tabloid journalism reaching its nadir of futility?

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