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Saturday 7 December 2013

Richard Desmond’s Mandela Problem

If a survey were to be carried out right now, in any shopping centre in the UK, and the question put as to the dominant news story of the past 48 hours, there would be one event that would top the poll, and that would be the passing of Nelson Mandela. From the hurried rescheduling of news bulletins on Thursday evening, to yesterday’s, and now today’s papers, that has been the lead story.
In all papers - except Des'

Or rather, it has in most of the media. But not all. Because, while even the papers that had been sceptical about the struggle for democracy in South Africa had conceded that Mandela’s was a story that transcended mere partisan politics, one newspaper empire was hard put to even print his name on the front page of its titles. That empire was the one run by Richard “Dirty” Desmond.
In the Mail for the second day running ...

On the front page of Dirty Des’ supposed flagship title, the increasingly pisspoor Daily Express, the pretence is broadcast that the title is somehow on a par with the Daily Mail. This blog is frequently unimpressed with the behaviour of the latter, but the idea that Des’ repository of churnalism is in the same league as the organ of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is simply laughable.
... but nothing in Friday's Express ...

But, for once, let us humour Desmond, and compare the front pages of the two papers for today. Although the Mail leads on the sentencing of the Marine found guilty of killing a Taliban prisoner, there is a large item at the foot of the page signalling a Mandela tribute. What does the Express manage? Weather, for the second day in a row. No sign of the South African leader.
... nothing in Saturday's Express ...

And, while every other UK daily cleared the decks on Thursday night to put Mandela’s passing on Friday’s front page, the Express ignored the event completely, leaving it to Nathan Rao (again) telling readers “142mph Storm Wreaks Havoc”. There seemed to be more interest in Holly Willoughby, who would feature on the front page of the paper’s weekend magazine.
... a paltry footnote in Friday's Daily Star ...

There was little difference with the approach of the Daily Star: although the paper’s Friday edition at least managed to mention Mandela at the foot of the front page, the coverage was relegated to Page 11. And today, as with the Express, there was no mention of the event at all. The impression is given that this is a premeditated decision, and if both titles are involved, that must have come from the top.
... and nothing at all in the Saturday edition

So, Richard Desmond, what’s your problem with Nelson Mandela? Left off the guest list last time he was in the UK? Couldn’t get an interview when the real newspapers got one? Did he cause offence by saying “Richard who”? It would be interesting to hear from any Northern & Shell person who could shed some light on this unusual behaviour by Grubstreet’s bargain basement.
Still, Des makes money out of it, so that’s another Benchmark Of Excellence!

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