Just to show that frightening the readers sells papers, last night’s news that the film legend that was Richard Attenborough had died was not enough – except for the Times – to deflect from the message being carried by most titles this morning. Because that message had just one word, and that word was Ebola. It’s not only a disease, it’s a killer disease, and it’s arrived in the UK!
Even better for the press, very little is known about Ebola, except that it is transmitted by physical contact, the limited supplies of experimental vaccine have run out, and that it kills people (did I mention that already?). As such, despite only one person presently on UK soil having contracted the virus – and he’s in an isolation tent – it is an ideal vehicle for frightening readers.
To no surprise at all, the Sun is first off the end of the pier, claiming a “Rescued Nurse Exclusive” and shrieking “Ebola Brit’s Bravery”. We are also told that he “Risked life for no wages”, which will have been a difficult concept for Rupe’s downmarket troops to grasp, as the only thing they generally risk is getting wet on their after-work dash to the nearest Rub-A-Dub.
Strangely, the Sun pixellates the nurse’s face, but the Mail has no such problems, putting his photo on the front page, with readers told solemnly “Encased in an isolation bubble for dramatic RAF rescue flight ... Hero Nurse Hit By Ebola Lands Back In Britain”. And, just to make sure we get the point, there are photos of the aircraft, the ambulance, the hospital, and the isolation tent there.
And, as the Mail has named William Pooley, the Mirror has now followed suit, gasping “Victim Lands At RAF Base ... Deadly Ebola In Britain”. Then we get the photos of the aircraft, ambulance, hospital, and inside the hospital, all as in the Mail. That “in Britain” equals “being in an isolation tent and unable to transmit the virus to anyone else” does not get mentioned.
Strangely, though, the Maily Telegraph, despite going with the tabloids and making this its top story, declines to give the victim’s full name, referring only to “William”. But it does reassure readers that “First British Ebola victim is flown home by the RAF”. Do we have any other air forces? Of course he was flown home by the RAF. And they flew into Northolt, because it’s an RAF base.
Even the Express has told readers “Ebola Victim Back In Britain”, though the item is not thought as scary as Scary Muslims who are allegedly going to appear on our streets and pursue Jihad against someone. And the story also has to defer to more attention seeking by Carol “please look at me cos I’m still famous, honestly” Vorderman. But overall, frightening readers wins out.
In the real world, be careful crossing the road. It’s way more dangerous than Ebola.