Papers fail to recognise a good news story
Manchester dogs' home fire much more than a nib
Saturday 13 September, 2014
Do you remember Stephen Sutton? Naturally you do. He was that inspiring teenager who died aged 19 having raised millions for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
As is the way these days, Stephen had made a bucket list when he realised that his life was going to be shorter than most. At the top of it was "raise £10,000 for TCT". It probably seemed a pretty big target, but within five months he had collected five times as much and within a year he had raised more than £550,000.
In April this year, he lifted the target to £1million, but that same month his condition took a turn for the worst and on the 21st he posted a "final thumbs up" picture on Facebook. At this point, the national Press picked up on his story and for the last two weeks of his life his face was everywhere. When he died on May 14, Stephen's JustGiving account stood at nearly £2.5m.
It was a pretty amazing story about the generosity of a nation and the ability of one sick boy to galvanise people in all walks of life.
On Thursday nightfire broke out at Manchester Dogs' Home, killing 43 dogs. A further 150 were rescued.
The Manchester Evening News started a live blog and news of the blaze was reported across Twitter and Facebook. As readers asked what they could do, the MEN set up a JustGiving page with a target of £5,000.
But people are far more generous than that. Within 24 hours the total had passed £1m; it now stands at over £1.3m and builders have offered to rebuild the damaged wing for nothing.
If you were wondering why this post about dogs should start off with a reminder about Stephen Sutton, just compare the scale of this giving.
Bearing in mind that Stephen Sutton was an extraordinary young man whose achievements were universally lauded, does that not make the Manchester response even more remarkable?
The Mirror and Sun recognised that with their splashes and inside spreads this morning. They were both right on the button. The Express had a dog picture on the front, cross-reffing to the story on page 3; the Mail and Telegraph also put the story on page 3, though neither had space for even a teaser on the front.
The Mail had committed itself to a megapuff on a series of health pamphlets that left it with not room to maneouvre and the Telegraph preferred the alleged cruelty to goldfish featured in a production of Richard III.
SubScribe would suggest that the dogs story was a better Saturday splash for the whitetops than migraine or Jim Sillars (he, not Salmond, was responsible for the "tirade of hate" that upset the Mail). And certainly a better picture subject than a file shot of the British Lions for the Telegraph.
Yes, SubScribe has been complaining about lack of coverage of the Scottish referendum. But that is because hardly anything was being written before last weekend. Since then, there has been a torrent, and the kennels fire was a real, live, dramatic Saturday story with a heart of gold
The heavies were even more flat-footed. The story made a down-page double on 17 for the Guardian, which gave over the top half of its front to Samantha Morton talking about being abused when she was in care in Nottingham. The paper splashed on the referendum and had a second lead on the death of Ian Paisley, both of which were definitely worth a front-page presence.
Morton has spoken frequently about her troubled childhood and adolescence, and the fact that this is the first time she has publicly said that she was sexually abused while in care doesn't really take us much further. I'm not saying the slot should have been surrendered to dogs, but that the "We've got a biggie" presentation tied the backbench's hands
The Times and Independent were still worse. The Times's coverage was limited to a picture caption on page 6 and the Independent's to a filler on page 19.
As with Sundays, there is generally little hard news on a Friday, so papers allow relatively less space for live stories and prepare assorted specials, essays, spreads and interviews ahead of time.
That's all very well and sensible, so long as executives on duty are alert and adaptable.
Yesterday was a busy news day - especially for a Friday. Besides Scotland, there was the Pistorius trial and the Paisley death, all of which required oceans of space. This will have been distributed early in the day. The Manchester fire broke out quite early on Thursday evening, but it doesn't seem to have been on the nationals' radar in time to make the morning conference schedules.
It should, however, have come to the attention of news editors and copytasters during the day, and made it on to the afternoon news lists. If good but unspectacular stories are not flagged up at these twice-daily meetings, it is very difficult for them to burst through and find a decent home in the paper.
This, SubScribe suspects, is why the dogs' home fire got such short shrift from the "high-minded" Times and Independent.
The Manchester Evening News did a great job on this story - and, as David Higgerson writes in his blog today, was rewarded with a 20,000+ audience on its website for three full hours. It was community journalism at its best.
So what went wrong with the nationals? The early Friday deadline excuse doesn't wash because everyone got in the £1m angle - even if the Telegraph waited until the eleventh par to mention it and omitted it from both headings.
Whatever the reason/excuse, this was a story worth more than a single paragraph on page 19 (with JustGiving spelt wrongly).
The Prince of Wales hitting 65, Dimbleby's scorpion, golfer-eating crocodiles, winter snow horror and evil foreigners.
Editors seem to be at one in believing that we are much more concerned about these things than about people thousands of miles away in distress...
Well, actually, we aren't. We are not only interested in the plight of people we don't know, we are willing to offer a helping hand. We also care about those in distress closer to home.
But tomorrow's papers will run at best a bit of 1D and a wacky picture or two, coupled with an out-of-date appeal running total.
Children in Need
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