7 February 2008 Edition
Presents, private lives and the power of media-speak
IT WAS hard to get down to doing Media View this week. First off, there was the free Six Nations rugby wall chart with the Irish Independent to ponder on, while in its sister paper, the English Indo, I have barely had time to finish the first of five “free mini-books” on The Great Philosophers (there are another nine to go).
Then there was the Daily Mail’s free Mills and Boon DVD, with the promise of two more weeks of free “sizzling” films. They will have to wait as I want to clear my schedule for watching the classic film, Battle of the Potemkin, free courtesy of The Guardian on Saturday, along with a reproduction poster on Friday. Even the Daily Telegraph offered something, with two free apple trees for every reader.
It seems that An Phoblacht has cleverly positioned itself with the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times in offering its readers just the promise of nothing more than a scintillating read. No apple trees or orange blossoms here.
WHILE we are on the subject of extras and freebies, the front-page promotion of newspapers is getting just a little bit bizarre.
Those of us who are avid tellyholics know only too well how stations shamelessly self-promote their future programmes but newspapers are not shy either.
The promotional budget for the fourth series of Lost would, I think, surpass anything spent on the US presidential campaign so far. I have no intention of deigning to even flick my remote through the farce that that programme is but, through no fault of my own, I know the intimate details of the new series, bombarded as I am by magazine, billboard, newspaper, TV and even internet advertisements promoting the programme.
But back to those front pages.
The Star proclaims daily that it is better “because we’re Irish” and they have a 32-page soccer pull-out called Fever Pitch. The Irish Sun – “Ireland’s No1 Paper” – has 47 pages of sport. So how can we take seriously the English Times’s soccer supplement called The Game with its “eight-page special”? And again the only papers that don’t carry sport on their front pages almost daily are the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and, strangely, also the Daily Mail.
Sport is big business and sells not just papers but advertising space, last weekend’s Super Bowl being the most recent case with advertisers having to shell out $2.7 million for a 30-second TV ad during the game. Thirty-seven companies stumped up the asking price with Budweiser and Pepsi paying over $5 million for their one minute of air time.
This doesn’t count the cost of actually producing what are increasingly elaborate ads, almost mini-films in some cases. The New York Times online has a cool interactive graphic tracking the Super Bowl advertisements since 1984 (it can be found in the Media and Advertising section, just go to nytimes.com and take it from there).
SO with all this sport and freebies, what news can be got into papers this week? Well, the motif seems to be all about private lives, so this week we caught up on the latest in the whirlwind romance and marriage of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni who made their first appearance as a married couple, according to the front page of the Telegraph.
I must report that the pictures of the new Mr and Mrs Sarkozy looked remarkably like the ones hyped over endless papers and news bulletins in recent weeks when they were just dating. The English Times also gave it front-page billing. The picture was Page 6 in the Sun, Page 18 in the London Independent, Page 15 in The Guardian and so on, but strangely spurned in the Mirror. The Irish Independent carried not one but four photos of the couple, including a front page.
Other private lives in the papers over the week included the ever-present Britney Spears, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kylie and on and on. Midweek we have the first pictures of Nicole Kidman’s bump as I can gladly report her pregnancy is going without a hitch.
WHAT of the other news? The story of the week has to be one that sprang to life on Sunday and although we’re coming out of the news cycle in mid-week it still has a lot of reader and viewer miles in it. It involves a classic bit of media-speak.
Sadiq Khan is a Labour Party MP. It was revealed over the weekend that he was bugged on a jail visit to “friend and constituent” Babar Ahmad who is facing extradition to the USA.
On the front page of The Guardian, Khan is a “Muslim Labour MP”, as he also is in the Financial Times and Daily Telegraph but not in the English Independent on Monday, though they did describe Khan as a Muslim MP on Tuesday, and also in the Scotsman.
The case raises many questions, not the least of which being why we have to label Khan by religion. The final irony of The Guardian’s coverage of the case was that the story shared a front page with an “exclusive” revelation that the British Government has drawn up a new counter-terrorism phrasebook to advise civil servants on how to talk with Muslim communities. Maybe they should leak the book to their other journalists.