Mike's media monitor
Do we really give a Moss? The tabloids have gone somewhat over the top when covering the drug habits of supermodel Kate Moss. Mike Wilson asks whether the newspaper’s summer silly season is getting longer and longer as years pass.
The nights are fair drawing in, it’s well and truly autumn, but you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re still in the middle of the silly season. If it wasn’t The Scotsman and The Times featuring on their front page a snap of US President, George Bush, scribbling a note that he wants to go to the loo (albeit penned during a meeting of the UN Security Council), it was the Scottish Sun with the headline: ‘The £40,000 pie supper’ (actually, this was a great tale of a reward to a taxi driver who had been given £100,000 instead of £60,000 by a bank in Aberdeen, and who did the decent thing by returning the difference). No, these tales ought not to be filed under ‘silly season’. But I reckon the Scottish Daily Mirror’s coverage of pics showing model Kate Moss snorting cocaine is a decent contender.
Last Thursday, pages one to five were devoted to a series of grainy pics. The next day, it was another five pages, the front page brandishing the sub-heading: ‘Cocaine Kate Exclusive – Day 2’, as if it was the latest instalment of Big Brother and we were going to be in for a long haul.
By a curious quirk of fate, the same Ms Moss was being lauded elsewhere in the same newspaper. By another curious quirk, she was being featured on BBC telly on the evening of Day 1. It was in a documentary about the disabled artist Alison Lapper who has had a statue of her erected in London’s Trafalgar Square. Good on London Mayor, Ken Livingstone: some may find the statue offensive but if it makes us reflect on the inherent beauty in each of us, then the work is a triumph.
The bit with Moss was about juxtaposition. Her perceived beauty juxtaposed against the perceived non-beauty of others. God, she looked awful in those pictures – what an ugly pair of sunglasses. But here’s my question. Who is Kate Moss, to merit such blanket coverage in the Scottish Daily Mirror? And then in other newspapers too? Even if she was Kate McMoss, she is just another model doing something daft.
Day 2 was Friday. The start of the week had, of course, been more sporting than snorting. Then the SNP’s Christine Grahame pipes up and says BBC News ought not to have devoted so much of its coverage to England’s Ashes victory over Australia’s cricketers. She certainly had no shortage of bad news to mull over as alternative fare, including the worst atrocities in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. She obviously didn’t see the compilation of ITN’s ‘And Finally...’ clips, also broadcast last week as part of ITV’s fiftieth birthday celebrations. After the horror, a heart-rending tale of the hamster requiring to have its own bus pass. You can have too much horror, but you can have too much Kate Moss too.
Ahead of the suicide of a second schoolboy in the West Lothian town of Livingston, newspapers are understood to have received a letter on how to report suicides ‘responsibly’, which a few then went on to flout. Despite the letter, from the Scottish Executive, several newspapers last Friday still tried to connect the two suicides beyond the fact that both happened within days of each other and involved schoolboys in Livingston – a move which mental health experts say can encourage copycat suicides.
At the weekend, The Sunday Herald reported the Scottish Executive and the National Union of Journalists joining forces to produce updated guidelines on the reporting of suicide. It was after the first suicide and before the second that journalists and newsdesks are said to have been advised on how best to report suicide – for instance, to publish websites such as www.samaritans.org – to avoid risking copycat suicides. Another case of ‘two fingers’ being put up to good practice, or just an unfortunate oversight?
Edinburgh-based regional newspaper group, Johnston Press, appears to be growing from strength to strength, after agreeing two more acquisitions.
Subject to approval from relevant competition authorities, Johnston Press has entered into an agreement with the shareholders of The Leinster Leader Ltd to acquire the entire issued share capital of the company, which publishes six, weekly, paid-for newspapers in the Republic of Ireland. Johnston has also agreed – again, subject to approval – to buy Local Press Ltd, publisher of eight titles in Northern Ireland (including The News Letter, the oldest, continuously published newspaper in the English-speaking world), three in the Republic of Ireland and one title which is published in both. One of the titles it is acquiring is the Derry Journal, winner of Northern Ireland Regional Newspaper of the Year in 2002. It is understood it’s to cost Johnston Press £138.6million to buy The Leinster Leader Ltd and £65million for Local Press Ltd.
Mike Wilson is a director of the media website, www.allmediascotland.com