Stephen Glover on the press

How do you report the bad news that everybody already knows?

By the time I picked up the newspapers on Friday morning, I must have watched seven or eight hours of television, and listened to two or three hours of radio. I may be an exceptional glutton for punishment, but I can't imagine there were many people turning to their papers who did not already know many of the facts inside them. The relatively early hour of the outrage was both an advantage and a disadvantage for the Press - an advantage in that it gave newspapers time to plan and think about their coverage; a disadvantage in that, by the time we came to read them, most of us already knew much of what had gone on.

What does a newspaper do? Looking at Friday morning's crop, so-called upmarket and downmarket, one was struck by the remarkable uniformity of the coverage. There is no re-invention of the wheel on these occasions. The elements of the story can be easily broken down: general overview; accounts of individual incidents with use of striking pictures and eye-witnesses; maps; political reaction at the G8, particularly from Tony Blair and George W. Bush; House of Commons reaction; Al Queda and other possible suspects; previous outrages at home and abroad; international reaction; Muslim reaction, and possible effect on community relations; all manner of columnists striving to say something original; more writerly and descriptive columns that seek to catch the mood of the moment; outraged editorial. There is a lot of ground to cover here, and in a technical sense every newspaper did remarkably well.

But what did a punter get that he had not already got from television and radio? Oddly enough, there were the photographs. One might have thought that television had a monopoly of the visual image, but it is not so. Papers now use full-page colour photographs in way that would have been unimaginable (or technically impossible) ten years ago. The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian cleared whole broadsheet pages, sometimes for single pictures. Then there were the columns, which you obviously don't get on television or radio. It is a huge relief on these occasions not to be asked to write since it is difficult to think of anything original to say. Among the 'think pieces', dear old Max Hastings, I hate to say, stood out in the Daily Mail since he had a strong argument - anti-Bush but equally anti-al-Qa'ida. Most, though not all, papers ran 'what was the effect on me?' pieces, from Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror to Ian McEwan in the Guardian to John Walsh in the Independent to Matthew Parris in the Times. God, these are difficult articles to write! For my money, Mr Parris's was the least pretentious, the most heartfelt, the most observant and the most humane.

The fear of editors on these occasions is that they may miss something out, or be judged by readers to have underplayed things. The only newspaper that might be so accused was the Financial Times, but it has the solid defence of being a financial, rather than a general, newspaper. Other titles embraced the usual doctrine that the enormity of the coverage should reflect the enormity of the event. Among tabloid-sized newspapers, the Mail had 23 pages, the Sun 23, the Times 27, the Mirror, Express and Independent each 35. (All these figures include advertisements.) The Guardian, a broadsheet with the tabloid G2, came out at the equivalent of 18 broadsheet pages, while the Daily Telegraph topped all-comers with 24 broadsheet pages. Perhaps the two-page centre spread - a map of London with the incidents marked - was, as Bill Deedes would say, a case of over egging the pudding, but I am not going to complain too much. Having spent hours glued to my television, I still had an appetite to read the newspapers, though I am willing to concede I may be mad.

Newspapers battle for gold in the great Olympic U-turn

As has been widely remarked, the euphoria of London winning the Olympics was short-lived. Not realizing that a much bigger story was around the corner, newspapers pushed the boat out.

But they did not always regard the bid in such ecstatic terms. Perhaps rather surprisingly in view of its innate conservatism, the Daily Telegraph has been the only daily newspaper to be consistently and vociferously in favour of London holding the 2012 Games from the inception of the bid. Other titles have more recently jumped on the bandwagon, but when the bid was in its infancy, back in 2001 and 2002, it received little or no encouragement from them, and much ridicule.

The arguments most often trotted out against having the Olympics in London were the risks of terrorism (sensibly enough, in the light of last Thursday's atrocities), a poor transport system and the high costs, as well as the precedent of other public fiascos, most obviously the Millennium Dome. These were - and remain - perfectly reasonable points. London's own newspaper, the Evening Standard, was not an early convert to the cause. On 16 July 2002, it advised readers that "Londoners should think very hard before backing a bid to have the 2012 Olympics here". Not long afterwards it suggested that Manchester might be a worthier home for the Games.

At its sister paper, the Daily Mail, several of the paper's formidable sports columnists lined up against the bid. Jeff Powell, Ian Wooldridge and Robert Hardman were all highly sceptical, and an editorial in 2002 warned that the "Government's backing for the expected bid to host the 2012 Games has the makings of a financial catastrophe". The Times was only slightly more favourable, regretting in November 2002 that London could not co-host the Olympics with New York, while columnists such as Alice Miles and Mary Ann Sieghart were vituperative critics of the bid.

And so it goes on. In January 2003 the Independent warned that "a bid is the last thing that London needs". A month earlier the Financial Times had published a leader under the headline: "No Olympic Gold: The Government should not back London's bid for these games". In December 2002 and January 2003 the Guardian favoured the Games coming here, but in May 2003 it changed its mind in a leader headed: "London 2012: Government backing is a triumph of flawed thinking". The Sun and the Daily Mirror did support the bid, though not until quite late in the day, in May 2003. Several of the Mirror's columnists such as Matthew Norman and Oliver Holt and Mick Dennis poured cold water on the proposal.

What does the new found enthusiasm of newspapers tell us? That they are naturally sceptical. That they change their minds. That public enterprises can proceed in spite of their objections. That they love being associated with success. What interests - and worries - me is not so much that the media are fickle (we all knew that) but that all of their mostly perfectly reasonable reservations should have been forgotten amidst the euphoria. I was taken aback to re-read a column I wrote in May 2003 arguing that "the 2012 Olympics should be a triumph" for London. I can barely recall thinking that, but now that every newspaper is declaring that the Games will be an enormous success I am beginning to wonder whether they will.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Head of Sales

£35k £40k DOE + £15k Commission + Results based share options: Savvy Media Ltd...

Social Media Executive - Cornwall

£18-23K: Savvy Media Ltd: You know the latest viral videos going round on Face...

SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER

£40k basic, £70K with OTE: Savvy Media Ltd: If you want to work for a global l...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past