At 9.30pm last night, we changed today’s front page from the first draft. The most compelling human story in this morning’s i is the unexplained (as we went to press) disappearance of three-year- old Mikaeel Kular. Dressed in his favourite dinosaur pyjamas and tucked into bed by his mum in Edinburgh at 9pm, he was gone the next morning when she went to rouse him at 7.15am, police said. Close to the worst of nightmares that parents harbour, but never dare speak.
“Vanished in the night,” that draft headline read. “Huge hunt for three- year-old boy whose mother found his bed empty at dawn.” I couldn’t do it though. Not because I was worried that we would be overtaken by events, and that he would be discovered in those few hours between print and delivery – but because we hoped that he would be found.
Newspapers are often portrayed as brutal machines that suck in humanity and spit it back out. The reality is different, with parents in the newsroom murmuring to each other in hushed tones as they watch news channels, hoping for a miracle.
The lead story we have gone for instead, George Osborne’s insistence that businesses can afford an above-inflation increase in the minimum wage, will not come as a shock to i readers who bought last Wednesday’s paper (8 January), where our Political Editor Andy Grice first broke the news. But the change is one that will affect about 1.4 million workers. The public will now be treated to an unseemly squabble as the Lib Dems and Labour protest (correctly) that they were planning to raise the minimum wage, but Osborne was stalling. In the end, it doesn’t matter.