The Media in the Press 11.11.09

A line was drawn in the sand yesterday as bereaved mother, Jacqui Janes, accepted an apology from Gordon Brown over “insulting” mistakes he made in a handwritten letter about her son. All is not forgotten though with the attention of today’s dailies firmly concentrating on the newspaper at the heart of the row….

Second-year Journalism student, Alan Robertson, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers….

The Sun’s decision to come down hard on the Prime Minister’s mis-spelt letter to the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan is a big talking point in today’s papers, with many of them critical of the 'red top’s' choice.

Scottish rivals, the Daily Record, condemn the Sun’s treatment of Gordon Brown as “tawdry attacks from Tory press” (page 8). Under the headline, ‘Shameful’, the Record says the “astonishing personal attacks” on Brown by the Sun newspaper had backfired after the PM recalled the sadness felt after losing his baby daughter Jennifer seven years ago. Their editorial adds further insult to injury with the Record claiming that Mrs Janes memories of her son had been “shamefully hijacked and exploited by an English based newspaper in pursuit of its tawdry political agenda” (page 8).

The Scottish Daily Express similarly stands up for Brown, who they claim, irrespective of his leadership record, does not deserve such treatment (page 12). Likewise, Independent columnist, Mark Steel, writes that Mrs Janes has become the Sun’s “weapon for the week for belittling Brown” (page 31).

Sitting in the middle of the controversy, The Sun newspaper defends its decision to go to print, with Mrs Janes quoted as saying: “It had nothing to do with politics” (page 8). However, Herald columnist, Ian Bell, disagrees, turning the spotlight on the Sun and their political motives. “The Sun happens to have a proprietor, an Australian-American with no right even to vote in this country, who has decided that Britain must have a new Prime Minister,” Bell says (page 15).

The Guardian reports that the Sun’s new political editor was hesitant over whether to ‘go hard’ on the PM’s letter. “Tom Newton Dunn is only two weeks into the job but he already knew the Prime Minister had bad handwriting and poor eyesight so his inclination was to ease up,” it says (page 5). Their editorial, meanwhile, criticises the “exploitative and unpleasant way” the Sun newspaper treated the situation, adding that Brown should be judged on his leadership in a time of war rather than “what he says in private to a grieving mother” (page 32).

In other media news, ITV has received a barrage of complaints over the decision to keep John and Edward Grimes on The X Factor. The broadcaster has received between 3000 and 4000 complaints from angry viewers accusing Simon Cowell of bowing to ratings, the Daily Telegraph and The Herald reports. The Times, meanwhile, takes a closer look at the profits ITV set to make from the controversy (page 4). “The broadcaster is selling 30-second adverts to late buyers for an estimated £190,000 this month,” it says, with Jim Marshall, a senior consultant with Starcom, describing the competition as the “British version of the American Super Bowl”.

ITV’s Scottish counterpart, STV, has also hit the headlines for its decision to reject hit ITV dramas. Rating figures show that car-crash drama, Collision, attracted a whopping 7.5 million viewers, and 30.4 per cent share, elsewhere in the UK on Monday while STV’s alternative – Greatest Scot – could only manage a 13.3 per cent share (The Sun, page 14; The Times, page 22).

Both The Guardian (page 11) and The Daily Telegraph (Business, page 3) report the downsizing of The Observer with the publication set to close three of is monthly magazines. The Sunday paper will be reduced to four sections while some Observer journalists will take up roles either in editorial teams across the title, in the Guardian or for guardian.co.uk.

And senior management at BBC Scotland are earning more than £1 million a year, new figures have revealed (The Herald, page 5). The full story can be read here.

Other media stories:

* Five Scottish communities are battling it out for a £400,000 lottery windfall and a slot on a new BBC1 reality TV show – The Scotsman (page 14).

* A Times journalist has been accused of insulting the Thai Royal Family after reporting comments by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – The Times (page 35).

* Former Sun editor, David Yelland, is planning to publish a children’s novel – The Independent (page 19).

* Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users can now watch Premier League football live using a new Sky Mobile TV application. The service will, however, cost £72 a year to access – The Daily Telegraph (page 14).

* Google has supplied funding to allow the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to cover online marketing from late next year – The Daily Telegraph (Business, page 8).

* An Iraqi court has ordered the Guardian to pay Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, £52,000 in defamation costs – The Guardian (page 1).

* A report released yesterday has called for immediate reform to UK libel laws opposing free speech – The Guardian (page 10).