Belfast Telegraph

Front page gaffe leaves us all with that sinking feeling

By Paul Connolly

Was that the sound of twin clangers being dropped on Monday morning? Simultaneously, and by the Belfast Telegraph and the Guardian, no less.

That’s at least how it seemed at the start of this week as both papers were the centre of unwelcome attention regarding images of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia.

We’re talking inappropriate juxtaposition here, in case you hadn’t heard.

Like most papers, both the Tele and the Guardian used large images of the half-submerged ship on the front pages of their Monday morning editions.

The problem was that other material on the front page seemed to clash with the tragic image that starkly illustrated the tragedy off the Italian coast.

In the Guardian’s case, the splash headline below the photo of the doomed ship screamed: ‘Give Queen a new royal yacht for the jubilee’

The Belfast Telegraph managed to offend in a different way. Above the photo was a promotional plug that said in large type ‘WIN A DREAM HOLIDAY’.

Of course, in today’s interconnected world, both front pages went viral within hours, mostly heavily cropped.

To the uninitiated, ‘viral’ means it was copied and flashed around the internet by people who found it either crassly insensitive, or amusing (or even, strangely, both).

Not properly viral, like the hilarious ‘Fenton’ video before Christmas, which was seen by millions (check it, and a brilliant Fenton Jurassic Park and other spoofs, on YouTube).

But they did get passed around a fair bit and even found their way on to a couple of media clangers websites.

The Guardian can answer for itself, but I suspect its editors deemed the news values of both stories, allied to the placing of the masthead between the image and headline, was enough to neuter criticism and permit them to stand by their decision.

As for the Belfast Telegraph, some of the words used by readers who got in touch were strong: “How did that ever get passed?” demanded James Nicholl. “ in very bad taste considering the significant loss of life ,” wrote Barry Jackson.

I’ll have to agree. The positioning was unfortunate and, yes, somewhat toe-curling.

However, the juxtaposition was entirely inadvertent (the holiday promotions plug having been designed and placed the week before) and the page was immediately changed for the evening editions once it was noticed.

It’s nowhere near the worst example of inadvertent juxtaposition I’ve ever come across. These are too awful to even mention here.

But Monday’s AM front page underlines the need for editors to remain on constant alert for the age-old ghost of juxtaposition.

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

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