Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A moment in history ... or old man retires?

Well here's a story that no newspaper has ever reported before - the resignation of a Pope. The last Pope to quit (as the Standard's splash headline phrased it last night) was Gregory XII in 1415. That was just a few years before William Caxton was born. So, for those veteran journalists who feel we have seen just about every story come around … here's one that really is brand new. 

That wasn't enough to persuade the Daily Mail that it was worth Page 1 though. The paper decided Tesco's bolog-neighs (sorry), Helena Bonham Carter playing Liz Taylor and a two-day diet were all way ahead of an 85-year-old man calling it a day. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI didn't get a mention at all until Pages 8 and 9. I was surprised … but the Mail has never been big on the Pope. It's a paper that knows its readership like no other and it will also have judged it to be a story that had gone nowhere in the last 24 hours. It had been the lead on the Mail Online home page since early morning.

The Sun decided to put Gazza's supporters ahead of God's supporter - although 'Dun Roman' and 'Auf Weidersehen, Pope' did claim an irreverent spot at the top of the page. Inside was a headline I never thought I would read - 'Pope quits shock'- along with 'Ratz all, folks'. 

The Daily Mirror on the other hand, not only gave over the whole of Page 1 to the story, with a poignant picture and first person headline, but also dedicated all of pages 2 to 7 to the story. They included a first class profile by Brian Reade and informed speculation on whether the next Pope will be African.

Of the serious papers, The Daily Telegraph stood out. The black background of a picture of Pope Benedict in the dark with a flickering candle, encompassed the whole of the page above the fold … including a white masthead. It was no doubt powerful on the new-stands. There are a further four news pages and a feature page inside.

The Times also wiped out the top of the front page with a picture and a similar first person headline to the Telegraph and Mirror. It chose to go with a back-shot, an effect that was used when the Pope visited the UK two years ago. Like the Telegraph, The Times conveys a sense of history. There are some nice touches inside, including a montage of papal hats and a timeline of Benedict's life running across the top of pages 4 and 5.

The Guardian opted for the picture, used by most others inside, of the lightning above St Peter's. It is certainly a striking photo, in more ways than one, but perhaps more of 'a fancy that moment' rather than one of great historical import. There are four pages of detailed analysis on pages 2 to 5 plus the comment columns.

The Independent also went for a wipe-out picture at the top, with a 'sits vac' headline but was clearly keen to lead on its RBS story. It devotes pages 2 to 5 to the Pope and includes the nice headline 'Legacy of a German Shepherd'.

The i chooses the same picture as its sister title - but leaves in the clasped hands. A good call.

Meanwhile the Daily Express chose not to go the extra mitre (sorry again) with any fancy design - opting for a standard templated front page. 
Here are a few covers that caught my eye from around the world.

None, though, were quite as irreverent as the New York Post with its 'I'm outta here, guys' and a strapline that said 'Pope gives God two weeks' notice'.

Front pages courtesy of www.newseum.org/ and @suttonnick#tomorrowspaperstoday  

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