Media interest rises in the Pope
The retirement of the Pope is a big story. But for the tabloid red-top newspapers one might have thought slightly less so, leaving the way open for the broadsheets to go to town. The day after Benedict XVI announced he was quitting due to ill health The Sun led with Paul Gascoigne’s alcohol problems and the Pope only merited a small box at the top of the front page under the headlines ‘Dun Roman’ and ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pope’. The Daily Star had no mention on its front page at all, devoting most of it to a young lady in a bikini from TV’s Celebrity Big Brother. But then the Daily Mail did not think this was a front-page story either.
So it came as something of a surprise to see the Daily Mirror not just hand over the whole of the front page to the Pope, but pages 2,3,4,5,6 and 7, too. Three two-page spreads is normally the kind of coverage reserved for a catastrophic event like 9/11, a presidential assassination or an intercontinental tsunami. The explanation is likely to be the editorial decision that as the Mirror has a lot of Catholic readers in their north-west heartlands that was the story they would most want to read.
The leader column accepted that the event may turn out to be just “a footnote in history”. But the paper praised the Pope for embracing modern communications, especially Twitter. And it added: “He has put the needs of Catholics ahead of the tradition that he stays in office until he dies.”
But thanks to the success of Dan Brown’s novels, the word Vatican is now inextricably linked with conspiracy theories, and on Day Two of the story the Daily Mirror was speculating on a few of them; “shocking” new revelations from the money laundering scandal; Parkinson’s disease; a new paedophile scandal. Even Roman Catholic and former Tor y MP Louise Mensch tentatively voiced suspicions in The Sun. “Pope Benedict has said he