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Paper Monitor

11:32 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When national papers report terrible acts of violence, they are selecting a small handful of events - ahead of countless others that don't make the news - because they believe it will touch their audience in a greater way than others.

So any added dimension they can give the victim or the circumstances to make it stand out from the others or elicit more sympathy does, in their view, work better.

But this selection process can be a contrived and clumsy one. For instance, one accusation is that white, pretty, murder victims get more coverage than most.

Last week, the Sun reported that Kate Beagley was a "career girl" who was killed near Jerry Hall's £10m mansion, as if being murdered in a working class area would have made it less significant.

At least Paper Monitor can understand the paper's motives here in trying to gain the attention of readers who may reside in leafy and up-market areas.
But today's reporting of the murder of PC Jonathan Henry is more puzzling.

With no mention of him being a police officer on duty and having a baby daughter - facts which should be sufficient in themselves to shock readers and justify national attention - the Mirror's front page headline screams: "MURDERED 18 MINUTES INTO HIS SHIFT"

The Sun takes a similar angle with "CUT DOWN IN 21 MINS", although the big picture of PC Henry in uniform means a cursory glance can glean that he's an officer.

Does the victim elicit more sympathy because he was starting his shift?

The broadsheets are less bothered about the timing and more concerned with the victim. The Times chooses to emphasise that he was a rookie, while the Telegraph and Mail focus on his family status, in particular the fact his daughter is approaching her first birthday.

Such details can be the difference between being a footnote in a local freesheet or on breakfast tables across the nation.

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