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Paper Monitor

12:12 UK time, Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The vernacular of Fleet Street has a few ways of telling us the economic chips are down:

1. The graph. Yup, anyone who has their life savings locked up in the stock market should always be fearful of a front page line graph that resembles a black run on the Matterhorn. Today's Guardian goes in for this big time, with the slot normally reserved for a front page picture replaced by a graph with lashings of figures and the odd "£" and "%" sign thrown in for dramatic effect. The Indy's graph is a more illustrative affair, but with the bonus of it being superimposed on a computer screen full of red numbers.

2. The stressed city trader. Step up, the Times. Putting to one side the question of exactly what a city trader does, what does a city trader look like? Now they no longer wear those stripy boxing referee tops and muster in a bear pit to make funny hand gestures, or stand out on widow ledges 30 storeys up, your average trader is at risk of being mistaken for any old Joe Schmo. The Times digs itself out of this conundrum by picturing our protagonist with a phone, a brow-mopping hand and, yes, a graph in the background. He also appears in the Mail, although his reclining position makes him look more like he's sharing a joke over the phone with mates. The Express just gives us a couple of glum-looking blokes in shirtsleeves and no tie perched in front of a bank of computer screens.

3. The frowning smiley. A new departure here, courtesy of the Sun, which takes the "this is how you should feel" approach, showing a glum looking smiley and the no-nonsense headline "£77bn off shares".

None of which can compete in visual metaphor terms with the picture in today's Times of the Northern Rock clock – yes, a clock at Northern Rock's Newcastle headquarters with the name of the troubled bank around its circumference and its hands variously at "the 11th hour" or, for additional drama, at 11.59. Any more of this "story distilled into a single image" stuff and newspaper cartoonists will be out of a job.

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