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OK, so obviously the tabloids are all over the disintegration of Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marriage.
But how do the broadsheets treat such news? They don't - can't - ignore it, but their coverage features no pouty kiss 'n' tell girls nor grainy self-portraits of Ashley in his smalls.
The Independent is clearly conflicted. It puts news of their split on page three, with a beard-scratching thinkpiece further on. But does it secretly hate itself for doing so, and so snipes snidely at the pair to make up for it? It calls the marriage "a multi-million-pound conflation of sport, ambition, dubious miming and good looks", and says Cheryl is "regarded by some as the nation's favourite celebrity" (Paper Monitor's italics).
It also captions the photo, reprinted on the right, thus: "With typical understatement Cheryl and Ashley promoted the National Lottery".
Later in the paper, Terence Blacker muses on how it's been a good month for "those who get a thrill out of sex and punishment". As in alleged adulterers getting their comeuppance, that is, not... oh, never mind.
"[W]hen it comes to public figures straying, rent-a-gob moralists in the press and in politics react like Victorian great aunts. During the [John] Terry case, the children's author Anthony Horowitz contributed a solemn sermon announcing the 'end of propriety' and invoking a dazzling array of villains, including Hugh Grant, the Duchess of York and John Prescott... This absurd and utterly bogus moralising deserves to be laughed off the pages of our newspapers. It is more demeaning than the misbehaviour it attacks."
And you should be ashamed for paying any attention to it whatsoever.
The Guardian sets Zoe Williams on the case, again on page three (with front-page teaser). She applauds Cheryl for refusing to roll over and play happy marriages:
"[T]he depressing subtext of so many football scandals is that the wives have no ace to play.... what you're basically watching, from George Best to John Terry, is a man who can do exactly what he pleases and a woman persuading herself to forgive him because the alternative is to be exiled. Don't give me alimony, she is about to be exiled from the Garden of Eden. Cheryl Cole makes her own Eden: she has everything he has, in her own right, and more. Money don't maketh the feminist, no, but this looks more like the Noughties than the Fifties for a change, and it's cheering."
The Times offers a crumb of comfort for Ashley Cole - "the odds are usually stacked against power couples anyway" - and muses that ironically, it was Ashley's away games (so to speak) that "catapulted his wife into National Treasure status and made her a premier league star in her own right".
It accessorises this with a sidebar on other women who outgrew their men: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller, Alesha Dixon and MC Harvey, Kate Winslet and Jim Threapleton...
The Daily Telegraph moves the whole job lot into the sport section (bar one columnist reading the runes of Cheryl's casual wear choices).
Its double-page spread in Sport includes:
- A photo of the couple in happier times
- A statement from Chelsea on their split ("private matter", "full support" yada yada)
- Fabio Capello saying players must behave if they want to go to the World Cup
- And Ashley heading to Spain for "warm-weather recuperation on his broken ankle"
"Chelsea said it was standard procedure with players suffering from bad injuries, partly as a psychological lift, with manager Carlo Ancelotti stressing that he had not spoken to Cole because 'he is recovering from his ankle'."
And in the Financial Times... nah, just jerkin' your chain.
PS: Far be it from Paper Monitor to focus on something inconsequential, but returning to the Observer's redesign, is there not something of the Times' Saturday magazine in the Observer Magazine's new masthead?
And is that not, in turn, a reference to New York magazine, the standard every newspaper supplement might aspire to meet?