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Paper Monitor

12:23 UK time, Friday, 16 May 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When natural disaster strikes in parts other than the UK, the default setting of any domestic news editor is to find out if any Brits are involved. English teachers are inevitable, as are entrepreneurial types.

But among the many caught up in the devastation of the China earthquake is a group which might, insensitively, be termed news paydirt - British tourists at a panda reserve. A panda reserve!

Happily, the tour party has turned up alive after its ordeal, reports the Times in its page three lead. But what's this? Has the paper forgotten that it reports for the British public, famously more concerned with the fate of furry creatures than its fellow human beings?

Much is made of the group's miraculous escape as "rocks rained down" and how they had to edge, one by one, across a makeshift bridge of bamboo ladders. Not to mention living on their coach for three days amid the aftershocks.

The intro tells us how one tourist was cuddling a baby panda as the ground began to rock and roll. And then what - no mention is made of the fate of this wee beast nor any of the other bears at the reserve.

But rest assured, animal lovers, reports from China say that the inhabitants of the famous reserve are safe and well (Pandas 'safe' at park after quake).

And while the newspaper leaves the fate of the pandas up in the air, Times Online seeks to reassure readers with a prominent article on how keepers grabbed the cub from the tourist's arms as she dashed for safety (Pandas shielded from quake by armed guards - the Times).

It is telling that it is on this article - not the tale of the tourists' survival - that a Times reader comments: "Thank you for the one good news story out of all the devastation over there."

Sleep easy, animal lovers.

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