So you know the scene: you’re sitting there on the newsdesk in the middle of the August silly season, struggling to find a splash as deadline approaches.
Then, all at once like proverbial buses, along roll splash after splash after splash, a total of four violent deaths, two armed raids and a mini earthquake.
Which one would you choose? And would anyone in Britain have the nerve to put them all on the front?
Of course you wouldn’t, what a daft idea, no-one in the world would do that… would they?
Well, just take a look at this page one of the regional daily La Nuova I found when passing the giornalaio on the way to the beach from my campsite in Sardinia this summer.
I’m no linguist, but couldn’t quite believe my eyes as I guessed at the likely violent meaning of words like ‘morto’ (killed), ‘muore’ (death) and ‘immersione fatale’ (drowned), spotted the body wrapped in a sheet on the main picture and the ‘disaster’ scene inset bottom left.
To make sure I wasn’t seeing things that weren’t there, I had the page one translated when back home, and the news was confirmed to be pretty grisly, but so readable.
‘Schiacciato dal suo camion’ screams the main headline, or ‘Crushed by his lorry’ to Anglophiles like me and you, the underline explaining: ‘Killed at the age of 38, while doing his refuse collection round’.
This was one of those stories that has you grimacing as you imagine the scene: ‘Franco Asole saw his truck starting to roll forward and desperately tried to climb back onboard, but was pinned against the wall and died in agony.’
‘Muore un altro paracadutista’ was the second lead, telling us of the ‘Death of another parachutist’, implying that this sort of thing isn’t rare on Sardinia.
Ambrogio Baseggio, aged 36, had got himself ‘fatally tangled up with another parachutist who managed to save himself, the second such incident in 24 hours’.
I’d wager that these two tales would be enough for page one of any regional newspaper in the whole of Britain. But they were hungry for more on the newsdesk in Sassari, the city which publishes La Nuova for the north of the Italian island.
‘Immersione fatale per il capo dell’Enav’ was the headline across the picture story, translating as ‘Enav boss drowned’, the underline adding: ‘Massimo Petrella who lived the last four years in Olbia [had an] accident in the waters of Tavolara’.
The chap whose body was pictured on the jetty was the head of Enav – the air control centre –at Olbia airport, an ‘experienced underwater swimmer’.
Finally (as far as fatalities are concerned) ‘Positivo all’alcoltest gli sequestrano l’auto giovane si uccide’ was a longish headline that explained a fairly extreme reaction by a 24-year-old driver: ‘Having tested positive and had his car confiscated the young man killed himself’.
Hard news, it seems, is just second nature to journalists in Sassari, as another three nibs on page one told us.
Just in case anyone needed something else to grab their attention, there was a column of other news teasers down the left wing.
I loved the headline of the first: ‘Tradisco la Carta? C’è l’impeachment’ was a talky based on President Napolitano’s angry reaction to accusations of betraying the constitution. ‘Me, betray the Constitution? Impeach me then!’
I won’t go into detailed translations for the final two nibs: suffice it to say that one was cross-referencing to a story on regional government changes and the other to a report on the 15th anniversary of the ‘Chilivani massacre’, when three were killed in a shoot-out.
What a performance, these ten stories packed onto the first of La Nuova’s 48-page Berliner-sized paper on August 17, costing 1€.
This was worth every euro-cent in my opinion, with 170+ news/feature reports and 26 sports stories, illustrated with a total of 135 pictures!
But the main question I pose for debate today is: Are we Brits just too squeamish about portraying death and violence in such depth and quantity on the front of our newspapers?
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