25 July 2014

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Dyson at Large: Crushed, drowned and hanged


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.

  • ‘San Teodoro, rapina in banca da 30mila euro’: or ‘San Teodoro bank raid, €30,000 taken’, telling how three gunmen had held up a bank clerk.

  • ‘Olbia, colpo da 500 euro al supermarket Eurospin’: or ‘Theft of €500 from Eurospin supermarket’, the underline commenting on what was an ‘unenviable record for a young assistant: her third hold up this year’; and

  • ‘Terremoto, panico tra i turisti: frana sfiora Schifani’: or ‘Earthquake, panic amongst tourists, landslide touches Schifani’. In actual fact, the incident on a neighbouring island turned out to be a rockfall, but the sensational headline writers had picked up on an expert’s quote that they ‘do not rule out seismic causes’.

    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?

  • Thanks to John Lillywhite for the translations.

    Read Steve’s previous blog posts here

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  • Steve Dyson worked in the regional press for 20 years, editing weekly, Sunday and daily newspapers in the North East and the Midlands from 2002 until the end of 2009. To contact him, email steve.dysonmedia@googlemail.com.

    Steve’s blog is available via an RSS feed. Click here to subscribe.

  • 9 Comments

    1. hacker

      I have seen the Madrid daily El Pais carry graphic page one pics of dead bodies lying in the street following an ETA attack. Gruesome stuff which would never make it as a British splash.

      Report this comment

    2. Archie

      Hi Steve The response – lack of – to this posting shows you shouldn’t meddle with a winning style. We’re not interested in any of that foreign muck or tales of yesteryear. What we like is when you pick up a hapless weekly or daily and rip its choice of splash to shreds. (Whilst ignoring any factors such as it being the middle of August, your suggested alternative front page being from 20 miles off-patch etc.) Then we all laugh at the news editors’ lack of judgement and feel better about ourselves. Sad but true. I understand the East Anglian Daily Times had a particularly honking front page the other day, get to it sir.

      Report this comment

    3. wagesalve

      Don’t you mean anglophone – not anglophile – in the eighth par? I’m a sub, by the way.

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    4. a. nonymouse

      Nope, I don’t think a British editor of a newspaper with a circulation area of a million people including five major towns would have the guts to run a front page containing 10 “Cont. on page 34” 90 word teases and two poor quality photographs.

      Report this comment

    5. Traffic Chaos

      What about the Express & Star? Around five hundred front page stories and a picture of an attractive but entirely irrelevant celebrity every day. I think La Nuova looks very untidy. There’s a reason for the ‘pick your favourite and make the most of it’ approach.

      Report this comment

    6. PaperBoy

      AM I the only one disappointed that Steve has decided to review an Italian paper before looking what else the UK has to offer? As Steve often picks up papers while on holiday I was hoping we might have at least seen one Welsh paper reviewed during July/August, or do Brummies no longer holiday here?

      Report this comment

    7. Steve Dyson

      Er, yes, ‘wagesalve’, good spot, Anglophone is the word, with cap A.(Did you mean to type ‘wageslave’ as your pen-name by the way?). And ‘Traffic Chaos’ makes a good point… the Express & Star is the nearest British comparison that I know of. And, like such designs or not, it doesn’t appear to get in the way of the E&S staying at No.1 in circulation. falling, yes, but slower than most, and from a much higher point.

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    8. Steve Dyson

      Sorry, ‘PaperBoy’, your commeny came in as I was posting. ‘Fraid my hol was 10 days in Sardinia, so the options were confined to that island! But you’re right to mention Celtic regions. I’m about to lay my hands on another Scottish paper soon (only the second) and I’m working on the Welsh. They have not been ‘diddy mu’-ed! Yet.

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    9. Hackette

      Not sure if it includes all dailies, but Greenslade points to a report revealing that paid-fors are INCREASING sales in Italy, so perhaps the blood and guts still sells. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/sep/28/newspapers-italy

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