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Do you think the Sun’s Oscar Pistorius front page was offensive?

by on February 15, 2013 in Lead story, Nuggets

Reeva Steenkamp’s corpse was in the morgue, her body was on the Sun’s front page

The Oscar Pistorius case has been called a tragedy for South Africa, for sport, for disability rights … but what about the victim and her family? To parts of the media, she is just hot.

Years ago I worked at the Sun, and I rem ember a man from the circulation department giving a presentation to editorial staff on how to maximise sales. The chastening upshot, for a paper whose employees preferred to think its market dominance was built solely on great stories, thrillingly told, was that birds mean business. Of course, you’d get a big sales spike with some sensational splash about the royal family or a footballer or whatever, but those were effectively few and far between, and if you wanted to ensure the regular, bread-and-butter circulation boosts on which the paper relied, a female celebrity in a bikini was what was needed, under whatever sub-newsy pretext you could devise. A list of names and numbers was passed round. And there it was in black and white. If you put a picture of Caprice on page 1 – and any old stock one was fine as long as she had very little on – you could guarantee a 30,000 uplift in sales. Nell McAndrew would get you 20,000. Geri Halliwell would do 10,000. They had maths for it and everything.

I wonder if that same circulation department were rubbing their hands, or their trousers, or whatever it is they rub, when they saw that the paper would be splashing on Friday with a huge picture of Reeva Steenkamp pulling down the zip of a bikini top, even as her corpse was lying in a Pretoria morgue awaiting a postmortem. Steenkamp was shot several times on Thursday, allegedly by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, with the incident swiftly and widely declared a tragedy for South Africa, for sport, and for disability rights. And – presumably to a lesser extent, because it was scarcely suggested in the scramble to get hold of bikini shots – for her family and friends.


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