Today's Papers

Mourning in America

The lead story all around–and then some–is Diana’s funeral. Earlier in the week it was often claimed that Di’s death was getting so much ink because of her charitable works. But this was refuted by today’s coverage, in which Di claimed whole front pages, but Mother Teresa was relegated to the inside.

The papers generally agree on what was most noteworthy about the day’s events in London: that the outpouring of English public emotion hadn’t been matched since the end of World War II, that, with its engaged participation in the ceremonies, the royal family seemed to bounce back into public favor, and that Diana’s brother’s remarks were probably among the most frank ever made inside Westminster Abbey. The New York Times describes his eulogy, with its description of Diana as “the most hunted woman on earth,” as “passionate,” and the Washington Post says it was “barbed and biting.” The Los Angeles Times refers to the man as “Diana’s angry brother.”

Some of the reporting on the service is quite a nice throwback to the days when people everywhere depended on newspapers to know what such events were like. However, this one was seen by perhaps half the people on the planet, so it’s hard to justify the lengthy descriptive articles that are so prominent today.

And it’s definitely hard for a paper to justify two of these wordfests. But that’s what the NYT gives us. Not only do we get Warren Hoge’s “Diana Buried as a Nation Mourns,” but also R.W. Apple’s “Through London’s Streets, the Sounds of Silence Toll.” The overkill is particularly obvious when both pieces etch the same details. Hoge: “When [Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer] ended his talk minutes later…there was spontaneous applause in the church and on the expansive meadow of Hyde Park jammed with thousands of people who were watching the service on giant television screens.” Apple: “Spencer’s castigation of the news media as collaborators in his sister’s death, relayed by loudspeaker to those outside the Abbey, brought applause.” Hoge: A wreath on the casket had a “white card stuck in it with the word ‘Mummy’ written on it.” Apple: “People threw blossoms at the princess’ casket as it rolled by on a gun carriage, draped in a royal standard with sprays of white roses, tulips and lillies atop it, one of them bearing the single word, ‘Mummy.’”

The WP points out that guests at the funeral included, besides such obvious attendees as former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, the likes of Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Steven Spielberg. But the Post doesn’t bother to explain whether these glitterati were there because they were friends of Diana’s or were simply exercising the modern celebrity’s nearly universally-recognized right to get any hard ticket.

An early-bird edition of the LAT gives a revealing insight into the priorities of Dodi Al-Fayed’s family. In reporting that the Ritz Hotel released security video tape that show Diana and her party leaving the hotel in an apparently orderly manner, the paper quotes an Al-Fayed spokesman’s explanation for doing so: “The Ritz Hotel has been accused of what amounts to negligence or worse.”

Today’s contest: What could the NYT’s Alessandra Stanley possibly mean in this exit line to her “Week in Review” appreciation of Diana? “At 36, she died a horrible death, and one that seemed portentously linked to her extraordinary life.”