What makes a great newspaper front page iconic? It’s a word which is used far too often, a bit like legend, or, if you happen to watch Channel 5 a bit, ‘celebrity.’
To be truly iconic, a newspaper front page has to be special. It has to capture a mood and remind people of that mood whenever they see it in the future. To me, it has to have that ‘yes, that’ factor which is almost impossible to describe.
The regional Press produces many great front pages every year. Many capture public feeling towards an event or issue at the moment, but few capture it in a way which makes sense without an explanation.
Many regional front pages provide considered, and generally compassionate, coverage of big news events, and perhaps more time than in the past is now spent on front pages as a result of overnight printing and the acceptance of the fact that print can’t count on being the turn-to source for breaking news. But how many are iconic?
Seeking out a dictionary definition of ‘iconic’, the Macmillan dictionary offered me:
very famous or popular, especially being considered to represent particular opinions or a particular time:
Therefore, it’s fair to say this decision to describe Jolly Rancher sweets as iconic was a bit over the top.
And for all the good, great and memorable regional press front pages out there, I think this one is perhaps the only one which can truly be called iconic:
Published on April 15, 2009, it marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Given what has happened since 2009, it’s remarkable to think that the families’ battle for justice seemed as far from won as at any point during the previous 20 years of snubs, slurs and accusations from those in authority.
The Hillsborough disaster had returned to the front of the general public outside Liverpool in the previous couple of years partly due to the shameful ability of former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie, the man who had delivered the appalling ‘The Truth’ slur days after the 1989 disaster, to add further insult to the families by failing to apologise on Question Time for his actions back then, and seeking to blame others for the front page and slur. Indeed, he claimed he only apologised at the time because Rupert Murdoch told him to.
But justice – be that a public inquiry, the re-opening of inquests or just an apology from government for the handling of the aftermath of Hillsborough - still felt a long way away.
On the day this Liverpool Echo front page was published, thousands packed in Anfield for the annual memorial service. As an occasion, it alway warrants a place in the day’s news, but the fans in the Kop lifted it to the top of the news agenda with their vocal demands for Justice for the 96:
For two minutes, then sports minister Andy Burnham stopped his speech at the service as fans chanted ‘justice for the 96.’ Burnham this week was candid in revealing that it was that moment which gave him the political courage to do something. Since then there has been an independent review panel which in turn has led to the new inquests which began earlier this month.
A lot has happened since 2009 – and that’s why I think this front page passes the ‘iconic’ test when so few others don’t. It instantly reminds you the unimaginable human tragedy at the centre of the Hillsborough disaster, and shameful fact that, as recently as 2009, the battle for justice was far from won.
It’s a front page which re-appears on my Facebook timeline every April 15 as someone, somewhere, uses it to remember those who died on April 15, 1989. It is still linked to on countless web forums and discussion boards. And yesterday, the Liverpool Echo returned to that front page for the 25th anniversary front page:
The Liverpool Echo has rightly won many plaudits for its support of the Hillsborough families, at times the lone voice supporting them. For me, it’s the Echo’s close connection to those who felt the tragedy the most – the people of Liverpool – which enabled it to produce perhaps the only regional newspaper front page of a generation which you can actually call iconic.