Newspaper review: Obama 'selfie' and Sir Wiggo

  • 11 December 2013
David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama posing for a selfie, while Michelle Obama sits separately

When Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt asked British counterpart David Cameron and US President Barack Obama to join her for a mobile phone self-portrait, she probably didn't expect to end up on the front of half the UK's newspapers.

But that's where the "selfie", taken at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, ended up.

It provoked a range of reaction, from mirth in the Daily Mail - which speculates that US First Lady Michelle Obama was unimpressed by the "flirty Dane" - to fury in the Sun and the Mirror.

"No selfie respect," is the headline in the former, which describes the snap as "cheesy".

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Daily Telegraph media writer Neil Midgley, agreed that the image was "quite remarkable".

"It was so out of keeping with what the day was about," he said.

But Heather Walker, editor of UK-based expatriate community newspaper the South African, argued: "People expected a formal occasion but it turned out to be quite casual.

"There were singers, people shouting and I suppose these three took up the tone and spirit, and thought 'well, hey, let's have a bit of fun'."

Reflecting how the photo went viral on Twitter, provoking a backlash from those who thought it inappropriate, the Guardian rounds off its coverage by reproducing a tweet from Esquire magazine's online deputy editor Sam Parker.

"From everything I've read about Mandela this week, sounds like he'd have found the Obama selfie / Michelle Twitter gags pretty funny," it read.

Obama, and other 'rock stars'

For the Guardian's man on the scene, of the 91 world leaders present, there was only one "who made everyone stop and listen". David Smith writes: "The cacophony of cheers and applause for Barack Obama... left no doubt of his continued political rock star status, at least in Africa."

"Obama thrills," agrees the Times, describing Mr Mandela's successor, Jacob Zuma, being subjected to "global humiliation" as the crowd booed when he appeared on screens inside the stadium venue.

And the Independent's Kim Sengupta says the speech from Mr Obama - son of the African soil - "outclassed every other" and raised the stadium to its feet. The paper's cartoonist, Dave Brown, wasn't so generous, however. Titled "Trying it on..." his sketch depicts the US president wearing one of the South African's trademark "loud" shirts, only to find it too big for him and leaving his head sticking out from between the buttons.

The Daily Mirror focuses on Mr Obama's handshake with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, commenting that: "Even in death, the peacemaker [Mr Mandela] is able to bring old foes together."

The papers make the most of pictures of the rock stars and actors who were in attendance. The Daily Mail sums up the VIP section with the headline: "I'm a celebrity, get me in there," between pictures of model Naomi Campbell and of U2 front man Bono with actress Charlize Theron. Cartoonist Matt, in the Telegraph, pictures a couple watching the service on TV, one commenting: "Tyrants, enormous egos, ancient feuds... it's like our family Christmas."

Meanwhile, the Daily Star sums up Mr Mandela's life in numbers, including not just facts about the number of troops mobilised for the day (11,000) and the strength of the US delegation (23) but also: "12 League titles - Mandela's favourite team Kaizer Chiefs have won."

Migration matters

With half the British press corps in Soweto, the Daily Express has sent a reporter to the French port of Calais where, it says, the socialist mayor has spent £100,000 on a "five-star shelter" for refugees. Inside it prints images of dozens of mattresses, lined up in rows on the floor of a large hall.

The paper quotes a council worker saying the asylum-seekers are all keen to get to Britain. While the Express predicts the Afghan, Pakistani, Turkmen, Eritrean, Somali and Syrian refugees will "flood in" to Britain, the Sun is exploring a Romanian "ghost town" it says is empty apart from "farmers, the sick, elderly and kids".

"Everyone else has paid £100 a head to local businessman Teodor Ciorba, to drive them to Edmonton, north London," where a four-bedroom house acts as a "landing point" to life in Britain, it says.

High immigration, along with rising birth rates and growing life expectancy, will cause the UK population to hit 132m by 2112, according the the Daily Mail, which cites the Office for National Statistics.

One man who's unlikely to add to the figures is former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who was refused entry to the UK because of his previous conviction for rape. "Out on his ear," is how the Sun describes the situation, reminding readers how Tyson bit off part of opponent Evander Holyfield's ear during a bout.

Arise, Sir Wiggo

Another sportsman in the news for happier reasons is 2012 Tour de France and Olympic Time Trial winner Bradley Wiggins, who was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Daily Mail describes "the day humble Wiggo became Sir Brad", while the Times uses the headline: "Suits you, Sir Bradley," a reference to the style-loving cyclist's bell-bottomed suit.

"Knight fever," is the Daily Mirror's headline, as it compares the Team Sky rider's sartorial choices to those of John Travolta's 1970s disco-loving film character Tony Manero. The paper's fashion director Amber Graafland writes: "Not many men could pull off this flared look - but Bradley kind of gets away with it. The Mod fashion follower's usual Fred Perry top wasn't going to cut it, so the next best thing was a retro suit."

Meanwhile, the Sun has bad news for those hoping to see tennis star Andy Murray follow in Sir Bradley's footsteps to lift the BBC's Sport Personality of the Year trophy in person. It says he's pulled out of the ceremony in Leeds, saying he can't risk his recovery from injury by travelling to the event.

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