Chris Boffey, a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and Mirror, continues his daily review of how Fleet Street is covering the Scottish independence referendum.
Newspaper newsrooms on a Sunday are desolate places. Normally one person manning the newsdesk, a couple of reporters from the rota, the political staff working from home and the editing given over to the deputy or some assistant editor.
So when a big story breaks Saturday night there is a limited staff to work on anything else. The Fleet Street newspapers knew they had to deliver something sizeable on the Scottish independence vote as the debate moved into the last four days but, frankly, the beheading of a British aid worker by the Islamic State and the revelation of a second man facing death had higher priority.
It must have been a sense of relief for the news editors when their political reporters said both Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling were on the Andrew Marr show. At least there was some meat to put on the bone and then the Queen, god bless her, came out of Crathie church at Balmoral, her Scottish home, and told one of the local well wishers that the Scottish people should “think very carefully” before voting on Thursday. In newspaper terms this was shooting fish in a barrel. Job done before midday and everything else from Scotland to be swept up in the afternoon.
Virtually every paper from the Daily Star to the Guardian had the Queen’s comments on the front page but only the Daily Telegraph thought that the Scots issue was worthy of the front lead and not the beheading.