Online coverage of Diana’s death pointed way for news media

Princess Diana is back in the news. The collective media have already turned up the volume of coverage as the 20-year anniversary approaches of her death in a Paris car crash on August 31st, 1997.

I hear your weary sigh. I’ll bet you can hardly wait for this month of examination to unfold. Me neither.

But one element is worth a retrospective glance. Forgotten now, from our two-decade distance, is that the crash was the first major news event in which online coverage played a significant part.

Nowadays, hearing of a major breaking news story – especially one that seemed difficult to believe, given its tabloid radioactivity – the average person would go online to search for confirming facts and details.

But in 1997, less than 10 per cent of the Irish population was online.

However, I had a home account from Irish internet service provider Indigo at the time. I remember turning on the radio early that Sunday morning in 1997, and hearing the news today, oh boy.

Because the story broke early on a Sunday, normal news coverage was especially restricted. In Ireland, the Sunday papers were already long off the presses. And, we only ever got the early editions of the UK newspapers here, as they were sent over after being printed on Saturday, to be available from newsagents by Sunday morning.

Sunday slump

Sunday radio and television included far less news coverage than was the norm for weekdays, and shows were generally of a light entertainment bent.

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