Newspapers can cope with floods much less well than television. Whereas the TV reporter or anchorman can stand against a backdrop of flooded streets and provide heartrending images of ruined homes, newspapers have fewer dramatic devices at their disposal.
They can, of course, publish large photographs, but these are hardly going to compete with a visual medium such as television. They can blame the Government, but so can TV. The posher titles can bang on about global warming - the tabloids are, perhaps oddly, less sensationalist in writing about this phenomenon - and they can also publish detailed historical information about former floods that might test the patience of tabloid readers.
However, there is one line in which the tabloids, and in particular the red-tops, excel: scaremongering. After several days during which they had been consistently outgunned by television, The Sun and the Daily Mirror last Thursday discovered a killer bug unleashed by the floods, which, they claimed, might kill hundreds of people. "The Toxic Tide" screamed The Sun's front page, with a skull and crossbones to ram home the point. "Hundreds of flood victims could be killed by a brew of terrifying bugs lurking in the murky water," warned the Mirror's splash.
Of course, I had better be careful. I live in Oxford, partly afflicted by floods, and these killer bugs may be working their way into the water supply even as I write. Perhaps we will all be dead by next week. And yet I rather think that the threat (which was mentioned less apocalyptically by this paper, among others) will subside along with the floods without killing hundreds of people. …