Over the past 24 hours, the
media has faced an awkward question: what’s more important – the death
of a pope, or the death of nine crew aboard a Navy Sea King helicopter?

This morning we got the result: most of our big newspapers went with the Pope. Only one major paper, The Australian, gave any front page coverage to the Sea King disaster – the rest went with tributes to John Paul II.

The
Murdoch tabloids went with the Pope, relegating the nation’s worst
military disaster since Vietnam to inside pages. It was a memorable day
one for new Telegraph editor David Penberthy. He handled it
conservatively, placing the military disaster inside a papal tribute –
but a truly bold editor would have turfed the Pope from the front page:
after all, the story was 24 hours old and the body was cold by the time
the paper went to bed.

The Australian wins on points for
its coverage of both major stories. With 15 pars below the fold on the
front page, followed by comprehensive coverage filling pages two and
three, Murdoch’s broadsheet covered the Sea King disaster solidly.
While its eight page Pope liftout looked great.

The SMH
recovered from its embarassing performance on Saturday, when it was
unable to put out a special papal edition for the important early
weekend editions. But the Herald’s eight-page liftout today was pictorially brilliant – far superior to the Age’s four-page effort.

CRIKEY: And Glenn Dyer has more on how the weekend media covered the big stories on the website here.