Headlines this morning have made a decidedly somber shift, as the United Kingdom begins to wake on this bank holiday Monday. There will be no more residual front-page media coverage of the royal wedding. Osama bin Laden is dead.
In a late-night announcement at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama told the American people and the world that after a decade of pursuit, the terrorist leader responsible for the 9/11 attacks had been killed in a firefight deep inside Pakistan’s borders.
Here are first reactions from the British media, scrambling to put their own mark on the historic news:
The Guardian’s headline simply reads "Osama bin Laden Killed by US Forces." The lede reads “Osama bin Laden, the criminal mastermind behind al-Qaida and the world's most sought-after terrorist since the attacks of 11 September 2001, has been killed by a US operation, President Barack Obama has announced." The story continues, "Bin Laden's capture comes eight years to the day that President George Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. As president, Bush declared he wanted bin Laden 'dead or alive'—but it is now the unlikely figure of Barack Obama who has been able to announce the final triumph as US commander-in-chief."
Clearly scrambling to avoid a wire post, the Telegraph posts the headline "Osama bin Laden killed: live." No, they haven’t posted a video of the firefight that ended bin Laden’s life. Instead of patching together an original story, editors at the Telegraph have chosen to do a live stream of news on the death as it comes in. Their coverage starts at 4:30 a.m. BST with "Barack Obama announces that Bin Laden had been killed after he was located at a fortified compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan. The compound had been under surveillance since last August and Mr. Obama, who was briefed regularly over the course of nine months, authorised the attack last Friday." Coverage then twists and turns through travel advisories, tweets, and reactions from Israel, India, 9/11 survivors, and curiously the celebrity news and gossip site, TMZ.
After toggling between Reuters and Associated Press wire stories, the Independent posts "US Forces Kill Osama bin Laden." The story is a collaboration between two reporters in South Asia and leads with, "Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the attacks of September 11 and the man who ever since has remained an elusive, shadowy presence at the centre of perhaps the world’s greatest manhunt, has been killed by special forces troops at a compound two hours outside of Islamabad."
In true tabloid spirit, the Sun announces Osama bin Laden’s death on a sliding gallery at the top of its website among other headlines reporting Prince William’s impending two-and-a-half month air force tour in the Falklands and Katie Price’s latest tattoo. The headline reads "Osama Bin Laden Dead, Terror Mastermind Killed in Pakistan."
It is likely that these stories will evolve throughout the day, turning simple headlines crafted in light of the urgency of breaking news into more poetic, hard-hitting memorials of the historic occasion. Surely Obama’s line, "Justice has been done," will be a statement that reverberates for decades to come.